What to do in Venice at Christmas

Top 5 things to do in Venice at Christmas

November 22, 2018 Francesca

A trip to Venice is always a good idea, no matter the season, and it should be on everyone’s bucket list at least once in a lifetime. But when it comes to Christmas time, it is probably one of the most underrated Italian cities. Many of you probably would choose Rome,  Florence  or Naples to enjoy this special season, but Venice has much to offer even at Christmas, though the weather could not be very good.
The magic of Christmas gives Venice canals a romantic and fascinating touch, mixed with the melancholic soul of the city which will convey a very special atmosphere. Plus, this is the less crowded period in Venice, since spring, summer and autumn are the busiest months. So, strolling around the alleys of Venice will be much easier and you will have the feeling to have the city and its Christmas lights just for you.
What to do in Venice at Christmas? We list here some fun activities and places to visit for those who are in Venice in this special time of the year.
Check our available activities in Venice: we have cultural walking tours, food & wine activities, full day trips  and much more! 

1. Shopping and Christmas markets

Every year the centre of Venice is lightened up with Christmas lights, from the St. Mark’s Square’s colonnades to the Rialto Bridge, you will also find decorated gondolas!
It is perfect to walk across the centre having a look at the shops for traditional souvenirs, but you will also find Christmas markets. The most important one is usually held in Strada nova in Sestiere Cannaregio, between Campo San Felice and Campo dei Santi Apostoli. The stands offer traditional Christmas delicacies and handmade Christmas objects, perfect for a great souvenir or gift from Venice!
It would be nice only to stroll around the cdecorate city centre, perhaps with a walking tour with a professional guide
For those of you interested in peculiar Christmas gifts, we suggest a visit in Murano, the island known for the glass production: you will find here some peculiar Christmassy glass souvenirs. It worths a visit just only to admire the seven-meter-tall glass Christmas tree in the main square of the island, along with many other glass decorations!
Also, do not forget that in a couple of months there will be the great celebration of the Carnival of Venice. That is why it will be easy to find classic Carnival masks and typical Carnival-related obejcts.

Shopping in Venice

2. Venetian Christmas dishes

As in many other Italian regions, also in Venice there are some traditional dishes that must be present in each kitchen of locals for Christmas eve or during the holidays.
A typical Venetian Christmas meal usually start with appetizers: a mix of salami and ham, with typical local products like “soppressa” and “luganega sausage”. The first course can be chosen among capon broth, risotto with radicchio or homemade gnocchi with duck sauce. And no…it is not over! There must be space also for polenta and baccalá, boiled beef "al cren" (horseradish sauce) with a side of mashed potatoes.
For sure, you cannot miss the dessert: the pandoro, which is the typical Italian Christmas dessert, but its origin are in Verona, not far form Venice!
Useless to say that every proper Christmas meal in Venice needs to be paired with excellent local wine: a spritz for the appetizers and full bodied wines such as the Amarone of Valpolicella or a Bardolini Superiore.
For a final toast to Christmas and the new Year, it is mandatory to have a Prosecco of Valdobbiadene!
Don't miss a tour of the typical venetian "bacari" with wine and food tastings

Christmas in Venice

3. Icesakting rinks

Iceskating is a beloved activity in Venice for Christmas. The most popular one among locals and tourists is located in Campo San Polo, an open-air ice-skating rink where both beginners and experts can exercise and have great time while skating surrounded by music and relax with an hot chocolate or other Christmas delicacies sold in the surrounding. There is of course the chance to rent the equipment on the spot.
Back to the mainland, in Mestre there is another gorgeous ice-skating rink, in the elegant Piazza Ferretto. Of course, Mestre has not the same atmosphere of Venice, but for sure you will have here a more “local” experience, since the city is less crowded of tourists.
On the other side of Venice Lagoon, in Jesolo there is an historic tradition of Christmas celebration. Every year the “Jesolo Christmas Village” is held and here you will find an ice-skating rink inside a true village, full of little wooden houses hosting Christmas products and handicrafts. Kids will love this place with the  entertainment activities, concerts, parties and Christmas attractions!

iceskating in Venice

4. Santa Claus run and Befana Regatta

In the past 5 years, there has been another peculiar Christmas tradition in Venice. It may happen that, in mid December, while you are walking around Venice you you’ll be seeing Santa Clauses, or Babbo Natale to the Italians, absolutely everywhere
In fact, every year up to 1000 people dress up as Santa Klaus to take part in a run through the streets and alleys of Venice. Santas “invade” the city centre, in a huge variety of sizes and forms: kids, adults, dogs! The race is open to everybody, walking amateurs, professionals or just who want to have fun celelbrating Christmas! If you are in Venice in that period, it would be a very nice experience both if you decide to dress up and to join the event or if you want to get incredible pictures of hundreds of Santa arriving in St. Mark’s Square! One reason more to take part to the race: all the revenues go to charity.
If you happen to be in Venice on the 6th of January, there is even a more picturesque event: the befana regatta! “Befana” is a 100% Italian tradition regarding the epiphany: she is a old lady floating on a wooden broom who brings gifts to kids (and coal to the “bad kids”, according to the tradition). On the 6th of January, around 50 man - rowers, dressed up as befana  race one against the other on board of their boats on the Grand Canal. An unmissable show!

Christmas tradition in Venice
LaPresse/Anteo Marinoni

5. Christmas concerts in Venice

Venice is the heart of Italian Opera: it belongs to the elegance and the culture of the city and Venice boasts “La Fenice” Theatre, one of the most beautiful in Europe. But in Venice you can find many other places where to watch opera, ballets or classical music concerts, as for example the Goldoni Theatre, or the “Scuola Grande dei Camini” or in the churches as well!
Special concerts, some with full choirs, happen throughout the festive period in Venice, each year in different location.
The top experience would be for sure to assist to the traditional Christmas concert at la Fenice Theatre, but we have to warn that it is not easy to have the chance to get tickets, since very often it possible only with invitation. As an alternative, there is also the chance to assist to a concert n St. Mark’s Basilica in the days before Christmas!
Probably the best way would be to check the program and advertisement and decide on the spot: as an alternative, strolling around Venice churches you will certainly find some awesome concerts with choirs that will convey the proper Christmas atmosphere!
For those of you who wish to have this experience, have a look at our Lyric Opera concert in Venice: almost every day there are concerts held in a magnificent historic building in the centre of Venice.

Christmas in Venice at theatre

5 (+1) . Day trip to Verona from Venice

If you are in Venice for a multiday vacation, we highly suggest to spend a day in Verona! It takes less than 1 hour and half to get here and it is definitely worthy, especially at Christmas.
The elegant city center is scattered with Christmas decorations and delicate lights: from the big permanent comet in front of the Verona arena, to the majestic Christmas tree in the colorful Piazza delle Erbe, passing through the nice Christmas markets in Piazza dei Signori.
The city gets ready for the Christmas shopping, so that you can have a delightful walk in the main shopping street of the center, to buy incredible Christmas souvenirs.
As we mentioned before, Verona is also the house of “pandoro”, the Christmas dessert par excellence! One reason more to spend a special day here departing from Venice!
Don’t miss the chance to visit Verona with our day trip from Venice to Verona and Valpolicella: you will spend a wonderful day visiting the city centre and you will also have the chance to taste the excellent local wine!

Verona arena
tips excursions

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