Venice has many festivals throughout the year, meaning you shouldn’t have to wait long to take part in a celebration. Though small in size, the island's reputation as a centre of art history is hard to beat, and the locals certainly know how to honour their proud cultural heritage. On top of this, Venice is home to internationally acclaimed festivals of film and contemporary art, so it's not just history lovers who'll be entertained.

    It should come as no surprise that boats and the sea jockey for position with the arts in the Venice events calendar, with regattas, processions and events just some of the water-themed festivities. And, for those in search of a party, the masquerade balls are among the world's most iconic carnival experiences.

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    Carnevale

    Surrender yourself to a spellbinding masquerade

    Carnevale in Venice is a world-famous festival that takes place in the 2 weeks leading up to Shrove Tuesday (February or March). With masked balls, regatta boat races, mask-making workshops and all-manner of kaleidoscopic carnival fun, the vibrant festival has to be seen to be believed.

    While many of the celebrations take place in and around St. Mark's Square, the whole of Venice rallies to contribute to the magnificent Carnevale spectacle. From parades to performances, events burst into life across the entire city during the fortnight. It's the iconic masquerade balls that provide the ultimate Carnevale experience, though. Local hotels can help arrange tickets and costume hire for one of the unforgettable balls.

    Open: February or March

    2

    Venice Film Festival

    Rub shoulders with the stars at this world-famous celebration of cinema

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    Venice Film Festival is one of the world's oldest and most iconic celebrations of cinema. Running since 1932, the red carpet is rolled out annually for a glamorous set of the movie world's A-list to showcase their work.

    Chic but carefree, the festival typically focuses on mainstream Hollywood flicks, though a spotlight is shined on a selection of international and art house films, too. Tickets can be purchased for individual films or multiple screenings, and you won't have to spend the earth to join the fun. One not to be missed for film buffs, the sun-kissed festival offers an amazing opportunity to see the latest movies while indulging in some subtle celebrity spotting.

    Open: August–September

    photo by Davide Mauro (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    3

    Venice Biennale

    A jewel in the crown of the international art scene

    The Venice Biennale is one of the international art scene's most prestigious exhibitions. Taking place every 2 years, the event has been running since as far back as 1895.

    The exhibition celebrates the best of contemporary art in all its forms, including architecture, theatre, film, and dance. Art lovers, creators, and curators from all corners of the globe flock to The Biennale to marvel at the awe-inspiring collection of assembled works. The series of events run from May to November in specially allocated venues, with fringe events and exhibitions citywide. Though representing the height of culture, the Biennale is a wonderfully inclusive affair, welcoming all comers to enjoy art in a relaxed and friendly environment.

    Open: May–November, once every 2 years

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    Veneto Jazz

    International jazz meets home-spun talent

    Veneto Jazz features a series of high-quality concerts and events in and around the Veneto region. Running twice per year from January to April and again from June to August, the festival is an opportunity to soak up jazz-flecked sounds in some of the area's iconic venues.

    The imaginative line-up regularly includes star-studded international acts playing alongside a crop of local talents, with artists as prestigious as Miles Davies, Pati Smith, and Norah Jones some of those to have graced the Veneto bill. Events take place at breathtaking theatres and villas, majestically setting the scene for the virtuoso performances that ensue. In July, Venice itself takes centre stage, when homegrown talents work their musical magic from the picturesque city.

    Open: January–April and June–August

    5

    Su e Zo Per I Ponti

    Explore the city's lesser-known nooks on this bridge-hopping walk

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    Su e Zo Per I Ponti is a fun-filled celebration of the city's infectious community spirit. Translated in English as “up and down the bridges”, the event involves a collective, non-competitive walk around the many bridges of Venice. The walk is planned in April every year and starts from Piazza San Marco.

    There are long and short routes mapped out that incorporate up to 15 km of festival-themed ambling, with over 40 bridges to traverse along the way. The course is lined with an abundance of good-time festivities, with music, street entertainment, and plenty of food and beverage to fuel your feet. Su e Zo Per I Ponti takes in parts of Venice that are often neglected by everyday tourist maps, so it's a great opportunity to explore some of the city's hidden corners.

    Location: Piazza San Marco, 1, 30124 Venice, Italy

    Open: April

    Map
    6

    Festa della Sensa

    Witness the marriage of Venice and the sea

    Festa della Sensa is a symbolic wedding ceremony celebrating Venice's symbiotic relationship with the sea. The colourful event sees a procession of rowing boats led by the mayor into St Mark's Basin. Upon arrival, the mayor throws a wreath into the sea to represent the marriage between city and sea. The best place to witness the festival is on the coast next to the Monastery of San Nicolò al Lido.

    The festival is steeped in history, and costumed characters in traditional Venetian attire dotted among the many entertainers lining the route add to the bygone feel. The day is capped with a succession of hotly contested regattas, where local rowers battle it out for bragging rights.

    Location: Monastery of San Nicolò al Lido, Venice, Italy

    Open: May or June

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    Festa del Redentore

    Hop across the canal on a temporary boat bridge

    Festa del Redentore is a religious event commemorating the city's emergence from a plague that devastated the city in the 1500s. Each year, on the third weekend of July, a multitude of boats choreograph to form a bridge across the Guidecca canal. Locals walk across the temporary bridge leading to the Church of the Redentore, which was built in the 16th century to mark the end of the outbreak.

    Celebrations begin on the eve of the event, with lavish fireworks shows, music and feasting. No Venice festival would be complete without a regatta and, sure enough, the historic festivities are brought to a close with a wonderfully entertaining gondola race.

    Location: Church of the Santissimo Redentore, Sestiere Giudecca, 30133 Venice, Italy

    Open: Third Sunday of July

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    8

    Regata Storica

    The regatta to end all regattas

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    Regata Storica is a joyful celebration of boats and pageantry that takes place each September on the first Sunday of the month. Venetians love a good boat race, and Regata Storica is the mother of them all.

    Rowers of all ages and abilities participate in races spread across the day, setting the scene for the grandstand contest between a pair of vintage gondolini designed especially for the regatta. The whole city turns out to passionately cheer on their favourite team as they charge up the Grand Canal, and the jovial atmosphere helps make for a fantastic spectacle. Expect animated crowds, traditional Venetian costumes, and an unforgettable party atmosphere.

    Location: Grand Canal, Venice, Italy

    Open: First Sunday in September

    9

    Vogalonga

    Celebrate oar over engine in this all-welcome rowing race

    Vogalonga is a lavish festival of rowing with an environmentally friendly message at its heart. The event began in 1974 as a protest against the rising use of motorised speedboats at the time. The inclusive event sees thousands of mismatched boats paddling over a 30 km course around the lagoon. Over the years, Vogalonga's popularity has snowballed, and today it's one of the city's best-loved events.

    Spectators line the route to take in the impressive spectacle, cheering on the boats as they glide along the course. All participants receive a medal at the end of the race, and the event's non-competitive nature helps to create an easygoing party atmosphere throughout the day.

    Open: June

    10

    Art Night Venezia

    Celebrate the best of the contemporary Venice art scene

    Art Night Venezia is a fascinating cultural event showcasing some of the city's home-grown creative talents. Considering Venice's rich heritage as a centre for arts in the Renaissance era, it's perhaps understandable that its heritage tends to hog the spotlight. Each summer, Art Night Venezia temporarily turns the tables, offering young and contemporary artists an opportunity to let their work shine.

    Launched in 2010, the event sees museums, galleries, bookshops and organisations open their collective doors until late in the night. The far-reaching festival features exhibitions, concerts, readings and more, helping to ensure the whole city comes alive for a magical evening of cultural fun.

    Open: October

    Patrizio Cavaliere | Contributing Writer

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