Venice is one of the world's most enchanting and romantic cities, so just imagine what this floating city would look like at Christmas!! During the Christmas season, Venice, a city already steeped in centuries of rich history and magical beauty, becomes even more spellbinding adorned with twinkling lights and festive charm.
As you stroll through the narrow, winding alleyways, the enticing smell of roasted chestnuts will bring a certain Christmas feel. As you listen to the Christmas carols resounding off ancient stone walls, and twinkling lights reflecting off of foggy canals, you will realise what a wonderful time it is, to be alive! The crisp winter air is filled with romance, festivity, and a hint of mysticism, making Christmas in Venice a truly unforgettable experience.
How to Get to Venice
By Plane: One of the busiest airports in Italy is Marco Polo International Airport, which serves as the entry point to Venice. You can also reach the "Queen of the Adriatic" from the Treviso Airport, which is about an hour's drive north of Venice.
By Train: The Santa Lucia Train Station is the terminus for all rail links in Venice. The majority of trains that arrive from other parts of Italy and various other European towns terminate at this station, which is situated within the lagoon.
The Mestre station is another important train station to consider if you wish to catch a train to Venice. This one is situated on the Italian peninsula. After arriving in Mestre, you would have to board one of the ATVO or ACTV buses.
Venice During Christmas
Venice at Christmas is a wonderfully magical place. A festive atmosphere is hard to resist as the city's historic buildings and canals are festooned with lovely Christmas lights and ornaments. At this time of year, the Grand Canal in particular is a sight to behold. Citywide special events like concerts and markets are organised, and ice rinks like the one in Campo San Polo have become popular gathering places for both locals and visitors.
Best Time to Visit Venice
Usually, early December, when the Christmas markets start to open and the city is magnificently decorated, is the ideal time to travel to Venice for the holidays. You get to witness a less crowded, more laid-back atmosphere that can also be enjoyed at this time. The Christmas spirit, however, permeates the entire month of December and It even lasts into January, with the Italian holiday custom of La Befana being celebrated on January 6th as its main celebration!
Tips for Planning Your Christmas Trip to Venice
- Make sure to book your flights and accommodations well in advance, as Venice is a popular destination during the holiday season.
- Make sure to dress warmly, as the weather in Venice can be cold during Christmas.
- Do bring comfortable shoes, as you'll be doing a lot of walking since Venice doesn't have many motor vehicles to get you to places.
- Don't forget your camera, as you'll want to capture all the beautiful sights!
- Don't forget to buy a Vaporetto Pass: For convenient transit throughout your Christmas vacation in Venice, you'll need a Vaporetto pass. This card enables you to move around the city at your own pace for 75 minutes starting at the time of validation.A 75-minute ticket costs 7.50 euros, but if you intend to remain for longer, you should think about buying a tourist travel card, which can help you save time and money with options for one to seven days.
- What is Acqua Alta and why should you know about it?
During your stay in Venice, you might come across an incident of acqua alta, or a rise in the tide that floods part of the city could occur in December and, consequently, around Christmas. These floods often only reach a few millimetres, and the city is well-equipped to handle them.
You are only required to halt your excursions when the acqua alta is very destructive, with flooding that significantly disrupts city life and takes only 2 or 3 hours for things to return to normal.
There is a website that issues warnings about the likelihood of this occurrence and its level of seriousness. You will have to rely on luck after that because it is only accurate for 72 hours. The city will blast sirens in the morning to alert residents when flooding is expected to be severe.
What to do in Venice During Christmas
Stroll the Piazza San Marco
The first sight to greet you when you arrive in Venice are the joyful Christmas lights and decorations adorning the city's stunning architecture. The Piazza San Marco, the city's main public square, takes centre stage, boasting a vibrant Christmas tree that seems to touch the stars. Its surrounding historical buildings take on an ethereal quality under the glow of twinkling Christmas lights. Don't forget to visit Basilica di San Marco which is absolutely breathtaking during the holiday season!
Glide Along the Waters in a Gondola
Venice is known for the famous Gondolas and gliding through the decorated canals will definitely be an experience! As you glide along the serene canals on a gondola, weaving its way past grand palazzos and under majestic bridges dotted with delicate Christmas decorations and lit-up ornaments, there's a quiet magic in the air through the Grande Canal and the waterways reflecting the Christmas lights, creating a world full of sparkling mirages. It's the quintessential romantic winter evening. A gondola ride is a quintessential Venetian experience, and it's even more magical during Christmas. The canals are lit up with twinkling lights, and you'll feel like you're in a fairy tale. Just like Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from the Disney movie Tangled!
Shop From the Christmas Markets
Don't miss out on the traditional Christmas markets. The most popular is Campo Santo Stefano's 'Natale in Laguna.' Fairy lights, colourful artisanal decorations, and rows of stalls selling the finest Italian Christmas treats create the cosiest yuletide atmosphere. You get to buy handmade Venetian crafts, toys, ornaments, and intricate Murano glass, which also make the perfect gifts to take back home.
Attend the Christmas Mass at San Basilica Marco
A must-attend event is the Christmas Eve Mass in Venice's famed Basilica San Marco. The historic church is transformed during this beloved event, with additional candles lighting up every nook and cranny.
The Piazza San Marco is illuminated by the Christmas tree's many sparkling lights, which create a mesmerising holiday ambience. The mass provides a special spiritual encounter that perfectly encapsulates Christmas time in Venice.
Visit the Doge's Palace
The Doge's Palace is one of the most iconic buildings in Venice, and it's open for tours during Christmas. The palace is decorated with beautiful Christmas ornaments, and you can learn about the history of Venice while you're there.
The Doge, the head of the Venetian Republic, resides in the Doge's Palace, which served as the former location of the Venetian government. The palace was no longer used as a dwelling following the fall of the Venetian Republic; instead, it housed several administrative offices until it began to deteriorate.
In 1923, the Gothic palace opened as a museum following renovation. It's currently one of Venice's most popular museums!
The benefit of visiting Venice in the winter is that there are a lot fewer tourists around, and the Doge's Palace is no exception!
Attend a Christmas Concert
There are several Christmas concerts held in Venice during the holiday season. You can find concerts in churches, concert halls, and even in the streets.
Or you can attend a concert including traditional Christmas music or contemporary music. Without a doubt, the most significant concerts are those that you may go to in the La Fenice Theatre, one of the most significant opera houses in the opera world.
Gaze at the Glass Christmas Tree
Natale di Vetro, or Christmas in Glass, is an exquisite annual festival held in Murano, the world's glass centre. You will be amazed to see a seven-metre-tall Christmas tree made completely of sparkling glass from December 5 to January 6!
This glittering exhibition, which is beautifully placed in Campo Santo Stefano square, displays the extraordinary talent and inventiveness of Murano's famed glass workers.
During their winter stay, you will definitely feel that this stunning show ignites your holiday mood!
Enjoy the La Befana Boat Race
The climax of Venice's festive season is the 'Befana Regatta,' which takes place on January 6th – Epiphany Day. Men dressed as 'La Befana' (an Italian Christmas witch who traditionally brings gifts) scull their way down the Grand Canal in a gruelling and entertaining race. You can witness the locals as well as tourists gathering around in Venice's lagoon for this well-known event to witness the exhilarating race.
The Befana is a witch-like character connected to Christmas in Italy and has its roots in prehistoric beliefs about rebirth and the approach of spring. Don't miss this special opportunity to experience Italian culture and add more excitement to your trip to Venice!
Stroll through the Christmas-decorated Streets
In addition to being beautiful on their own, Venice's Christmas lights produce an amazing effect when they are reflected in the city's canals. A popular tourist activity is simply strolling through the streets and squares and admiring the old structures.
St. Mark's Square has the most beautiful lighting, but the rest of the city is not far behind. Among other things, the image of the lit Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal is impossible to overlook.
I suggest taking one of the little excursions on the Grand Canal to observe the illumination from a different angle. From the boat, you can observe how the finest bridges, churches, and palaces in Venice are decked out for Christmas.
As dusk blankets the city, end your day with a stroll through the illuminated streets, you should also check out the nativity scenes displayed in various churches across the city. These 'presepio' are works of art and an integral part of Christmas in Italy.
Imagine winding yet picturesque places leading to grand, historic squares filled with merry crowds and the aroma of panettone and vin brule. Yes, that brings me to what we’ve been secretly waiting for – the Christmas feast!
What to Eat in Venice During Christmas
Venetian Christmas cuisine is known for its richness and variety, and no holiday trip would be complete without indulging in the local festive fare. Starting with 'vigilia,' an Italian tradition of a seafood dinner on Christmas Eve, you can savour delicacies like spaghetti con le vongole (spaghetti with clams), baccala mantecato (creamed cod), and the classic 'fritto misto’ (mixed fried fish).
On Christmas day, Venetians enjoy 'bigoli in salsa,' a dish of thick spaghetti bathed in a savoury sauce of onions and anchovies - surprisingly tasty, I assure you! This is usually followed by a roast accompanied by various side dishes.
Venetians also have a sweet tooth, especially during Christmas. Special Christmas treats include the famous Italian panettone, a festive sweet bread loaf studded with candied fruits and raisins. Then there’s pandoro, originally from Verona, a light, star-shaped cake dusted with powdered sugar. And an absolute must-try is the 'fritoe,' little sweet or savoury fried dumplings filled with raisins and pine nuts - a Venetian speciality.
Christmas in Venice is a magical blend of enchanting locale, rich history, fabulous food, and captivating traditions. It's a time when the already charming city takes on a mystical quality, transporting you to a world of festive wonder. So let’s raise a glass of Prosecco in front of a warming fire and make a toast to 'Natale a Venezia' –Christmas in Venice!
If you're unsure of what to have on your trip to Venice, you can go to any restaurant overlooking the beautiful canal and ask for any of the following. I'm sure you won't be disappointed!
- Baccalà alla Vicentina (Vicenza-style codfish)
- Fegato alla Veneziana (Venetian-style liver)
- Risotto al Nero di Seppia (Risotto with cuttlefish ink)
- Tortelli di Zucca (Pumpkin ravioli)
- Pandoro (Venetian Christmas cake)
- Panettone (Italian Christmas cake)
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