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What can you expect at Christmas in Venice? Uncrowded streets, mists haunting the canals and a little bit of magic! The Venetians really go to town with their decorations, lighting up the canals, the piazzas and their historic buildings. Even the gondolas are festooned for the holiday season.
Soak up the festive atmosphere by strolling through the streets and lingering in squares or churches to listen to choirs singing and the church bells ringing. On Christmas Day itself, the bells ring out all day from St Mark's Bell Tower. If your walk has left you chilly warm up with a hot chocolate in Caffè Florian on St Mark's Square.
For that last minute gift or souvenir shopping, a Venice Christmas market is perfect. Look out for handmade lace decorations and glass tree ornaments from Murano. Another great idea for presents or souvenirs are traditional decorated masks. The small Christmas market at Campo San Polo is the ideal place to buy these local gifts. While you're there have a go on the seasonal ice rink. With Carnival following hot on the heels of Christmas you'll discover plenty in the shops.
No Christmas holiday in Venice is complete without a trip to the Island of Murano. The glassworks are always fascinating but over Christmas, the island becomes a riot of colourful lights and glass decorations. There is even a full-size Christmas tree made entirely of Murano glass, which is not to be missed.
Venetians have their main Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve or “La Vigilia”. Families traditionally tuck into a fish dinner of several courses before heading to midnight mass. If you want to join them, services at St Mark's Basilica start at 11:30 p.m. and are conducted in English, French and German as well as Italian.
Christmas Day in Venice is an important day when families get together to open their presents so most stores and restaurants will be closed. Nevertheless, provided you book early enough, you will be able to enjoy a traditional festive lunch in traditional restaurants.
December 26th is the day of Santo Stefano, another public holiday celebrated with concerts across the city. Join the locals at the free afternoon concert in the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari Church, the perfect ending to your Christmas in Venice.