Ultimate Guide to the Venice Carnival

image via

Once a year, the city of Venice in Italy transforms into a giant costumed party for everyone to attend. The Venice Carnival takes place just before Easter, and lasts for two weeks. It features a plethora of public and private events, shows, competitions, and activities. Here’s our guide to navigating your way through the Venice Carnival like a pro.

HOW DO I GET TO THE VENICE CARNIVAL?

image via

If you are traveling to Venice from outside of Italy, you can fly directly into Venice International Airport, which is one of the largest airports in the country. From within Italy, trains, buses, and planes are all easy and relatively inexpensive options for transport.

WHERE SHOULD I STAY DURING THE VENICE CARNIVAL?

image via

Most of the activities related to the Venice Carnival happen in or around St. Mark’s Square. Proximity to this means you’re always a few steps away from the action, but it also means you are likely to spend more money as hotels near to the square are the most coveted during the festivities. We recommend that you book your accommodation as early as possible—even a year in advance—in order to find the best deals for your trip.  We like Air BnB, as it offers a lot of great options at a variety of price points, all with the added bonus of being able to experience what living in Italy is really like.

WHAT SHOULD I WEAR TO THE VENICE CARNIVAL? 

image via

When you are in Venice during the Carnival, you will see people in costume everywhere you look. Most costumes are traditionally Venetian in that they feature Venetian masquerade masks and traditional capes or gowns. However, many people use the Carnival as an opportunity to dress up in interesting, colorful outfits that are not necessarily related to the theme of the Carnival, while others simply wear regular clothes with the addition of just a masquerade mask. The Venice Carnival is supposed to be a fun, relaxed experience, so wear whatever you feel most comfortable in. Our tip: at the very least wear a mask—you’ll fit right in and feel like you are part of the festivities!

WHERE CAN I BUY A MASQUERADE MASK TO WEAR TO THE VENICE CARNIVAL?

image via

When you are in Venice during the Carnival, you will see people in costume everywhere you look. Most costumes are traditionally Venetian in that they feature Venetian masquerade masks and traditional capes or gowns. However, many people use the Carnival as an opportunity to dress up in interesting, colorful outfits that are not necessarily related to the theme of the Carnival, while others simply wear regular clothes with the addition of just a masquerade mask. The Venice Carnival is supposed to be a fun, relaxed experience, so wear whatever you feel most comfortable in. Our tip: at the very least wear a mask—you’ll fit right in and feel like you are part of the festivities!

DO I NEED TO BOOK TO ATTEND EVENTS DURING THE CARNIVAL? 

image via

Most of the events held during the Carnival are free to attend. However, there are several private events—beautiful masquerade balls and dinners—that require payment, which are often expensive (hundreds of dollars per person). The official Venice Carnival website lists all of the events (both public and private) along with their corresponding dates and costs so you can decide which events you would like to attend according to your schedule and budget.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE CARNIVAL?

image via

Yes! Here’s a few extra tips to help you navigate your way through one of Europe’s most exciting festivals:

  • Book early! This applies to plane tickets, hotel rooms, and restaurants.
  • Research restaurants before you arrive in Venice. During the Carnival, almost everywhere will be crowded, and restaurants and cafes closest to St. Mark’s Square fill up quickly and tend to be expensive. By doing your research and booking in advance, you’ll be able to enjoy traditional Venetian fare without any added stress.
  • Public restrooms are difficult to come by in Venice. If you are spending the day away from your hotel, plan to use the restrooms at whichever cafes and restaurants you stop at.
  • Lots of people will want to take photos of you if you are in costume. The more elaborate your outfit, the more likely it is you’ll be asked to stop and pose for photos. Just go with it—it’s a compliment! And if you’re the one behind the lens, be mindful of people’s time when asking them to pose. Taking a photo or two is fine, but trying to take a million shots from different angles can be tiresome.
  • The seafood in Venice is exceptional. Plan to have one meal that features traditional Venetian seafood dishes, along with a Peach Bellini—the quintessential Venetian drink.

Most importantly, have fun and don’t let the crowds stress you out! The Venice Carnival is a wonderful experience, and being around lots of different people is just a part of that.