Venice, the city of carnival and lovers. You’ll agree that the summary is probably a bit cliché. To make the most of your Venetian family getaway, we advise you to think outside the box and explore it with your tribe. Colorful and less crowded than one might imagine – especially if you get inspired by our advice and cool tips – the City of the Doges is a little paradise for families looking for kids-friendly experiences.
Forget February, the month of Carnival, or May, when the Art or Architecture Biennale takes place. Unless, of course, your teens already see themselves in the shoes of Damien Hirst or Tadao Ando. For a family trip with young children, these two key events in the Venetian city are not particularly suitable. Unlike other parts of Italy, August is not the most touristic time of the year. Particularly because it can be very hot there and the locals have gone on vacation. If this is your time to go, you will love the 3 hotels with pools in our selection. They are perfect if you like combining city walks and breaks at the water’s edge. The dream plan when you travel with your family.
Are your children early birds? Good news! One morning, skip breakfast (even if your hotel’s is delicious) and explore the city at sunrise. You will have plenty of time to discover Venice without the tourists and, with a little luck, you will enjoy a sublime sunrise over the canal. Just enough to make their eyes shine in case some are still half-closed. To put the kids in a cheerful mind, promise them an early return to the hotel (let’s say, around 1 PM, the right time to enjoy the pool), but also a breakfast at the Caffè del Doge, near the Palace and the Rialto.
If your children do not necessarily share your immoderate taste for cappuccino, they will love the little chocolate heart on the milk foam (always prettier when an Italian bartender draws it), the colorful cups in which it is served and the gourmet pastries that go with it. Note that this bar donates part of its profits to Bambini del Caffè, an association that supports children in coffee-producing countries.
To fully enjoy the charms of Venice, its magic and the many possibilities offered by this city, we advise you to avoid as much as possible classic tours and signposted routes. Children, just like you, will love leaving crowded neighborhoods (in Venice, we say “sestiere”). Lose yourself in the shady streets, get to know the shops and small markets frequented by the locals, stop in a park or on a bridge (the city has more than 400), just to admire Venice at your own pace. The best area to do this? The Dorsoduro, which houses the Guggenheim Museum (free for children under 10) and its pretty garden. As you stroll through this part of Venice, you will get the impression, even for a few minutes, that the city is yours. Linger in the quiet squares and along the canals. If you spend the evening there, offer the kids ice cream at Nico’s, then watch the sunset over the canal.
Because a trip to Venice in the summer can be hot – and not just for children – Little Guest has gone blue. At, JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa you will like the pool with a view, but also the spa housed in lush greenery, the kids-club (convenient if you have decided to treat yourself to a short escape, just the two of you: we are in the city of lovers, right?), its breathtaking view of the city and its chic design. To access Isola delle Rose, you only need 15 minutes by private boat from St. Mark’s Square. Be sure that the children will love these shorts trips on the Venetian canals.
Want to combine city trip and seaside stay? Head to the Parc Hotel Brasilia, a hotel with swimming pools ideally located by the sea, in Lido di Jesolo; the perfect base for families looking for an hybrid experience. This hotel is close enough to the city to allow you to enjoy the best of both worlds: the magic of Venice and the funny atmosphere of a stay at the seaside. This hotel offer plenty of activities designed for children, but also a direct access to a private beach, to make your stay even more comfortable and exclusive.
You can’t stay in Venice with your kids without experiencing a gondola ride. If this activity is often associated with a romantic getaway, your children will love observing the city from the canals. Not to mention that the gondolier’s costume and the vintage spirit of the boat will leave them with unforgettable memories. We advise you to opt for a ride on a private gondola which can accommodate up to 6 people. It’s more comfortable, but also more fun not to have to share this unique moment with other tourists.
If the proposals for thematic rides can be tempting, they are not worth the price. We suggest that you stick to a classic ride. Before leaving the gondola, don’t forget the family selfie!
In addition to the gondola rides, you can also take the water bus, just like the locals. The vaporetto, the public river shuttle, enables you to travel the city from one end to the other without getting too tired and giving children a different perspective on public transport. If your kids are under 6, all vaporetto trips are free. For older children and parents, opt for a 24-hour pass (€ 20), in order to move around in complete freedom, like the locals, at a much cheaper rate than by buying one-way tickets. Enjoy the magic of the Grand Canal and stop whenever you want to discover Venice’s hidden gems.
Because they are hosted in magical places, even your favorite museums will captivate your children. You can of course start with the Doge’s Palace, a must. Note that the museum offers a treasure hunt (for children from 5 to 10 years old), but also an interactive and fun visit to discover the secrets of the Palace (for families with children, from 11 to 14 years old). A favorite with contemporary art fans, Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, the two Venetian museums of the Pinault Foundation also organize activities dedicated to kids.
For an even more unusual experience, head to Murano, the island of Venetian glass artisans. The kids will discover, live, how these artists blow colored glass. No need to book an « all-inclusive » guided tour to immerse yourself in the secrets of this centuries-old tradition. A one-hour vaporetto ride from St. Mark’s Square will cost you just a few euros. Don’t forget to stop at Burano. Children should quickly fall under the spell of the small houses with the colorful facades typical of this cousin island of Murano. They won’t be the only ones.
Rather than explaining the definition of “al dente” to the kids, make them experience by themselves the real Italian pasta. Be aware that if your tribe is more focused on tomato pasta, the specialties of the north of Italy may destabilize them a little. The good news: in this country, the kids are kings. You will therefore have no trouble finding a place where the chef will do his/her best to make them happy. Depending on the time of day, treat them with a panino in a snack bar, a quick dish in a tavola calda, an unforgettable Margarita in a pizzeria and, of course, an ice cream cone in a gelateria. For this latest treat, try Il Doge, a place known for its « Crema del Doge » with candied orange. The kids will go for the green apple sorbet, as tempting as a candy.
To have a quick bite with your family between two visits, try the local specialty: Cicchetti, a kind of antipasti typical of Venice; small slices of white bread topped with cheese, cold cuts, eggs or fish. First of all, because sharing a meal is always more fun and, moreover, because the Osteria Al Squero, our favorite place to eat them, is located in the Dorsoduro, just in front of a… garage for gondolas. A stop there will ensure you to score plenty of points. In the same neighborhood, you can also choose pizza. The best ones are those from Al Volo, a popular address among locals.
The Venetian masks have a rather kitsch aesthetic that maybe won’t fit too much with the decor of the living room, but the children do not really share your opinion. Nevertheless, the Venetians’ passion for carnival is such that a visit to a mask maker is one of the must-do activities to try during your stay. To fully immerse yourself in this tradition, Ca’Macana is a must. Opened more than 30 years ago to preserve the art of the Venetian mask, this shop not only allows you to discover the creations of local artisans, but also to participate in a creative workshop accessible to children; the best way to immerse themselves in the many typical carnival characters and choose their favorite among 60 different ones. Then all they have to do is decorate it with gouache or even feathers. You can also book a private lesson (in English) and even opt for a full workshop including mask making and decoration.
What if you gave them the opportunity to put themselves in the shoes of a gondoliero, even after your return from vacation? You can of course play them in loops the Barcarolle, the typical love songs of the gondoliers … but you might get bored before them. We therefore recommend that you stop by Emilio Ceccato, the reference shop for gondolieri outfits. Located near the Rialto, you can find pretty striped sweaters there, but also polo shirts for boys and, of course, typical hats: navy blue wool with pompoms for the winter and straw hats with red ribbon for summer.
Bon voyage !
Marie, lifestyle journalist, curious traveller, passionate swimmer & step-mother of Charlie (9 y.o)