The Venetian Carnival is definitely the city’s most famous celebration and the Venetian mask is for sure one the most recognised symbols in the entire world. Although a deeply Christian tradition, celebrated in numerous cities around the world just before Lent, the one in Venice surpasses any others in terms of size, gathered crowds and fame. Many people dream of coming to “Il Carnevale” but no matter how many pictures one sees, you never know what to really expect.
We’ve spent 5 full days in Venice for the carnival and we must admit it was one of the best experiences of our lives. From the feel of celebrity when you are surrounded by crowds of photographers to the pure joy and delight emanated by everyone, we really felt that all efforts we invested in planning this trip truly paid off and our expectations were greatly exceeded.
So, here are our top DOs and DON’Ts so that you may also fully enjoy this great event, as much as we did.
1. DO … book in advance.
Start looking for accommodations even a couple of months in advance. Millions of people flock to Venice during the carnival so, obviously, most of the accommodations get booked very quickly. Usually the best period to visit the Carnival is either during its first week, or during its last and over all weekends in that period. Carnival activities happen through out the couple weeks of carnival but if you really want to enjoy the full magic of the event do try to go either at the beggining or at the very end.
2. DO… consider your budget.
From accommodations, to meals and other touristic activities, prices in Venice rise during carnival. So, if you have been to Venice before, during a normal period, don’t rely that you will find the same prices again.
3. DO…come in costume.
Of course, it all depends on why you want to come to the Carnival for, but in our opinion to enjoy the atmosphere and the magic of the celebration a full costume is highly recommended. Rather than being a spectator to the show put on by all those glitzy masks, you can actually become an actor and all eyes will be on you. At the end of the day it’s carnival, so let any inhibitions aside and join the craziness! If you want to know more about what it means to attend the Carnival in full costume, you can read our post about it, and decide if that is something you would like to do or not.
4. DO … wake up early and go to St. Mark’s square.
In order to avoid the huge crowds that usually start to gather around 9 AM, most professional photographers and their costumed models come in the heart of the city to conduct stunning photo sessions much earlier. So, if you want to admire beautiful costumes in a tranquil atmosphere, and even take your own better shots of an emptier Venice, visit the square early in the morning. Make sure you ask for permission though before photographing different models at this time, as some of them might be paid for those photos and the photographers might not like it if you steal their frames. Watching and enjoying the the sun rising above a serene Venice is free though, so really a wonderful moment of the day.
5. DO … respect the models.
In the heat of the moment, many tourists want to take as many pictures with as many masked people as possible, and obviously, they all want the best shot. Sometimes they can even become very insistent or very rude in wanting to be very close to you or wanting to take a picture with you, and not merely of you alone. Many of those attending the carnival in full costumes will probably let you take as many pictures as you want but its important to ask first. Some might not like it to be grabbed by the arm, or people touching them. We have seen, not only once, situations when the models became so frustrated by the insistence of certain tourists to pose in all sorts of positions with them or by the fact that they were ignored when they said that something is not OK, that they actually became irritated or even verbally aggressive. The models are also there to have fun and enjoy the event, and many of them are tourists as well, so don’t invade anyone’s privacy or step back if they signal that they want to stop.
1. DON’t hope to easily see too much of Venice.
Sadly, with thousands of tourists also come huge ques at all the city’s attractions. So, if you want to explore the many sights of La Serenissima and you are not really into the Carnival itself, it would be advisable to choose a different period. There are always ques to see museums and attractions here but during the Carnival it can become a nightmare. Usually the weeks immediately after the end of the celebrations are much quieter.
2. DON’t rely on the weather.
Remember that (with slight variations) the carnival falls usually from mid-February to the beginning of March and chances for very cold or even rainy weather are high. It’s true the internet is full of wonderful sunny pictures from the carnival, every year but bear in mind that it last for a couple of weeks so you don’t really know in which exact days they were taken. You might have the misfortune of finding a very gloomy and cold Venice during your stay, so be prepared. When we visited, the events of the first day of carnival were postponed with 24 hours due to bad weather, for instance.
3. DON’t take it personal.
In the havoc and craziness of the celebration, with thousands of people in the same place and the same time all sorts of frustrations might arise. Be patient and remember you are taking part in a wonderful and historical event.
First, there is the entry into St. Mark’s. Due to all the horrifying attacks against civilians that have happened across Europe during the last years it is normal that security measures are very tight when it comes to such a large gathering of people. You might find all entry points into St. Mark’s square blocked by the local police, and you won’t be able to pass them until they search the contents of your bags. If you are wearing a mask, they might ask you to remove it so they can see your face. This might lead to some queuing time before being able to reach the place where it all happens, but remember it is for your safety and for the safety of those around you.
Once inside, the entire show of photographing or being photographed begins. If you did decide to come with a mask, you will live some wonderful experiences being in the centre of attention but, there are the occasional tourists who might be a bit rude or overly enthusiastic about your costume and can become irritating when they don’t let you move as they keep shoving their cameras in your face. On the other side if you don’t want to be under the spotlight, and you want to watch, prepare for some occasional frustrations when dealing with others that have their eyes on the same subject as you do. They will get in your way, they will run to the model to take a selfie with him/her ruining your shot, you will have professional photographers with different large instruments like lights and tripods wanting to take a good picture as well so, all in all, there is quite a considerable level of commotion around those in costumes. Be patient and don’t let all of these nuisances spoil your mood.
4. DON’t wait until your hungry.
Stupid as this may sound, finding a place to eat can be a real challenge during the carnival. Especially if you are in St. Mark’s enjoying the heart of the celebrations, don’t wait until you are really hungry before heading out to find a place to eat. Everything around central Venice is packed full and with many people standing in line to find a spot. One day, it really took us 2 hours of constant searching for a restaurant and eventually we gave up. We had to settle for sandwiches and wait for dinner time when the city gets emptier. Especially if you are on strict eating hours or you know yourself to be cranky when hungry :), take this into account and either book in advance if possible, get a snack with you or simply start looking for a place to eat well before your lunch time.
5. DON’t plan on strict schedules in central Venice.
St. Mark’s and the surrounding area are choked by people, and we can’t stress that enough. This means that from finding a place to have a coffee, to attraction entries and even making sure the next vaporetto isn’t packed full nothing is a certainty. You have to image a mass of people that either walks at a very slow pace or it doesn’t even move at all, because they stop to take pictures, that means that even distances that would normally take a couple of minutes to cross might take much longer than that. (One day, it took us 35 minutes to cross from one side of St. Marks to the other … 35 minutes!) So if you want to have a day full of quick stops to different landmarks completely avoid central Venice. Head out to Dorsodouro, Santa Croce or Castello neighborhoods for more space and tranquillity and leave Canneragio and San Marco to the event goers, its pretty much all you can do here during Carnival days.
San Marco – heart of Venice Carnival on Google Maps
The best internet place to find out detailed information about the upcoming Venice Carnival, exact dates and events happening each day of the celebrations is the event’s official website:
We really hope you enjoyed our tips about the Venice Carnival. For us it was one of the best trips we ever took and we hope we will do it again soon. Maybe even in 2019 :).
Let us know if you found our infos useful or drop a comment below just to share your experiences with us. We always love to hear from you.
Until next time, Happy Lives and Joyful Journeys everyone!