When I first started planning my trip to Italy, I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to stop in Venice. I’d read so much about how touristy it is (true) and how expensive it is (also true). It just seemed silly to skip it considering that’s where we were flying to. In the end, we decided to spend 2 days in Venice, and I’m really glad we did.
Two days in Venice was the perfect amount of time for Luke and me. While there are a ton of things to do in Venice, it can get expensive and exhausting.
In two days, we got to take in the beauty, we got to be in awe of the canals, the boats, the bridges, and the squares and we got out before the masses of tourists made us feel icky and overwhelmed.
I think one thing I would say is just to be prepared for the fact that it will be busy and it will be expensive. While it’s not absolutely insane prices, in my experience, it’s much more expensive than other parts of Italy. If you go knowing that you’ll probably overpay for average food or really overpay for slightly better than average food, then you’ll be fine.
Where to Stay in Venice
Trying to find a reasonably priced place to stay in Venice can seem overwhelming. You want a place that’s clean and if you’re only spending 2 days in Venice, you want it to be centrally located, too. Some people stay off the island in nearby Mestre and take the train or bus onto the island each day to explore.
This is certainly a much cheaper option and you may even find some great food options in Mestre at a much better price, but once you pay for transportation back and forth for two days, how much have you really saved?
We stayed at a fantastic, very centrally located Airbnb which only cost $80 a night (never thought I’d put the word only in front of $80, but alas, that’s Venice).
If you’ve never used Airbnb before, sign up using this link to get up to $35 off of your first stay.
The Airbnb was only two minutes from the Rialto bridge. We shared with the family, but we had our own private room and our own bathroom, so it felt very much like a hotel. We had a ton of privacy while also having the opportunity to speak to the owners about great things to do around the island.
If you do want to stay in Mestre, I highly recommend checking out Airbnb. There are a ton of fantastically priced places that look beautiful and have great reviews. This one, in particular, looks great. It even includes breakfast for less than $40 per night!
Hotels in Venice
If you’re not much into Airbnb and would rather stay in a hotel in Venice, there are literally hundreds of hotels in Venice to choose from.
- Locanda Herion: This is a good mid-range option that is slightly away from the hustle and bustle along the Grand Canal, but still close enough to walk everywhere. Books a stay at Locanda Herion here.
- Hotel Gardena: A slightly more expensive option with rooms starting at $180, this hotel has rooms with views of the canal and a free buffet breakfast included in your room rate. Breakfast is a big plus if you can get it because it can be hard to find a filling breakfast option under $10 per person. Book a stay at Hotel Gardena here.
- Residenza Ca’Corner: This is a sort of B&B style place with beautifully decorated rooms and shared bathrooms. It’s affordable, it’s along the grand canal which means you get amazing views, and it offers a nice selection for breakfast included in your room rate. Book a stay at Residenza Ca’Corner here.
2 Days in Venice
One of the first things I recommend doing when you first arrive is to get yourself the 48 water taxi ticket. This will allow you to take the water taxis or vaporetti as much as you want for the two days that you’re in Venice. It’s a hefty price tag at €30 per person, but when a single ticket costs €7.50, all you have to do is ride the ferry more than twice a day and you’re saving.
The ticket is especially handy if you plan on taking the ferry to the outer islands like Murano, Burano, or Torcello since you’ll need to change ferries at least once each way.
You can buy ferry tickets outside the bus station if you are arriving that way. There is also a place to buy them near the train station. Just be sure to scan yourself onto your first ride so that you activate your card.
If you are caught using a card that has not yet been activated you could face hefty fines. You do this by simply scanning yourself through the turnstiles. Even if the turnstiles are open, you should still scan it to activate it.
Day One in Venice
Once you’ve got your transport card, hop onto the ferry to get yourself to the stop nearest to your hotel. Luke and I were only traveling with backpacks, but with all of the stairs, bridges, and cobbled streets, walking with heavy bags can be a real pain in the butt.
Once you’ve dropped your bags, get exploring. If you enjoy museums, get yourself to St. Mark’s Square. Here you can visit Doge’s Palace or Palazzo Ducale. The exterior itself is stunning, but once inside you really get a feel for how grand the palace really is. Parts of the building were constructed in 1142 and over the centuries new buildings and structures were added to the palace grounds.
Over the history of Doge’s, it was a seat of government, a courtroom, and a jail. It’s now one of the most interesting museums in Venice and explains a ton about the history of the island. I recommend, like all museums in Italy, to book your tickets online in advance. You not only save a few Euros but on busy summer days, you skip the ticket line.
While you’re in the area of St. Mark’s Square you can go up the tower, go into the church, or simply grab a beer at one of the cafes and people watch in the square. I ended up skipping the tower climb because we didn’t book in advance and didn’t want to wait, so if you are strapped for time on your trip to Venice, definitely book this in advance (which you can do here).
For lunch, check out some of the “fast food” pasta places around the city. This was by far my favorite lunch option. It was cheap, quick, and tasted amazing, three things that are hard to find in central Venice. The one I liked most was Baci & Pasta. It’s pretty close to Rialto Bridge and has a few seats inside to sit. The pasta was fresh, the sauces were great, and a bowl was about €6. I highly recommend the ragu sauce.
If you’ve packed your morning with activities, I recommend spending the rest of the day getting lost. Take the ferry to the train station and follow signs to the Jewish Ghetto. There’s a lot of history there that’s worth reading up on and you’ll find a lot of Stolpersteins there.
From there you can keep crossing bridges and get lost. Hop on the ferry and cross over the Grand Canal to walk around the Rialto Market. There’s a great place to grab an Aperol Spritz along the canal called Naranzaria. Or you can simply get a beer from one of the market vendors, ask them to open it for you and join the locals and tourists sitting along the canal having a beer.
If you’re on a budget, grab a takeaway pizza from one of the many along Salizada San Lio. We got a great pizza from Crazy Pizza and took it to the nearby Campo Santa Maria Formosa, a little square along the canal with plenty of places to sit. Bonus points if you pick up a beer or bottle of wine to enjoy with it.
If you would rather sit down to enjoy a meal, I recommend doing your research, speaking to locals (not your hotel who will likely send you to a tourist spot thinking that is what you want). Our Airbnb host recommended a few that she enjoys herself, but be prepared to pay about €50 per person for a first and second course and a drink.
- Al Mascaron: Great food, small restaurant, may need to wait. It’s near Santa Maria Formosa Church.
- Paradiso Perduto: Well known for its seafood and great selection of Venetian “home cooking” style foods.
- Vino Vero: A wine bar with Venetian-style food and as you might expect, a huge wine selection. Located right across from San Marziale Church.
Day Two in Venice
If you have only one full day in the city, this is a good time to visit the islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello. In hindsight, with only two days in Venice, I would have booked a tour of the islands rather than taking the ferry.
With a tour, you pay about €20 and you get a speedboat to each place. You are given 45 minutes to enjoy each island, which in my opinion is more than enough. It actually takes you to a glass factory rather than just browsing the glass blowing shops. You get a guide while you’re on the boat who explains more about the islands to you and you don’t have to wait in the lines at all of the ferry terminals.
If you do want to go it alone or you have more time than 48 hours, set off early. If you’re short on time or you’re not particularly interested in blown glass, I think you can skip Morano altogether. Burano is by far more picturesque, it is smaller and easier to navigate around and it is easier to get to.
The vaporetto line 3 takes from the bus station to Murano. From Murano, you can take a ferry directly to Burano. You can also take the 4.1 or 4.2 to Fomdamente Nove. If you only want to go to Burano, get the number 12 vaporetto from there straight to Burano. Which every ferry you take, just know that on your return trip to Venice, there will likely be a very long line to get back on.
Once back to the center of the city, you can’t miss the views over the city from the rooftop of T Fondaco Dei Tedeschi. It’s a department store, but they have a free rooftop viewing platform. Just be sure to book a time slot at least 2 days in advance. You can book a time slot here.
The views from the rooftop are unbeatable, especially because they’re free! Try to get the last time slot of the day to see the sky changing colors as the sun begins to set.
Spend your last evening in Venice soaking in the city by night. I really enjoyed riding the ferry down the Grand Canal as the sun was setting. Try to get a seat outside near the front. The vaporetto line 1 has a ton of stops, so if you can get a seat, you get a very long ferry ride to enjoy the scenery.
Should You Ride a Gondola?
Let’s talk about the gondolas. I initially thought that a trip to Venice would be incomplete without a ride on a gondola. It’s what makes Venice Venice, isn’t it?
On our first day in the city, we looked around at the gondola spots where you can pay for a trip with a gondolier. A daytime trip costs €80 and a nighttime trip costs €100. This is supposed to be for 40 minutes, but most people said they were lucky if the gondolier went for 30 minutes.
I watched as the gondoliers went past some days and talked without passion about the different sights you were seeing. It started to lose its romance for me. The more I saw them, the less I actually wanted to take one.
For me, being on the water was amazing. I loved riding on the vaporetto through the Grand Canal and around different parts of the city. That was enough for me.
I do, however, understand that feeling that you really want to ride one. The first thing I recommend is that you DO NOT book a gondola ride in advance. Websites that allow you to pre-book are a ripoff. Gondoliers in the city have rates that are set by the city.
You can also negotiate for a shorter trip. You can ride for only 20 minutes and pay only €40. Of course, you won’t see as much and they likely will not take you to the best sights in the area. However, if it’s a gondola ride you’re after, you can still have one for a somewhat reasonable price.
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