Venice in Winter – All the Details on Our Favorite Time to Visit

Our family loves visiting Venice in winter *, and we often bring hesitant (and later, grateful) visiting family and friends along with us. 

Winter in Venice is everything it isn’t during the rest of the year – quiet, calm, peaceful.  It’s romantic (always!) and the foggy mornings and twinkling lights in the evening make for a beautiful setting. 

Compared to the rest of the year, winter in Venice means lower prices on accommodation, shorter lines, occasional flooding, and fewer tourists.

It’s not empty of visitors, but there are fewer than in the other seasons, and at times you’ll feel like you’re living in the city with the Venetians.    

Good to Know:  Carnevale (Carnival) is an exception, and it usually runs in February.  Christmas and New Year’s can also temporarily bring more visitors and higher prices. 

It’s also nice to visit Venice in the early spring and in the fall – the temperature is warmer, but there are a ton of people exploring the city and in turn, prices are high and lines are long.

*In this article, I’m classifying winter as the months of November, December, January, and February. 

Should You Visit Venice in Winter?

Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) in Venice, Italy with the Christmas tree of lights in front.

Do visit if:

  • You want to shop the January (and early February) saldi, or twice-annual Italian sales in Venice.
  • You want to enjoy the unique Christmas atmosphere.
  • You want to attend Venice’s world-famous Carnevale celebration (usually in February).
  • You don’t mind the shorter days.  It gets dark early, but Venice is still gorgeous at night!
  • You’re a photographer who wants to capture Venice without crowds and in different ways (with fog, snow, grey skies, etc).
  • You want to save some €€€ on hotels – in the winter, many Venice hotels dramatically lower their prices.

Don’t visit if:

  • You want to see the Venice Biennale.  It doesn’t run during the winter months.
  • You want to explore the city in short sleeves.  It’s chilly in Venice in the winter!
  • You need everything to be open.  Some businesses will temporarily close up for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays or immediately after.

Weather in Venice During the Winter

St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) with a dusting of snow in the winter in Venice, Italy.

Venice Winter Temperatures

You’re probably wondering how cold it gets in Venice in winter.  Well, it can be chilly!  It’s also quite humid, which can be uncomfortable coupled with the cold weather.  Take a look at the temperatures in Venice during the winter months:

MonthAverage HighAverage LowAverage Precipitation
November55°F / 13°C42°F / 6°C20.2 mm
December47°F / 8°C34°F / 1°C13.2 mm
January46°F / 8°C32°F / 0°C8.2 mm
February49°F / 9°C34°F / 1°C7.9 mm

Don’t worry though!  If you dress appropriately, you can still wander the small streets of Venice in comfort and enjoy all the city has to offer.

Acqua Alta (High Water) in Venice

You may have heard the term ‘acqua alta,’ or ‘high water,’ which is the name given to the floods that occur when the high tide is extremely high and enters the streets and piazzas of Venice. 

If you’ve seen photos of people wearing boots in St. Mark’s Square or walking on temporary wooden platforms – that’s acqua alta.

Good To Know: You don’t need to worry about acqua alta (high water) like you would have in the past.  The MOSE barriers are activated and are raised when an extremely high tide is predicted.  MOSE hasn’t prevented all cases of acqua alta, because the barriers are only raised when a high tide is forecast – and if the forecast is wrong, they may not be raised in time.  At this point, there’s nothing to worry about – if an acqua alta is forecast, MOSE will be activated.  If acqua alta arrives, it means the high tide wasn’t forecasted, so you wouldn’t have been able to plan anyway!

Good To Know:  If it does happen to flood when you’re in Venice, don’t worry – the water won’t rush in and strand you or put you in danger.  You can buy boots at shops in the city (in tabacchi and in regular shops) and you can walk on the elevated wooden walkways that are set up for acqua alta (high water) in some of the most trafficked areas.

Best Things to Do in Venice in the Winter

Good To Know:  It’s pretty much business as usual in the winter in Venice, although hours may be shorter, so check websites or call if you can.  

Take a Vaporetto Ride Down the Grand Canal

Toddler in red coat riding in boat on Grand Canal in Venice in winter.

Soak up Venice and its picturesque main waterway and buildings on a 40-minute vaporetto (public water bus) ride from Santa Lucia train station (Ferrovia stop) to Piazza San Marco (San Zaccaria stop).  Make sure you get on going in the right direction – toward the Grand Canal, not the lagoon).

Explore Piazza San Marco

Boy standing in an uncrowded Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) in Venice, Italy in winter.

Piazza San Marco (or St. Mark’s Square) is the jewel of Venice at any time of the year.  In the winter, it’s less crowded and its sites are easier to visit.  Highlights surrounding the piazza include:

  • Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica) – glittering golden mosaics and spectacular façade
  • Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) – Gothic masterpiece with Venetian paintings, grand staterooms, and the ‘Bridge of Sighs’
  • Campanile di San Marco (St. Mark’s Bell Tower) – climb the 99-meter tower for views of the Piazza and Venice
  • Museo Correr (Correr Museum) – dedicated to Venice’s history; includes art maps, coins, and more
  • Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower) – two bronze Moors strike the hour

Fun Fact:  Piazza San Marco is the only ‘piazza’ you’ll find in Venice.  All other squares are either a ‘piazzale’ or a ‘campo.’

Climb the San Giorgio Maggiore Bell Tower

Seeing Venice, Italy from San Giorgio Maggiore.

Although you can climb the Campanile di San Marco, we prefer the view from the top of San Giorgio Maggiore’s campanile (bell tower).  It’s located one vaporetto stop from Piazza San Marco (Zaccaria stop) on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. 

Take the elevator up and enjoy our favorite view of Venice, including St. Mark’s Square. 

Go on a Gondola Ride

It’s even more beautiful than usual if you take an early morning ride through the fog or in the evening for sunset. 

Make sure your gondola has blankets!

Shop the January Saldi

Italy’s stores have sales twice per year – January and July.  They last for 4-6 weeks each and are the best time of the year to score deals on clothing and accessories.

Venice isn’t all glass and tourist trinkets.  There are some gorgeous clothing and shoe stores in the city. 

Good To Know:  Are you a big-footed woman like me?  Venice and other northern Italian cities have larger sizes (41 & 42) that are difficult or impossible to find in central and southern Italy.

Fill Your Belly with Cicchetti

Load up on Venice’s version of tapas – cicchetti – little bite-sized wonders that you can order in the city’s bàcari.  They’re often bread with a topping stuck with a toothpick.  You’ll find seafood, vegetables, cheeses, and more. We love the polenta and fried meatballs!

In winter, find a spot at a small table or stool and wash your meal down with a glass of wine or a spritz!

Good To Know:  The best concentration of bàcari is near the Rialto Bridge. 

Take Photographs

If you’re a photographer, you’ll love Venice in the winter!  Explore the city with your camera and delight in:

  • Taking photos of famous scenes and monuments without crowds of people
  • The gorgeous morning and evening light
  • Dramatic foggy mornings
  • Spectacular sunrises and sunsets
  • Possible snow shots

Watch a Glass Blowing Demo in Murano

Man blowing glass on the island of Murano in Venice, Italy.

Kids, teens, and adults will enjoy seeing firsthand how glass is blown.  You can see one at a  working studio (signs posted outside invite visitors in to see the demo) and after, visit the island’s glass museum (best for adults).

Good To Know:  From early December to early February, see a Murano glass presepe (nativity scene) at the Chiesa degli Scalzi (Santa Maria di Nazareth Church). Read more about Presepi – Italian Nativity Scenes!

Visit Burano

Take the vaporetto from Murano to Burano, Venice’s lace-making island.  Normally, I’d recommend having lunch at an outdoor restaurant, but in the winter, stroll and delight in the colorful houses against the grey skies.

Get Cozy in a Restaurant

I usually recommend eating outdoors and not spending your time in Venice in a restaurant, but the cold days of winter are perfect for hunkering down in a warm restaurant and lingering at a multi-course Italian meal. 

Get Hot Chocolate at Vizio Virtù

Yes, you can get a hot chocolate at Caffè Florian in St. Mark’s Square and at most cafes in Venice, but why not go straight to the masters at the Vizio Virtù chocolate shop? 

Before you sit down at a table to drink your hot chocolate, check out the displays of chocolate treats.  You may find something to accompany your drink!

See an Opera

Inside the Teatro del Fenice (Phoenix Theater) in Venice, Italy.

Venice’s Teatro del Fenice (Phoenix Theater) hosts operas, classical music performances, ballet, and other dance performances. 

You can also go on a guided tour during the day and you may happen upon a rehearsal.

Head Up to a Rooftop Terrace

Along with the climbs and elevator rides to the top of some of Venice’s towers (like the St. Mark’s and San Giorgio Maggiore bell towers), you can also see Venice from the roof of the T Fondaco dei Tedeschi department store and rooftop bars (like the Skyline Rooftop Bar or Settimo Cielo on top of Hotel Bauer Palazzo).

Good To Know:  If you’d like to visit the rooftop terrace of the T Fondaco dei Tedeschi department store, book online in advance.  It’s free and the best way to guarantee your visit.

Live Like a Local

Square in the Jewish ghetto in Venice, Italy.

Without the crowds, you’ll be able to see and experience daily life in Venice.  Shop for fresh food at the Rialto Market, go for a stroll in the Parco delle Rimembranze, have a coffee, and read a book with locals at a small café, or have aperitivo in Campo Santo Stefano.

Soak up the Holiday Spirit

Christmas lights hanging above the street in Venice, Italy in the winter.

During the holidays, get into the spirit by:

  • Delighting in holiday lights sparkling on the water (they stay up past Christmas!)
  • Shopping at the Christmas market in Campo Santo Stefano
  • Going ice skating in Campo San Polo
  • Admiring the gigantic Christmas tree in front of the Doge’s Palace

Visit a Museum or Indoor Space

Winter in Venice is the time to see famous Venetian artists, contemporary art, artifacts from Venetian history, and more.  Some museums have cozy cafes so you can sip a warm drink after visiting the exhibits. 

Some favorites to check out:

Events and Holidays in Venice During the Winter

November 1st – All Saints Day (Festa di Tutti i Santi)
A national public holiday, but you won’t find it affects many things in Venice.  Many Venetians will take the vaporetto to the island cemetery to visit and honor loved ones.

November 21st – Feast of Santa Maria della Salute
This holiday is special in Venice.  There is a procession across the Grand Canal on a floating bridge to the domed Santa Maria della Salute church.  Once there, locals light candles, eat at outdoor food stands, buy candy for their children, and have a typical Italian festival.  The festival honors the Virgin Mary who helped stop the bubonic plague in the city in the 1600s. 

December 8th – Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Festa della Concezione Immacolata)
The holiday season begins, trees are lit, presepi (nativity scenes) are debuted, the Christmas Market in Campo Santo Stefano opens.  You’ll see a small flood of Italians visiting, especially if the date falls on a weekend.

December 24th – Christmas Eve (La Vigilia di Natale)
Attend Midnight Mass at St. Mark’s Basilica.
Make restaurant reservations if you have a specific place in mind.
Get essentials as some stores close for the day, while others close early.

Read about Traditional Christmas Eve Dinner in Italy!

December 25th – Christmas Day (Natale)
Many attractions are closed, but some museums stay open – check the individual museum websites.  You’ll be able to find an open grocery store and there will be restaurants open (reserve ahead if you have a specific restaurant you’d like to eat at).

December 26th – St. Stephen’s Day (Il Giorno di Santo Stefano)
Almost everything is open and it’s business as usual.  You’ll see Italians visiting for the holiday.  It’s not a bad idea to make reservations for anything you don’t want to miss.

December 31st – New Year’s Eve (La Vigilia di Capodanno / La Notte di San Silvestro)
See the fireworks at midnight.
Definitely reserve restaurants!

Learn how to say Happy New Year in Italian!

January 1st – New Year’s Day (Capodanno)
It’s quieter than normal, but there are plenty of shops and restaurants open.  Head to the Lido to see the traditional New Year’s Day plunge into the frigid waters – or jump in yourself!

January 6th – La Befana
See the late-morning La Befana boat race in the central section of Grand Canal – men dressed as the old witch stand up rowing to be the first to the finish line.

School holidays
Italian children typically have their holiday break begin a day or two before Christmas and finish just after the Epiphany (January 6th).  Other European countries will also have school holiday breaks during this time. 

Carnevale (Carnival) – dates vary, but it’s usually in February
This is arguably Venice’s busiest, most crowded, expensive time of the year.  Only visit Venice during Carnevale if you’re really interested in seeing Carnevale.  Otherwise, save your visit for another time! 

During Carnevale, you’ll need to book hotels way in advance, and you should reserve museums, tours, and anything else possible in advance.

February 14th – Valentine’s Day (San Valentino)
Spend the holiday in one of the most romantic places in the world!

Learn how to say Happy Valentine’s Day in Italian!

If you have a special restaurant you’d like to eat at, be sure to reserve in advance.

You may also want to read our posts on:
Italy in November
Italy in December
Italy in January
Italy in February

What to Eat in Venice in Winter

Frittelle on display for Carnevale in Italy.
Display of frittelle

Try some of Venice’s specialties while you’re visiting:

  • cicchetti
  • tramezzini (crustless white bread sandwiches)
  • risotto al nero di seppia (risotto with black cuttlefish ink)
  • bigoli in salsa (thick spaghetti with an onion/sardine sauce)
  • risi e bisi (rice and peas)
  • buranelli (round or s-shaped Venetian cookies)
  • frittelle (dough balls fried and dipped in sugar, Carnevale treats)

Where to Stay in Venice in the Winter

Good To Know:  Expect great discounts on rooms during winter in Venice (except for the Carnevale high season).  Don’t see any specials online?  Try emailing or calling the hotel directly.

This is the moment to book your dream hotel in Venice at a discounted rate!

In winter, I’d book in the centrally-located San Marco area.  You won’t need to deal with the intense crowds like you do during other seasons.

Visiting Venice in Winter with Kids

Grandparents with grandsons walking  on small path in Venice.  One boy is in a stroller.

We have traveled to Venice during the winter with all ages of young kids, from babies to elementary school-aged children. 

See our post on Venice with Kids for more information about traveling to La Serenissima with little ones.

Winter-Specific Venice with Kids Info

  • If you’re bringing a baby, I’d recommend bringing a stroller with a warm winter muff (sleeping bag) so your baby can stay cozy while wandering the city. 
  • You may also want to bring a rain cover for the stroller, although we’ve always managed with a large umbrella.
  • You can go to the playgrounds (unless it’s been raining a lot).  But, have some indoor activities your kids enjoy (Italy coloring pages, small games, books, WikiStix) for restaurant waits, café stops, etc. 
  • Pack more clothing than you think you’ll need unless you’re able to wash and dry your clothing at your hotel.  Good To Know:  Italian dryers can take 3 hours for one load.

You may want to check out our Italy Packing List for a Baby or Toddler.

What to Pack for a Visit to Venice in Winter

Focus on being warm and staying dry on your trip to Venice.  Avoid cotton as it doesn’t wick moisture well and once damp, will stay that way. 

Bring:

  • Layers
  • Sweater(s) or fleece(s)
  • Close-toed shoes that are waterproof or at least water-resistant and comfortable.  This isn’t the time to wear fancy, cute shoes.  Be practical!  Boots are a great choice.  Make sure the soles are non-slip. 
  • Warm scarf
  • Beanie or warm hat
  • Warm coat, preferably ¾ length
  • Umbrella
  • Warm socks
  • Bag that zips in case you get caught in the rain
  • Warm pjs or sweatshirt & sweatpants for nighttime

Good To Know:  I don’t recommend wearing dresses or skirts on a visit to Venice in the winter.  When you sit down, you’ll often end up getting them dirty or wet. 

Good To Know:  Bring a scarf that you can wrap (vs. one that is a loop or sits lightly on your shoulders/neck).  If it’s really cold, you’ll want to be able to wrap your scarf tightly around your neck so the chilly air can’t get to your skin.

For a winter day of walking around Venice, I usually wear:

  • ¾ length down coat (not waterproof – I carry an umbrella)
  • Close-fitting cashmere sweater
  • Pants or jeans
  • Warm wool socks
  • Warm boots (or if we’re only there for the day and there’s no rain forecast, I wear comfy sneakers)
  • Wool or cashmere beanie
  • Wool or cashmere scarf (if it’s really cold you can wrap it over your nose and mouth)
  • Mittens (with ½ finger gloves inside so I can use my phone without having to remove them)

Good To Know:  If you’re visiting Italy in the winter, a long (3/4 length or at least below the bum) warm coat is nice to have.  Otherwise, you may want to pack long underwear for underneath pants.

Traveling To Venice in Winter

Train

This is my favorite way to arrive in Venice, in any season.  When you walk out of the station and see the Grand Canal in front of you… if you don’t feel the magic at that moment, you probably never will!  

You can take the AV (alta velocità or high speed) trains from the direction of Rome/Naples or Milan).  There are also plenty of regional connections.

Good To Know:  Get off the train at Venice Santa Lucia, not Venice Mestre.  Mestre is on the mainland, one-stop before Santa Lucia. 

Car

If you’re renting a car during your trip to Italy, it’s best to return your rental car when you arrive in Venice or pick it up when you leave Venice.  You don’t need a rental car for your time in Venice. 

If you’re driving to Venice and just visiting for a short stay, you can park expensively at Piazzale Roma by the Santa Lucia train station, or you can park on the mainland in Mestre and take the train to the Santa Lucia train station.

Bus

You can take FlixBus to Venice from multiple locations within Italy.

You can also take the shuttle bus from Venice Treviso airport or a water bus from the Venice Marco Polo airport.

Plane

You can fly to Venice Marco Polo (VCE) or Venice Treviso (TSF). 

Marco Polo is closest, only 6 kilometers away by water bus and 13 kilometers by car.  Taking a water bus (Alilaguna) from the airport to your hotel in Venice is a unique and memorable experience!

If you’re flying from another part of Italy or from Europe, you may arrive at Venice Treviso.  It’s further away but you can take a direct shuttle bus and arrive in about 45 minutes. 

Getting Around Venice in Winter

One of the best things about visiting Venice during the winter months is that getting around Venice is so easy and pleasant.  There aren’t crowds, so the streets are yours(!), the vaporetti aren’t jam-packed, and you don’t have to wait in long lines for them.

Depending on how long you’re staying, you can buy a vaporetto pass.  For example, you can buy a one-day pass if you’re just coming for a day trip, and you can get on and off as you please all day.

Good To Know:  You don’t need to worry about getting your vaporetto ticket or pass before arriving in Venice.  You won’t find crowds and you can buy them at the ticket booths as you arrive (just down the steps in front of you as you exit the Santa Lucia train station).

FAQ