Our round up of the 10 best things to do in Venice with kids, including visits to some of Venice must see attractions, kid-friendly museums and activities the whole family will enjoy.
Few things match the wonder in the eyes of children when they see Venice for the first time. We visited ‘la Serenissima’ in December and, before going, we had built up anticipation explaining about the canals and the gondolas. However, nothing prepared them for the moment they stepped out of Santa Lucia train station and saw the Grand canal right in front of them.
And they were right to be surprised: I dare the most jaded of travellers not to be impressed by the elaborate, elegant, decadent beauty of this unlikely city.
Kids being kids, however, you can’t rely on beauty alone to keep them entertained. You need activities, so these is our selection of the top 10 thing to do in Venice with kids. In true Learning Escapes style, they are chosen for being fun for parents too! make sure you add them to your Venice itinerary!
Our selection of the top 10 things to do in Venice with kids
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Chase the pigeons in San Marco
Iconic piazza San Marco is a sight to behold. From the colonnades embracing its large pavement to the tall bell tower, the piazza surrounds you with beauty and keeps teasing you with promises of more as your glance move toward Palazzo Ducale and gran Canal just beside it.
For kids however, the attraction of San Marco is not its architecture but rather its most conspicuous inhabitant. Pigeons! The square is famous for hosting pigeons, you literally walk among them and kids and adults alike make the most of their friendly nature, for the delight of some and the complete disgust of others!
Kids from all over the world spend hours chasing them around the square and this often allows parents to take turns: one is on pigeon chase watch while the other visits the church.
Generations of tourists have enjoyed this free activity in Venice and the temptation to make it last longer buying bird seeds (sold by many on the square) is high. However, pigeons are a problem for the city and feeding them is illegal: make sure you don’t promise a feeding session to your kids and fines are high.
If you decide to visit St Mark’s basilica with kids, make sure you get hold of skip the line tickets here!
A curiosity:how come there are so many pigeons in piazza San Marco?
The question lends itself to legends and there are several stories going around claiming to recount the beginning of the pigeon population of Venice. One says it all started with Doge Enrico Dandolo, who sent them to Venice to announce the victory over Constantinople. The population celebrated the good news feeding the pigeons who made Venice their home and then proliferated. Another story says the pigeons were bred during the was as message carriers.
Whatever the truth is, one thing is sure: Venice is now sick of its feathered inhabitants but their stories keep fascinating kids of all ages!
Take a Vaporino
In a city made of waterways public transport could only be made of boats and this is what Vaporino is: the Venetian version of a bus. Vaporini stop are all over the city, each following a numbered route (exactly like a bus). They are the normal mean of transport for Venetians but or tourists and kids in particular a bit of a treat. The most popular line of all goes up the Canal Grande: try avoid rush our and get a seat close to the window for the best view.
Tickets can be bough online, at the ticket kiosks in several location around Venice including Piazza San Marco (water side): kids under 6 go free.
Learn traditional crafts in Murano and Burano
The island of Murano lies right in front of Venice and it is easily reachable by vaporino. The crossing of the lagoon is pleasant in itself, offering beautiful views of the Venice’s cemetery island, but what makes the island special is its glass making tradition.
Tourists flock here from all over the world to see the furnaces at work and leave with elaborate glass articraft, from necklaces to decorations and vases. For kids, you can book special workshop teaching them how the glass in make and giving them the chance to create their own glass beaded necklace.
A short boat ride away lays Burano, another gorgeous island famous for colourful house, the ancient art of creating lace and the home of tasty biscuits called Buranelli. Both islands can be visited in one day: catch the boat back just before sunset for the most romantic time of the day on the lagoon.
Learn to make carnival masks
The Venetian carnival is not, as such, an event for kids but some activities connected to it are. In Venice, you have mask shops everywhere and some offer family workshops. Crafty kids will have the chance to make their own mask and learn some of the traditions of this most peculiar and elaborate carnival.
Go on a treasure hunt
Local organisation Macaco tours organsies treasure hunts around Venice for kids of all ages. We took one in December and we had the best day out: this Venice treasure hunt is the perfect length to keep kids engaged without exhausting them and teaches many things about Venice they would never otherwise know (this is the same for adults too, it is very informative!).
This was by far our favourite family activity in Venice and we keep recommending them to all our friends planning a visit to Venice with children!
Visit the high tide bookshop
How do you keep book dry in city on water? Of course, you put them in boats! Or bath tubs, or pots, or gondolas. This is exactly what the high water bookshop does and the effect is whimsical. Kids will particularly love the staircase of old books: go up and enjoy the view over the hidden canal behind.
Get a traghetto (gondola)
A ride on a gondola is a bit of a touristy thing to do but a must-do for many.
The long ride can be too much for little ones but you can treat them to the gondola experience taking the so called traghetto.
This is a gondola crossing the grand canal: the ride only lasts a couple of minutes but it is cheap and you are so close to the water little kids will feel it’s quite adventurous. A special thank you goes to the lovely people of Wanderjack who shared this secret with us!
Explore the secret tunnels of Palazzo Ducale
Imposing Palazzo Ducale doesn’t immediately evoke family friendly thoughts, but kids age 6 or more are likely to enjoy the many secret passages inside it.
The palace is also where Venice’s prisons once were and leads to the famous bridge of sight, which gets its name from the sight of the convicted gong from the court to their cell after conviction.
Take a kids workshop at the Peggy Guggenheim museum
The famous Peggy Guggenheim museum has special workshops just for kids and caters for children aged 4+ and special family days. It is a great place in all seasons and a life saver during the cold Venetian winter.
Climb the Fondaco dei Turchi
Next to the Rialto bridge there is Fondaco dei Turchi a historical building now turned into posh department store. Head to the back of the main hall and catch the lift to the top floor for amazing view over the city (access to the terrace is free but in high season you need to pre-book: my advice is to pop in in the morning and get a ticket for later in the day,ideally at sunset)
hope you enjoyed out list of things to do in Venice with kids! We believe these family attractions will ensure a great stay in Venice for both you and the children: is there one you would particularly enjoy?
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