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Can you imagine a child seeing Venice for the first time? Even as adults this incredible city built on water is full of wonder.
You can’t fail to be inspired by boats darting in and out of canals, people disappearing down cobbled streets and over bridges, with church domes and faded palazzos soaring overhead.
Venice is a very special place, but is it a family friendly destination? We definitely think so – for most age groups.
Here are our tips for an incredible family trip to Venice.
What's in this article
- 1 Top things to do in Venice with kids
- 1.1 Ride a vaporetto on the Grand Canal
- 1.2 Piazza San Marco
- 1.3 Spot Venetian winged lions
- 1.4 Views from San Giorgio Maggiore
- 1.5 Tour the Rialto market
- 1.6 Visit a gondola workshop
- 1.7 Play in the campi
- 1.8 Explore colourful Burano
- 1.9 Eat cicchetti
- 1.10 Make a Venetian mask
- 1.11 Libreria Acqua Alta
- 1.12 Visit the Venice Lido beaches
- 1.13 Enjoy a gondola ride
- 1.14 Family tours in Venice
- 2 The best time to visit Venice with children
- 3 The best age to visit Venice as a family
- 4 Where to stay in Venice with kids
- 5 Where to eat
- 6 How to get from the airport to the city
- 7 Venice is for families
- 8 Italy travel resources
Top things to do in Venice with kids
First things first, get your bearings. There are no cars in Venice so you must get around the city by foot or by boat.
Most trips to Venice start at Piazzale Roma where the main train station, car parking and cruise terminals are found.
This is a major hub for the vaporettos (water buses) and water taxis that are the best way to introduce your children to beautiful Venice.
Ride a vaporetto on the Grand Canal
Take a trip down the Grand Canal on vaporetto line 1. I think our twins asked about 1,000 questions as the water bus made its way down the most famous canal in Venice.
Apart from being beautiful, this is also a working city, so he was intrigued with the comings and goings of the different types of boats making deliveries and collecting rubbish.
Line 1 is the classic journey that takes you under the Rialto and Accademia bridges to Piazza San Marco home to the Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s Basilica. Of course you will see many gondolas along the way.
Tip – if the weather is fine head to the back of the vaporetto for the best views of the Grand Canal. You will need to be at the front of the queue to do this, or you can ride the full length of the line and move to the back on the return journey
Most trips to Venice start at Piazzale Roma where the main train station, car parking and cruise terminals are found. This is a major hub for the vaporettos and the beginning of Line 1.
Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) is one of the world’s most beautiful spaces.
You can spend a good few hours just soaking up the atmosphere and admiring the architecture of the famous Basilica San Marco, Campanile (Tower), Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower) and Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace).
Depending on their ages, your children might (like ours) prefer to chase pigeons or enjoy the antics of the street performers.
Tip – just a reminder that the prices in the cafes lining the square are eye wateringly high, especially if you choose to sit outdoors
Both these buildings hold many secrets and intrigues that are best discovered by taking a guided tour. You can’t help but marvel at the sparkling mosaics inside the basilica and the riches of the palace. But they come alive with the stories a professional guide will tell.
The other benefit of taking a tour is that you skip some of the biggest crowds and longest lines you are ever likely to see. Tours of both buildings take around 2 hours.
Spot Venetian winged lions
Piazza San Marco is also home to one of the most enduring icons of Venice – the winged lion – who sits on top of a granite column outside the Doge’s Palace.
The famous lion is an ancient symbol that came from the region where Turkey is found today. Originally a pagan symbol, it was later adapted for Christianity with the addition of the bible to become the symbol of St Mark.
The winged lion of Venice can be found throughout the city in every campo (square) and church. Trying to spot them on buildings, doors and bridges is a fun way to engage children in the history of the city.
Sometimes you will notice the bible beneath the lion’s feet is open and on other statues it is closed. Where the book is closed it means that Venice was at war when the statue was made. An open book symbolises peace in the Venetian Republic.
Did you know that lion from Piazza San Marco was taken to Paris by Napoleon when he conquered Venice in 1797?
Views from San Giorgio Maggiore
While the views from the Campanile in St Mark’s Square are beautiful and iconic, you may not want to attempt this with small tired legs.
If that’s the case, head to San Giorgio Maggiore on the opposite side of the lagoon where you take a lift to the top of the tower for a much less crowded view of the city and San Marco.
Take the number 2 line vaporetto from the San Zaccaria boat stop near San Marco. Cost to access the tower – €6 in 2019 [€2 for children].
Tour the Rialto market
Fresh food markets are one of the best ways to get to the heart of any city and this is especially true in Venice. At the Rialto market there is an incredible blend of sights and smells from the sea and the nearby Veneto region.
From whole squid and various fish from the lagoon, to different varieties of mushrooms and cheeses from the mainland, you can check out what the locals are cooking for dinner at this famous undercover market.
The Rialto market is open 07:30 - 13:00 daily. The fresh produce market does not open on Sundays and the fish market is closed on Mondays.
Visit a gondola workshop
There are around 450 working gondolas in Venice and like most boats they need repairs to keep them seaworthy. You can watch craftsmen work on the gondolas at Squero San Trovaso in Dorsoduro.
This workshop is one of only five squeri (gondola workshops) across Venice dedicated to preserving the famous boats. Each gondola is made to suit its gondolier, their height and weight so the process of making it is detailed and refined.
Tip - grab some cicchetti (snacks) and watch the workshop activity from Osteria al Squero on the opposite bank of the canal
Play in the campi
A campo is a small Venetian square and you will find hundreds in the city. Each has an ancient cisterne or well where the local kids run around and play hide and seek.
Some of the larger campi have outside restaurant seating so you can eat lunch and play in the open space away from the crowds.
We liked Campo Santa Margherita in the Dorsoduro district for its relaxed vibe and gelato shop - Gelateria il Doge [Dorsoduro 3058/A, Rio Terà Canal]
At Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo you can sit in the shade of the magnificent 15th century church of the same name where 25 doges are buried.
Explore colourful Burano
To experience colourful island life on the outer lagoon, take the vaporetto to Burano where the houses are painted vibrant colours guaranteed to make your whole family smile.
This is a great place to take family photos and for teenagers to do some Instagram friendly posing. You can also visit the lace museum and browse the shops.
Tip - there is a small playground on Burano - turn right as you leave the ferry terminal and walk down Strada di Corte Comare where you will find the playground on your right
To get to Burano catch the number 12 vaporetto from San Zaccaria near San Marco. The trip takes 45 minutes. One way fares on the vaporetto water bus were €7.50 in March 2019 so a day pass at €20 is the most cost effective way to visit the islands.
Venetian cuisine is unique and you will find interesting food to try that you can't find in the rest of Italy. Don't worry, there is plenty of pizza and pasta for your hungry tribe but here you will also find hearty local staples like squid ink risotto.
My favourite food in Venice is called cicchetti. A little bit like tapas, cicchetti are small bites meant to be eaten with a drink. In Venice head to the local bacaro (bar) and try whatever is on offer on the daily menu.
You'll often get kid friendly polpette (meatballs) and bruschetta - bread with toppings.
Make a Venetian mask
Carnevale is a very special time of year when over 3 million people attend balls and parties celebrating the city of Venice. Held in February, Carnevale is famous for elaborate costumes and masks worn by the revellers.
The tradition dates back to the 12th century when citizens celebrated an important victory of the Venetian republic by dancing in Piazza San Marco.
Creative kids might like to visit a mask making studio and make their own carnevale mask to take home.
If you don't have time to make a mask while you are in Venice you can buy plain ones to decorate at home. I love this idea for reliving your trip to Venice.
Libreria Acqua Alta
You will not see a bookshop like Libreria Acqua Alta anywhere else in the world. Inside gondolas are piled high with books while in the courtyard there is a staircase made of books leading to a pretty view of one of the small canals.
It's worth just popping in there for the spectacle but they also stock a beautiful collection of prints and maps.
Libreria Acqua Alta: Calle Longa S. Maria Formosa, 5176/b
Visit the Venice Lido beaches
It may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Venice but the beaches facing the Adriatic on the Venice Lido are sandy and wide.
Most of the beach is occupied by private beach clubs where you can rent an umbrella and chair but you can also access the spaggia libera (free beach) on Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta near the vaporetto stop.
If you need a break from the city, take vaporetto 1 to the Lido.
Enjoy a gondola ride
Choose a gondolier from one of the stops on the smaller canals and you will glide silently through some of the minor waterways in virtual silence before joining the hustle and bustle of the Grand Canal.
Our kids had the best time saying "Ciao!" to the gondoliers and passing tourists who all waved and ciao'ed right back to their delight.
The cost is €80 for half an hour  for up to six people. You might think that's expensive but to me, riding a gondola is one of those once in a lifetime experiences you just have to do.
Family tours in Venice
We love taking guided tours on our travels and there some great ones to do in Venice. Here are some favourites:
- Family friendly sightseeing tour of Venice - >click for more info
- Fun 2.5 hour semi-private tour led by experienced (with kids) local guide
- Visit the canals, market places, historic churches and squares of Venice
- Creative use of pop up books and iPads as learning aids to keep kids engaged
- For teenagers - learn the Venetian art of rowing - >click for more info
- 1.5 hour class to learn hands on how to row like a Venetian
- Spend an hour at the Arsenal learning the technique
- Then head to the open water of the lagoon or canals
- Treasure hunt in Venice - >click for more info
- Search for clues in this fun activity through the streets and canals of Venice
- A private tour that will teach the whole family about this magical city
The best time to visit Venice with children
Venice can be very cold in winter and ridiculously crowded and hot in summer. To have the best family trip to Venice, try to visit in the shoulder months April and May, October and November.
At this time the crowds have died down a bit and you can explore without worrying about little ones getting lost or squashed.
But what if it rains?
Obviously Venice is a better place to visit with kids when the weather is fine but if you are hit by a rainy day there are plenty of museums and art galleries to explore.
We liked Ca'Rezzonico on the Grand Canal. Not as famous as some of the other museums in Venice, it is quiet and you will see this magnificent vintage gondola. The museum is an 18th century palazzo full of treasures.
Modern art lovers should stop by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection considered one of the best museums for kids in Venice.
The best age to visit Venice as a family
Most children, and also their parents, will have a fantastic time in Venice. The city has more adventure, mystery and beauty than you can dare to imagine.
Having said that, there is one age group that I think Venice not suitable for.
Venice for toddlers - not recommended
Personally, I wouldn't visit Venice with children who are toddling or just walking.
The city is not suitable for strollers so you would need to be prepared to carry your child when they get tired walking up and down bridges. There is also the added worry that they could fall in the canals and get lost in a crowd.
Finding changing facilities is also difficult.
Venice for kids
After the age of 4, when your children are becoming super curious and listen to most instructions, is the ideal time for a family trip to Venice.
You can mix up the activities depending on their ages and interests and have plenty of breaks chasing pigeons or just relaxing by a canal watching the world go by.
Our kids were 4 when they visited Venice and we all had a wonderful time.
Playgrounds in Venice
Finding playgrounds are an important part of our family travel routine. Fortunately Venice has a few including the one I mentioned earlier in Burano.
You can a decent playground for younger children just before the Giardini della Biennale and if you find yourself in the Canareggio district head to Parco Savorgnan where there are two small playgrounds catering to different age groups.
Fun things to do in Venice for teenagers
Do you have hard to please teenagers? I was one of those!
These days there are so many cool activities for teens in Venice that are sure to fire their imaginations.
I recommend taking a food tour and trying cicchetti and other local dishes with your teens. They'll also learn about the history and culture of Venice as they munch their way through its delicious cuisine.
If your teenagers are active, you can go kayaking on both the inner and outer lagoon (see above) - visit Venice Kayak.
A visit to Burano and the glassblowing factories on Murano are other fun things to do in Venice.
Where to stay in Venice with kids
Finding family friendly accommodation in Venice is probably the biggest challenge you face when planning your trip. Rooms in the city are generally small and few offer rooms suitable for families.
Family friendly hotels in Venice
Having said that, we found some excellent hotel choices throughout the city to suit families. You will need to book well in advance to secure rooms at these properties
- Palazzo Veneziano - >check availability and prices
- modern hotel close to a vaporetto stop in the Dorsoduro district
- large rooms for families - some have canal views
- start the day right with the excellent and varied breakfast
- babysitting service available
- Hotel Flora - >check availability and prices
- friendly small hotel in a great location near Piazza San Marco
- quiet garden for guests to relax in - great for downtime in-between sightseeing
- spacious family rooms with room to move about in
- Hotel ai Reali - >check availability and prices
- luxury traditional hotel close to the Rialto bridge
- offers large family rooms and apartments - some with canal views
- has a small restaurant onsite - useful if you are managing hungry, tired kids
Venice vacation apartment rentals
Check out our guide to finding the best apartment rentals to help you choose the right stay for you in Venice.
The city is small and you can find great options in all the six districts but Canareggio offers the best value.
Top apartment picks
- San Giorgio degli Schiavoni apartments - >click for more info
- modern apartments within a 15th century palazzo
- choose from 1 or 2 bedroom apartments - some with canal view
- facilities include small kitchenette, washing machine and airconditioning
- 10 minute walk to St Mark's square
- Ca' Giulia - >click for more info
- great value 2 bedroom apartment in quiet Canareggio
- 5 minute walk to Rialto bridge
- close to shopping, restaurants and bars
Note - Canareggio would suit families with older children and teenagers but perhaps not those with very small kids. It is a quiet district away from the main attractions and you will need to walk for 15-20 minutes to get to St Mark's square.
Another option - stay on the mainland
We stayed in agriturismo style accommodation in the Veneto countryside on our last visit and this was a great choice.
At Casa dei Racconti we had space for the kids to run around, a pool to splash in, plus an excellent on site restaurant.
Driving to Venice and the lagoon took about 40 minutes and we also were able to explore the Veneto region. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
Where to eat
Like most of Italy, Venice restaurants and bacari are welcome families with open arms. Even the fussiest kids like pizza and spaghetti with tomato sauce and you can get them pretty much anywhere. And you could always bribe them with gelato!
For pizza try Birraria La Corte in San Polo - this pizza restaurant spills out into the Campo San Polo and was recommended by our food tour guide
Grom makes artisan style gelato and is found at four locations across the city however the best gelato is at Alaska at Calle Larga dei Bari in Santa Croce
Venice isn't famous for pizza and gelato though so my best recommendation is head to the bacari for cicchetti.
For fresh pasta we enjoyed 6342 a le Tole in Sestiere Castello - try the spaghetti vongole!
Last but not least, for a true Venetian dessert you must stop by the amazing tiramisu at I Tre Mercanti on Campo de la Guerra
How to get from the airport to the city
Venice offers some unique challenges in terms of transport. In our opinion, the best way to get to and from the airport for families is by private water taxi or shared water taxi. This method is fast and direct meaning you can settle into your accommodation without having to worry about moving luggage and kids.
Children under 6 travel for free on the shared water taxi making this a great option for those with small children. For more information and prices click here.
If your children are older, consider a private water taxi transfer. At first glance they may seem rather expensive but once you add the cost of other modes of transport, carrying your luggage and multiple transfer points they are reasonable value. For more information and prices click here.
Plus the whole experience of cruising down the Grand Canal is one they and you will never forget.
Venice is for families
Venice is one of the most favourite cities that we have visited as a family. The city has it all - a magical atmosphere, car free streets, friendly people and amazing food.
I hope you now know what to do in Venice with kids and are planning your own family vacation.
Italy travel resources
- 101 tips for your Italy vacation - click here
- Travel insurance for Italy - click here
- How to pack for Italy - click here
- 10 day Italy itinerary - click here
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