Venice is one of the most romantic and picturesque cities I’ve ever visited. Rich in history and culture, with fabulous cuisine, friendly locals and, with its intricate canals and winding alleyways, a uniqueness about it which surpasses most cities I’ve been to, it’s no wonder that it’s one of the most sought-after travel destinations in the world. If you’re planning on spending two days in Venice, this post should help you to make the most of your time there, without missing any of the top sights and special places that make it so magical.
Two Days in Venice: What to See & Do
Head to Piazza San Marco
Beautiful Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark’s Square is the central square of Venice, and the epicentre of the city’s social, religious and political history. The impressive architecture of St Mark’s Basilica and the towering Campanile are the dominant sights here, occupying most of the eastern end of the Piazza, but there are is also so much more to be seen. To the north, the former homes of the Procurators of St Mark, to the south, pretty cafés (including Caffè Florian – see below) and across from the cathedral, the Piazetta di San Marco, which connects the Piazza to the waterway of the lagoon.
Tip: It can get very busy in the square, so once you tire of the crowds, it’s worth heading inside the quieter Basilica to explore.
Explore St. Mark’s Basilica
Dating back to the 9th Century, this impressive cathedral is draped in history and dripping with secrets. Its enormous domes, which are resplendent in 24-carat gold on the inside, its marbled interior, original floor tiles and beautiful frescoes make for a spectacular viewing experience.
Tip: It’s worth booking your tickets online ahead of time so that you can skip the line and have a guided tour thrown in for good measure. You can find tickets to my favourite guided tour here, or simply purchase tickets to jump the queue here.
Climb the Campanile di San Marco
For a breathtaking 360° view of the city, climbing (or rather, taking the lift) to the top of the Campanile di San Marco is a must. Built in the 12th Century, this tower once served as a watch-tower over the winding streets and canals, and still houses some of the original bells that once rang out over the city.
Tip: Again, to skip those horrendous queues, don’t forget to book tickets online here.
Visit Doge’s Palace
Formerly the Doge’s residence, and the seat of the Venetian Parliament, many view this palace as the symbol of Venice, and a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. There is so much to be seen here, from the museum to the Doge’s apartments, and the prisons, armoury and institutional chambers, so set aside at least a couple of hours if you want to do it justice.
Tip: There’s a great walking tour that combines a fascinating stroll through Venice’s cultural centre, culminating in a guided tour of the Doge’s Palace, which you can book here.
Visit the Rialto Bridge and Market
One of Venice’s oldest bridges (and certainly its most iconic), the Rialto Bridge, is a great place to take a stroll. Expect it to be crowded, even in quieter times of the year, but if you are able to block out the crowds, you can almost take yourself back the 16th Century when the bridge was erected, as you look out over the incredible views of the canal and city. Nearby lies the Rialto Market, which sells a variety of fresh vegetables, meat and fish, and is worth a peruse.
Tip: If you’d like to have a good view or take a good photo of the bridge itself then head along the river away from the bridge and walk down one of the wooden jetties of boats for a good vantage point.
Take a Gondola through the intricate canals
As the first of your two days in Venice winds down, take a gondola through the intricate network of canals which snake through this astonishing city. Getting up close and personal with these waterways is by far the best way to experience the heart and soul of the city, and take in the various sights, sounds and smells that come with it. As our gondalier expertly steered us through the waterways, I was enamoured by the buildings bordering the canals which are built right into the water, and surprised by the feeling of tranquility that you can feel in this crowded and bustling city as you slip along the peaceful waters.
It’s an expensive past time, but in my opinion, it’s a must.
Tip: Booking ahead can save time, money and hassle – book your gondola ride here.
Head to the islands of Murano and Burano
One of the best decisions we made for our two days in Venice was taking a half-day trip to explore the islands of Murano and Burano.
Murano is the less interesting of the two islands to explore in my opinion, but viewing the island’s famous glass-making tradition is really worthwhile. You can enter one of the workshops from the jetty by the vaporetto (water bus) stop to watch the workmen blowing glass, and then head into the showroom to see some of the fantastic art these skilled glassmakers are able to produce (skip the eye-watering prices though, by making your purchases on the mainland).
Reserve the majority of your time for wandering around Burano and you won’t be disappointed. The island is famous for its lacemaking and legend has it that the fishermen of the village painted their houses in distinct colours so that they could see their homes more easily from the water. The result is a magnificent array of colour and vibrancy, which is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Spend your time simply wandering the streets before stopping for lunch at one of the quaint cafés, or grabbing a gelato from one of the stands.
Tip: Save yourself from having to look up individual boat times and transfers, and book a tour which combines pick-up and transfer between the islands. There’s a great one here.
Wander the streets
When you only have two days in Venice, one of your afternoons absolutely has to be dedicated to simply wandering. Everywhere you go is beautiful, and everywhere you go there are sights to be seen and places to explore. Meander across bridges, follow winding pathways which lead to pretty little courtyards, peruse the shops and simply watch the boats go by. Just don’t forget to take a map so you don’t lose your way!
Take a sunset boat cruise
A boat cruise out onto the Grand Canal will last about an hour, and take you past all of the main sights, bridges and attractions, while you learn about the city’s history along the way.
Tip: You can book a cruise of the Grand Canal online (you can find a fabulous one here), or do what we did, and book dinner at a five star hotel on the other side of the lagoon, which includes a fabulous FREE boat transfer to your restaurant, allowing you to take in all of the sights as you go (see below)!
Two Days in Venice: Where to Stay
There are a range of accommodation options in Venice, but be aware that hotels can be pricey, especially during the peak season, due to the small nature of the city versus the high demand! To keep prices down, opting for an AirBnB is a good option, or even staying outside of the city and travelling in, but if you prefer convenience, then here’s my top pick of hotels.
Liassidi Palace Hotel
A 4* hotel with excellent facilities, the Liassidi Palace Hotel is based in the vibrant Castello region of Venice, just minutes from the Bridge of Sighs. It benefits from having its own private jetty, making it a handy spot for water taxis and private boat tours to pick you up right on your doorstep. Just ask the friendly front desk staff for assistance.
The rooms are spacious, with large windows showcasing beautiful city vistas, but the fixtures, fittings and decor are a little outdated.
Check out the latest prices, and find more details here.
Hotel Londra Palace
If you are looking for a hotel that’s right in the midst of all the action for your two days in Venice, then the Hotel Londra Palace is a dream come true. Located on the banks of the San Marco Basin, at the mouth of the Grand Canal, next door to the main run of Vaporetto stops, and a hop, skip and a jump away from St. Mark’s Square, this historic property boasts an excellent restaurant called Do Leoni, fantastic amenities and one of the best views of the city from the private roof terrace, which is reserved only for hotel guests.
If you book a standard room, be prepared to cram in, because the original bedrooms are a little on the cosy side.
Check out the latest prices and more details here.
Pricey option (treat hotel!)
Belmond Hotel Cipriani
Alas, we didn’t get the opportunity to stay in this gem of a hotel on this occasion, but Mr Sunshine and I have vowed that we will be back someday to experience it. We spent an evening there, eating at their main restaurant (see below), and were blown away by the atmosphere, the grounds, the attentive staff and the whole experience.
Set on Giudecca Island, a five minute ride by private launch from the hotel’s own jetty at St Mark’s Square, this hotel captures the essence of ‘La Serenissima’ (‘most serene’; Venice’s nickname) with vintage glamour and luxurious elegance which infiltrates everything you see and experience. An ideal honeymoon hotel, or somewhere to stay for an extra special occasion.
Check out the latest prices and more details here.
Two Days in Venice: Where to Eat
There are many great breakfast spots in Venice, but I absolutely urge you to wander the streets and drop into any one of the bustling pasticceria which usually have seats out on the cobbles next to the canal, where you can watch the world go by with a steaming espresso or cappuccino, and pastry in hand (try a bigné al cioccolato – choux pastry filled with chocolate cream).
If you’re looking for a treat spot for lunch then one of my favourite spots is Riviera. It’s one of the best known restaurants in Venice for so many reasons: its setting on the banks of the picturesque Giudecca Canal, the personal and attentive service and attention to detail which the staff take very seriously; the artistry in the restaurant’s decor which is reflected in the food on your plate; the light, fresh food which is full of vibrancy and flavour.
For a more casual dining scene, then Ristorante Pizzeria Principe in Burano is a great place next to the canal from which to watch the world go by. It’s a friendly, family-run restaurant, which serves up excellent pizzas and pasta dishes in one of the prettiest spots on the island.
For something quintessentially Venetian, head to Trattoria Sempione for freshly made pasta and pizza set in rustic surroundings with windows that open right onto the canal.
There are plenty of excellent choices for a spot of tea (or espresso if you’re attempting to be more Venetian) and cake, but my top choice has to be the iconic Caffé Florian on St Mark’s Square. It’s brimming with 1700s Neo-Baroque splendour, houses an impressive art collection and equally impressive list of historic clientele. Head here for splendid coffee and tea taken from the most ornate tea sets, as well as cocktails and cakes, all of which are served on silver trays at a hefty price, but with a lofty atmosphere and aspect to match.
It claims to be the oldest café in the world. Worth splashing out in my opinion.
If there is one thing that you must do if you have two days in Venice, it is to embrace the pure romance of the city by booking into one of the fine dining restaurants located on one of the city’s many private islands, occupied by some of the world’s finest hotels. This way, not only will you get the opportunity to enjoy a FREE boat ride to your dinner (promise me you’ll make your reservation for sunset so that you get to enjoy views like these)…
But you’ll also be able to experience some of the best cuisine in some of the most beautiful settings that the city has to offer.
If I could eat at only one restaurant in the world for the rest of my days, then Michelin starred Oro restaurant in the Belmond Hotel Cipriani might just have to be it. Eliptical in shape, the restaurant is designed by acclaimed architect Adam D. Tihany, and drips with glittering Murano chandeliers and glasswork. The food is exquisite, and the service sublime. When we ate there, Jennifer Lawrence was eating at the table next to us, and we were reminded by our waiter that George and Amal Clooney had their wedding reception here, which tells you all you need to know!
The other island hotel we visited for dinner and drinks was the San Clemente Palace Kempinski, where we ate at their outdoor restaurant, Al Baccaro. Sitting on the terrace watching the sunset over the lagoon, we couldn’t feel more Venetian as we sipped our traditional Aperitif, sampled Venetian ‘cicchetti’ and tasted local cold cuts and cheeses. With live jazz lilting over the water, and an ancient Church complete with original frescoes to explore, it made for an excellent evening out.
Two Days in Venice: Hidden Gems
My family and I arrived in Venice in September, just in time for the Regata Storica, the main event in the ‘Voga alla Veneta’ rowing calendar. An impressive historical water pageant of colourful boats and people in traditional Venetian costume precedes the event, before the impressive rowing boats take to the waters to showcase one of Venice’s oldest traditions: Venetian rowing. The atmosphere was electric as we settled into our little café on the riverside and cheered on the boats alongside enthusiastic locals. If you happen to be in Venice for the event, then booking a table at a terrace somewhere along the Grand Canal is a must.
Alternatively, if you are visiting in May, there is the Vogalonga Regatta, a 30km long non-competitive rowing race across St. Mark’s Basin which has run since 1975, celebrating tradition and respect for the Venetian environment.
My friend Li’ha, who was born and brought up just outside of Venice says that if you are spending two days in Venice you must not leave the city without visiting Libreria Acqua Alta, a quirky bookstore which has resigned itself to constant flooding by keeping its books in bathtubs and boats. It’s whimsical enough to have been given the title of the ‘most beautiful bookstore in the world’ and definitely worth a snoop.
Another friend, Angie, who writes SilverSpoon London, told me about an excellent family-run restaurant called Le Antiche Carampane, which goes by the tagline, ‘You don’t arrive by chance’. From the outside it looks like nothing but a small hole-in-the-wall type place, but inside it is fabulous, serving up traditionally Venetian dishes with flare.
For a whole host of other hidden attractions, interesting tours and exciting activities to do during two days in Venice, head to GetYourGuide for some inspiration here.
Are you planning on visiting this wonderful city any time soon? I’d love to hear what you think of this guide and whether there are any other gems in this city which you think people must see during two days in Venice! Please leave a comment below.
Please read my disclaimer here.