Tips for Going to Carnevale in Venice

Group on Salute Steps Venice Carnival celebration

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Venice Carnevale is Italy's top Carnival, or Mardi Gras, celebration. Carnevale season lasts about two weeks, culminating on the day of Carnival (called Martedi Grasso, or Fat Tuesday, in Italian). The weekend before Fat Tuesday usually sees the most parties and events, but during all of Carnevale season, the city of Venice is abuzz with costumed characters, street performers, scheduled concerts and entertainment, boat parades, and food stalls.

Even if you don't attend any of the parties or fancy masquerade balls, it's definitely a fun time to visit—that is, if you can deal with the crowds and high-season prices.

Venice Carnevale 2021

Carnevale celebrations were canceled in Venice for 2021. However, the event is open to people around the world for the first time through a digital celebration from February 6–7 and again February 11–16, 2021, complete with celebrations streamed live from Venice. You can also participate in a costume contest and build-you-own-mask workshop, among many other activities.

Carnevale returns to Venice, in its traditional form, from February 19 to March 1, 2022.

Highlights of Carnevale in Venice

In an already festive atmosphere with almost nonstop celebrations, there are a few events that stand out as the highlights of Venice's biggest party season. The official website of the Carnevale di Venezia has information on these and all other public events associated with the festivities.

  • Water Parade. On the first Sunday of Carnevale, a parade of brightly decorated boats plies the Rio di Cannaregio. After the parade, food stalls open on the canal-side promenade. 
  • Festa delle Marie. On the second Saturday of Carnevale, this costumed, afternoon procession recalls the tradition of 12 of Venice's fairest young women being presented to the Doge, the bygone chief of Venice. This parade, one of the few to take place on dry land, begins at Via Garibaldi and culminates at Piazza San Marco
  • Flight of the Angel. This dramatic reenactment, on held the second Sunday of Carnevale, sees a costumed angel "fly," suspended on a rope, through Piazza San Marco to greet the Doge. 

Tips for Visiting Venice During Carnevale Season

The Carnevale season is the most popular time to visit the already popular city of Venice. There's no way to avoid the crowds, so keep some tips in mind for the best ways to join in on the parties and save some money while you're there.

  • Plan ahead and book your hotel well in advance for Carnevale season. Hotels typically charge high season prices during Carnevale season and can sell out up to a year in advance, so the farther in advance you book, the less you're likely to pay.
  • Carnevale is an elegant affair in Venice, and while it's very festive, it's not a rowdy scene with excessive public drinking (as is the custom in New Orleans).
  • People wear elaborate costumes and masks all over town, so there's a lot to see just by walking around. For the best Carnevale experience, wear a costume or at least a mask. You can easily find an inexpensive mask once you're in Venice or splurge on an ornate, handpainted version. You can also craft your own!
  • If you want an entire costume, your hotel may be able to arrange a costume rental or at least refer you to a vendor. Again, the earlier you request this service, the better, with rental prices ranging from pricey to sky's-the-limit.
  • Although the main events are centered around Piazza San Marco, Carnevale events are held in every sestiere, or neighborhood, of Venice, so be sure to wander into other areas. A fireworks show held in Piazza San Marco culminates Carnevale and the fireworks can be seen from almost anywhere in Venice.
  • There are also Carnevale festivities happening outside of the city of Venice on the neighboring islands. You may be able to escape some of the crowds by spending the nights in Burano, Torcello, or another nearby island.
  • Most high-end hotels hold masked balls, which are smaller and more private than public events. They can help you find someone to make or rent you a costume. Attending a ball, including renting a costume, can run about 500 euros per person, or about $600. However, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Most formal Carnevale events, private parties, and masquerade balls require reservations ahead of time.
  • The final week of Carnevale is the busiest time to visit, but festivities are happening long before Fat Tuesday. If you don't mind missing the biggest festivals, you'll save some money by visiting during the first week of celebrations.
  • Carnevale dates change every year depending on when Lent begins. Check upcoming Carnevale dates and plan ahead for a future year to make the most of your trip.
  • Carnevale is a winter event, so the weather may be cold or rainy, possibly even with floods. Keep an eye on forecasts before you leave.
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