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16 Things to Do in Venice Italy in One Day

Looking for things to do in Venice Italy in one day? We’ve got you.

Though I would never suggest you spend just one day in Venice, it helps to have a list of activities that you could accomplish in one day.

Gondolas on a busy canal.
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Whether you take your time or really do only have 24 hours to explore, I hope this list helps you to fit in as much as possible.

We were able to see Venice as part of a Viking Ocean Cruise. Not only did we begin the cruise in gorgeous Venice, but we saw parts of Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Greece. 

This meant checking off four new countries for me, finally taking the number of countries I’ve visited to over 40! Think of places you want to see and Viking probably goes there!

I think Italy has become my favorite country, especially after spending a week in Sicily last year and a week later exploring Venice for a few days. For a foodie like me, it’s pretty much heaven.

Where is Venice Italy?

Located on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, the beautiful city of Venice is in the northeastern part of Italy. It’s about a six-hour drive from Rome. If you’re flying, you can get between Rome and Venice in about an hour.

Venice is actually not on the mainland part of Italy. It is an archipelago of islands all connected by bridges over a series of interconnected canals. 

Gondolas on a busy canal.

This unique geography is why it has nicknames like City of Water, The Floating City, and City of Canals. The historic city and lagoon area are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Due to its coastal location, you’ll find Venice has cool and damp winters, sometimes even with snowfall, and warm, humid summers. The summer months might just be the best time to visit as the crowds like to explore the city in Spring and Fall.

Why We Love This City

There are so many reasons to love Venice. It’s no wonder why this is one of the most popular cities for tourists in the world. But here are some of the reasons why we love this city.

Food We love appetizers and Venice has so many small plate dishes like cicchetti (think Venetian tapas!) and bruschetta. The flavors are incredible.

Culture & History The Byzantine-influenced architecture of the city is simply stunning. Add to that all the incredible – and yet different – styles of bridges.

With 118 islands in Venice, of course, you’ll need bridges to get from one to another. The islands are linked by over 400 bridges. Though all pretty, there are only a handful that are famous, so it’s worth the time to seek them out.

I take a travel guide everywhere I go so I can look things up as I explore.

Bridge over canal.

Floating City In general, the idea of a floating city is really unique. Technically, the city is built on marshy land, but with a support system going back centuries to help keep buildings above the water.

The supports were built with wood, and although you’d think they would rot over the years, the lack of exposure to oxygen and the sediment in the water actually petrified the logs, making them durable today.

Even so, Venice is at risk from “acqua alta”, high water, as severe flooding has become more and more common.

Where to begin when exploring the Queen of the Adriatic? We have recommendations for you of the most important things to see in Venice Italy in one day.

See the Most Beautiful Bridges 

Venice may be the city of canals, but that means there are also a lot of bridges to cross the canals – more than 430 bridges!

These bridges are a mix of classical designs to modern designs, Some of the most well-known ones include the Scalzi Bridge, the Constitution Bridge (Ponte di Calatrava), and the Ponte dell’Accademia (the Academy Bridge).

Probably the most famous bridge is the Rialto Bridge, which spans over the Grand Canal. Make sure to grab a photo with the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) in the background.

Man and woman in front of a large stone bridge.

Of course, the Bridge of Sighs is famous, too, but for different reasons as you’ll see below.

Visit Piazza San Marco 

Piazza San Marco, also known as St. Mark’s Square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most famous squares in all of Italy. It’s a must-do for your Venice itinerary! 

Woman with hands raised in busy square.

From the square, there are several other places you’ll want to explore, but the square itself is also worth exploring.

As a large, open square, it stands in contrast to the rest of Venice with narrow streets and alleys. It is one of the best places to grab a coffee and people watch.

Explore Basilica San Marco 

One of the most notable locations at St Mark’s Square is the Basilica San Marco (St. Mark’s). Inside, you’ll find fabulous mosaics, Byzantine-style architecture, relics of St. Mark, and more. 

Old church.

There’s no admission fee to go in, but it can end up with long lines as it is a very popular place. Booking a guided tour is a good option to make sure you’re able to see all the magnificent St. Mark’s Basilica has to offer.

Even from the outside, however, this church has exceptional architectural features with intricate spires and domes. The gold shimmers in the sunlight on the wings of statues of angels and mosaics high above the church. 

Unfortunately, there was scaffolding up while we were there, but it was still beautiful.

Address: P.za San Marco, 328, 30100 Venezia VE, Italy
Hours: Daily 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.

Take a Tour of the 500-Year-Old St. Mark’s Bell Tower

Go up to the Bell Tower of Basilica San Marco for one of the best views of the whole city. You will need a ticket and it’s best to get it ahead of time as this is one of the top attractions.

Old Bell hanging in bell tower.

Order online and print or screenshot (or both) your confirmation to show when you arrive.

Everyone was offering to take photos of each other.

Man and woman by a window.

The tower is about 99 meters high, and from the top, you can see Doge’s Palace, the Grand Canal, Venetian Lagoon, Bridge of Sighs, Rialto Bridge, and more.

View of old buildings and the sea.

This was one of my favorite things we did while in Venice.

View of Venice Italy.

Address: Piazza San Marco, 30124 Venezia, Italy

Hours: Daily, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Take a Gondola Ride

Can you say you’ve been to Venice if you don’t take a gondola ride? A private gondola ride is one of those essential splurges that you’ll want to do.

Gondola on a canal.

In addition to being a unique experience, it is also the best way to see many of the highlights of the city.

See the Bridge of Sighs

The Ponte del Sospiri (the Bridge of Sighs) is a beautiful bridge with a tragic secret. On one side of the famous Bridge of Sighs is the Doge’s Palace, and on the other side is the prison. 

It is easy to imagine the sighs of sadness as people were taken between the court and the prison where they would face the horrors of the prison’s torture room or know that their freedom would be taken away in the courtroom.

Bridge of Sighs in Venice Italy.
Bridge of Sighs

For some, the view from this bridge was the last sight of the outside world they would ever see.

Experience Doge’s Palace

You’ll easily see Doge’s Palace, but there is more to it than meets the eye!

The original palace, Palazzo Ducale, was built around the 10th or 11th century. Its location being surrounded by a canal and fortress walls made it a solid location for the seat of government, armories, and the apartments of the Doge (the Venetian dukes).

Doge's Palace in Venice Italy.

Over the centuries, the palace was expanded and renovated as needs changed and the palace experienced fires over the years.

After the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, various groups used the palace as their center of government as well as home to cultural locations, like the Biblioteca Marciana.

Eventually, in 1923, the Italian State appointed the City Council of Venice to manage the building as a public museum, which it is today.

Address: P.za San Marco, 1, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy

Hours: Daily, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

See a Show at Gran Teatro La Fenice 

If you have time, book a show at the Venice Opera House. Even if you don’t have time, try to stop by and see this stunning venue. 

Venice Opera House.

Don’t let the name fool you. If you’re not a fan of opera, there are many other music and dance performances offered. Give this location a try. There’s something about the setting that makes shows here extra special.

Address: Gran Teatro La Fenice, Campo San Fantin, 1965, 30124 Venice VE
Hours: La Fenice is open for daily visits from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

See San Moisè

San Moisè church, dedicated to Moses, was built in the 7th century. Throughout the years, updates have been done to the church, including a stunning Baroque facade on the outside in the 1600s.

Old white church against a blue sky.

Inside the church are spectacular works of art that are well worth viewing, including an enormous piece behind the altar depicting Moses at Mount Sinai. 

Inside of old church.

Address: Salizada S. Moisè, 1390/A, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy

Hours: Daily, open 24 hours 

Take a Break in the Royal Gardens 

In 1807, Napoleon decided to take over the Piazza San Marco area and the Procuratie Nuove building for a Royal Palace. And like any royal palace, royal gardens were installed. Over the years, the gardens were neglected, but now have been restored to their incredible beauty.

When we visited in October, the flowers were beautiful. During different times of year, the Royal Gardens is blooming with flowers like wisteria, begonia, and agapanthus.

Gardens with flowers blooming on a trellis.

There’s also a large focus on conservation and the use of natural resources to maintain this garden. All of the impressive work here is part of the reason why it has been awarded a European Heritage Award.

I know it seems there is never enough time to see everything, but do yourself a favor and relax for a bit in this area.

Address: P.za San Marco, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy

Hours: Closed Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday to Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Spot the Lace Curtains

As you are wandering the streets of Venice, remember to look up. See if you can spot some of the lace curtains in the windows. 

Venice is known for lace, specifically Burano, from the school of Burano Lace. This fine lace made by needlework was once a status symbol for the nobles of Europe. Many of the houses have fine lace curtains that have been in their family for generations.

Save Some Time for Shopping

You’ll find plenty of souvenir shops so you can pick up something for those who couldn’t join you on the trip.

If you have money to burn (or even if you want to window shop as I did!), try San Marco Plaza for a peek into YSL, Dior, Bulgari Jewelers, and more.

Dior storefront.

All this exploring is sure to have you work up an appetite. Thankfully, the food in Venice is incredible!


Who doesn’t love Italian food? What I love about this country is that the food in Venice was not the same as the food in Sicily or Rome. Each city has its own cuisine.

A great way to experience the street food is through a food tour. You won’t have to worry about where to go or getting a seat as your guide will have it all planned out for you.

One food you’ve got to try is cicchetti – think of it as Venetian tapas or bar food. Cicchetti is many varieties of finger food (or food eaten with toothpicks) that you walk up, grab a bite, and head on.

Often, people stand at a bar in front of the kitchen where you can watch the preparation. Some of the foods you might find include meatballs, seafood preparations, and olives.

Sometimes these items are served on a slice of toasted baguette, other times just with a toothpick. This is my favorite way to dine as I can try a little of everything.

Appetizers on baguettes with glasses of wine.

If you’re looking for something a bit more substantial, fried seafood is very popular and delicious in Venice. (A walk through the Rialto Market with its fish vendors can give you some idea why seafood in Venice is incredible. It doesn’t get fresher than that!) The calamari is downright addictive! 

Fried calamari with a bottle of beer in background.

Next, wash that food down with a local beer, like Messina. I fell in love with this Italian beer when I was in Sicily. It pairs perfectly with seafood!

Of course, you can’t forget dessert. When in Italy, you have to get a cannoli! 

Cannoli stacked on a shelf.

Our favorite spots for dinner were Osteria da Bubi for seafood, Osteria Doge Morosini, Al Teatro for cappuccino and dessert, and Al Vaporetto Trattoria for pizza.

Pizza with cheese, mushrooms, and sundried tomatoes.

And at the end of it all, enjoy a moment of relaxation by having a cappuccino on Canal Grande. Look for the red benches around Venice–these are placed specifically for tourists and locals alike to sit and do some people watching.

Now that you have your list of things to do, start planning! A great way to spend a couple of days in Venice is to arrive early before a cruise with Viking Ocean Cruises. 

Viking cruise ship docked.

I knew sailing on a Viking Ocean Cruise was going to be an exceptional experience as I had sailed with them on river cruises several times.

My husband and I sailed on the Viking Rhone River Cruise 8 years ago and loved it so much we decided to take our adult daughters on a river cruise.

That sailing was on the Viking Rhine River Cruise, including seeing the Black Forest in Germany, and it was one of the best family trips we’ve taken.

I also took the Seine River Cruise in Paris in 2022 and it was truly unforgettable. We sailed from Paris to Normandy and back. If you go to Paris, make sure to bookmark my list of things to do in Paris at night!

When it comes to luxury cruises, Viking Cruises has it down to a science, which is why I can’t seem to get enough!

Viking has been in the cruise business for over 25 years, beginning with just four longships to take “curious travelers” on culturally immersive sailings. Today, the company has more than 90 ships, including a dozen ocean ships and two expedition ships.

Why Should I Sail with Viking?

When planning a cruise vacation, this is the first question you want answered. With so many cruise companies vying for your attention, why should you choose to sail with Viking?

Room on a cruise ship.
  • Luxury accommodations You can see our stateroom above. Viking Ocean is 100% Veranda Staterooms.
  • Spectacular Itineraries The itineraries designed by Viking Cruises are for guests who are interested in the history and culture of a destination.
  • Excellent food The specialty restaurants are fantastic, but I enjoyed all of them. I loved the special themed nights!
  • Amazing Excursions No one does excursions like Viking.
  • Passenger to Crew Ratio Nearly 2:1!

It’s an easy decision once you know the facts! Visit the Viking website and start exploring.

Where Should You Stay in Venice?

Note that if you are seeing Venice as part of a cruise, it is not close to the cruise port. Viking gave us the option of a transfer, making it so much easier to get to the port than doing it on our own. The cruise port is on Chioggia Island, about an hour and a half south of the city center of Venice.

There are several really lovely hotels depending on where you want to stay. The Palazzo Veneziano is close to the S. Basilio ferry stop, and trust me when I tell you, pulling your luggage through Venice is not fun, so this is a great location.

Pesaro Palace is near the Ca’d’Oro water bus stop and a 15 minute walk to Saint Mark’s Square.

If you are on a cruise with Viking as I was, they will take care of booking your travel, transfers, and even accommodations if you would just rather not worry about it. 

If you’re simply planning a vacation in Italy and not sure which area you want to visit, read through Northern Italy vs Southern Italy to compare the two.

Table on the balcony of a cruise ship with cup of tea, book, and sunglasses.

Frequently Asked Questions

How deep are the canals in Venice?

It may come as a surprise, but the canals in Venice aren’t very deep – less than 10 to 15 feet, and even that can vary with the tides. This is why you won’t see large boats filled with people, only the gondolas with much smaller capacity. Out of the more than 150 canals in Venice, some are shallow enough that they have frozen in cold weather and some have even “gone dry” from time to time due to weather patterns and tides.

What keeps Venice from sinking?

Sometimes it is too much water that can be a challenge for Venice. The city has a history of centuries of frequent flooding, which is why there are raised seawalls around the city. In some cases, buildings have been torn down so that new, higher buildings with raised entrances can be built.

Is Venice limiting tourists?

Venice is an incredibly popular tourist destination but it is also a very small city. The public parts of the city are only about six square kilometers! Because of this, it is easy for the town to be overwhelmed with tourists. New restrictions are being put in place to limit tourist walking groups to 25 or less, no loudspeakers for tour groups, and instituting tourist fees. For this reason, going with an excursion or tour group is a good idea, since they can manage all the ins and outs of these new restrictions. 

Top Tips for Visiting

  • Venice is planning to charge a tourist fee soon. It was supposed to begin this month, but is still in discussion. In addition, groups will be limited to 25 people beginning in June. Be sure to visit the Venice website before traveling.
  • Try to see the most famous sites early or late. Look at the opening time and go then if you can. You will probably avoid the biggest crowds.
  • Bring an umbrella. It can be rainy in Venice, so pack a travel umbrella. There aren’t a lot of places to just duck in during a shower if you’re out and about.
  • Be prepared to do a lot of walking. Although you can get around in Venice some with water bus stops or a water taxi, you’ll still need to do a lot of walking to get around quickly. Wear good walking shoes, and make sure you’ve broken them in ahead of time.

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