Venice in 3 Days: tips, what to see, and much more

Romantic gondola rides, famous opera masks and basilicas with centuries of history. Get to know Venice, the city of canals, on a 3-day express tour.

Carmen Navarro

Carmen Navarro

12 min read

Venice in 3 Days: tips, what to see, and much more

View of the Venice Houses | ©Pixabay

Venice is one of the most famous cities in Europe. Every year it attracts millions of tourists who want to visit and explore the idyllic canals that criss-cross the city, as well as the Western art.

If you've always wanted to see and do everything there is to see and do in Venice, but you only have 3 days to spare, don't worry! Here's an express tour where you'll get to know the must-see places in the city. Let's get started!

1. Day Discover the most classic Venice

Façade of the Doge's Palace, Venice| ©Son of Groucho
Façade of the Doge's Palace, Venice| ©Son of Groucho

Venice is a small city that you can get to know on foot, and it also has a great transport network with buses and vaporetto.

With this in mind, I recommend that you wear comfortable shoes so you can get to know all of Venice's must-see sights on your first day.

Enter the Doge's Palace

The Doge's Palace is one of the most famous sights in the city. It was originally a fortified castle and, after a fire, was used as a fortress and even a prison.

Today it represents Gothic and Renaissance architecture, and contains works by Tizziano and Tintoretto which are well worth seeing.

Admission to the Doge's Palace is usually around €30. I recommend you book your ticket to the Doge's Palace online in advance to secure your place and make the most of your 3 days in Venice.

Book tickets for the Doge's Palace

Cross the Bridge of Sighs

As you enter the magnificent Doge's Palace, you will cross one of the most emblematic bridges in the city, which will also give you access to St. Mark's Square, one of the highlights of Venice.

The Bridge of Sighs was the access that crossed one of the canals and linked the Doge's Palace with the prison.

Today it has become a tourist landmark and you may find it full of people taking photos from the gondolas. However, if you enter the interior of the Doge's Palace you can walk through the centre and appreciate even the smallest details.

Book a tour of the highlights of Venice

St Mark's Square

St Mark's Square| ©Massimo Adami
St Mark's Square| ©Massimo Adami

After walking around the interior of the Doge's Palace and crossing the Bridge of Sighs, you will have arrived at one of the most central and emblematic places in the whole city; St Mark's Square, which gives access to the main buildings in the whole of Venice.

St Mark's Square is considered one of the lowest points in the whole city so, when the sea level rises, it is the first to flood. However, the authorities are used to it and have set up walkways so that they can carry on with daily life.

I recommend you book a tour of St. Mark's Square with a visit to the Basilica to learn all about its history from an expert guide and also to see the most emblematic Christian building it houses.

Book a tour of St Mark's Square and the Basilica

Recharge your batteries with a coffee at Florian's

I recommend you to stop by Café Florian, an emblematic place where they sell one of the richest but also the most expensive coffees in town.

If your pocket and your curiosity allow it, there is nothing like a good ristretto to recharge your batteries at mid-morning and continue with the exciting visit to the centre of Venice.

Visit St Mark's Basilica

On one side of St Mark's Square, you can find St Mark's Basilica, an icon of the city that has become the religious building of Venice. It is said to house the body of St. Mark, brought from Alexandria.

Admission to St. Mark's Basilica is completely free. However, you must pay if you want access to specific areas such as the museum, the treasures or the Golden Shovel.

Another option for entry is to book the tour I mentioned above, or if you are interested in the Basilica only, book a guided tour of St Mark's Basilica.

Book your guided tour of St Mark's Basilica

Lunch near the Rialto Bridge

It's time to sit down for a bite to eat in Venice's restaurants and rest up for the afternoon. In the area where you are, you can find several recommended places to taste the delicacies of Italian gastronomy.

One of the places I recommend to eat is Pasta e Sugo, an Italian fast food place that is a few steps away from St. Mark's Square and that for a very cheap price offers you fresh Italian pasta to take away, eat in the street or eat on the spot.

Climb the T Fondaco dei Tedeschi viewpoint

Viewpoint of T Fondaco dei Tedeschi| ©LVMH
Viewpoint of T Fondaco dei Tedeschi| ©LVMH

After lunch I suggest walking to the T Fondaco dei Tedeschi shopping centre, located in the north of the city, just a 10 minute walk away.

This shopping centre has the best Italian and international brands but, beyond that, it respects the Renaissance aesthetics of the city and has one of the highest observation decks in all of Venice. Climb to the top floor for the best views.

Visit the Rialto Market

From the shopping centre you will be just a few steps away from another of the city's most important bridges which also links two important parts of Venice; the Rialto Bridge.

You'll have time to stop at this iconic landmark over the next few days, but now you'll cross it to take advantage of the afternoon to do the first shopping of your Venice trip at the Rialto Market.

Here you can find authentic Venetian masks, as well as all kinds of typical Venetian souvenirs.

Dinner near the Grand Canal

By now it will have started to get dark in Venice and it's time to get ready for your second day of sightseeing. Since you are close to the Grand Canal, I recommend you to have some dinner before going back to your accommodation.

You can join a group and book a food tour of Venice or go on your own to this place I suggest.

The Trattoria Al Gazzettino preserves the typical essence of Venice offering not only typical pasta dishes but also all kinds of top quality meats and seafood.

Book a gastronomic tour of Venice

Day 2: Discover the most artistic Venice

Tower and Basilica of San Giorgio| ©Dimitris Kamaras
Tower and Basilica of San Giorgio| ©Dimitris Kamaras

For this second day I have reserved for you the most artistic tourist attractions of the city and, of course, the traditional gondola ride along the canals.

Visit the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore

You will start this second day by taking the Venetian vaporetto to visit an architectural marvel and one of the most famous postcards of the city: the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore.

Inside you will have the opportunity to enjoy the most famous works of Tintoretto, as well as its great marble façade. Admission is completely free and you only have to pay to visit the Campanile, around 5€.

Alternatively, you can book a boat tour on the Grand Canal of Venice with tickets to the Basilica San Giorgio Maggiore.

Book a Grand Canal tour

Walk along the Riva degli Schiavoni

Back in the central area of the city, you will have the opportunity to stroll for a while along the Riva degli Schiavoni, where there is one of the best views of the Basilica from the outside and where you can take some photos and see the waterfront of Venice.

After you have rested for a while, you should head west along the Riva and walk back through the central area where you can stop for a coffee or an ice-cream.

Fenice Theatre

La Fenice Theatre| ©Benh LIEU SONG
La Fenice Theatre| ©Benh LIEU SONG

After just a 15-minute walk from the Riva degli Schiavoni you will have reached one of the most interesting cultural sites in Venice: the Fenice Theatre. Some of the world's most important plays and operas have been performed here and just entering the theatre is an experience.

As you're on a tight schedule, I don't recommend you invest in seeing one of the plays. However, I do recommend booking a guided tour of the La Fenice Theatre in Venice to see the interior and, with a bit of luck, catch a dress rehearsal.

Book tickets to La Fenice Theatre Venice

Cross the Accademia Bridge

As you leave the theatre, you'll be a stone's throw away from the Accademia Bridge, one of Venice's finest bridges. It provides access to the university quarter and attracts hundreds of tourists every day.

This bridge is 48 metres long and is sealed by wood and iron. Over the years it has been one of the bridges that crosses the great canal and connects with the other neighbouring islets.

Dorsoduro, the university quarter

On the other side of the Academia Bridge, you will find the university quarter, called Dorsoduro. This place is not as touristy as the centre but it is very charming and attractive, so you can enjoy it without the crowds.

Among its streets, you can find emblematic places such as the Church of San Barnaba (where part of Indiana Jones was filmed), the Ponte dei Pugni and Ca' Rezzonico, whose interior has an unnoticed but beautifully decorated museum. However, just wandering through its narrow streets is worth the effort.

Book a tour of Venice Highlights

Have a typical Italian lunch

By now you're bound to have worked up an appetite. You should take advantage of the fact that you are in the university district to eat the best Italian food at a much cheaper price than in the city centre.

Located in the heart of the Dorsoduro district, you can find this traditional pizza place with a very Italian aesthetic and the best cuts in the whole area.

For less than 10 euros you can eat a delicious pizza with the toppings of your choice and a dough handmade every morning and cooked in a wood-fired oven. Oh, and you can also book a gastronomic tour of Venice!

Book a gastronomic tour of Venice

Visit the Acqua Alta bookshop

Acqua Alta bookshop| ©Rodandoporelmundo
Acqua Alta bookshop| ©Rodandoporelmundo

After lunch, you can take the opportunity to digest your meal by strolling along the banks of the Grand Canal until you reach the Rialto Bridge. After crossing it, you'll be back in the city centre and just a few minutes away you'll come to one of the most famous bookshops in the whole city, Acqua Alta.

This bookshop has become world famous because its entrance is very close to one of the Venetian canals and, faced with the danger of flooding when the water rises, the owner opted to place all the books on boats to give him time to take them out, giving a bohemian and seafaring appearance.

Take a gondola ride

To end this intense day I leave you with one of the jewels in the crown which, I imagine, will have been one of the driving forces that made you come to this beautiful city.

Booking a gondola ride has become famous all over the world and it is clear that on this express tour you can't leave without experiencing it.

To avoid scares and haggling, I recommend that you book in advance and online to get a fixed and more economical price. If you want to save a little money, you also have the option to share the gondola with other tourists and share the costs.

Book a gondola ride in Venice

End the day with a gourmet dinner

To end this fantastic day, there is nothing better than going to one of the best restaurants in the centre as you get off the gondola.

This trattoria is an expert in all kinds of Italian pasta and pizza dishes. It has several menus made with fresh, top-quality ingredients.

Don't miss the desserts, as they make one of the best tiramisu in the city. The price per head for dinner can be around 30€ but I assure you it will be a feast for your taste buds.

Day 3: Say goodbye to Venice with a visit to its islands

Murano| ©Kevin Charit
Murano| ©Kevin Charit

You have reached the last day of your visit to Venice and, as you have already visited the main attractions, I would like to suggest that you dedicate this day to visit the two most important neighbouring islands of the city and book an excursion to Murano and Burano.

You may have the feeling of having to go far away but, in Venice, everything is quite close and it will only take you 30 minutes to get there by vaporetto.

Sail to Murano

To get to the island of Murano or "glass island", take the vaporetto from San Zaccaria station and get on line 41. In just over 30 minutes you will reach Murano, an island full of charming houses and an important glass factory.

However, if you decide to go on an organised excursion, you will already have everything planned and you just have to go to where the activity indicates.

During the boat trip, you will have the opportunity to pass by the island of Saint Michele, which has been used for centuries as a cemetery and has become the oldest cemetery in the city.

Book your excursion to Murano and Burano

Glass factory

When you arrive in Murano, one of the must-do stops is to book a visit to a glass factory. The island has been known throughout Italy for manufacturing and designing all kinds of handcrafted glass for years.

You can take advantage of the opportunity to buy a souvenir here directly, as prices go up in Venice. It is definitely worth taking a little piece of the island with you.

If you have decided to go on an organised excursion, this activity may already be included, but if not, I recommend you book this visit in advance.

Book a visit to Murano with a glassblowing demonstration

Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli and the lighthouse

Two of the main attractions you can visit during your morning on the island of Murano are the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, which became very important in the 16th century and which preserves a spectacular Byzantine mosaic, as well as the Murano lighthouse, built in marble and which crowns the whole island.

Lunch on the island

Lunch at Restaurant alla Vecchia Pescheria| ©Polina
Lunch at Restaurant alla Vecchia Pescheria| ©Polina

Before leaving for Burano, you can take the opportunity to have a bite to eat at one of the many eateries on the island.

Unlike the centre of Venice, where trattorias and pizzerias predominate, on Murano you can breathe in the sea and for a reasonable price you can eat good fish in places like Restaurant alla Vecchia Pescheria, where fried fish is their speciality.

Afternoon in Burano

After lunch there is nothing better than to spend the afternoon on the neighbouring island of Burano. To do so, take the vaporetto from Murano and in just 20 minutes you will have arrived. And if your tour includes it, then go where your guide has told you to go.

The village of Burano is full of quaint little colourful houses that attract the attention of all visitors.

Strolling along the fishing canals and taking a few photos makes the trip worthwhile and is a lovely way to bid farewell to this three-day trip around Venice, having seen all the essentials in an intense but unforgettable way.

Bid farewell to Venice with a sunset dinner

By the time you get back to the centre of Venice, it's sure to be dusk and I can't think of a better way to say goodbye to the city than by going for dinner at one of the trattorias near St Mark's Square to round off your Venetian experience.

Buy 24 or 72 hour tickets to save money

The Grand Canal Vaporetti| ©SBA73
The Grand Canal Vaporetti| ©SBA73

Whenever you expect to use a transport ticket more than once a day, I recommend you consider buying a 24-hour ticket.

This type of ticket is valid for the number of days you choose and gives you unlimited travel, so you can more than cushion the approximately €20 cost, especially for the third day of inter-island travel.

Alternatively, you can buy a 72-hour travel pass, which you may find much more interesting for your three-day trip to Venice.

Book a 72-hour Venice Transport Pass

Itinerary summary by day

  • Day 1
  • Get to know the centre of Venice
  • Doge's Palace
  • St. Mark's Square and Basilica
  • Rialto Market
  • Day 2
  • Discover its neighbourhoods
  • Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore
  • Dorsoduro
  • Gondola ride
  • Day 3
  • Visit the neighbouring islands
  • Murano and the glassworks
  • Burano
  • Farewell in the centre