There is no doubt that Venice is an incredible and magical city. The amount of attractions to see and activities it offers makes it a must-see for anyone, even for children, even if you have to approach things differently.
Although children tend to get tired earlier and find long visits tedious, a visit to Venice can be fun for them if you plan your tour well. Obviously, this doesn't mean that you should stop taking gondola rides or visiting museums, but it does mean that you will have to change the way you do these activities. Here's how!
1. Let them make their own Venetian mask
While walking around Venice, children will be able to see everywhere the typical Venetian masks typical of the carnival in winter. It is certain that the beauty and colorfulness of these masks will make them want to buy them, something that can always be done. However, they might enjoy it more if you take them to make their own mask.
Creating one of these masks will not only be fun, but it is also an activity that will encourage their creativity. In Venice you can find several stores that offer this activity, in which adults can also participate.
When booking the class I recommend that you always look for an authentic Venetian master craftsman, as they are the ones who will best explain the traditional techniques for making the mask. And there are two types of classes:
- The decoration ones, with which the children will take the mask right away.
- The production ones, for which they will have to wait a few hours before they can proudly pick up their creation.
Best places to buy a mask, if you prefer
If you don't have time or the kids don't fancy the prospect of making their own mask, a good option is to buy one. Actually, you will have no problem finding numerous stores and street stalls all over the city, but there are some neighborhoods that are more recommendable to get one with a certain quality.
In my opinion, the best one is the San Polo neighborhood. You only have to look at the number of windows from which hang masks and carnival costumes to realize the number of artisans who live there. To reach this area you can take a pleasant walk across the Rialto Bridge.
2. Let them get lost in the labyrinth in Villa Pisani
Venice is often described as a labyrinth of canals, streets, alleys and ducts. However, a short distance from the city there is a real labyrinth that is sure to delight children.
It is located in Villa Pisani, a place with impressive architecture, but there is no doubt that the little ones will mainly focus on the aforementioned labyrinth located in the huge garden.
The truth is that the maze is not at all simple, so you should never lose sight of the children. The route goes through several concentric rings and it is quite easy to get lost. Fortunately, in the center there is a staircase that you can climb to have a view of the whole and know which is the way out.
- How to get there: the most convenient for children is to take an Actv bus from Piazzale Roma.
- Period and opening hours: between April and September the Villa is open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. From October to March, the Villa closes at 4:00 pm.
3. Take them to discover the secrets of the Doge's Palace
Traveling with children doesn't have to stop you from visiting such interesting monuments as the Doge's Palace in Venice. The trick to keep them from getting tired is to change the point of view and focus the explanations on things that might interest them. In this case, my advice is to leave aside the architecture and focus on the secret itineraries that the palace hides.
Although it depends on each child, they will usually have a great time visiting the area of the cells, the narrow stairs, the torture chamber and the entrance through the Bridge of Sighs.
If you are able to embellish all these attractions with interesting stories I assure you that children will really enjoy visiting the Doge's Palace.
Children under 6 years of age are not allowed to visit the "secret" areas of the palace. However, they can enter the Doge's Palace, the Bridge of Sighs and see some isolated cells.
4. Discover the city from the water
Did you think that taking a gondola ride was something only adults could enjoy? Well, let me tell you that it is one of the things that children will love the most.
Besides, it is one of the best ways to get to know the city without the kids getting too tired and you having to carry them in their chair or in your arms.
Recommendations for gondola rides with children
Normally this experience is available both during the day and at night, but children will probably enjoy the first option more, because when the sun goes down they are usually exhausted.
If you are traveling with a baby I advise you not to take the stroller. It is best to use a baby carrier, as strollers must be left at the gondola reference station. On the other hand, the Grand Canal rides do allow strollers.
5. Visit the museums, but with different tours.
There is a cliché that children get bored in museums. However, this depends a lot on the way the visit is made and the type of museum. My advice is not to completely eliminate this activity, but to study very well where to go and if the museum has activities that can interest the little ones.
In the case of Venice, these are the most suitable:
- Natural History Museum: one of the most interesting museums for children in Venice. Inside you will be able to see fossils and dinosaur skeletons, including one over 7 meters high that always surprises the little ones. Another section they usually like is the large aquarium it houses.
- Peggy Guggenheim: organizes every Sunday the so-called Children's Day. Children under 10 years old can enter for free to attend workshops (in several languages) on contemporary art.
- Museo Correr: the most attractive for children is the drawing workshop based on myths and legends. They will also enjoy the explanation of a journey that will take them to discover the Venice of the sixteenth century.
- Naval History Museum: the antique ships inside are a magnet for most children.
- Leonardo Da Vinci Machine museum: in this museum you can see several of the machines designed by Leonardo Da Vinci. It is a very attractive exhibition, especially for older children.
6. Spend a morning at the beach
If your trip takes place in spring or summer, when good weather is common, children can enjoy a few hours at the beach to take a break from sightseeing. The best place for this are the beaches of Lido, just 15 minutes by vaporetto from the city.
The island has several different beaches. Some of them are private, but others are public and free, such as:
- Paradise Beach
- San Nicolo
If you want to go several days to this island to discover all its beaches I recommend buying the 72-hour transport pass in Venice with which you can also move to other areas of the city at a better price.
Take advantage of being at the Lido to take them to the planetarium.
If you have been to the Lido in spring you can take the kids to the fabulous planetarium inside the public park of Lungomare D'Annunzio. It is open from October to May and the activities are recommended for children aged 7 and up.
The show, which is free of charge, lasts about 50 minutes and offers children an extraordinary view of the sky, its stars and various phenomena such as rainbows.
7. Book a guided tour to visit Venice in comfort.
When you arrive for the first time in a city it is common to feel a bit disoriented. If you go with children you will not be able to afford to lose much time until you get the hang of the situation. The best solution is to hire a personalized guided tour of Venice for the first few hours.
This type of tour has many advantages when traveling with children, as not only will they show you some of the most important monuments of Venice, but the guides are usually used to the presence of the little ones in the family and know what places they might find curious.
Play lion hunt
It is quite likely that during such a visit children will be told about the lion symbol of Venice. One of the city's most popular lions is located in the small square next to St. Mark's, and guides often show it off during tours.
To entertain the little ones, it might be a good idea to organize a sort of "lion hunt"; have them look for the lions they find in different corners of Venice. To make it more entertaining, ask them to distinguish between the winged and the non-winged ones.
8. Go to shows for children
Venice also offers some interesting shows for the little ones. The following venues often have activities that will delight children:
- Palazzetto Bru Zane: offers special concerts for children ages six and up. Before the concerts there is a workshop in which a musician makes an effort to involve the little ones in an interactive way. In addition, other activities are organized in the same building, such as a treasure hunt.
- Teatro Goldoni: in addition to the museum inside, this theater organizes various children's entertainment activities, including puppet shows.
- Teatro ai Frari: like the previous one, it offers puppet shows and other cultural activities for children of all ages.
9. Surprise them with the cats at the Acqua alta bookstore
A different and much appreciated visit for children is the well-known Acqua Alta bookstore. Not only will they enjoy the peculiar way the books are stacked (in the shape of stairs or a gondola) or the special exit to swim out in case of flooding, but also the cats who, they say, keep the old books so that nothing happens to them.
This bookstore is located in the Castello district, in the middle of an interesting labyrinth of narrow streets and canals. The main entrance is in a small square called Campiello del Tintor, on Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa. From my point of view, this is a must-see if your stay is going to be longer than 2 days in Venice.
10. Take him to play in Venice's parks
All children need moments of recreation where they can play, run around and relax. If you don't take this into account, it's quite possible that the trip will end with a tantrum.
Luckily, Venice has some gardens that are perfect for them and, in some cases, equipped with playgrounds for the little ones. These are the ones I recommend the most:
- Giardini Reali: just 50 meters from St. Mark's Basilica, this small park can be perfect for a picnic or a seated ice cream. Although it has no swings, children can entertain themselves watching the fish in the pond.
- Giardini della Biennale: the largest green space in the city. There children can enjoy the playground, with activities for the whole family. If you are lucky enough to be celebrating the Biennale, the park is filled with stalls and art exhibitions.
- Savorgnan Park: close to the train station and the interesting Jewish ghetto, this park is ideal for the hottest days. Its shaded areas seem to have been purposely created for sitting and having a bite to eat.
When to travel to Venice with children
It is not easy to decide when is the best time to go to Venice with children, especially since the choice is limited by the school calendar.
If you can choose, my recommendation is spring. For starters, there are usually fewer tourists and walking around the city is much more comfortable, not to mention that the queues to enter the monuments are much reduced.
Moreover, the weather is mild, without the cold and rain of winter and without the intense heat of summer.
Getting around Venice with children
There are several means of transportation to get around Venice, almost all of which are water-related. In general, most tourists tend to move around on foot or by vaporetto. In the latter option, children under 6 years of age do not pay and strollers can be taken free of charge.
If the child is very small, it is best to bring a baby carrier. Although in large areas such as St. Mark's Square there are no problems for strollers, many parts of the city are full of stairs and bridges without ramps.