Venice in winter — history, art and gondolas
I was still at university the first time I visited Venice in winter.
The setting was everything I’d imagined it to be, and I was immediately captivated by the mysterious city on water.
Venice is a destination that appeals to every type of traveler.
It’s a place where couples can get lost in the side streets, and also in each other. Venice is also the meeting point for students studying the inspiring art history and architecture that’s around every turn.
While summer brings the heat and masses of people, winter in Venice brings the calm and less visitors. And as much as I prefer warmer weather, I’m more drawn to tranquil surroundings, especially when I travel.
When winter arrives in Venice, the city becomes even more alluring, with an uninterrupted angle to photograph around every corner.
The weather in Venice in winter
The weather in Venice come winter can include everything from heavy downpours to snow when the temperatures really dip.
Personally, I’ve been really lucky when visiting during the colder months, only experiencing plenty of winter sunshine.
Enchanting Venice by night
1. Less tourists in Venice in winter
It’ll come as no surprise that there are far less tourists in Venice in winter. The period before Christmas and after the new year is the time I most enjoy visiting.
I get a pang of anxiety when thinking about the number of people that flock to Venice in summer. There’s the hordes of people at Piazzale Roma either arriving, departing, or lining up to buy tickets for the vaporetto.
Then, there’s getting on the vaporetto itself, and having the (dis)pleasure of being sandwiched between sweaty tourists.
Winter in Venice is a more chilled experience.
Sure, you get the occasional irate Venetian losing their cool, and speaking passionately in their local language. But, it’s nothing compared to crowds of tourists from everywhere — some happily shouting, others out of frustration.
See where they build the iconic gondolas
“When winter arrives in Venice, the city becomes even more alluring…”
2. Less busy transport
On the vaporetto, you can choose — rather than be forced to stand — when visiting during the winter period. For me, standing’s the best way to get uninterrupted views of Venice, and to capture the stillness of the city.
Gondolas — Venice in winter
Along the banks of the canals, you’ll see rows of iconic gondolas, and the gondoliers vying for your custom.
Personally, I find the gondola rides too expensive, but I understand it’s a one-off experience for many. A fun and less expensive option is to learn how to row like a gondolier.
Then you have the water taxis. The price can also be costly, but if splitting with family or friends, it’s a chic way to whizz around Venice.
Water taxis can also accommodate up to 10 people, so consider it like your personal limousine in Venice.
On foot — Venice in winter
From all the transport options available in Venice, nothing beats exploring this incredible city than on foot.
It goes without saying that comfortable footwear is essential, because you’ll be walking a lot. In winter, choose something that’ll keep your feet warm and dry, but will still keep you looking stylish.
American brand Sorel has a wide range of comfortable yet chic walking boots, ideal for walking around Venice in winter. What’s more, they also offer free shipping on all orders.
Split the fare for a water taxi in Venice
Gondoliers waiting for your custom
3. Dine at the best places
The region of Veneto is known for its comfort style of cooking, and dishes that are ideal for winter.
One ingredient that’s seasonal in winter, and that I can’t get enough of, is radicchio. Forget any packet salad radicchio, because the variety they’ve in Veneto is unlike any other.
Breakfast in Venice — Venice in winter
With all the walking you’ll be doing in Venice, stopping off to recharge is one of my favorite pastimes. For breakfast, there are tons of good pasticceria places in Venice, serving buttery croissant and frothy cappuccinos.
Take a walk to Campo Santa Margherita, where you’ll find many good breakfast places.
For those unfamiliar with how Italians do breakfast, it’s sweet not savory.
Get the best table, and view, during Venice in winter
Where to eat lunch in Venice
Rather than sit down to a standard lunch, try something a little different and head to a cicchetteria.
Cicchetti are small snacks or side dishes, a bit like tapas, and budget friendly too. Many bars, known as ‘bacari’ serve up different types of cicchetti, which include sandwiches with various toppings.
Something for everyone — Venice in winter
There are vegetarian and vegan cicchetti options available too. During winter, you’ll meet more locals at the bacari. The more rustic and no-frills the bacaro, the better.
Once you find a good one, I encourage you to try at least 3 cicchetti. Pair it with a glass of local wine and soak up the local atmosphere.
Tempting Venetian cicchetti
Desserts in Venice
The period between Christmas and carnival in Venice brings with it a smorgasbord of delicious things to try.
Frittelle are balls of fried doughy goodness, usually filled with cream or zabaglione.
As with the cicchetti places, it’s not easy to find a pasticceria that sells good fritelle. The only thing you can do, is try a few and decide which is best.
During carnival that takes place in Venice in February, another seasonal sweet favorite is Venetian crostoli.
A favourite Venetian treat during winter and carnival, frittelle
Dinner in Venice
Dining out in Venice can be expensive, but you can’t leave without trying out any of their best restaurants.
You not only get the chance to sample excellent Venetian cooking, but also during winter, and in a relaxed setting.
Visiting in the colder months has many advantages, the first one being availability. Making a reservation at any of the top restaurants in Venice is vital. And in winter, it’s a lot easier.
The best table
Some of my favorite restaurants in Venice include La Colombina and Alle Corone.
The former’s a cozy style trattoria, where you can eat well without any pretension. Seafood’s served fresh, and no true Venetian kitchen is complete without a bigoli pasta dish on the menu.
Alle Corone is the restaurant of luxury hotel Hotel Ai Reali, and worth every Euro.
Dine on some of the best, and seasonal, Venetian cuisine, while admiring the gondolas passing by your window.
A seasonal and Venetian winter staple, radicchio from Treviso
4. The city is yours
When you travel to Venice during the winter months, there’s moments where you’ll feel like the city is yours.
Move away from Piazza San Marco and the Rialto, and discover the ‘backend’ of the city. Cross over the smaller bridges connecting Venice, and stop as often as you like to take photos.
It’s also in these parts of Venice where you see normal life in action.
Local life up close — Venice in winter
Many visitors tend to forget that people live, work and study in Venice, and during winter, you see it immediately.
A good example of this are the workshops where they make the gondolas. It’s only a short distance from the allure of Venice’s Grand Canal, but intriguing to see behind the scenes.
As an amateur photographer, I can’t stress how much better it is to travel to Venice in winter. No angle of the canal or of the Rialto Bridge gets tiresome.
Instead, scenes come to life, during the day, or at night. And with the help of a little post production, the colors of Venice pop that bit more.
5. Stay at top hotels for less
It’s no secret that top hotels reduce their prices during the off-peak season to attract more guests.
Saying that, when you travel to Venice in winter, staying at a boutique, luxury boutique or luxury hotel is doable.
Novecento Boutique Hotel — Venice in winter
Location, location, location is the buzzword at Novecento Boutique Hotel.
It takes around 5 minutes to reach the impressive Gallerie dell’Accademia, and around 10 minutes to reach Piazza San Marco.
The rooms showcase a mixture of Mediterranean and Oriental design, created by Italian artists and stylists.
Breakfast is a homemade affair, in the form of a buffet serving products straight from the market.
The essential packing list for women
Corte di Gabriela — best boutique hotels in Venice
Spend time in a 4-star boutique hotel that has a modern feel, and treats every guest like royalty.
There are 11 suites at Corte di Gabriela, ranging from comfort to the generously sized Junior Suite Balcony.
Breakfast at Corte di Gabriela receives consistently high reviews, and it’s understandable. Items include freshly baked croissants with dark chocolate filling, locally produced ham and Asiago cheese.
Steaming coffee sourced from a local coffee roaster is served from the traditional Moka, rounding off the meal.
Room for all — Venice in winter
Families, or larger groups, traveling to Venice may prefer booking one of the suite apartments.
They can accommodate 4 people, and Corte di Gabriela provide daily fresh linens and towels for your stay.
The apartments are in a separate building a few meters away from the main hotel.
Enjoy a ‘home away from home’ experience, and pretend momentarily that you also live in the heart of charming Venice.
Venetian style architecture
Top luxury hotels in Venice — The Gritti Palace
Nothing screams luxury in Venice than checking into a 5-star 15th century palace. Securing one of the top locations on the Grand Canal, The Gritti Palace interiors are even more impressive.
Types of accommodation include Patron Canal Suites to Venetian guest rooms. The former has views of the Grand Canal, marble bathroom with a walk-in shower and unique art adoring the walls.
Venetian guest rooms have Venetian stucco, or Rubelli customed designed silk walls, Murano glass chandeliers, and historical oil paintings.
Whichever type of suite you choose at The Gritti Palace, your stay’s bound to be memorable.
A luxury spa — Venice in winter
If you’re not already sold on staying at The Gritti Palace, maybe a mention of its spa might do the trick.
There are 2 double spa suites with private steam baths decorated in Venetian mosaics.
Your skin and general wellbeing is in good hands as they use Sisley Paris products.
Have you traveled to Venice in winter? Or do you prefer visit during the summer season? Drop me a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!
Till next time, happy boutique travels x
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Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience, a demographic (late 20s onward) that enjoys glamping over camping and staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels. Flashpackers also like to indulge in the local food and wine, cultural activities, as well as a spot of wellness on their travels. Want to know more? Read on....