- 1 Venice in Winter
- 2 What is Venice in winter like ?
- 3 Winter in Venice – What Venice weather to expect, month by month
- 4 What to Wear in Venice in Winter
- 5 When is Venice Carnival?
- 6 What is Venice like in winter – it is at its most beautiful without the crowds
- 7 Venice in winter hotel deals
- 8 Where to stay in Venice in Winter ?
- 9 Things to do in Venice in Winter
- 9.1 Photography in Venice
- 9.2 Grand Canal Boat Ride
- 9.3 Piazza San Marco and San Marco Basilica
- 9.4 Doge’s Palace
- 9.5 Visit Some of the Best Venice Museums
- 9.6 Exploring Venice Off The Beaten Path
- 9.7 Venice At Night
- 9.8 A Venice Gondola Ride
- 9.9 Rialto Fish Market
- 9.10 A Day Trip To Burano Island
- 9.11 Visit Padua
- 10 Does it flood in Venice ? Acqua Alta: Venice Italy flooding
Venice in Winter
So when is the best time to visit Venice? I’ve been so lucky to visit Venice in all four seasons, and for me there’s no doubt, Venice in winter is best. Keep reading to see why.
What is Venice in winter like ?
Yes, sometimes Venice winter weather can be very cold. However, winter is the one time of year when Venice still lives up to its nickname, La Serenissima, the most serene. The cruise passengers and day-trippers that make Venice in summer so overcrowded are nowhere to be seen.
Venice in January is a very different proposition. It’s at its most magical, full of mystique, with mists on the canals and across the lagoon, and rich, glorious sunsets along the Grand Canal.
If you visit Venice in the winter, you get to savour the city. As it’s the low season, you don’t have to queue for anything, a marked contrast with what you get for much of the year. You also get a very pleasant surprise when you search for your accommodation in Venice, with prices a fraction of those in peak season. This winter in Venice guide shows you everything you need to know.
So read on to discover why you should consider Venice in winter.
Further reading – The perfect 3 day Venice itinerary
Venice in winter pros
- Very few visitors in comparison with Venice peak season
- Very few queues to main Venice attractions
- You have the quieter areas of Venice almost to yourself
- Venice accommodation prices are the lowest of the year – as low as 20-25% of peak season rates
- Magical time of year – misty silhouettes, low light, glorious sunsets
- Best time of year for photography in Venice
- Cosy time of year in warm bar with un ombra of wine
Venice in winter cons
- Acqua alta – Venice is flood-prone throughout the winter – but this should be much less of a problem with the new flood barriers in place
- Cold weather – not exceptionally cold by European standards, but if you’re from warmer climes you’ll notice it
- A few businesses close up for some of the time, and the Campanile of St Mark’s closes in January for two weeks
Winter in Venice – What Venice weather to expect, month by month
The Venice climate is typical of continental Europe, with four distinct seasons. As Venice is located on the northern Adriatic coast, it is normally two or three degrees warmer than mainland Italy.
It gets coldest when an easterly or northerly wind blows across the Venice lagoon – the wind chill can be bitter.
Winter in Venice is largely the same as across Europe, with the coldest weather usually (but not always) between December and February. European winter weather, including snow, can also occur in November and March.
European winters can be a mixed bag. You can get clear, cold sunny days. You can get mist or fog. It can rain. And, as our lead shot for this feature shows, you can even get snow in Venice, though this is rather rare.
Venice can be cold, but if you’ve spent time in Europe in winter, it won’t be too uncomfortable.
Does it snow in Venice?
Yes, but rarely. I was lucky enough to chance upon some Venice snow a few years ago. I happened to tell the hotel receptionist that I had captured some Venice in snow shots. He remarked that I had been incredibly lucky to get snow where I did – around Piazza San Marco and the Molo, the nearby San Marco waterfront area.
The snow in Venice doesn’t tend to linger long. The local council are quick to get it cleared – so quick that I had to beg one of their workers to leave some in place for one of my shots.
Venice Weather November
- Average temperature in Venice in November– high of 12°C (54°F),
- low of 5°C (41°F)
- Venice rain days – 6
- Hours of daylight – 9.5
Venice Weather December
- Average temperature in Venice in December – high of 8°C (46°F), low of 1°C (34°F)
- Rainy days in Venice – 6
- Hours of daylight – 9
Venice Weather January
- Average temperature in Venice in January – high of 7°C (45°F), low of 0°C (32°F)
- Rainy days in Venice – 5
- Hours of daylight – 9
Venice Weather February
- Average temperature in Venice in February – high of 9°C (48°F), low of 1°C (34°F)
- Rain days in Venice – 4
- Hours of daylight – 10.5
What to Wear in Venice in Winter
A set of thermals and a couple of layers of clothing, plus a hat and scarf, will keep you warm. The only time I’ve really felt cold in Venice was during a boat ride to Burano. This is what happens when you sit outside on open water in a bitter northerly wind. If you take a day trip on the lagoon in winter, wrap up.
When is Venice Carnival?
Venice low season is usually shorter than the winter season. This is because of Venice Carnival, or Carnevale. This is one of the popular Venice events, when people take to the streets in masquerade masks. Carnevale is very much peak season in Venice, when prices rise to the highest levels of the year – up to five times what they would be in January.
Venice Carnevale is a movable feast, a festival whose dates change each year. It lasts between two and three weeks, ending on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Christian Lent season. This can be any time from early February to mid-March, depending on which day Easter falls later in spring.
For the purpose of this article, I class Carnevale as separate from winter, as the crowds return as well as the high prices.
What is Venice like in winter – it is at its most beautiful without the crowds
Venice winter city breaks and holidays are more enjoyable than in summer because of the relative lack of crowds.
Over the last few years it has been sad to see images of and articles about Venice deluged with visitors. The problem has worsened over the last few years, and mass tourism in Venice ends up detracting from the whole experience. You can’t enjoy the city with massive crowds and queues everywhere.
I’ve visited the city many times, including five trips during winter. It is so different at this time of year. It’s not empty, by any means. You’ll still see some areas, such as San Marco and Rialto, busy at times. But it’s so much easier to escape the crowds in Venice during winter. You just need to walk a couple of streets, and you have the place to yourself. Winter was when I first saw the magic of Venice, and having the time and space helps you to really appreciate it.
The good news is that most things to see in Venice are open all year round. The one exception to this is St Mark’s Campanile, which closes for two weeks every January for maintenance and repairs.
Otherwise, virtually all the Venice main attractions are open year-round. This includes all the major art galleries and churches, and famous Venice sights such as the Doge’s Palace.
They are all so much more enjoyable when you can take your time.
Venice in winter hotel deals
You can get some staggering cheap Venice deals between Christmas and Carnevale (usually January and the first half of February). You can get some exceptional bargains if you’re spending a weekend in Venice or more. It’s well worth pushing it out for 3 days in Venice, or even a 4 day Venice itinerary.
Rates at Venice hotels fluctuate dramatically through the year, and winter is when they hit rock bottom. If you’ve thought that Venice holidays are prohibitively expensive, the good news is they’re not in winter. In terms of hotel prices, it’s far and away the best time to go to Venice.
A few years ago, I stayed in one of the 4-star Venice hotels near Piazza San Marco for a bargain €70 a night during the winter low season. I checked room prices for Carnevale a month later – they were back up to an eye-watering €360 a night.
Where to stay in Venice in Winter ?
Top Tip: IF you visit Venice in the winter – outside carnival – stay somewhere central, especially around San Marco.
Our feature on the best areas to stay in Venice goes into great detail about the pros and cons of staying in each Venice district, and some locations outside the city altogether. However, for two months or so each winter in Venice, everything changes radically. This is the time to look at Venice hotels in San Marco, and even Grand Canal hotels.
During winter many 5-star Venice hotels drop their rates by 70-80%. So if you’re visiting Venice on a budget you can contemplate staying in the central San Marco district. This is where you’ll find many Venice highlights, including St Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. Instead of paying €500-600 a night, you can get rooms for €100-150. If you’re looking at mid-range 3-star Venice hotels, you may well strike lucky with deals as low as €60 a night. You can also expect some very good Venice hotel deals in the neighbouring Castello district – some of these are only a few minutes’ walk from San Marco.
Venice remains one of the most expensive cities in the world to visit. Although hotel prices fall, other prices (transport, restaurants) remain unchanged through the winter.
In summer, prices often so high that you have to stay in the less touristed areas of Venice such as Cannaregio or Santa Croce, or even outside the city altogether.
Things to do in Venice in Winter
If you’re visiting Venice in winter, it’s the ideal time to see all the most famous Venice attractions. This is the one time of year when you don’t have to waste precious time queuing for an hour or more to visit Venice sights. With the exception of St Mark’s Basilica Basilica di San Marco) you can go at your own pace, as slowly as you like. This is ideal, especially if it’s your first time visiting Venice.
Photography in Venice
As a photographer, January in Venice is my favourite time of year for Venice breaks. Winter is such a magical time for Venice photography. The days are short but the light is low throughout the day. There’s always a depth and glow to the colours during the Venetian winter, rather than the harsh light you get in the warmer seasons.
It’s also a time for stunning sunrises and sunsets. If you stand on the Molo – the waterfront next to St Mark’s Square – the sun rises just to the left of San Giorgio Maggiore church. Later in the day, it sets behind the famous domed silhouette of Santa Maria della Salute. You can stand in one small area around the waterfront and photograph eight top Venice landmarks.
Another amazing place to watch Venice sunsets in winter is Rialto Bridge. You can stand on the bridge to see the sun go down, or visit the rooftop terrace at T Fondaco dei Tedeschi, just behind the bridge. The only drawback with the latter is that you have to book your time slot and you’re restricted to 15 minutes there.
Winter is also the time to get moody morning mists on the canals. Sometimes fog can linger for a day or more, but it makes the Venice canals wonderfully atmospheric.
Venice is the most photogenic city I’ve ever visited, and almost every street and canal has a potentially stunning shot.
Grand Canal Boat Ride
The best introduction to Venice, and the best way of getting an overview of the main places to visit in Venice, is to take the #1 vaporetto or waterbus down the Grand Canal.
Start either at Piazzale Roma (the bus station) or Ferrovia (Venezia Santa Lucia railway station) and stay on board until San Marco (San Zaccaria).
See Also: What Is Italy Famous For?
The journey takes around 35-40 minutes in total, taking you down one of the most beautiful streets in the world. It’s lined with palaces, art galleries, magnificent hotels and some of the finest churches in Venice, including Santa Maria della Salute.
Piazza San Marco and San Marco Basilica
Along with the Grand Canal boat ride, St Mark’s Square and St Mark’s Basilica should be at the top of any what to do in Venice list.
The Piazza is one of the most beautiful squares in Europe and most famous squares in the world. Your eyes are naturally drawn to the Basilica di San Marco, with its lavish mosaic facade and skyline of oriental domes and crosses. The Campanile, or belltower, is the tallest of all Venice landmarks, soaring high above the city.
St Mark’s Square is an amazing place to walk, especially at dusk on a winter evening when the lights are first turned on around the Piazza. It has two of the oldest cafes in Italy, Caffe Florian and Gran Caffe Quadri, two places where prices do not fall during winter in Venice.
The Basilica is as stunning inside as outside, its glittering golden mosaics as outstanding as those in Ravenna, further down the Italian Adriatic coast. It was built as the cathedral of Venice, to house the relics of Saint Mark,the city’s patron saint.
You don’t need to reserve a time slot to enter between early November and the end of March, so you can just turn up. Entry to the main church is free – paid extras include the Pala d’Oro golden altarpiece and entrance to the Loggia.
The Basilica tells you that the ‘visit to the Basilica lasts ten minutes’. It shouldn’t, but you are ushered through like livestock. In winter there are less people and you can pull a trick or two to stay longer. The mosaics are lit between 11.30 and 12.45 pm on weekdays. Try to see them then if possible.
The Doge’s Palace – Palazzo Ducale in Italian – is one of the big-ticket attractions in Venice. It was the seat of the Republic’s government, and official residence of the elected leader, the Doge.
It’s a sumptuous building, richly decorated with paintings by master Venetian painters including Tintoretto, Titian and Veronese. As well as the luxury and splendour, it also houses the city’s prison, I Prigioni. You can follow in prisoners’ footsteps across the bridge of Sighs to the grim cells where they would serve their sentences.
During Venice high season you have to queue, even with a ‘skip the line’ ticket. No such problem in winter. You just need to book a time slot in advance, turn up, and away you go.
Visit Some of the Best Venice Museums
A wet Venice winter day is the ideal time to explore some Venice museums and, indeed, Venice art galleries.
There are enough Venice art museums to fill weeks of your time, so we suggest visiting the more popular museums in Venice to take advantage of the low number of visitors. The Galleria dell’Accademia in Dorsoduro, the nearby Peggy Guggenheim Collection and Ca’ Pesaro all host amazing collections. In San Marco, the magnificent interiors and Canova sculptures of the Museo Correr are another Venice must see.
Exploring Venice Off The Beaten Path
It’s not difficult to give the crowds the slip and go off the beaten path in Venice, even during the high season. You can be five minutes from Piazza San Marco, one of the most beautiful squares in the world, down a quiet alleyway looking at a stunning building like the Scala Contarini del Bovolo, something most Venice visitors don’t get to see.
Venice At Night
During winter in Venice It’s usually dark by 5.30 pm, and when I’ve visited I’ve gone on some long night walks in Venice. These walks are some of the top things to do in Venice. It’s often cold, and if you wander anywhere off the main thoroughfares you’ll have the place to yourself. For me, this is when Venice at its most enchanting.
I would pick an area on the map, walk to it and then wander. Getting lost in Venice is one of the best things to do in Venice, and when you have it to yourself, it’s even better. In our weekend in Venice feature we suggest one of our favourite walks, from San Marco to Accademia bridge. This is especially beautiful at night, when the buildings are illuminated.
A Venice Gondola Ride
A Venice gondola tour is top of many people’s what to do in Venice Italy list. The long, sleek black boats are one of the most famous Venice icons, and for many, a Venice trip wouldn’t be complete without a Venice gondola ride.
The Venice gondola price is the same as the rest of the year – €80 for a 40-minute ride taking up to six people. You pay extra if you want someone to warble opera arias for the duration. We went without the singer and thought it was a wonderfully atmospheric way to see the city.
Just remember that the Venice weather in winter can be cold, so wrap up and make sure your gondolier can also provide blankets. You’ll need them on the water.
Rialto Fish Market
This is one of our favourite places in Venice, as it’s where Venice is at its most alive. The Venice fish market, or Pescheria, is a short walk from Rialto Bridge. Kids will love the sight of squirming octopuses doomed to the dinner plate. Our favourite memory there is of a Venetian grandmother hauling a trolley full of fish to a traghetto, a no-frills gondola ferry across the Grand Canal.
The Rialto Market area also has many bars where you can sample some of the best cicchetti in Venice. Also spelt cicheti, these unique Venetian bar snacks vary from cheese to meat to seafood, and are usually accompanied by un ombra – a glass – of Veneto wine. We love Venetian food, and recommend trying some as part of an Italy food tour at some point.
A Day Trip To Burano Island
Burano is a fishing village in the north of the Venetian lagoon. You can reach it every half an hour by catching the motoscafo (small ferry) across the lagoon.
It’s one of the most beautiful villages in Europe, and one of the most popular day trips from Venice. It’s a half-hour boat ride from Fondamente Nove on the northern side of Venice. Burano is best known for the vivid, brightly painted houses all around the village. After a period of winter greyness, the riot of colour is just the lift your eyes and senses need.
Padua is a beautiful ancient city 40 minutes inland from Venice by train. It’s full of medieval treasures, including the incredible early 14th century fresco cycle by Giotto in the Cappella degli Scrovegni. It also has some amazing art in its other churches, including the stunning Basilica of St Anthony of Padua and the Cathedral Baptistery.
Padua (Padova in Italian) has always been overshadowed by its neighbour Venice. It’s a pity, as it’s one of the most underrated cities in Europe.
Does it flood in Venice ? Acqua Alta: Venice Italy flooding
If you’ve ever looked into planning Venice city breaks, you will probably have read about Venice flooding. Only a few days before we updated this post, the Venice water level was at its second highest since records began in 1923. During the inundation of 1966, the worst Venice flood on record, the water level reached 194 cm. In November 2019 it reached 187 cm, causing catastrophic damage.
When does Venice flood ?
The Venice flooding season runs from October to April. Acqua alta – which means high water – occurs when the tidal water level exceeds 110 cm. As the Venice tides reach this level, sirens sound around the city and wooden walkways, or duckboards, are put up in the most flood-prone areas – including St Mark’s Square – and the busiest thoroughfares. Add in global warming and rising sea levels, and the city is in serious danger.
So it’s opportune that, after decades of wrangling, the city’s new MOSE flood barrier is finally in place. This should make the Venice acqua alta floods a thing of the past for the near future – provided that someone remembers to close the gates, which sadly hasn’t always happened. It’s probably worth checking Venice long-distance tide forecasts before you go – some offer forecasts 30 days in advance, including Tide-Forecast.com.