The study investigates the effects of a post-weaning water restriction on performance, nutrient digestibility, carcass traits and meat quality of 84-day-old rabbits. A total of 1388 weaned rabbits (35 days) were randomly divided into two groups on the basis of BW and sex. The two groups were fed the same diets ad libitum both in the post-weaning (35 to 60 days) and fattening (61 to 84 days) periods. In the post-weaning period, one group (AL) also received drinking water ad libitum, whereas the other (WR) had a water restriction from 35 to 41 days 2 h/day; from 42 to 48 days 2.5 h/day; from 49 to 55 days 3 h/day; and from 56 to 60 days 4 h/day. During the fattening period, both groups had water-free access. Individual live weights and feed intake per cage were recorded weekly for 32 cages randomly chosen per group (64 rabbits) to calculate the BW gain, feed intake and feed conversion ratio (FCR). The apparent digestibility values of nutrients were measured using acid-insoluble ash. Carcass data were collected from 16 rabbits (8 males and 8 females) per group selected for similar final BW in both groups. Mortality from 35 to 60 days was higher in the AL group (10.1% v. 5.2%, for AL and WR, respectively, P < 0.0001). BW gain was higher for the AL group during both the post-weaning (+22.4%, P < 0.01) and the entire period (+7.5%, P < 0.05). Water restriction reduced feed intake both in the post-weaning (−17.4%, P < 0.0001) and in the entire period (−9.9%, P < 0.05). During the fattening period, FCR was lower for the WR group (5.15 v. 5.75 g/g, for WR and AL, respectively, P < 0.05). The apparent digestibilities of dry matter, organic matter, NDF, ADF and cellulose were greater in the restricted rabbits (+4.7%, +4.5%, +10.2%, +18.8% and +12.8%, P < 0.01, P < 0.01, P < 0.05, P < 0.01, P < 0.05, respectively). Perirenal and scapular fat percentages were higher in the AL rabbits (+30.7% and +116.6%, P < 0.01 and P < 0.001, respectively). Water restriction increased saturated fatty acids (C16:0, +12.9%, P < 0.05), lauroleic acid (C12:1, +75.0%, P < 0.01), n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (C20:5, +50.0%, P < 0.01 and C22:5, +16.6%, P < 0.05) and the n-3/n-6 ratio (+28.6%, P < 0.05). The applied water restriction between 35 and 60 days executed during the winter months improved the digestive health of rabbits, with no negative effects on carcass traits, or physical and chemical meat characteristics. However, from the animal welfare point of view, a water restriction can be criticized as a method to restrict feed intake.