The city of Love. These are the first words you think of when you hear Venice, Italy. With the beautiful canals winding through the city, the gondola rides spark romance in even the dullest of days, and Italian music playing idly in the background. Gondolas and Venice canals are popular tourist attractions for those who visit Italy.
For me, my day in Venice was more romantic than I could have possibly imagined. My boyfriend surprised me with the trip for our first anniversary. I knew nothing about it until a few hours outside of Venice. Then, all I knew was to pack cold-weather clothes and that it was supposed to rain. But when we arrived, we were lucky because the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.
We arrived late in the evening on a Friday, had one full day Saturday and left Sunday morning. When we arrived, I immediately pulled out my laptop and started researching everything in Venice. What to see, where to eat, and the most exciting places that make Venice, Venice. Not being able to plan anything is tricky because I am definitely a planner for Matthieu and me. He planned the trip and a walking tour, and a gondola ride. (Which I was thrilled about!)
With the Wi-Fi at the hotel and a map of Venice, we Google Mapped everything, circled it on the map and set out for the day. Luckily Matthieu knows how to read a map, and honestly, it is more fun to go old school than relying on your phone.
Listed below is everything to see and do if you have only 24 hours in Venice!
1. Rialto Bridge
You can’t go to Venice without seeing the Rialto; it’s actually physically impossible. Venice has over 400 bridges all throughout the city. Still, there are only four that cross the Grand Canal that connects San Marco and San Polo. The Rialto was the first bridge built for access across the grand canal. When first built, it was actually wood.
Unfortunately, the bridge caught fire and was rebuilt a couple of other times due to fire and was finally made of stone. It is the oldest and biggest bridge in Venice, and the architecture is a marvel for the eyes.
** Start early because this bridge fills up quickly and is beautiful regardless but even at 9:30 am, it was crowded!
Address: Sestiere San Polo, 30125 Venezia, Italy
2. Libreria Acqua Alto
For Matthieu and I, you can definitely say we are nerds. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and a never-ending list of books and movies we love. When researching Venice, I knew automatically that we had to see this bookstore.
What makes the bookstore unique is how it is set up. A couple of times a year, Venice floods and shops that sit on the canal can be disastrous if precious items are sitting on the ground. So for the bookstore, they decided to put their books in gondolas and bathtubs and other boats.
You can see a sign that says fire Escape pointing to the canal and then another back area with a beautifully unique staircase when walking around. Made up of old books, the staircase takes you up to a beautiful overlook of the canal it sits on.
Address: Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa, 5176/B, 30122 Venezia, Italy
3. Bridge of Sighs
Deemed one of the most photographed bridges globally, The Bridge of Sighs has a unique story. It was said that the prisoners who walked across the bridge were experiencing their last breath of fresh air. The bridge is another architectural beauty that cannot be missed during your trip to Venice.
We are standing on another bridge which you can also get a beautiful view of The Adriatic Sea.
**We had decided to go to the Library first, but I suggest after you cross the Rialto to come straight here because wow, the crowds get crazy. Of course, it may not have helped that we were there during France and The U.K.’s vacation.
Address: Piazza San Marco, 1, 30100 Venezia, Italy
4. Piazza San Marco
The primary public square of Venice, the Piazza, is a massive area where you can take in all. Three buildings and The St. Mark’s Basilica surround the Piazza. One of the most visited plazas globally, San Marco definitely has a feel of its own. You can’t trip to Venice without seeing the plaza’s open space with tourist photos with the many pigeons flying around. (Which sucked me in because sometimes I just love a good cheesy tourist activity!)
Saint Mark’s Campanile is a bell tower that looms over the square. Unfortunately, it was such a busy weekend due to the French and U.K. holidays that the line was too long for us to climb to the top. But if you have the chance, it is worth it because the view from above is beautiful!
Address: Piazza San Marco, 30100 Venezia, Italy
5. Walking Tour and Gondola Ride
After Saint Mark’s, we had about two and a half hours before we had to be at the spot to begin our walking tour and gondola ride that Matthieu booked as to another surprise. – We had a simple lunch to save our dinner for a very classic Italian dinner.
Once we had our lunch, we began our hour and a half walking tour. During our time, we saw some of the same areas we had been already plus new places that we did not even know about, including a house owned by an Aristocrat Family who also owns 21 other houses throughout Venice.
After the walking tour, it was time for our gondola ride. Obviously, I was very excited about this because you cannot take a gondola tour when you come to Venice. Mazing through the canals by boat and then out onto the Grand Canal was a uniquely romantic experience.
7. Santa Maria Della Salute
Once the tour sadly ended (I could have toured all of Venice on the gondola and seen Venice from a different perspective), we made our way across the other side and to the peninsula. Again, we took our time and stopped to see what was appealing to our eyes. Which consisted of many handcrafted mask shops!
** The month of February, Venice has an extravagant carnival where you dress up in ancient clothes and wear these masks that many families have been creating for centuries.
You will first see Santa Maria when you make your way to see the bridge of Sighs. Once we made our way to the church that day, the sun started to fall for the night. It was still such a beautiful sight at night, with all the lights lighting up the church and making Venice feel even more romantic.
The church is not as well known as Saint Mark’s, but it is still a beautifully built church with unique architecture and artwork.
Address: Fondamenta Salute, 30123 Venezia, Italy
Dinner at Hosteria Veneziana
Once the sun sets in Venice, there is not much to do within the city itself. No nightclubs and not many street lights to even keep touring. So once we finished for the day, we headed back to the hotel to change for our dinner. We asked the hotel receptionist what he recommends for a good Italian dinner that is more local than touristy.
The restaurant was a short walk from our hotel, and I am pleased with this recommendation. Since Venice is an island, the more typical Italian dish to eat is seafood. So I donned for a seafood lasagna while Matthieu had a salmon alfredo pasta, and they did not disappoint. I could have had another piece along with another glass of local wine if I hadn’t set my heart on getting dessert already. Instead, we settled on ordering the profiterole, a pastry with ice cream inside and drizzled with chocolate. And yes, it was even better than it sounds!
** We didn’t get any photos from the restaurant because we decided to just enjoy our dinner with no phones, I mean, it is Venice, so romance is a must!
After we were stuffed full of delicious food and wine, we headed back to the hotel to call it a night.
Address: Fondamenta Rio Nuovo, 285, 30135 Santa Croce, Venezia VE, Italy
I couldn’t have been happier with our trip to Venice. We saw everything we wanted to see and much more. Of course, it would have been nice to have another day to see a little more and just take our time, but if you only have one day in Venice, you can find the time to do all you want to do!
Matthieu booked us a great hotel. When you get to Venice you can’t have your car, so we parked in the parking garage, 30 euros per night. From there you have to carry your bags to the hotel. So when choosing your hotel, try not to pick something too far if you plan on bringing lots of bags! Our hotel was a 5 min walk from the garage, and it was great because it was not so centred in the city, which was nice for what we like. The hotel sat right on a canal, and the view was very romantic!