Venice needs no introduction. In fact, it’s way too popular. We are not complaining! We are guilty as charged and have visited the city in summer and spring. Venice is gorgeous even packed! However, Venice in winter is even better. You will be able to actually see and enjoy the city.
In all honesty, we don’t recommend visiting Venice in high season. To begin with, it’s way too hot. Temperatures reach 85 F (30 C) easily. Then of course, you have to deal with unbelievable crowds! Even if you book everything in advance, you will spend most of your time queuing everywhere.
Come December, everything changes in Venice. You will have far more space to enjoy your time. Not only you, but locals too. The city has a totally different vibe in winter. In winter in Venice, you can choose where to sit down and enjoy your favorite drink and splendid views.
Why Visit Venice in Winter
Over 5 million tourists visit Venice each year for a total of almost 13 million overnight stays! Some 3.5 million people stay in the city center. The vast majority arrive from June to October. April is the highest month for Italian tourists. Thus, the best time to visit Venice is from November to March.
The city’s streets are narrow and the squares are not that big. In summer, you kind of have to elbow yourself all the time. Come winter, you can walk with no problem. Granted, the main plaza and the most popular spots are not empty, but you will be comfortable.
Once you are done with the main attractions, we strongly recommend venturing out. We’ve spent long periods and know where to go in Venice for an authentic experience. Some 250,000 people live in the city. However, over 800,000 live in the metropolitan area. Venice offers much more than its famous landmarks!
There are so many people in Venice during high season that hotels can pretty much charge what they want. Everybody wants to visit the city, especially in spring and summer. Most Europeans take their vacation in the summer months and at the same time. Therefore, hotels are always full!
Indulging yourself is what to do in Venice in winter. Since there are fewer tourists, hotels lower their prices considerably during the low season. Especially the grand hotels. Therefore, it’s the best time to splurge and stay in luxury. Venice has some of the best hotels in Italy.
Tickets to the attractions are the same all year round. The same can be said about food and drinks. There isn’t any difference throughout the year. However, you can choose your favorite restaurant, sit on a terrace, and stay late having wine. Nobody will rush you.
Things to Do in Venice in Winter
Wonder about the Piazza San Marco
Of all the things to do in Venice in winter, spending time in the Piazza San Marco is mandatory. The 16th Century square is one of the most beautiful on the planet. The square is so magnificent that you can’t move around in the summer. It’s crazy.
Not that is fully empty in winter, but you can actually enjoy it. St. Mark’s Basilica presides over the plaza. Look out for the 300 feet (100 m) tall bell tower next to the temple. The Campanile is a sight to behold. The 1499 Torre dell’Orologio is in front.
Beneath the tower, you will see a gorgeous marble archway. The Old Library is to the south. You have two museums to visit: the Museo Correr, and the Archaeology Museum. Visit the piazza all through the day. Have coffee or a cocktail at the old Caffè Qadri, overlooking the square.
Visit the Impressive Palazzo Ducale
The Palazzo Ducale (Doge Palace) is the most lavish palace in Venice. The gothic beauty is next to the Piazzetta di San Marco, a section of the plaza. From the Cathedral, you’ll spot the Carta Gate. Continue beneath the Saint Mark colonnade to the Riva Degli Schiavoni.
The iconic promenade is the best place to see killer sunsets. Another way to reach the Palace is through the Ponte Della Paglia next to the sea. From there, you can photograph another iconic bridge: the Bridge of Sighs. There’s a Water bus and gondola stop after the Paglia bridge.
Doge Palace was built in 1340. It was the seat of government of the Republic of Venice until Napoleon conquered the city in 1797. The palace became a museum in 1923. The collection inside is as magnificent as the building. You can buy your ticket here and skip the line.
Visit Historic Churches
There are so many churches in Venice that you can spend weeks visiting them. There are all worth your time. In Dorsoduro, the grandest is Santa Maria Della Salute. The massive church presides over the canal. The views from the stairway are epic. The Church di Santa Maria Della Visitazione is nearby.
Titian, the best Venetian Renaissance painter, is buried inside the Basilica Santa Maria Gloriosa di Ferrari. The gothic temple is from the 13th Century and homes paintings by the artist. The Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli is in Cannaregio. The vaulted ceiling inside the marble temple will leave you speechless.
The Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo is behind. It’s the burial place of 25 Doges, the rulers of Venice. Venetians call it San Zanipolo. The massive temple was finished in the 1430s! Don’t forget to check the chapel inside the Basilica. The Madonna de la Pace is there.
Take a Gondola as a Tourist or a Local
Evidently, you have to take a ride along the lagoon and canals. For private tours in a gondola, we recommend these tours. You can go alone, with your significant other, or with friends. You can also hire a shared gondola tour here. It’s a great way of discovering the city and meeting cool people.
The public gondolas are bigger than the private ones and can accommodate up to 10 passengers. As a tourist you pay 2 euros. Two gondoliers power the gondolas. Thus, it’s the most environmentally-friendly way of touring the city. Supposedly, there are 6 routes, but in reality, two operate consistently.
The most popular is the Santa Sofia gondola, close to Ca’ d’Oro Palace. You can also take the San Tomà gondola. The other two that operate regularly are from Riva del Vin to Riva del Carbon and the Dogana gondola. No need to queue if you visit Venice in winter.
Visit a Museum or Two
There are 100 museums in Venice. We kid you not! You can spend weeks visiting them. The best ones line the Grand Canal. The Ca’ Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art is a grand marble palace overlooking the Grand Canal. The Oriental Art Museum occupies the top floors of the building.
The Fondazione Prada Venice building is a 1 minute walk from Ca’ Pesaro. The gorgeous marble palace hosts the best contemporary exhibits in the city. The Natural History Museum of Venice is also on the Grand Canal. The 13th Century Byzantine palace is gorgeous and the library inside is stunning.
The Wagner Museum is on the other side of the canal. Wagner died in the lavish palace. The Grimani Palace used to be the home of Antonio Grimani, the Doge of Venice. Today, it’s a splendid museum seldom visited by tourists. The monumental staircase and the Tribuna will take your breath away.
Get a Book at Venice’s Nicest Bookstore
The Acqua Alta Bookstore used to be a hidden gem. Today, tourists from all over the world flock to this bookstore in the summer. In winter, you will be able to search for books and enjoy the atmosphere. Yes, you can also buy the iconic cat postcards.
The bookstore is south of Saint Giovanni and Paolo Cathedral, on a side street next to Longa Santa Maria Formosa Street. To get there, you have to cross the Conzafelzi Bridge. From the bridge, you can see the Tetta Palace. The area is beautiful so take your time and enjoy it.
You have several rooms full of books to discover. Since the city used to flood so frequently, the books were stacked in tubs and boats! The name means high water. Don’t forget to go to the garden behind the bookstore. You will find the most adorable cats in Venice inside the bookstore.
Get Lost on the Streets of Cannaregio
Cannaregio is one of our favorite areas in Venice. There are hardly any tourists here! In the 16th Century, the area used to be the Jewish Ghetto. It’s north of Saint Mark Square and faces Murano. You have to visit Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro. The 15th-century palace is dedicated to renaissance antiquities.
If you are into shopping, go to Nova Street. The European Cultural Center Palazzo Michiel is on the street. The area is full of vintage and alternative stores. For food and coffee, head to Fondamenta dei Ormesini, overlooking the Misericordia River. Our favorite coffee house in the city is here.
Torrefazione Cannagerio is a local’s hangout with specialty coffee and great snacks. Il Paradiso Perduto is on the same promenade. We love the unpretentious but delicious tavern. They play live music and have poetry readings! Venice’s nicest park is in Cannagerio. Tall trees and all sorts of plants populate Parco Savorgnan, near Santa Lucia train station.
Mingle with the Locals in Dorsoduro
Dorsoduro is one of the few neighborhoods in Venice that’s still under the radar. You won’t see many tourists here. Dorsoduro is west of Saint Marks square. Several campuses of the University of Venice and the University of Foscari are in Dorsoduro. That’s why the atmosphere is so lively.
We usually hang out around Campo Santa Marguerita Square. It’s one of the nicest in Venice. The coffee houses that dot the plaza are a great place to mingle with the locals. Our favorite is Caffe Rosso. For pizza, we go to Al Volo, also on the plaza.
For cocktails, aperitifs, and coffee with epic views under the sun, go to Al Chioschetto. Don’t forget to check the Peggy Guggenheim Collection on the Grand Canal. The Gallerie dell’Accademia is a museum of 13th to 18th Centuries Venetian art. Cross the bridge in front and check out Campo Santo Estefano square.
Attend the World Famous Venice Carnival
If you can plan your trip, you must visit Venice during its world-famous carnival. We did once and had the time of our lives. The Carnival happens every year around Holy Week. The Carnival is almost 1000 years old!
Tourists and locals come together in the streets of the city to celebrate. We simply can’t explain how intoxicating it is. Granted, it does get pretty crowded, but you’ll have so much fun you won’t mind. The Carnival begins with the Ceremonia Sull’Aqua. Venetian boats cruise the canal and then sell food!
Another important party is the Festa Delle Marie. Pretty ladies parade around Saint Mark square in the afternoon wearing fabulous clothes. The main event is the Flight of the Angel, also in Saint Mark. There are several masquerade balls all around the city. There are options, but you need to book in advance.
Go on a Day Trip
If you have enough time, we strongly recommend going on a day trip to nearby places. Evidently, Murano and Burano are the closest options. Murano is the city in front of Venice famous all over the world for its crystal. You can take a ferry from Cannaregio and be there in an hour.
Burano is a bit further away. You can also take a ferry from Venice. Boats leave from Canareggio and take 1.5 hours to get there. The little fishing town is absolutely charming and almost empty of tourists in winter. If you don’t want to go alone, these are good options.
If you are looking for an off-the-beaten-track destination, we recommend Bassano di Grappa. You can take a train there. The journey is an attraction in itself and takes over an hour. However, Bassano is so gorgeous that you should spend at least a night there.
Where to Stay in Venice
You have to stay at the Hotel Metropole Venezia, one of the best in Italy. No wonder Freud and Proust were guests. No other than Thomas Mann stayed here. The hotel features a garden with ancient trees, terraces, and a sumptuous spa with a pool. Book a room with lagoon views, and you will never forget Venice.
We spent a weekend at the incredible Hotel Londra Palace Venezia and loved it. The luxurious palace is a 5-minute walk to Saint Mark Square. The plush rooms feature original antiques and art. The best ones have a balcony and lagoon views. Enjoy your complimentary breakfast with epic views.
Considering its class and location, Hotel Carlton On the Grand Canal is one of the best places to stay in Venice. You can walk everywhere or take the Vaporetto in the corner. The rooms feature extra comfy beds. The complimentary breakfast is delicious and they serve coffee, tea, and cookies all day long.
Moving Around Venice
The city is pretty small. Consequently, if you stay in the center all you need to do is walk. Winter in Venice is mild, so you will only need a jacket, proper shoes, and an umbrella. You can go from one end to the other in half an hour.
The famous vaporettos are the city’s buses. They connect Venice with the nearby islands of Murano, Burano, and Lido. Inside the city, they go along the Grand Canal. You can buy a 75-minute card, or 1, 2, 3, or 7-day passes.
To get to the city from the airport, you can take a public bus, or a vaporetto. Though the former is considerably cheaper, the latter is a great way to enjoy the views of the Venetian Lagoon. From January 16, 2023, all tourists visiting Venice on a day trip will have to pay an entry fee. Depending on the season, it will cost between 3 and 10 euros.