Venice is absurd, surreal and a stunningly improbable settlement floating on the canals. Even in the cold season there are plenty of things to do in Venice in winter. Venice is both beautiful and timeless, making it a perfect destination whatever the season. I have been to Venice many times but I much prefer the winter season. I love the mystical aura about it, a sense of romance you just don’t seem to get in the summer when the canals are chockablock with tourists. Another reason to visit in the winter is that there are fewer crowds.
When the winter arrives, the city reclaims itself. Unlike summer when the city is being flooded by the sea of tourist, Venice in winter becomes mystical, deserted, quiet, and, yes serene. With the absence of big summer tour groups and many cruise ships tucked up at home, the streets are returned to their natural, Venetians and real city life re-emerges. Traveling to Venice in the winter allows tourists to experience the city at a more peaceful and slower pace. So if you are planning a trip to Italy in winter, Venice needs to be up there on the list as well as Florence, which is just beautiful in winter too. There are also many tours in Venice to help you make the most of your time in the city as well as take you to many of the best places to visit in Venice.
Pro Tip: If you are visiting Venice in November to December make sure you have a look at the forecast as it is during this time that Venice experiences floods known as Acqua Alta. Check Acqua Alta forecast before travelling just so you can make sure you have packed accordingly any train items like wellies and rain jackets but check out my post on what to pack for Venice in winter on the blog.
Things to do in Venice During Winter
A city with immense beauty and historical significance, Venice has a unique presence with all of its centuries-old culture and traditions. Situated on 117 small islands and connected with a network of bridges, Venice is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world and we have assembled a list of things to do in any season.
1. Take a gondola ride
The gondola is one of the most iconic symbols of Venice. Venice’s unique landscape – regardless of the season – is always enrapturing. But in winter and cold season, in the absence of the crowd of people, slanted light of this canal city becomes hauntingly beautiful. If a bit of snow catches you with a surprise – well then the Venice is never more romantic than at times like this. Take a gondola ride through the canals of this beautiful city with its mysterious and eerie atmosphere that makes your traveling experience more enhanced. You can book tickets for your gondola rides in advance, that way you can look at prices before your visit as they can be a little more expensive if not booked in advance.
2. Explore San Mark’s Square
Venice’s only square with the title of “Piazza” – San Mark’s Square in Venice on parade, where every tourist comes to see and be seen. The rest of the squares of Venice are called “Campo”, giving San Mark’s Square a sacred place in the Venetian culture – being the center of the civic and religious life of Venetians. The Piazza’s rectangular design – a reminder of Venice’s centuries-old legacy – is a showcase for the city’s aristocracy and sea approach. The winters, although wet and cold, can be very romantic, making it one of the finest squares in the world to explore.
3. Explore Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge in Venice – called “Ponte di Rialto” in Italian – is a wonderful heritage when it comes to the architectural wonders of Venice. The bridge serves as an important crossover between the San Polo district and the San Marco district. Although it becomes busy with tourists on the bridge, the best time to feel the breathtaking sunset in the evening. But because of a humongous crowd of tourists, the ideal way to enjoy the surreal beauty of Rialto Bridge – to get a fantastic view with the sun on the palazzo’s facades and the sparkle on the water – is to watch the sunrise.
4. Take in views from Campanile of San Marco – Tower
You just can’t visit the most romantic city without being romanced by the gorgeous views of Venice from its tallest vantage point – Campanile of San Marco – Tower. Called “the drawing room of Europe”, the San Marco is named after the stunning Basilica of the same name that is situated at the east end of the square, and the slender Campanile di San Marco – the Basilica’s bell tower – is one of the square’s most recognizable landmarks. It is the tallest building in Venice, providing some of the most breathtaking views of the culturally rich city.
5. Eat with the locals
With a wide variety of seafood that locals have been catching from the shore for centuries, the Venice –as well as Italy — has a renowned reputation around the globe because of its food. One of Venice’s open-air markets – La Pescaria – the tourists can enjoy wriggling eels, swordfish and more delicious produce such as Cicchetti – a bar snack which is famous in Venice. Many other places provide a unique variety of seafood as well – with some variation that shows their specialty – such as baccala mantecato, sarde in saur and folpetti.
6. Take a trip to Burano
Ever seen gorgeous pictures of those brightly-painted houses and flowerpots? Well, those are not from the main Venice city but from Burano. Perhaps best known for its wonderfully colorful houses, visiting bright and colorful Burano Island from Venice is one of the most popular day trips. Heading to Burano will help you to see a whole different dimension – a life that moves much slower than that in Venice and where the canals are filled with the fishing boats instead of gondolas. To be frank, you pretty much want to visit this Island – one of the most colorful towns on Earth. You can book a tour to Burano in advance.
7. Bridge of sighs
It isn’t surprising that there are a lot of famous bridges, considering Venice has numerous canals, and therefore, there are countless of different bridges. However, the bridges of sighs — along with Rialto – is one of the most famous bridges, not just in Venice, but in the world as well. The bridges pass over the Rio di Palazzo and are famous for its views.
8. Jewish Ghetto of Venice
The term, “ghetto” comes from the Venetian word “gheto”, referring to a metal foundry – when the metal cast is prepared. From the synagogues to the pawnshops of The Merchant of Venice, get ready to experience the symbolic places of the Jewish community on the lagoon. From visiting the old ghetto to the more modern new ghetto, from witnessing the history through Jewish Museum to Banco Rosso, the trip to the ghetto of Venice should be on your bucket list when visiting the Venice. You can combine your visit to the Jewish Ghetto with a food tour around the area.
Winter Activities In Venice
When the winter season hits Venice, the crowd of tourists drops significantly, making it a wonderful time to visit Venice. Sea fogs occasionally slink and slide across the lagoon, smothering the city in a beautiful, eerie light. Sleek, black gondolas glide silently along the canals that crisscross the city like a network of arteries and capillaries, making the winter the time to discover the real city you have never seen before, and with our guide, you will find best things to do in winter.
9. The Christmas tree in Piazzetta dei Leoncini (next to San Marco Basilica)
If you have chosen to visit Venice during Christmas time, then you are lucky as the holiday atmosphere adds a special touch to the lagoon city. The atmosphere – especially around San Marco – is magical, except for the freezing temperatures of course! The inauguration ceremony of the Christmas tree that held in Piazzetta San Marco is breathtaking. Walking along San Marco, you can stroll under the starry sky where the Marciano bell tower stands luminous over the square up until the large Christmas tree, located in Piazzetta dei Leoncini – the tree is adorned with incredibly made Murano ornaments.
10. Enjoying the Christmas Venice by Sestiere of Dorsoduro
Christmas becomes extra fun when you are lucky enough to attend the Christmas events in the Sestiere of Dorsoduro, with light shows, a Christmas village with delicious food and artistic craft shops, fun concerts and performances, kids workshops, and finally the best part, Babbo Natale in a gondola on the canal with lights, where the delicacies such as hot chocolate and sweets are served from December 2 till the Christmas night. Throughout Christmas, there are events such as Meet Santa Claus and choir performances and even calligraphy! You will get lost in the fog of the fun winter as you stroll across the Sestiere of Dorsoduro.
11. Checking out the Christmas markets in Campo Santo Stefano
Do not miss Christmas markets in Venice and in the Metropolitan City, and what’s best then strolling through Campo Santo Stefano, a place filled with Christmas market that features various Venetian style products. For the three weeks before Christmas, Campo Santo Stefano is transformed into a Christmas village, entirely filled with craftsmen and food stalls – displayed and housed in 30 little wooden cabins. The market features Christmas ornament and decorations of Murano glass, traditional carnival masks, jewelry, marbled paper, ceramics, and other vintage Venetian craft specialties. If you are a devoted food lover, one section of the Campo San Stefano market is devoted to the Italian specialty foods – traditional cakes and sweets, fruit-filled panetone, creamy white almond-studded nougat, vintage balsamic vinegar, fine olive oils, and other locally made gourmet products.
12. Food Village at Campo San Vio
A square with hidden gems nearby, Campo San Vio often transformed into a food village when Christmas comes around the corner. Throughout the December, the canals and alleys of Dorsoduro are strung with thousands of twinkling Christmas lights, making it a magical place for an evening stroll and eating the Venetian delicious delicacies along the way. At Campo San Vio, you will find a Christmas food village complete with cozy wooden chalets serving mulled wine, cookies, and other tempting treats.
13. Foods to try during the festive period
If you have traveled to Venice to solely devour Venetian culture’s cuisine, then you won’t be disappointed. Venetians have taken up the world-wide custom to celebrate Christmas as the most festive time of the year. Venice, since the 90s, has been cultivating its own culinary Christmas tradition – based on the simple dishes such as di Magro.
For a special Venetian treat, try out Bacaro – bar snack-style dishes that are effectively Italian tapas. As long as you eat where Venetians eat, then you are sure to find a lovely Bacaro meal. You can try pasta with fish or seafood – usually canoe or scallops – along with salmon and yellow mustard seed. In addition to pasta, in winter, you will love soups and risotto, not just a pasta and beans soup, but a sophisticated sopa de fasioi. Risotti often comes with flavored Tartufo or with fish from rivers of the estuary.
14. Christmas concerts to look out for
There is no centralized advertisement agency in Venice publicizing the multitude of concerts in Venice during winter. You have to keep an eye for studying bills and large posters all over the city which advertise Christmas concerts held most evenings in the city’s vast basilicas. Small museums and churches schedule concerts as well – some free, some with nominal charges and some with expensive tickets. Some free of charge concerts often include both traditional Italian Christmas songs as well as melodies that are familiar to people from all over the world.
Venice Winter Weather
With a lot of water around the city, during the winter months, I think this makes the city feel even colder! In a way visiting during the winter months, around November, December, January you can have days that are foggy which makes it just beautiful and eerie at the same time. Great for photography. Snowfall is rare in this part of Italy but when it does
snow falls more rarely: during cold spells from the east, the cold can be harsh but with bright skies; while during the snowfalls that affect Northern Italy, the Adriatic coast can see a milder Sirocco wind which makes snow turn to rain—the mild effects of this wind often disappear just a few kilometres inside the plain, and sometimes the coast from Venice to Grado sees snow while it is raining in Trieste, the Po River mouths and Ravenna. Rarely, the city of Trieste may see snow blizzards with north-eastern winds; in the colder winters, the Venice Lagoon may freeze, and in the coldest ones even enough to walk on the ice sheet.[2
he coldest month is January: the Po valley’s mean temperature is between −1–1 °C (30.2–33.8 °F), Venice 2–3 °C (35.6–37.4 °F), Trieste 4 °C (39.2 °F),
How To Get To Venice
Getting to Venice couldn’t be any easier, there is an airport in the city and I have shared tips on you can book a water taxi for a hussle-free and stylish arrival at very little cost. I have also found that it can be cheap to find flights to Venice via Verona. Arriving at Verona airport can also mean that you pay less as tickets can sometimes be cheaper. I have shared tips on how to get from Verona to Venice on the blog. The journey is super easy.
Where To Stay In Venice
I have stayed in hotels and I have also rented Airbnbs during my stays in Venice. For tips on the best areas to stay in Venice or the best hotels in Venice with canal views, read my post for additional details or to find your perfect stay in Venice check out Booking or Hotels.
So have you been to Venice in winter? What did you think of the city or are you currently planning your visit to Venice, Italy? Any other winter activities you have on your trip itinerary?
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