With sparkling Christmas lights on darker nights, quieter canals and cheaper accommodation, you won’t want to miss the charm of winter in Venice. Time your trip right and you could even get to join in with one of the seasonal festivities, like Carnival in February. But where do you start with planning? In this guide we’ll explain all you need to know about visiting Venice in winter.

All the tours and activities I mention in this article are things I chose to do, and paid for myself. This page contains links to travel services we recommend from our own experiences, and we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Is Venice worth visiting in winter?

Yes, absolutely! Winter is a magical time in Venice, and completely different to what you will experience during the more touristy spring and summer seasons.

I’ve visited Venice in winter a couple of times now and I think it’s probably my favourite time to go. My latest visit coincided with the Venice Carnival, which was a fantastic experience.

At the start of February, especially in Europe where the nights are long and cold, feeling the buzz and seeing the colour at Venice Carnival brings you out of your wintertime hibernation and reminds you that spring is just around the corner.

Much like any European city in winter, the daylight time is shorter, it’s colder, and there are fewer crowds and lower prices. For people like me, it’s the ‘fewer crowds’ aspect that brings the biggest benefits.

I love roaming cities early in the morning to see empty streets as it starts to wake. I’m not too bothered about having to wrap up for the cold and, let’s face it, winter sun with a frosty chill in the air can bring magic to any city. It makes you feel more present, and I loved walking around the canals in this setting.

Venice in low winter light
Venice looks especially beautiful in the low winter light

Saving on cost and time in Venice in winter

Unsurprisingly, I’ve found that in winter the accommodation in Venice is cheaper and less busy, which makes the experience more tranquil.

I also found that I could book onto experiences at short notice, such as a dining experience in a local home or an Interpreti Venizi concert at San Vidal Church.

These types of experiences are snapped up quickly in summer, but in winter you don’t need to worry quite as much about planning ahead or missing out on what you want to do.

Do attractions stay open in Venice in winter?

While Venice is a lot quieter in winter, pretty much everything is still up and running when it comes to tours and attractions. I went on some great tours that run all year round, which are detailed below.

Some of the landmarks and attractions do have reduced opening hours, so make sure you double check before you visit.

What’s the weather like in Venice in winter?

Winter in Venice is quite mild in comparison to many other European destinations. In this section I’ll give you a quick overview of what to expect from the elements, but make sure you check the forecasts before you travel.

How cold does it get?

Venice is typically cold during the winter months, with average temperatures between 0°C at night and 10°C during the day. Saying that, when the sun is out the ‘feels like’ temperature is a lot warmer, especially if you’re spending your days walking to explore the Island.

Venice in winter canals sunset
It gets a bit fresh by the canals in Venice in winter!

Does it rain a lot?

Both times I’ve visited Venice the weather has been kind, and I have seen glorious sunshine. Average rainfall is much higher in October, November and December and is actually at its lowest in January and February according to the Met Office.

You may see pictures of Venice flooding between October and January. Technically this is not a flood, but is caused by sea levels rising combined with many other natural phenomena, and it is known as acqua alta.

This occurrence is rarer than you think, and the idea of it should not put you off visiting Venice in winter. Tuscany Now & More have a great article on what to do if you are due to experience acqua alta.

What to pack for Venice in winter

What to pack for Venice in winter depends on the activities you are planning. But if, like me, you choose to explore the main island of Venice and perhaps take some sightseeing tours like the one I did to Murano and Burano, then packing layers is the best way to go.

Here’s what I had in my small, cabin sized case:

  • Hat, scarf and gloves
  • Comfortable boots to walk in
  • Warm coat
  • Camera
  • Water bottle
  • Sun glasses
  • Euros (although most places take card)
  • Trousers and t-shirts
  • A couple of jumpers or sweatshirts
  • Underwear
  • Laptop, charger and headphones (for work)
What to pack for Venice in winter
I took my big winter coat and hat for exploring Venice in winter

When I went in February, I took my big winter coat, boots, scarf and gloves. During the day, I found that I didn’t need most of this, but when it started getting darker and I sat outside to enjoy a Cynar spritz I put on all my layers. The best piece of advice I can give on packing for Venice in winter is definitely to wear layers!

Sipping wine on the cobbled streets as you watch the world go by is a great pastime in Venice, and not one you need to miss out on if you visit in winter.

I spent the evenings sitting outside, enjoying the world, and I just wrapped up warm. The bars all still put their tables outside and I can guarantee you won’t be the only one.

Taking a workation in Venice in winter

My most recent winter trip to Venice was a workation, and I combined work with travel by spending one day out of the three in a coworking space.

This allowed me to travel to Venice over a long weekend during Carnival without needing to book any time off work. It was a great balance, as I got to enjoy myself at the weekend and then experience working in Venice on the Monday.

The first thing that struck me was that the working times in Venice appeared to be very different to what I’m used to in the UK. It’s definitely a late to bed, late to rise culture, as with most of mainland Europe.

Coworking in Venice

I chose to book a space in Venice Coworking, as I had business meetings that required strong wifi. It was a great way to meet some local people, and this office had the luxury of looking out over the lagoon of Venice – perfect for a winter sunset!

While Venice is certainly more of a tourist destination than a hub for remote workers, don’t let that put you off. There are a few coworking spaces that will provide everything you need to work during the day and you have your pick of thousands of experiences to enjoy in the evenings and at weekends, especially during the quieter seasons like winter.

Coworking in Venice
Coworking in Venice with canals and lagoons outside the window

Venice events in winter

Christmas markets in Venice

Campo Santo Stefano, a charming square that is featured in our 2 day Venice itinerary, is transformed into a Christmas village for three weeks every December, finishing on Christmas Eve. This is the main Venice Christmas Market and you will find an array of local craft and food in several dozen wooden cabins around the square.

The wider region of Veneto, in which Venice is located, has several smaller Christmas markets spread across the festive season, which offer a different sort of charm to German or Austrian markets.

These are some of the most popular Veneto Christmas markets that run from late November to early January, and are easy to reach from Venice:

  • Jesolo Christmas Market – the seaside resort town is about 45 minutes from Venice on public transport. The Christmas market here has a Scandinavian feel, with many wooden houses constructed for the occasion, and festive sculptures made of ice, stone and sand on display.
  • Castelfranco Christmas Market – this inland town takes about an hour to reach by public transport from Venice. Christmas stalls are set up around the foot of the castle walls for a magical setting.
Venice squares Christmas lights
Festive lights stay glittering in Venice’s squares throughout winter

Carnival in Venice

In February, the other side of Christmas, the streets are filled with stalls and activities during Venice Carnival. As I’ve mentioned, I had the pleasure of visiting during this time and it is definitely something I would recommend.

If you haven’t heard about Carnival, it is one of the biggest celebrations on the calendar in the Roman Catholic world. Cities around the world are brought to life with an array of festivities that that last up to a week before Ash Wednesday.

Venice has its own special take on Carnival, most notably because of the traditional wearing of Venetian masks. This reflects a time when the Venetian upper classes would join in revelry on the streets without revealing their identities and thus damaging their social status.

During Carnival you get to learn about the histories and stories of Venice, indulge in local culture and experience something truly remarkable. I loved that my winter trip enabled me to be a part of such a special event.

One really enjoyable thing you can do during Venice Carnival is to catch one of the many street performances. There is an ongoing schedule which you will see advertised on posters around the city.

Stages are set up in the squares around the city especially for the occasion. I saw a theatre group acting out the history of Carnival in costume, which was a lot of fun. Even though they spoke Italian it was easy to follow the thread of what was happening.

If you really want to get into the swing of Carnival in Venice, you could try out a mask decorating workshop. You will learn age-old techniques and end up with your own personally designed Venetian mask to take away (masks are expensive if you buy one in the shops!).

Venice Carnival mask show
Carnival mask shows are held in squares around Venice in February

Things to do in Venice in winter

In this section, I will compile a selection of things to do in Venice in winter that I would highly recommend based on my own experiences of spending time in the city during this magical season.

Have dinner with a local

One of my very favourite experiences from my winter trip to Venice was when I went for dinner at a local home.

On this experience you are invited into a local’s house for a traditional home-made meal. This is not only a great way to get warm, but you get to spend an evening in Venice learning about the city through the eyes of a local.

I spent the night with Giulia and her son Lorenzo. Giulia cooked some delicious typical Venetian food, including her grandma’s famous pasta recipe. We talked about what it’s like to live in Venice, and her love of skiing.

I highly recommend this tour if you are looking for some alternative ideas for things to do in Venice at night and you would really like to get a flavour of everyday local life.

Giulia's homemade pasta
Giulia cooked me her grandmother’s famous homemade pasta recipe

See Interpreti Venizi perform at San Vidal Church

I really enjoyed seeing an enchanting performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at the magnificent church of San Vidal. It’s a classic thing to do in Venice, and perfect for a winter trip as you don’t need to worry about the weather!

Interpreti Venizi are an ensemble that specialise in baroque music and have been performing all over the world since 1987. They now perform regularly in the stunning 17th-century San Vidal Church, which has incredible natural acoustics.

It felt cosy even though the church interior is so big. The show lasts around 90 minutes, which I thought was just around the right amount of time to absorb the atmosphere.

This is a popular experience even in winter, so you need to book tickets in advance. I also recommend arriving early to secure good seats, as you are not allocated a specific seat with the booking.

Take a tour of Teatro La Fenice

Welcome to one of Italy’s most famous opera houses: Teatro La Fenice. Originally built in 1972 as ‘The Phoenix Theatre’, it has burnt down and been rebuilt multiple times, the most recent being when it was destroyed by fire in 1996 and reopened in 2003.

I took a self-guided tour of Teatro La Fenice with an audio-guide. I loved wandering through the historic building and learning its stores, and I also had the chance to watch rehearsals taking place inside the main opera hall, which was simply amazing.

Teatro La Fenice tour
Exploring inside the beautiful Teatro La Fenice on a self-guided tour

Take a gondola ride with blankets and a hot drink

You probably don’t need me to tell you that Gondola rides are one of the most famous things to do in Venice. In winter this becomes a bit of a different experience, as the gondoliers make sure you stay comfy by providing blankets.

This might be the most romantic time to do Venice’s classic activity. Bring a hot drink along with you onto the ride and enjoy the epic canal-side views while wrapped up all warm and cosy.

Gondola ride in Venice in winter
Gondola rides have a completely different feel in Venice in winter

Warm up with a coffee on Rio Della Misericordia

The ports of Venice were one of the first places where coffee arrived in Europe, and it’s become a huge part of the city’s traditions. Don’t miss trying a Venetian coffee while you’re here!

I had some traditional coffee at a cool café called Torrefazione Cannaregio on the north side of Venice island. It’s set along Rio Della Misericordia, which is a bit of a hipster canal that stretches from the ghetto area to Strada Nova. You’ll also find plenty of wine bars along here and the legendary Libreria Acqua Alta, one of the world’s most beautiful unique book stores.

Inside Torrefazione Cannaregio there are various different types of coffee to choose from. You can see the beans stacked up on the back wall, and you can buy some to take away if you like. There is some seating outside overlooking the canal as well as inside the café.

Everything is served on mismatched china, true to the spirit of the neighbourhood. I really loved this area of Venice Island as it’s set away from the tourist attractions and has more of a local feel to it.

If you’re a proper coffee connoisseur, I would also recommend visiting Caffè Florian, where you can learn all about the history of coffee in Venice.

Coffee at Torrefazione Cannaregio
The coffee selections at Torrefazione Cannaregio

…Or a hot sangria at Frulalà

Another way you can warm up with a hot drink in the Cannaregio area of Venice Island is at Frulalà. This juice bar is just around the corner from the hostel where I stayed, and I couldn’t help but notice it when passing because of all the bright colours!

In winter you’ll also see people huddled around Frulalà for a hot sangria. There are many other fruity cocktails and mocktails to try, including some different hot concoctions like the “winterjito”.

Frulalà fruit bar Venice
Frulalà juice bar serves hot cocktails in winter

See rooftop terrace views from Fondaco dei Tedeschi

Fondaco dei Tedeschi is a fancy shopping mall set over several floors just a minute’s walk up the canal from Rialto Bridge. From the top floor you can enjoy a stunning view across all of Venice from a rooftop terrace.

The terrace is free to visit, but you need to book in advance to secure a spot, as it’s popular in all seasons. I made my reservation a couple of days beforehand.

After you’ve marvelled at the views, you can grab a coffee in a lovely cafe called Amo, which is set within the ground floor of the mall.

Fondaco dei Tedeschi rooftop view
Seeing Venice in winter light from the rooftop at Fondaco dei Tedeschi

Go ice skating on Campo San Polo square

During winter months there is a temporary ice skating rink in Campo San Polo. In spring and summer months this is one of the quieter squares, but the ice skating rink makes it one of the top attractions in Venice in winter.

You can pay €12 (entry fee for foreign visitors) to have a 90-minute skating slot, and it’s typically open from December through until the end of February.

Venice in winter: ice skating at Campo San Polo
The ice skating rink in Campo San Polo is open through the winter months

Explore the legendary Doge’s Palace

Doge’s Palace is among Venice’s most famous buildings, and has been integral to the city’s story for many centuries. Dating back to the 14th century, the grand old gothic palace has been both the seat of government and the residence of the “Doge”, the city’s elected ruler.

Our first visit to Doge’s Palace was during April, and even in spring there were long queues outside from early in the day. But when I came back in winter it was noticeably so much quieter. I’d still recommend coming around opening time (9am daily) to avoid much waiting time, but once you are inside you will have freedom to roam.

Another great thing about Doge’s Palace in winter is that you can see it in some amazing lighting as the winter sun streams onto its facade on the waterfront. Have your camera at the ready!

Doge's Palace in winter
Doge’s Palace is a lot less busy in winter

Go Christmas shopping and buy decorations

If you are visiting Venice during the festive season, you will find the alleyways around the canals bustling with shops selling traditional Venetian style Christmas decorations. This creates a wonderful festive atmosphere, and I just loved having a look around and doing some window shopping.

Throughout February you can also buy Carnival masks to take away if you don’t fancy the mask workshop to make one for yourself.

Traditional Christmas decorations in Venice
Traditional Christmas decorations in Venice

Visit Murano for a glass blowing demonstration

I took a day tour to the islands of Murano and Burano on my winter visit to Venice. This is a great time to do this tour as it’s a lot quieter, and you get time to yourself for exploring the islands at a time when they are not crowded.

A highlight for me was the chance to see a real glass blowing demonstration on Murano. The famous Murano Glass is made from materials in the lagoon, and it’s a skill that has been passed down local families through generations. Each family has its own speciality.

Glass blowing demonstration in Murano
A demonstration of the famous glass blowing techniques in Murano

Explore the Leonardo da Vinci Museum

There are dozens of amazing museums you can visit in Venice, but our personal favourite is the Leonardo da Vinci Museum. We loved this place because of the interactive element that really immerses you in the mind of one of the world’s most celebrated scientists and inventors.

An array of machines, contraptions and visualisations are spread across two fascinating floors. You can have a go at operating many of them, and there’s a really cool VR game to try as well.

Leonardo Da Vinci Museum in Venice in winter
The Leonardo da Vinci Museum is our favourite museum in Venice

Go skiing in the Dolomites

Travelling Europe in winter usually conjures up images of skiing in the Alps or drinking glühwein as you wander through the wooden stalls of German-style Christmas markets.

If you like either (or both) of those activities, then you’ll be pleased to find that you can experience them around Venice!

We’ve already talked about Venice’s Christmas markets, but just a few hours away by car or public transport you can reach the enchanting Dolomite mountain range with its many ski resorts and other-worldly views.

When I spent the evening having dinner with Giulia, she told me about how her and her son, Lorenzo, would go off and spend the weekend skiing (when she isn’t working Saturdays entertaining tourists like me!).

Cortina d’Ampezzo is one of the closest ski resorts to Venice, and you can reach it in as little as 2 hours by bus. It’s a great place for both beginners and experts, with more than 120 kilometres of slopes to enjoy.

Where to stay in Venice in winter

First of all, you’ll need to decide whether you stay on the island of Venice or in nearby Mestre. I’ve stayed in both.

I found that when I travelled on my own, I was grateful for staying on the island of Venice as I didn’t have to worry about catching late night buses on my own. This is also good during winter as you won’t be standing around outside on a chilly winter night waiting for a bus.

However, Mestre is only a 10-minute ride over the big bridge, so it doesn’t take too much time out of your day. In winter, the last bus runs at around 11pm. Mestre is definitely the cheaper option, so it’s a toss-up between affordability and ease.

Cheap stays and backpacking

I usually stay in hostels on my travels, and have enjoyed staying in a couple of great ones on Venice winter trips.

Ostello Santa Fosca (on Venice Island)

On my solo trip I stayed at Ostello Santa Fosca, which is on the island of Venice. It’s somewhere I would definitely recommend during Carnival, as it was slightly out of the way of the main activity, but close enough to reach the main places on foot within 10 minutes.

I stayed in an all-female dorm to keep costs down, which was fine. It had decent sized lockers, bedside lights and charging points and an ensuite bathroom.

The kitchen was well equipped (I filled up my tea flask before I headed out every morning!) and there was plenty of useful information in the reception to get you started on where to go and what to do. It’s a highly rated hostel for a reason.

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Anda Venice Hostel (in Mestre)

When I travelled to Venice with Alex on our previous trip, we stayed in Anda Venice Hostel, which is over on the mainland in Mestre. Another highly rated hostel, Anda Venice has great bedrooms with pod-style beds and all the amenities you would expect like a charging point, light and underbed lockers.

This hostel also benefits from workstations – perfect if you’re on a workation – and a fully equipped kitchen with added extras like a self-serve laundrette and luggage deposit.

The bus stop to get onto the island of Venice is a couple of minutes away from the hostel, just round the corner on the main road, and it only takes ten minutes or so to cross over the link bridge and arrive at the bus station on the main island.

We enjoyed chilling out one night in its fully licensed bar, where there is activity happening every night. They make great pizzas too! This place is perfect if you don’t want to spend every night in the bars of Venice.

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Mid-range accommodation

If you want to stay somewhere a bit more upmarket, these are some great options we’ve picked out, which all have lower rates in the off season:

  • Hotel L’ Orologio – four-star hotel overlooking the Grand Canal for a very reasonable price.
  • Palazzo Veneziano – set on the main island but a little away from the touristy areas and with a prime vantage point for sunrises and sunsets.
  • Casa di Taty – a lovely, clean and homely bed and breakfast in Mestre, close to shops, eateries and transport to Venice Island.

A luxury winter stay at the Hilton Molino Stucky

Thinking about going all-out luxury for your trip to Venice? The Hilton Molino Stucky is somewhere you can expect a truly unforgettable stay.

I had a look around the grounds of the Hilton Molino Stucky while seeking out the best sunset on Giudecca island, just off the main island. The hotel has an incredible rooftop pool on the eighth floor with panoramic views of the city.

We’ve stayed in other Hiltons around the world (see Alex’s article about a workation at the Hilton Malta) and the amenities at the Hilton Molino Stucky are closely comparable to the style and the facilities we’ve experienced elsewhere.

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Have you visited Venice in winter? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

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Visiting Venice in winter? Our guide covers all you need to know, including things to do, Carnival, Christmas, where to stay and more. #veniceinwinter #winterinvenice

2 thoughts on “Venice in winter: a complete guide for first-time visitors

  1. Marcia McIntyre says:

    Thank you so much for the precious information. I plan to visit Venezia in February and you opened my eyes regarding reservations, appropriate clothing, etc. My best wishes for health and success.

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