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How to Visit Venice Without Drowning in Disappointment

How to Visit Venice Without Drowning in Disappointment

I don’t want to dissuade you as you search for places to visit in Venice, but I do want to give you a warning. Though it’s Italy’s most spectacular city in several respects, Venice can also be the most disappointing place in Italy if you arrive with unrealistic expectations, or during certain times of the year.

Making measures decisions on how many days in Venice, and even whether or not you stay overnight in the city (as opposed to taking a Venice day trip from Rome) can greatly influence how much you enjoy your time here. Consider what I’ve written below before you set foot in Italy’s Floating City, whether you’re looking for advice on how many days in Venice you should spend, or a complete itinerary.

UPDATE: Italy has re-opened to tourism in the wake of Covid-19. However, you will need to fill out a Health Declaration Form to enter Italy.

Need help deciding how many days to see Venice, or any other aspect of your Italy trip? Hire me as your Travel Coach!

Where to Stay in Venice

No matter your budget, there’s an amazing place for you to sleep in Venice. On the cheaper end of the spectrum, Antico Mercato balances a central location with a fair price, while travelers with money to spare can splurge on a suite at The Gritti Palace. If you’re not satisfied with Venice hotels (as many travelers to the city are not) you can check out Airbnb’s selection of Venice apartments, but you should be warned: Many locals feel that this aspect of the sharing economy has irreversibly cheapened the character of the city. No matter how many nights in Venice you spend, I imagine you will agree.

An Incredible Venice Itinerary: The tl;dr Version

Whether you take a Rome to Venice day trip by train or spend three days in Venice exclusively, these are the attractions that will probably define your trip to Venice:

  • Grand Canal
  • Rialto Bridge
  • Piazza San Marco
  • Doge’s Palace
  • Bridge of Sighs
  • Venice Carnival (either the festival itself, or paraphernalia therein)
  • Day trips to Burano and Murano

Assuming Venice is only part of your trip to Italy (and I think that’s a pretty safe assumption to make), I recommend checking out my three weeks in Italy itinerary once you’ve finished enjoying this post.

How Many Days Do You Need in Venice?

I didn’t enjoy my time in Venice, to the extent that my former post on the city (which now redirects here) was titled “is Venice worth visiting?” Time and the additional perspective my travel experiences have brought has caused me to moderate my views, however, and I would concede that you should visit Venice, though I’d recommend a shorter trip over a longer one—maybe one or two days in Venice, at most.

It also might be a good idea to consider Venice sightseeing tours, rather than exploring the city alone. While you could theoretically happen upon something really interesting, most of the city’s best treasure exist deep within serpentine pathways and cavernous old buildings, far away from even the most inquisitive tourists. When it comes to Venice, how many days you spend here is essential.

Venice Itinerary Options

One Day in Venice

I feel that Venice is overrated after having spent three days there, but I do think I would’ve felt more charmed if I’d only devote one day to the city. Most specifically if, after arriving at Santa Lucia Station, I’d headed directly to the Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal, or into the hectic Piazza San Marco, which is the city’s most famous public square.

All of the top things to do in Venice in one day are at their most beautiful after nightfall, however, so I’m not sure I could’ve truly enjoyed a Venice day trip from Rome or Florence. I do imagine you need to stay the night if only spend a day in Venice, but want to have the best experience possible. An amazing way to experience Venice at night (and to avoid the crowds that can ruin your whole trip) is to visit St. Mark’s Basilica at after closing hours on a small-group tour with Walks of Italy.


What to See in Venice in 2 Days

If you have a couple of days in Venice, you can knock more items off the list of top 10 things to do in Venice, whether you marvel at the white limestone Bridge of Sighs, ride a gondola through one of the city’s famous canals or take a store of the Gothic-style Doge’s Palace, which many travelers on shorter trips to Venice miss.

If you aren’t visiting during the Venice Carnival in February (a situation which, for the record, would greatly influence my recommendation for how many days to visit Venice), you can still see paraphernalia from the event during your trip. Countless street vendors sell the colorful masks seen during the festival, while performers can be spotted wearing them 365 days per year. How long to spend in Venice is a variable question, but two days is usually a good option.

3 Days in Venice

If your answer to how many days for Venice you need is “as many as possible,” I have good news and I have better news. The good news is that the vast majority of visitors can make do with just three days in Venice—a sizable plurality can’t handle any more than that. The better news is that three days allows you to see all of what there is in Venice—and optionally, far beyond the city limits.

More specifically, I love to use my third of three days in Venice to travel to the underrated city of Trieste, which is Italy’s longstanding gateway to Slovenia. Even if you don’t head to this underrated country, itself a gateway to the Balkans, the question you need to ask yourself for day three in Venice is not how many days Venice requires on its own, but how far outside of it you plan to explore.

Day Trips from Venice

Excursions from Venice are numerous, and can easily affect how many days to spend in Venice you decide. The most popular Venice day trips are to the islands of Burano and Murano, both located in the Venetian Lagoon, and close enough to each other to pair on a two-island day trip, either on your own or or an organized Burano and Murano tour. While colorful Burano is known mostly for the facades of its row houses, Murano has a long history of glassmaking, the fruits of which make for some of the most amazing souvenirs in all of Italy.

If you’re a bit more flexible about how many days to see Venice you think you need, you could take more adventurous day trips. Head southward and westward into Tuscany and to cities like Florence and Siena, or take a train to the city of Trieste, a gateway to the tiny nation of Slovenia, which is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. How long to stay in Venice depends as much on what you end up seeing in the city center as it does on what interests you outside it!

Other FAQ About Your Venice Itinerary

Is Venice overrated?

In an absolute sense, Venice is not overrated—how could actual floating city full of palaces, churches and other monuments to one of history’s greatest naval empires? On the other hand, your enjoyment of the city depends entirely on how many days in Venice you spend, as I’ve tried to emphasize here.

What is the best month to go to Venice?

Venice is a 365-day per year destination, although most people agree that the summer months of July and August are the most favorable to traveling, with their hot temperatures and sunny skies. With this being said, my opinion about how long to spend in Venice increases during the “off season” of winter, early spring and late fall—the weather isn’t as good, but crowds or lighter, which makes longer trips more pleasant.

Is it worth staying in Venice?

There’s an argument to be made for visiting Venice on a day trip, particularly if you plan to sleep on the mainland somewhere, such as in Trieste. On the other hand, most travelers for whom the answer to how many days to spend in Venice is zero are cruise ship passengers, who don’t have much choice in the matter anyway.

The Bottom Line

Planning a trip to Italy’s Floating City is a bit more complex than Googling “what to see in Venice” or “Venice hotels.” The fact is that Venice has fallen victim to its own popularity, and if you aren’t strategic about your visit, you probably won’t enjoy yourself very much. On the other hand, visiting Venice with realistic expectations and a clear plan in mind will allow you to feel the magic of the city without being overwhelmed by the many frustrating things about it, whether you want to know how many days in Venice you should spend or have another concern.


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