Venice is on most people’s bucket list, and for good reason! Venice is truly a unique city, with amazing history, beautiful architecture and so much to see and do. But often the crowds associated with Venice are off-putting (I know that was the reason I put off visiting for so long!) So when I visited and did 3 days in Venice, I came up with an itinerary that would mean seeing all the famous sights and photography spots that I’d dreamed of, but without the crowds, or at least with a lot less people in the middle of July!
So whether you’re wanting to visit Venice and avoid the crowds as much as possible, or you’re a photographer looking to optimise your time taking photos without people in them, this guide is for you!
You might also find this post useful on where to find the best views in Venice.
Best time of year to visit Venice
There is never a perfect time to visit Venice as it really depends on what you’re looking for from your trip. If you want to visit when the weather is guaranteed to be good then summer is the best time to visit Venice, but you will have to deal with crowds.
Visiting in the shoulder seasons (April, May or September, October) are likely to have slightly less crowds and still likely to have good weather. If you’re able to visit during the week in the shoulder season then that’s probably your best chance for good weather and much less crowding, as there’s always less visitors during the week than on the weekend.
However, beware of May bank holidays for countries like the UK (first and last Monday in May usually) or the school holidays in October, as the crowds from around Europe will flock to Venice during these dates!
If you don’t mind the cold and are more interested in avoiding crowds, then visit in the winter and early spring for a quieter experience of Venice, but it can get pretty cold, especially with the wind coming off the water. However, if you’re only spending 3 days in Venice, the winter would be a great time for a budget trip, plus flights and accommodation will also be cheaper during this time.
I visited Venice in July, peak summer season, and was really worried it would be too busy and I wouldn’t enjoy it. But I absolutely loved it, I made the most of my early mornings to see everything I wanted to and then just soaked up the atmosphere (and food and drink!) in the hot, busy afternoons.
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Where to stay for 3 days in Venice
I have stayed in two different accommodation types in Venice, both of which I enjoyed and suited me for different reasons. One was a budget option as I was travelling solo, another was a self-catering large apartment for a family stay. Below are my recommendations for all budget types and trips.
Budget/hostel style accommodation
B&B Ca’Barbaria = 55 euros per night, 2 persons This B&B has private rooms and dorms for a great price, I stayed in a single, private room with a lovely view across the rooftops. The kitchen area is shared and this is where breakfast is served in the mornings.
Mid-range hotel accommodation
Hotel Indigo Venice - Sant'Elena = 100 euros per night, 2 persons I visited friends staying at this hotel and have to say, this is a wonderful place to stay. It’s in the far east of Venice, in a beautiful quiet area but within walking distance to everything. There is a lovely outdoor area and the rooms are great, perfect for 3 days in Venice if you’re looking for something nice but don’t want to splurge.
Venetian luxury mid-range accommodation
Palazzetto Pisani Grand Canal = 190 euros per night, 2 persons For the price, this really is a great option for those looking for Venetian charm and luxury for a fraction of the cost of the high end hotels. For less than 200 euros per night, expect wooden beams, antique gold mirrors and luxurious beds. Upgrade to their superior suite for real luxury and Venetian decor.
Metropole Hotel SPA and Wellness = 425 euros per night, 2 persons
This is the ultimate luxurious treat in Venice, with beautiful rooms, amazing views, a spa and wellness centre on site to fully relax and enjoy your stay.
Self-catered Venice apartment
Ca Santo Spirito apartment = 848 euros for 3 nights, 2 persons
This beautiful apartment is perfect if you’re looking for a self-contained place to stay, rather than a hotel. It has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen and living room. It’s also located right on the water on Dorsoduro with amazing views and just a short walk to the main tourist areas.
How to spend 3 days in Venice
Below is the full itinerary I used for my 3 days in Venice. In order to avoid the crowds, I started each day early and saw the sights I wanted to first, then used the afternoon to enjoy the atmosphere, soak in some sun, food and drink, and explore the lesser known, lesser trodden areas of Venice.
Venice to Burano island
Start your day early with a trip to Burano, the famous colourful island north of Venice. This traditional fishing island is a 45 minute boat ride and it is extremely popular with visitors because of its unique, colourful houses, this is why you need to go early, to avoid the crowds! If you’re only in Venice for 3 days over a weekend, I would suggest doing this trip on a weekday if possible.
There is only one public boat that runs between Venice and Burano, the Vaporetto Line 12. Line 12 leaves Venice eight times a day from a stop on the north side of the island called ‘F.te Nove A’ (you can search this name on Google Maps). If you have one of the ACTV Tourist Cards, it includes this water bus line, or you can buy a one time ticket for 7.50 euros which lasts for 75 minutes, so you’ll need to buy one each way. I took the 7.10AM vaporetto from this stop and arrived at Burano at 7.50AM. This might seem extremely early, but the next boat to leave Venice for Burano is 9.40AM, so you wouldn’t reach Burano until 10.30AM, by which time it will already be busy!
After arriving at Burano, I spent the first hour and a half exploring, taking photos and enjoying the colours. I really recommend seeing Burano early in the morning to enjoy its beauty without the crowds, most of which start arriving from 10AM.
After taking all your photos and exploring the vibrant streets in peace, enjoy a breakfast on the island and people watch as the crowds arrive! Grab some local, freshly made baked goods from Panificio Pasticceria Garbo, a bakery on the main street - Fondamenta S. Mauro. Then sit on the bridges to watch this beautiful island town come to life.
I took the 10.25AM water bus back, the next one isn’t until 12.55PM so you’ll end up stuck on the island for a while if you’re not careful! Of course, you could easily spend longer on the island, there is the Museo del Merletto, the lace museum, exploring the history of lacemaking back to the 1500s, as well as the beautiful San Martino Church.
Stop at Murano on your way back to Venice
You might have noticed that the vaporetto makes a few stops on the way to Burano from Venice. One of those is Murano, the Italian island world-famous for producing Murano glass.
While Murano isn’t as vibrant as Burano, the island is still quaint and pretty, plus there countless Murano glass shops make a great opportunity to buy a souvenir that’s more than a generic gondola keyring!
After leaving Burano at 10.25AM, the water bus reaches Murano 35 minutes later at 11AM. The next water bus doesn’t leave Murano until 1.30PM, giving you 2.5 hours to explore the island, buy some glass and enjoy lunch, possibly with an Aperol spritz too!
Things to do in Murano
Watch glass blowing, you’ll find it along the main street Fondamenta Manin, where you got off the boat.
See the glass cathedral of Santa Chiara
Buy glass souvenirs
Visit the Glass Museum exploring the history of Venetian glass
Get some gelato at Murano Gelateria Artigianale
Discover one of the best views over the rooftops of Venice at Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo
If you take the 1.30PM water bus back to Venice, you’ll reach Venice at 1.40PM. By now, Venice will be extremely busy with the crowds out of the afternoon and for lunch. So now is the time to escape the main tourist areas, explore some quieter, quintessential Venetian streets and see the city from above.
Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo is a restored 15th Century palace with a spiral staircase leading to incredible views at the top. I discovered this location on my first trip to Venice and visited at this time in the middle of the afternoon, I was the only person there!
While it might have become more popular now, it is tucked into a lesser traversed area of the city and it isn’t as famous as the other aerial views of the city like from St Mark’s Campanile.
I prefer this view because you can see across the city's terracotta rooftops and you can see St. Mark’s Campanile from here, as well as many other landmarks.
The Palazzo costs 7 euros per adult (2020) to climb, there are also rooms with exhibits and information as you climb up.
Click here for my article on the best views in Venice.
Explore San Marco
After visiting the Palazzo, spend some time exploring this neighbourhood of San Marco. There are so many small streets, cute alleyways and picturesque bridges here and because it’s away from the main thoroughfare, you can easily get some beautiful Venice photography shots, enjoy the beautiful streets and this is also a great place to find a local, less touristy place for dinner.
St Mark’s Square attractions
Start your day early again by getting to St. Mark’s Square for 9am when the attractions here open. St. Mark’s Square could be considered the heart of Venice, it’s definitely where you’ll find the most tourists, all eager to visit the attractions in and around the square.
Sights to see here include:
St. Mark’s Basilica
St. Mark’s Campanile
National Archeological Museum Venice
Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Library)
I suggest buying your tickets in advance for any attractions you want to visit as this will allow you to skip the line, which there will probably already be outside at 9am!
Prices (accurate as of 2020):
St Mark’s Basilica = free. But donation is recommended. Reserve tickets here.
St Mark’s Campanile = 12 euros in advance, 10 on the day. Book tickets here.
Doge’s Palace = 14 euros. Book tickets here.
Combined ticket for Doge’s Palace, St Mark’s Museum, the Archaeological Museum and the National Library = 25 euros. Book tickets here.
You can buy Skip the Line tickets in advance for Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s Campanile, allowing you to skip the queue. Hopefully first thing in the morning the queue shouldn’t be too long anyway, but if you visit anytime after 10am in the summer be prepared to wait!
Between November and March you won’t need to purchase a Skip the Line ticket as there usually isn’t a queue.
Doge’s Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, opens earliest at 9am. If you want to visit anywhere around the square, I would suggest starting here. Or if the Palace isn’t of interest to you, then St Mark’s Basilica opens at 9.30am or St. Mark’s Campanile, the Bell Tower, opens at 9.45am. (NOTE: the Tower currently opens at 10.30 AM on weekdays due to current global travel restrictions 2020)
It really is personal preference which sights you choose to see here, with just 3 days in Venice, you might decide to just prioritise one or two, or you might fill your whole day with them. But going first thing in the morning is definitely the best chance to enjoy them with the least people possible!
Bridge of Sighs
After you’ve finished at St. Mark’s Square and the museums, walk along the waterfront in front of Doge’s Palace and you’ll find yourself walking towards Ponte della Paglia. This is the bridge that you can see the Bridge of Sighs from and makes a perfect vantage point to take some snaps of the famous Bridge of Sighs.
The beauty of this viewpoint is that it doesn’t matter what time of day you go. There will be a crowd but you can easily get to the side of the Ponte della Paglia for an unobstructed shot of the Bridge of Sighs.
See my article here for more photo tips around capturing the Bridge of Sighs.
See Venice from the water
By now, it will be the afternoon and Venice will be at its busiest. Now is the perfect time to escape the crowds on the streets and take to the water.
If gondolas aren’t your thing (they are extremely expensive!), this is a great alternative to seeing the sights around this iconic floating city at a fraction of the cost of a gondola or organised tour, plus if you only have 3 days in Venice, it’s a great way to see a lot of the city quickly.
By now you will have seen the several public Vaporetto (water bus) lines that service the city, you’ll have taken one to Burano. My favourite way to see Venice by water is to take Line 1, which runs the entire length of the Grand Canal.
On this journey you’ll see churches and basilicas such as Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, you’ll pass under bridges such as Ponte dell’Accademia and the Rialto Bridge, you’ll see Grassi Palace, the hustle and bustle of the Grand Canal and all the iconic architecture and waterways as you cruise on this hour long journey between the north and south of Venice.
The best part is, a single ticket costs 7.50 euros and is valid for 75 minutes, more than enough time to complete this hour long journey and make a quick stop or two along the way.
Of course, you don’t have to take the line all the way from start to finish. The line can be picked up from stop San Marco-San Zaccaria"F" - this is on the waterfront right by Ponte della Paglia, where you just saw the Bridge of Sighs.
The line terminates at stop Piazzale Roma "F" - the entrance/exit point of the city, the last point that you can take a car or where you’ll come to from the airport. So if you don’t want to go all the way on Line 1, take it up past Rialto Bridge, and get off to explore one of the northern neighbourhoods like Cannaregio or Villaggio Eden.
Evening walk and dinner with views across the lagoon
My favourite place to spend the evening in Venice is along Riva dei Sette Martiri on the east side of the island. While it can still get busy here, it’s a lot less busy that further towards the centre of Venice and the dining hot spots around the Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge.
Here is a lovely place for an evening walk to watch the sunset and enjoy the views, followed by dinner or drinks at one of the many waterfront restaurants here.
Morning light at Ponte dell'Accademia
One of my favourite views of Venice, and for good reason! Ponte dell’Accademia crosses over the Grand Canal in the south of the city. It’s a favourite spot for photographers to capture the city at sunrise and sunset because it’s a quintessentially Venetian view, plus the bridge itself is a pretty unique wooden structure.
Coffee and cake in Dorsoduro
Dorsoduro is my favourite area of the city. It’s the University area so the vibe is a lot younger with a few more local, unpretentious cafes, bars and restaurants as well as independent stores and boutiques.
Plus the streets are quieter the further into the neighbourhood you walk, so it’s the perfect way to spend your morning exploring, with plenty of options for a coffee and pastry to refuel you
The area around Ponte dei Pugni bridge is lovely to wander around, with wider canal paths and a much more relaxed vibe.
Head to the unique bookstore - Libreria Acqua Alta
One of my favourite finds in Venice and if you’re a book lover or bookstore fan like me then you need to visit Libreria Acqua Alta! This is also a great option to escape the afternoon crowds, while the bookstore is known, it’s off the beaten path and you’re likely to find a quiet corner or two here.
This bookstore is tucked away off the main street and inside you’ll find it piled high with books, there’s even a gondola full of books. Out the back you’ll find a stack of books you can sit on and climb to see the canal view below. There are little reading nooks with views of the canal.
Dinner at Ai Do Archi Venezia
Just a couple of minutes walk from the bookstore is my favourite restaurant in Venice. I loved it so much that I went on my first and my last night in the city, both times I went solo and they were the loveliest, friendliest staff in there, and so attentive.
It is off the main tourist track, so both times I was able to wander in and get a table without reservation, but I would suggest calling ahead to be sure, especially if you’re a larger party.
The restaurant itself is authentic and classic, with amazing fresh pasta, often they have live music and it felt like the most quintessential, relaxed, Italian experience of my whole trip; a perfect way to finish 3 days in Venice.
I hope this guide and itinerary are useful, please let me know if you use it and I hope you enjoy Venice!
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