Venice is one of the most interesting and romantic places in the world. This city is extremely colorful. Every corner, monument, church or museum contains a piece of history, a tale or a tradition that daily the city offers to citizens and visitors.
The high point in Venice’s social calendar is Venice’s Carnival. Our expert explains how to make the best of your visit – from where to get the best masks and how to spend the best time.
Where to go to see the Carnival
St Mark’s Square is the fulcrum of Carnival activities, and that is where you will find the most extraordinary costumes – many hoping for a chance in the best costume competition, some aiming to be photographed, and others are just enjoying themselves. Everyone has a chance to wear extravagant masks and dresses, and to spend 12 days looking like the Phantom of the Opera.
Venice Carnival admission costs
As a rule, the cost of airline tickets and hotels is higher during the Carnival. Our advice is to book hotel and tickets in advance and use offers of low cost airline companies.
There is no extra charge to visit St Mark’s Square during the Carnival. And all tourists can enjoy this even being in the center of the Carnival action. Though if you want to attend a special party or ball these can be quite expensive – see the carnival website http://www.carnevale.venezia.it/ for more details.
What to wear at the Venice Carnival
You are not getting the full benefit of Carnival without a mask. Venice is full of mask shops. To get the real thing, rather than a far-eastern import, head for traditional mascarei such as Ca’ Macanà (Calle delle Botteghe 3172, Dorsoduro 0039 041 277 6142; http://www.camacana.com/ ), Tragicomica (Calle dei Nomboli 2800, San Polo, 0039 041 721 102; http://www.tragicomica.it/ ) or Papier Maché (Calle lunga Santa Maria Formosa 5174B, Castello, 0039 041 522 9995; http://www.papiermache.it/ ).
The voluminous cloak that Venetians swept around them against winter chills is called a tabarro and can be purchased from Monica (Calle Scaleter 2235, San Polo, 0039 041 524 6242; http://www.monicadaniele.com/ ) who has single-handedly revived the garment. Atelier Pietro Longhi (Ramo secondo Saoner 2671, San Polo, 0039 041 714 478; http://www.pietrolonghi.com/ ) rents and sells historical costumes, from the most simple to the very complex indeed. Banco Lotto N°10 (Salizada Sant’Antonin 3478B, Castello; 0039 041 522 1439; http://www.ilcerchiovenezia.it/ ) sells beautiful reproductions of historical costumes made by the inmates of Venice’s women’s prison.
What to visit also in Venice
Spend a day on the islands, mainly Murano, Burano and Torcello. There are boat services to all these islands at scheduled times, including between the islands themselves. Be prepared for long lines and long waits for the boats between islands. Read our Article re Burano island.
Churches. Although the Basilica di San Marco is free, other famous churches charge an entry fee. If you plan to visit three churches or more, you are better off buying the churches pass. There is also a combined pass for museums, churches and transportation only available at the tourist information office but it is relatively expensive.
Saint Mark’s Basilica, Piazza San Marco (Water lines № 1, 52, and 82 will take you from Santa Lucia (the train station) or Piazzale Roma to Piazza San Lucia. Walking is another option but will require a map and lots of time and energy.
Santa Maria della Salute (English: Saint Mary of Health), commonly known simply as the Salute. It stands on the narrow finger of Punta della Dogana, between the Grand Canal and the Giudecca Canal, at the Bacino di San Marco.
Museums. The Museums of St. Mark’s Square are covered by one €16 admission ticket, including Doge’s Palace and the Correr Museum, valid for 3 months, for a single entry per museum. On the other hand, the Museum Pass, for €24.50, covers seven more museums including those on Murano and Burano; these passes are valid for 6 months, for a single entry per museum. La Fenice Theater (Teatro La Fenice), (300 m west of San Marco square). Visit this historic theater with an audioguide (good explanations in several languages). The ticket costs €7.
Must-do in Venice
Romantic Dinner Cruise. Venice has always been (and will always be) one of the most romantic cities in the world, so a romantic activity is a must-do if you’re here with your loved partner. One popular idea is a dinner cruise in Venice like the Galleon Dinner Cruise in Venice on board the Venetian Galleon. http://www.jollyroger.it/
Ride a Vaporetto (Water Bus) down the Grand Canal right before sunset. The Vaporettos’s price is €7, the sights are priceless: amazing architecture, soft seaside sunlight, and a fascinating parade of Venetian watercraft.
Take a Gondola if you can afford it: it’s expensive, but the Gondoliere may decrease the price if you ask (but they can also decrease the time…). Make sure you reach an agreement on price and time before you start! A good tip with the Gondolieres is to bargain the price down as low as you can, then say that it’s still too much and walk away. Two or three of them will chase after you, one after the other, each offering a lower price than the last. It’s possible to knock €20-€30 off the price (even then, be prepared to shell out €80).
If you would like to have a guide to show up the highlights of Venice, you can choose between many offers. There are walking or boat tours, focused on shopping or history or for art lovers, and many itineraries.
While going through Venice, make sure you take in the beauty of it all. Walk through the alley ways, and take the water taxi to different parts of the island, sometimes at night you can just go sit in an open area and watch locals and tourists passing by. It is wonderful.
Restaurants and cafes
If you are interested in exploring all things related with Italian food you have to visit “i Tre Mercanti” http://www.itremercanti.it/ (Campo della guerra 2 mins from St Marco square) an amazing food gallery where you can find typical Italian specialties, a wide range of the best wines and the usual classics like Olive Oil, balsamic vinegar, parmesan, Limoncello along with hundreds of regional specialties (including 97 pasta sauces!). Classy and friendly the staff speak many languages and is open every day.
Where to stay during the Carnival
Finding affordable accommodation in Venice over the Carnival can be an ordeal. At this stage, you really need to think about booking in advance.
We are advising you to read our article about Venice Hotels that J&T magazine recommends – Read more