– This post was written by Emma Levin –
Are you planning an exciting weekend break in Venice? One of the most beloved cities in Italy, Venice is synonymous with romance, European charm, and yummy gelato, of course. Full of history and stunning architecture, Venice is the perfect choice for your next weekend getaway.
Whether you’re traveling with close friends, your significant other, or hopping on a solo trip, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Venice. Even though the city is a popular tourist spot, Venice’s quiet, small streets allow tourists to get lost in its whimsical charm.
As you plan your next Venice getaway, try to enlist a bit of finesse and strategy, so you can see all of Venice’s highlights in one short weekend. Below is a comprehensive itinerary covering the city highlights during the day and at night, including the must-sees of the island of Burano. Keep reading to learn how you can make the most out of your few precious days in Venice.
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Five must-see sights in Venice
Venice is a historic city with heaps of charm, and its activities are bound to please all types of travelers. With only a limited amount of time to catch all of Venice’s highlights, you’ll need to use your time wisely. Check out some of the most famous must-see sights in Venice below, including the best things to do in Burano and amazing things to do in Venice at night.
1. Doge’s Palace
Doge’s Palace is the most well-known landmark in all of Venice. This dignified structure was built once in the 9th century but was later destroyed in a fire before being rebuilt in the 14th-century Gothic style.
This palace represents the awesome power of the Venetian Republic, as it was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice. The palace is full of awe-inspiring architecture, particularly the Scala d’Oro, a 15th-century Golden Staircase.
The Bridge of Sighs also connects through the Doge Palace, an eerie relic of Venetian history. Many convicted criminals crossed this bridge, expressing discontent before heading into the New Prisons. Be sure to grab fast-track tickets or check out other tours at Doge’s Palace to make the most of your time during your weekend break in Venice.
🌟Insider Tip: the best spot for a quick bite: Hungry but short on time? You can’t go wrong with a delicious pasta meal at Dal Moro’s Fresh Pasta To Go. Or, check out a full list of yummy restaurants near Doge’s Palace.
2. St. Mark’s Basilica
St. Mark’s Basilica is another must-see sight for your Venice getaway. This cathedral became the episcopal seat of the Patriarch of Venice in 1807 and holds the relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist, the patron saint of Venice. Within the cathedral, you’ll notice the famous Pala D’Oro behind the main altar, one of the largest intact Gothic goldsmithing of its time. Combine your visit to the Basilica with a ticket to Doge Palace, or grab a skip-the-line ticket to the Basilica.
🌟Insider Tip: If you’re not afraid of heights, take the lift to the tallest tower in Venice, St. Mark’s Campanile, the Basicillica’s Bell Tower. This tower is where Galileo Galilei famously revealed one of his most incredible inventions, the telescope. You can either grab a ticket to all of the Basilica with the Bell Tower included or simply grab the lift to the Bell Tower.
3. Pisani Palace
While on your weekend break in Venice, you can’t miss the unique architecture of Palazzo Pisani. The Palazzo is home to one of the most powerful Venetian Dynasties, the noble Pisani family. In addition to courtyards and one of the highest terraces in the city, the Palace is also home to the Conservatory of Music. While at the Palace, you can visit the Music Museum and the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory Concert Hall.
This ticket includes a guided tour, where you can access the highest rooftop terrace in Venice. From the terrace, you can see a large part of the lagoon and the highest panoramic view of the city.
🌟Insider Tip: best spot for gelato: Are you craving gelato after a few hours of sightseeing in the sun? Then head to the nearby Gelateria Il Doge Venezia to try one of their many delicious flavors.
4. Rialto Bridge
The famous Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges that cross the Grand Canal in Venice. An engineering achievement of the Renaissance period, this beautiful stone bridge is one of the must-see sights in Venice. Rialto quickly became a popular tourist attraction even before modern times, and its three sets of stairs have always been lined with vendors and artisans.
🌟Insider Tip: best spot for a glass of wine: After crossing the Rialto Bridge from the San Marco sestieri to San Polo, stop for a light lunch paired with a glass of wine at Vineria all’Amarone.
5. Peggy Guggenheim Museum
The Peggy Guggenheim Museum is located on Venice’s Grand Canal and is home to famous works by Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and Salvador Dalí. This museum hosts some of the most important European and American art from the first half of the 20th century. With a particular focus on Surrealism and Cubism, this captivating museum is a must-stop for art lovers. You can grab a skip-the-line ticket which also grants access to the museum’s beautiful sculpture garden.
🌟Insider Tip: best spot for Cicchetti: Cantine del Vino già Schiavi is a nearby bar serving Cicchetti, small snacks made up of local specialties, typically accompanied by a small glass of wine or Aperol spritz. With floor-to-ceiling bottles lining the walls, the restaurant’s delicious food and great service are a favorite of Venice.
Five amazing things to do in Burano
Venice is surrounded by many beautiful islands that make up the Venetian Lagoon. The quaint fishing town Burano is only a ferry ride away and is known for its colorful houses and local artistry. It’s easy to spend a few hours during your weekend break in Venice exploring the island and choosing from a few of these amazing things to do in Burano.
1. Take pictures of the rainbow-colored houses
The brightly colored houses along the island’s canals are at the top of the list of things to do in Burano. Historians aren’t sure why the houses were painted such bright colors, but many believe they helped fishermen find their way home after dark.
There are many colorful houses on the island, but Cassa Di Bepi Sua, or Bepi’s house, stands out amongst them all. Covered in geometric shapes, the house belonged to the kind man, Giuseppe Toselli, who sold candies to children in the main square. His home is located just around the square of Burano down a tiny sidestreet.
As you wander the colorful houses, remember that these are people’s actual homes. Please be respectful and don’t go overboard on the Instagram pics.
2. Watch the lacemakers at the Lace Museum
Burano is well known for its lace tradition, which began in the late 15th century. Pay a visit to the Lace Museum to learn more about the art of lace-making and see more than 200 rare items. The museum hosts drawings and photographs and goes into depth about the art of Venetian lace from the 16th to the 20th century. You may even catch some skilled master lacemakers hard at work in the museum.
If you want to purchase an authentic handmade lace product, its cost will reveal its authenticity. A handkerchief made with handmade lace may cost up to $50. For authentic souvenirs, head to Galuppi Street, Burano’s main street, with restaurants and shops selling real handmade lace.
3. Visit the Leaning Tower of Burano
The Leaning Tower of Burano is Venice’s own version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The former bell tower of San Martino Church has been leaning sideways for a couple of hundred years now. The leaning tower is an intriguing sight, especially against the backdrop of the colorful houses. Take the water bus ride from Venice to catch the best view of the Tower.
4. Plan a day excursion to Murano, Burano, and Torcello
To make the most of your trip to the Venetian Islands, consider boarding a motorboat with a local guide to see the northern part of the Lagoon. This tour not only includes Burano’s colorful houses, but visitors will also catch the glassmakers at work on Murano and witness the artistic mosaics on the island of Torcello. Your tour guide will offer a comprehensive history of these three islands, and you’re sure to return with plenty of souvenirs.
5. Catch a morning tour of Murano and Burano
If you only have the morning to spare, pay a visit to the two famous islands, Murano and Burano. This four-hour tour allows visitors to enjoy a glass-blowing demonstration on Murano and shopping and sightseeing on the colorful island of Burano. This tour is ideal for visitors who want a snapshot of the local islands’ history without missing out on their unique charm.
Five incredible things to do in Venice at night
Venice is a city with plenty of appeal, and that enchantment extends well into the nighttime. During your weekend break in Venice, be aware the city is not known for its nightlife–don’t expect any late-night dance clubs. However, there are still plenty of classy and intriguing places, so you can fully enjoy this charming city at night.
🎼 Enjoy a guided tour at the Fenice Opera House
As twilight falls, be ready to pay a visit to La Fenice Opera House. One of the most important landmarks of historic Italian theater, visitors will get transported back in time to when Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi were all household names.
This incredible building was built in 1792 in Neoclassical style, but it was the victim of three fires over the course of three hundred years. Thankfully, the Italian word fenice translates to phoenix, so the Opera House continues to rise, with its most recent reopening in 2003. Its singers also rose to stardom, like the famous Maria Callas. This impressive soprano has an exhibition at the Opera House, a must for opera lovers worldwide.
🚣🏽 Take a gondola ride at night
Boarding a gondola ride after dark is certainly one of the best things to do in Venice at night. You’ll witness the city’s lights bouncing off the water while soft Italian music sneaks through the city’s alleyways. After the day-trippers have gone, it’s the perfect way to see all of Venice’s highlights without the distraction. Witness the magical atmosphere of Venice by taking a gondola ride at night.
🎷 Grab a drink at the Venice Jazz Club
Probably one of the best-hidden things to do in Venice at night, many locals will recommend visiting the Venice Jazz Club. This cozy spot fits about 50 people and is filled to the brim with music and friendly patrons every night. Located close to Campo Santa Margherita, a ticket includes a table, a ticket to the show, and a first drink. You can purchase dinner before the show starts at 8:30. Featuring music from various genres, like classic and modern jazz, Latin jazz, and Bossa nova, be prepared to dance!
👀 Get spooked on the Venice Ghost Walking Tour
This is your opportunity to experience Venice’s spooky history in one comprehensive walking tour. This night tour takes you to all the supernatural corners of the city as you listen to mysterious stories of ghostly citizens and horrifying tales of this centuries-old city. You’ll wander down the tiny sidestreets, peek into an underground, forgotten crypt, and learn all about the historical legends of this floating city. Goosebumps guaranteed!
🥂 Enjoy dinner and a show at the Theatre Hall
One of the most entertaining things to do in Venice at night is dinner and a show at Venice’s Theatre Hall. This romantic Venetian theater hosts a talented crew of musicians, dancers, and contortionists to give you proper nighttime entertainment. The Hall is decorated with gorgeous chandeliers and antique statues and has some of the most beautiful architecture in the city. This entertaining night includes a delicious dinner menu and a show you’ll never forget!
How to get around Venice
Venice, simply put, is an old city, meaning there isn’t a subway system to speak of. Travelers should prepare to do plenty of walking, especially in Centro Historico, where many of the iconic landmarks of Venice reside. Cars and bicycles are also not permitted in this area of Venice.
For those wondering how to get around Venice, walking is the best way to capture the city’s charm. It only takes around 45-60 minutes to cross the entirety of the city from north to south. So, remember to pack those walking shoes and stretch before you set out for the day.
However, for those who prefer to travel by canal, a Vaporetto Pass is the way to go. Vaporetti is a water bus and is the ideal way for Venetians to travel around the floating city. Gondolas used to be the transportation of choice before tourism jacked up the price.
A single ride on the Vaporetti is 7.50€ and is usable for 75 minutes from validation. However, to make the most out of your weekend break in Venice, travelers should purchase the Vaporetto Pass. This pass includes unlimited use of buses and the Vaporetti on the island of Venice for a single day.
Best areas to stay in Venice
Venice is made up of six districts, or sei sestieri, and they are known as San Marco, San Polo, Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, and Santa Croce. As you decide which sestieri is the best area to stay in Venice, understand that each has its own distinct vibe and range in terms of affordable accommodation.
📍 San Marco
San Marco contains almost all of the iconic landmarks of Venice, but it’s also one of the most popular and expensive areas to stay in the city. The famous 5-Star Hotel Danieli is located in San Marco. If you don’t mind the crowds and wish to maximize your time during your Venice getaway, then choose to stay in San Marco.
📍 San Polo
San Polo is the smallest sestieri, packed with quaint churches and the famous Rialto Bridge. Its central location makes it ideal for a short Venice weekend break, plus its slower pace makes it a choice spot for families.
Cannaregio is home to Venice’s Jewish Ghetto and is the perfect place to stay in Venice for travelers on a budget. It’s home to some of the best local Airbnbs. The area is quiet, with a traditional Venetian feel, and less touristy than the other sestieri.
Castello is the largest sestieri of Venice, known for growing around a naval dockyard. Castello is another good choice to find more affordable accommodation since it’s less popular with tourists and is more of a local neighborhood.
Dorsoduro is home to some of Venice’s most famous art galleries, like the Church of San Sebastiano and the Peggy Guggenheim. Perfect for art lovers, this sestieri is vibrant during the day and night.
📍 Santa Croce
Santa Croce is home to many modes of transportation within Venice, including the ferry. If you’re traveling through Italy by car, Santa Croce has many parking garages to keep your vehicle safe. It is also an affordable neighborhood, but it is a bit further away from the landmarks of Venice.
As you choose from the best areas to stay in Venice for you, remember to pick which landmarks you want to visit, so your weekend break in Venice is smooth and simple.
Looking to dive deeper into Venetian history? Read more about The Doge’s Palace in Venice and catch an interview with the curator of the Doge’s Palace, Elena Marchetti.