48 Hours In Venice: What To Do, See & Eat

48 hours in Venice is all you need to visit the iconic sights, sample stunning food and explore some of the city’s hidden gems, in one of the world’s most romantic destinations.
Venice, Italy
Venice. Photo: Angelo Casto | Unsplash

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As one of the most romantic and picturesque places in the world, tourists adore Venice. But with Italy’s ‘floating city’ there is more than what meets the eye. It’s obviously a historically rich city but it is also a hub of cultural activity with a superb culinary scene. 

Two days in the Italian city is enough time to take in all the best sights. You can stroll through the narrow streets and over the famous bridges all whilst sampling the best cuisine on offer. There are also some spectacular hidden gems to check out along the way. So let us show you how to spend 48 hours in Venice.

A small canal in Venice, Italy
One of Venice’s many picturesque canals. Photo: Ricardo Gomez Angel | Unsplash

Day 1

Grab breakfast at Pasticceria Nobile

Mini Pizzas from Pasticceria Nobile, Venice, Italy
Mini Pizzas from Pasticceria Nobile. Photo: Pasticceria Nobile Facebook page

The Venetians don’t make much of a fuss about breakfast. Typically this would involve a coffee and a croissant in one of the many fantastic bakeries or cafés in the city. Something that you may find that is common in Venice is the lack of seating in bakeries and patisseries as breakfast is a quick, on-the-move activity.

Located in the Cannaregio district, Pasticceria Nobile is a great spot to pick up fresh, delicious pastries. It’s also a handy brunch/lunch stop as they are well known for their tasty mini pizzas that will help satisfy any hunger cravings during your sightseeing.

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Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice
Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice. Photo: Steve Collis | Flickr

Beat the crowds and head out early to the Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. Located at the heart of the San Polo district, the Frari, as it’s usually known, is the largest and one of the finest churches in Venice. Its gothic exterior is upstaged by its dazzling interior which contains artworks by Donatello, Bellini, and Paolo Veneziano. The church is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary which is highlighted in the impressive altarpiece by Titian. It is definitely worth a visit to see all the incredible art on display here.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is open Monday to Friday 9 am – 7:30 pm, Saturday 9 am – 6 pm, and Sunday 1 – 6 pm. Entry is €3.

Scuola Grande di San Rocco

Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice
Inside the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Photo: Ryan Hurril | Flickr

Just around the corner from the Frari is the stunning Scuola Grande di San Rocco, which houses another impressive collection of art. A number of painter Tintoretto’s most renowned works can be found here after he was commissioned to create a number of paintings back in 1564.

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is open daily from 9:30 am – 5:30 pm. Entry is €10.

Walk across the Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge, Venice
The Rialto Bridge. Photo: Claudio Schwarz | Unsplash

The Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) is the most well-known bridge in Venice and is the oldest of the four bridges that span the Grand Canal. The Rialto connects the San Polo and San Marco districts of the city and it’s the San Marco district that we’ll be visiting next. However, the bridge in itself is a popular tourist attraction. Famous for its row of shops, it’s nice to have a browse as you’re walking over the bridge, but just be warned that the prices in these shops are overinflated and you would be better picking up gifts and souvenirs elsewhere in the city.

Lunch at SEPA

Cicchetti from SEPA. Photo: SEPA Instagram page

Just a two-minute walk from the Rialto Bridge we come to SEPA, a Cicchetti (think Italian tapas) bar and restaurant that makes for the perfect lunchtime pit stop. They proclaim to be ‘the best way to discover Venetian food’ and we can’t argue with that. Serving fresh seafood dishes, meatballs, and risotto, paired with wine, prosecco, and IPA beers, it is an authentic taste of Venice. There’s a good choice of options for vegetarians and vegans too.

Palazzo Grassi

Palazzo Grassi
Palazzo Grassi. Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra | Wikimedia

Our next stop is the Palazzo Grassi. Located on the Grand Canal, the Palazzo Grassi is one of the most famous museums in the city and features a number of different types of art from all around the world. It is a contemporary art museum and is a beautiful building with an elegant design. It also features a series of large windows that allow visitors to take in the beautiful views of the city. Art lovers will find a large collection of François Pinault’s artworks here.

The Palazzo Grassi is open daily, except Tuesdays, from 10 am – 7 pm. Entry is €15.

Take a gondola ride along the Venice canals

A Venice Gondola ride
A Venice Gondola ride. Photo: Emily Geibel | Pexels

It may sound like a touristy thing to do but you have to take a gondola ride when you’re in Venice. Trust us it’s much better than the imitation at the Las Vegas Venetian Hotel, in the U.S. Taking a gondola ride allows you to explore parts of Venice you wouldn’t otherwise get to see. So just sit back and take in all the beautiful streets, bridges, and buildings as you pass by.

Standard private gondola rides in Venice have a fixed cost of €80 for a 25-30 minute tour. However, at night gondola rides cost €120 for a private 25-30 minute tour.

Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo

Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo
Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo. Photo: Kanesue | Flickr

Next on the agenda, it’s time for the first of our hidden gems, The Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo. This graceful palace has a beautiful external 15th-century staircase, known as the Scala Contarini del Bovolo. It translates to ‘of the snail’ and when you see it you can understand why. Film fans may also recognize the staircase from the 1952 Orson Welles film Othello.

Indulge in a seafood dinner

Mussells at a restaurant in Venice
Mussells at a restaurant in Venice. Photo: Christopher Carson | Unsplash

Surrounded by the Adriatic Sea, Venice is packed full of amazing seafood restaurants. Al Conte Pescaor near St Marks’ Basilica is highly rated and Rio Novo is perfectly situated offering diners canal views from their terrace. Caffè dei Fiori/Ristorante Pesce is also in a beautiful location and Osteria Ca’ del Vento is a delightful, intimate eatery that we highly recommend. You can’t go too far wrong in Venice for seafood as the city is packed with high-class restaurants.

Night boat ride along the Grand Canal

The Grand Canal at night with the Rialto Bridge ahead
The Grand Canal at night with the Rialto Bridge ahead. Photo: Chait Goli | Pexels

The Grand Canal is a tourist hotspot, especially in the morning and evening rush hours. So we recommend waiting for the crowds to die down and taking a boat ride along the canal at night. Apart from the benefit of it being quieter, you’ll also get to see the sights all lit up and looking spectacular. 

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Day 2

Brunch at Caffé Florian

Caffé Florian, Venice
Caffé Florian. Photo: Clay Banks | Unsplash

We’re starting day 2 at a Venetian Institution, Caffé Florian. Sat in the heart of San Marco Square, be prepared to pay the price for this iconic location. All we can is that it’s worth it. This place has some serious history behind it. Established in 1720, it holds the accolade of the oldest coffee house in continuous operation in the world, along with Café Procope in Paris. Some of the most famous cultural icons have hung out here including Charles Dickens, Andy Warhol, Casanova, Wagner, and Proust. The décor remains much the same as back in the 18th century, only adding to its history and charm. 

But the Caffé Florian is not all about appearance, the food is great too. Open from 9 am-midnight their menu is perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

St. Mark’s Basilica

St Mark’s Basilica
St Mark’s Basilica. Photo: alleksana | Pexels

Following some superb food, we’ll tackle one of the most popular tourist sites in Venice, St Mark’s Basilica. The Basilica dates back to the 9th century and was an evolving work in progress for many centuries after. The church in its current form was rebuilt in 1903 and is an impressive mix of architectural and artistic styles. St Mark’s has the nickname, The Golden Church due to over 85,000 square feet of mosaic that are mostly in gold. It’s unlike anything you’ve probably ever seen before.

St Mark’s Basilica is open Monday to Saturday from 9:30 am – 5:15 pm and Sundays from 2 pm – 5:15 pm. Entrance to the basilica is free but some areas require a ticket. St Mark’s Museum tickets cost €5.

Doge’s Palace

Doge's Palace
Doge’s Palace. Photo: Hasmik Ghazaryan Olson | Unsplash

Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) is another stunning piece of architecture and history in Venice. The palace was once the residence of the Doge of Venice, often translated as the Duke of Venice, meaning the chief magistrate and leader of the Republic of Venice between 726 and 1797. The Doge is now a museum that tourists can visit to learn more about the history and culture of the city. Doge’s Palace is next to the Grand Canal and features a beautiful design with stunning architecture and ornate Renaissance decorations dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries. The interior of the palace is breathtaking and well worth visiting.

Doge’s Palace is open daily from 9 am – 6 pm. Entry is €30.

Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs, Venice
Bridge of Sighs. Photo: Nick Karvounis | Unsplash

The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) has earned itself quite the reputation as one of the most romantic places to visit in Venice. It also has a fascinating history. The bridge connects the Rio di Palazzo with the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) and the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. It is believed that the bridge got its name as convicted criminals would sigh upon seeing Venice for one final time before being led away across the bridge to their prison cells.

Nowadays it is said that couples who kiss while passing beneath the bridge in a gondola will enjoy eternal love. Whether you care for the romantic tradition or not, the bridge dates back to 1600 and is one of the city’s favorite tourist attractions.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Photo Peter Haas / CC BY-SA 3.0 | Wikimedia

A must-visit for art fans is the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, which houses one of the world’s best private art collections. Guggenheim was an influential figure in the modern art movement and the museum, located in her former home, is dedicated to preserving her legacy for future generations. It is one of the largest private art collections in the world and features thousands of different pieces of art. You’ll find pieces from world-famous artists including Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Salvador Dali. You can also enjoy the beautiful view overlooking the city from the terraces located on the top of the building and wander through the beautiful sculpture garden. 

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is open daily, except Tuesdays, from 10 am – 6 pm. Entry is €16. 

Libreria Acqua Alta Bookshop

Libreria Acqua Alta
Libreria Acqua Alta. Photo: Dimitris Kamaras | Flickr

Next up, it’s time for another fantastic Venice hidden gem. And it’s one that book lovers will enjoy. The Libreria Acqua Alta is an incredible bookshop hidden away on Calle Longa S. Maria Formosa. The name of the shop translates as ‘the library of high water’ and it is a wonderfully quirky and magical bookshop. There are piles and piles of books stacked outside of the shop and in gondolas inside the shop. It’s an Instagram hotspot and it’s easy to see why!

Libreria Acqua Alta is open daily from 9 am – 7:30 pm so there’s plenty of time for browsing their unique shelves and gondolas.

Dinner at Enoteca Al Volto

Spaghetti with asparagus and prawns at Enoteca Al Volto
Spaghetti with asparagus and prawns at Enoteca Al Volto. Photo: Enoteca Al Volto Instagram page

After another busy day of sightseeing, we recommend a trip to Enoteca Al Volto for dinner. Dating back to 1936, Venice’s oldest wine bar is an institution for Venetians. Close to the Rialto Bridge, this cozy restaurant will make you feel like you’re stepping back in time. With traditional Venetian dishes and affordable house wine, it is the perfect way to end your holiday in the city.

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Final Thoughts

Venice. Photo: Joshua Stannard | Unsplash

When you’re ready to be charmed by Venice you’ll be greeted with spectacular sights, pretty streets, winding canals, and delectable food. Venice is a truly unforgettable city with so much to see and do, you’re sure to have a busy but special 48 hours.

Be sure to read our Ultimate 2-Week Italy Itinerary if you’re planning on exploring the entire country.


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