Venice is known as a magical and legendary city. With history as the capital of a small country, a major port of trade, an art hub, and a military presence in northern Italy, it has certainly earned the recognition. Built on a series of islands, and connected by many bridges, it has a unique and unmistakable appearance, which makes it a very much sought-after tourist destination. With beautiful stone pathways and old magnificently crafted bridges, you would be hard-pressed to find any cars in this ancient metropolis, so be sure to drop off any extra luggage at a storage locker before exploring. You may also want to pack a comfortable pair of shoes, as no vacation should ever have sore feet as a consequence.
While Venice is always full of great things to do, some activities are better during certain seasons. August is very hot and humid, October through February is the time of Acqua Alta (High Water), and winter is just cold. So make sure you know which season would be best for the activities that you hope to do. If you choose to visit Venice in the later fall months or the earlier spring months, you may find smaller crowds and lower prices, but the weather is more unpredictable. Summer’s warm and sunny weather makes it one of the best times to visit if you are planning on hitting the beach, but that also makes it the most popular time for most vacationers, causing prices to soar. So here is a list of some of the pros and cons of visiting in different seasons, as well as some fun things to check out.
Summer in Venice, June - August
Venice is known for its stunning architecture and waterways, and many people vacation in the region just for these, but the countryside surrounding the city can be just as spectacular. If you find yourself visiting the city in the summertime, you might want to consider adding hiking to your itinerary. Hiking in the mountains is a fun and economical activity for summer vacations in Venice. Even if the Italian Alps seem too challenging, rest assured in knowing that there are still some easier trails for beginner hikers.
You may also want to hit the nearby beaches, whether to go for a swim or just to relax. Set on the shore of the gorgeous Adriatic Sea, spending some time on the sand can be a wonderful way to break away from the cityscape while still enjoying the magic of Venice. On top of that, there are several nearby islands that you may want to plan a day trip to. Further from the tourist traps and bigger crowds, most of them can be reached by a short cruise on a Vaporetto or ferry and are well worth the trip for the view alone.
Museum tours are also a delightful way to spend your days in Venice. With almost 100 separate museums, from art and architecture to religion and culture, you will have plenty to choose from.
A popular and relaxing option is to simply wander the streets and admire the stunning architecture. During the summer, the evening is a great time for exploring on foot, as the average temperatures drop and the city cools down.
One disadvantage to taking a trip in the high season is the fact that everyone wants to visit in summer, so the lines are longer, and everything is busier. Prices tend to be sky-high during the peak season, and the city is generally less amazing. Most cruise ships will dock on Saturday or Sunday, so if you are hoping for a weekend trip, be prepared to run into massive crowds of tourists.
The normal summer temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4 degrees Celsius) and the sky is usually mostly sunny. Combine the high temperatures with bustling crowds, and navigating the city can become very exhausting during the busiest months. August is generally considered the least pleasant time to visit Venice, as the weather turns hot and muggy. Most natives will take a vacation at this time to avoid the weather.
Fall in Venice, September - November
If you enjoy wine tastings and festivals, fall is a great time for you to visit Venice. With harvests and various Catholic celebrations in full swing, Venice in autumn still has strong tourist appeal, but with fewer of the warm weather visitors who will have left by now. October and November are really the best fall months to take a trip to the city if you are trying to avoid crowds and don’t mind the brisker 50 to 60-degree weather (10 to 15.6 degrees Celsius). You can wander the streets and admire the city, or head to the countryside for a scheduled vineyard tour.
You may also find better hotel rates as the prices drop post vacation season and fewer tourists during the off-season.
In autumn you will find the Venetians appreciating the milder temperatures while celebrating the many fall festivals, such as All Saints Day, the Feast of Santa Maria della Salute, and the annual Venice Marathon. All Saints Day is a celebration of not only the classic Catholic saints, but all of the grandparents, parents, friends, and inspirational figures that people have lost over the years.
The Santa Maria della Salute (commonly referred to as the Salute) is a magnificent Basilica built to commemorate the end of the bubonic plague outbreak, also known as the Plague of Milan. In November, the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin, a Roman Catholic tradition, is held at the Salute.
The Venice Marathon is recognized worldwide as a quality race, and it boasts the IAAF Bronze Label. Just over 26 miles long, the race takes a scenic route through the city.
For movie lovers, the International Venice Film Festival is definitely worth visiting. Started in 1935, it is designed to showcase masterfully made movies. Most of the viewings are open to the public, with tickets available for purchase online.
Hiking is still quite enjoyable in late September and early October, as the sun tends to spend most of its time hiding behind the clouds after the summer months, and the cooler weather is still quite nice. November's temperatures range from 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celcius) and the fall rains begin at this time, so hiking may not always be possible.
One disadvantage to visiting in the autumn is the high water season. With fall rains causing flooding, some popular tourist areas, such as Piazza San Marco, may be found under quite a bit of water. However, if you grab a pair of rubber boots you can still walk through the plaza. Many souvenir shops sell boots, however, they may be marked up significantly.
If you choose to visit Venice in the shoulder season you are also more likely to find some shops and restaurants closed, though there are always plenty of others to check out.
Winter in Venice, December - February
One of Venice’s most notable traditions is the Carnival of Venice. Known for its lavish costumes and outlandish masks, it has become quite an attraction for visitors to the region. According to tradition, the Carnival originally commemorated the victory of the Venice Republic over one of its enemies. Now it is just an excuse to have a party in the middle of February.
The Christmas season is another magical time to visit Venice, as most of the large crowds wait until Christmas day to swarm, leaving the streets peaceful the week before. If you choose to visit during the Christmas season, you may also want to stick around the city long enough to see the massive fireworks display held every New year's Eve in front of Saint Mark's Basilica.
If you prefer a more relaxed visit, you can take your trip to Venice during the early winter months before the Carnival. Take a lovely walk through the streets and pop in to check out some of the local cafes and restaurants, or take some time to appreciate the classic art of opera. Venice is also home to one of the oldest cafes in Europe, Caffè Florian. Built during the eighteenth century, it has hosted famed Italians and lasted through the ages. A work of art itself, it is still a coffee shop, so a reservation is not needed.
Another great activity for a winter vacation is museum touring. With several huge museums, as well as medieval churches, a peaceful winter walk through the historical monuments is a wonderful way to spend the day.
The water buses will run rain, shine, or snow, so you won’t have to worry too much about transportation if you don’t feel like walking.
Speaking of snow, Venice does get some snow flurries, but the weather usually stays just warm enough to keep the snow from sticking around. The temperatures can drop to as low as 32 degrees (0 degrees Celsius) but average closer to 35 degrees (2 degrees Celsius), so make sure you pack warm clothes. In general, the weather is rather dreary and wet during winter, which some people may like, while others would prefer to visit Venice once the sun has returned to the city.
Spring in Venice, March-May
Spring is a great time to explore Venice. The average temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) and as nature begins to wake up, it is a lovely time to explore the city without the massive throngs of tourists that invade the city during the summer. Most of the same attractions that would be open in summer are still available earlier in the year, but they may close earlier in the day than they would in summer.
Lacking the large summer crowds, Venice can be seen in a more authentic light in the spring months. And if you choose to visit in April during the holy week, you can participate in an Easter service at one of the numerous churches in the city, or partake in Benedizione del Fuoco (the Blessing of the Fire).
Another fun cultural tradition is the Vogalonga Regatta. Starting at Saint Mark’s Basin near the Piazza San Marco, this massive gathering of motorless boats moves through the canals of Venice along a picturesque route. It is more of a boat parade than a competitive race, with prizes given out almost randomly.
If you are looking to wander a bit farther from the city, you may want to check out the glass blowing factory on Murano Island, a short distance from the city itself. You can take a Vaporetto to get to and from the island, but you may have to schedule a visit before getting to the factory.
One disadvantage to visiting in Spring is the high water that will sometimes hit the city due to spring rains. Like the fall floods, the lower areas of the city will be left several inches underwater. But as long as you have your trusty rain boots, you will be unstoppable.
Another reason to possibly avoid springtime Venice would be the Easter crowds. While spring as a whole may be less busy than summer, the holy week of Easter will attract a lot of spring vacationers, so it may be best to wait until later in the season to plan your trip.
With its unique layout, Venice has become a natural vacation spot. There is no doubt you have heard of some of the more iconic attractions, such as the gondola rides through the canals and classic Italian cuisine. But there is so much more. Built around and through the Venetian Lagoon on a series of islands, it has a strong history as a merchant center. Due to cultural influences coming in from all directions, it is a beautiful and distinct metropolis. Like many European cities, you may find a modern coffee shop situated right next to an intricately detailed medieval building with centuries of history. You really shouldn't limit yourself to just the metropolis though. The surrounding countryside is just as gorgeous, with the Adriatic Sea to the east and the fields and mountains to the north, the whole Venetian region is truly a sight to be seen.
Overall, the springtime after the holy week but before the summer peak season is one of the best times to visit Venice, especially if you are looking for a nice relaxing weekend trip with fewer crowds. You can enjoy the low season, participate in key local events, and see the city in the purest light.
So no matter what's your best time to visit Venice, there will be something fantastic to partake in. Whether it’s basking on the beach, hiking the Italian Alps, appreciating the classic Italian opera, or participating in traditional Venetian celebrations, a stay in Venice is a wonderful and memorable experience.