Tips for Spending Christmas and New Years in Venice

Updated 2018.

Can you think of a more magical place to spend the holidays than Venice? If you’re planning a trip to Venice for Christmas or New Year’s, keep in mind the following:

  • A wonderful way to spend Christmas Eve is to attend midnight mass at St. Mark’s Basilica. But remember, midnight mass starts at 10:30 p.m. and you should get there early to get a seat (no tickets are needed). Try to enter through the north entrance and not the west entrance often used by tourists.
  • Venice’s main Christmas market is at Campo San Stefano and ends on Christmas Eve.
  • Even though December 26 is a national holiday (St. Stephen’s Day), most of Venice’s museums and sites will be open.
  • MANY Venice restaurants are closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and even on the 23rd and 26th. Most hotel restaurants and Harry’s Bar are open. Be sure to do your homework and make reservations ahead of time for Christmas meals. We hear Caffe Florian Piazza San Marco‘s famous cafe — is open on Christmas Day. Good place for Christmas breakfast and coffee!

Ruth Edenbaum, co-author (with Shannon Essa) of the book, Chow! Venice: Savoring the Food and Wine of La Serenissima, has spent the past many Christmas and New Year’s holidays in Venice and shared some of her own tips with us:

  • Remember that the vaporetto (boat) schedule changes on major holidays. Check the signs posted on the platforms for schedule information.
  • Each year on December 26, the Frari Church in San Polo (in the Campo dei Frari) offers a free concert at 4 p.m. The church is filled with magnificent art, including Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin, Canova‘s Tomb and a carved monk’s chair from 1468. Get there early and dress warmly.
  • For an incredible seafood dinner and a warm celebration at midnight, go to Trattoria Antiche Carampane on New Year’s Eve. (San Polo 1911; 39-041 524-0165) The price for dinner runs about $125 per person. No matter where you go that night, you must make reservations.
  • Another restaurant recommendation: Antica Trattoria Poste Vecie (Rialto Pescheria Venezia; 39-041-721-1822) is open on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. This restaurant also has excellent fish and a larger menu as well. The soups and Venetian-style calf’s liver are terrific. Fireplaces keep the restaurant warm on cold nights.
  • If you’re in Venice on January 6, don’t miss the Befana races. Men clad in long skirts, wigs and babushkas climb into boats for races on the Grand Canal. The best views are from the Rialto Bridge.
  • Bells are a big part of the holidays in Venice. I don’t know if it is the water or the open spaces created by the water, but they sound glorious and send shivers up and down my spine. They ring out to announce masses and the start of Christmas and New Year’s.

— Kathy McCabe