There’s a reason they call Venice one of the most iconic destinations in Italy. The atmospheric city built on the water is like a step back in time, a dazzling labyrinth of canals and bridges lined with Gothic architecture, dazzling palazzos, ornate churches and moody corridors. Most visitors love Venice, while some say it’s overrated. I personally adore the city. It’s a place I’ve been to three times now, and still find it completely captivating every time I visit. Below is my travel guide to Venice including the best sights, canal viewpoints, hotels, Airbnb’s, photo locations, restaurants and travel tips, as well as a three-day itinerary to help you plan your visit. This post contains affiliate links.
Gondola rides are touristy, but a must while in Venice.
Gelato stop on the Ponte Sant’Antonio Bridge.
THREE DAYS. Three days is the ideal amount of time to see most of the main sights in Venice at a relaxed pace, and get a good taste of the city. You’ll have time to explore St. Mark’s Square and its surroundings, as well as visit the main tourist sights, wander through Dorsoduro, day trip to Burano and Murano, take a gondola ride and eat at the city’s best restaurants. If you tack on a fourth day, you’ll have time to explore the city’s different sestieri, and tour a couple museums.
Rialto Bridge. OUTFIT DETAILS: Target flats linked here.
Loads of charming corners all over Venice.
This iconic view of the Grand Canal is from the Accademia Bridge that connect Dorsoduro to San Marco.
The local currency is the Euro. And while it’s always a good idea to have local currency handy for small purchases, almost everywhere in Venice accepts credit card.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
MAY AND SEPTEMBER. June, July and August are high season for all of Italy when both crowds and hotel prices are at their peak. If summer crowds aren’t your jam, the shoulder season months of May and September are a nice compromise – less people, less heat and less money to spend.
EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE WORM
Visit popular places early to avoid the overwhelming crowds of tourists in Venice. For example, visit the Liberia Aqua Alta bookstore when it opens at 9 AM and you’ll only see a handful of people. Visit in the afternoon, and you’ll wait in a line of 50 people just to get into the tiny bookstore.
Almost all hotels and restaurants have free wi-fi available to guests. I recommend downloading an offline Google map of Venice to help navigate through city when there is no wi-fi connection. If you want connection 24/7, SIM cards and e-SIM cards are both available in the Arrivals lobby of the Venice airport. If you’re phone uses an e-SIM, I recommend buying an e-SIM for Italy before the trip. It will save you time at the airport. I used Holafly on my trip, as well as Airalo.
WHAT IS A SESTIERE?
Venice is made up of six districts that are called sestiere – San Marco, San Polo, Dorsoduro, Cannaregio, Castello and Santa Croce.
A book-lined alley serves as the exit to the bookshop Liberia Acqua Alta. OUTFIT DETAILS: Spell dress linked here.
To-go pasta from Dal Moro’s.
One of the cutest canal views in Venice at Ristorante Barbacani. This table requires a €200 deposit, seating is only for 90 minutes and the food here is not very good.
A wooden bridge spanning the Grand Canal that connects the sestiere of Dorsoduro to San Marco. The view from the bridge is one of the best in Venice.
BASILICA DI SANTA MARIA DELLA SALUTE
The name might not sound familiar, but there’s a good chance you know the Basilica di Santa Maria Della Salute. It’s a Gothic domed church that sits on the water across from San Marco, and it’s in almost every photo, painting and postcard of the Grand Canal. The 17th century church is incredibly iconic, and completely free to visit.
BRIDGE OF SIGHS
The Bridge of Sighs is an enclosed limestone bridge that connects Doge’s Palace to the city’s historic prison. Visitors can walk through the Bridge of Sighs while touring Doge’s Palace, or there’s a view of the bridge from the Ponte della Paglia.
This colorful island is my favorite day trip from Venice. It too sits in the Venetian Lagoon, approximately 30 to 40 minutes by Vaporetto. Bright houses line the canals, corridors and banks that bisect the tiny island, a strong contrast to the more muted colors of Venice. The main sights on Burano are the Rio del Pontinello, Rio della Giudecca, Rio di Terranova and the leaning campanile of San Martino. Also, the island measures less than one square mile, so it’s easy to see everything in one morning.
CAMPO DEI MORI
Beautiful square located in the Cannaregio sestiere where the statues of three Moorish brothers (plus one statue of a servant) sit in the ancient walls. According to the legend, the brothers were cursed and turned to stone, and you can still see the statues today around the square.
Doge’s Palace is a remarkable example of Venetian Gothic architecture. The former home of the Venetian government can now be visited as a tourist attraction.
San Marco is the shining star of Venice, but it’s worth a trip over the bridge to visit the charming Dorsoduro neighborhood. This part of Venice is quieter than the more bustling tourist areas, but equally beautiful, home to picturesque canals, lovely piazzas and the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.
Expensive, yes. But a gondola ride in Venice is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you literally cannot do anywhere else in the world (except maybe Las Vegas?). And it’s a pretty amazing feeling to float through the picturesque canals. My personal preference is to avoid the gondoliers on the Grand Canal where it’s big, busy and loud, and instead catch a ride in a quieter neighborhood of canals. Prices are €80 before sunset and €100 after sunset for a private 30-minute ride (set prices, no haggling).
It’s impossible to miss the Grand Canal when in Venice – all corridors and canals seem to lead to the city’s main waterway. One of the best viewpoints of the canal is from the Accademia Bridge.
HOTEL SAN MOISE DOCK
Bring pizza to this picturesque dock in the late afternoon, and watch gondolas float by while eating a slice.
LIBRERIA AQUA ALTA
An adorable bookstore that sits tucked away in the Castello district of Venice. The small shop is filled wall-to-wall with vintage books for visitors to browse, thumb through and purchase. There’s a small brick corridor outside that leads out of Libreria Aqua Alta that is lined with stacks of old books – very picturesque.
Murano is world famous for its glass-making, and worth a stop if you have time. It’s composed of a handful of tiny islands linked by small bridges with an architecture palette that resembles Venice. The island is an easy Vaporetto stop on the way back to Venice.
Palazzo Tetta is the only palace in Venice where three sides of the building are bordered by canals. Very picturesque.
The Rialto Bridge is the famous stone bridge that spans the Grand Canal at its narrowest point, connecting the neighborhoods of San Marco and San Polo. It’s offers up a great viewpoint of the Grand Canal. The bridge itself also serves as an epic photo backdrop from the banks below.
SCALA CONTARINI DEL BOVOLO
Scala Contarini del Bovolo is home to a a six-story spiral staircase that rises up to sweeping views over the city. The design of the palazzo is a mix of Renaissance, Byzantine and Gothic architectural styles using terracotta brick, stone archways and columns. Admission only by timed ticket, and limited to 10 visitors per 30 minutes. Tickets can be purchased here.
ST. MARK’S BASILICA
A stunning church located on St. Mark’s Square, next to the Campanile and Doge’s Palace. It’s the largest church in Venice, home to vibrant golden mosaics.
ST. MARK’S CAMPANILE
St. Mark’s Campanile might be the most iconic sight in all of Venice. The bell tower sits in the heart of St. Mark’s Square, rising 323 ft. up, and visible from several locations throughout the city. It was originally built in the 10th century, but the current tower was rebuilt in 1912 after it collapsed in 1902. I highly recommend taking the elevator up to the top of the tower for 360 views over the city.
ST. MARK’S SQUARE
The sprawling public square is home to St. Mark’s Basilica, St. Mark’s Campanile and a long arcade of shops, restaurants and cafes with dozens of tables that spill out onto the square. It’s one of the busiest places in Venice, especially during the summer months.
Pizza picnic with views of the Rialto Bridge.
The outdoor dining on the Campo Santo Stefano.
Bridge of Sighs.
Alice’s House is a clean, spacious apartment in the heart of San Marco, at a very reasonable price point. It’s been recently renovated, so everything feels modern and up to date.
It’s the creme-de-la-creme of luxury hotels in Venice. This stunning Aman property sits in the Palazzo Papadopoli, a 16th century Baroque palace that now houses 24 incredible rooms and suites adorned in ceiling frescoes, silk wall coverings, wood panelling and extravagant chandlers. A handful of rooms overlook views of the the canal.
A second over-the-top luxury option in Venice is the Belmond Hotel Cipriani. The hotel sits on Giudecca Island, a calming retreat from the bustle of the city centre, and a short lagoon ride away from St. Mark’s Square. The property houses nearly 100 luxurious rooms and suites, as well as a stunning outdoor pool, award winning restaurants and private marina.
Charming San Marco apartment that offers the loveliest view over a picturesque canal. The property is small, but the one bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living space are plenty spacious for one to two people. Very clean with Venetian design cues.
Ca’Maria Adele is a gorgeous boutique hotel located across from Santa Maria della Salute in the Dorsoduro neighborhood. The design is wildly Venetian, but nothing feels dated – extravagant furniture piece, Baroque statues, printed drapes, dark fabrics and chandeliers. Guests have a selection of deluxe suites, an apartment or four concept rooms to choose from. The concept rooms have the most character, and are the most beautiful – my favorite is the Noir Room.
Bright, clean Aribnb located in Dorsoduro. The modern two bedroom space has high ceilings, two bathrooms, a full kitchen and a lovely balcony overlooking the neighboring canal. Highly recommend Ca’Sole Residence.
This is a charming boutique hotel in an amazing setting that overlooks the Grand Canal. While the property’s Santa Croce location isn’t particularly central to the main tourist sites, everything is still within reasonable walking distance. Set in a 15th century palazzo, the design is quintessential Venice – a Venetian courtyard filled with green ivy and white Italian statues, pastel toned rooms and wood beam ceilings. Pricing is very reasonable for the quality of stay and the Grand Canal location, but there are only five rooms. Cima Rosa sells out well in advance – early reservations are a must.
If you’re looking for an apartment with a canal access, Floating Canal View House is the one. The kitchen door literally opens up to the canal, and the apartment windows sit just a few feet above the water. It’s a bit of a walk to reach St. Marks’ Square, but a 25-minute stroll through Venice is nothing to complain about. There are plenty of nearby shops and restaurants, and the Cannaregio is a nice retreat from the main tourist centre.
Gritti Palace offers up one of the best locations on the Grand Canal. The 15th century palazzo is a short walk from St. Mark’s Square across the waterway from Santa Maria della Salute. Rooms are an opulent Venetian design, very spacious and clean. Club del Doge is the property’s beautiful restaurant with terrace seating right on the Grand Canal.
Tucked away in the Cannaregio neighborhood is a gem of an apartment. The space was completely renovated in 2021, and everything feels fresh, new and modern. The apartment is small, but the high wood beam ceilings, clean design cues and light from the windows make the property feel spacious. The Palazzo Miracoli Apartment is located in front of Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli.
St. Regis Venice is basically a neighbor to Gritti Palace, both located on the Grand Canal with private jetties facing San Giorgio Maggiore. Rooms are very nice, but to some the interiors might feel a bit more like a chain hotel than some of the other options in Venice.
Clean, modern and minimalist apartment with one of the prettiest canal views in Venice. The balcony sits over the Rio di Noale canal, and there are large windows that overlook the Rio di Santa Fosca. Terazier Apartment books up months in advance because of the amazing views.
This little dock is located on a popular gondola route next to the Hotel San Moise – a great place to sit with a box of pizza, and watch the boats.
The ornate details of St. Mark’s Basilica.
One of the three statues of the legendary Moorish brothers located on the Campo dei Mori. OUTFIT DETAILS: Similar Target dress, linked here.
Tallest stack of books I’ve ever sat on!
Dinner with a canal view at Ristorante Sempione.
The service here can be hit or miss, but the Napoli-style pizza is consistently delicious. 1,000 Gourmet has another location in Italy – fittingly in Naples.
Solid San Polo take away pizza counter that serves slices or whole pies. There are more than a dozen thin crust pizzas to choose from, everything from the traditional Margherita to house specials like the Carbonara, Pugliese and Palermitana.
BA’ GHETTO RESTAURANT
If you’re staying in San Marco, it’s a bit of a trek to reach Ba’ Ghetto in the Cannaregio district – the Jewish ghetto of Venice. But it’s a lovely walk through the most populous part of the city, as well as an excuse to explore a seistri most tourists skip over. Plus, the restaurant is worth the journey, serving traditional Roman Jewish cuisine, as well as a handful of Venetian favorites. Highlights include artichokes, falafel, hummus, fried zucchini, fresh pastas and meats.
Sit down for cappuccino or hot chocolate at the oldest coffee house in Venice, on beautiful St. Mark’s Square.
The original to-go pasta spot in Venice. Their menu is simple – select a fresh pasta, a fresh sauce and an optional topping. It all goes in a white to-go box. I think it was better 10 years ago before the hype, but still a solid quick-eat option.
There are plenty of gelato shops to choose from in Venice, but Gelatoteca Susa is one of my favorites.
GIO’S (canal dining)
For breathtaking views of the Grand Canal, make a reservation at Gio’s well in advance. The restaurant’s terrace is an amazing spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The restaurant is located at the St. Regis Venice.
OSTERIA FANAL DEL CODEGA (canal dining)
A lovely little restaurant with tables that line a small canal – quintessential Venice. And the food is pretty good too. Menu includes a variety of antipasti, pastas and fresh seafood. Reservations highly recommended.
RISTORANTE AI BARBACANI (canal dining)
To be completely transparent, the food here is not good. I’m simply including it in the round-up for people looking for canal dining in Venice because Ristorante Al Barbacani is home to one of the most charming dinner settings. The restaurant has one, small two-person table that sits in a doorway, directly over a small canal. The atmosphere is pretty dreamy.
That said, to reserve this specific table (there’s only one canal table in the restaurant), it’s €100 per person with an advance deposit required. There’s a 90-minute time limit, and if you don’t spend all of the deposit at dinner, they don’t refund any of the money.
RISTORANTE PIZZERIA DOLFIN
This cozy little restaurant is bustling at night – always packed. Menu is filled with both Italian and Venetian classics – I loved the fresh seafood options (especially the grilled sea bream!).
RISTORANTE SEMPIONE (canal dining)
Another spot where the food is just average, but the restaurant’s canal seating offers a particularly charming ambiance.
TRATTORIA AL GATTO NERO
This is the best restaurant on Burano, and a terrific lunch option while on a day trip to the island. The colorful canals provide a beautiful ambiance for the outdoor seating. Trattoria Al Gatto Nero specializes in fresh seafood.
The prettiest staircase in Venice is at the Scala Contarini del Bovolo.
Caffe Florian is the oldest coffee house in Venice.
Morning treats at Caffe Florian.
Venice is made up of dozens of small islands connected by small bridges over the narrow canals. The easiest way to get around is on foot or by Vaporetto, the city’s public water bus. Gondolas are signature to Venice, but they are more of a sightseeing activity, and not a primary mode of transportation.
The Vaporetto is very easy to use with a variety of routes and stops throughout Venice. Timetables are posted at each stop where you can purchase your ticket. Tickets are €9.50 for a one-way fare (good for 75 minutes), €25 for a one-day pass, €35 for a two-day ticket and €45 for a three-day ticket.
Water taxis are another option, but much more expensive than the Vaporetto. Prices vary by company.
The dreamiest canal views.
Found my dream house in Venice.
Cannoli for two.
One of the Moors on the Campo dei Mori.
The Venice Marco Polo Airport is located on the mainland, connecting Venice to local destinations in Italy, as well as international cities throughout Europe, the Middle East and the United States. From the airport, the only way to get into Venice is by water. Private boat transport can be arranged through hotels, but it isn’t cheap. Prices vary by company, but private water taxis from the airport typically range from €110 to €135. Most tourists take the Alilaguna Blu Line from the airport into Venice (it’s like a public water bus). The boats are clean, efficient and run on a regular schedule. Tickets can be purchased here in advance, or at the airport.
Passengers arriving by train will disembark in Venice. The station location isn’t central to the tourist district, but it’s possible to reach via a long walk. Otherwise, catch the Alilaguna or book a private water taxi.
The colorful island of Burano!
Bursts of color all around the island. OUTFIT DETAILS: O’Neill dress linked here.
Burano gets very busy – best to visit first thing in the morning, or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds of tourists.
Burano can easily be visited as a day trip from Venice – it’s a 30-minute Vaparetto ride to reach the island.