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The Ultimate Venice itinerary for First Timers

The Ultimate Venice itinerary for First Timers

Venice. The Floating City. City of Masks. The City of Bridges. The list goes on! Here we have the ultimate Venice itinerary, to make you fall in love just like we did!

Venice is a special and unique kind of place. There are no roads- just canals, with bridges connecting more than 100 small islands.

Renaissance and gothic-inspired architecture line the thousands of narrow passageways. Gondolas ride the canals as couples take in the sights as they rock back and forth.

Venice is everything you imagined it to be, and more. Let’s talk about the best Venice itineraryplaces you should visit, expert tips, and things you should know before visiting!

Only in Venice for 24 hours? Check out this awesome guide by Routinely Nomadic!

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

12 tips for visiting venice

How to get around Venice

To the island

Our first tip on the ultimate Venice itinerary regards getting to the island, as it can be quite difficult.

As soon as you land in Venice, you need to be prepared for how to get around.

If your hotel is located in the city center, most people ride the Water Bus. There are also busses on land, but the Water Bus is way more fun! You get a nice ride through Venice, and it is a nice relaxing ride after being on the airplane all day. 

Besides, when you are just getting into town, you want to start living the Venetian lifestyle.

The main Water Bus company is called Alilaguna. A one-way to the main island from the airport will cost around 15 Euro, and a round trip ticket is around 27 Euro.

The water bus makes a few stops on its way to the main island and will take around 1 hour and 15-30 minutes.

It is a great way to view the land as a first-timer! If you get seasick, you might some motion sickness medicine as the water can be choppy.


Getting around on the island

When you get to your stop, you will quickly learn that it is very difficult to find your way. There is no traffic, so you need to get around by walking everywhere, or taking water taxis.

There are limited street names, so Google maps is pretty much useless. You make one wrong turn and it could take an hour to find your way back.

But, don’t worry! It took us over an hour to find our Airbnb, which was tucked away in a narrow passageway.

It will be stressful, but try not to panic! Look around you and take it all in- You’re in Venice after all! Amazing!

We found our way around by using Google maps as a general guide. However… Don’t take the directions literally. Trust your gut!

Our Google Maps took us to the general location of the Airbnb but did not pinpoint the exact location, so take the directions with a grain of salt. 

We took the time to take note of landmarks we could easily pick out, in order to find our Airbnb later on.

It is helpful to use scenic sights and attractions to help you figure out where you are. After a couple of days, you will remember certain street corners or restaurants and will be able to figure out where you are.

There are vaporettos and other water taxis you can take to help you get around the island, but…

The best advice we have for getting around in Venice is honestly just walking aimlessly.

Don’t worry too much about getting lost- you are on an island, so you can’t get too far! Keep reading for more on the ultimate Venice itinerary!

St. Mark's Square

Another good thing to put on your Venice itinerary is St. Mark’s Square. 

St. Mark’s Square is a good landmark to remember to keep you from getting lost. Our Airbnb was right around the corner from here, so we used it as a guide. 

Nicknamed as the Church of Gold, locals often refer to this area as la Piazza. It is considered the heart of Venice, so be sure to check this area out!

Here, you can find many restaurants and upscale stores. We recommend not eating here, as prices are much higher. 

However, it is a great place to people watch, and St. Mark’s Basilica is beautiful! (more on this later)

This area is also home to Doge’s Palace, museums, and the Campanile di San Marco Bell Tower. 

While very tourist saturated, take some time to visit the square, as it is a much different feel than the rest of Venice! It is much more open, and a lot more space than other areas in Venice, which can feel refreshing after wandering in small alleyways all day. 

St. Mark's Basilica

st Pauls cathedral venice

Maybe it’s just us… but we felt like touring St. Mark’s Basilica was a complete scam. 

We bought tickets ahead of time to save ourselves time. The tickets are very cheap- only about 3 Euro. 

However, once you get into the Basilica, you have to pay additional fees to enter ANY area of the church. 

All you can do with your entry ticket is walk around a small area of the church. While it is beautiful inside, it seemed like a definite money grab. 

I still recommend going inside (only because it is super cheap), but lower your expectations of what you will be able to do inside.

Rules are also very strict– I needed to wear a shawl to cover my barely showing shoulders… and you will get yelled at for taking pictures or not walking quickly enough.

Buy a shawl ahead of time so you won’t get overcharged. 

Still a great sight, but the outside is more beautiful in our opinion!

Read more budget travel tips to save you hundreds!

Culture in Venice, Italy

There were many things about Venice that we should did not expect. We got the vibe many times that Venetians do NOT like tourists. Understandable, as it can be very crowded- However, what do you expect when you have such a beautiful city! 

We also had many rude waiters. One waiter give us some nasty comments when we did not finish our meal- and told us to finish eating! He actually waited until we had finished all of our meal (even though we didn’t really like it) before he took our plates away. 

Once we stopped for a drink after walking for a few hours and decided to prop our feet up on a chair at our table. It wasn’t a fancy place, just a couple of outdoor chairs by the canal. DON’T DO THIS. They were offended and told us to put our feet down.

Takeaway: Be patient and respectful to the locals- and you will be respected back (hopefully).

Read more information about common travel mistakes!

St. Mark's Campanile

bell tower venice

This was one of our favorite things we did here in Venice, so we highly recommend you do add it to your Venice itinerary!

Whenever we visit somewhere, we always seem to find ourselves viewing it from above at some point in our trip. It is a great way to view the whole city, and get a different perspective on it.

Buy a ticket online because it will save you time and stress. You will then take an elevator 323 feet up to an amazing view!

Spend some time up here taking in Venice from a completely different view. The sights from up here are just amazing!

It can be pretty busy up here, and it is not a huge space, so be patient!

Libreria Acqua Alta: Bookstore in Venice Italy

We actually stumbled upon this unique bookstore by accident- and we were so glad we did! This is a popular attraction in Venice, and you will see why. It is not just any ordinary bookstore!

Books are held in gondolas, bathtubs, and other waterproof bins, as Venice is so prone to flooding. 

This tiny store is packed with books of all kinds, and there is even a gondola in the back that you can hop in!

In the back of the store, you will also find stacks of old books outside that are all stuck together from wear of the outdoors. You can even climb on top of it!

If you can find this place, take some time to explore inside! This was one of our favorite attractions, so we had to include it on our Venice itinerary!

Visiting Burano from Venice

multicolored houses on river in burano

Burano is known for its brightly colored houses. Fishermen paint their house various bright colors so they can find their house once it gets dark out.

You even need to get your house color approved by the local government before painting!

To get here, take the vaporetto! The trip here will take about 45 minutes. 

Burano is also known for making lace. Take some time to visit the lace museum! 

Visitors mostly come here to see the bright houses, and it is SO worth it if you have extra time in Venice!

It is a great spot from some good Instagram photo ops! Locals don’t seem to mind if you take pictures of their houses. 

Visiting Murano from Venice

On your way to Burano, the Vaporetto also stops at Murano, known worldwide for glass blowing.

So, take a day to tour both Burano and Murano! Then, tour the many gift shops full of homemade glass, and even visit the glass museum! 

Murano is a very quiet island, even in peak tourist season. So, it is a great way to get some quiet away from the hustling and bustling streets of Venice. 

If you need to choose between Burano or Murano, we would definitely suggest Burano. 

Murano is a cool island, but there is not much to do, and you can only spend maybe an hour or two here, top. 

Rialto Bridge

Rialto bridge venice italy

The Rialto Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in Venice. 

It has 2 rows of shops that span the width of the Grand Canal. Here, you can expect a lot of visitors and shoppers.

We were surprised by the size of this bridge. The bridge is wide enough for 2 rows of shops on either side and hundreds of visitors. It is long enough that you forget you are on a bridge! It is very deceiving from pictures.

So, do some shopping here, because gift shops are super cheap on the bridge! You can get all your souvenirs here for just a few dollars. 

After you shop, stop at one of the restaurants along the grand canal and sip on an ice-cold Venetian Spritz (they aren’t THAT great, but you gotta have one here)! You get served a bowl of potato chips with the spritz, which is a nice touch!

Riding a Gondola in Venice

We personally never rode a gondola. I know…

Gondolas are rather expensive (around 80 Euro for 30 minutes). All gondola rides cost the same, so there is no one place to get them for cheaper. Because of this, you can feel confident you are not getting scammed by any gondolier! 

However, you can split the cost with other families, though you won’t get a private ride. 

The gondoliers also do not sing, which we were surprised and disappointed about. 

Take the ride if you want- if not, its not a huge deal. You can get a similar experience for a much cheaper price by taking a water taxi or vaporetto. 

Bridge of Sighs

bridge of sighs in venice

If there is one bridge you should find, it is this one. This bridge connects the interrogation rooms at Doge’s Palace to the prison.

Here, prisoners got their last look at Venice (with a sigh) before going to prison. Creepy yet cool!

The best thing to do in Venice: Wander!

There are no right or wrong things to do in Venice. Follow these suggestions if you want a general plan, but you will most likely run into these things anyway!

Don’t stress about your daily plans here. Instead, wander about, and explore the hundreds of shops, restaurants, museums, art galleries, and everything else Venice has to offer!

By just wandering around, you will definitely find something interesting to do! At every turn of a corner, you find a new adventure, which is what makes Venice so special!

Pro tip: Venice has no open container laws, so buy some beers from the convenient store and get exploring! 

Thank for reading the ultimate Venice itinerary! If you have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comment section below- we would love to hear from you!

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