Why Venice in January is a Must: 15 Unique Things to Do

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Venice, the floating city, is known for its romance, stunning architecture, and rich history. But visiting Venice in January offers a unique experience. The crowds are fewer, the pace is slower, and the city is enveloped in a serene winter atmosphere.

Picture yourself strolling through the narrow streets, sipping on delicious hot chocolate as you take in the sight of the snow-dusted rooftops. Imagine the thrill of exploring iconic landmarks like Piazza San Marco and Doge’s Palace without the usual throngs of tourists. Or, picture you and your sweetheart on a gondola ride admiring the Christmas decorations draping the bridges. 

If you’re ready to experience Venice in a whole new light, keep reading. 

There are a lot of interesting things to do on a winter trip to Venice in January so I’ll guide you through what to expect, the top events and activities, and practical tips for visiting in winter. Let’s embark on this winter journey together!

What’s the best time to visit Venice? Check out the full guide here!


Is It Worth Going to Venice in January?

Venice is definitely worth it in January as you can enjoy a lot of events that aren’t available the rest of the year. Also, the city takes on a quieter, more peaceful vibe compared to the bustling summer months. 

San MArco in christmas lights - what to do in venice in january

Fewer crowds mean you can explore the city at a leisurely pace. The iconic landmarks like Piazza San Marco, Doge’s Palace, and the Grand Canal are less crowded and are decked out in Christmas decorations which present incredible photo opportunities.

Since the Christmas season lasts into January in Italy, you can still enjoy the holiday season without needing to be in Venice in December.

The weather can be chilly, with average temperatures ranging from 3°C to 7°C. But don’t let this deter you. The crisp winter air adds a certain charm to the city’s picturesque canals and historic architecture.

One of the unique aspects of a winter trip to Venice in January is the phenomenon known as ‘acqua alta‘ or high water. This is when the city experiences minor flooding, turning the streets into temporary waterways. 

It’s a fascinating sight, but don’t worry, it usually only lasts a few hours and the city is well-prepared for it. Just remember to pack your Wellington boots!

So, wrap up warm, and get ready to explore Venice in winter. It’s a season that offers its own unique charm and beauty.

Top Events and Things to Do in Venice, Italy in January

1 – Celebrate the Epiphany

One of the highlights of visiting Venice in January is the celebration of Epiphany and the tradition of Befana. Epiphany, celebrated on January 6th, marks the end of the Christmas season. In Italy, it’s associated with the folklore of La Befana, a kind-hearted witch who brings gifts to children.

In Venice, the celebration takes on a unique flavor. The city hosts a charming event known as the Regatta delle Befane. This is a fun-filled boat race on the Grand Canal where participants, dressed as the old witch Befana, row in traditional Venetian boats. It’s a sight that brings laughter and cheer, even on a cold winter day.

torre dell oroologio things to do in venice in january

Another delightful tradition is the opening of the Torre dell’Orologio, the beautiful clock tower in Piazza San Marco, on the Epiphany. The clock, featuring a display of the Magi following the Madonna, is a marvel to watch. Every hour the panel opens to reveal another scene from the Nativity.

2 – Classical Concert at Venice

Music lovers visiting Venice in January are in for a treat. The city, known for its rich musical history, hosts a series of classical concerts throughout the winter months. These concerts are a wonderful way to experience Venice’s cultural side and escape the winter chill.

Venice’s stunning churches and palaces, such as the Doge’s Palace and various Scuolas, often serve as the backdrop for these concerts. Imagine sitting in a historic venue, listening to the melodious strains of Vivaldi or Mozart, as you’re transported back in time. It’s an experience that resonates with the soul.

One of the highlights is the New Year’s Concert, held in the grandeur of La Fenice Theatre. This event is a celebration of music and the start of a new year, featuring performances by renowned musicians.

Whether you’re a classical music aficionado or a casual listener, attending a concert in Venice is a memorable experience. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in the city’s artistic heritage while enjoying some of the most beautiful music ever composed.

3 – Celebrate the Feast of St. Anthony the Abbot

In the heart of winter, Venice celebrates the Feast of St. Anthony the Abbot on January 17th. This event is a wonderful blend of faith, tradition, and community spirit, making it a must-experience for anyone visiting Venice in January.

St. Anthony the Abbot, also known as St. Anthony the Great, is the patron saint of animals. On this day, you’ll see a heartwarming sight in various parts of Venice. Locals bring their pets – from dogs and cats to birds and rabbits – to be blessed in a ceremony that honors St. Anthony’s love for all creatures.

One of the main celebrations takes place in the Campo San Polo, where a procession is held. It’s a colorful and lively event, with locals and their pets filling the square. The blessing of the animals is a touching moment, symbolizing the bond between humans and their animal companions.

There is also a connection between St Anthony and fire so you will also see some small bonfires lit at various parts of the city in front of the churches of Venice. 

4 – Cheer on the Regatta delle Befane

Christmas in Italy isn’t just Christmas Eve and then over on Christmas Day. The Christmas season starts in early December and lasts into January with the visit of the Befana, a witch who traditionally gives gifts to children on the Epiphany on January 6 (Santa Claus is a recent thing in Italy adopted from other countries). 

To celebrate this day, Venetians take things to another level with the Regatta delle Befane. This unique boat race takes place on the Grand Canal on January 6th, as part of the Epiphany celebrations.

The Regatta delle Befane is not your typical boat race. Participants, usually older Venetian men, dress up as “La Befana”, the good witch of Italian folklore who brings gifts to children on Epiphany. They then row in a spirited race along the Grand Canal, much to the delight of the spectators.

The sight of Befanas rowing their boats against the backdrop of Venice’s historic buildings is both amusing and charming. The event brings a festive atmosphere to the city, with locals and tourists lining the canal to cheer on the participants.

5 – Take a Cold Plunge on January 1st

For the adventurous at heart, Venice offers a unique way to ring in the New Year – with a cold plunge into the lagoon on January 1st. This tradition, known as the “New Year’s Day Plunge,” is a fun and exhilarating way to start the year.

Every year, a group of brave souls gather at the Lido Beach (Map) to take the plunge into the chilly waters. It’s a sight that draws locals and tourists alike, some to participate and others to cheer on the swimmers from the shore.

Taking the plunge is considered a way to wash off the old year and welcome the new one with renewed energy and spirit. It’s a tradition that’s not exclusive to Venice but experiencing it in the backdrop of the city’s stunning architecture makes it even more memorable.

6 – Watch New Year’s Eve Fireworks in St. Mark’s Square

There’s no better place to ring in the New Year in Venice than in the iconic St. Mark’s Square bathed in Christmas lights. As the clock strikes midnight, the sky above the square lights up with a spectacular display of fireworks. It’s a sight that’s as magical as the city itself.

The New Year’s Eve fireworks are a beloved tradition in Venice. Locals and tourists gather in St. Mark’s Square, bundled up in warm clothes, to bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new one. The anticipation builds as the countdown begins, culminating in a dazzling display of fireworks that illuminate the night sky.

The fireworks reflect beautifully on the waters of the Grand Canal and the surrounding historic buildings, creating a mesmerizing spectacle. The air is filled with cheers and the sound of Prosecco bottles being uncorked, adding to the festive atmosphere.

7 – Visit Venice Christmas Market at Campo Santo Stefano

If you’re in Venice in early January, don’t miss the chance to visit the Christmas Village at Campo Santo Stefano (Map). This charming market is a festive wonderland that captures the holiday spirit in the heart of Venice.

stalls at christmas market in venice things to do in january

The Christmas Village is a beloved tradition in Venice. Stalls are set up in the square, selling a variety of goods from handmade crafts to local delicacies. It’s a great place to pick up unique Venice souvenirs or sample traditional Venetian treats.

But it’s not just about shopping. The Christmas Village is a feast for the senses. The air is filled with the scent of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts. Christmas lights twinkle against the backdrop of historic buildings, and the sound of Christmas carols adds to the festive atmosphere.

8 – Go Ice Skating in Campo San Polo

One of the joys of visiting Venice in January is the chance to go ice skating in Campo San Polo (Map). This large square, one of the city’s biggest, transforms into a magical ice rink during the winter months, offering a unique way to enjoy the season.

Ice skating in Campo San Polo is a favorite activity for both locals and tourists. The rink is set up in the middle of the square, surrounded by historic buildings that add a touch of charm to the experience. Whether you’re a seasoned skater or trying it for the first time, gliding on the ice in the heart of Venice is a memorable experience.

As you skate, you can take in the beauty of the surrounding architecture and the winter sky above. The atmosphere is festive and lively, with the sound of laughter and the scrape of skates on ice filling the air.

So, bundle up, lace up your skates, and hit the ice in Campo San Polo. Follow it up with a warm drink to enjoy a delightful way to embrace the winter season in Venice.

9 – Visit Murano and Burano Islands

A trip to Venice in January wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the nearby islands of Murano and Burano. These islands, each with its unique charm and traditions, offer a delightful escape from the main city.

Murano, known worldwide for its exquisite glassmaking, is a must-visit. The island is home to numerous glass factories where you can witness the art of glassmaking firsthand. In January, the island is less crowded, giving you a more personal experience.

I recommend the Wave Glass Factory (Map) as it is the least touristy of the ones I have been to.

glass making class at murano things to do in january in venice

One of the highlights of a visit to Murano is a glassmaking class. These classes offer a unique opportunity to learn the ancient art of glassmaking from master craftsmen. You’ll get to create your own glass masterpiece, a keepsake to remind you of your winter trip to Venice.

A short boat ride from Murano takes you to Burano, famous for its colorful houses and lace-making tradition. The island, even in the winter, is a burst of color. The brightly painted houses, reflected in the canals, create a cheerful atmosphere, even on the greyest winter day.

10 – Celebrate Tu B’Shvat in the Jewish Ghetto

If you’re planning to visit Venice in January, consider timing your trip to coincide with Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of the Trees. This Jewish holiday, celebrated with much joy and reverence in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice, offers a unique cultural experience.

Tu B’Shvat, typically falling in the second half of January, marks the appearance of the first green shoots. It’s a celebration of nature’s renewal, a symbol of growth and resilience. While its origins are rooted in the Middle East, the holiday is celebrated by Jewish communities worldwide, including in Venice, home to the oldest Jewish neighborhoods in Europe.

The Jewish Ghetto in Venice, with its historic synagogues and rich cultural heritage, is a fitting place to celebrate Tu B’Shvat. The narrow, winding streets come alive with festivities. The community gathers to honor the day with prayers, songs, and, most importantly, food.

Food plays a significant role in Tu B’Shvat celebrations. The holiday is an opportunity to sample Hebrew culinary specialties, with a focus on fruits and products from trees. From dried fruits and nuts to dishes made with olives, dates, and figs, the food is a highlight of the celebration.

Visiting the Jewish Ghetto during Tu B’Shvat also gives you a chance to explore the area’s history. You can visit the Jewish Museum, take a guided tour of the synagogues, or simply wander the streets, soaking up the atmosphere.

11 – Do a Mask Making Class

Venice is renowned for its tradition of mask making, a craft that dates back to the Middle Ages. If you’re visiting Venice in January, taking a mask making class is an opportunity to immerse yourself in this age-old tradition.

Venetian masks are more than just beautiful objects. They hold a significant place in the city’s history and culture, particularly associated with the famous Venice Carnival. In a mask making class, you’ll learn about the different types of masks, their historical significance, and the techniques used to create them. My recommendation is Cà Macana.

ca macana mask making things to do in venice in january

Under the guidance of a master craftsman, you’ll get to create your own mask. You’ll start with a blank papier-mâché form, and then, using paints, brushes, and a variety of decorative elements, you’ll bring your mask to life. It’s a hands-on experience that allows you to express your creativity.

At the end of the class, you’ll have a unique souvenir to take home – a Venetian mask made by your own hands. It’s a tangible reminder of your winter trip to Venice, a piece of the city’s tradition that you’ve brought to life.

12 – Take a Cooking Class

Italian cuisine is loved worldwide, but, traditional Venetian cuisine is unique to the region. Where better to learn about it than in Venice? Taking a cooking class during your visit in January is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the local culture and learn the secrets of Venetian cuisine.

spaghetti with squid ink take a cooking class for venice in january

Venice offers a variety of cooking classes catering to different skill levels and culinary interests. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner, there’s a class for you. You can learn to make traditional Venetian dishes, from fresh pasta to seafood delicacies, under the guidance of expert chefs.

A cooking class is not just about learning to cook. It’s about understanding the ingredients, the traditions, and the love that goes into each dish. It’s about sharing a meal with others and celebrating the joy of food.

At the end of the class, you’ll sit down to enjoy the meal you’ve prepared. It’s a rewarding experience, savoring the fruits of your labor, and perhaps even pairing it with a local wine.

13 – Shop the January Saldi

If you’re a shopping enthusiast, shopping in Venice in January comes with a delightful perk – the January Saldi. Saldi, the Italian term for sales, is a period when shops offer significant discounts on their merchandise, and it’s a great time to pick up some fantastic deals.

The January Saldi usually starts in the first week of the month and continues for a few weeks. You’ll find discounts on a wide range of items, from clothing and accessories to home decor and more. It’s a great opportunity to shop for Italian brands and unique Venetian products at reduced prices.

Whether you’re looking for high fashion in the boutiques of the Mercerie, unique crafts in the shops of Dorsoduro, or Venetian glass in the stores of Murano, the Saldi offers something for everyone.

14 – Hit the Major Sites and Museums

Last but not least, you should take in all the attractions that are popular year round but without the long lines of the summer. This is the ideal time to do a tour of St Mark’s Basilica, The Doge’s Palace, the Campanile or bell tower of Piazza San Marco, and of course an iconic gondola ride taking you under the Bridge of Sighs. 

museo correr things to do in january in venice

Make sure to take advantage of the season by visiting the major museums such as the Correr Museum for Renaissance art, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection for modern art from masters like Picasso and Pollack, and the Galleria del Accademia for a bit of everything Venice has to offer for art. 

rialto bridge with christmas lights in january in venice

Climb the Campanile for incredible views of the city. If you are lucky enough to be there on the rare occasion that there is snow, the rooftops covered in a winter blanket will give you a one of a kind picture for your social media.

15 – Visit the churches

Venice has a remarkable number of world-class churches that house incredible works of arts from many of the Renaissance masters who called Venice home. These churches are wonderful to visit any time of year, but during the holiday season, which stretches into January, they take on another hue that makes them and even better sight to behold. 

san zaccharia church things to see in january in venice

You should check out the Chorus Pass that will get you entry into many of the churches that have notable works of art and charge an entry fee as a result. After a few visits, the pass pays for itself. 

Seasonal Treats You Must Try in January

One of the joys of visiting Venice in January is the chance to savor the city’s seasonal delicacies. Venetian cuisine is a celebration of simple ingredients, prepared with care and respect for tradition. Here are some local food and drinks you should try during your winter visit.

  • Fritelle: These Venetian doughnuts are a special treat during the Carnevale di Venezia but can often be found a bit earlier in the winter. They’re typically filled with raisins and pine nuts, and dusted with sugar. Some versions are also filled with custard or whipped cream. They’re a perfect accompaniment to a cup of hot chocolate on a chilly day.
  • Pandoro: A classic Italian Christmas cake that you can still find in bakeries in early January. This sweet, golden cake is often dusted with powdered sugar to resemble the snowy peaks of the Italian Alps during winter.
  • Baccalà Mantecato: This creamy spread made from dried cod is a classic Venetian dish. It’s typically served on slices of polenta or bread, making it a perfect winter comfort food.
  • Hot Chocolate: Venice takes its hot chocolate seriously. It’s thick, rich, and decadently chocolatey – more like a dessert than a drink. It’s the perfect way to warm up after a day of exploring the city. The best places to get hot chocolate are at the historic Caffe Florian in Piazza San Marco and at the Vizio Virtù chocolate shop (Map).
  • Vin Brulè (Mulled Wine): This warm, spiced wine is a traditional drink during the colder months, offering a comforting respite from the winter chill. The wine, usually red, is gently heated with a mix of spices like cinnamon, cloves, and star anise, and often sweetened with sugar. Sipping on a cup of mulled wine as you stroll through the winding streets of Venice, with the city’s historic buildings illuminated in the soft winter light, is a quintessential Venetian experience that you won’t want to miss.
  • Musetto with Polenta: Musetto with polenta is a traditional Venetian dish that’s particularly popular during the winter months. Musetto is a type of sausage made from pork, similar to cotechino. It’s characterized by its rich, hearty flavor, which comes from a mix of pork meat, fat, and rind, and its distinctive round shape. It is a great stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal that’s perfect for the cold weather of a Venice January.
  • Roasted Chestnuts: In just about every campo or piazza you will find chestnuts roasting on an open fire. This is a great way to warm up when walking around with some fresh chestnuts that have been cooked over coals so they have a sweet smoky flavor. 
take a gondola ride in january things to do in venice in january

Practical Tips for Visiting Venice in January

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

  • Pack Wisely: January is one of the coldest months in Venice, so be sure to pack warm clothing. Layering is key, as it allows you to adjust to changing temperatures throughout the day. Essentials include a warm coat, scarves, gloves, and a hat. Waterproof shoes are also a must, as Venice can experience high water levels, known as “acqua alta”, during this time. Don’t forget an umbrella and a waterproof bag to protect your belongings.
  • Check the Weather: Before you leave for your trip and during your stay, regularly check the weather and acqua alta forecasts. This will help you plan your days and routes around the city. You can check out this site to understand if or when there will be modifications to any public transportation routes.
  • Plan Indoor Activities: While Venice’s outdoor sights are stunning, the city also offers plenty of indoor attractions that are perfect for colder days. Consider visiting museums like the Doge’s Palace or the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, or take a tour of the historic La Fenice Theatre.
  • Getting Around Venice: Venice’s public transportation, including the vaporettos (water buses), operate year-round. A travel card can be a cost-effective way to use the vaporettos. Walking is also a great way to explore the city, but be prepared for possible route changes due to acqua alta.
  • Book in Advance: While January is off-peak season, it’s still a good idea to book some things in advance. This includes accommodation, especially if you’re visiting during New Year’s or the Carnival, and any special tours or experiences you don’t want to miss.
  • Embrace the Season: Lastly, embrace the winter season. Yes, it might be cold and yes, you might have to navigate around acqua alta, but winter in Venice has its own unique charm. The city is quieter, the pace is slower, and the misty canals and snow-dusted rooftops create a romantic season that you won’t find at any other time of the year.

Venice Weather in January

In January, Venice experiences its coldest month, but the city’s coastal location on the Adriatic ensures milder weather than parts of Northern Europe. The average temperature ranges from a high of around 6°C (about 43°F) to a low of -1°C (about 30°F). 

weather in january in venice

Daily average temperature is around 3°C (~37°F), with highs of 6°C (43°F) and lows of 0°C (32°F). As the month progresses, the temperature increases slightly, with averages around 4°C (39°F) by the end of the month, highs of 7°C (45°F), and lows of 0.5°C (33°F).

Venice in January sees about 9 hours of average daily sunshine. The length of day increases slightly over the month by about 1.8 minutes a day from the beginning to the end of the month. The longest day is January 1, with 8:46 hours of sunlight; the shortest is January 31, with 9:42 hours of sunlight.

Humidity ranges from mildly humid (62%) to very humid (93%), being so close to the Alps and the Sea. Around mid-month humidity is about 90% and drops off drier gradually the later in the month, around 78% on average. Daily wind speed averages vary from no wind to 7 mph (calm to light breeze) or about 8 knots. Winds typically blow in from the northeast, sometimes from the north.

Wrapping it Up

Whether you’re watching the fireworks in St. Mark’s Square on New Year’s Eve, taking a cooking class to learn about Venetian cuisine, or exploring the rich history of the Jewish Ghetto, Venice in January is full of surprises. And let’s not forget the delicious seasonal delicacies, from the warming mulled wine to the hearty Musetto with Polenta.

With the right preparation and a spirit of adventure, you’ll find that Venice in January is a truly magical time to visit. So why not start planning your trip now? Venice is waiting to enchant you with its winter charm.

Sal Presti

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