Planning your next winter break? Here’s why you should consider visiting Venice in winter…
Venice. It’s beautiful at all times of year, right? It’s probably one of the most beautiful places in the world. So why visit Venice in winter?
Why you should visit Venice in winter
There are many reasons why you should visit Venice in winter. Let’s be pragmatic and start with the practical reasons. One of the best reasons to visit Venice during the winter months is because it’s surprisingly budget friendly out of the peak season. A quick look on Skycanner shows return flights for around the £100 mark, which is really not bad at all.
Another sensible reason to visit Venice in winter is that it’s much, much quieter than during the summer months. All those pictures of the crowds spiralling out of St Mark’s Square or pouring out of the cruise liners which dwarf the skyline really don’t float my boat (pun intended) so if you’d prefer a slightly more low-key experience the visiting Venice in winter might be for you.
OK, so that’s the practical reasons to visit Venice in winter. Now it’s time to channel the more subjective side of your brain.
The fact is that Venice really wears the winter well. It looks absolutely beautiful, like something out of a fairytale. The colour palette is gorgeous, all moody blues and greys, and it’s also often shrouded in mist, which just adds to the charm. I know, back up, back up. There’s me getting all carried away with the romance of Venice in winter. I bet you actually want to know the details like the actual temperature at that time of year. Right?
How cold is Venice in winter?
Good question. The average temperate in Venice in December is between 1°C and 7°C – that’s 34°F to 45°F. So definitely on the chilly side for sure! Essentially, Venice is cold, damp and grey during the winter months, with December and January as the two coldest months of the year.
So, you might not be able to sit in St Mark’s Square and eat gelato with the sun beating down on your skin as you would in summer, but you can wrap up and walk the length and breadth of the city, stopping off at the occasional pub for fresh pasta and a glass of red to warm up.
And who am I kidding, you can still order gelato, freezing cold or not. I certainly did! Nothing was keeping me away from that mint choc chip..
Here’s what you should see and do in Venice in winter…
- Walk around. The best thing to do in Venice in winter is wrap yourself up in a warm coat and just wander around, because it’s so bloody gorgeous – and all without even trying. Truly, it’s faded grandeur at its most charming, with flaking paint, tiny alleyways and gorgeous still greeny-blue canals in every direction. If you’re anything like me you’ll just be awed by just how beautiful it is. I also loved being able to walk everywhere rather than having to jump on the metro or a bus.
- Of course, everyone wants to visit the Rialto Bridge, which is the most well-known bridge in Venice. It’s also one of the most crowded bridges in Venice, and you’ll probably have to wait your turn to get a photo with your friends or other half. And that was in winter – goodness knows what summer is like! My advice: make friends with the other hundred or so tourists there jostling around trying to get a perfect selfie together, and take turns taking photos of each other. Voila, no awkward selfie pose.
- Make sure you stop by another one of Venice’s famous bridges, which is the Bridge of Sighs. It’s also (probably) known as the second busiest/second most well-known bridge in Venice. The Bridge of Sighs of is so-called because it would be the last part of Venice prisoners would see before they were consigned to their fate in the cells. Now I joked it gets its name because you have to wait for about twenty minutes for all the other tourists to get out the way so you can take a selfie.
- Right, now onto the really important stuff: what to eat in Venice. I would definitely recommended getting flavoured tiramisu from Tre Mercanti. As someone who inhales tiramisu whenever I’m in Italy, it would have been rude not to make a visit to the place that’s rumoured to be the “best tiramisu in Venice’”, wouldn’t it? They serve it in a variety of different flavours which change on a daily basis, which was a really difficult decision in itself. After much deliberation, I opted for an Amaretto flavoured version, and my other half decided to go for a chestnut and vanilla version. Both were absolutely delicious, so nice in fact that I actually really wish we came back for another one…
- Visit to the oldest coffee shop in Venice, known as Florian’s. It’s on St Mark’s square and you’ll spot the faded grandeur of the flaking paint as you approach, which, let’s be honest, only seems to add to its charm.
- Don’t for a moment consider actually ordering food – certainly not an actual meal – because that would obliterate half your spending money. Truly, this place is really rather swanky. It’s famous for its traditional hot chocolate, which is thick, molten chocolate in a teacup, and is practically a meal in itself. Don’t put your umbrella on the table, as I did, as this will ruin with the ambience of the experience and will be swiftly moved by the waiter.
- Take the Murano, Burano, Torcello boat trip, where you’ll visit these three beautiful islands in one day. They’re all rather lovely – Murano is famous for its glass-blowing, and Torcello has a lovely Cathedral, as well as a very nice Italian lady selling sandwiches and ice cream outside it. But the stand out island is Burano, which is famous for its gorgeous rainbow coloured fishermen’s houses that look like something out of a dream. No pressure at all to get a great shot for the gram. At. All.
- You might be wondering where the gondola trip is on this list. We didn’t do one, which I’m actually totally fine with. Paying 80 euros to sit in a boat and be sung at in freezing cold November didn’t sound like at that much fun to me, so we swerved it. That left us plenty of time to explore the Jewish Ghetto and the Peggy Guggenheim museum, both of which are definitely worth seeing. I even had spare cash for an Aperol Spritz, winter or not.
What to pack for visiting Venice in winter
A hat, coat and scarf. For some reason I underestimated how cold it was going to be and didn’t have a scarf with me, and it was absolutely freezing. I got one just off St Mark’s Square, but don’t make the same mistake I did. A warm winter coat is also a must – it does get cold wandering all those beautiful streets.
Waterproof shoes. It rained when we were in Venice, but of course there’s possibility that it might flood at any time – you’ll get used to hearing the sirens ring out every morning at high tide. I’m not suggesting you bring your wellies with you, but a good pair of waterproof boots are a good addition to your suitcase and should keep your feet dry and warm.
An umbrella. I’m from Scotland so it’s a rare day that I head out without an umbrella, but it’s a good idea to have one in your bag just in case.
Sunglasses. Well, it was freezing cold for most of the time I was in Venice, but on the day we took the boat trip to Murano, Burano and Torcello boat trip it beamed with sunshine all day. Make sure you’ve got sunglasses for those days when the sun decides to peek out from behind the clouds.
Don’t pack too much. You’ll have to wheel your suitcase along narrowed cobbled streets and probably across numerous crowded bridges as well, so you’ll want to make sure your suitcase is as easy to manoeuvre as possible.
Where to stay in Venice
We stayed at the Hotel Saturnia in Venice, which is a family run hotel which has been in operation since 1908. I loved it. It’s cosy, traditional and packed full of character with wooden beams, ornate rugs and lots of original features – including a stained glass window in the lobby. That might not be to everyone’s taste but I found it utterly charming. If you’re looking for a nice hotel in the heart of Venice then this is the place for you. It’s located five minutes walk from St Mark’s Square so you’re close to the centre of the action. There’s also a restaurant on-site which we didn’t manage to squeeze in but is a great option if it’s a particularly chilly night outside. All in all, I loved the Hotel Saturnia in Venice and I’d definitely go back!