Uncovering the best of Venice in 24 hours


Fast travel is too often dismissed as being the “incorrect” way of experiencing a new place, and whereas an extended stay has its obvious benefits by allowing you to explore deeper, fast travel can also have its perks. This “Floating City” with 26 miles of canals, dozens of museums and galleries, maze of alleyways and countless eateries could easily keep you busy for weeks on end (and yes, extend your visit to the islands of Burano and Murano!).

Best of Venice in 24 hours
Best of Venice in one day

But with only 24 hours, you can still get a real taste of the place, and the compact city of Venice can be visited in just a day. With a restricted amount of time, your Venice itinerary should focus on the main tourist hot spots around the city. However, you probably heard some myths about this super-popular destination. For example, the stories about tourists unwittingly racking up a hundred Euro bill for a couple of espressos, right? So is it possible to explore the best of Venice in 24 hours on a budget? Let’s check it out.

Venice has countless of beautiful spots and attractions, so let’s break them down to those which have not been missed.

Does it get more quintessentially Venetian than hanging off the side of the Rialto Bridge as dozens of gondolas drift about on the Grand Canal below? Of course, being one of the few major crossing points across the Grand Canal, Ponte Rialto becomes somewhat of a bottleneck of tourists tussling from one side to the other. Still, the Ponte Rialto is something not to be missed. It is a fantastically elegant structure spanning the width of the canal, offering some of the best views of Venice on either side.

Price: Free!

If you want to catch an eyeful of the famous Grand Canal from its best, most well-known angle, don’t miss the Academia Bridge. It is a whole lot more of a calmer experience than the chaos of Rialto. You should take a stroll over the bridge onto the Southern side of Venice, which is known as a less crowded area. On this side of Venice, you can get up close to Basilica di Santa and visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Price: Free!

This is a must-see, of course. But despite this being one of Venice’s top attractions, we don’t recommend spending too long here. Venice, as you may well be aware, suffers from over-tourism and the city can struggle with the sheer volume of tourists heading onto the main island, with the city trying to combat the crowds with tourist taxes and daily caps on visitor numbers. Venice is a popular cruise destination, so when the cruise ship passengers roll in, this area can fill up, and fast. Still, crowds or no crowds, Piazza San Marco is a stunner.

San Marco square in Venice
Piazza San Marco (Image source: Flickr)

From the square, you can view the impossibly ornate basilica, the bell tower, and the Doges Palace. You can choose to pay an entrance fee to look inside and take a tour of the buildings, but in the interest of saving time and money, we were more than content with the beautiful views from the square.

Price: Free!

Just a couple of minutes from the middle of Saint Marks Square is Ponte Della Paglia; the viewpoint for the Bridge of Sighs. We were surprised at how small the Bridge of Sighs actually is; it’s a relatively modest looking bridge spanning over a small canal. Because this is the main viewpoint to catch sight of the Bridge of Sighs, Ponte Della Paglia gets very busy very quickly, but it’s definitely worth a look! The Bridge can also be seen from inside if you choose to visit the Doge’s Palace, but it’s best appreciated from afar.

Price: Free!

Now, welcome to the “real” Venice. Sure, with only 24 hours in Venice, you won’t have the capacity to fully immerse yourself in the city, but spending a few hours losing yourself in the side streets will be enough for you to begin scratching just below the surface and uncover the more authentic side. Venice is crowded, but this is only felt when you are one of hundreds trying to get a good photo on Rialto Bridge.

By taking a different trajectory, and ending up a few alleyways deep, away from the main tourist spots, the difference is stark. It’s actually surprisingly easy to find a quiet route through the back streets of Venice where you can fall in love with the tranquility and romance of the terracotta-pastel facades, endless fairy-tale bridges and miles of calm waterways.

Price: Free!

When in Venice, visit a Cicchetti bar! Travel and food go hand in hand and finding new flavours or dishes to try is all part of the experience. Cicchetti is so uniquely Venetian, and there are dozens of Cicchetti bars to choose from, so it won’t take you long to spot one, even when you are lost in the maze of backstreets. Cicchetti is essentially Venetian tapas, or small plates – a similar concept to Spanish tapas.

Cicchetti in Venice

In Italian culture, it’s typical to order at least one Cicchetti alongside a small glass of wine (ombra) and consume both while standing at the bar. When choosing your typical Cicchetti, we recommend starting with the salted cod – a traditional Cicchetti dish, but you can’t go wrong with the cured meats or cheese-topped options, as well as a plate of fried calamari. The Cicchetti selection will vary from place to place, as the chefs like to put their own stamp on their creations.

The Cicchetti bars are delightfully simple and unpretentious, so head inside, get adventurous with the dishes, order as little or as much as you fancy, and share it with friends. And you won’t spend much on this experience. For a glass of the local wine you will spend around 2 euros and 1-3 euros or upwards for Cicchetti, depending on your order.

Only in Italy, can you eat from a cardboard carton on the corner of the street, and it is still one of the best pasta dishes in the world. Sure, you can visit one of the many restaurants in the city, but for lunch, we wanted something quick and easy, and Dal Moro’s Pasta To Go fit the bill perfectly.

A few minutes walk from Saint Marks Square is the well-known Dal Moro’s, claiming to be the original (and best!) express takeaway pasta spot. The consistent queue speaks volumes and its popularity is a real testament to just how good this place is. Also, your pasta will be made right in front of you, so it will also be a great experience. Expect to pay between 5 and 8 euros for a freshly made pasta box.

It’s a good job they have world-class gelato in Italy, because it’s all about beating the summer heat in style. Real Italian gelato is easy to come by in Venice, but there are also a lot of imitation stalls selling ice cream. The difference is in the process and the texture of the gelato. Ice cream is heavily whipped and tends to stand taller in your cone, whereas gelato is lightly folded and denser. If you want to try real gelato, head over to Gelateria, Alaska, and try some more “experimental” flavors, such as turmeric and celery. P.S. It will cost you around 2-3 euros.

Sure, Venice isn’t known for its pizza, but hey, you are in Italy, so you should not miss this popular treat. Again, the key to finding a restaurant that doesn’t smash the budget is to move away from the tourist spots and find a local place down the alleyways. It might be tempting to find a seat on Saint Marks Square – dinner overlooking the Basilica will score record-breaking romance points, sure, but in Venice, the “coperto charge” (an additional cost added to your bill for a good view or even live music) is common.

It can range from a couple of euros but is likely to be exorbitantly high at a restaurant in the middle of the tourist path, and when you are paying a premium for the food already, the final bill might be higher than expected.

Pizzeria in Venice
Pizza in Venice (Image source: Flickr)

That said, tipping isn’t expected in Venice, so there is no requirement to factor this in, unless you would like to. Stray away from the tourist areas for a more authentic, local experience. We stopped for dinner at Trattoria-Pizzeria All’Anfora for two delicious margherita pizzas, a couple of glasses of wine, and an after-dinner espresso each. Keep in mind that one pizza will cost you from 8 to 12 euros.

After the searing heat of the afternoon, the evening had cooled the air enough for it to be a comfortable temperature and people started to wine and dine al-fresco. Venice at night is simply stunning, too. The back streets, squares and waterways are all so softly lit… no trains or traffic or city noise. Honestly, it’s like stepping back in time.

For unfussy, unpretentious, and super-affordable local wines with shared a patch of pavement with a dozen others, in front of the hole-in-the-wall style wine bar, Al Merca. Moving a couple of doors down the street, we cozied up outside the petite bar Naranzaria with a Campari Spritz. As we mentioned above, you will have to pay around 2 euros for a glass of the local wine and around 6 euros for an Aperol Spritz or Bellini.

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