10 days of extravagant and exuberant fun, Venice’s oldest festival takes its roots from 1162 and has become one of the world’s most exciting events.
Characterised by elaborate costumes, glamourous balls, parades, feasts, music, and fireworks, this is an event not to miss and runs the 10 days ending in Lent. So get your costume together and wind your way through our guide to the best insider tips to the Carnival of Venice.
Where to buy a mask… Ca’ Macana
It just wouldn’t be Carnevale without a mask, and Ca’ Macana makes some of Venice’s finest. Constructed of the finest local materials and in the methods that date back centuries, these stunning pieces of art can be designed to your exact specifications and were even featured in one of Stanley Kubrick’s films.
They also run courses teaching you the tricks of the trade and leaving you with your own hand-made and self-styled masterpiece. Just what you need if you want to win the coveted prize of best mask at the end of the festival…
The Opening weekend…
In late January or early February, the first weekend of Carnevale starts things off with a bang. While officially, it kicks off on the Friday, it’s the magical procession starting in the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) and winding its way noisily through the small Venetian streets.
It’s your first chance to catch some of the most exciting costumes and music that will carry on throughout the festival.
Sunday, the Square brims with mock-military demonstrations and tournaments, including jousting and sword fighting, perfect entertainment for the whole family. Don’t forget to come back the second weekend to catch the parade of the best costumes.
The best masquerade ball… Il Ballo del Doge
While masquerade balls run the length of the festival everywhere from in tiny squares to some of the grandest mansions, one of the most exclusive and illustrious is Il Ballo del Doge (Doge’s Ball) on the second Friday night.
400 guests dressed in a fantastical riot of 18th century finery converge on the Palazzo Pisani Moretta for Venice’s most extravagant and elegant evening of the year complete with opera, a Venetian banquet, and dancing dancing dancing.
Created by the the renowned costume designer Antonia Sautter in 1994, the sumptuousness of Il Ballo has literally attracted royalty. If you want to go all out, check out Sautter’s shop and have a costume designed for you.
Where to eat... Caffé Quadri
Caffé Quadri has long been one of Venice’s most important and sought after dining locations. Perfectly preserving the traditional atmosphere while introducing a refined modern elegance, this grand café and restaurant offer some of the most indulgent dishes in town.
Everything from full meals to their creamy hot chocolate is delectable, and, best of all, its location on the Piazza San Marco makes it perfect for catching the procession of costumes and theatrics that never ceases during the festival.
One-stop must… BAUERs Hotel
With so much going on, there’s no place to get a better taste of all the excitement than BAUERs Hotel Venezia. With its exquisite rooms and restaurants overlooking the Grand Canal, it’s the perfect place to savour a taste of Carnevale while watching the gondola parade, while the luxury hotel regularly hosts masquerade balls and events throughout the festival.
The Settimo Cielo restaurant, on the roof of the 7th floor, provides superlative views of the fireworks that signal the end of the carnival.