Venice is one of the world’s most unique and beautiful cities. Built on over 100 islands in the middle of a lagoon in northern Italy’s Adriatic Sea, it is a riddle of canals, bridges, grand buildings and multi-colour houses. With just two days in Venice, we managed to explore the city’s top spots while still finding time to relax and enjoy the occasional Italian coffee, gelato and tiramisu. In this 2-day Venice itinerary we explain how it can be done using Turbopass.
Disclosure: we were provided with complementary Venice City Passes by Turbopass. This is an honest review of our experience using the pass, and our recommendations on how to build its features into an itinerary. This article also includes affiliate links to accommodation, which means we will make a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a booking.
If you’re heading to Rome on your Italy travels, check out this 3-day Rome itinerary for budget travellers.
In this article
- The Turbopass Venice City Pass
- Our 2-day Venice itinerary at-a-glance
- Venice itinerary day 1: San Marco and Grand Canal
- Venice itinerary day 2: exploring the city’s layers of history
- Map of Venice attractions
- Where to stay in Venice
- More itineraries for Europe
The Turbopass Venice City Pass
The Turbopass is a simple concept. It provides free access to a whole swathe of Venice’s famous attractions, as well as other great perks like fast-track entrance, a Grand Canal boat ride, and transfers from the airport.
There are three tiers of the Venice City Pass available – Starter, Classic and Complete. We used the Starter pass. You can find the full details here.
Our 2-day Venice itinerary at-a-glance
We visited Venice for three nights and two full days at the beginning of a road trip through Italy, and this itinerary is based on our experience. We’ve made a few tweaks to fine-tune it; in essence, what you’ll read below is exactly how we’d structure the trip if we were to go back and do it again (which I hope we will!).
It’s a city we’d wanted to see together for many years, and with limited time we wanted to pack in as much sightseeing as we could without exhausting ourselves. This is how the itinerary looks in brief:
- 8:30am: Doge’s Palace
- 10:30am: coffee break
- 11am: explore San Marco by foot
- 12:30pm: lunch in San Marco
- 2pm: St Mark’s Basilica
- 2:30pm: Museo Correr, the National Museum of Archaeology and State Library Marciana
- 4:30pm / 5:30pm: Grand Canal boat tour
- 6:30pm: dinner in Campo Santa Margherita
- 10am: morning coffee
- 10:30am: Museo Ebraico (Jewish Museum)
- 11:30am: explore the Jewish Quarter by foot
- 12:30pm: trattoria lunch
- 2pm: Scuola Grande di San Rocca
- 2:30pm: Leonardo Da Vinci Museum
- 4:30pm: gelato at Il Doge
- 5pm: city view from Scala Contarini del Bovolo
- 6pm: light dinner and tiramisu in Campo Santo Stefano
Venice itinerary day 1: San Marco and Grand Canal
Our itinerary begins in the San Marco district, the historic heart of the city and home to its most iconic landmarks.
Tip: if you’re walking to San Marco from the bus terminal, aim for Rialto Bridge to cross the Grand Canal by foot. Google Maps took us to the public ferry terminal, which costs €7.50 to use.
8.30am: beat the crowds to Doge’s Palace
Doge’s Palace, also known as Palazzo Ducale, is a gothic palace that was the seat of government in Venice for many centuries, and the home of the Doge, the elected ruler of the city for over a thousand years.
Inside the palace grounds you can witness the grand courtyard, and then venture on via the golden staircase into private 16th-century rooms with spectacular painted ceilings. Deeper into the complex you can see historic weapons in the armoury, and walk through the famous Bridge of Sighs into the prisons.
The palace is one of the most popular attractions in Venice. Even during the off-season it can get crowded, and it’s not unusual for the queues outside to extend right round the corner into Piazza San Marco.
The best way to beat the crowds is to arrive early. Whatever the time of day, a Turbopass will allow you to skip the queue, but it’s extra beneficial to visit at opening time for a bit more breathing space once you get inside. Aim to get to the entrance (located on the south-facing seafront side) for 8:30am, when the palace opens.
10.30am: take a coffee break
After a solid 1–2 hours exploring the impressive Doge’s Palace, you’ll be ready to sit down for a break. We were, that’s for sure. The cafés around Piazza San Marco are a stylish experience, but they tend to get very busy and charge marked-up tourist prices. If you walk for just a couple of minutes north of the square into the backstreets, you’ll find some quieter and cheaper options.
11am: stroll around San Marco
Take some free time and explore the area around San Marco on foot. The square itself is stunning, and this is a good time of day to see it in full light. Down on the seafront you can see the imposing structures of Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore across the water, and the Bridge of Sighs back across Rio del Palazzo.
Much of Venice’s magic, however, is in getting lost on the narrow backstreets and endless canals. It’s a paradise for hobby photographers and quirky cityscape lovers, and when you get away from the main square it’s so much quieter too.
If you didn’t already see Rialto Bridge on the way into San Marco, take a walk up to it via the backstreets and catch a glimpse of the views down the Grand Canal. The boat tour later will take you under it, but it’s a must to see the view from the top of the bridge too!
12:30pm: stop for lunch
Just as with the coffee houses, the restaurants and eateries in San Marco are among the city’s most expensive. However, we found a great little spot for a quick and easy traditional lunch at a great price, no more than two minutes walk from the main square.
Tuttinpiedi is a hole-in-the-wall, street-food style joint that serves up freshly cooked pasta dishes in takeaway boxes. The menu is simple, the food is delicious and you get to see it cooked right in front of you. This kind of thing is right up our street, but if you’d rather sit down to eat, you won’t need to walk far to find some fantastic pasta, pizza or salad.
2pm: step inside St Mark’s Basilica
After lunch has settled it’s time to see another one of Venice’s most fabled icons. St Mark’s Basilica is the huge and ornate domed cathedral that stands on the eastern side of Piazza San Marco – you can’t miss it when you first step into the square. It has been the city’s cathedral for over two centuries.
If you think the outside looks impressive, just wait until you take a look inside. I’ve seen the interior of hundreds of cathedrals over the years, but I don’t exaggerate when I say that St Mark’s tops the list. Looking up you will see 8,000 square metres of mosaics glowing in gold and oaky brown, over eight centuries in the making.
We skipped the queue for St Mark’s Basilica with fast-track entry using the Turbopass, which saved us oodles of precious time. Be aware that if you’re visiting on a Sunday (like we did) or on a national holiday, it doesn’t open until 2pm. The queues stack up quickly, even for fast-track entry, so it’s best to arrive a few minutes before the gates open.
You’ll also need to leave any bags in a luggage deposit across the road at Ateneo San Basso (which is free), so factor in time for that, and make sure you are wearing clothing that covers your shoulders and legs.
If you’re about on a weekday or Saturday then you could consider visiting before lunch to allow more time for the afternoon’s activities.
2.30pm: Museo Correr, the National Museum of Archaeology and State Library
A short walk across Piazza San Marco from St Mark’s Basilica you will see Museo Correr on the opposite side of the square. This vast museum, which stretches right around into the building on the south side of the square, explores centuries of Venetian art and history.
This section of the Piazza San Marco was originally built under Napoleon’s rule in the early 19th century, and later renovated by the Austrian Habsburg Empire. As you venture inside Museo Correr and upstairs, you will walk through the rooms of Franz Joseph and Empress Assisi, presented in their original furnishings. Further inside, the museum is filled with artefacts, treasures and masterful artworks documenting centuries of the city’s past.
Museo Correr adjoins to two more attractions covered by the Turbopass: the National Museum of Archeology and the State Library. The archaeology museum displays a series of ancient sculptural artefacts, while the library is one of the city’s most remarkable building interiors, dating back to the 16th century.
It can take a while to queue for Museo Correr, and so by the time you’ve looked around you will probably be ready for another break. We had a coffee in the museum’s café, which was the perfect short interlude, with our next stop just around the corner.
4:30pm / 5:30 pm: take a Grand Canal boat tour
The Turbopass Venice City Pass includes a one-hour Grand Canal boat tour, which costs €30 if bought separately. If you’re visiting between April and September, we’d recommend doing this at 5:30pm as a segway between the day’s sightseeing and dinner.
Between October and April the last ride is at 4:30pm. Whatever time you choose to take the tour, you’ll need to arrive at least 15 minutes early at the meeting point by Giardini Reali.
The tour lasts an hour, and is accompanied by a knowledgeable local guide who narrates the journey, explaining the stories behind the notable buildings and structures passed along the way. Sit back, relax and have your camera ready, as there are some great shots up and down the canal.
6.30pm: dinner in Campo Santa Margherita
Before visiting Venice we were given a tip-off by a friend who used to live in the city; they suggested we checked out Campo Santa Margherita. This little neighbourhood is only about 15 minutes’ walk from San Marco, but is less tourist-infested and has some excellent places to eat and drink.
There are several cafés and restaurants dotted around Campo Santa Margherita’s main square. These were filled mainly with locals when we visited, which is always a good sign! We chose to sit outside at a place called Duchamp on the corner of the square, where we enjoyed some very nice local food, wine and an aperol spritz, all at a very good price.
If you fancy a drink afterwards, check out Chet Bar, a trendy little bar just off the north side of the square.
Venice itinerary day 2: exploring the city’s layers of history
The second day of our itinerary focuses outside of San Marco, exploring a range of museums and buildings that unveil Venice’s complex and diverse history.
10am: enjoy a morning coffee
We began the second of our two days in Venice in the historic Jewish Quarter of Venice, located in the Cannaregio area on the north of the main islands. Today it is a quaint and pretty corner of the city, but its past is a dark and troubled one, having functioned as a ghetto for Venetian Jews for over four centuries.
The main square of Ghetto Nuovo is at the heart of the Jewish Quarter. After a relaxed breakfast, we suggest to head here and grab a coffee and pastry in a local café. We found a lovely modern-chic one called Torrefazione Cannaregio, complete with canalside outdoor seating, just across Rio Della Misericordia from the square.
10.30am: explore Museo Ebraico (Jewish Museum of Venice)
A small museum on the corner of the Ghetto Nuovo square, Museo Ebraico tells the story of Jewish history in Venice. Built between two of the city’s oldest synagogues, the museum displays a collection of artefacts that bring to life Jewish festivities, immigration to Venice over the ages, and the oppressive years of the ghetto era.
In the square outside the museum there is a sequence of memorial plaques that commemorate Venetian Jewish Holocaust victims.
11.30am: discover the Jewish Quarter by foot
The Cannaregio district of Venice is a maze of narrow walkways, canals and bridges, as well as interesting buildings such as the Church of Madonna dell’Orto and the Malibran Theatre. Before settling down for some lunch, we got lost in this part of the city with our camera, which was a lot of fun. You don’t have to go far to find a café either if you want another coffee stop.
12:30pm: trattoria lunch at Al Ponte del Megio
Crossing back over the Grand Canal into the Santa Croce district (via Ponte degli Scalzi to avoid the ferry), there is a plentiful choice of restaurants to grab some lunch within close proximity to our recommended afternoon stops. Wandering past churches and squares, a whole host of places with outdoor seating offer lunchtime deals on pizza, pasta, focaccia and the like.
Another recommendation we were given by our former Venice-dwelling friend was Trattoria Al Ponte del Megio, a warm and welcoming place run by a Venetian family. It serves tasty local cuisine in a pleasant canalside setting.
2pm: witness the paintings inside Scuola San Rocco
This historical building of Scuola Grande di San Rocca boasts magnificent inner halls of wall and ceiling paintings, once home to one of the city’s biggest confraternities.
The building contains several masterpieces by 16th century artist Tintoretto depicting biblical imagery, considered to be some of his greatest work.
2.30pm: get interactive in the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum
The Leonardo Da Vinci Museum pays tribute to one of the finest human minds ever to have lived. This is no ordinary museum, either; with a VR game, video stories and the chance to try out several reconstructions of Da Vinci inventions, it is a highly interactive affair. It was a major highlight of our trip.
At the beginning you will see reproductions of Da Vinci’s most famous artworks along with explanations of their context and meaning. More displays delve into his scientific works, his inventions, his quest to better understand the human body, and his military strategising.
Tip: the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum is located opposite the entrance to Scuola San Rocca. Google Maps gives a different location in the Dorsoduro district, which is incorrect.
4:30pm: indulge in a gelato at Il Doge
It would almost be a crime to leave Venice without having at least one gelato treat. Gelaterias are dotted all over the city, but our favourite was Gelateria Il Doge. Just five minutes’ walk from the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum it fits perfectly into our route.
5pm: see the city from Scala Contarini del Bovolo
Our last sightseeing stop is at Scala Contarini del Bovolo. This arched, spiral staircase leads to an observation deck from where you can see out across the city rooftops in all directions.
The stony staircase has stood for over five centuries, combining elements of renaissance, gothic and byzantine architectural styles. Partway up you can stop to see artworks in the gallery of Sala del Tintoretto. But the real treat is when you get to the top… enjoy the view!
6pm: light dinner and tiramisu in Campo Santo Stefano
Nothing makes a trip to Venice more complete than a delicious slice of tiramisu. We enjoyed one with an Italian coffee in a place called Snack Bar San Vidal on the corner of Campo Santo Stefano, a large public square just a few minutes’ walk from Scala Contarini del Bovolo.
If you’ve got your appetite back after the trattoria lunch, this place also does pizzas and pastas for a light dinner, or you can choose from several other restaurants around the square.
Venice itinerary 2 days: map of attractions
Use the map below to navigate the Venice attractions highlighted in our itinerary:
Where to stay in Venice
Venice is well geared up for visitors and there is no shortage of places to stay around the city. Many choose to stay on the main islands, but we opted instead to base ourselves in Mestre.
This district over on the mainland is a bit more offbeat, but with plenty of accommodation options, shops and restaurants. We also stumbled across a lively night market while out walking one evening.
From Mestre it’s only 15 minutes by bus or train into the heart of Venice city.
More itineraries for Europe
If you’re travelling elsewhere in Europe, you may find some of our other itineraries and articles useful:
- The perfect 3-day Malta itinerary for sightseeing and exploration
- 14 things to do in Bratislava, Slovakia (with sample itinerary)
- 17 things to do in Vilnius, the historic capital of Lithuania
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