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Find out the best things to do in Venice, the floating city.
Things to do in Venice with Kids
Our family was lucky enough to take a trip to Venice while we were living in Lake Como, Italy last year and it was honestly one of our most favorite trips of the year. Venice far surpassed my expectations as a touristy city. I thought it would be too crowded, or too smelly with too many hagglers on the street trying to sell me something. But it wasn’t. It was perfect and fulfilled all my Venetian dreams!
Venice is truly a unique city unlike anywhere else on earth. Go see the sinking city while it’s still here. There is so much history and culture right at your fingertips and there are so many things to do in Venice that you will wish you could stay longer!
I’ve divided this information up into 7 sections:
- When to go to Venice
- Before You Go to Venice
- Getting to Venice
- Where to Stay in Venice
- Getting Around Venice
- Things to do in Venice
- What to Eat in Venice
1. When to go to Venice
You’ll hear from a lot of friends and people you meet online that Venice is too touristy, that it’s too hot or too smelly. I have heard all these things repeatedly from people who visited Venice. But guess when they went? The middle of July…when the tourist peak is out of control and the temperatures are at its highest. Venice is a compact, floating city with narrow alleyways and can feel cramped at the best of times. I don’t recommend going mid-summer.
Winter will be the least crowded unless you go during Carnival which lasts around 2 weeks during the end of January to the beginning of February. Venice can get very cold in the winter and the canals have been known to freeze over occasionally!
Spring and Fall are the best times to visit Venice if you want to avoid crowds and high prices. The weather is still beautiful, but not hot enough so that the canals start to smell. This is also when you’ll find really cheap flights!
2. Before You Go to Venice
Books About Venice
Getting everywhere by boat, gelato stops, pizza, and maze-like alleyways are just a few reasons kids will love Venice. But before you venture out into the ancient city, it’s good to prepare kids with a few resources so they can get as much out of the visit as possible. These are some of my favorite resources for kids that will prepare them for all the things to do in Venice.
Books about Venice for Young Readers
- Mimi & Piggy’s Adventure in Venice: A cute little book about two little animals who get separated in Venice.
- Vendela in Venice: This is a great book to help kids get acquainted with the iconic art and architecture of Venice
- This is Venice: A beautiful book for children all about the landmarks of Venice. You can also find This is Rome, and This is Paris.
- Bravo Zan Angelo: This is a fun book all about Carnival, costumes, and mask-making!
Book about Venice for Middle Readers
- The Thief Lord: An exciting story about two brothers who run away to Venice.
- Stravaganza, City of Masks: While not actually set in Venice, this series of books is set in fictitious Italian cities, but you definitely get a feel for Venice in City of Masks.
- Daughter of Venice: This story of a girl living in Venice in the 1500s is an eye-opening look into ancient Venice.
Guidebooks About Venice
- Kids Go Europe: Treasure Hunt Venice : I love this little pocket-sized, spiral book that kids can take around Venice, discovering all the treasures for themselves.
- Venice for Kids : A great guidebook for older kids with fun illustrations, maps and interesting information about things to do in Venice.
- Venice Cityscape: Not really a guidebook, but a cute visual of the city. I love these little accordion books and try to collect them wherever we go.
- Venice for Kids (Kindle): This is a different Venice for kids, available on the go as a Kindle version.
Books about Marco Polo
Venice is famously the home of Marco Polo, the 15th-century explorer who traveled to China. Visiting Venice is a great reason to study Marco Polo and his travels.These are some of our favorite books about Marco Polo:
- Marco Polo Was Here: This is a great guidebook for kids, detailing the city of Venice and where Marco Polo visited. It gives the guidebook some context and history, which I like.
- Marco Polo for Kids: His Marvelous Journey to China, 21 Activities: A great activity book detailing Marco Polo’s journey to China.
- Who Was Marco Polo?: My kids love the Who Was series. They are short and easy to read and contain tons of interesting and fun facts!
Books About Venice for Grown-Ups
- Lonely Planet Venice & the Veneto: I like the Lonely Planet books. They are always in-depth and informative.
- Rick Steve’s Pocket Venice: I always love Rick Steve’s guidebooks. He’s honest and personable. This pocket-book has a great fold-out map too!
- Time Out Venice: I like this guidebook because it has restaurants listed.
3. Getting to Venice
Getting to Venice is easy. Venice Marco Polo Airport is about 20 minutes away from Metropolitan City of Venice by an $8 train ride. If you can’t find great prices on flights to Venice, try checking Milan as there are usually pretty good deals there.
4. Where to Stay in Venice
Venice is a group of 118 small islands that are separated by 180 canals and linked by 400 bridges. No big deal right?! To make it easier, Venice can be divided into six neighborhoods or Sestieri (meaning sixths). If you want to stay near the main sites of Venice, the sestieri of San Marco (green) or San Polo (yellow) will be the best choice. Castello (blue) is also really lovely and more of a quiet, family neighborhood area, rather than a tourist area. If I was ever to live in Venice, I’d live in Castello.
There are plenty of Airbnb houses and apartments in Venice. Be sure to look at a map when booking to ensure you are in a good area. Do not stay in Mestre, which is the industrial town a 10-minute train ride in. You’ll be walking or taking boats the entire time in Venice, so you’ll definitely want to stay somewhere with easy access to all you want to do. I’ve made a list of Airbnb Houses that are great for families for under $150/night that you can find here:
Here’s a $40 coupon from me for your first Airbnb stay:
If Airbnb isn’t your style and you’re looking for a little more luxe, there are also loads of ancient, sinking mansions turned into luxury hotels in Venice.
5. Getting Around Venice
Getting around Venice can be fun and easy. Of all the things to do in Venice, getting around is probably the most exciting because it involves unusual forms of transportation and absolutely NO cars! Here are the best ways to get around Venice:
- Vaporetto: This is the public transportation of Venice. The Vaporetto acts like a bus on water. You can buy a Vaporetto pass at the train station.
- Water Taxi: If you want to get around Venice quickly and in style, the water taxis are a great option. But if you’re budget traveling, these can be quite costly!
- Gondola: A 40 minute ride in a classic Venetian gondola will cost you 80 Euros and is worth the experience.
- Walking: Probably the best way to get around Venice. Use a good map! I would NOT recommend taking a stroller to Venice! With 400 bridges, that all have stairs, it’s nearly impossible to navigate this city on wheels.
6. Things to do in Venice
As one of the oldest cities in Italy, Venice is buzzing with culture, beauty, and history. There are so many things to do in Venice for families that you’ll wish you could move in for a few years! The city will truly capture your heart and your imagination with its narrow alleyways, ancient architecture and romantic canals. These are some of our favorite things to do in Venice:
1. Piazza San Marco
Known as the religious and historical center of Venice, “St. Mark’s Square” and St. Marco’s Basilica are not to be missed. Feed the pigeons and visit the 600-year-old church. Look up at the impressive mosaics on the outside of the building.
2. Rialto Bridge
Rialto Bridge is one of four bridges that cross the Grand Canal of Venice and is also the oldest bridge crossing the canal, dating back to 1551!
3. The Doge’s Palace
Step back in time and learn about the many doges who ruled Venice for thousands of years, up until 1797. This place is gorgeous!
4. Walk Across the Bridge of Sighs
Walk across the Bridge of Sighs. This impressive and elevated bridge across one of Venice’s many canals got its name because prisoners would walk over this bridge, catch their last glimpse of Venice, and sigh.
5. Ride in a Gondola
Nothing says “Venice” like riding in a Gondola. Yes it’s touristy, yes it’s expensive and yes you should do it! Gondolas are unique to Venice and have been used to navigate the canals for centuries. They are a part of Venice’s past and culture. Once numbered thousands, today there are only about 400 licensed Gondoliers in Venice, whose main purpose is to give rides to tourists. If you’re lucky you may pick a gondolier who sings! Gondola rides are charged at a fixed rate of 80 Euros for a 40-minute ride with up to 6 people in one boat.
6. Take a Water Taxi
If you’re in the mood to go a little faster and farther, try a Venetian water taxi. Fair warning, this is where you will see the biggest price discrepancies as water taxi prices are not set at a standard rate. However, they are a great way to get around quickly to areas that the Vaporetto (water bus) may not be able to navigate, such as small canals. Water taxis can also take you to outlying islands of Venice such as Murano and Burano.
7. Get Lost in a Sea of Books
Alta Aqua Bookstore may be the most unique bookstore in the world! Bathtubs and boats full of books present an excellent example of how homes and business have had to adapt over the years to the rising waterline in Venice.
8. Learn to Craft of Mask Making
The art of mask making has been around since the time of ancient Venetians. This is such a fun activity, for visitors of all ages, and you’ll have a great souvenir to bring home too.
9. Shop at the Markets
Venice is famous for its bustling markets and especially for the fish! Venice is, after all, sitting on an ocean! Be sure to get there early in the morning to watch the vendors wheel their goods up and down the bridges and stairs with their specially designed wheelbarrows. Buy some fresh fruits and vegetables to snack on throughout the day.
10. Learn to Cook Like a Venetian
If there’s one thing better than eating Italian food, it’s learning how to make it for yourself! Take a cooking class and kids will love the accomplishment of making and eating their own pizza and/or pasta!
11. Count the Lions
Count the iconic lions of Venice and learn about the live “state lion” that was once caged in St. Marco’s Square. The lion is a symbol of Venetian power. This will keep small children entertained while in Venice.
12. Giardini Pubblici
If the kids (or grown-ups) need a break from the crowded alleyways and canals of Venice, take the Vaporetto to Castello (blue on the sestieri map above) and go to the Giardini Pubblici (public gardens) where the kids can run free in the largest green space in Venice. There are several playgrounds and grassy fields.
13. Visit the Outer Islands of Venice
Venice is made up of 118 islands! Some of the most beautiful islands to visit are Murano and Burano:
Murano: Known for its ancient history of glass blowing, Murano is a colorful island full of tiny glass shops selling everything from giant sculptures to ant-sized figurines. The real special treat on Murano is the beach, as it is littered with hundreds of years of smoothed glass! Murano is about a 15-minute ride from Venice on the Vaporetto and even shorter on a water taxi.
Burano: This bright and colorful village dates back to Roman times and is famous for the art of lace making. It’s easy to fall in love with these bright buildings lining the canals!
7. What to Eat in Venice
Try to get away from the classic pizza and pasta, and taste some classic Venetian food:
- Risi e bisi: This is a traditional rice and pea dish that was served to the Doge on St. Mark’s Day.
- Fritole: These fried pastry balls are usually served around Carnevale time.
- Bigoli in salsa: Very similar to spaghetti, this is a simple dish of thick noodles and salt-cured fish.
- Risotto al nero di seppia: Black Squid Ink Risotto
One of the best things to do in Venice is to get lost! Venice is a bit like a maze. With old, narrow alleyways, canals and 400 bridges, getting lost is easy, but fun. Be sure to have a good paper map with you and enjoy the journey and the beauty of finding yourself by losing yourself in one of the most beautiful cities on earth.