Venice in Winter

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Venice has long been a favourite destination in Italy that is famous for its canals, vast lagoon, food and gondolas. While many visitors choose to explore Venice in spring and summer when the weather is warmer, spending some time meandering through the labyrinthine streets on a chilly Venice winter morning has a special romantic feel to it.

Early in the morning, the streets are bathed in a light mist with a soft orange glow from the street lights. As fewer people visit Venice in winter, expect the streets to be quieter, shorter queues at landmarks and main attractions, and a chance to see the city in its true light. There are plenty of things to do both indoors and outdoors in Venice in winter that make for an enjoyable visit. Here’s what not to miss during your wintery Venice vacation.

Venice in Winter

20 Things To Do In Venice In Winter

1- Admire Piazza San Marco

Venice Tour: St. Mark's Basilica and Gondola Ride winter
Gondolas in Venice in the winter.

Piazza San Marco is often thought of as the heart of Venice, and regardless of the time of year, it is easy to see why.

The square is perhaps the most famous square in the city and is home to famous buildings including the Doge’s Palace and the beautiful St Mark’s Basilica.

During the summer the square is heaving with tourists, however in winter expect a calmer and more relaxed atmosphere to explore this iconic square.

Take the time to browse the windows of the luxury shops lining the edges of the square, or enjoy an espresso while looking across the square from a cosy cafe.

Piazza San Marco is at 30100, Venice.

Recommended tour: Venice Tour: St. Mark’s Basilica and Gondola Ride

2- Reflect in Basilica di San Marco

Doge's Palace & St. Mark's Basilica with Terrace Access Tour winter
Doge’s Palace in winter in Venice.

During the summer, getting a quiet moment of reflection inside Basilica di San Marco follows a lengthy queuing process, and a busy experience inside.

In winter however, you are more likely to get into the church without the queues, and as there are fewer tourists inside, more time can be spent admiring the beauty of this religious building.

The basilica was built during the early 800s to house the body of St Mark, an apostle, before further works to transform the basilica into the building we see today took place in 1063.

The church is famous for its golden mosaics which adorn many of its walls and domed ceilings.

Basilica di San Marco is at San Marco, 328 30124 Venice.

Recommended tour: Doge’s Palace & St. Mark’s Basilica with Terrace Access Tour 

3- Admire the view

See Venice and its Grand Canal from above at T Fondaco dei Tedeschi, a department store with an excellent, and free, rooftop terrace.

The department store is in the centre of the city and is a stones throw from the iconic Rialto Bridge.

Booking is required to visit the roof terrace as space is limited, however during quieter periods the staff may let you up without a ticket.

Your rooftop terrace experience lasts around 20 minutes which is plenty of time to admire the view, the canals and the spectacular Venetian architecture.

After admiring the view enjoy some time in this extraordinary building that began its life as a merchant store house and peruse its collections of clothing, accessories, fine jewellery and luxury foods.

T Fondaco dei Tedeschi is at Calle del Fontego dei Tedeschi, Rialto BRidge, 30124 Venice.

Recommended tour: Venice: Lagoon Islands Hop-on Hop-off Boat Tour

4- Enjoy A Gondola Ride

Venice: Grand Canal Gondola Ride with App Commentary winter
San Giorgio in Venice in the winter.

While finding a vacant gondola during summer can be a daunting task, in the colder months gondolas are easier to obtain, and a journey one one through the mist can make for one of the most memorable experiences on your trip.

Gondoliers dressed in traditional attire will provide your with blankets however the air can be very cold out on the water so dress warmly.

On cold and foggy days gondola rides are particularly magical, especially as you slowly float through the narrow canals and under old foot bridges.

From your gondola expect to see some of the city’s most famous attractions and perhaps even the famous Banksy work titled ‘Migrant Child’.

Your gondolier may even suggest some good local restaurants and cafes to visit as you pass.

Gondolas are available throughout the city.

Recommended tour: Venice: Grand Canal Gondola Ride with App Commentary 

5- Spend The Evening At The Theatre

Venice: La Fenice Opera House Entry Ticket with Audio Guide winter
La Fenice Theatre in winter in Venice.

Translating to ‘The Phoenix’, the renowned Teatro la Fenice is one of the most famous and important opera houses in Italy, and has had great influence over Italian theatre throughout its history.

The theatre takes its name from its turbulent history as it has burnt down twice since it was first built in 1790.

Giannantonio Selva, a neoclassic architect, designed the theatre in 1790 and his plans and architectural models were used each time the theatre was rebuilt.

Inside, the theatre is richly decorated with golden touches, rich red velvets and plenty of beautiful artworks.

Guided tours of the theatre are available year round, however if you are lucky enough to time your visit with a performance, the experience simply cannot be missed.

Teatro la Fenice is at Campo S. Fantin, 1965, 30124 Venice.

Recommended shows:

6- Ice Skate in Campo San Polo

Create a truly magical winter experience in Venice by ice skating at Campo San Polo.

Each year the square hosts a large ice skating rink suitable for adults and children alike to enjoy this winter activity.

The square’s ice rink traditionally opens in early December and serves excited skaters until carnival in February.

The ice rink is large enough to host approximately 200 skaters at once, with particularly busy times falling after dark as the rink, surroundings stalls and buildings are lit up with fairy lights.

Surrounding the rink are many festive stalls serving warming snacks and drinks, as well as traditional Christmas souvenirs.

Ice Rink is at Campo San Polo, 30100 Venice.

7- Warm Up In Luxury 

After spending a chilly winters day exploring the winding streets of Venice, head to Piazza San Marco and seek out Caffè Florian, a cafe dating back to the 1700s.

The cafe first opened in 1720 and has stood in the same spot since.

The interior is grand and filled with ornate mirrors, small marble tables and plush velvet seating.

The cafe has been a meeting point for nobility, artists, writers, politicians and merchants throughout its history, and today is a must-visit destination for a coffee with a difference.

Service here is impeccable, as waiters dressed in formal attire complete with bow-ties serve your order on large silver trays.

Their menu has changed little over the years with offerings of simple dishes including breakfast platters, sandwiches and selections of delicate cakes.

Prices are high here, however the experience of enjoying a warm drink in regal surroundings is worth the experience.

Caffè Florian is at Piazza San Marco, 57, 30124 Venice.

Recommended experiences: 

8- Buy Gifts At Campo Santo Stefano Christmas Market

Murano Clock Tower, Torre Dell'Orologio Of San Stefano Church
Campo Santo Stefano in Murano in winter in Venice.

In the three weeks running up to Christmas, Campo Santo Stefano hosts its annual Christmas Market.

The entire square is transformed into a Christmas wonderland with small cabins erected to house a range of stalls and food stands.

In the market expect to find traditional Venetian and Italian Christmas decorations, Murano glass decorations and souvenirs, and carnival masks.

There is a dedicated section of the market for Italian Christmas delicacies including traditional Christmas cakes, rich and fruit-filled panettone, and nougat.

Those looking to purchase gifts for foodies will enjoy the countless stalls selling dried porcini mushrooms, pasta in different styles and shapes, and traditional biscotti which is perfect with a cup of coffee on a winters morning.

Campo Santo Stefano Christmas Market is at Campo Santo Stefano, 30124 Venice.

Recommended tour: Christmas Tales of Venice Walking Tour 

9- Ring In The New Year at La Fiesta do San Silvestro

If you are spending New Year in Venice, take part in their traditional festivities on New Years Eve at La Fiesta do San Silvestro.

Enjoy banquet-style feasts at Venice’s restaurants who will offer dishes of lentils, stuffed pigs trotters and more as part of a traditional dinner.

Count down to midnight at St Mark’s Square to watch the fireworks light up the skies above some of the city’s most iconic buildings.

New Year’s Day sees the traditional festivities continue at Lido Beach, where Venetians take a cold dip into the lagoon.

10- Follow The Lights Through Venice’s Winding Streets

During the festive period Venice fills its streets with plenty of glittering lights.

One of the best ways to explore the city and stumble across hidden gems is simply wandering the streets and allowing yourself to get lost.

The addition of Christmas lights criss-crossing above you as you explore the labyrinthine streets, particularly if the evening mist is rolling in, creates a truly magical atmosphere.

Take in the numerous large Christmas trees displayed in Venice’s many squares, admire the festive displays in shop windows, and photograph the delicately finished nativity scenes outside its churches.

11- Dress Up For The Venice Carnival

Venice: Carnival Grand Ball Gala Dinner and Show winter
The Venice Winter Carnival is a colourful affair.

Venice Carnival is perhaps the most famous event on the Venetian calendar.

The carnival runs over several days in February, ending on Shrove Tuesday.

Venice Carnival is most famous for the elaborate masks and costumes worn by those taking part.

The tradition of wearing masks during carnival dates back to the Middle Ages, however it was banned in 1797.

Carnival was revived in the 1970s and has seen its traditional mask-makers experience a boom in sales in the run up to the event.

When in Venice during Carnival, take plenty of photographs of those dressed in masks and costume, before taking part yourself with your own unique mask from a traditional shop, or from a mask making workshop.

Recommended event: Venice: Carnival Grand Ball Gala Dinner and Show 

12- Watch the Regata Delle Befane

Each year on Epiphany, Venice hosts the Regata Delle Befane, a traditional celebration seeing the last day of the Christmas period end with a boat race across the lagoon.

On this day, Italian children celebrate the arrival of Befana, a friendly witch who gives gifts to good children, and plays tricks on the naughty.

The boat race includes people dressed up as witches complete with broomsticks aboard the boats.

This unique tradition has taken place annually since 1882 when the oldest rowing club in the city launched the race.

13- Spend The Afternoon On Murano

Murano is a popular island on the lagoon and is easily accessible by water taxi or boat from Venice itself.

The island is famous for its glass with some glass blowing workshops still manufacturing traditional Murano glass today.

Throughout Murano there are often large outdoor displays of glass sculptures formed by local makers.

There are many shops on the island selling glass, however be sure to seek out authentic ‘Made in Murano’ glass, as sadly some sellers have moved in selling items that have been mass-produced elsewhere.

If you time your visit right, book onto a tour of a glass workshop, where you will see glass blowers producing unique pieces of art.

Recommended tour: Venice: Burano, Torcello & Murano Boat Tour w/Glassblowing 

14- Read A Book In A Cosy Cafe

Bookworms will enjoy the cosy book lined walls of the chaotic, inspiring and literary haven of Librairie Acqua Alta.

This unusual bookshop has an unimaginable quantity of books, with some filling everything from bathtubs to boats.

The entire shop is perfect for instagram photos, however it can be a little tricky to find the book you are looking for.

The shops name comes from the infamous Acqua Alta phenomena of high water that hits Venice each year, typically during the winter period.

As a result, placing the books in such unusual containers allows them to stay off the ground and low shelves, and therefore remain dry.

Look out for the many stray cats that the bookshop has become home to as you peruse this chaotic yet intriguing collection.

Librairie Acqua Alta is at 5173 Calle Lunga, 5176/B, Venice.

On particularly wet, windy and chilly winter days, spending the time exploring outside is not everyone’s idea of a good day out.

Take refuge somewhere warm and inspirational and explore one of Venice’s many art galleries.

Explore the former home of American art collector Peggy Guggenheim at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, which houses one of the most important collections of art from Europe and North America.

For art with a little more age to it, admire the collections at Gallerie dell’Accademia, with all art under its roof focusing on pre-19th century works.

Skip the line and book your tickets to the Peggy Guggenheim gallery

16- Spend The Day On The Beach 

Venice’s lagoon-side location means easy access to the water, and the beach and the Adriatic Sea are not far away.

Reach Lido di Jesolo via bus, boat or water taxi, and make the most of this resort town during the off season.

Lido di Jesolo primarily trades during the summer season for tourists, so expect fewer shops and restaurants to be open, however some of the best beach days can be had during this quiet period.

Visit a bakery before you depart, or call into the supermarket when you arrive for picnic items and head to the quiet beach.

Relax on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, take a walk along the soft golden sands, and look for sea shells.

Book your Bus Transfer between Lido di Jesolo and Venice 

17- Take A Street Food Tour 

Make the most of the quieter streets and head out with a knowledgeable local guide on a street food tour.

Venice can be particularly daunting for food lovers as the city is a tourist city at heart, and therefore many restaurants cater to wide audiences with extortionate prices.

On a street food tour however you will be shown to some of the best local haunts in the city where you can expect to eat local delicacies, see where vendors purchase their produce at the local market, and chat with them about how they create each dish.

Recommended tour: Venice: Street Food Tour with a Local Guide and Tastings

18- Make Your Own Carnival Mask

What better way to spend Carnival in Venice than by making your own unique mask!

There are many workshops across the city where masks have been made meticulously by hand §that are now open to the public to decorate their own.

Mask workshops typically have a wide variety of mask blanks to choose from and during the workshop you can adorn them with a range of traditional decorative techniques.

For those looking for a truly hands on experience, book onto a workshop with a maker to learn the skills behind producing each paper maché mask before putting your new skills to use and creating your own.

Recommended tour: Venice: Carnival Mask Workshop 

19- Admire A Nativity Scene 

Step away from the festive lights and Christmas music as you enter a church in search of a traditional nativity scene.

One of the most popular nativity scenes to visit in Venice is at Santa Maria Di Nazareth, or Scalzi Church.

Baldassare Longhena built the church in the mid 1600s, and it is breathtaking to behold.

The exterior of the church is adorned with columns, marble statues and intricate carvings.

Inside there are a range of artworks featuring the life of Christ including Christ at Gethsemane and the Crucification.

The nativity scene, or presepe, displayed inside the church comes from the Venetian Baroque period, and is perfect to view in winter alongside a beautiful collection of glass cribs created by Murano masters that are displayed inside the church.

20- Take A Scenic Train Ride Along The Coast 

If you are in Venice for a few days and want to see more of the surrounding area, particularly the stunning Adriatic coast, head to Santa Lucia station and board a train bound for the city of Trieste.

This train journey will take you through rolling Italian countryside and through small towns such as Quarto d’Altino and Portogruaro, both of which are worth a stroll around if you have the time.

The train then meanders along the Adriatic Coast which even on a winters day is stunningly beautiful.

Once in Trieste admire the Roman ruins, explore the square and the port, and cosy up with a rich Italian hot chocolate and fruity tart at Caffè degli Specchi. 

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sarah holmes travel writer
Sarah Holmes is a travel and fashion writer living in the heart of England. From family adventures in numerous parts of the UK and Europe to exploring cities as an adult, Sarah has a wide knowledge of the best areas, sights and local tips that the UK and the neighbouring continent can offer. Sarah grew up in the North East of England, with incredible sights and landmarks only a short drive away. Her favourite places to visit include Seaham Beach, the Lake District and Alnwick Castle. Sarah has written for a range of fashion and travel blogs and print publications.