Getting to Venice by train
How to get to Venice by train? Direct trains to Venice depart from many national and international destinations. If you're on a continental tour, you might consider an overnight Thello train, journey time around 10 hours, from Paris to Venice. Get a good night's sleep and arrive well-rested at your destination. Travellers who find themselves already in Italy, in Rome for example, can catch one of the 21 daily trains to Venice that take a mere 3h 30m. If you've been having a stylish time in Italy's fashion capital, trains from Milan to Venice take even less time, about 2h 25m if you travel on a Frecciarossa train.
No matter where from mainland Italy you embark on your journey to Venice, keep in mind that your trip ends at Venezia Santa Lucia train station. Don't get out too early – wait until the train has crossed the bridge! That said, some lines do end on the mainland at Venezia Mestre train station. From here you can change to one of the local trains that will bring you to Venezia Santa Lucia station. Depending on the location of your hotel, from there you can either walk or catch a vaporetto (water bus) or a pricier water taxi, which will navigate the city's canals to get you to your accommodation.
Day 1 – Arrive and wander through the calli
After having settled in at your hotel, we suggest that you use the rest of the day to leisurely wander through Venice's streets. In particular, be sure to explore the calli and campielli, the little Venetian streets and squares, at your own pace. By early evening the day trippers will have left and Venice will belong to the locals and overnight travellers. Enjoy its unique magic as the sun sets. Venice is a safe city, so if you just apply common sense, you can walk anywhere you like.
Chances are good that during your exploration, you already came across some appealing places to eat. Rule of thumb – if nobody is standing outside to entice potential diners, if the restaurant is outside the San Marco neighbourhood, and if you hear more Italian than any other language spoken inside, you might have found a good place to eat! A favourite with the locals for eating is the Dorsoduro area in the south of the city. Here is where Venetians, and especially students, dine out. In general, head away from the main squares and aim for the back and side streets. This way you're not only more likely to get an authentic meal at a more reasonable price, but you'll also get to observe a more authentic side of Venice, off the most-trodden paths. Our insider tip is La Bitta, in Calle Lunga San Barnaba, a friendly restaurant in Dorsoduro with tasty local meat dishes and great wine.
Day 2 – Discover Venice’s art and history
When it comes to what to see in Venice, the hot spots comprise art, history, culture, religion and artisan-made goods. No matter what, try to start your day early to see the city in the morning light before the day visitors arrive. The city is easily explored on foot, so head over to St Mark's Square, which Italians simply refer to as la piazza. Centrally located, it’s the ideal starting point for today's excursion. Saint Mark's Basilica stands at its east end. Try to participate in one of the early morning masses to see this grand basilica from another perspective. Remember to dress modestly, with covered shoulders and knees, and keep in mind that large bags are not allowed inside. If you prefer to visit without taking in a mass, consider reserving your ticket beforehand to avoid waiting in long lines.
Your next stop should be the Doge's Palace. Here our insider tip is to take the 'Secret Itineraries' guided tour. Tickets can be purchased directly on the museum's website. After this healthy dose of art, history and culture, you can climb the Bell Tower of Saint Mark which offers stunning views over Venice and its lagoon. Then walk to and cross the Rialto Bridge, the oldest bridge over the Grand Canal, and explore the scenic San Polo neighbourhood. Don't miss San Giacomo di Rialto, believed to be the oldest church in Venice, dating back to the 5th century. Finally, for a bit of retail therapy, wander around the Rialto market which includes a farmers' market as well as small artisan shops and stalls. Souvenir prices here are a bit more reasonable than around San Marco.
Day 3 – Jewish Ghetto, Murano and gondola rides
Start your day off with a visit to the Jewish Ghetto, still the centre of life for Venice's Jewish citizens. There are five synagogues to explore, but we recommend you first visit the Jewish Museum, which offers substantial insight into the daily life and history of the Jewish community. You can opt to take the museum's guided tour of the synagogues or devise your own. To complete your exploration in this neighbourhood, consider lunch at a kosher restaurant.
During the afternoon, you may want to explore one of Venice's other islands. You can take vaporetto lines 4.1 or 4.2 from San Zaccaria (Jolanda) stop in the San Marco neighbourhood to Murano, famous for its glass production. Murano is a small island which can be explored easily in one afternoon. Whilst the narrow streets and majestic palazzos are lovely to see, don't miss out on a visit to the Glass Museum in the centre. Here you can see, broken down by century, how Venetian glass has been produced, from Roman times to the present. Wandering through the streets you will come across many glassworks, some even dating back to medieval times and open to the public. A number of the local glass factories also offer glass-making demonstrations.
Back in Venice itself, consider finishing off this splendid weekend with a gondola ride over the Grand Canal. This isn't exactly cheap, but if you are travelling in a small group, keep in mind that up to six people can normally share one gondola. Don't try to negotiate a lower price, however, as this typically only leads to a shortened and less scenic trip. Tell the gondolier instead that you love Venice and that this is your last evening. If it's early enough and you aren't interested in splashing out on a gondola ride, you can instead access a bit of Venice's glamour with a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. The American heiress's fabulous 20th-century art collection is housed in her former home, an 18th-century palace right on the Grand Canal.
Travelling by train to Venice is a convenient, comfortable option to spend a weekend in this romantic city. Not only do you arrive directly in the city centre, but you save money on parking fees (no cars are permitted in Venice itself). To find the best offers and deals check out our page on cheap train tickets in Italy, and make sure to book in advance. For Italian travel, the early bird catches the worm, or rather, the earlier you book, the lower the price, so don't wait too long to visit Venice.