• 4 January 2023

The Carnival of Venice is an annual Italian spectacle that sees locals and visitors alike don fabulous masks and take to the streets to parade their costumes! This al fresco festival commences about two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on Shrove Tuesday, just in time for the first day of Lenten season. This celebration of Venetian art and culture is certainly a sight to behold. It’s no wonder that it attracts around 3 million people every year!

In 2023, the Carnival of Venice takes place from 4 – 21 February.

Dreaming of visiting Italy and seeing the Venice Carnival in action? Expat Explore has put together this concise guide to give you a taste of what to look forward to!

What is the Carnival of Venice?

The Carnevale di Venezia first began in the 11th century as a lead-up to Lent which lasted over two months. In the 18th century, the carnival was outlawed as many Venetians were using masks to conceal their identities and commit crimes!  However, in 1979 the carnival was revived as a way to connect Venice to its history. Since then, it has become one of the world’s most famous and beloved festivals!

These days, the Carnival of Venice is expertly planned and executed by a host of official planning committees and overseen by an increased police force to ensure that everybody is on their best behaviour, despite the excitement of masked anonymity. The celebrations usually take place in February. You can find all the details about the next festival in English on the official website of the Carnevale Venezia.

Today, the carnival is an icon of Venetian culture.


Travel Tip: If you’re heading to Venice to partake in the Carnival, or to simply enjoy the city’s stunning sights throughout the rest of the year, you may want to consider investing in the Venezia Unica City Pass for visitors. This handy, all-in-one pass allows you to plan your stay in the city of masks digitally, and store tickets for public transportation, admission to tourist attractions and cultural events all in one place!

Street parades and theatrical experiences

Every year, participants of the carnival turn the streets of Venice into an enchanting showcase of gorgeous theatrical displays. Over a few weeks, locals and visitors can look forward to a range of magical parades and entertaining plays. The best costumes and masks could even receive an award during an award ceremony! While there are happenings all over the city, the famed St. Mark’s Square is the vibrant hub of the festivities.

Colourful participants in a few of the Venice Carnival’s parades.
Elaborate street parties and masked balls

Mask making has long been an integral part of Venetian culture. One of the best souvenirs to buy when visiting Venice is a beautiful, hand-painted mask made by a local artisan. To truly immerse yourself in the city’s masked history, attend a masked ball! These luxurious affairs are held in 18th-century-style historic Venice buildings! However, these balls can be very expensive. Have no fear, the streets are just as full of fun and excitement!

Authentic Venetian masks have always been an essential part of the Venice Carnival.

Related: Don’t miss out on Europe’s top events and festivals in 2023!

Extravagant shows on the city’s famous waterways

Is there anything more quintessentially Venetian than a gondola? Of course, riding a gondola or water taxi is a bucket-list experience for any traveller in Venice. If you can believe it, Venice’s charming canals are even more fascinating during the Venice Carnival! Water parades and regatta races take place during the carnival period drawing plenty of spectators and creating a festive atmosphere.

Regatta race performed at the Carnival.

Related: These are the Italian events you should attend, according to a local!

Many of our Expat Explore European coach tours include forays into Venice. Take a look at our Eastern Europe – Venice to London, Taste of Italy and Ultimate Europe tours for some inspiration. We’ll make sure you experience Venice in style!

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