Venice, Italy is one of the most unique experiences in Europe. It's famous for its winding canals, delicious food, and beautiful sights by the ocean.
There are so many incredible things to do in Venice that will make your stay unforgettable. From sampling coffee at the best cafes in Venice to exploring the characterful islands in Venice, you'll be giddy with travelers' delight.
If you're trying to figure out when the best time to visit Venice is, then February is the perfect time to dive into this gorgeous city. This is because February is when the Carnival of Venice takes place.
If you haven't heard of the Venice Carnival yet, you're in for a treat. It's definitely an experience of a lifetime and something you won't want to miss out on! Before you book your February flight tickets, let me give you all the details that'll help make your trip unforgettable.
What is the Carnival of Venice?
The Venice Carnival is a centuries-old tradition with a rich history. It's referred to locally as Carnevale di Venezia. First celebrated in the 11th century, the carnival was originally a way for Venetians to celebrate the start of spring and fertility.
It was banned in 1797 by the Austrian Empire but was revived in 1979. Nowadays, the Venice Carnival is a significant tourist attraction, drawing visitors from all over the world. In and around Venice, thousands of spectators attend masquerade balls, parties, parades, shows, and historical reenactments during this period.
When is the Carnival of Venice celebrated?
The Venice Carnival takes place each year in February, although the exact date varies. It begins around two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on Shrove Tuesday.
The 2023 Venice Carnival will occur between Saturday, February 4, and Tuesday, February 21, 2023.
What is the Carnival of Venice known for?
The Venice Carnival is known for its beautiful and lavish costumes. If you're thinking about the type of costumes worn at carnivals, such as in Brazil, then you're in for a complete surprise. Venetian Carnival costumes are genuinely one of a kind.
Carnavaliers wear elaborate hand-made costumes and masks, so you can't tell who is who. This tradition goes back to a time when the Venetians reinterpreted ancient Roman and Greek festivals. By masking up, you could hide differences in social class and indulge in all kinds of hedonistic pleasures without getting caught.
What to do at the Venice Carnival
It's easy to participate in the festivities dressed up in a beautiful costume, as there are plenty of costume rental stores across the city. Depending on your chosen costume, the rental price ranges from 150 euros to 800 euros.
It's not just about dressing up at this magical festival, there are plenty of other activities to partake in. Enjoy a street performance, try a Venetian mask-making class or party on an old Venetian boat dressed up in full regalia.
In general, Venice isn't one of the cheapest destinations, and this is especially true during carnival season. Don't feel compelled to buy a ticket to one of the many balls that can easily cost you around 500 euros. As the whole city will be transformed, it'll be a magical experience already.
If you want to add an extra activity to your itinerary, you can join a Venetian street food tour.
When is the best time to visit the Venice Carnival?
A lot is going on, so research what sounds most interesting and plan accordingly.
The actual carnival is only one day, but the activities span an entire week. And even in the weeks leading up to the big day, there are plenty of festivities going on.
If you'd rather avoid the biggest crowds and highest prices, go in the earlier weeks. You'll still get the festival feeling, but you won't have to elbow through the crowds.
The Grand Opening
For example, one of the top things to attend is the Grand opening which runs on the first weekend of the Venice Carnival.
The first official event is Festa Veneziana, a spectacular water show that will delight you with incredible aquatic performances, traditional boats, costumes, and music.
The day after kicks off with the carnival's first regatta, the Regatta delle Columbine. These events are very crowded so arrive at least an hour or two before the start so you can be assured you'll see something.
Keep in mind that the official day is the busiest, as well as the week leading up to it. This timeframe is when most activities and events happen.
In the weeks following Carnival, Venice tends to slow down since it is the final big event before the fasting of Ash Wednesday and Lent begins.
Top tips to make the most of your trip to the Venice Carnival:
Check your dates!
As I mentioned earlier, the date changes every year. So double-check this before you book your flights.
Book accommodation in advance
Book your accommodation as soon as possible. Affordable housing in Venice isn't readily available at the best of times. So during the Venice Carnival, securing a spot ASAP is crucial! Here are some of the top affordable hostels in Venice to help you narrow the options.
You want to ensure you book your accommodation as soon as you know you'll be traveling there. Ideally, you want to do this around 12 months in advance.
Stay in Mestre
If you can't find reasonable accommodation in Venice, you can opt for booking a spot in Mestre. This town on the mainland is very easily accessible from Venice. Some buses and trains run between Mestre and Venice every few minutes, so it's not a hassle.
Pack comfy walking shoes
Pack comfortable shoes! Even if you plan on dressing up in a fancy gown, you'll be on your feet the entire day, so come prepared.
Pack for the cold weather
While everyone is partying on the streets, it's easy to forget that it will still be winter when the festival is on. So if you're packing, don't come unprepared for the cold or be fooled into thinking Northern Italy doesn't get cold in winter.
You'll also want to pack a sturdy umbrella, so those sudden downpours don't catch you off-guard and ruin your beautiful costume.
Experience the Venetian Carnival!
Planning an unforgettable trip to the Venice Carnival needs a lot of pre-planning and organization. There are tons of things to keep track of, including what beautiful costume you'll wear.
Fortunately, we have just the tool for you!