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Venice Carnival – Your Definitive Guide to the world’s most enchanting Carnival!
Saturday, 8th February 2020
Tuesday, 25th February 2020
- 1 ▷ What is Carnival in Venice?
- 2 ▷ When is Venice Carnival?
- 3 ▷ What is the history of Venice Carnival?
- 4 ▷ Carnival was banned for 200 years!
- 5 ▷ Venice Carnival Today
- 6 ▷ What to do during the Venice Carnival?
- 7 ▷ Venetian Masks
- 8 ▷ Why do people wear masks?
- 9 ▷ Where to buy a Mask?……Atelier Marega the best place in Venice!
- 10 ▷ Venetian Costumes
- 11 ▷ St Mark’s Square- Public shows and entertainment
- 12 ▷ Masquerade Balls
- 13 ▷ The Best Masquerade Ball…. The Casanova Grand Ball!
- 14 ▷ The Grand Opening – La Festa Veneziana sull’acqua – Venetian Water Festival
- 15 ▷ Festa delle Marie
- 16 ▷ Il Volo dell’Angelo: Flight of the Angel
- 17 ▷ Fat Thursday: – The re-enactment of the victory of doge Vitale Michiel II
- 18 ▷ Flight of the Eagle – Volo dell’Aquila
- 19 ▷ Flight of the Donkey – Volo dell’Asino
- 20 ▷ Grand Final Masked Costume Contest Award Ceremony
- 21 ▷ The Festa delle Marie Award Ceremony
- 22 ▷ The Final Act Svolo del Leone – the Flight of the Lion
- 23 ▷ Indulge your sweet tooth with lots of delicious Venetian treats
- 24 ▷ Go on a Venice Carnival Pub Crawl
- 25 ▷ What to Wear at the Venice Carnival?
- 26 ▷ Venice Carnival Tips
- 27 ▷ How much is Venice Carnival?
- 28 ▷ How to get to Venice Carnival?
- 29 ▷ Where to stay in Venice during the Carnival?
- 30 ▷ Where to eat in Venice?
- 31 ▷ How to get around Venice
Venice Carnival is one of the most famous carnival celebrations in the world. Every year 3 million people descend upon this floating city to soak up the iconic scenery, admire the extravagant costumes and masks, and be part of an electric atmosphere.
There is no other place in the world that celebrates carnival like Venice, and everyone must experience it at least once in their lifetime!
▷ What is Carnival in Venice?
Well let’s start off with clarifying, what is carnival? Carnival is an annual Christian celebration that typically occurs before the onset of Lent and generally involves a public celebration of some kind.
These public celebrations typically include street parties, parades, balls or some other form of entertainment. Lent is a time of fasting and sacrifice, a farewell from all bodily pleasures for forty days before Easter.
So, what is Venice Carnival? Venice Carnival is an annual pre-Lenten celebration that is held in Venice, Italy. It runs for the two weeks prior to Ash Wednesday and is filled with a plethora of events like masquerade balls, parties, parades, historical re-enactments and plenty of revelry.
The elaborate costumes and masks are the essence of Venice Carnival, and people flock from around the world to get their fancy-dress fix. The iconic scenery of Venice creates the most magical backdrop for the costumed participants and transforms the city into an enchanting and spellbinding place.
Carnival in Venice feels like it has been suspended in time between the past and present. Venice Carnival allows you to experience carnival how the Venetians would have done hundreds of years ago. Venice Carnival is the city’s and Italy’s biggest party of the year.
▷ When is Venice Carnival?
What is the date for the 2020 Venice Carnival? The 2020 Venice Carnival dates will run from the Saturday, 8th February 2020, until Tuesday 25th February 2020.
Venice Carnival always finishes on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday which is the last allowed day when one can indulge in gluttony, excess and debauchery, before the 40 days of Lent will begin.
The final weekend of Venice Carnival is said to be the best time to attend carnival. So, from Fat Thursday (Giovedì Grasso) until Shrove Tuesday (Martedì Grasso), is when the best events occur. It is also the busiest time to be in Venice for Carnival. The 2020 date for Fat Thursday is 20th February, and the Shrove Tuesday date is the 24th February 2020.
▷ What is the history of Venice Carnival?
The first documented mention of carnival in Venice dates back to 1094, when the word carnevale (abstinence from meat) was mentioned in a document signed by Doge Vitale Failero. In those days carnival was about having an escape from everyday life where people could let loose through the anonymity wearing a mask guaranteed.
The celebration grew larger after the defeat of Patriarch of Aquileia, a man who had tried and failed to bring Venice under German rule. This had occurred on Fat Thursday and so the celebration of this defeat continued to grow larger and larger every year.
However, Venice Carnival wasn’t officially recorded until 1268 and a year later, the senate officially declared Shrove Tuesday a public holiday. Starting from that moment, and for the next several hundred years Venice Carnival would run for six weeks, between December 26th and Ash Wednesday.
By the 18th century the Venice Carnival reached its maximum splendour. It was a celebration that knew no bounds. Carnival had also gained international recognition and attracted visitors from all over Europe. Venice was the pleasure playground of Europe and was known for living the good life. It was also the centre of gambling, essentially the Las Vegas of its day.
Venetians unabashedly took part in lots of debauchery and revelry, with their identity and sins concealed behind their masks. There were lots of wild parties, illicit liaisons, gambling and bloody bullfights. During this period carnival would last for six months! It was also during this period that the famous adventure, artist and ‘womanizer’ Giacomo Casanova lived in Venice.
▷ Carnival was banned for 200 years!
When Napoleon and his troops invaded Venice in 1797, Venice Carnival was at the absolute height of hedonism. The French were shocked by what they witnessed at the celebrations and banned Venice Carnival.
A later occupation by the Austrian Empire officially saw the end of Venice’s long reign of independence and was the final nail in the coffin with the celebrations banned again. This ban lasted over 200 years! It was outlawed again in the 1930s under the fascist government.
▷ Venice Carnival Today
Centuries later, Venice Carnival remains Italy’s biggest event! Carnival was revived in 1979 by some locals. Today Venice Carnival is a much more family friendly event. The celebrations have a slight hint of hedonism but nothing on their forefathers. Most of the hedonism now takes place in the many private parties and masquerade balls that occur during carnival.
Venice Carnival today is like a historical re-enactment and recreates a time when the Venetian Republic held an elite place in the world and ruled the trade routes. Carnival still has the lavish parties, stunning costumed revellers, famous venetian masks, venetian delicacies, entertainment, music and numerous spectacles that let you experience what it was like to be a Venetian of the past.
▷ What to do during the Venice Carnival?
Venice is always an exciting city to be in, but Venice during the Carnival is spellbinding! Embrace it and let yourself be carried away by the energy, enthusiasm, craziness, magic, charm and jubilation that is Venice Carnival. Imagine, for the whole of carnival, the streets are filled with masquerades dressed in the most extravagant and elaborate costumes and masks.
Walk around the city and watch street performances or admire the gorgeous costumes and magnificent masks that Venice is famous for. You can greet the masked characters and pose for a photo or dress up yourself and be part of it. You will feel like you have stepped back in time because there are no modern buildings to spoil the illusion.
Or you spend the evening attending one of the many private parties or masquerades balls. You could always go see an opera or concert or go on a Venice Pub Crawl or watch one of the awesome historical re-enactments and shows. Or simply just explore Venice and see some of its ancient sights and sounds.
Watch some of the amazing free entertainment that is available during carnival. There are numerous parades, theatre performances, comedy shows and live music throughout the whole city. Of course, there is impeccable dining options and you must try some of the local cuisine.
Why not have some romance in the city, countless generations of impassioned lovers over the centuries have exclaimed that there is no better place then Venice for romance. Experience a candlelit dinner, explore a palace, go on a gondola ride for two, or have a romantic tryst under the moonlight.
For more information about tours, tickets, things to do, sightseeing excursions, day trips and more click here.
▷ Venetian Masks
Venetian Masks are the hallmark of Venice Carnival. You cannot mention Venice Carnival without talking about the famous marks. For two weeks every year Venice transforms into a runway that features an endless parade of gorgeous 18th century masks and costumes. Wearing masks is a tradition that is as old as Venice Carnival itself.
Venetian masks are recognised by their intricate design, baroque style decorations and feature bright colours or gold and silver. For centuries the masks were papier-mache and decorated with fur, gems, crystals and feathers.
The most popular masks are the Bauta masks which cover the entire face but leave space below for eating and talking. The Columbina Mask is another favourite which only covers the eyes. Then there is the Plague Doctor mask which has a long-beak nose. And the Volto masks which are plain white and cover the full face and are often worn with black hooded capes.
▷ Why do people wear masks?
Why do people wear masks? Venice Carnival reinterpreted ancient Roman and Greek festivals that saw people dress in masks and costumes to hide differences in social class. With a mask and a hooded cape, you couldn’t tell if you were chatting with a noble man or not.
Venetian Carnival masks also provided anonymity for a few weeks. By becoming anonymous citizens where allowed to indulge in some debauchery. They could gamble freely, or a married person could indulge in some hanky-panky without getting caught.
▷ Where to buy a Mask?……Atelier Marega the best place in Venice!
Even if you don’t dress up most people attending will get into the carnival spirit and purchase a mask to wear around town. Venetian Masks are the hallmark of Venice Carnival and wearing a mask is a tradition that is as old as Venice Carnival itself. So even if you don’t feel like dressing up, it is an absolute must to put on a mask!
One of the best places in the city to purchase a mask is Atelier Marega! Atelier Marega offers the most exquisite, made to measure, hand-sewn and original 18th and 19th century Venetian costumes. They have a huge range of beautiful and unique masks.
You will notice that there is a siege of cheap made-in-China plastic masks around Venice. Atelier Marega is one of the few remaining places in the city that have continued to handcraft carnival masks, in Venice, by local Venice artisans. They use traditions that date back to the XIVth century. By preserving this ancient Venetian art, you end up with a beautiful authentic Venetian mask of the highest quality.
Their store is beautiful and exquisite, and the staff are very helpful and attentive. You can tell that the owner puts a lot of effort into making the masks just by looking at how intricate the details are on each mask. They have a mask to suit everyone’s need! If you want a faithful replica or something unique and unusual, you will find it here! You will find a mask to last you a lifetime and remind you of your wonderful time in Venice!
▷ Venetian Costumes
Along with the Venetian Masks you will witness the most gorgeous costumes worn during Venice Carnival. The most popular costumes worn during Venice Carnival are traditional 18th century Venice lords and ladies. Another popular costume is when masks are worn under black hooded capes.
Most costumed participants really make an effort to get into character and play their part. The period costumes will transport you back to another era and let you experience how carnival would have been celebrated centuries ago, during a time when carnival lasted 6 months and masks were used to conceal your identity and sins.
There are also plenty of costumed participants who will put a more modern or creative spin into the outfits they wear. Not everyone goes all out wearing costumes and prefers to instead admire them. Most people attending Venice Carnival will just end up buying a mask to wear around town.
▷ St Mark’s Square- Public shows and entertainment
If the tickets and costumes hire required for the masquerade balls is a bit too much on the bank account, then don’t worry there are plenty of events for free during Venice Carnival. Most of the free entertainment takes place in St Mark’s Square, which is the centre of all Venice Carnival. A programme of the week’s events and shows will be displayed on notice boards around St Mark’s Square.
A large stage is hoisted in the square, which will be where you can watch the daily masked costume runway shows, live music, theatre performances, comedy shows and more. The must-see events held in St Mark’s Square is the award ceremony for the best masked costumes, the ‘Flight of the Angel’ and the ‘Festa delle Marie’, which are the most popular free carnival events.
There are also plenty of modern carnival celebrations with DJ sets and street parties that take place in the square. And to add to the excitement, at the end of the day celebrations will culminate in an epic firework display that occurs above St. Marks.
▷ Masquerade Balls
Venice Carnival is famous for its private parties and masquerade balls. Most balls and parties are authentic 18th century Venetian events that are still held in a similar manner to how they were in the past. If you want to make your visit to Venice Carnival extra special and memorable it is worth attending one of these glamorous events!
Some of these parties are so exclusive that even Cinderella’s fairy godmother would have difficulty getting you in. They take place in ancient Venetian palaces and buildings. Time stands still at the Balls and allows guests to jump back 300 years into a world of ancient splendour.
Most of the these have a historical costume dress code, so you won’t get in without a mask and an haute couture period costume. Most balls involve dinner, drinks, entertainment and musical performances. Purchasing a ticket and a costume to many of these balls can be quite expensive, but it truly is the ultimate carnival experience!
▷ The Best Masquerade Ball…. The Casanova Grand Ball!
On the 22nd February 2020, the final Saturday of carnival, is one of the most anticipated and exclusive events of Venice Carnival – the Casanova Grand Carnival Ball! Taking place in the jaw dropping setting of Palazzo Zeno in Venice, you are guaranteed an unforgettable evening full of magic, mystery and excitement!
The Ball is inspired by the romantic legend of Giacomo Casanova, it is all about seducing your senses! Few Venetians are as famous as Casanova, he was an adventurer, a man of great culture, a poet, a biographer, a devoted military man, a fine artist, but above all he was a man of love! Love was the essence of his life, and who is better than him to show you a good time and give you one of the most memorable nights of your life!
The Casanova Grand Ball is something that everyone must experience at least once in a lifetime. It will transport you back in time and let you experience how Casanova himself would have celebrated Carnival, during a period when carnival used to last 6 months and masks were used to conceal your identity and sins.
Dressing up in a beautiful period costume and attending this lavish masked ball held in a beautiful Venetian Palace will really make you feel like a Venetian nobleman or woman. You will be able to re-experience the excesses, emotions, passion, excitement, forbidden pleasures and practices that were experienced during carnivals of the past.
The Casanova Grand Ball features a sumptuous dinner, world class entertainment, live music and a DJ that will guarantee non-stop dancing, late into the night. Artists and entertainers will wow you with the most overwhelming shows, daring performances and loving exhibitions. This is without a doubt one of the most exotic, lavish and high-octane Masquerade Balls at Venice Carnival.
Read more about Casanova Grand Ball here.
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▷ The Grand Opening – La Festa Veneziana sull’acqua – Venetian Water Festival
La Festa Veneziana sull’acqua is, the Grand opening of the Venice Carnival and runs over two days on the first weekend of carnival. These events are very popular, with both tourists and locals. So, if you plan on going, play it safe and arrive early, we recommend arriving at least one to two hours before it starts.
- Saturday, February 8, 2020 at 6:00 pm in Rio di Cannaregio
The official start is on Saturday which begins with a spectacular water show. Festa Veneziana is truly a show that promises to enchant you with an array of aquatic performances, costumes, Venetian masks and alluring music. Crowds are delighted by the beautiful artistic boats that parade through the waters.
- Sunday, February 9, 2020 at 12:00 noon in the Grand Canal
Sunday begins with the first regatta of carnival, the Regata delle Columbine. Beginning at 10:30am it starts at the Grand Canal and finishes in Cannaregio, where there are lots of food stalls serving delicious venetian treats and mulled wine, which is helpful for beating the cold weather.
▷ Festa delle Marie
- Date: February 15th, 2020
- Time: 2.30pm – 4:00p
Parade Route: The ‘Marie parade’ departs from San Pietro in Castello and follows Via Garibaldi finishing at St Mark’s Square.
This traditional event “Festa delle Marie”, is a must for those who love historical re-enactments and are interested in learning all about the history of the city. It refers to the purification of Mary, a day when all the marriages were blessed. The Venetian Doge would offer a dowry to 12 beautiful but poor Venetian girls.
But, in 973, pirates kidnapped the twelve Maries’ and their jewellery during the ceremony. To commemorate this event a parade occurs where the 12 lovely girls are paraded through the streets to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for her help in rescuing the girls. It is one of the main carnival parades and locals and tourists flood St. Mark’s Square to watch.
After the parade, an award ceremony for the winner occurs on the last day of Carnival in St Mark’s Square with the girls arriving by boat and leaving from Camp San Giacomo dell’Orio. The winner of the parade will go on to be the person that jumps out of the Bell Tower at the following years Flight of the Angel.
▷ Il Volo dell’Angelo: Flight of the Angel
- Date: February 16th, 2020
- Time: Midday, 12pm sharp
- Where: St Mark’s Square
Il Volo dell’Angelo also known as The Flight of the Angel is one of the highlights of Venice Carnival. This event actually dates back to the original carnivals that occurred during the La Serenissma period. It is the event that officially kicks of Venice Carnival and is also one of the most popular free events at Venice Carnival, so if you want to witness it, get there early.
It takes places at midday on the first Sunday of carnival. Promptly at the strike of 12 noon, an acrobat will leap off the San Marco Bell Tower and fly through the air, landing in the middle of Saint Mark’s Square to delight of the crowd.
The event first started back in the 16th century when a daring Turkish acrobat cause quite the stir by succeeding to walk on a rope that was anchored to a boat in front of the Piazza San Marco, all the way up to the top of the Bell Tower. He also gave homage to the Doge when he reached the balcony of the Palazzo Ducale during his decent.
The crowds were so impressed that this stunt became an annual tradition that was repeated by tight rope walkers every year. Unfortunately, an acrobat fell to his death during the stunt in 1759 and the event was outlawed from further carnivals, only to be revived in 1979 after two centuries of abandonment.
Today the winner of the previous year’s Festa della Marie gets the honour of dressing up in period costumes and descending along a zip line from the bell tower.
▷ Fat Thursday: – The re-enactment of the victory of doge Vitale Michiel II
- Date: Fat Thursday, 20th February 2020
Another highlight of Venice Carnival is Fat Thursday. In Venice this day was dedicated to the memory of the victory of doge Vitale Michiel II, against the Patriarch of Aquileia, who had conquered Grado, which was a move that was deliberately done with the intent to bring Venice under German subjugation. The Doge reacted quickly sending a fleet to Grado, which he surrounded and successfully captured.
The Patriarch, seven hundred soldiers and 12 rebel landlords were captured and taken back to Venice. The Pope however wanted to re-establish the peace and demanded the men were released. In exchange every year Aquileia would have to send one bull, twelve pigs, and 12 loaves of bread to Venice as a form of compensation.
The animals were seen to symbolise the Patriarch (the bull) and the 12 rebel lords (the pigs) and every year a public ceremony was held to commemorate the victory. The animals were publicly taunted before the bull’s head was cut off. All the animals were slaughtered, cooked and distributed amongst the people during the celebrations.
This is where that Venetian expression “to cut off the bull’s head”, came from. It means to settle a matter once and for all. The ceremony is still performed today, but don’t worry they no longer use a real bull.
▷ Flight of the Eagle – Volo dell’Aquila
- Date: February 23rd, 2020
- Time: 12:00pm
- Location: Saint Mark’s Square
Flight of the Eagle known as Volo dell’Aquila in Italian, is another spectacular flight that takes place from St Mark’s Bell Tower. It is always executed by a surprise guest. In 2019 it was Adriana Fontana a Short Track champion with 8 Olympic Medals! Other protagonists over the years have included Giusy Versace, Carolina Kostner, Fabrizia D’Ottavio and famous bass player Saturnino Celani.
▷ Flight of the Donkey – Volo dell’Asino
- Date: February 23rd, 2020
- Time: 11:30 to 13:00
- Location: Piazza Ferretto – Mestre, Italia
Flight of the donkey is a grotesque parody of the famous Flight of the Angel which takes place in Mestre. It essentially aims to poke fun of that event. The event was born as a mere joke in 2002 when President of the Mandragola association convinced an actor to dress as a donkey and lower himself from the Tower of Via Poerio.
In the following years numerous personalities became the donkey like figure skater Giulia Cotogno, rowing champion Nicola Dall’Acqua and Luigi Sicuranza. The parody eventually became an annual tradition and is certainly a funny event to watch.
▷ Grand Final Masked Costume Contest Award Ceremony
- Date: 25th February 2020
- Time: 11:00am – 1:00pm
- Location: Saint-Mark Square.
Masks are the what makes Venice Carnival so unique. Entire costumes are created around the selection of a mask. This tradition dates back to the 5th century. Masquerades come from all over the world to take part in this tradition.
The Best Masked Costume Competition takes place daily at 11:00am daily during the 10 days of carnival, and the daily winners will then go on to participate in the final parade held on the last Sunday of carnival.
The daily masked costume parades are one of the best free events and provide ample photo opportunities. Striking and elegant masquerades strut their stuff in St Marks Squares to the admiration of the crowds.
But don’t just watch the parades, why not be in the parade! Yes, that is right, anyone can take part, and it is completely free to enter. You don’t even have to worry about stage fright as you will be hidden behind your mask. If you are travelling to Venice with your kids, even they get a chance to participate with separate slots for the children.
In the finale, you will see the best of the best. All the daily winners will go in front of a jury composed of experts, who will deliberate and announce two winners in the two different categories. The first is Best Masked Costume and the second is Best Masked Costume in accordance with the selected theme for that year’s carnival.
▷ The Festa delle Marie Award Ceremony
- Date: 25th February 2020
- Time: 16:00 to 16:30
- Location: Piazza San Marco
An award ceremony will take place to crown this year’s winning “Maria”. It will take place in San Marco Square. The 12 Marie’s will arrive by boat and then exit from Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio. The crowning ceremony for the winning Maria will commence at 4pm.
▷ The Final Act Svolo del Leone – the Flight of the Lion
- Date: February 25th, 2020
- Time: 3:00pm
- Location: Piazza San Marco
A Lion is the official symbol of the city. The official final activity of the Venice Carnival is the flight of the Lion of San Marco, which has been painted on a large canvas. At the end of carnival, it gets hoisted from the square to the top of Bell Tower, while the 12 Maries’ and the Doge salute the flag. Following this there is a magnificent firework show that can be seen from practically every spot in the city.
▷ Indulge your sweet tooth with lots of delicious Venetian treats
Carnival is historically the period that precedes 40 days of Lent prior to Easter. It is a time when you can indulge, particularly with food, before the long period of abstinence and sacrifice begins. Venice Carnival had a reputation for its decadence and overindulgence, so this is your opportunity to overindulge and not feel bad.
A local Venetian speciality that you absolutely must try during carnival is called Fritelle, which is another tradition from La Serenissma, and literally means fritters. It is a type of fried donut that begins showing up a few weeks prior to carnival. It can be filled or not, rolled in cane sugar or dusted with powdered sugar. The Nutella filled ones, as well as the chocolate cream and rum ones are very popular, and they disappear as soon as carnival ends.
In fact, they were so popular that it was declared the national desert, and only an exclusive amount of people were allowed to make them. To become one of those people you could only do it by birth right, if your father made them. Today they are in almost every pastry shop in Venice.
The other Venetian desert that you absolutely must try is the galani. This is a type of deep-fried flat pastry. Another traditional desert is a plate of castagnole. These are little fried balls of dough, served with icing sugar. If you have a sweet tooth, then you are going to love indulging in these sweet delicacies.
▷ Go on a Venice Carnival Pub Crawl
A great alternative to the Masked Balls is to go on a Venice Carnival Pub Crawl, or giro d’ombra as it is referred to in Italian. It is actually a very Venetian thing to do and a tradition that has been going on for centuries. The Venetians would often move from bar to bar (bacaro to bacaro) and enjoy Venetian tapas, drink good wine and socialise.
Because Venice Carnival is more active in the daytime, there isn’t too much of a nightlife scene. So, a pub crawl is a great way to spend an evening out. Dress in your finest and join fellow travellers from around the world as you are taken to some of the best bars in Venice. You must try some Venetian Spritz as well as some of the great wines that come from the Veneto region.
▷ What to Wear at the Venice Carnival?
Wondering what to wear for Venice Carnival? Do you have to wear costumes at Venice Carnival? Most tourists don’t dress up for Venice Carnival and instead prefer to just admire the gorgeous 18th century costumes, hooded capes and incredible masks.
If you want to dress up and be part of the costumed fun, then go for it! Some people take dressing up very seriously and completely immerse themselves in costume and spend months planning. There are costume shops all over the city that rent costumes if you want to go all out.
Venice Carnival is meant to be a fun, relaxed experience, so just wear whatever you feel the most comfortable in. If you think you will feel a little self-conscious in period costumes, then opt for a mask. Venice Carnival isn’t complete without donning a mask. There are hundreds of masks shops and street vendors selling beautiful Venetian masks during carnival and most tourists will buy one.
▷ Venice Carnival Tips
- Book Early! We cannot stress this enough! You will be joining millions of other people from around the world so planning ahead will ensure you get the best deals. This applies to your accommodation, plane tickets, carnival events and even restaurants!
- Public bathrooms are tricky to come by especially if your hotel isn’t close. Use the restroom whenever you stop at a restaurant or café.
- Venice Carnival is a winter event and the daily temperature is around 4°C (39°F), highs of 7°C (45°F) and lows of 0.5°C (33°F)! It also may be rainy. So warm clothing is essential! Think hats, scarves and gloves!
- If you are wearing a costume, then be prepared for lots of people wanting photos with you, especially if your costume is very elaborate. Also, if you are the one asking others for a photo then just be mindful of their time.
- Remember Venice Carnival can be very crowded, so don’t get stressed out by the crowds. Lots of people just contribute to the atmosphere!
- Although most of the events take place around Piazza San Marco, we highly recommend breaking away from the crowds and wondering around the city. There are carnival events held in almost every neighbourhood of Venice Carnival is a festive and elegant affair, but its not a rowdy scene like you would find at Rio Carnival.
- Fat Thursday to Shrove Tuesday is considered the best time to visit Venice Carnival and when the most popular events occur, and when most of the crowds visit. There is still plenty of entertainment and carnival events on before this week so if you want to enjoy carnival without the crowds this is when we recommend going.
- Be warned that there can sometimes be flooding in parts of the city, you can still get around as there are walkways that are placed along the main paths. You can consult the tide forecast page for the latest news and updates at Tide Monitoring and Forecast Centre of Venice.
▷ How much is Venice Carnival?
It is a hard question to answer because you can do Venice Carnival on a budget, if you stay at a hotel a little further away from the action or get a good deal booking in advance, then you can save a lot of money. There are plenty of cheap places to eat around Venice and you can even make a costume without spending too much money.
Honestly one of the biggest misconceptions about attending Venice Carnival is that it’s expensive! From free guided museum tours, to free shows, free costume parades, free live music, to special video projections, there is so much stuff to do that won’t cost you a penny!
However, if you’d like to attend one of the private parties and balls then you must have deep pockets because these tickets are very pricey. The balls range from a few hundred to thousands of euros and can even cost more than your trip to Venice. Do your research and you can have an excellent time at Venice Carnival on any budget.
▷ How to get to Venice Carnival?
There are several ways to get to Venice with the fastest being flying to Marco Polo Airport which sits about 10km north of Venice. It is also possible to get there by bus, car or catch a train to St Lucia Station. However, these options will only get you as far as Piazzale Roma. Once you arrive at Piazzale Roma you need to transfer and take a vaporetto, which is a water bus to get deeper into Venice.
▷ Where to stay in Venice during the Carnival?
Venice Carnival attracts three million visitors, so it is very important that you book at least six months in advance to get better choices, prices and availability. There are definitely a few things to consider when booking accommodation because there are many differences between neighbourhoods. Do you want to be near the action, or maybe you will need to take a water taxi back to your hotel?
The San Marco district or Cannaregio is where most the action occurs but is of course more expensive and crowded. If you want less crowds and more budget friendly accommodation then consider Venice’s other neighbourhoods like Castello, Dorsoduro, Mestre, Santa Croce, San Polo, Giudecca or Lido.
If you stay in the San Marco district, then you cannot be more central to the carnival action. This district stretches from St. Marks Square to the Accademia Bridge. It features numerous five-star hotels, and many smaller boutique hotels. There are lots of art attractions, art galleries and is home to Venice’s most iconic attractions and monuments. But of course, this means that this is one of the more expensive places to stay and you need to book well in advance.
The Cannaregio district is located very close to St. Mark’s Square. Cannaregio is filled with quiet canals and has a bustling nightlife with cosy restaurants and trendy bars. It has plenty of accommodation options from five-star hotels to smaller hotels. The prices here will be a bit more expensive than the other neighbourhoods but you can get some great deals if you book in advance.
Castello is about 15 minutes’ walk from San Marco, the area is home to great restaurants, beautiful churches and is a great option to save on your accommodation budget. Also, if you like to be away from the crowds then this is a great option. Prices here are also much cheaper than San Marco and Cannaregio.
Santa Croce is quite an industrial area on the western part of Venice. It will take you awhile to reach St Mark’s Square, but accommodation will be much cheaper, and it is more modern than most neighbouring districts. San Polo is a quiet more residential area of Santa Croce and is a great place for those who wish to experience the ‘real Venice’. Again, it is a long walk to reach St. Mark’s square but a great option for those on a budget.
Dorsoduro sits in eastern Venice and doesn’t have that artistic sophistication that many art lovers seek. There are certainly good bars, great restaurants and beautiful churches. It is also home to one of the last Venetian construction workshops. It is a long walk to St. Marks Square but is a fraction of the costs and crowds.
Giudecca is located opposite the Dorsoduro district, separated by a canal. This part of the island has been taken over by local hipsters and is home to many youth hostels. It still retains its original charm and authenticity and is another great option for cheaper accommodation.
Mestre is part of Venice mainland and is more like a modern Italian city. We don’t recommend staying here because if you travel all the way to Venice, then why not stay in Venice! However, it is probably where you will find the cheapest accommodation but be aware you will have to take a bus to connect with Venice.
Lido is an island that is essentially a long strip of land which separates Venice from the Adriatic Sea. It is a popular summer seaside destination. The atmosphere on Lido is different to Venice as you have roads, cars and sidewalks. There are regular boat trips across the lagoon between Venice and Lido, and the trip will take you about twenty minutes. Again, if you are on a budget consider this.
Check out some accommodation options here.
▷ Where to eat in Venice?
Now it is hard for us to give you a list of good restaurants in Venice because honestly there are so many you are spoilt for choice. But in saying that it is also easy to find very bad overpriced food there to! Our key advice is to research restaurants before you arrive and even make some restaurant bookings in advance, especially for the cafes and restaurants around St. Mark’s Square because they fill up quick and can also be quite expensive.
To avoid the tourist trap restaurants a good indicator is if someone is outside the restaurant trying to lure you in with a tourist menu whilst offering a free bellini, we recommend to keep on walking. Or if you are offered a menu with pictures and it is in several different languages, it is a pretty good indicated that you are not about to be served authentic, fresh food.
Also don’t overlook some of the tiny bacari, they only hold a dozen or so people but can have some surprisingly good food. Order some Cicchetti, which are small dishes like tapas, shared with friends over a glass of wine. Cicchetti Bars have their own specialities and are known to have some of the best dishes around. So, don’t ignore these small assuming places.
Of course, you are in Italy, the home of pizza and pasta, but whilst in Venice you must try some of the local food that is available in this region. Venice is home to excellent seafood! Make sure that you have at least one seafood dish during your stay!
Some Venetian specialities we recommend is Sarde in saor, a sweet-sour dish that consists of fried sardines marinated in onions, pine nuts, vinegar, and raisons, which was conceived in the Middle Ages by Venetian sailors. Baccala mantecato is another sublime fish-based antipasto, served with fresh bread and is a staple of the region.
Then you have Cicchetti, a typical Venetian antipasto that goes great with a glass of wine. Polenta e Schie, is a dish with shrimp that is only found in the Venice lagoon, it is typically paired with polenta and seasoned with lemon and garlic. Risi e Bisi is a simple Venetian-style peas and rice dish. Bigoli in salsa is a dish that resembles spaghetti and served in a sauce of onions and salt-cured fish.
There are numerous other Venetian dishes that are worthy of trying! And make sure you accompany your meal with a Peach Bellini, which is the ultimate Venetian Drink. So, get in the carnival spirit, eat, drink and be merry!
▷ How to get around Venice
Venice is unique compared to other cities as you can easily get lost in its maze-like picturesque streets. The strength of Venice is its water way, Venice is completely surrounded by water. Venice consists of 121 islands that are connected by 435 bridges, separated from the Adriatic Sea by a lagoon and a series of islands.
You can actually get around Venice on foot, it’s a great way to discover the island and get lost amongst the beautiful buildings, alleys and squares. All you need is a good map and a good pair of shoes! Yellow signs on the side of buildings will always give directions to the main points of the city like San Marco etc.
If you prefer not to walk then you can always catch the vaporetto, the water buses that is Venice’s public transport. You will find all the information about lines, fares and timetables on the ACTV website who manage the service. Also, you can pre-purchase your tickets through https://www.veneziaunica.it/ or through their app. You can also just purchase a ticket on board. You can download a map with all the Venice waterway routes here.
Of course, there are ways to get around the city. An option is a gondola that go from one bank to another. Gondola ferries are located in San Marcuola, San Samuele, Santa Maria del Giglio, Santa Sofia, Punta della Dogana and San Tomà. For tourists it costs about € 2.00.
▷ Before you go!
We can’t stress the enough the importance of travel insurance! Being protected on your travels gives you an irreplaceable peace of mind. Don’t learn the hard way about the importance of travel insurance. Never travel without coverage!
Get a quote through our recommended insurance provider, World Nomads.