When it comes to Mediterranean cruising, Venice is practically made for it. In this unique city, built on a number of islands inside a turquoise lagoon, water is simply a way of life – so it’s only natural that it’s become a popular destination for cruise stopovers. If you’re seeing Venice by boat, chances are your stopover will last just one day, so you’ll need to make the most of it. With this organised itinerary as your guide, you’ll never be at a loss for something to do!
A few top tips before you get started: start early and hit the main attractions early, before they become overwhelmed by the crowds. Be selective when possible – you can’t see all of Venice in one day, so do justice to the sights you do visit. Lastly, make use of the water taxis. Get a day pass on the vaporetti and use the traghetti (gondola ferries) whenever possible. Not only will it save you from walking everywhere in the heat of summer, you’ll also notice a lot of things you can only see from the water.
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A One Day Itinerary
Piazza San Marco and its Highlights
Start your day at Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), the principal public square of Venice and the so-called ‘drawing room of Europe’. While standing in this beautiful waterfront square you can see three other famous Venetian landmarks.
On the east end is St. Mark’s Basilica, which lends its name to the piazza. Completed in the 11th century, the Basilica has long been Venice’s most famous church – and for good reason. With its opulent Italo-Byzantine architecture, gold interior mosaics, and bold display of Venetian wealth and power, the Basilica has earned the nickname ‘Chiesa d’Oro’ (Church of Gold).
In front of the Basilica is its bell tower, the Campanile. Towering 323 feet over the Piazza, the Campanile was constructed in the 9th century, collapsed completely in 1902, and was rebuilt (with reinforcements) in 1912. For €8.00, you can take the lift up to the belfry for an unbelievable view of Venice and the surrounding islands.
Behind the Campanile and to the right of the Basilica you’ll see the Doge’s Palace, an opulent Venetian Gothic palace that was once home the Doge of Venice, the republic’s ruling authority. Built in three enormous wings adjoining the Basilica, the Palace is immediately recognisable by its long arcade beneath an open, colonnaded loggia (galley). A ticket to the palace costs €19.00 (€12.00 for 65+), though the price also includes admission to three other museums on the square. Last admission is at 6:00pm.
The Bridge of Sighs
While you’re at the palace, check out the Bridge of Sighs, which spans the Rio di Palazzo on the palace’s east wing. This beautiful 17th century enclosed bridge, built out of white limestone, was constructed to connect the Old Prison and interrogation rooms within the Doge’s Palace to the New Prison across the canal. A beautiful bridge – but with a rather grim purpose!
Venetian Icon: The Rialto Bridge
Next, make your way on foot or by traghetti 500 metres north to the Rialto Bridge, a Venetian icon and the oldest of the bridges that crosses the Grand Canal. The covered bridge, made of white stone and lined with small shops, consists of two ramps that meet at a central portico. Don’t linger too long at the bridge, however – lunch is waiting!
Lunch at Mercato di Rialto or Pronto Pesce
Just three minutes’ walk from the bridge, the Mercato di Rialto is bursting with fresh fruits, vegetables, and every type of seafood imaginable – all delivered that morning by boat. Though this market is more oriented toward grocery shopping and has no prepared food stalls, you’ll find a good lunch just around the corner at Pronto Pesce. This gourmet fish delicatessen and diner offers everything from razor clams to creamed cod octopus to gnocchi with squid ink sauce.
Grand Canal & Giudecca Island
After lunch, hop on the vaporetto (there’s a stop right outside the market) and take a little trip down the Grand Canal, the main thoroughfare in Venice. Along the way you’ll catch sight of luxurious hotels, museums, and palazzi built between the 12th and 18th century. Once you get to Zaccaria (E) station you can take line 2 all the way to Giudecca Island, a relatively isolated part of Venice that you’ll find is far less touristy.
The Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore & Giudecca 795
The vaporetto will drop you off right outside the Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore, a 16th century church built to thank God for delivering the city from a devastating plague. Designed by the famous architect Andrea Palladio, the church’s enormous dome and Pantheon-inspired façade make it instantly recognisable. Also make sure to pop into Giudecca 795, a quirky free art gallery dedicated to displaying and selling the works of new, up-and-coming artists.
Dinner at Trattoria ai Cacciatori
Before you head back to the main island, stop for dinner at Trattoria ai Cacciatori, a small inn with wonderful views across the water. The menu here is authentic Venetian cuisine, featuring such dishes as grilled octopus, stuffed rabbit, duck ragù, lasagne, and plenty of cannoli. After that, catch a transfer back to your cruise ship.
How to Get to Venice
Venice’s cruise port is located on the western edge of the main island in the district of Tronchetto. The Venezia Terminal Passeggeri is always busy, given the city’s high volume of visitors – nearly 700,000 cruise passengers each year! Don’t get lost in the crowd – arrange your private Venice cruise port transfers through Shuttle Direct so you can get from the port to the the highlights and back again without wasting a single second.
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About Shuttle Direct:
Whether you’re planning a one-day stopover in Venice or you’re staying the whole summer, Shuttle Direct can take you there with prompt, efficient, friendly service. As the top provider of transfer services across Europe and North Africa, we like to think we know this part of the world pretty well. So next time you book transfer arrangements, choose experience with Shuttle Direct.