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Venice in Winter

To avoid crowds and enjoy Venice at its best, put on your jacket and visit during the city's relatively mild winter months.

Winter snowman in Venice, Italy

ABOVE: A snowman poses alongside a Venice canal.

Travelers who hate crowds, take heed: The most pleasant time for a trip to Venice is in the winter, when tour groups are mostly absent and daytrippers are at home.

The numbers tell the story.

Just look at these official tourism statistics for a typical year:
Month Visitors
January 585,168
February 709,285
March 926,135
April 1,168,451
May 1,242,135
June 1,329,515
July 1,417,224
August 1,447,038
September 1,384,529
October 1,349,695
November 779,296
December 610,048

Source: Annuario del Turismo Dati 2019, Città di Venezia

You can see that the number of visitors in the quietest month (January) was only 40.4 percent of the visitor count during the busiest month (August).

For the five-month period from November through March, visitor traffic was roughly half of tourist visits from May through September.

When to come in winter:

Venice Carnival performersWe suggest coming any time from November through March except for holiday periods (e.g., Christmas through New Year's or Easter) and Carnival, unless you're willing to endure crowds and pay a premium for your hotel or vacation apartment.

January is especially nice, once you get past New Year's Day. Very few tourists are in town, and you can enjoy Venice as it was before the era of mass tourism.

Venice's winter weather:

Cheryl and Maggie in VeniceIf you're a native of Phoenix or Bangkok, you may find Venice too chilly for comfort during winter, but if you come from a more northerly climate, you may be pleasantly surprised.

 Even in January, Cheryl is quite warm in a wool coat (such as a Loden coat), and Durant is comfortable in a shell parka with a fleece sweater underneath.

Snow occurs now and then (see photos of a March snowstorm below), but rain and the occasional fog are seen more often than snowflakes. Fun fact: January, February, and March have less precipitation than July, August, and September do.

Acqua alta in VeniceAcqua alta, or tidal flooding, is a uniquely Venetian phenomenon that you might encounter between November and April, although it can occur at any time of the year. It affects low-lying areas of the city, especially around the the Piazza San Marco, but the flooding recedes with the tide.

For month-by-month Venice weather statistics, including temperature and precipitation, see Weatherbase's Venice pages (both Imperial and Metric versions).

What's open or closed in winter:

Fifteen or 20 years ago, it wasn't uncommon for hotels and other tourist businesses to shut down in late December or early January. That still happens occasionally, but for the most part, anything that's open in summer is likely to be open in winter, except for outdoor restaurant terraces. Often, you can even sit at outdoor café tables in good weather.

To learn more about Venice in winter, see the photos below:

Winter photos: January-February

Venice Christmas lights

Venice's Christmas lights are often left up until well into the new year. These lights are just beyond the Rialto Bridge (where the couple is standing), on the San Marco side of the Grand Canal.

Venice foggy morning in Campo Santa Margherita

Venice dogs in coats

The winter may be mild in Venice, but from November through March, no self-respecting Venetian dog would be seen without a coat or sweater.

Frito-Inn, Venice

Frito-Inn french fries

The Frito-Inn is on the Campo San Leonardo, along the main route from Venice's railroad station to the Piazza San Marco. Even in January and February, it attracts locals and visitors who are happy to eat its fish, pommes frites, and other fried goodies outdoors.

Gelato in Venice

In Venice, there's no off-season for gelato.

Citrus tree in Venice

Venice florist shop

The citrus tree in the top photo was on display outside a shop in January, while the flowers below were on the pavement in February. (This may be intriguing if you're from Moscow or Minneapolis but old hat if you live in a warmer clime.)

Acqua Alta in Piazza San Marco

Venice Acqua Alta

Acqua alta, or temporary flooding caused by higher-than-normal tides and winds blowing up the Adriatic, is most common between October and April, although it can occur in low-lying areas such as the Piazza San Marco at any time of the year. It lasts a few hours and recedes with the tide.

Note: The dog in the upper photo is our late Maggie, a Bearded Collie who loved Venice in the winter. You can read her "Maggie in Venice" blog here.

Seagull on piling with snow, Venice

Venice does get snow from time to time, but the local seagulls take it in stride.

Lido in February

The Lido di Venezia's beaches are quiet in January and February, but they do attract locals (especially joggers) and intrepid visitors even in the dead of winter.

Maggie in Venice

Maggie in the Campiello Albrizzi

Maggie goes for a winter walk past the Spirito Santo vaporetto stop with the co-publisher of Venice for Visitors and later enjoys a snuggle with schoolgirls in the Campiello Albrizzi (San Polo).

Venice foggy day

Fog in Venice

On foggy days, it can be hard to see. Ships and even the local water buses rely on radar to avoid collisions. (Both of these photos were taken on the Zattere, the pedestrian promenade alongside Venice's Giudecca Canal.)

Closed for winter vacation sign in Venice

Gondoliers in Venice during January

Some hotels, B&Bs, and other businesses close in late December and early January, but gondoliers ply their trade year-round.

Pigeons at fountain in Venice

Venice is surprisingly close to the Italian Alps, but at sea level, temperatures are mild enough for water fountains to flow without freezing even in January and February. (That's convenient for Venice's many pigeons, who enjoy the free--and excellent--drinking water.)

Rialto Fish Market in winter

At the Rialto Markets, the fish is fresh (not frozen) in the semi-open air.

Winter photos: Carnival

Venice Carnival photography

After a quiet January, the Carnevale di Venezia brings crowds of visitors to Venice. Carnival dates vary from year to year, coinciding with the end of Lent on the Christian church calendar.

If you're tempted to visit during Carnival, book a hotel room far in advance, and be prepared for crowds (especially in the Piazza San Marco area, and on weekends).

Venice Carnival performer

Carnival participants often spend thousands of euros on their costumes. Many are from France (which may be a reason why they seldom speak but communicate through mime-like gestures).

Carnival in Venice

Venice Carnival

Venice Carnival scene

The performers are proud of their costumes and are usually willing to stop and pose for photographers. If you're a cute dog like Maggie, a child, or a fetching adult, they may even ask you to pose with them.

Girl at Venice Carnival

Child in Venice Carnevale costume

Speaking of children, the most devoted Carnevale participants bring their kids and fit them out in costumes.

Toddler in Venice Carnival costume

Glove costume at Venice Carnival

Children in Venice's neighborhoods also get into the Carnival mood, even though the city's modern Carnevale is primarily a tourist event. (Carnival had nearly died out until promoters resuscitated it in the 1970s.)

Rowing during Venice Carnival

Flight of the Rat, Venice Carnival

If the crowds around the Piazza San Marco are too much for you, you might prefer alternative events such as the "Flight of the Rat" (a play on the Carnival's signature "Flight of the Angel" opening act).

These photos were taken along the Cannaregio Canal, where the audience consisted mostly of Venetians.

Caarnevale in Campo Santa Margherita, Venice

In this photo from Saturday festivities in the Campo Santa Margherita, university students pose with their homemade interpretations of Carnival costumes.

British performers at Venice Carnival

Will Brexit deter the UK's Carnival fans from colonizing Venice?

Cat poster at Venice Carnival

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a cat.

Frittelle in Venice

Frittelle may be the nicest aspect of Carnevale, at least to those of who prefer fritters to crowds. These fried (and frequently filled) doughnuts are a traditional Carnival food, and they're often available from mid- or late January until just after Lent.

Winter photos: March

Venice snowfal

Maggie the Bearded Collie in Venice

As in many other cities, March can be a transitional month in Venice. During the winter when these photos were taken, the city's biggest snowfall came in March.

Campo Santa Margherita with snow

In the Campo Santa Margherita, locals who normally contended with acqua alta trudged through snow instead of canal water.

Umbrellas on a Venice bridge in the snow

Other residents and tourists used umbrellas to fend off the falling snow.

Shoveling snow in Venice, Italy

Salt on Venice fondamenta

Salt on Venice bridge steps

City workers shoveled snow and scattered salt on Venice's bridges and pavements.

Venice boat in the snow

After the snow stopped, this boat owner knocked the snow from his gunwales before setting out on his daily rounds.

Priests with umbrellas in Venice

Tourists on bridge in Venice

Venice on a rainy day

Rain is a more common form of precipitation than snow in Venice, although it occurs an average of only 6.6 days in March.

Woman and dog in Venice

Couple on Giudecca Canal, Venice

As the month progresses, the days get warmer and spring feels imminent.

Gondolas on Grand Canal

Barge in Venice

Water taxi in Venice

Gondolas are out in force, barge owners switch from jackets to vests or shirtsleeves, and pilots of water taxis open their roofs so passengers can enjoy the views and fresh air.

Easter eggs in Venice supermarket

As Easter approaches, supermarkets feature colored eggs in their display cases, and candy shops gear up for Pasqua.

  • Tip: If you come to Venice in March or April, try to avoid the weeks immediately before and after Easter, when the city is packed with tourists.

Also see:
Planning Your Trip to Venice
Introducing Venice (for first-time visitors)

About the author:

Durant Imboden photo.Durant Imboden has written about Venice, Italy since 1996. He covered Venice and European travel at for 4-1/2 years before launching Europe for Visitors (including Venice for Visitors) with Cheryl Imboden in 2001.

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