Venice is an enchanting city not only for adults, but for kids too. Decorated palazzi line the Grand Canal. Gondolas glide gracefully through the narrow canals just as they have for centuries. And there are no cars or traffic to spoil your visit. In fact its probably one of the few cities in the world where you and your family can walk around safely without worrying. And despite what you might think, there is no history of kids falling in the canals – it’s usually drunk adults who do that! So if you’re planning a trip to La Serenissima, here are 29 of the best things to do in Venice with children!
Take a boat from the airport
Venice is built on water so if you want a truly Venetian arrival, take the boat from the airport. It takes a little longer (40-60 mins depending on where you’re staying) but is a great way to arrive watching the horizon as the mysterious lagoon city slowly appears! Options include the Alilaguna boat transfer or motoscafo water taxi depending on the size of your family.
Activity : See how many towers you can spot or who is the first to see St Mark’s bell tower
Take a gondola ride
I know, I know, it’s a bit of a cliché but a gondola ride offers a unique perspective on the city. Palaces seem grander, life slows and quietens as you escape the crowds and you see the real city away from the modern hubbub. It’s magically evocative and is a hit with little ones, sending their imaginations into overdrive! Perfetto!
Top tip : At €80 for a 30 minute ride for up to 6 people a private gondola isn’t for everyone. But you can have a gondola ride for just €2 per person if you take one of the traghetto gondolas that cross the Grand Canal. They’re little ferries taking people to and fro across the canal, and can be found at San Tomà, the Rialto Market or near the Giglio vaporetto water bus stop amongst others. They cost €2 per person, carry around a dozen people and take a couple of minutes to cross so its not quite as glamorous but it’s a great way to have the gondola experience without the enormous dent in your budget!!
Visit a Squero or gondola boatyard.
If your little ones like to see how things are made a trip to the squero or gondola boat yard is a great idea. There are only a couple left in the city centre but the easiest to find is the 17th century squero located on the Rio di San Trovaso canal in the Dorsoduro district, between the Grand Canal & the Zattere waterfront. Sadly they only offer tours for groups of over 25 people but you can watch the gondola makers building and painting the boats out on the canal side during the warmer months and can often also see into the workshop if the doors are open. It’s a fascinating stop as you walk around town.
Activity : see if your little ones can count the gondoliers’ old hats on the wall overlooking the boat yard.
Visit a traditional remer or oar and oarlock maker
As well as the gondola yard, there are also a couple of traditional remer or oar makers in the city centre so you and your family can see how all parts of a gondola are made. My favourite is Piero Dri at Il Forcolaio Matto or the Mad Oarlock Maker, but don’t worry, despite the name he’s very friendly! And there’s no need to book, just pop into Piero’s sawdust-strewn workshop just off Strada Nuova in Canareggio and say hello – he’ll be happy to show you and your family exactly how his traditional craft helps Venice’s gondoliers steer. It’s more complicated than you’d think and totally fascinating for any budding carpenters, rowers, historians or engineers! Maybe he’ll even inspire the next generation of gondoliers!
Mask making in Venice
If your youngsters are more hands on there is nothing more Venetian than mask making – it’s the ideal thing to do in Venice with children! And there are lots of mask workshops who offer lessons but my favourite is Peter Pan Masks near the San Stae vaporetto water bus stop. Local sisters Elisabetta and Valentina help your little ones (and adults too!) to pick out a handmade blank mask for decoration and then take them through some traditional designs although ultimately your little artists are free to decorate them however they choose! And after all that artistry your children get to keep their handiwork as a truly Venetian souvenir. Just watch out for the glitter as it gets everywhere!! More info is available here.
Murano glass making
Venice is also world famous for is glass making so if you’re in need of things to do in Venice with children take a water bus out to Murano to explore the furnaces, workshops and showrooms. The glassblowers will keep your children transfixed as they magically mould molten glass into vases, horses, candelabra and all manner of glass art right in front of your eyes. And several furnaces offer free demonstrations. So whether you get off at Colonna and turn left walk down towards the furnace at the far end on the water’s edge or get off at Navagero and walk straight into the furnace 100 meters to the right of the stop, you won’t be disappointed. And after the demonstration your exit is usually through the shop so you can take a truly Muranese souvenir home with you. Bellissimo!
Murano bead making
Murano glass is also used to make stunningly delicate beads and jewellery although the process is on a much smaller scale than the blowing furnaces. Fortunately some bead makers like Muriel Balensi, hidden away on Fondamenta Radi, have their workshops in their shops. And many will give you a demonstration of how they conjure glass rods into flowers, gossamer threads and galaxies within a molten globule of glass. It’s totally spellbinding watching Muriel at work as she paints in glass continuing a craft that has been handed down over centuries.
Burano lace making museum and multi-coloured houses
If you’re visiting Murano, why not add a trip to nearby Burano to see its rainbow cottages and beautiful handmade lace. Many of the lace shops offer demonstrations of lacemaking by the ladies of the island so you can watch how delicate the work is as each stitch gradually builds the fine filigree. And then take a stroll through the multi-coloured streets that look like they’ve been coloured in with a huge paintbox! It’s a great addition to your day out on the lagoon and fascinating for your youngsters.
Top tip : The number 12 boat goes from the Faro or lighthouse boat stop on Murano so both islands can be visited on the same day.
Lion hunting in Venice!
Venice’s symbol is a winged lion and you’ll find it all over the city. So whether you’re walking through St Mark’s Square or just walking through the backstreets, you’ll always find a lion on top of a column, on the front of palaces or used as a door knocker.
Acticity : As kids love a treasure hunt why not see how many lions you can spot, looking for the biggest, the smallest or the strangest located lions. They’re pussy cats really!
Take the vaporetto water bus down the Grand Canal
To see Venice’s Grand Canal palaces from the water, take the number 1 vaporetto (water-bus). It goes all the way from the train station, under the Rialto, past Accademia, in front of St Marks and out to the Lido island and also offers unmatched views of the ornate Ca’ D’Oro, 7 star Hotel Aman and the decorative Salute church. So if your youngsters like architecture, photography or just sightseeing, this is definitely one of the best things to do in Venice with children. And as the vaporetto travels at around 5 miles per hour you have plenty of time for photos!
Useful info : Tickets cost €7.50 for anyone over 6 and are valid for 75 minutes so you can hop on and off anywhere along the route as long as you keep going in the same direction. Make sure you buy a ticket before you board or ask the conductor as soon as you get on otherwise you face a fine of around €60 – ouch!.
Rialto Fish Market
If your kids are interested in cooking why not hop off the vaporetto at the Rialto fish market to check out the monkfish and maritime monsters. Open from 8am to 12pm, Tuesday to Saturday the market is a great experience for budding chefs and a great place to stock up on all the ingredients for a typically Venetian fish supper.
Activity : see how many different seasonal specialities and shellfish you can find
Climb the bell tower of St Mark’s or San Giorgio Maggiore
If you want a fantastic birds eye view over the city’s rooftops to the lagoon then a trip to the top of one of Venice’s tallest bell towers is the trick. Both the St Mark’s and San Giorgio Maggiore towers have lifts to make life easy and both offer stunning views, even out to the Dolomite mountains on a good day!
Natural History Museum
If, like me, your children are fascinated with all things natural from dinosaurs fossils to the tropics and all things in between the Natural History Museum is an interesting stop for older children. It kicks off with an enormous dinosaur that would have stood more than 7 metres tall followed by a vicious crocodile skull and, after several rooms finishes off with whales so there’s plenty to see. And towards the end you can even check out all the freshwater fish that live in Venice’s lagoon so there is a local link too.
Useful info : Most, but not all, rooms have notes in English so a little Italian or language app can help.
Museo Storico Navale di Venezia or Naval History Museum
As of May 2016 the Naval History Museum is closed for refurbishment but when open it is a fascinating museum for anyone interested in boats or the navy. Walk to or get off at the Arsenale water bus stop and its just across the bridge – there’s a huge anchor in front of it so you can’t miss it!
Peggy Guggenheim contemporary art gallery
As a contemporary art gallery the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is more suitable for older children who’ll love the fantastic surreal, multi-coloured modern art. Big names including Jackson Pollock, Picasso and Kandinsky are included in the collection and it’s a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. My 8 year old niece loved it and we loved it as under 10s go free!
Public beaches on the Lido
If you like a bit of beach time when you’re on holiday, take vaporetto number 1 out to the Lido. The island borders the Adriatic Sea and has a couple of large public beaches offering respite from the madness of St Mark’s! The beaches are sandy, well kept and well-suited for children with only the occasional little jellyfish to be aware of early in the season.
Cycle on the Lido island
If you’re an outdoors family one of the great things to do in Venice with children is to go cycling on the Lido island. Just take vaporetto number 1 out to the Lido and you’ll find bike hire shops amongst the shops in front of the vaporetto stop. From there, get peddling out of town to explore the Lido’s long, flat countryside bordered on one side by the lagoon and the Adriatic Sea on the other! You can have a wonderful day cycling and don’t forget to call into one of the public beaches to cool off!
And if you’re over on the Lido during the off-season monthes, why not check out the Lido planetarium open between September and June when the night skies are darkest.
Venetian-style rowing lessons
Or if your youngsters fancy getting their hands on a boat and doing a bit of rowing, why not try out Venice’s specialized standing rowing style with a rowing lesson in the quiet canals of Canareggio.
Libreria Acqua Alta bookshop, Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa, St Marks district
Back in the historic centre, there are plenty of hidden gems for kids. The Libreria Acqua Alta, literally meaning high water bookshop, is one of those treasures. It’s a quirky little second hand bookshop with cats roaming free, a gondola parked right in the middle of the shop, as you do!, and steps made of books! And although a lot of the books are in Italian, most people go just because it’s a bit different and daft!
Handmade Children’s bookshop
Staying with the book theme, the Dromadaire bookshop in Castello is a great little stop for smaller children as they hand make beautifully vivid posters, pull-out and pop-up books. Many are in Italian or French but they also offer workshops for kids to make their own books on Saturdays and during some school holidays that anyone can join. Florence, the owner, speaks French & a little English and is very welcoming.
Book binding at Fabricharte in Castello
And directly opposite Dromadaire is Andrea Andreatta’s Fabricharte book binding workshop. Andrea will restore and rebind any book for €50 and also makes his own notebooks, folders and stationery. And again, his workbench is right in the middle of the shop so do pop in for a demonstration of how a book is put together from the very first page.
Kids playground at Sant’Elena park
If your little ones need to run off some steam there is a great little playground in the Sant’Elena park near the Bienale Gardens in Castello. The park has two play areas – one for young children and one with a climbing frame and mini zip wire for slighter older kids from 7 or 8 years upwards. Both offer great entertainment and are great to help wind down youngsters before bed!
Try the Venetian cicchetti
And finally to Venetian cuisine. Cicchetti are small snack sized nibbles, a bit like tapas including sea food, cheese, prosciutto ham, fried fish and fried mozarella. They are delicious so if you have adventurous youngsters happy to try new food, make sure you call into one of the many cicchetti bars around town and pick out a plateful! Yum!
Have a gelato ice cream
Italy is renowned for its mouth-watering gelato icecream and Venice is no different with lots of gelaterie shops dotted around the city. So if your kids love ice cream there is plenty of choice of flavor. The biggest decision is cone or cup?!
Pizza by the slice
Pizza is a Neapolitan creation but is popular all over Italy and around the world so you will find lots of little pizza shops selling pizza by the slice. My personal favourite is Antico Forno Venice, one of the oldest and tastiest pizza take outs in Venice. Situated in San Polo between the Rialto Market and San Silvestro water bus stops, its always recommended in tour guides for its great toppings including gorgonzola and mushroom. And at around €2.50 per slice is a bargain as few can eat more than two slices!
Vizio Virtu chocolatier
This is one for the kids and the adults too as Marie-Angela and the team make THE most delicious chocolate in Venice, if not Italy! There are fancy truffles for Mum and Dad and decorated biscuits and chocolate lollipops for the kids
Take a Venetian ghost tour
On a totally unrelated tack, Venice is a magical mysterious place with tonnes of history and mystery! So if your kids like a bit of murder, mystery, blood and gore it’s the ideal location for a ghost tour! This isn’t one for infants obviously but could be a great way to spend an evening with your older kids as the tours go into murders and vampires etc! For more info on one of the ghost tours check here
Boat spotting in Venice
AND FINALLY! Venice, as we know, is built on the water but have you or your children ever stopped to think what that actually means for day-to-day life? Basically everything, and I really do mean EVERYTHING has to come in and out by boat. So whether you’re waiting on a parcel from DHL or a wine delivery, or the emergency services or just the bus there is a boat for that.
Activity : see how many different types of delivery boats, emergency services or transport boats can you spot? Here’s a list to get you started –
Police on a jet ski
Vaporetto water bus
Alilaguna airport transfer
Delivery barge – icecream, vegetables, wine etc
Rowing club practicing
But please dont……
Venice is a wonderful place but there are a few things that the locals kindly ask that you don’t do so that Venice stays that way. So please don’t feed the pigeons in St Mark’s Square – it’s illegal anyway but its their droppings that cause the problem as the chemical composition damages Venice’s stunning buildings. Please don’t paddle in the aqua alta high tide water – if you knew that the water wasn’t just seawater but included drainwater too, you wouldn’t let your tootsies near it!! Please don’t swim, paddle or bathe in the canals – there’s always someone who does it every year but Venice’s canals are neither swimming pools nor baths! And don’t forget, Venice has its own beaches so you don’t need to sunbath by or swim in the canals! It’s all common sense really!
29 of the best things to do in Venice with children
So there you have it! I realise it’s a loooonnnnnnnnnnng list but hopefully it’s given you some great inspiration for things to do in Venice with children, whatever age your little ones are! If I’ve missed anything please leave me a comment so I can add it on! And in the meantime please make sure you subscribe to DreamDiscoverItalia so you get all the latest news straight to your inbox, or join us over on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest for more Italian inspiration. Have a wonderful family holiday, buon viaggio tutti!
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