Your first glimpse of Venice will inspire, and as you wander through the mazes of hidden streets, the city’s contributions to architecture, art and music are evident around every corner. Our 48 Hours in Venice guide will help you discover hidden gems, amazing sights and truly make the most of a visit to this iconic city.
Listed as a World Heritage Site, the island is bisected by the Grand Canal and divided into six municipal districts, or sestieri. San Marco is the heart of town, with the most famous sights – and the most sightseers. It’s also the location of the tourist office. The easiest way to get around town is aboard a water bus (vaporetto).
Here are our suggestions for a fabulous 48 hours in Venice
Piazza and Basilica di San Marco
St. Mark’s Basilica is the most iconic Venice destination, and its wide piazza—shared by pigeons and tourists alike—is recognisable around the world and the perfect place to start your Venice break. Rise early to make the most of Basilica di San Marco before the crowds arrive. Venice’s signature Basilica dates from the 9th Century, and is a riot of Byzantine architecture, with spectacular gold mosaics, plundered sculptures and other relics
- Book your visit online to avoid the queues:
- There is a dress code to enter which is strictly enforced, so avoid shorts and make sure shoulders are covered
If you visit only one blow-the-budget cafe while you’re here, make it Caffe Florian. Established in 1720, and full of glamour and history, it is the place to be on Piazza The tiny cups of thick hot chocolate are fabulous www.caffeflorian.com
Palazzo Ducale/Doges Palace
Formerly the Doge’s residence and the seat of Venetian government, the Palace is the very symbol of Venice and a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. In the Doge’s Palace is the “Bocca di Leone”, is a mailbox with lion face. In the past, the illegal practices of Venetian citizens could be denounced by depositing a complaint letter in this mailbox. The visit of the Doge’s Palace ends in the prison and from here, in 1756, the famous prisoner Casanova escaped from these harsh surroundings.
Top tip: If you’re visiting the Palazzo Ducale for another €4, you could buy a Museums Pass (€24), which covers admission to 10 attractions http://www.visitmuve.it
Catch a boat down the Grand Canal and head to Dossodoro…
The Dossoduro is a maze of quiet streets, canals, locals’ haunts and (relative) bargains. Enjoy a wander through this beautiful and quieter part of Venice, taking in the café scene and some people watching along the way. Calle Sant’Agnese (which turns into Piscina Forner) is perfect for some souvenir shopping with some gorgeous shops selling tasteful items at reasonable prices.
Catch a glimpse of how a Venetian gondola is made at the gondola workshop of Squero San Trovaso, a few hundred yards down a canal from the Accademia. The boatyard first opened in the 17th century and is one of Venice’s three working squeri (shipyards)
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Venice’s major modern art gallery, The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is among the most important museums in Italy for European and American art. After losing her father on the Titanic, heiress Peggy Guggenheim became one of the great collectors of the 20th century. Her palatial canal-side home, showcases her collection of surrealist, futurist and abstract expressionist art. The sculpture garden – Peggy’s final resting place – features works by greats like Moore and Kapoor.
Top tip: Check the website as the Gallery often holds art classes which you can book in advance,
Dorsoduro has lots of atmospheric bacari, bars that serve cheap cicheti (small snacks), so a bacaro crawl is a great option for dinner. The best in the area is Cantina del Vino Già Schiavi. Cicheti are some of the best culinary finds in Italy and are best accompanied by Veneto wines served by the glass. Cicheti range from basic bar snacks, such as spicy meatballs, to inventive plates involving fish caught in the lagoon.
Murano and Burano
No trip to Venice is complete without its islands of Murano and Burano.
Start in Murano, home to the world-famous glassware hand-made by skilled craftsmen. Venetians have been working in glass since the 10th Century, but they were moved to the Island in the 13th Century due to the fire risks of glass blowing.
Wander down the pretty canal-side walkway filled with shop after shop selling signature wares – though watch out for variations in quality and origin, not all are made in Venice
Burano’s fabulous brightly coloured houses make a sharp contrast from Venice’s gothic architecture. The island is famed for its handmade lace, although these days there are only a few production houses designing and making these fabulous designs
Catch the boat and head back to Cannaregio and discover a neighbourhood largely unchanged by the city’s tourist hordes. Its bars, restaurants and shops are great places to see local life.
Sharing the same side of the Grand Canal with San Marco, Cannaregio district is easy to explore on foot along the typical venetian streets called “campi”. Though Cannaregio has noble palaces built along the Grand Canal, the northern part of this district was, and still is, a typical working-class neighbourhood and is also famous for the presence of the oldest Jewish Quarter in Europe
Places to visit include Venice’s ancient Ghetto and the Jewish Museum, which are full of history and tradition; the stupendous Palazzo Ca’ d’Oro on the Grand Canal which houses the outstanding Franchetti art gallery; and the Chiesa della Madonna dell’Orto with works by Tintoretto and Titian.
There’s only one way to end 48 hours in Venice with a bellini at Harry’s Bar, the place where the fresh cocktail was invented.
With fabulous views into hidden courtyards and quiet canals a gondala ride is an amazing once in a lifetime experience, however it does come at a price. Daytime rates are 80 Euros for 40 minutes with higher charges in the evening.
Venice makes the perfect city break for all the family – children will be in awe of this fabulous city on water. The cobbled streets and bridges may be tricky with a buggy and restraining a toddler near canals may prove a regular activity, but on the plus side there are no mopeds to avoid! Kids will enjoy feeding the pigeons near Piazza San Marco and will no doubt love a trip on a gondala, plus the gelatos are amazing…
Experience Venice like a Venetian
Food Tours are a great way to eat and drink like a Venetian. There are a variety available including Venice Urban Adventures. which offer tours of local hot spots lead by knowledgeable guides, taking in Veneto wine and cicheti.
If you are looking for a different experience on the canals, try Row Venice where you get off the beaten path and onto the Venetian waterways in beautiful hand crafted bateline
Traghetto – if you are looking for the gondola experience without spending a fortune, take a short trip across the Grand Canal on a Traghetto
Book attractions in advance – e.g. you can Book Le Fenice two months before your visit
Boat pass – With single rides costing 7 Euros for frequent use, purchase a pass for unlimited travel within a set period e.g. 1 day pass costs 20 Euros.
Enjoy Respect Venice – A campaign started by the municipality of Venice called ‘Enjoy Respect Venice’ has some great advice on how to enjoy this city whilst be considerate of those that live there http://www.venicebyvenetians.com/respect-enjoy-venice/
Where to stay – Central locations in Venice can be very expensive so look at more reasonable options including Lido, Murano and Burano.
Luggage – Cabin bags are the perfect case for moving round the narrow streets of Venice. We would particularly recommend our Global DLX case; perfect for absorbing shocks of uneven terrain.
Festivals and Events
Carnevale – 23 February to 5 March 2019
This 2-week-long festival stretching over the 2 weeks before Lent is about parades, concerts, markets, and of course the ornate Venetian masks. A Grand Canal flotilla marks the end of the festivities
The next Venice Biennale—also will run from 11 May to 24 November 2019. The Venice Biennale has been for over 120 years one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world.
The Vogalonga 2019 is a 30km paddling/rowing race through the city of Venice and the lagoon up to Burano. Almost all rowed or paddled boats can participate, and there’s even a separate category for kayaks. There are usually well over a thousand boats in the race, of many types. It is amazing site to see or participate in! The next Vogalonga will be on June 9th 2019.