Italy’s city of canals and islands is filled with immense palaces, impressive squares and an incomparable food scene. Here’s how to make the most of Venice in 48 hours.
Start your city break in Venice in the heart of the action at St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) – which locals often just call ‘la Piazza’ since it’s so central to Venetian life. It’s in and around this area where many of the most famous spots in Venice can be found, so it’s easy to spend a morning meandering around this locality. The square as it stands today dates back to the 1100s – simply wander around the archways and impressive architecture to soak it all up.
St Mark’s Basilica is one building that dominates St Mark’s Square – the most famous of the city’s churches known for its glorious Italo-Byzantine architecture. It has been the city’s cathedral since 1807 and was originally the chapel of the Doge of Venice – the supreme authority of the former Venetian Republic. St Mark’s Basilica is open from 9:30 to 17:00 Monday to Saturday, and 14:00 to 16:30 on Sundays and holidays. Entry is free to the cathedral, with a €5 fee to enter the museum. Arrive early during popular times of year to avoid long queues.
St Mark's Square
St Mark’s Basilica is connected to the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale), so now is the perfect time to pay a visit to this landmark too. Built in Venetian Gothic style, the palace is now a museum, with fascinating rooms of the old palace to explore together with artworks and special exhibitions to enjoy. The Doge’s Palace is open from 8:30 to 19:00 during the spring and summer, and closes at 17:30 during the autumn and winter. Tickets to enter cost €20, which also includes entry to the other museums in St Mark’s Square: Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale and Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.
After a morning spent soaking up some of the most impressive cultural sites in Venice, it’s time for a relaxing lunch. There is no shortage of restaurants in the St Mark’s Square area, but it’s best to take a five minute stroll outside of the centre to find an eatery that is a little more tucked away. Bacarando in Corte dell’Orso is a great option, with an authentic feeling, delectable dishes and some outdoor seating too. Bacarando in Corte dell’Orso is open daily from 12:00 to 00:00.
It’s impossible to visit Venice without taking to the canals, so round off your afternoon with a gondola ride. As well as traversing all the famous waterways – including the Grand Canal – you’ll also be taken along some of the lesser travelled routes, where you can soak up traditional Venetian architecture and watch daily life at its best in the city. There is an abundance of gondola ride providers in Venice. Gondola rides last 40 minutes and cost €80, or €100 for trips taken after 19:00. Boats can hold up to six people.
Those looking for a high-end meal in Venice truly have their choice of restaurants, with a cacophony of Michelin-star options or renowned local eateries that are talked about in international circles. For a Michelin-star meal, book a table at Ristorante Quadri, one of the most famous restaurants in Venice that dates back to the 1830s. Overlooking St Mark’s Square with a Philippe Starck designed interior, this restaurant serves tantalising three and five course tasting menus filled with delectable seasonal Italian flavours. Or alternatively, for a low-key, canal-side dining option, book a table at Osteria La Zucca for an original twist on traditional Italian ingredients. Ristorante Quadri is open daily except Mondays from 12:30 to 14:30 and 19:30 to 22:30. Osteria La Zucca is open daily except Sundays from 12:30 to 14:30 and 19:00 to 22:30.
Venice is the centre of prosecco since it is produced in the Veneto region, so finish off your evening with a glass of bubbles in a traditional Venetian bar. There is plenty of choice – either stop off at a bar that takes your fancy after dinner, or visit a small ‘bacaro’ (wine bar) such as Enoteca Al Volto – an authentic wine bar that is said to be one of the oldest in Venice. Enoteca Al Volto is open daily until 22:00.
Restaurant terrace overlooking lagoon
Start your second morning in Venice reminding yourself just how beautiful the city is with some panoramic views from up above. The Rialto Bridge (Il Ponte di Rialti) – one of more than 400 bridges in Venice – is one of the most popular places to do this from. The oldest of four bridges that traverse the Grand Canal, this pretty covered bridge offers fabulous views of your surroundings. Or for a glimpse of the city from even higher, wander over to St Mark’s Campanile instead. Standing in a corner of St Mark’s Square, take the lift to the top of this UNESCO World Heritage tower that stands at almost 100 metres tall for wonderful views over the city, canals and lagoon. St Mark’s Campanile is open daily from 09:45 to 19:00 – tickets cost €8.
See a different side of Venice later in the morning by travelling a little out of the city centre by visiting Gallerie dell’Accademia. This museum and art gallery is around a 15 minute stroll from St Mark’s Square, or an even shorter vaporetto (water bus) ride away. Located on the south bank of the Grand Canal, this is a place to discover pre-19th century Venetian art. Works by a huge range of artists can be found inside, from Canaletto and Giorgione to Titian and Leonardo da Vinci. Gallerie dell’Accademia is open on Mondays from 8:15 to 13:00 and Tuesdays to Sundays from 8:15 to 18:15. Tickets cost €12.
After a morning of immense views and enchanting art, relax over a lazy lunch overlooking the water. Ristorante Lineadombra is a ten minute stroll away from Gallerie dell’Accademia and has wonderful views over the busy waterways of Venice from its deck area. Contemporary Venetian cuisine is served here with a dynamic wine list that perfectly matches the gastronomy. It’s easy to wend away a few hours here. Ristorante Lineadombra is open daily from 12:00 to 15:00 and 19:00 to 22:15.
Stay in the local area after lunch to visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, no longer than a five minute walk away from Ristorante Lineadombra. The American art collector Peggy Guggenheim eventually settled in a Venetian palace on the Grand Canal, where she opened her art collection to the general public in the 1940s. The permanent collection here is full of work by many of the art world’s greats, including Picasso, Kandinsky and Dalí. Almost as impressive is the sculpture garden full of artwork and fantastic flora – perfect for a casual afternoon meander. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is open daily except Tuesdays from 10:00 to 18:00. Tickets cost €15.
Peggy Guggenheim, image courtesy of www.guggenheim.org
Finish off your visit to Venice in style by taking in an opera at Teatro La Fenice, one of the most famous global landmarks in the world of opera. The opera house was first built in 1755 and became the place where all the great composers such as Verdi and Rossini had their operatic premieres. The calendar of events lives up to its name as much today as ever, with ballets and concerts of other musical genres also taking place here. Teatro La Fenice is open daily, with most shows starting at 15:30 or 19:00. Book tickets online in advance.
Interior of Teatro La Fenice
For a night cap after the opera, get on the number one or two ferry from Rialto to Piazzale Roma for an enchanting night-time view from the Grand Canal, before making your way to Cantina Arnaldi. This relaxed wine bar has a carefully curated list of local and international wines, served with delectable platters of salamis and cheeses. It’s the perfect way to end your Venetian adventure. Cantina Arnaldi is open daily except Wednesdays from 11:00 to 02:00.
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