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Venice is a city that needs little introduction. Its canals, bridges and buildings have inspired people and charmed travellers for centuries. Sadly our schedule allowed just one day in Venice, but even this short amount of time allows you to get a taste of Venice and her famous sites.
Here’s some of the things that you can see on your day trip to Venice., including what we did on our Venice trip. If you’re determined you can fit a lot into a day in Venice. However, we decided to take it easy and not try to squeeze too much in. Hopefully you’ll find something here that appeals to you for what to see in Venice in 1 day or longer.
A trip to Venice is not complete without a visit to Venice’s most famous open plaza – the Piazza San Marco. Named after the patron saint of Venice, St. Mark whose winged lion symbol is everywhere, many of Venice’s prime attractions are just off here. This makes it a great starting point for Venice day trips.
There’s a lot of people in the Piazza at all times of the day, and lots of pigeons. You can feed the birds if you want (there’s some food for sale somewhere) or, do as our kids did and chase them about. Given the space and the people it was a good place for our kids to run around a little and get rid of some energy.
Dominating Piazza San Marco, the main church of Venice is a beautiful mix of styles. A mixture western baroque and eastern orthodox in style on the outside, the inside is full of shimmering gold-coloured eastern style mosaics. The space is huge and the richly decorated roof is an amazing site. Sadly, photos inside are forbidden.
Like most churches S was interested but it was lost on Z. That said, kids aren’t an issue as you’re not allowed to be inside for very long (so they shouldn’t get too bored).
Entry is free if you’re happy to wait in line (which can get long and be slow as they only let so many people in at once), or you can reserve a 10 minute timeslot and skip the queue at Veneto Inside.
It costs 2 euros per adult (kids free) between the start of April and the start of November. You can pay an entry fee to the basilica museum which gives access to an upper level and allows a much better view of the mosaics and close up to both the original and in-place replicas of the famous four horses.
Being a religious site there’s rules about what you can wear. No bare sholders and no shorts although the rules seemed inconsistently enforced – we didn’t see any men pulled up for it but the women were. If the modesty police pull you up (they’re just inside the door) you can buy paper shawls from them for 1 euro each.
Although the Basilica is tough to beat, lying next to it is my personal favourite, and the thing that topped my list of what to see in Venice in 1 day, the Doge’s Palace. The Doge of Venice was the Republic’s ruler back in the days when Venice was an independent city-state and his palace was the centre of power in the city. All of Venice’s legislative and legal bodies carried out their business here, including the infamous Council of Ten.
And as is befitting a cultural centre like Venice, the palace is richly and ornately decorated. Almost every room is heavily decorated with a lot of work by Venetian masters such as Titian and Tintoretto.
I went without the kids and I think for younger kids like ours it was the right call. There’s lots of stairs, a lot of art and a lot of history but aside from the Armoury there’s not much displayed to look at. It is the rooms themselves that are the feature. There were a lot of kids from ages 8 and up there and I think for older kids its they type of place that a bit of discussion about what happened there beforehand might make it really interesting.
For a small palace there’s still a lot to see. The designated path crosses the famous Bridge of Sighs into the Priori (the former Prison, which seemed to be popular with older kids) and all together I’d recommend at least one hour. You can spend a lot longer.
From research it seems there can be a queue in the morning but not in the afternoon (I went at lunch time). Like the Basilica people are admitted in batches so queues can move slowly depending on how many people are already in – but as a result it was never too crowded. And like the Basilica you can book in advance to help skip any queues.
Like any good Italian city, Venice has a tower you can climb up for great panorama views. Thankfully there’s not too much climbing, as there’s a lift installed to take you most of the way up and down.
Lying in one corner of Piazza San Marco, the Campanile is Venice’s main bell tower – once used to signal important events throughout the city. The current tower dates from 1912, and is the exact brick for brick reconstruction of the tower built in 1577, which fell down in 1902.
There’s usually not much of a queue for the tower, and for 8 euros can be a great way to see more of Venice than you can from the ground, and a good start to a Venice day trip.
The Rialto Bridge is the oldest and one of the largest bridges to span the Grand Canal. It’s elegant design and and storied history make it an icon of the city. There are shops (mostly souvenir shops) that line either side of the bridge but you can get behind them for great views up and down the canal.
Given its central location it is easy to add it to your itinerary of your 1 day in Venice. The downside is that everyone else does, too, and so it can get very busy.
Just along the banks of the Grand Canal from the bridge lies Venice’s main market for fresh produce, especially seafood. There’s lots of stalls selling more tourist oriented goods on the western end of the Rialto Bridge but keep going for the real thing.
As a proper market, action can die down by late morning and seafood isn’t sold every day. Hence depending on when you’re in Venice you might not see that much – especially if your day in Venice does not coincide with the bulk of the action (ours didn’t). But if you’re planning a picnic somewhere (on one of the quieter islands perhaps) then this is a great place to get supplies.
This is a great way to see some of the best sights in Venice easily. Especially for a day trip in Venice, taking a Water Bus (or a vaporetto in Italian) lets you see many great Venice buildings and palazzos that line the Grand Canal. Our kids liked taking a boat and not having to walk, while we could take in some of the sights sitting down. Routes 1 and 2 travel the length of the Grand Canal for some of the best views of places like the Rialto Bridge, the Doge’s Palace and more.
More details in the Getting around section below.
If you need a bit of greenery or to sit down in the shade and rest for a while then this small garden is perfect. Day Trips to Venice can be tiring so a break in a park helped us. While there’s no play equipment there is some space to move around or sit down without too many people in the way. This small park is tucked away, westwards down the shore of the Grand Canal from the column of St. Mark at the southern end of the Piazza San Marco.
Even if it is a cliche, riding in a gondola is perhaps the quintessential Venice experience. However it isn’t cheap: a day time tour is 80 Euros for 40 minutes, while after 7pm this rises to 100 Euros – up to six people can fit in most gondolas. An extra 20 minutes can cost up to 50 Euros. These prices are set by the city, and so while you’re paying at least the posted amounts, what you get might vary. This page is a good source for more information.
Sure, it is expensive but you’re getting – hopefully – an unforgettable experience.
For a cheaper experience you can catch a traghetto which is a public gondola which simply take you from one side of the Grand Canal to the other. They’ll be less decorated and ornate and locals will typically stand up in them. Forget strollers or luggage (unless its small and can be carried onboard) – these boats are not that big. The ride will be short but costs (at the time of writing) 2 Euros – or less if you look like a local.
It can be tough going for young kids in Venice as there may be a lot of walking, and there is little in the way of kids activities. Almost all of the activies and places to visit we researched were not aimed at kids. It tends to be crowded (at least it was when we were there).
That said, like many places it depends on your kids. S and Z were both fascinated by the use of boats for everything, and the fact there were canals and not roads. Being such a different city than what they were used to made Venice much more interesting to them than just the sites – they understood Venice is something very different. All the masks in the different stores also caught the kids attention. Like me, they were captivated by Venice – just in different ways.
Venice is not stoller friendly. There’s a lot of stairs thanks to the many bridges. It is possible (we used one) but if you can get away with a carrier instead, we would recommend that option.
There is a lot of accommodation in Venice. Venice hotels are many. However, we did not find family hotels in Venice except at the higher end of the market and these tended to not be centrally located, often on the Lido or other islands.
On the mainland, it is a different story. We found a great value hotel near the bridge to Venice and also Mestre station, the Hotel Mondial. They had a great value quad room with a double and two singles that, although small, worked really well for us. It was very easy to get to Venice from here.
Food in Venice tends to cost (at least) a few Euros more per dish than other cities we’ve been to in Italy – which is due to a number of factors like having to haul everything in by boat and supply and (a lot of) demand. To keep the cost of a meal down head away from the crowded areas to the backstreet restaurants and trattorias where there are cheaper options (it won’t take long to find a place – there’s a lot around).
Eating near the more popular areas, like the Rialto Bridge will cost more. Restaurants right on Piazza San Marco will likely cost much, much more.
Beware that many places – especially in busier areas – restaurants will add extra charges not always clearly stated up front. Per person cover/seating chargers are common. When Sharon came in 2000 she paid the equivalent of 8 Euros for a bottle of coke on Piazza San Marco, which included three separate charges.
There’s lots of shops serving take away food – especially sandwiches and pizza slices – which can work out significantly cheaper than eating in a restaurant. Finding somewhere to eat it can be tricky on the main group of islands (those either side of the Grand Canal).
Sadly, there isn’t as much gelato around compared to other Italian cities and servings a little smaller and a little more expensive.
If you’re in Venice for a day only then it helps to familiarise yourself with the options.
Given there’s no cars Venice is an easy city to get around on foot. There’s a lot of bridges with stairs so it is not pram friendly but distances are not too large between the main sections. The way to popular places like the Rialto or San Marco are well signed. Some lanes or bridges will be very crowded, however.
The Water Buses are a great way to see the main sites on day trips to Venice. There’s stops close to all major sites and entry points. However it is not cheap – one adult ticket (kids under six are free) at the time of writing is 7.50 Euros. An all day pass can be bought for 20 Euros per person.
There are also water taxis which can be found at ranks around busier places like at the Rialto or Piazza San Marco. They are a little like speed boats with enclosed cabins and are white.
Venice, being a major city and a popular tourist destination, can be reached by plane, train or automobile.
The city’s airport, Marco Polo International, is close to the lagoon and can be reached by buses going between there and Pizzale Roma regularly. The city’s train station is not far away and is very close to the Grand Canal.
We drove into Venice and you can drive as far as Piazzale Roma, where there is a parking lot and it is also where rental cars can be returned (and collected). You can also park cheaper in the parking lots around Venizia Mestre station, from which buses frequently depart for Piazzale Roma. Buses from the mainland and close by towns in the Veneto also arrive and depart from Piazzale Roma. A one way bus journey for an adult is 1.50 Euros.
If you are tempted to visit Slovenia as part of your Venice visit you should! It’s not far and it’s super easy to get there.
We decided to try something different for this section of the journey after reading excellent reviews online about GoOpti, a shuttle service that I found quite intriguing.
Basically you can choose whether to have a private transfer, a shared transfer at a set time or a shared transfer and give a time range about what times you can be picked up. The more flexible you are, the cheaper it becomes! Since we can generally be quite flexible, this was very attractive to us. It was very competitive cost wise to other services and it meant that we were able to have more choice of pick up and drop off location and basically the convenience of a private transfer.
We ended up choosing a three hour window. The morning before, I received a sms and an email of our transfer time and all details of pick up including the driver’s name and number plate.
It all went very smoothly on the day. The van seemed new, was spacious and very comfortable. It was on time and we only shared with two other people and the personal service just made things much easier for us with little kids. We were also able to use our booster seats so it was also safer for the kids.
They also offer shuttles to many other destinations and not just in Venice. They are definitely worth checking out if you are travelling in central Europe. More information here.
Although Venice is not the perfect destination for kids, we all enjoyed our day in Venice. The kids loved seeing all the boats being used for everyday things like taxis and carrying building supplies and liked the water bus. I loved seeing some of the amazing sites – especially the Doge’s palace.
I was surprised how much the kids enjoyed seeing all the boats and ferries in action and I’m glad they were able to get something out of it, too. I hope to come back one day when they are older, so they can enjoy everything else as well and so that I can see more.
What are your best tips for Venice?
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