Venice in December: A Local’s Tips on What to Expect and Do

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Venice, Italy, a city of timeless beauty and enchanting mystery, takes on a unique charm in the chill of December. 

Picture this: you’re strolling along the narrow, winding streets, the air crisp and cool, the city’s famous canals reflecting the twinkling holiday lights. It’s a far cry from the bustling crowds of summer, offering a more intimate and authentic experience.

But is December really a good time to visit Venice? Absolutely! 

While the weather might be a bit colder, the city’s charm is undeniably warmer. Visiting Venice in December when it is full of holiday cheer is a great idea.

As an American who’s been fortunate enough to live near Venice and experience its old traditions firsthand, I’m excited to share my insider tips and guide you through what to expect when visiting Venice in December. 

So, bundle up, and let’s embark on this Venetian journey together!

christmas tree lights in st mark's square - venice in december

Venice in December Festivities

Venice is a city that knows how to celebrate, and the winter season is filled with a variety of festive events and holidays. Here are some of the key festivities that take place in Venice during the winter months. Seeing as how the Venetian navy’s patron saint is St Nicholas, it makes sense that Venice in December is a bucket list experience.

Hanukkah

Venice has a rich Jewish history, and the Jewish holiday Hanukkah is celebrated with much enthusiasm in the city’s historic Jewish Ghetto. The eight-day Jewish holiday of lights usually involves the lighting of the menorah, special prayers, and the eating of traditional foods.

The Immaculate Conception (Immacolata Concezione)

Celebrated on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary marks the start of the Christmas season in Italy. In Venice in December, it’s common to see processions and religious ceremonies, and many Venetians use this day to put up their Christmas decorations.

christmas market stalls santo stefano - venice in december

Campo Santo Stefano Christmas Market

The Campo Santo Stefano Christmas Market is a highlight of Venice in December. The square is filled with stalls selling a variety of goods, from crafts and antiques to food and drink. It’s a great place to pick up unique Christmas gifts and sample traditional Venetian holiday treats.

Christmas Day (Giorno di Natale)

Christmas Day in Venice is a time for family, faith, and food. Many Venetians attend Midnight Mass at St. Mark’s Basilica, and the day is spent enjoying a festive meal with family. It’s a quieter day in the city, with many shops and restaurants closed, but the festive atmosphere is palpable.

Take in a Christmas Midnight mass at one of the many famous churches in Venice on Christmas Eve (La Vigilia) for a very special experience. This is a way to enjoy an authentic look at how Venice used to be and still is for the holidays. They even offer the mass in English.

Saint Stephen’s Day (Il Giorno di Santo Stefano)

Celebrated on December 26th, Saint Stephen’s Day is a public holiday in Italy. Venice in December is often marked with concerts and other cultural events. It’s also a popular day for visiting nativity scenes at the city’s churches.

New Year’s Eve (Festa di San Silvestro)

New Year’s Eve in Venice is a grand affair. The city hosts a large celebration in St. Mark’s Square, complete with live music, a fireworks display, and a communal kiss at midnight. It’s a festive and joyful way to ring in the new year.

Things to do in Venice in December

Enjoy the Venice Christmas markets

Venice’s Christmas markets are a must-visit. They’re filled with festive stalls selling everything from handmade crafts to traditional Italian holiday treats. It’s the perfect place to pick up unique souvenirs and gifts.

  1. Campo Santo Stefano Christmas Market: Located in the square of Campo Santo Stefano, this market is one of the most popular in Venice. It features a variety of stalls selling crafts, food, and holiday items.
  2. Strada Nova Christmas Market: This market is located on one of the main streets in the Cannaregio district. It’s a great place to find unique gifts and sample traditional Venetian holiday treats.
  3. Mestre Christmas Market: Just a short trip from Venice on the mainland, the Mestre Christmas Market is one of the largest in the region. It features a wide range of stalls and even an ice-skating rink.

There are other, smaller markets scattered around Venice such as on the Campo S.Bartolomeo, Campo San Salvador, Campo San Luca or Campo Manin.

gondola ride in winter - venice in december

Can you take a gondola ride in December?

Yes, gondola rides can be taken even in December in Venice. However, weather can cause delays or cancellations so be ready to improvise.

A gondola ride is a quintessential Venetian experience that I highly recommend. In December, the canals are less crowded, making it a peaceful and romantic activity. Make sure to read my full guide on taking a gondola ride to get the most out of the experience.

Ice skating in Campo San Polo

In December, Campo San Polo transforms into a magical outdoor ice-skating rink. Whether you’re an experienced skater or a beginner, it’s a fun and festive activity that everyone can enjoy.

Attend Christmas concerts

Venice is known for its rich musical heritage and Christmas music is everywhere. During December, the city hosts a variety of Christmas concerts featuring everything from classical music to traditional Italian Christmas carols.

I Musici Veneziani

A popular set of concerts in Venice in December are the ones put on by the Musici Veneziani. They are a small orchestra dressed in Baroque costumes that play Antonio Vivaldi concerts and famous arias from Giuseppe Verdi operas during the Christmas season.

La Fenice Christmas Concert

No Christmas in Venice is complete without the splendid opera concert at the Gran Teatro La Fenice. This historic opera house, known for its stunning architecture and rich musical history, hosts a vibrant Christmas concert that is a highlight of the festive season.

The Gran Teatro La Fenice’s Christmas concert is a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday season. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich musical heritage of Venice and enjoy some truly beautiful music.

Christmas Concert at St. Mark’s Basilica

One of the highlights of Venice in December is the traditional Christmas concert at St. Mark’s Basilica, presented by the La Fenice Theater Foundation. This concert is a unique opportunity to experience the grandeur of the Basilica, coupled with the enchanting sounds of classical music.

In the grandiose setting of St. Mark’s Basilica, the concert is directed by Marco Gemmani and performed by the Cappella Marciana, a musical institution that has animated the liturgies of Venice for over seven centuries. The program is entirely dedicated to Baldassare Galuppi, a renowned Italian composer of the 18th century.

The Marciana Chapel, one of the oldest and most prestigious musical institutions in the world, has a rich history marked by great masters. Over two hundred composers have worked there, including Adrian Willaert, Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli, Claudio Monteverdi, Francesco Cavalli, Giovanni Legrenzi, Antonio Lotti, Baldassare Galuppi, and Lorenzo Perosi.

Concert of the Immaculate Conception in the Basilica of Santi Giovanni and Paolo

The Concert of the Immaculate Conception is an annual event held on the 8th of December in the majestic Church of San Giovanni and Paolo in Venice. Known as the Pantheon of Venice due to the significant number of Venetian doges and other important figures buried there since the thirteenth century, the church provides a grand and historic backdrop to the concert.

Despite its grandeur and charitable nature, admission to the concert is free until all seats are taken, making it an accessible and enriching experience for all who attend​.

christmas lights over canal - venice in december

Wander around to admire the Christmas lights

Start your evening stroll at St. Mark’s Square, the heart of the city. Here, you’ll find a towering Christmas tree adorned with hundreds of lights and ornaments. The surrounding buildings, too, are beautifully lit, their architectural details highlighted by the warm glow.

From St. Mark’s Square, meander through the narrow, winding streets of Venice. Each district, or “sestiere,” has its own unique decorations, from twinkling lights strung across the canals in Cannaregio, to beautifully decorated shop windows in Castello.

Don’t miss the Rialto Bridge, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. In December, the bridge is adorned with festive lights, making it a truly spectacular sight as it reflects off the Grand Canal.

Visit the major attractions with fewer tourists

One of the biggest advantages of visiting Venice in December is the opportunity to explore the city’s major attractions without the usual crowds. The city’s most famous landmarks, usually bustling with tourists, take on a more serene and peaceful atmosphere during the winter months.

All of the city’s civic museums are open with a longer opening schedule to accommodate more people without it getting crowded. Last year, attractions like the Doge’s Palace were open until 9 pm.

Doge’s Palace
The Doge’s Palace, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and where the elected rulers of Venice lived, is one of Venice’s most iconic landmarks. In December, you can explore its grand halls, intricate artwork, and historic prison cells at a leisurely pace, truly appreciating the details that might be missed in the summer rush.

St. Mark’s Basilica
St. Mark’s Basilica, with its stunning golden mosaics and impressive architecture, is a must-visit. In December, the smaller crowds offer a more intimate experience, allowing you to marvel at its beauty without feeling rushed.

Gallerie dell’Accademia
Home to an impressive collection of pre-19th-century art, the Gallerie dell’Accademia is a must-visit for art lovers. The quieter winter months are an ideal time to explore its vast collection, including works by masters like Bellini, Canaletto, and Titian.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, one of the most important museums of European and American art of the 20th century. In December, you can enjoy its impressive collection, which includes works by Picasso, Pollock, and Dalí, in a more peaceful setting.

Save money on the major attractions and transportation by getting one of the many Venice Passes!

Witness the Curious Regata delle Befane

Although it doesn’t take place in December but is still within the Christmas season in Italy, the Regata delle Befane is a unique Venetian tradition that adds a touch of fun and local flavor to the holiday season. Held on January 6th, which is Epiphany Day, this event is a delightful spectacle that brings the city’s Grand Canal to life.

The regatta is named after “La Befana,” a character from Italian folklore who is similar to Santa Claus. According to tradition, La Befana visits the homes of children on the night of January 5th, filling their stockings with sweets if they’ve been good and coal if they’ve been naughty.

In the Regata delle Befane, participants dress up as La Befana and race along the Grand Canal in traditional Venetian rowing boats. The sight of these “witches” rowing fiercely down the canal is both amusing and endearing, and it draws crowds of locals and tourists alike.

The race starts near the San Tomà area and ends at the Rialto Bridge, with the participants cheered on by spectators along the way. The event concludes with a prize-giving ceremony, where the fastest Befana is awarded a prize.

The Regata delle Befane is more than just a boat race. It’s a celebration of Venetian culture and tradition, and a wonderful way to experience the city’s festive spirit. Whether you’re a participant or a spectator, it’s an event that’s sure to leave you with lasting memories of your December visit to Venice.

Participate in New Year’s Eve Celebrations

Celebrating New Year’s Eve (Also known as the Festa di San Silvestro) in Venice is a truly memorable experience. The city pulls out all the stops to welcome the new year, with a host of festivities that capture the spirit of Venice.

The celebrations kick off in the evening with live music performances in St. Mark’s Square. Musicians from around the world take to the stage, filling the square with a variety of tunes that set the festive mood.

As midnight approaches, the anticipation builds. The square fills with locals and tourists alike, all waiting for the countdown to the new year. And then, as the clock strikes midnight, the sky above St. Mark’s Square lights up with a spectacular fireworks display. The reflections of the fireworks in the waters of the lagoon add to the magical atmosphere.

But the celebrations don’t end there. In a tradition known as the “Love Kiss,” couples are invited to share a kiss under the fireworks. This communal kiss is said to bring good luck for the coming year and is a highlight of the New Year’s Eve celebrations.

After the fireworks, the party continues into the early hours of the morning. Whether you choose to dance the night away in St. Mark’s Square, enjoy a special New Year’s Eve dinner at a local restaurant, or take a midnight gondola ride along the canals, ringing in the New Year in Venice is an experience you won’t soon forget.

December in Venice Culinary Experiences

Venice is not just about gondola rides and historic landmarks; it’s also a city of incredible culinary delights. From traditional Venetian dishes to festive treats, there’s a lot to explore for food lovers. Here are a couple of culinary experiences you shouldn’t miss when visiting Venice in December.

Learn to Cook Like a Venetian

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in Venetian culture is to learn how to cook their traditional dishes. There are several cooking classes available in the city where local chefs take you to the Rialto Market and teach you how to prepare classic Venetian recipes.

One of the things that makes eating special in Venice, or anywhere else in Italy, is the fact that there are traditional dishes that always make their way to the table during every holiday. December in Venice means you will be learning to cook some of the treats that are typically eaten only at this time of year. Maybe you could be creating some Christmas traditions of your own after.

From learning how to make the perfect risotto to mastering the art of preparing seafood Venetian style, it’s a fun and delicious way to spend a day. Plus, you’ll have new recipes to impress your friends and family when you return home!

Treat Your Sweet Tooth to Christmas Cakes

Christmas in Venice is a sweet affair. Bakeries and pastry shops around the city offer a variety of traditional Christmas cakes and sweets. Don’t miss trying the ‘panettone’ and ‘pandoro’, traditional Italian Christmas cakes that are a staple in every Venetian home during the holidays.

Crema fritta is extremely popular street food and is a cube of fried pastry cream that melts in your mouth!

Warm Up with Hot Chocolate at VizioVirtu

When the December chill hits, there’s nothing better than warming up with a cup of hot chocolate. And one of the best places to have hot chocolate in Venice is at VizioVirtu. This chocolate shop is known for its thick, rich, and creamy hot chocolate that’s more like a dessert than a drink.

Made with high-quality cocoa and available in a variety of flavors, it’s a treat you won’t want to miss. Enjoying a cup of hot chocolate at VizioVirtu is not just about savoring a delicious drink, it’s about experiencing a Venetian culinary tradition.

Visit Murano Island

Murano island, famous for its glass-making furnaces, is one of the most important centers in the Venetian Lagoon. To celebrate the Christmas season and highlight the local industry, a series of events called “Natale in Vetro (Christmas in Glass)” are organized every December.

wave murano glass demonstration - things to do in venice in december

The festivities begin on the evening of December 5th with an inaugural mass dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of glassmakers, in the Church of San Pietro Martire. After the mass, artisans display about ten glass chandeliers to illuminate the church’s portico, creating a “Tunnel of Lights” that remains on display until the end of the event on January 6th, 2023.

For a truly unique dining experience, consider attending one of the many dinners organized inside the glass factories, where food is prepared in the same furnaces used to melt silicon.

venice under a layer of snow - venice in december

December in Venice Travel Tips

Visiting Venice in winter can be a magical experience, but it does require some planning. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your trip.

Keep Holidays in Mind

December is a festive month in Venice, with several holidays and events taking place. These include Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Keep these dates in mind when planning your trip as they may affect opening hours of attractions and availability of services. Additionally, these holidays can be a wonderful time to experience local traditions and festivities.

Pre-Book Your Transit from the Airport

If you’re arriving by plane, consider pre-booking your transit from the airport to your accommodation. Venice’s Marco Polo Airport is located on the mainland, about 8 miles from the city. Options for getting to the city include water taxis, water buses (vaporettos), and land buses to Piazzale Roma. Pre-booking can save you time and hassle upon arrival, especially during the busy holiday season.

There are a number of options to get to Venice from Treviso Airport but don’t usually require booking in advance.

walkway set up for acqua alta high tide - venice in december

What to Pack for Venice in December

Venice weather can be quite damp and chilly. The average temperature in December ranges from 30°F to 45°F, and the city often experiences fog and rain.

Packing for a trip to Venice in December requires some careful planning to ensure you stay warm and dry.

Clothing

Venice weather is unpredictable so layering is key when dressing. Start with a base layer of breathable material, followed by a warm mid-layer like a sweater or fleece, and top it off with a waterproof outer layer. Don’t forget a warm hat, gloves, and a scarf.

Footwear

Venice’s streets can be wet and slippery in winter, so sturdy, water-resistant shoes are a must. Consider rubber boots with a good grip to prevent slipping on the cobblestones. If you can’t fit them in your luggage, then ask your hotel if they have some to loan as many often do.

Umbrella

Rain is common in Venice in winter, so be sure to pack a compact, travel-sized umbrella.

Extra Items

Other useful items to pack include a reusable water bottle (Venice has plenty of public fountains where you can refill), a portable phone charger (cold weather can drain your battery faster), and a good map or guidebook.

Book Your Accommodation in Advance, Even in Low Season

While winter is considered the low season in Venice, the city can still get quite busy around the holidays. It’s a good idea to book your accommodation in advance to secure the best options and rates. This is especially true if you’re planning to stay in popular areas near Piazza San Marco or Rialto.

Check out my picks for the most romantic hotels in Venice!

Christmas Shopping in Venice

Venice is a shopper’s paradise, and the holiday season brings even more opportunities to find unique gifts and souvenirs. From traditional crafts to gourmet foods, here’s what to look for when Christmas shopping in Venice.

Murano Glass

Venice is world-renowned for its Murano glass, particularly from the island of Murano. Glass ornaments can make a beautiful and unique Christmas gift. You’ll find everything from intricate figurines to stunning Christmas decorations.

Christmas Markets

Venice’s Christmas markets are a must-visit for any holiday shopper. The Campo Santo Stefano Christmas Village is one of the most popular, offering a range of goods from antiques and crafts to food and drink. Christmas markets are a great place to pick up unique gifts and enjoy the festive atmosphere.

Gourmet Foods

Italian cuisine is celebrated worldwide, and Venice offers a variety of gourmet foods that make excellent gifts. Consider picking up traditional Christmas treats like panettone or pandoro, or other local specialties like polenta, risotto rice, or Venetian cookies.

Venetian Masks

Venetian masks are a symbol of the city and its famous Carnival. A hand-painted mask can make a unique and beautiful gift. There are many shops in Venice where you can find masks of all shapes, sizes, and designs.

carnevale masks in venice make a great christmas gift when in venice in december

Local Boutiques

Venice is home to a number of local boutiques offering everything from high-end fashion to handmade crafts. Take a stroll through the city’s shopping districts to discover unique clothing, jewelry, art, and more.

Remember, shopping in Venice isn’t just about buying things—it’s about experiencing the city’s culture and traditions. Take the time to chat with shopkeepers, learn about the products, and soak up the festive atmosphere.

boat decorated in christmas lights - venice in december

FAQ About Venice in December

Is December in Venice worth it?

Absolutely! December is a fantastic time to visit Venice. The city is less crowded than during the peak summer months, allowing you to explore at a leisurely pace. The holiday decorations and festive atmosphere add a unique charm to the city’s timeless beauty.

Does it snow in December in Venice? What is the weather like?

Venice in December is typically cold, with temperatures ranging from 30°F to 45°F (-1°C to 7°C). You can expect foggy mornings and a fair amount of rain, so it’s a good idea to pack a waterproof jacket and umbrella. Despite the chill, the city’s beauty shines through, with the misty canals and cobblestone streets adding to the city’s allure.

How to dress in Venice in December?

Layering is key to staying warm. A typical outfit might include a warm sweater, a waterproof coat, and comfortable walking shoes. Don’t forget a scarf, gloves, and a hat for those chillier days. And remember, Venice is known for its style, so don’t be afraid to dress up a little!

Does it flood in Venice in December?

Yes, Venice can experience acqua alta, or high water, in December. This is when the city’s streets can flood due to high tides. However, the city is well-prepared for acqua alta, with raised walkways set up in flood-prone areas. It’s a unique part of experiencing Venice, and can even add to the city’s charm.
Remember that when there is Acqua Alta, it is just an extreme high tide so the water recedes after a few hours. Not only that, but the city has a barrier that recently opened to keep flood waters to a minimum so it only happens during rare ultra high tides these days. 

Is Venice open during Christmas?

Yes, Venice is open during Christmas. While many shops will be closed on Christmas Day, many of the city’s restaurants and major attractions, including museums and galleries, remain open. Christmas Eve will see many shops closing early. The city is beautifully decorated for the holidays, and there’s a festive atmosphere, making it a wonderful time to visit.

Wrapping It Up

Venice in December is a magical experience, filled with twinkling lights, festive markets, and a unique blend of cultural traditions. From the enchanting Christmas lights that illuminate the city to the unique events like the Glass Christmas in Murano, there’s something for everyone in this winter wonderland.

Whether you’re exploring the city’s historic sites with fewer tourists, indulging in traditional Venetian cuisine, or participating in the city’s festive events, you’re sure to create unforgettable memories. And while the weather may be chilly, the warm hospitality of the Venetians and the city’s festive spirit will surely warm your heart.

So pack your warm clothes, prepare for some incredible culinary delights, and get ready to immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of Venice! Make sure to check out more helpful articles to plan your ideal Venice trip below!

Sal Presti

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