Make the most of the city’s biggest party of the year

People travel from far and wide to join in the city’s biggest party of the year and sate their fancy-dress appetites – the Venice Carnival packs the city with crowds of elaborately costumed people, colourful sights, a slew of sounds and an flurry of events.

Visit the watery wonderland in February for glamorous evenings and to be wowed by elaborate traditions as well as sample carnival-exclusive sweet treats.

What is it and when is it?
The carnival takes place every year in the weeks leading up to Shrove Tuesday. The final day is a last hurrah to gluttony and excess before the forty days of Lent begin. Venice was renowned for its partying during the 18th century, when its carnival was the height of hedonism. Revived in 1979, the Venice carnival today attracts revellers from all over the world to participate in the open-air costume extravaganza.

The final weekend, from Giovedì Grasso (Fat Thursday) to Martedì Grasso (Fat Tuesday), is the best time to come as there are more events leading up to the final crescendo. Be prepared: this is not for the claustrophobic or the ascetic, as staid old Venice lets its hair down and kicks up its heels along with almost three million visitors.

Dress like royalty
Or a cowboy, or a superhero, or a pop star. If you are simply heading out and about, then anything goes. If you are not quite ready for a full-on costume, you could add a quirky touch to your everyday outfit. Giovanna Zanella has an amazing selection of special-occasion footwear, including shoes shaped like gondolas.

However, if you are heading to a more prestigious event and you want the full regalia, you need Nicolao – simply the best costume shop in the city. The lovely Atelier Flavia can also deck out the entire family in fabulous 18th century garb. Remember that it’s February and freezing, so outfits need to be accessorised with cunningly hidden thermals or a faux-fur coat.

If the mask fits
No carnival costume would be complete without a mask. In fact, you really only have to wear a mask in order to be carnival-ready. One fantastic mask-maker is Ca’ Macana, which famously produced the masks for Stanley Kubrik’s Eyes Wide Shut. Tragicomica has a cornucopia of masks and can sell or hire you a traditional costume if you want to complete your look. In the Castello district, Papier Maché has long been crafting intricately beautiful masks.