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Last updated: 29 March, 2024
Expert travel writer: Nicky Swallow

Dating back almost a thousand years, the Venetian Carnival (or Carnevale) is a two-week estravanganza of dressing up, partying and posing enjoyed by  Venetians and tourists alike.

Carnevale enjoyed its heyday in the 18th century when it became popular as a pagan festival. It was revived in the 1970s when the city administrators realised it could still draw the crowds (and bring in the cash), and it worked; today tens of thousands flock to the city each year from round the world for the spectacle.

For two weeks in February each year, the streets of Venice fill with people wearing masks and elaborate masquerade costumes. The original purpose of the costumes and masks is thought to have originally been to hide the wearer’s identity, removing social differences and allowing them to engage is less reputable practices.

The Masked Balls

A whole program of varied events take place throughout the city – details are posted on the website – and include the famous ‘masked balls’, held in elaborate palazzos. Anyone can go – you can buy tickets on the website – but mask is mandatory, and usually a costume too. Aside from masks, expect jugglers, fire-eaters, dancers and live music. The Doge’s Ball is the most exclusive and dazzling event.



Learn to make a Carnevale mask

Venice, Veneto, Italy

Learn to make a Carnevale mask

Although Carnevale falls in February/March, you can learn to make your own Venetian Carnival masks year-round at one of several workshops in the city. Experienced artisans teach the art of papier-maché mask making and decorating in traditional Venetian style. Great for kids and adults alike.

Adult price: £42

Best for ages 8+

Duration: 1 hour

When: Monday-Saturday

Frequency: daily

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Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
Frequency: annually
When: February
Duration: 2 weeks

Getting there & doing it

It’s free to wander around the city and gawp at the costumed revellers, better still if you are in costume, or at least sport a mask (buying a mask is the cheapest way to join the fun). Professional posers mainly flaunt their finery in tourist hot spots such as Saint Mark’s Square (note – it can get jam-packed at weekends during Carnevale). If you want go to a ball, there is a hefty price tag attached. The official Dinner Show costs €500 plus costume hire. Buy tickets for the Dinner Show and the masked balls from the website.

The website also has information about costume hire, but for a more authentic and personalised experience, contact one of the costume ateliers that also organise carnival events and hire costumes. Try Atelier Pietro Longhi or Nicola Atelier.


When to do it

The dates vary according to when Easter falls, but the main events, and major poncing around, happen on Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras or Martedì Grasso) and the two preceding weekends.

Who to go with: organised tours


Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

Venice Carnival Mask-Making Class in Venice, Italy


Venice Carnival Mask-Making Class in Venice, Italy
If you want to live a real experience in the heart of Venice that's the right choice! A Venetian Master Artisan will explain to you, in 1 hour course, the traditional art of decorating a mask, an artistic personal event which will make you live the preparation for the Venetian Carnival. Create your own unique masterpiece and following your artistic streak, a special memory of an amazing experience and keep your artistic creation of the most emblematic icon of Venice!     An unconventional and handcrafted moment to live with your family or friends!

Price: €69

Min age: 0

Rating 4.71 / 5 [319 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Venice Class Mask Workshop


Venice Class Mask Workshop
Learn how to decorate your mask. You will have a mask, the color sand and everything else that you may need to make a good job. You will enjoy the experience in a real Venetian Atelier where typical masks are created and at the end you'll bring your creation at home.

Price: €60

Min age: 8

Rating 4.98 / 5 [61 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Class Mask Workshop - Create our Mask in paper mache


Class Mask Workshop - Create our Mask in paper mache
Live the experience … turn yourself into a “mascarer” and create your own mask! Our workshop will allow you to take home your own creation. The charm of the paper to cut and shape inside the ancient stone molds. The expert craftsman who guides you and helps you to turn simple pieces of paper into a mask. Enjoy the magic of handmade creation. We will teach you to decorate your mask using the techniques and materials we use too. Your base of true paper mache will become your masterpiece. You will use fabric, colors, svarowski crystals, gold leaf, feathers. … Two hours of pure magic to give you the satisfaction to say…”I’ve made it !!! The Creation of the mask wiull be done in two days. In the first one you will create your mask in two hours of time. The next day you will decorate it in others two hours of time!

Price: €260

Min age: 16

Rating 5 / 5 [9 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Destination guides


Destination guides including or relevant to this experience


Veneto, Italy


Crammed with picturesque canals, Renaissance palazzos and artistic masterpieces, this unique and alluring city is heaven-on-earth for art lovers and romantics.