Venice is made up of a hundred and eighteen islands and it is home to over a quarter-million people. Its historical center or what we call the main island is home to just around 55,000 residents. It is known as the most magical island in the world with nicknames like Serenissima, the city of the masks and the floating city.
It is no wonder that visitors flock to this beautiful place each day of the year to experience their own little slice of Venetian culture and history. Venice has an average of over 30 million visitors per year so it is a great idea to plan your day well. The good thing about Venice is that all of the main attractions are within walking distance from one another. Many people choose to spend a day or two in Venice, but Venetian hotels and restaurants can be pretty expensive, so you will save some money by heading there for the day.
Venice by train
Venice is located on the Adriatic sea so by train it is about three hours from Rome, two hours from Florence and two and a half hours from Milan.
I recommend booking your tickets on your phone or computer for arriving at Venetian San Lucia train station. This way there are no lines at the train station and you can just download your train ticket instead of printing it.
Do not get off at Venice Mestre stop because that is not your stop. Venice San Lucia is the last stop and definitely your stop. From there you can either take an expensive water taxi, which is really cool or the Vaporetto, which is like a boat version of a bus. If you choose Vaporetto, then take the number two which is taking you straight to St. Mark’s Square. A single journey will cost you seven euros and fifty cents. The trip to St. Mark’s Square takes about 30 minutes and I recommend you to go all the way to the back of the boat to get the best views.
St. Mark’s Square
St. Mark’s Square is one of the most important and most recognizable squares in the whole Italy. It is well known for its beauty and architecture.
Last time I was here, I was talking to our guide and he told me that St. Mark’s Square used to be an orchard. In the 9th century they paved it over and it started becoming the square.
If you are planning to go inside St. Mark’s Basilica you can either buy tickets online or book a guided tour. Do not show up without a ticket or you will spend your day in Venice waiting in line. Remember that entering St. Mark’s Basilica you will be entering a holy place, so make sure you have your shoulders and your knees covered or you may be refused to entry at the door. The Basilica is open every day from 9:45 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The Doge’s Palace
On the right-hand side of St. Mark’s Basilica you will find the Doge’s palace which pretty much means the Duke’s palace. Inside the palace you will find the Giant’s Staircase. The grand staircase leads up to the main floor inside the palace. The staircase is called giant not only for its size but also because on the top of The Giant’s staircase there are statues of two gods, Mars and Neptune. You can choose the special guided tour that takes you to the one famous cell of Casanova, and also across the Bridge of sighs which is super cool.
If you look at the palace from the square, you can see that the 9th and 10th columns on the first floor are red According to some, the two red columns were placed from when Doge attended the ceremonies and performances. It seems that the death sentences were also announced so red was a very appropriate color. You can visit Doge’s palace every from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. from April through October, or from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from November through March.
The clock on the Clock Tower has been keeping the time in Venice for over 500 years. It was built in the late 15th century and since then the special clock displays time, the phase of the moon and the dominant sign of the zodiac.
The Clock Tower is topped by two bronze figures who strike the bell hourly. Venetian legends say that when the clock was revealed, it was so beautiful to the Doge that he had to make the clockmaker blind so that he can never create anything to rival it.
If you are a lover of great views, definitely check out the Campanile or Bell tower in English. You can climb up it, it is 99 meters tall and from up there you can see across all Venice and lagoon. The Bell Tower is open only from April through October, so I recommend buying your ticket online in advance.
The most popular Venetian food is called Cicchetti. Those are small snacks or side dishes that are typically served in traditional restaurants. There are all types of different Cicchetti, like with fish, with fries, with ham and so on. While eating Cicchetti Venetians usually drink some good red wine. You will find the best Cicchetti at Osteria Al Squero bar, at All’Arco Bar and at Cantine dell Vino gia Schiavi bar.
Rialto Bridge is one of the most recognized attractions in Europe. It was actually first built as a pontoon bridge in the 12th century. Later it was rebuilt out of wood, but it burnt down a few times. Finally, it was completed in 1591.
After visiting Rialto Bridge I suggest you visit Nino & friends shop which is 5 minutes away from Rialto Bridge. Nino& friends is a cool little shop that has the best cookie I have ever eaten in my life. If you are walking by and you smell something great just stop by it. There was really cool because they gave me lots of free cookie samples.
I always loved passing through the markets of Venice. This city is a fishing village so definitely walk through the fish market which is a great picture of the local culture.
Also, I suggest you to visit the Jewish ghetto. The Jewish ghetto in Venice is the oldest ghetto in the world. It was created in 1516 and the word ghetto literally derives from this area. The New ghetto or Ghetto Novo is the oldest part of Venice and is actually a small island within Venice connected by draw bridges on all sides. These bridges used to be lifted up every night at midnight to keep the area safe and to prevent women to come home late in this neighborhood. you can find many cicchetteria and restaurants. If you have some more time you should definitely try riding in Gondola or visit Venetian other islands (Burano, Murano, Torcello, Lido).
Can you see Venice in a day?
If you are organized well, you definitely can see most attractions in Venice in one day. To summarize, here are the most popular Venetian attractions:
- St. Mark’s Square
- St. Mark’s Basilica
- The Doge’s Palace
- The Clock Tower
- The Bell Tower
- Tasting Cicchetti snack
- The Rialto Bridge
- Nino & friends shop
- Local fish market
- The Jewish ghetto
- Gondola ride
- Visiting other Venetian islands
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Have a safe and wonderful trip to Venice!