2 days in Venice is just the right amount of time to soak up the atmosphere of the city, see the major sights, and escape before Venice overwhelm sets in. With more than 20 million visitors per year, Venice is crowded with day-trippers and tourist traps. Our survival tips will help you avoid the crowds and truly enjoy your short trip to Venice.
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I always try to be honest on this blog, so I’m not going to lie to you — Venice can be disappointing.
You might be imagining narrow canals glittering in the sunshine while gondoliers sing love songs as they float by.
While that can happen, Venice is also overrun with day tourists, scammers, and some of the world’s best pickpockets. Much of the local population has been priced out of the city, turning Venice into a watery theme park of sorts.
But the city is also SO AMAZING that…
Everyone should experience Venice at least once in their lives!
We created this post to help you avoid the disappointing parts of Venice and make the most of your two days in this unique city.
Read on to find out exactly…
What You Need to Know for the Best 2 Days in Venice
What’s in our Guide to 2 Days in Venice?
1. The most important thing to pack for 2 days in Venice
2. How to get around Venice without a map
3. Where to find free toilets in Venice
4. Where to get free open WiFi in Venice
5. How to escape the Venice crowds
6. Where to find free, clean drinking water in Venice
7. Why you don’t need a travel card
8. Skip the island-hopping until next time
9. Why you should pay more for your Venice hotel
10. How to avoid the high price of a gondola ride
11. Leave extra time for everything
12. Map it or lose it
13. 2 day itinerary for Venice
14. Where to go after 2 days in Venice
The most important thing to pack for 2 days in Venice
Venice is a walker’s paradise, but even those of us with long legs and a penchant for hoofing it get sore feet after a day in Venice. With only got 2 days in Venice, you’ll want to spend most of that time on your feet, so make sure to bring a great pair of walking shoes. They’ll need to have good grip for the smooth slippery cobblestones and good support, since you’ll be going up and down stairs all day long.
(Don’t miss: Here’s our guide to finding lightweight walking shoes you will love) →
How to get around Venice without a map
After about three minutes in Venice, you’ll notice that everyone is walking around staring at their paper map or their phone. That’s because it can be utterly confusing to find your way around. If you don’t want to miss seeing Venice properly, you’ll need a way to navigate without looking at a map all day long.
Here’s a secret that no one bothers to tell you — Venice has a navigation system built right into its walls. They’re called street signs and they point you in the right direction on practically every corner in Venice.
To spot these handy way markers, look up on the sides of the buildings as you walk.
If you’re heading from the train station towards St Mark’s Square, follow the signs that say “per Rialto” and “per San Marco”. On your way back, follow signs for “Alla Ferrovia”. Not only will you look like you really know your way around, but these signs show the quickest way to get between points.
(Related: If you love canals but not crowds, check out this guide to canal cities in Europe that aren’t Venice by California Globetrotter) →
Free fancy toilets in Venice? Yes, please!
Just outside of the north end of St Mark’s square, there are public toilets where they charge €1.50 for a pee. While I don’t mind paying a bit to ensure the cleanliness of my throne, that is just a rip-off!
Especially when there are fancy free toilets just around the corner.
To find these toilets, go to the Rialto bridge and look for the upscale shopping mall at the northeast corner. The mall is housed in the grand Fondaco dei Tedeschi building, which has served as a goods market for hundreds of years. Not only is this a great place to cool off and scope out some pricey shopping opportunities, it is my favourite place to pee in Venice.
Even if you can’t afford the cheapest item in the mall, you can take the escalators up to the fourth floor to use the toilet, free of charge.
(Related: If you’re trying to save money in Venice, take at look at these 50 Things to do in Venice on a Budget by That Texas Couple) →
Where to find free WiFi in Venice
Public WiFi in Italy is so irritating, since you often need an Italian phone number to register. What use is that to the disconnected tourist?
Fortunately, in Venice, I discovered two places to hop on free WiFi without a phone number and without buying anything! This was a huge help when it came time to plan my next move.
The first is at the aforementioned mall, the T Fondaco dei Tedeschi. They have an open WiFi network which works fairly well.
The second is in St Mark’s Square. Most of the sidewalk cafes have open WiFi networks — with no need for a password or to buy a drink.
How to escape the Venice crowds
Venice is almost always busy, but there is still a way to experience peaceful canals and charming side streets without getting pushed out of the way by the latest Instagram queen.
Even in high season, it’s surprisingly easy to get away from the mad rush of tourists.
Just walk away from St Mark’s and Rialto, going in the opposite direction to most of the people. Keep this up for 5 minutes or so, and you’ll find yourself quite alone with the magic of Venice.
Also, check out this cool tool by Città di Venezia which gives you a forecast of how busy Venice will be on any given day.
Where to find free, clean drinking water
When you’re packing for two days in Venice, definitely remember your re-usable water bottle because there is no need to buy overpriced bottled water in Venice. All over the city, public water fountains spout excellent drinking water. The water from these fountains runs cold and clear, and tastes great, too.
Do Mother Earth a solid and don’t buy bottled water in Venice!
(Related: Find out more about Venice water and grab a map of all the public water fountains in Venice) →
Why you don’t need a travel card for 2 days in Venice
Because transportation in Venice is all by boat, it’s far more expensive to get around than most European cities. You can buy a travel card for two days in Venice for €30 but it’s only worth it if you plan to ride boats more than you plan to walk.
You can walk across Venice in about an hour, so there’s really no need for a travel card if you’re only staying in Venice for 2 days.
If you have 36 hours in Venice, plan to spend one day travelling by boat and buy a 24-hour travel card (currently €20) that day.
Skip the island-hopping until next time
With only 2 days in Venice, it’s not worth your time to make the trek out to Burano or Murano islands. Though they are pretty communities, unless you’re a glass or lace fanatic, you won’t find much to entertain you after you’ve take a few pictures of the colorful buildings.
If you have 3 days in Venice, then a good option is to use your travel card on the third day to explore Murano and Burano.
Why you should pay more for your Venice hotel
Here’s a mistake I made last time I was in Venice.
Seduced by the low prices and proximity to the train station, I stayed at the AO Hotel in Mestre, which is a train ride away from the island of Venice.
(The hotel was actually quite nice and the train made it super-easy to get in and out of Venice – so if you’re on an extremely tight budget, this might be a good option.)
By staying off the island, I missed out on so much that’s great about Venice, that the savings really weren’t worth it.
Pay a little extra to stay on the island, so you can enjoy Venice early in the morning before the day-trippers flood in. Late in the evening, you can go for a stroll after dinner and feel the magic of Venice soak into your bones.
Here are a few Venice hotels to check out:
Angolo Fiorito, a quiet and charming property close to a boat stop.
Invisible Guest House, clean and well-located, only 15 minutes walk from San Marco.
Venizia Boat, where you can sleep in a twin cabin on a gorgeous yacht!
Need more travel advice for Venice? Try these:
How to avoid the high price of a gondola ride
I know, I know — a gondola ride is THE experience to have in Venice. It is also likely to be more expensive than it is enjoyable.
The official rate for a 40-minute gondola ride is €80 plus tip, and you can load up to 6 passengers for that price. So, if you are with a group, it might be worth it. Otherwise, save your cash for Aperol Spritz and take a traghetto instead.
Traghetti are large gondola-style water taxis that take pedestrians across the Grand Canal at a few specific spots. Last time I was in Venice, I paid €2 for a five-minute ride, which was plenty of time to enjoy the novelty!
Leave extra time for everything
Walking through Venice is wonderful, lovely, charming… and slow!
Not only are there crowds, narrow alleys, and bridges to navigate, but there are SO MANY photos to snap that it takes ages to get anywhere. If you need to be at a certain place at a certain time in Venice, leave twice as long as you think you’ll need.
Map it or lose it
Did we mention all the charming shops, gelato stops, and cute cafes you’ll see in Venice?
Well, you will, and you’ll undoubtedly think “Let’s come back here later”, or something similar.
It’s a great idea to keep your eyes open for places you want to visit while you’re wandering around Venice. But unless you mark the spot on your map, you’ll probably never find those places again! So make sure to drop a pin on your map app if you really want to find something again.
2 Day Itinerary for Venice
Venice 2 Day Itinerary — Day 1
Morning: Start your visit with a walking tour
On your first morning in Venice, join La Bussola for their free walking tour “Introduction to the City”.
The tour leaves every morning at 10am and introduces you to the history, construction, and layout of the city.
You’ll also get to see gondolas being made and find out a little about the residents of Venice today. Finally, the tour will help you get your bearings in a city which can seem impossible to navigate.
As with all free walking tours, a tip for the guide is expected at the end if you enjoyed yourself. I paid €10 for my tour.
Lunch on a budget
Ask your La Bussola guide for a lunch recommendation! Or for a budget lunch treat, grab a takeaway pasta at one of the many pasta shops around the city. Most outlets have one or two vegan and vegetarian sauces.
Dal Moro’s is the most popular of the take-away pasta restaurants in Venice, probably because of its central location. Grab a box and sit in a nearby square to eat.
Afternoon: Visit St Mark’s square with Rick Steves
In the afternoon, you could take another La Bussola walking tour to see the big sights, like St Mark’s Square and the Bridge of Sighs.
However, especially in such busy areas, I recommend avoiding group activities.
Instead, I tried the St. Mark’s Square Tour on Rick Steves’ Italy audio walking tour app. It takes about an hour to walk you through the highlights of St Mark’s and the nearby canal.
I loved being able to go at my own pace, pausing the app and skipping forward whenever I felt like it — while still getting some insight into what it was I was seeing.
Afternoon: Take selfies at the Bridge of Sighs
You can’t really go to Venice without visiting the famous Bridge of Sighs, over which prisoners used to cross to go to their cells. Because it’s so famous, you’ll have to fight the crowds to get a decent picture of the enclosed bridge.
To shoot photos or a selfie from a different angle, cross Ponte della Paglia, which faces the Bridge of Sighs, and go left to sneak underneath it. There, you’ll find a view without the company of dozens of other happy snappers.
Photo by Peter K Burian – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Late afternoon: Wander and wander some more
By far the best activity in Venice is getting lost.
Tuck your map away for the rest of the day and just go wherever your feet take you. Follow any road you please, turn down narrow alleys between buildings. You’ll get to savour moments of complete seclusion on hidden bridges and watch children playing in a quiet square while laundry flaps overhead.
This is the real Venice — and you can still find it if you spend a little time looking!
Dinner at the bar
Though things are getting better on the culinary front in Venice, much of the food is still overpriced tourist garbage. Don’t believe what you read on TripAdvisor: restaurants in the centre tend to get the highest ratings because they get the most tourists.
Make sure to get out of San Marco to find better food at lower prices. Omnivores should absolutely seek out a bar serving chicchetti, Italy’s answer to tapas.
As an alternative, join a food tour of Venice like this Cicchetti Dishes and Wine Bar tour or this Venice History, Legend, Street Food & Wine By Cicchetti Tour.
Venice 2-Day Itinerary — Day 2
Early morning: Take the best travel photos ever
Because of the way the light bounces and shimmers off the canals, Venice is the perfect place to get great travel photos. To avoid the crowds and the harsh afternoon sun, get up at dawn and get outside with your camera. This is where staying on the island will really come in handy!
You’ll come away with the best travel photos of your life.
Morning: See God
Even if you’re as irreligious as say, me, ducking into a few Venetian churches has to be part of your Venice two-day itinerary.
If it’s not too busy, start with St Mark’s Basilica, a testament to the obscene wealth of the Catholic church in Italy. If you don’t feel like adding to that wealth, opt to visit some of the free churches, like the Franciscan Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, or the impressive Church of Santa Maria della Salute.
Lunch with the locals
As you’re wandering the streets with your camera, keep your eyes open for cute little Osterie or Trattorie hidden down side streets. Once you start looking, you’ll see them everywhere outside the touristy centre.
Don’t forget to mark them on your map as you go. Go back at lunch time, when you’ll get to enjoy a perfect plate of pasta alongside the locals.
If you’re vegan, it’s worth making the trek to La Tecia Vegana, a vegan neighbourhood restaurant on the western side of Dorsoduro. It’s a long walk but the food is worth it.
Afternoon: Celebrate siesta
We think siesta should be observed everywhere in the world but a siesta in Venice is mandatory. Yes, even if you’re only spending two days in Venice, try to make time to head back to your hotel for an afternoon snooze. Throw open the windows and listen to the sounds of the city as you fall away into dreamland.
If your hotel is too far away, at least make sure to sit down and linger over an Aperol Spritz, the classic Venetian cocktail.
Late afternoon: Grab a gelato
Afternoon naps can make you work up an appetite, so head out after your siesta in search of Venice’s best gelato. Gelato di Natura, in Santa Croce, is popular with local school kids and tourists alike. It’s worth lining up for – and they even have a few creamy vegan flavours.
Early evening: Sit in a square
Once your legs are too tired to walk any further (and they will be, I promise), take a seat in any square, either at a cafe or on a public bench, and soak up the atmosphere. Put down your phone, your map, your guidebook, and any other distraction and take the chance to watch the world go by.
If you need a recommendation, try the square just down the street from Gelato di Natura – Campo San Giacomo dall’Orio.
If you get there just before 6pm, you’ll be joining Italian grandmothers for their evening gossip session and children who are fitting in a few more minutes of playtime before the sun goes down. On the hour, the San Giacomo bells ring out, adding a little more magic to an already magical scene.
Dinner at a recommended restaurant
It’s your final night in Venice, so make the meal count. Get a recommendation from your hotel staff or, if you like reviews, check out these these budget-friendly restaurant recommendations by The Guardian.
Where to go after 2 days in Venice
After two days of wandering Venice’s enticing streets, you’ll probably need a few days to recover. Milan, just 2.5 hours away by train, is the perfect place to do it. It also happens to be an excellent hopping-off point to experience our self-guided day trip to Turin.
We hope this survival guide to two days in Venice helps you get the most out of your trip to one of the world’s most magical cities. If you have any questions or comments about visiting Venice, please let us know in the comments and we’ll answer as soon as we can!
♥ Happy mindful adventures, Jane & Stephen
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