Sure, Venice may be notorious as a couple’s destination, but that doesn’t mean the kids can’t tag along. Buggy-tormenting cobbled streets aside, the city actually has a very family-friendly vibe. From the family tours to the friendly locals, there’s no doubt about it; Venetians love children. When it comes to keeping little ones busy, it’s not all gondola rides and gelato, either (though most kids would happily spend the whole weekend doing just that). There are actually plenty of fun things to do in Venice with kids – if you know where to look.
Ready for the ultimate family getaway? Here’s the lowdown on travelling to this gorgeous city with the mini-yous in tow.
Things to do
Your five-year-old probably isn’t going to appreciate that three-hour tour detailing the city’s architectural history, so here are our insider picks for activities and sights that they will enjoy…
Get on the water
What’s a visit to Venice without some time spent on its watery streets? Here are the best ways to get some boat time in, with the kids.
Ride the Vaporetto
How else do you get around a city that has no cars and is surrounded by water? The city’s water bus, or Vaporetto, is an important form of public transport for locals, and it’s also a big hit with kids. For the most scenic route, hop into a boat on Line 1 from Piazzale Roma (grab outdoor seats if possible) and glide down the Grand Canal. Single-use tickets are €7.50 (£6.75/$8.83), or you can get a multi-day ticket if you’re planning on using the boats a lot. Children under six ride free.
Go on a gondola
Is there anything more Venice than a gondola ride? They’re not all about romance – what better treat for kids than a ride in their own little boat? It’s not a cheap activity; €80 for 30 minutes, which goes up to €120 after 7pm, but it’ll definitely be memorable. For a taste of gondola action without the hefty price tag, you can ride a ‘traghetto’. These larger boats cross the canal in lieu of bridges, at a cost of €2 per passenger. There are a few traghetti points to choose from, but the most convenient for tourists is the one at St Mark’s, off Campo Santa Maria Giglio. You’ll notice that the sturdy-legged locals do the short journey standing, but fear not – sitting is fine.
Row row row your boat
If you’re travelling with older kids, a morning with Row Venice is a likely winner. This non-profit organisation is dedicated to keeping traditional Venetian rowing alive, and as a result offers 90-minute lessons in their authentic hand-crafted wooden boats. Costs are per boat; from €85 for 1/2 people to €140 for 4 people. The organisers insist that no one has ever fallen in (not a challenge).
Arts & crafts
If you’re heading to Venice with kids, why not let them indulge their inner artist? Here’s our pick of the best ways to experience the city’s most traditional crafts.
Visit the mask makers
Though sometimes a little on the creepy side, Venetian masks are a fascinating part of local history. Have a wander around the narrow streets of San Polo or Dorsoduro and you’re likely to come across some authentic mask makers. Venture inside to see the artists meticulously bring each creation to life. A visit to the TragiComica store is quite an experience in itself; here the traditional masks and puppets cover the walls entirely. Alternatively, pay a visit to La Bauta, where they not only have masks but also historical costumes to rent for photoshoots – adorable/hilarious kids’ options included.
Give it a go!
If you have a bit of free time in your itinerary, why not give mask-making a go? Ca Macana offers workshops for both paper mache and decorating. Kids can mould their own mask then paint it using traditional styles and techniques, or pick one of the ready-made ones to work on. There’s no booking required if you’re just rocking up to paint, though it’s only offered at certain times of the day so be sure to check the website before heading over.
Watch glass blowing
Take the Vaperetto over to Murano to see the artisans creating the glass that this little island is known for. The factories here, including Murano Glass Factory, offer tours to see their blowers in action. Note: avoid anyone offering ‘free water taxi rides’ to the island – they’re undoubtedly going to start giving you the hard sell as soon as you step foot on it. Alternatively, if a visit to Murano isn’t on the cards, book a private glass making demonstration with Mauro Vianello. This master craftsman makes all kinds of delicate animal-shaped marvels from his studio in Santa Croce.
There’s a surprisingly decent amount of outdoor things to do in Venice with kids. Here are the best picks for youngsters who like something a bit more hands on:
For kids aged eight and over, some time spent exploring the city via the water is a must. Venice Kayak offers tours from a couple of hours to the whole day, venturing through either the lagoon, the canals or the nearby islands, with prices starting from €65. Under 18s must be with an adult in a double kayak, but hey, what better way to work off all those carbs?
Take the Vaporetto over to the Lido and spend an afternoon exploring its villages by bike. The flat track that runs adjacent to the shore is a nice smooth ride for kids, and don’t forget to pop by the original Doge’s Palace on the island. Lido On Bike offers a range of different sizes, including tandems and the rather hilarious family bikes – capable of squeezing up to seven people on for a ride.
Time at the beach
Sure, it’s not quite Sicily, but Venice does have a few options for a day at the beach. The shallow waters of the Lido are great for youngsters to splash around in, while the more rugged spot of Alberoni is nice for kids of all ages to get their beach fix. It’s pretty great for the shell collectors in the family, too.
Wondering how viable a trip to Venice with kids would be? Here’s our insider tips for making a family getaway here hassle-free.
Strollers & buggies
As you probably know by now, Venice is full of bridges. And cobbled streets. Not ideal when it comes to getting about with a stroller. If your little one is still small enough to use a backpack carrier, that’ll make your life a bit easier. However, don’t fret if you do need to bring a stroller – many people (including locals) manage to get by with one. A lightweight one is ideal, though – easier when it comes to carrying up and down the stairs of those pesky bridges.
There aren’t that many public toilets in Venice, but thankfully the ones that do exist usually have baby changing facilities. You can find them listed here. The ones in Piazzale Roma, Diurno San Marco and Accademia are likely to be the most useful. Very few restaurant toilets have changing tables, unfortunately.
You’ll most likely find the city’s restaurants very accommodating when it comes to kids. Staff will usually be very happy to adapt dishes or even come up with new ones for particularly picky eaters. One thing to keep in mind is that Italians typically eat dinner quite late, so restaurants will open at around 7pm. If your little ones are likely to be too tired to head out at that time, opting for an apartment or hotel suite with kitchen facilities is a very good idea.
There aren’t any barriers between walkways and the water, so keeping an eye on kids around them is a must. The only other potential issue is getting in and out of gondolas. They can be quite unsteady, so might be a bit tricky for a young child (or an adult carrying a young child).
Ready to show your kids how holidays should be done? Send the Orbzii app to your phone now and start planning and booking your perfect Venetian escape.