Can you see Venice in 24 hours? Ideally, I would say no, you need to spend at least a few days in Venice to make the most of this beautiful city. However if short on time like I was, then this guide to 24 hours in Venice is just what you need.
Venice, also known as the ‘Floating City’ is an archipelago of 118 islands connected by numerous canals and bridges. The main island has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. At its height, Venice was one of the wealthiest trading posts in Europe, and most of its buildings date to this period between the 13th and 18th centuries. As Venice has some very strict laws about historical preservation, the views you see today are probably the same as back then.
Unfortunately one sight not seen in its heyday was the many cruise ships that now dock in its lagoon. Campaigners have long argued that these huge ships are damaging canal banks with the waves they create as they churn down the picturesque Giudecca Canal. However, from 2021 the Italian government is banning large cruise ships from sailing past through St Mark’s Basin and docking in the city. Instead cruise ships will dock on the mainland at Marghera. So if you plan on visiting Venice via a cruise after this date, be prepared for a coach journey to take you into Venice.
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24 hours in Venice: Where to stay?
Venice is renowned for being one of the most expensive cities in Europe and accommodation is no exception. Hotels on the main Island near to St Marks square are the most expensive and as you move away to the surrounding islands and even the mainland, the prices become considerably cheaper. Here’s my pick of accommodation for every budget all located in the San Marco district of Venice. All prices are based on a stay in April 2019, expect to pay double in July/August.
For the best deals, I recommend Booking.com for budget hotels or Hostelworld for hostels. If you are looking for something more luxurious then I recommend using Hotels.com as you will get one free nights’ accommodation for every 10 nights booked!
High End – Hotel Ai Reali ££££
The Hotel ai Reali is a beautiful hotel situated just around the corner from the Rialto bridge. Starting at £170 a night for a basic room and £700 for a suite with a canal view, it’s not the option for most budgets. For more details check out the official website.
Top End – Hotel Flora £££
I’m normally a budget traveller but as this trip was to celebrate my parents wedding anniversary we decided to up our budget and booked a night at the fabulous Hotel Flora. This hotel is conveniently situated close to St Marks Square tucked out the way on the popular Calle del Pestrin.
This hotel is situated in the perfect location, has beautiful rooms looking out into the private courtyard were a variety of home made delights are served for breakfast. Room prices start from £120 a night for a budget room to £200 for a deluxe room with garden view. For more details check out the official website.
Mid range – Hotel San Samuele ££
Hotel San Samuele is a beautiful simple hotel set within a historic building, just a short walk away from St Marks Square. Rooms cost around £75 a night. For further information check out the official website.
Budget End – Hotel San Maurizio £
For budget travellers you can’t get much better in the centre of Venice than the Hotel San Maurizio. Situated in a noble, carefully restored sixteenth-century palace, this hotel offers an affordable option for a perfect stay in Venice. Prices are around £40 a night for a double room with shared bathroom. For more information check out the official website.
Hostel – Generator Venice £
For single travellers then a stay in a hostel may be a better option if needing to stay within a tight budget. Generator Venice is not in located in the centre of Venice, but just a short ferry ride across from St Marks Square. For only £30 a night for a bed in a shared dorm, this hotel offers great value for money. For more information check out the official website. If unsure about staying in hostels then check out my guide to surviving hostels here.
For finding the best value deals on hotels and hostels in and around Venice I recommend using Hotels.com. This useful website will give you all options for any budget and you can even filter results by price, star rating, facilities and location helping you make the right accommodation choices for you. For Hostel accommodation then Hostel World is your best choice.
24 hours in Venice: Getting there?
The nearest airport to Venice is Venice Marco Polo which is served by most major airlines. Located just 7 miles from the city centre its the easiest option if travelling from outside Italy. For the best flight deals I recommend using Skyscanner. You can get from the airport to Venice by either bus of boat. Buses are the cheapest option at €6 one way and €11 return. Boats offer a more traditional way of getting into the city and cost €15 one way €25 return. Tickets for both options can be purchased in the arrivals hall. Taxi’s are also available costing around €35 and a private water taxi €100.
Treviso airport is another option, located 19 miles outside the city. this airport is generally used by the more low cost budget operators. Buses into the city are available for €12 one way €22 return and take around 70 minutes.
The main station is Venezia Santa Lucia, conveniently located right on the Grand Canal. If travelling from other cities in Italy then taking the train is a great option. The national rail operator in Italy is Trenitalia, tickets can be bought online at The Train line. Once at the station you can get to most places around Venice from the many water boat services located outside the entrance.
You can get to Venice from surrounding cities in Italy and beyond by various bus networks. A useful website for finding bus services in Europe is GoEuro
Getting around Venice
The Grand Canal is the main waterway in Venice and runs for 3.8 km through the city.
Water buses or vaporetti as they are known locally are the most popular way to get around Venice. There are two main vaporetto routes: from Santa Lucia train station and Piazzale Roma road terminus. Vaporetto tickets cost €7.50 single, valid for 60 minutes with any number of changes in the same direction. If you are planning to use the water buses a lot, invest in a travel card (€20 for 24 hours; up to €60 for a week). Just note that its not possible to buy vaporetto tickets as some of the smaller vaporetto stops.
24 hours in Venice, things to see & do:
If you only have 24 hours in the city, then I recommend arriving as early as possible in the morning and leaving as late as possible the next day to maximise your time in this beautiful city. Unfortunately we arrived via train from Lake Garda around noon and the crowds where already at full force! It didn’t help that it was the end of July, the height of peak season.
However it didn’t stop us from seeing most of the main sights. I would recommend visiting the main sights on the first day and then taking a morning trip out to Burano Island the next day before leaving Venice in the evening.
If you want to see as much as possible in a short space of time, then consider taking an organised tour. Depending on what you want to see these tours will make the best use of your time whilst in Venice. Some options to consider are:
Basilica di San Marco
A visit to the Basilica di San Marco is a must for a first-time tourist to Venice, and indeed the church holds so many precious artworks and relics that subsequent visits are recommended. Considered one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in the world, the Basilica di San Marco is known for its opulent design and gilded interior mosaics, and nicknamed Chiesa d’Oro, “Church of Gold”. Its design is a mixture of eastern and western architecture styles resulting in a unique architecture typical for Venice.
The lines to visit the Basilica di San Marco can be extremely
long, especially in the summer months, therefore I recommend booking skip the line tickets in advance! This will save you time especially if only in Venice for 24 hours. Tickets can be purchased online here.
A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the Doge’s Palace is an impressive structure thought to have been originally built in the 10th Century. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Venetian Republic, opening as a museum in 1923. Entrance fees are €20, tickets can be purchased on line here.
St Mark’s Campanile
St Mark’s Campanile is the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica, located in the Piazza San Marco. It is one of the most recognisable symbols of the city. The tower stands alone in a corner of St Mark’s Square, near the front of the basilica. With its 99 metres of height, St Mark’s Campanile offers the best view over the city and its lagoon! Be sure to purchase skip the line tickets on line here, cost €13
Bridge of Sighs
Believed by many to be the most beautiful bridge in Venice, the Bridge of Sighs is a must see! Built in the 17th century this fully enclosed bridge is made of white limestone and is attached to what was once the interrogation rooms in Doge’s Palace. Poet Lord Byron once described the bridge as the last point where condemned prisoners could see the beautiful city of Venice before they were brought to their executioner.
The Ponte di Rialto was built between 1588 and 1591, as a permanent replacement for the boat bridge and three wooden bridges that had spanned the Grand Canal at various times since the 12th Century. The bridge has three walkways: two along the outer balustrades, and a wider central walkway leading between two rows of small shops that sell jewellery, linens, Murano glass, and other items for the tourist trade. beware though this bridge can get extremely busy and can be a effort to cross due to the crowds and the many steps.
No trip to Venice is complete without a ride on a Gondola, although quite expensive, this has got to be the best way to explore the unique waterways and bridges of Venice. Gondola stands are located throughout the city. Some trips include a jaunt down the Grand Canal while others paddle along the quieter side canals. Gondola rides are offered at a fixed cost set by the city government, however many gondoliers do not always adhere to these costs, so negotiation may be necessary! Expect to pay around €80 for 30 minutes and €40 for every extra 20 minutes. These prices will also increase after 7 pm.
Venice is not only famous for its beautiful architecture and waterways but also its crowds! Even in low season it can appear crowded. For some reason though, most travellers walk along one or two major arterial’s from the train station or cruise port to the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square and then back again. However spend a few hours wandering around its side streets and you will almost have the place to yourself. Not only will you find tranquillity in one of Europe’s busiest cities you will also see some beautiful architecture and some hidden gems.
Piazza San Marco at night
The Piazza San Marco is immensely crowded during the day but come nightfall, it’s magical! Like the rest of Venice, once the day trippers have left you almost have this beautiful city to yourself! You can sit listening to the restaurant musicians playing beautiful music whilst taking in the beautiful Basilica di San Marco and the bell tower all lit up. This was my favourite experience in Venice, to see this place all lit up in the evening bought tears to my eyes! Simply stunning!
A small fishing village located in the Venetian lagoon, Burano is a fun day trip. Its small houses are brightly painted, creating a rainbow coloured backdrop, perfect for popping Instagram photographs. Burano is easily accessible by Venetian water bus from St. Mark’s Square. However if short on time I recommend booking a morning tour, some of which may also take you to some of the other nearby islands as well.
Tips on visiting Venice
- Eat authentic local food, there is some for any kind of budget. Cheaper options are always away from the main tourist hot spots!
- Wear comfortable walking shoes, you will do a lot of walking around Venice!
- Carry a refillable water bottle, not only good for the environment but also your wallet. Almost every main square has a working fountain where you will be able to refill your bottle.
- Buy attraction tickets in advance, if possible skip the line as queues can sometimes be hours long.
- Venice is extremely safe, just keep an eye on your belongings especially in crowded areas.
- Always be prepared for the unexpected, make sure you always travel with Insurance!
There is so much more to do in Venice but with only 24 hours to explore, its not possible to see it all. These were my top picks for 24 hours in Venice. I hope you enjoyed reading and I have inspired you to take a trip to this beautiful city. Do you have any tips on visiting Venice, if so let me know in the comments section below.
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