Venice Carnival – The Most Magical, Spellbinding and Elegant Carnival in the World!

Venice Carnival is one of the most famous carnival celebrations in the world. Millions come from around the world to admire the gorgeous masks & costumes.

Saturday, 8th February 2020

Tuesday, 25th February 2020

Days to start

▷ Carnival in the Floating City

Venice Carnival is one of the most famous carnival celebrations in the world. Three million people from around the world come to admire the extravagant and elegant carnival costumes and masks that fill the streets of Venice during carnival.

There is no other place in the world that celebrates carnival like Venice. The iconic scenery of Venice creates the most magical backdrop for the costumed participants and turns Venice into the most magical and spellbinding place to celebrate carnival.

Carnival in Venice feels like it has been suspended in time between the past and present. Venice Carnival is truly one of the most unique carnival celebrations and is the city’s biggest party of the year.

▷ What is Carnival?

What is carnival? Carnival is annual festival that occurs around the world. For the most part carnival is celebrated before Lent in countries with high Catholic populations. Carnival usually involves some form of public celebration like street parties or parades.

What is Venice Carnival? Venice Carnival is a pre-Lenten celebration that runs for the two weeks prior to Ash Wednesday.

Venice Carnival sees people all around the world come to get their fancy-dress fix. Venice Carnival sees the city flooded with costumed revellers. There are lots of events, parades, parties and all sorts of sights and sounds to see during Venice Carnival.

▷ When is Venice Carnival?

venice carnival

What is the date for the 2020 Venice Carnival? The 2020 Venice Carnival dates will run from the 18th until the 25th February.

Venice Carnival always finishes on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday which is the last day in which gluttony, excess and debauchery is permitted before 40 days of Lent begins. 

The final weekend of Venice Carnival is the best time to attend as it is when the best events occur.  From Fat Thursday (Giovedì Grasso) until Shrove Tuesday (Martedì Grasso) is the best and busiest time to be in Venice for carnival.

▷ Venetian Masks

Venetian Masks are the hallmark of Venice Carnival. 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 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 often worn with black hooded capes.

▷ Why do people wear masks?

venice carnival

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 go out and look search for some hanky-panky without getting caught.

▷ 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. The period costumes will transport you back to another era.

Another popular costume is when masks are worn under black hooded capes. There are also plenty of costumed participants who will put a more modern or creative spin in the outfits they wear.

Those costumed participants who dress up really make an effort to get into character and play their part. Most people attending Venice Carnival will end up buying a mask to wear around town.

▷ The Origins of Venice Carnival

What is the history of Venice Carnival? The origins of Venice Carnival started way back in 1162. The celebrations originally began to honour the victory of the Venice Republic against the Patriarch of Aquileia.

Venice Carnival was originally celebrated over a six-week period that saw giant parties being thrown where the people indulged in lots of food, wine and dance. There were public shows and performances held all over the city by musicians, actors, acrobats, dancers and jugglers. This is how the city celebrated carnival for centuries.

▷ Carnival was banned for 200 years!

venice carnival

It wasn’t until the 18th century when Venice Carnival became renowned for its wild celebrations. The celebrations knew no bounds during this period with lots of parties, gambling, illicit liaisons and bloody bullfights. It was during this period that Casanova the famed womaniser lived in Venice.

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 saw the end of Venice’s long reign of independence and further cemented the end of Venice Carnival with the celebrations banned again. This ban lasted over two hundred years!

Eventually in 1979 the Venice Carnival was brought back to life by some locals. Venice Carnival quickly rediscovered its original charm and traditions from its ancient celebrations.

▷ Venice Carnival Today

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 is more about the costumed revellers who roam the streets which are the main carnival attraction. There are however plenty of parades, street entertainment, theatre shows, and fireworks displays occurring.

▷ Masquerade Balls

venice carnival

Venice Carnival is famous for its private parties and masquerade balls. Most balls and parties are authentic 18th century Venetian events still held in a similar manner to how they were in the past.

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 haute couture costume. While this in addition to purchasing a ticket very expensive attending a Venice Carnival Ball is the ultimate carnival experience.

▷ Il Ballo del Doge

Il Ballo del Doge is the most famous and exclusive party at Venice Carnival. In fact, this ball is defined as being the most exclusive, elegant, luxurious and sumptuous event in the world. Ballo del Doge is attended by the rich and famous from all over the world.  

Il Ballo del Doge guests arrive to the Palace by water a fantasy world with incredible decorations, expensive set designs, hundreds of performers putting on incredible entertainment and five star cuisine. The party lasts until early the next morning.

To attend this ball, one must wear an haute couture costumes designed by famed designer Antonia Sautte. There are about 1200 luxurious costumes designed and handmade by Antonia Sautter that will be worn by the guests. Il Ballo del Doge is not cheap and will set you back thousands.

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▷ St Mark’s Square

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. The centre of all Venice Carnival celebrations is St Mark’s Square which hoists up a big stage.

On the stage you will see plenty of costume runway shows, live music, theatre performances, comedy shows and more. There are also plenty of modern carnival celebrations with DJ sets and street parties.

The must-see events held in St Marks Square is the award ceremony for the best masked costumes, the ‘Flight of the Angel’ and the ‘Festa delle Marie’.

▷ What to Wear at the 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.

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.

▷ What to do during the Venice Carnival?

Embrace and let yourself be carried away by the energy, enthusiasm, craziness, magic, charm and jubilation that is Venice Carnival. Walk around the city and admire the gorgeous costumes, greet the masked characters or dress up yourself and be part of it.

Watch some of the amazing entertainment that is put on during carnival. There are numerous parades, bands and performances throughout the streets and alleyways. Or explore Venice and see some of its ancient sights and sounds.

▷ How much is Venice Carnival?

venice carnival

The main events take place in St Mark’s Square and are free to attend and anyone can go. However, if you’d like to attend one of the private parties and balls you must have deep pockets because these tickets are very pricey. The balls range from a few hundred to thousands of euros.

▷ How to attend Venice Carnival?

How to get to Venice? 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 to take a vaporetto which is a water bus to get deeper into Venice. How to get around Venice particularly during carnival, your best option is to walk around or use the vaporetto’s for longer trips.

▷ Where to stay in Venice during the Carnival?

Venice Carnival attracts three million visitors, so it is important that you book at least six months in advance. Booking earlier means that you get better choices, prices and availability.

Most of the action takes place around St. Mark’s Square. The San Marco district or Cannaregio as this is where most the action occurs if you want to be right in the thick of it.

If you want to avoid crowds then stay in the Castello and Dorsoduro districts or the islands which are much quieter.

Check out some accomodation options here. 

For more information about tours, things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more click here.

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