The best things to do in Venice with kids
Picture Venice and you might imagine romantic gondola rides, historic churches and art galore, but Venice with kids might not be the first thing that comes to mind.
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However the floating city is a fantastic place for a family city break, with so many things to do in Venice with kids – even if the idea of art galleries or elegant architecture leaves them cold.
Because who wouldn’t be captivated by the idea of a city built on canals: whatever age you are, Venice really is magical, like stepping into a fairytale world. So as well as saving some time to stroll and uncover its secrets, here’s what not to miss in Venice with kids.
Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale)
Home to the rulers of Venice over the centuries, along with its prison, the Doge’s Palace is one of Venice’s most famous landmarks and one of the best attractions to visit with kids.
There’s something for all ages to spot, whether it’s the reproduction of St Theodore with dragon (which looks distinctly like a crocodile) to the Scala dei Giganti or Giants’ Stairway, not to mention the armoury and venturing down to the cells.
Some aspects are more likely to appeal to older kids, especially the countless works of art you can see in the grand 13th century palace, built in Venetian Gothic style – lavishly decorated, as you might expect as the Doge’s residence and the seat of Venetian government.
During your visit, you can explore many of the rooms and learn more about the feared Council of Ten, as well as spotting the mouth where you could denounce your enemies, finding secret doors and marvelling at the ornate Sala del Maggior Consiglio (Hall of the Great Council).
Kids and teens will also love descending down into the palace’s prisons to see the cells, or you can also book additional tickets for the Secret Itineraries guided tour, which includes the torture rooms, with some gruesome stories of the medieval justice system.
Plus don’t miss the iconic Bridge of Sighs, where prisoners would cross from their trial into their cells and let out a sigh as they caught their last glimpse of the city.
You can buy skip-the-line tickets to the Doge’s Palace and museums of St Mark’s Square, as well as joint tickets to the Doge’s Palace, Piazza San Marco museums, chorus pass entry to 12 of Venice’s churches – plus option to upgrade to the full museum pass
The Rialto Market
Whether you’re self-catering, looking for a reminder that Venice isn’t purely a tourist city or simply love food, visiting the Rialto Market with kids is unmissable.
Located close to iconic Rialto Bridge, the historic fruit and vegetable market is an incredible symphony of colourful sights and delicious smells, a great place to visit in Venice for families.
Right next door you’ll also find the Rialto Fish Market (Pescheria) selling fresh fish and seafood from the Venetian lagoon, as well as historic signs showing the size that fish need to be in order to be sold.
The lively market is a fantastic place to discover local produce – look out for the words ‘San Erasmo’, the name of the nearby island where much of the food is grown – and learn about the cuisine in the Veneto region, as well as snapping up cones of fried fish and frito misto on the menu at places like Wenice.
Rialto Market is open daily (except Sundays) from 7:30am until lunchtime. Locals tend to visit first thing in the morning, while the late morning is when most tourists descend on the area.
A lot of Venice’s food tours also include a visit to the Rialto Market – this half-day walking tour and this shorter street food tour both stop at the market
Find the best views in Venice
Wherever you look in Venice, you’ll see some amazing views – but save some time to head up to one of the city’s highest points to look out across the rooftops to the towers and churches.
The belltower in Piazza San Marco is one of the best known spots to find the best view of Venice – and for good reason. From the Campanile, you can see right out beyond Santa Maria della Salute in Dorsoduro, as well as down to the Basilica and all across the rooftops of Venice.
It’s also where Galileo tested out his own telescope, for some added history. Do take a one euro coin to operate the modern-day equivalents for an impressive close-up of some of the buildings, and prebook your ticket and timeslot so you can stroll straight in past the queues.
But it’s not the only great viewpoint in Venice, with two cheaper alternatives. Less than 10 minutes from St Mark’s Square, there’s a viewing terrace at the top of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi store.
Tickets are free but must be prebooked as there’s a limited number allowed for each timeslot, with 15 minutes to soak up the view of the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge, as well as the chance to look back to St Mark’s Basilica.
Or head over to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, where the impressive church has its own campanile and great views back towards Venice.
Entry to the church is free, but there’s a charge of around 6 Euros to climb the belltower. You’ll get a better view of the Doge’s Palace from here than from the belltower in St Mark’s Square too. Vaporetto line 2 takes you to the island.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Venice is a city that’s well-known for its many galleries – but some are more suitable for kids than others (although if you have teens who love art, they’ll be spoiled for choice). And the Peggy Guggenheim Collection has to be one of the most family-friendly museums in Venice.
Every Sunday at 3pm, the modern art museum hosts free workshops for children aged 4 to 10 – these are in Italian, although you can request the option of it being translated into English when you prebook (essential).
The workshops aim to make the art collections more accessible and engaging for younger visitors, with the opportunity to get hands-on and try some art techniques for themselves.
The museum also has a full calendar of other fun family-friendly events which you can find more about here, plus its impressive collection of modern art, featuring some of the 20th century’s most important artists.
Visit St Mark’s Basilica
Perhaps the most famous site in the whole of Venice, St Mark’s Basilica is quite simply glorious – and the intricate mosaics and gold decoration are jaw-dropping for all ages.
You’ll find guided tours galore as well as audio guides, but while you won’t discover all the detail solo, it’s easier to book independently if you’re visiting St Mark’s Basilica with kids, especially with younger kids.
Older ones will be awed by the Pala d’Oro, the huge gold altarpiece which is decorated with 1,927 gems, as well as spotting stories from the Bible picked out on the ceilings. The lights are usually turned on between 11.30am and 12.30pm, so it’s one of the best times to see the gold and mosaics shine.
It’s one place where it’s well worth prebooking tickets, as the line to get in can easily last an hour, often several hours in peak season. Even in October, the queue for those who hadn’t prebooked stretched to the Doge’s Palace.
You can prebook tickets here, including the option to add tickets for the Pala d’Oro and the museum.
For more tips on visiting Venice with kids, check out my advice here including other ways to skip the queues
Museum of Natural History
The Museum of Natural History is another fun museum in Venice for kids of all ages, and while you might not think natural history should be at the top of your Venice wishlist, this really is a family-friendly gem.
Located inside the Fondaco dei Turchi, a grand 13th century Venetian palace facing the Grand Canal, Venice’s Natural History Museum is a treasure trove of fascinating natural discoveries spanning 700 million years of history.
From a 7-metre long dinosaur to a mighty whale skeleton, there are plenty of exhibitions that are guaranteed to impress younger visitors. Many of the creatures in the museum’s collection even come from the Venetian lagoon that surrounds the floating city.
You’ll find a string of exhibitions showcasing the genius of Leonardo da Vinci across Italy, and Venice has its own Leonardo Museum dedicated to the artist and inventor.
While it’s not huge, there is a great collection of Leonardo machines, including reconstructions of his flying machine, design for a ‘flying bridge’ and other inventions relating to water and warfare.
Even better, some are interactive so it’s a fun place for kids to get hands on.
Libreria Acqua Alta
Libreria Acqua Alta is a bookshop like no other and one of the quirkiest family attractions in Venice.
Located close to a canal, the bookshop doesn’t look too unusual at first glance: stuffed to the gills, with lots of little rooms off the main shop. Until you realise that the owners have a novel approach to Venice’s constant flooding, the high water – or acqua alta – with books piled into a full-sized gondola, into bath tubs, barrels, all manner of waterproof containers.
If wonderland had a bookshop, this would be it – and while it’s no longer the secret gem that it once was, kids will love this fantastical spot.
Don’t miss heading out back to find the stacks which didn’t survive the water, now stacked into steps making a colourful staircase up the back wall and the canal beyond it: the shop’s ‘fire escape’.
It’s not only people who love the bookshop either, which is now home to a string of stray cats who often sit on top of the stacks to keep their own paws dry. When they’re not there, you can climb the steps yourself to peek over the edge.
Explore a palazzo
The palazzos which line Venice’s canals are what help to give the city its unique atmosphere, the views of these historic palaces conjuring up the days of the Republic’s glory.
And while some have been transformed into hotels (while others are still owned by families), you can also visit some of them – often housing art collections, some are more family-friendly than others.
One of the best is Ca’Rezzonico in Dorsoduro, which dates back to the 17th century and whose tenants have included Robert Browning and Cole Porter, has been transformed into a museum of 18th century Venice. You’ll find works by Canaletto and frescoes by Tieopolo, as well as a gondola on the ground floor. As a bonus, there’s also a little play area in the grounds.
Ca’Rezzonico is closing temporarily in October 2022 for renovation works
Or try Palazzo Mocenigo, whose family boasted seven Venetian doges between the 15th and 18th century. The Gothic-stye palazzo on the Grand Canal is worth visiting not just to get a glimpse of how this powerful family would have lived, its rooms still furnished as if the Mocenigo family had just stepped out, but also for the fashion display with men and women’s costumes from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Older kids will also appreciate the Renaissance Palazzo Grimani, home to a former Doge and originally built to house the collection of Greek and Roman sculpture and other artworks – while these have been on loan to the Museo Correr, the frescoes and famous Sala ai Fogliami (or Foliage Room) are still impressive.
Venetian mask workshop
One of the best things to do in Venice with kids who love getting crafty and creative is a Venetian Mask Workshop – easily one of the highlights of our own trip.
The elaborately decorated masks have been an important part of the annual Venetian Carnevale for hundreds of years, and the designs date back to the earliest days of Italian theatre. Today they have also become a symbol of the Italian city.
As part of the mask workshop, kids can visit the studio of a local artisan and learn some of the techniques for decorating the masks (and sometimes about making them), as well as trying on some of those on display.
At the end of the workshop, you’ll take your own decorated mask home with them as a special souvenir from Venice. We loved this hour-long workshop not far from Piazza San Marco.
Think of Venice and you think of gondolas – and while it’s impossible to miss the many gondolas floating along the canals every day, another unusual Venice experience for families is visiting a gondola squero.
A squero is a traditional Venetian shipyard where gondolas are built and restored. There were once hundreds of these shipyards in Venice, but today only a handful remain today, most of which can’t be visited.
One of these remaining shipyards is Squero San Trovaso, which offers guided tours of its workshop. On a the half-hour squero tour, kids can learn about the characteristics of these unique boats and the traditional methods still used to build them today.
Glass blowing in Murano
A short boat ride from central Venice, Murano is a small island in the Venetian lagoon that’s famous for its glass blowing industry, which dates back hundreds of years.
The glass-blowers and their craft secrets were once so prized by the Republic that they weren’t allowed to leave, and Murano glass is still a symbol of luxury all across Europe. While the beautiful Murano glass artworks might not be that interesting for small children, the glass blowing process itself certainly will be, and you can often end up with a great souvenir to take home.
Many of the shops and factories hold glass blowing demonstrations and workshops – it’s usually easy to find free demonstrations as you explore, but you can also take more in-depth tours.
Fornace Mian custom makes artworks, glassware and chandeliers, and there’s a chance to watch the whole process – from furnace to finished piece – on a tour. Priced 10 Euros, it’s free for kids.
Or head to Ferro Toso, where you can create your own murrina – using the traditional glass beads, your own design is then turned into anything from a pendant to key ring. The workshop lasts 15-20 minutes, then you can learn more about the various stages of glass making while you wait for it to cool (around an hour). Priced from 10 euros.
You can find other glass workshops suitable for kids, including transport to Murano and time to explore the island.
It’s easy to combine a visit to Murano and Burano in one day – check out my tips for Venice with kids to discover the best way to plan your day
No matter what age you are, the colourful streets of beautiful Burano are guaranteed to raise a smile.
Located on the outer Venetian lagoon, the small fishing island is known for its vibrantly coloured houses lining a series of narrow canals (as well as its lace). The rainbow streets are perfect for some fun family photos, while teens will love the countless Insta-opportunities – the Tre Ponti bridges are a popular spot.
Half the fun is strolling along the canals trying to decide which colour combination is your favourite, although there’s plenty more to entertain while you visit the island.
Among the many tourist shops, you’ll find glass galore – New Arte Fuga was one of our favourites, with glass-making demos as well as some tempting souvenirs – plus a chance to visit the traditional lace museum, and stop at a cafe to try the local delicacy of buranelli (small S-shaped butter cookies). Pasticceria Costantini is the classic spot to buy.
Keep an eye out for the leaning belltower of the Chiesa di San Martino Vescovo, the patterned facade of Casa Bepi Sua and the ‘high tide’ house, just off Piazza Galuppi, not far from the church, which shows how high the water levels have risen over the years.
Keep an eye out too for the little details: everything from street signs like Fondamenta degli Assassini to the quirky shutter holders on the houses – decorated with both male and female faces, traditionally you see a different one depending whether the shutters are being held open or not.
It’s well worth arriving early to beat the crowds – and avoiding high season – plus you can easily combine it with a visit to Murano.
For more tips of things to do in Burano with kids in one day, check out this post
Beaches of Venice Lido
Venice and the beach aren’t usually two things you associate with each other. But take a 20 minute vaporetto ride over to Venice Lido and you’ll be greeted with long stretches of beautiful white sand beach.
With a chilled-out atmosphere that’s different from the rest of Venice, the Lido is a lovely place to escape with kids as well as having those sandy beaches for families to enjoy – some private and some public.
You’ll need to rent a deckchair and umbrella at the private beach clubs and hotels, but at the public beaches, you can just lay down a towel on the sand and enjoy. Kids will love running around on the wide beaches, building sandcastles, and splashing in the waves.
Having stayed there on one previous trip, it’s one of my favourite parts of the city but even a trip to the Lido is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of Venice with kids, even just for an afternoon.
Rent a rickshaw bike
Whether you’re planning a visit to the beaches of the Venice Lido or not, save some time to explore the rest of the island.
It’s easy to rent bikes to explore, including a chance to see the striking San Nicolò Lighthouse, or the Planetarium – the third largest of its kind in Italy.
As well as the standard two-wheel bikes, including ones with child seats, you can also rent rickshaw bikes, with space for 3 or 6. You might not go as fast but it’s a definitely experience pedalling away, and a great option if you have kids who can’t ride a bike but are too big for a child seat.
Take a boat tour
Taking boat trips is always going to be on the cards during a family city break in Venice – even if you’re walking lots, you’ll find yourself on board at least one vaporetto during your stay.
But as well as using the routes to get from A to B, you can create your own little boat tour using the existing schedules.
Line 2 is one of the best for this: simply hop on board at San Marco Giardinetti, at the start of the line, and enjoy the views as it goes along the Grand Canal to Rialto, passes round past the cruise port and along the Giudecca Canal by Dorsoduro and Santa Maria della Salute before ending at San Marco San Zaccaria, a five-minute walk from your start point.
Alternatively, line 1 travels along the Grand Canal (and out to the Lido) for a chance to enjoy the classic view of Venice. It’s often busy though.
The best views are from the back of the vaporetto, so it’s best to find a quiet time, be at the front of the queue or wait hopefully nearby to see if a seat opens up.
For my tips on buying vaporetto tickets and public transport passes for Venice, check out this post
Go in a gondola
A ride in a gondola is the romantic image of a city break in Venice, being rowed along the canals while you recline and savour the scenery.
Add kids to the mix and there’s a little less romance involved, but it’s certainly an unforgettable memory if your children are old enough to enjoy the experience.
With space for up to five on board, prices start from 80 Euros for a 25-30 minute trip during the daytime (120 Euros at night), so it’s not the cheapest option.
The gondolas follow their own set routes, returning you to your starting point, so it’s worth choosing carefully – the gondoliers should be able to tell you where the journey will take you. A trip with a taste of the quieter little canals and the gorgeous views of the Grand Canal is ideal.
Mornings can be quieter if you’re looking to avoid gondola jams, and do avoid the hottest part of the day if you are visiting in summer – there’s no shade. If you fancy a sunset trip, try to time for just before the evening rate begins at 7pm – if you get aboard while the day rate still applies, you won’t have the 50% surcharge but still get the same atmosphere.
To find out how to spot a genuine gondola, check out my tips – or if you want to see the classic boats without taking a ride, head to the Museo Storico Navale to see some impressive versions including Peggy Guggenheim’s own gondola
Or try the traghetto
One much cheaper alternative (if less romantic!) is a journey in a traghetto. Looking a little like overgrown gondolas, the traghetti cross the Grand Canal at half a dozen stops between bridges – the Grand Canal only has four bridges, so if you want to get from one bank to another, this can save you a detour.
Just look out for the signs reading ‘Traghetto’ – one of the most useful is from San Marco (near Harry’s Bar) across to Salute.
The trip costs 2 Euros for tourists (less for residents) and usually takes only a couple of minutes to travel from one side to the other. If the traghetto is on the opposite bank, it’ll usually cross when they see people waiting, so there’s no official timetable.
Traditionally you stand up in the traghetto, and locals will still often do this: they’re a LOT wobblier than they look though, so happily visitors are directed to sit down.
There are few better ways to see Venice than from the water – so why not paddle yourself around La Serenissima, on a kayak trip?
Venice Kayak allows children aged 8+ to join their parents in a double kayak, as long as they know how to swim.
Or if you join a tour in the lagoon (rather than the city) children aged 14 years and up can go in single kayaks, as long as they have experience kayaking already.
There’s a two-hour sunrise tour as well as a couple of three-hour trips suitable for beginners (around 2 -2 1/2 hours paddling) where you can see some of the secret sides to Venice with your guide, plus longer tours for teens who fancy a proper adventure.
Hunt for lions
The winged lion is the symbol of Venice and you’ll see them dotted around all over, atop a column in St Mark’s Square as well as on the city’s flag.
But wherever you look, you can spot lion heads across the city, so it makes a fun treasure hunt for kids as you explore – keep an eye out for doorknockers, decorations on columns and gondolas, and almost too many other places to mention.
For an added twist for older kids, the lion on the flag is shown with an open book in times of peace and a sword during times of war.
Take a tour of Venice for kids
There’s nothing like a great tour to bring a city to life, pointing out the hidden secrets and unexpected spots off the main tourists routes – and that goes double in this floating city.
You’ll find a string of tours of Venice for kids, but we loved our experience with Lucia from Venice Walks and Tours, a fabulous scavenger hunt starting in the oldest part of the city and taking us to the Rialto Market, and through the streets to Basilica San Marco.
Check out my full review of our tour of Venice with kids
Along the way, we discovered a string of quirky secrets – how to work out which of Venice’s six sestiere you’re in, why the corners between buildings are filled in, how to spot a genuine gondola and tell the precise population of Venice, plus the secrets behind some of the city’s statues and grotesques.
Lucia is fantastic with kids, and my daughter was as enthralled as I was.
Discover a ghost tour of Venice
If you’re looking to discover a different side to Venice over the centuries, Venice has its share of ghosts – teens will love discovering their stories on a ghost tour of Venice.
Spooky but still family-friendly, the evening walking tour shares some of the city’s legends and darker history, including the less well-known tales of well-trodden streets around San Marco and Rialto.
From public executions to notorious murders, as well as unsolved puzzles and dramatic events, it’s a window into Venice beyond the gorgeous facade.
Climb the bridges
There are quite literally hundreds of bridges in Venice – 391 according to some counts – crossing 150 canals, from the Grand Canal to the tiny waterways tucked away between backstreets.
Some of the most impressive cross the Grand Canal, including the eye-catching white stone of the Rialto Bridge with its shops in the centre and the graceful wooden span of the Accademia Bridge.
But you’ll quickly lose count of the number of bridges you cross during your stay – my daughter approached each one with the challenge of guessing how many steps would be involved, as most have at least a few leading up to the curving structure, designed to leave room for the gondolas to pass.
Expect to see a few gondoliers gracefully ducking underneath as you pass though.
Look out for the Madonna arch over the Ponte del Paradiso too, as well as the famous Bridge of Sighs. Having crossed through it during our visit to the Doge’s Palace, we also crossed the bridges either side to get a view from the outside and be thankful we weren’t crossing over to the prisons and taking our own last look at Venice.
The city is also famous for its cicchetti, little snacks – often deep fried – served at a traditional bacaro, one of the old bars dotted around Venice. Look out for polpette (little fried meatballs as well as veggie versions), tramezzini sandwiches and mozzarella in carozza among others.
Often eaten standing up counters, more and more have tables which are more family-friendly. You’ll find plenty of bacari in the San Polo area, including around the Rialto market, or near Campo San Bortolomio on the opposite bank – look out for SEPA, Rosticceria Gislon and Corte dell Orso.
Or try a Venice tapas and wine walking tour to try a variety of cicchetti as you explore, while this street food walking tour combines tasting and wandering.
If you’re looking for the best gelato in Venice, the huge heaped tubs showing all the different flavours are very tempting, but while it’s rarely a bad idea to give in to temptation, the best gelato will be hidden away.
Head to a gelateria where there are metal lids over the tubs and it’s a sign of quality, with the ice cream being kept at the perfect temperature. Gelateria Gallonetto has perhaps the best ice cream in Venice… and you don’t get long queues of people taking selfies, as at some other shops popular on Instagram.
Enjoy a cooking class
While you’ll find pasta and pizza galore in Venice, the city’s traditional dishes are a little different from much of the rest of Italy – there’s fish and seafood galore, as well as polenta in many.
And as well as trying some of the classics – such as sarde in saor (sardines in a sweetened vinegar with onions, pine nuts and raisins), seppie al nero (cuttlefish stewed in its own ink, often served with polenta) and the more child-friendly baccala mantecato (a creamy salt cod concoction), you could learn to make some of the dishes yourself.
Better with older kids or mini gourmets, there are still plenty which are family-friendly. This Venice cooking class is suitable for age 10+ and run by a professional chef, while this pasta and tiramisu cooking class is for families with children of all ages.
Find a place to play
If your kids are looking for a place to play between sightseeing, Venice’s canals and narrow streets don’t always make it easy – but there are a few spots to head for, including a rare park.
The Giardini Savorgnan in Cannaregio is one of the largest green spaces in the city, originally a botanical garden and now a public park. There’s also a play area – and it’s not far from the station and Ponte delle Guglie with its gargoyles.
For more green space, the Giardini Reali are close to Piazza San Marco, although you won’t find swings or slides here, while further into Castello is the Giardini della Biennale, also known as the Giardini Napoleonici – there’s a play area not far from the Santa Elena vaporetto stop.
Otherwise the campos, or squares, of Venice (St Mark’s is the only piazza) are great for letting kids burn off some energy without the risk of falling into a canal.
You’ll often find flocks of pigeons enjoying the space too – although there was barely a bird to be spotted in St Mark’s Square when we visited.
The stories say that two were sent to the city by one former Doge to share the news that Venice had conquered Constantinople in the 13th century – and the Venetians were so happy at the news, they decided there would always be pigeons in the city…
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