| May 7th, 2024 | No comments

When is the best time of the year to visit Venice, and why? Good question, we wondered the same thing. And found what we consider to be a perfect answer. 

Over the years we’ve heard some negative stories from tourists about visiting Venice. These tales always sounded a tad weird to us. The city looks amazing in photos, videos, movies, and paintings so why are so many people having supposed negative experiences? Well, as it turns out some people were visiting Venice at the wrong time.

We recently visited Venice in the winter. Our visit was timed in the middle of January, a few weeks before the color and chaos of Carnival (Carnevale di Venezia). What did we think? We absolutely loved it! A certain hush falls over Venice during early morning or late nights in winter that is a wonder to experience and makes the city a joy to explore.  

So, if you are wondering which month is the best to experience the wonders of Venice, wonder no further. January in Venice is a fantastic time to experience the City of Canals. 

venice italy basilica santa maria canal
The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute as seen from the Ponte dell’Accademia bridge on a foggy day in Venice in January.

“In the winter Venice is like an abandoned theatre. The play is finished, but the echoes remain.” –  Arbit Blatas

We’re pretty huge advocates of off-season travel. Venice is yet another destination we are adding to our list of places to visit during off-season months. But…there’s always a but. Before we get into all of the positives of winter in Venice let’s briefly discuss the few negatives which mainly revolve around the weather.

Weather in Venice in the Winter

Winter in Europe tends to be a rather gray experience. Sunlight is a rare commodity in many European destinations. Venice is no different in this regard. You won’t be getting a tan during your visit. Coupled with shorter daylight hours you can expect no more than 8 or so hours of daytime during your winter visit to Venice. You might see the sun once in a while, or it might hide behind fog and clouds for your entire trip. It’s pretty much a crap shoot that you can’t really avoid. You might also get rained on, so having an umbrella ready is a good idea. 

Canal and boats near Campo San Barnaba, Venice Italy.
We had sun and blue skies for roughly half of our week in January.

On the plus side, the fog in Venice only adds to the atmosphere within the City of Canals. It can make the entire city seem even more magical, or mysterious. We wandered around on a few foggy mornings with grins on our faces, despite the fact that we were a tad chilly and a bit damp. 

You might have seen videos of Venice “flooding”. This phenomenon, known as acqua alta, is caused by rising tides and sea levels. The city has taken recent precautions to reduce the impact of rising tides, but there is no doubt that Venice is slowly sinking. Will this impact your winter visit to Venice? It’s impossible to predict, but as far as rain goes January and February rank as some of the lowest rainfall months in the city, historically. In our opinion it’s not something you should be overly worried about while planning your trip. 

Why Should You Visit Venice in the Winter?

With that out of the way, let’s discuss why visiting Venice in the winter is a fabulous idea. All of the photos in this article were taken during our January trip, so, you can get an idea of what the city looks like in the winter months. 

Bridge of Sighs on a rainy day in Venice, Italy.
The Bridge of Sighs on a lightly rainy January day still looks beautiful.

1. Fewer Tourists

The biggest downside to visiting a city as famous as Venice is the sheer amount of other tourists. Walking around the City of Canals can be quite a chore when every bridge and narrow alleyway is rammed full of pedestrians. Tourists tend to gather at the same few locations, creating bottleneck situations for pedestrians, both visitors and locals. This can lead to a frustrating experience, much jostling for prime photography spots and a general sense of being in a theme park. 

Hard data backs up what we witnessed ourselves. According to statistics from 2022 January sees a substantial decrease in visitors. There are literally 85% fewer tourists in Venice in January than in July. 

So, Venice in January is guaranteed to be less populated with day trippers than just about any other month of the year. This allows you to explore a less hectic and far less congested Venice. And that, fellow travelers, is a MAJOR win. 

Again, our own experiences in January support this thesis. We were able to explore the city on foot at our leisure and only encountered large crowds a couple of times during our week. At night we wandered down completely empty streets (and got lost in the maze of bridges and canals quite often), which was a real treat. 

Man watching the sunset on a pier near the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute in Venice
A January sunset over the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.

2. Lower Accommodation Prices

Does anyone reading this enjoy paying high prices for hotels and rental apartments? Yeah, we didn’t think so. 

Fewer visitors means less demand and demand drives prices up. If you are traveling on a tight budget saving even 10% on the cost of accommodation can be huge. Ergo, traveling in off-season months means you will pay less for your trip. According to Skyscanner, the least expensive months for hotels in Venice are November and January. 

Our personal experience backs this claim up as well. We stay in a nice apartment in the Cannaregio neighborhood for under $100 a night. We could have found cheaper accommodation if we wanted, and if you are traveling on a budget you can as well. 

So, if you want to save money while experiencing the wonders of Venice…you guessed it. Visit in January. 

People in Piazza San Marco in Venice.
Piazza San Marco in Venice in January.

3. It’s Better for the Locals

Part of being a responsible traveler is taking into account what is best for any destination you visit. Overtourism is a growing problem in many European destinations and Venice is a prime example. Much has been written on the topic of overtourism in recent years but not much has actually been done about it. 

Peak season has gotten so crowded in the City of Canals that the local government recently instituted a tourist tax on day-trippers.  Venice is a unique city in the debate about tourism, as its population is shrinking while the number of yearly visitors keeps increasing (Covid notwithstanding). In fact, there are more tourist beds in Venice than there are residents. That’s kind of wild if you think about it. 

So what can you do to help? Well, for starters, you can avoid contributing to the high-season crush by visiting Venice in, you guessed it, winter. By forgoing a visit to Venice in the summer, and visiting in winter instead, you are contributing to the betterment of the city as a whole. Spending your tourist money during off-season months helps support local economies, as well. 

So visiting Venice in January is a win for you, and a win for the locals. 

View of houses and boats along a canal in Venice.
The canals of Venice are gorgeous, regardless of the month or season.

4. Winter Festivities in Venice

How would you feel about witnessing Christmas lights twinkling over festive canals? Or experiencing the rambunctious and vibrant celebration of Carnival? If either of those things sounds appealing than you have even more reason to plan a trip to Venice in the winter. 

December in Venice gives you access to Venetian Christmas markets and allows you to experience festive lights and celebrations. Have a look at the video below to get an idea of what to expect from Venice around Christmas. 

YouTube video

Carnevale di Venezia is another reason to visit Venice in winter. The two-week celebration is filled with parades, concerts, performances, parties, and of course the famous masks associated with this Venetian tradition. It’s a spectacle like none other in the city. However, be warned. 3 million people take part in the celebration annually, and the city becomes extremely expensive and crowded. Hotels sell out months ahead of time, prices of EVERYTHING rise sharply, and getting around is a very slow, and at times arduous, undertaking. 

You should ONLY go to Venice during Carnivale if you are well prepared for it, months ahead of time. If you are looking to explore the city at a leisurely pace than avoid Venice in the two weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday like the plague (no pun intended). 

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute in Venice
The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute as seen from the Ponte dell’Accademia bridge in Venice in January.

Why You Should Visit Venice in Winter Final Thoughts

Venice is a spectacular city. It amazed us constantly, took our breath away, and made us stop and stare with wonder. Our week there was not enough. We would gladly go back, and eventually, we WILL return to the City of Canals. That being said, now that we experienced the city in January we would have a hard time visiting during the high season months, which start in April and end in October. 

Reduced prices and fewer tourists are very appealing for us, and make Venice a perfect winter destination city in Europe. Now, does that mean you shouldn’t visit Venice in Spring and Summer? No, it doesn’t. If your only chance to experience the city is in those months, take it. Venice is worth it. Just plan accordingly, and think about visiting other cities and towns in Northern Italy, such as Verona and Trento. 

As always, happy travels all! We’ll see you on the road! 

Written by Michael Miszczak

Michael has been traveling the world while writing, photographing, and sharing his stories and travel tips since 2010.

He is originally from New York City, and currently lives in Prague.

Posted in Blogs

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