- 1 The Best Things to do in Venice in Winter
- 1.1 1. Admire the Christmas tree in Piazza San Marco and go inside the Basilica
- 1.2 2. Visit Doge’s Palace
- 1.3 3. See Piazza di San Marco decorated for the holidays from above in the Campanile di San Marco
- 1.4 4. Watch the Torre dell’Orologio open on the Epiphany
- 1.5 5. Cheer on the La Befana Regatta
- 1.6 6. Walk under the Christmas lights all throughout the city
- 1.7 7. Sip your holiday cocktail at Harry’s Bar
- 1.8 8. Take pictures of the view from the Ponte di Rialto and shop at the Rialto Market
- 1.9 9. Try a wintery walking tour of Venice
- 1.10 10. Visit Venice’s Christmas Village at Campo Santo Stefano
- 1.11 11. Wander around inside one of Venice’s spectacular museums
- 1.12 12. Taste Venetian cicchetti at a traditional bacaro
- 1.13 13. Enjoy a Christmas concert in Venice
- 1.14 14. Take a wintery day trip away from Venice
- 1.15 15. Ride on a gondola through the Venetian fog
- 1.16 16. Dress up to watch a performance at the historic Teatro La Fenice
- 1.17 17. Go ice skating in Campo San Polo
- 1.18 18. Take part in Carnevale di Venezia
- 1.19 19. Create your own Venetian Carnevale mask
- 1.20 20. Enjoy the view of Basilica di San Marco and Santa Maria della Salute from Campanile di San Giorgio Maggiore
- 1.21 21. Warm up by watching glass demonstrations on Murano
- 1.22 Is it worth visiting Venice in winter?
- 1.23 How cold does Venice get in winter?
- 2 Average Temperatures of Venice in Winter
- 3 What to know about acqua alta
- 4 How to get to Venice in winter
- 5 How to get around Venice in winter
- 6 Venice in Winter: Wrap-Up
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Even though I love the warmth of the summer sunshine on my skin, nothing compares to strolling through an empty Piazza San Marco in the winter.
Now that I’ve been living in the Veneto wandering through Venice’s narrow twisted streets for almost a year, I can say that visiting Venice during the winter season is one of my favorite times to be in this Italian city.
Moments where I’ve stood in front of these iconic landmarks all alone, in the freezing cold, I won’t soon forget.
After the Epiphany holiday on January 6, Venice is almost empty until the beginning of Carnevale, which usually starts in February.
From beautiful churches adorned in holiday splendor to the different winter activities throughout the city, there are so many delightful things to do in Venice in winter; you’ll be ready to book your trip right now!
The Best Things to do in Venice in Winter
1. Admire the Christmas tree in Piazza San Marco and go inside the Basilica
One of Italy’s most renowned piazzas is the stunning Piazza San Marco. It is named after Saint Mark the Evangelist, the Basilica’s patron saint, whose emblem—the winged lion—was used to symbolize the Republic of Venice.
The Piazza, in the heart of Venice’s historic district, is encircled by some of the city’s most beautiful structures. The Piazza is surrounded on three sides by the Procuratie. The Torre dell’Orologio and the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana are both encircled by the building’s famous arcade.
You can find the Basilica di San Marco and Palazzo Ducale (the Doge’s Palace) on the fourth side.
The space in front of Palazzo Ducale connecting to the main Piazza is called Piazzetta di San Marco. This is where you’ll find Venice’s towering Christmas tree!
Spend a few minutes admiring and taking pictures of the decorated tree among the iconic skyline before heading inside the Basilica.
From 836 until 1797, the Ducal chapel was housed in the Basilica di San Marco, whose construction was completed in 1094. Before building this masterpiece, there were two other churches on this site.
Admire the golden mosaics, the high alter Pala d’Oro, and art by Renaissance masters Tintoretto, Titian, and Veronese inside this stunning church.
If possible, arrive early in the day during busy times of the year because there can be a very long line to enter the Basilica.
Fun Fact: The Venetians stole many of the church’s decorations from other churches and palaces. Check out the four alabaster columns in this church, which are located behind the main altar. They are believed to have been taken from the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta, a former cathedral in Pula, Croatia, which the Venetians pillaged in 1243.
2. Visit Doge’s Palace
Adjacent to the Basilica di San Marco stands the Palazzo Ducale, built initially in the 14th century. It served as a residence for the Doges of Venice until Napoleon took control of the city in 1797.
From then on, the building was used as an office, exhibit space, and cultural organization. After unification with Italy in 1866, when Venice became part of Italy, the Palazzo was converted into a museum.
Doge (n.) The highest official of the Republic of Venice for more than 1,000 years (from the 8th to the 18th century) and symbol of the sovereignty of the Venetian state. In Venice the office of Doge (from Latin dux, “leader”) originated when the city was nominally subject to the Byzantine Empire and became permanent in the mid-8th century.
From the 8th to the 12th century the Doge’s power was extensive, but all attempts to make the office hereditary failed. From the 12th century the aristocracy placed strict limits on the Doge. Newly developed constitutional bodies took over many of the functions of government, and the Doge on taking office had to swear an oath that restricted his freedom of action. During the same period, the main characteristics of the office were fixed: the Doge was chosen from among the ruling families of Venice and held office for life. By the 15th century the office had assumed the character of prince subject to law.BRITANNICA, T. EDITORS OF ENCYCLOPAEDIA (2011, DECEMBER 12TH). DOGE. ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA.
The Doge’s palace is a fantastic place to visit. Inside you’ll find breathtaking artwork, frescoed walls, and original furniture. There are even grand rooms and halls where various government functions used to be held.
Several standout sights inside include the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, or Great Council Hall, which was used for discussing government business.
The room features Paradiso (1588 – 1592) by Jacopo Tintoretto, the largest canvas painting in the world.
You can also walk across the famous Bridge of Sighs from the old prison to the new one, just like the prisoners would have.
However, if you’re considering this Venice in winter activity, beware that it’s freezing inside!
I visited the Doge’s Palace on a foggy January day, and the winter cold definitely moved through the prison of the museum.
3. See Piazza di San Marco decorated for the holidays from above in the Campanile di San Marco
The beautiful Campanile di San Marco was built starting in the early 10th century and wasn’t finished until five centuries later.
Despite various eras of construction, the tower collapsed in 1902 but was rebuilt by 1912.
Since it’s the city’s tallest building, you can find gorgeous views from the top!
Walk inside to purchase a ticket before riding an elevator to the top–one of the benefits of being rebuilt in the 20th century–to enjoy the view of the city decorated for Christmas below.
Climbing the historic bell tower is one of the best things to do in Venice at Christmas.
4. Watch the Torre dell’Orologio open on the Epiphany
Located just steps away from the Basilica di San Marco, the Torre dell’Orologio is one of the most famous landmarks in Venice.
Built at the close of the 15th century, its clock strikes every half-hour, starting and ending each phase of Venetian daily life.
The two figures–one an old man and one a young man to represent the passing of time–strike the bell on top of the clocktower at the top of every hour.
The winged lion holding an open book and the Zodiac marked on the clock face are other notable features.
Although this clock is beautiful year-round, you must see it on January 6th for the Procession of the Magi.
Each year, only on the Epiphany holiday, the three Magi and an Angel appear from within the clock and pass in front of the Virgin Mary to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Since it only happens twice yearly–the Epiphany and Ascension Day–it’s incredibly rare to experience.
5. Cheer on the La Befana Regatta
In addition to the Procession of the Magi, another famous tradition occurs in Venice every January 6th–the Regata delle Befane.
“In Italian folklore, La Befana is a witch who brings good children treats on the morning of the Epiphany, January 6th. But if you were bad, look out – you may wake up to a lump of coal.”“The Legend of La Befana.” Eataly, 26 Dec. 2019.
Although sounding similar, the legend of La Befana dates back long before Santa Claus.
On the night of January 5th, the witch flies on her broomstick from house to house, sliding down the chimney to gift candies and gifts to good children and coal to the bad.
On the morning of the 6th, fifty members of the oldest rowing club in Venice each dress up as La Befana and race on the Grand Canal from San Tomà to the finish line at the Rialto Bridge.
6. Walk under the Christmas lights all throughout the city
Throughout the winter months, the main streets of Venice are adorned with tinsel and Christmas lights.
Although they look beautiful during the day, the twinkling lights give Venice’s nightlife a fantastic festive atmosphere.
Quick History: For a fun fact about Venice, during the peak of the Venetian Republic, the main roads people traveled were canals. The streets we walk down when wandering around Venice today were originally for the staff of wealthy families, ordinary folk, and livestock to move about. Since they weren’t designed with any kind of order, it’s easy to get lost while walking around Venice.
7. Sip your holiday cocktail at Harry’s Bar
Did you know–the Bellini was created here at Harry’s Bar in Venice?
The classic brunch cocktail made with Prosecco and peach purée was created by owner Giuseppe Cipriani between the 1930s and 40s.
Cipriani noticed the drink’s signature pink color was similar to that in a painting by Venetian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini–thus, the Bellini was born.
Whether you decide to enjoy a Bellini or another seasonal holiday drink, Harry’s Bar has a cozy atmosphere. It is a great place to grab one of their famous drinks and relax.
8. Take pictures of the view from the Ponte di Rialto and shop at the Rialto Market
Built during the Renaissance, the Rialto Bridge is one of the most famous landmarks of the Republic of Venice.
Although it was initially a tiny pontoon bridge, the incredible structure we have standing today was completed in 1591.
After you’ve captured the stunning views on either side of the bridge, spend some time holiday window shopping at the shops and stalls on and just off the bridge.
You can peruse fine jewelry found in the bridge’s shops or shop for cheap souvenirs at the stalls once you walk off the bridge.
9. Try a wintery walking tour of Venice
The best way to experience the magic of Venice in winter is to take a guided walking tour!
I always recommend that you take a walking tour when visiting new cities because they allow you to explore the most beautiful parts of the city while learning about the history and getting a chance to ask their local guide for recommendations.
10. Visit Venice’s Christmas Village at Campo Santo Stefano
Most Italian cities have their own Christmas Market, and Venice is no exception! Right next to the Ponte dell’Accademia, Campo Santo Stefano is home to Venice’s largest holiday village.
Although it’s not as big as other cities like Verona’s Christmas market or Bolzano’s German Christkindlmarkt, it’s filled with Italian specialty foods and goods specifically from Venice, like Murano glass and handmade Venetian masks.
Sip on piping hot mulled wine or hot chocolate as you explore the beautiful square and take in the festive holiday atmosphere.
11. Wander around inside one of Venice’s spectacular museums
Need to get out of the cold for a little while? Visiting a museum is one of my favorite ways to spend time inside in Venice.
Venice is full of museums that explore its rich past, including the Basilica di San Marco, Palazzo Ducale, and Ca’ Rezzonico.
Along with the twelve museums that make up the Musei Civici di Venezia system, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum, and the Museo Ebraico di Venezia (Jewish Museum of Venice) are also famous Venice museums to explore.
Spend your winter day in Venice exploring one of its museums, learning more about its beautiful artwork, fascinating history, and impressive architecture.
Insider Tip: If you’re interested in visiting some of the city’s civic museums, check out my post on the different museum and city pass options available in Venice.
12. Taste Venetian cicchetti at a traditional bacaro
The word bacaro in Venetian dialect means “a good bar” or “wine,” and that’s precisely what you’ll find at any of the city’s bacaro restaurants.
At a bacaro, you’ll eat the Venetian happy hour delicacy called cicchetti, which are small rounds of Italian bread each topped with different things–baccalà, salami, gorgonzola with walnuts, parmigiana cheese with jam, and so many other foods. And, of course, you’ll drink a spritz!
Now that you’ve got the basics down, you’re going to do as the Venetians do and add un giro d’ombra (a bacaro tour) to the list of things to do in Venice this winter!
Go from one bacaro to another, having a spritz or a glass of wine and a few pieces of cicchetti at every stop.
You’ll warm riiiiight up!
13. Enjoy a Christmas concert in Venice
With the holiday season comes Christmas concerts! The Museo della Musica hosts concerts by the Interpreti Veneziani string quartet, known for its Baroque music performances by the famed masters of the era like Vivaldi.
See the historic instruments inside the Museum of Music before sitting down to enjoy this moving concert series in Venice on a cold winter’s night.
14. Take a wintery day trip away from Venice
You’ll find so many other beautiful cities to celebrate Christmas and enjoy the winter near Venice!
The north of Italy offers many beautiful towns and cities with great holiday markets and winter sports to enjoy throughout the colder months.
Known as another canal city, Treviso is only about 30 minutes north of Venice on the train.
It has a lovely, walkable city center, a small holiday village, and excellent shopping. United Colors of Benetton has its flagship store here and is also the birthplace of tiramisù.
You can check out my guide on things to do in Treviso here.
Up in the Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol region, winter in Bolzano is not to be missed.
The city has the largest German Christkindlmarkt in Italy, along with boutiques and shops celebrating the season.
This is one of my favorite places to visit in Italy during Christmas–especially if you want to see snow!
15. Ride on a gondola through the Venetian fog
One of the most remarkable aspects of Venice is its canals–and floating down them in a gondola is quite an experience. During the winter, you’ll find fewer tourists, which means fewer gondolas on the waterways. It’s like having the city’s historic canals almost entirely to yourself.
I highly recommend you book a Grand Canal by Gondola with Commentary tour in advance–that way, you can guarantee that you’ll have a gondola experience instead of hoping to find a gondolier during its coldest months.
Fun Fact: Swimming is not allowed in the Venetian canals. The water is polluted, and you’ll receive a fine if caught.
16. Dress up to watch a performance at the historic Teatro La Fenice
Teatro la Fenice opened in the 18th century, just five years after the fall of the Republic. Throughout its history, opera performances from some of the most famous composers, such as Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti, premiered here.
Now, it is considered one of the most significant landmarks in music history. The current theatre is a reconstruction of what was there – the original burned down in 1996.
Fun Fact: The inside of the Croatian National Theater in Šibenik was inspired by Teatro La Fenice! You can see a picture of the interior in my guide on the best things to do in Šibenik, Croatia.
You can check their calendar and book tickets online for any of their holiday concerts.
Otherwise, you can book an audio tour of La Fenice when there isn’t a production.
17. Go ice skating in Campo San Polo
Every winter, an ice skating rink is set up in the middle of Campo San Polo in the San Polo neighborhood of Venice. Open from the start of December through the Carnevale season, you don’t need to bring your own skates as you can rent them on-site.
Your entry gives you 1.5 hours on the ice at a time; you can purchase additional entries but will need to take a 30-minute break.
18. Take part in Carnevale di Venezia
This is one of the most famous things to do in Venice in winter! Carnevale is a remarkable tradition dating back hundreds of years in Venice that was almost lost; the Italian communist leader Benito Mussolini outlawed the celebrations during the 1940s and was reinstated until the 1970s.
Today’s celebrations include dressing up in costumes with a signature Venetian mask, regattas, masked ball parties, and much more. It lasts for three weeks before Lent in Roman Catholicism starts and ends on Fat Tuesday.
One of the festival’s highlights is in Piazza San Marco. The whole Piazza becomes a celebration space where you can see fantastical costumes during the festival.
I had an outstanding experience attending Carnevale, and I definitely recommend everyone goes at least once in their lifetime!
Fun Fact: The word “Carnevale” comes from the Latin carnem and levare, which literally translates to “to remove meat.”
19. Create your own Venetian Carnevale mask
Suppose you’re more interested in the history behind Venetian masks. In that case, the tradition of mask-wearing and mask-making is woven into the story of Venice’s Carnevale celebrations. The origins date back hundreds of years; beginning in the Middle Ages, people wore disguises to participate in the revelry without detection.
You can find masks at the market near the Rialto Bridge or just about any tourist shop in the city at any time of the year, not just during the season of Carnevale.
However, if you want something more authentic, you can buy a mask at one of the city’s specialty shops, where artists still follow the time-honored mask-making techniques.
For the ultimate souvenir, attend a mask-making class with a Venetian artisan. You’ll learn about the tradition of Venetian paper-mâché masks and how the art form was almost lost while painting your own to bring home.
20. Enjoy the view of Basilica di San Marco and Santa Maria della Salute from Campanile di San Giorgio Maggiore
Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore, also the name of the island it’s located, is dedicated to Saint George and was the home of the San Giorgio Monastery from 982 to 1812. It’s a peaceful spot out in the middle of the Venice Lagoon if you want to see Venice from afar.
When visiting the island, don’t forget to climb the bell tower. The Campanile di San Giorgio has one of the most incredible views of Venice, with the entire city in front of you.
The Fondazione Giorgio Cini cultural center and library archive, the Labirinto Borges labyrinth, the open-air theater Teatro Verde, and the Vatican Chapels are all located here. The island is accessible by the city’s water taxis.
Fun Fact: The famous Impressionist painter Claude Monet captured the beauty of Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore within a series of paintings titled Saint-Georges majeur au crépuscule.
21. Warm up by watching glass demonstrations on Murano
Murano is one of the most famous glass-producing places in the world. During the Middle Ages, artisan glassmakers were brought to the island from mainland Venice. They were not allowed to leave the island to protect the secret methods of creating the delicate glass.
Murano is still considered one of the most important centers for glass, and it’s home to the Museo Del Vetro (The Museum of Glass), which showcases handcrafted pieces from local artists. Visitors can stroll through the island and visit several workshops to see firsthand how the famous glass is made.
Since glassblowing workshops are very hot, it’s a perfect place to visit in the cold winter months in Venice.
Is it worth visiting Venice in winter?
Yes, you should definitely visit Venice in the winter.
After the Epiphany on January 6th until the start of Carnevale in February, there are significantly fewer tourists visiting the city. It’s like you’ll have Venice all to yourself!
Venice is worth visiting any time of year, whether it’s the dead of winter or the height of summer!
How cold does Venice get in winter?
Winter weather in Venice is milder than in other parts of Europe.
Temperatures rarely drop below freezing during the day, making it ideal for walking around town.
Venice is much quieter and calmer during this time of year, too, which gives you more opportunity to enjoy the city’s beauty.
Average Temperatures of Venice in Winter
According to the National Centers for Environmental Information from NOAA, January is the coldest month of winter in Venice.
|Month||Temperature in Fahrenheit |
(High / Low)
|Temperature in Celsius
(High / Low)
|November||55° / 39°||13° / 4°|
|December||47° / 31°||8° / -1°|
|January||46° / 30°||8° / -1°|
|February||50° / 32°||10° / 0°|
What to know about acqua alta
When the canal water levels rise too high, the city floods.
Since the Italian city sits on a lagoon, high and low tides happen twice daily. But since the city is only prone to flooding when the tide rises in the Adriatic Sea during the winter, this doesn’t happen when it rains in Venice; only in the winter when the tide rises.
This phenomenon is called acqua alta.
Local Venetians have apps to alert them, usually a few days in advance, when there’s a risk of flooding. And every church tower in Venice has a siren that once signaled air raids warnings throughout World War II, which are also used for flood alerts.
However, the city has recently built a tidal barrier to try and combat the flooding and slow sinking of the city due to rising tides and climate change. You can find the operations center for the MOSE Project is housed in the Venetian Arsenal.
How to get to Venice in winter
You can fly to any airport near Venice, like Treviso, Bergamo, Brescia, or Milan, and take a train to Venice.
However, flying to Venice Marco Polo Airport is the easiest option. This is because most international flights land here and are located very close to the train station.
From late spring through the end of fall, Delta runs a direct flight from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City directly to Venice Marco Polo Airport, which is excellent for people who hate layovers.
Overall, the Italian railroad system is a fantastic means of transportation. You can take a train from Venice’s Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia railway station almost anywhere in Italy! I strongly suggest using the regional trains for nearly all travel throughout Italy.
Although trains do not go to Venetian islands such as Murano, Burano, or Guidecca, you may easily travel from anywhere in Italy to Venice’s Santa Lucia station.
Suppose you want to take the bus into or out of Venice. In that case, Piazzale Roma is the bus depot where local buses operate, as well as companies like Flixbus or Itabus drop-off.
How to get around Venice in winter
Six different neighborhoods within the central city of Venice are Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, San Marco, San Polo, and Santa Croce districts.
Although walking through Venice’s twisting alleyways is a fantastic experience, there is typically a more direct route–on the water.
A water taxi journey down Venice’s Grand Canal is an incredible experience. You’ll travel under the Rialto Bridge, along waterways dotted with colorful buildings and gondolas, and get a taste of Venice the way it was meant to be seen.
The city’s public Vaporetto system, like any other mass transit system, is simple to operate once you understand the basics. 19 separate lines run between various sites in the city and the adjacent islands like Burano, Murano, and Torcello.
You can also take a traghetto if you only need to cross the Grand Canal or a private water bus.
Venice in Winter: Wrap-Up
Venice is a beautiful destination no matter what season you visit. However, if you decide to travel here during the winter, you’ll experience a unique side of the city that few travelers ever see. What are your favorite things to do in Venice in winter?
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