A City Break in Venice with kids

Venice, the city for couples, for romantic gondola rides, for proposals on bridges or weddings in piazzas. Why then would we choose to take our children on a city break there? Well, for a start they chose it, and who are we to dissuade them?

We asked our two boys where in Europe they would like to go for a city break. The eldest immediately piped up with, ‘Italy!’. No surprise there, pizza and pasta are the top of his food favourites. Then together, they both asked for, ‘the one with the water’. I think they’d recently seen a Go Jetters episode about Venice. For those not in the know Go Jetters is a cartoon shown on CBeebies in which special places around the world are saved from destruction, accompanied by an excellent funky 70s soundtrack. I also think their request came from leafing through the excellent book, Atlas of Adventures by Lucy Letherland which is one of our top picks of books to inspire kids about the world. I’m not in the least surprised that Venice captured their imagination – a city built on water is a magical concept, and the idea of taking boats to go everywhere would definitely appeal to kids.

So excited to be off the boat from the airport at our stop, San Stae.

We booked some cheap flights and some AirBnB accommodation and had a fantastic long weekend this October half term. So here are my top tips on having a successful city break to Venice, with your kids.

1. Planning – as we had included the kids in our decision process of where to go, I also made sure to include their needs as I planned our sightseeing. I knew that they would tire quickly of just looking at buildings or walking around museums, so I chose just a few key places to visit and put some work into how to engage them, researching interesting stories for example (more on that later).

2. Accommodation – my top tip for a city break with children is to choose self-catering accommodation. This has so many advantages, from being able to have a leisurely breakfast in your own time, to giving the adults space to relax for a bit after the children have gone to bed. It also means that you have a great space of your own to go to for a break from all that sightseeing and crowded streets. City breaks are exhausting – so much walking, so much to take in. It’s really important to create some time in the day to just chill. If money were no object I might choose a hotel with a pool to give them space to let loose, but it is, so a self-catering apartment is our choice!

A peaceful view of the Grand Canal at sunset

3. Location – both price and our needs led us to a great apartment in the Santa Croce district. It was a walk over the Rialto bridge (or the bridge with the shops as the kids insisted on calling it) from St Mark’s Square, but that meant that we were a little bit off the beaten track. We were a ten-minute or so walk from the Rialto and would quickly find ourselves in tourist territory, but a five-minute walk in the other direction led us to a square where local children gathered in the early evening, playing football or whizzing around on their rollerblades.

Looking out from the Rialto bridge

4. Travel – do get a travel card for the duration of your stay. Five and under travel free. We were able to get a half-price discount for our eight-year old (they were offering those for six to 29-year olds at the time of our visit). Half the thrill of being in Venice is going on the water buses and they’re expensive for a single journey. Having a travel card means that you can always say yes to going on one, and the kids are automatically engaged and happy. It covers trips out to Murano and Burano too.

5. Skip-the-queue – Venice is a hugely popular city. We went at the end of October and still found many of the key sights very crowded. The last thing you want to do with kids is queue up to go into historical sights, so it’s worth looking into the options. For both St Marks Basilica and the Campanile (bell tower) we chose to go online and buy skip-the-queue tickets. Entry into St Marks is actually free, but the skip-the-queue tickets were only €3 for the over 5’s. We didn’t spend too long in the cathedral (photo-taking and loitering are not encouraged) but it was great to get a look inside. Across the square is the bell tower which affords great views over the city. We paid to skip the queue here too and felt very smug as we strolled passed a long line of people waiting patiently in line. The views from the top were fab, and the boys loved spotting all the islands in the lagoon and the mountains in the distance on the mainland. Did you know you can’t spot any of the canals from the top of the Campanile?

6. Kids Tour – Consider booking a children’s or family tour. We chose to book a Sketch Hunt with Macacao Tours (thanks to Tin Box Traveller and Learning Escapes for the tip). Martina, our guide, was really engaging and full of stories, and the children loved following their map and looking for the picture clues. Spotting building structures and small embellishments on the buildings was a great way to lead into learning about Venice’s history.


7. Know your stuff – the kids will ask questions! I had Wikipedia in my pocket and a small guidebook, but it was really helpful to have read up on a couple of things before we got to key sites. Thanks again to Tin Box Traveller for the tip to spot lions. We had a daily tally of sightings totalling at around 50 lions per day! They were everywhere. But do you know why?

St Mark once took shelter in the Venetian lagoon as he was travelling back to Rome. That night an angel appeared to him and said “Pax tibi, Marce evangelista meus. Hic requiescet corpus tuum” which means “Peace be with you Mark, my Evangelist. Here shall your body rest”. The Venetians took this as a prophesy and in 828 two merchants stole the body of St Mark from its tomb in Alexandria and brought it back to Venice. The winged lion, which can be seen all over Venice, but most prominently in St Mark’s square, was the symbol of St Mark, and has since been adopted as a symbol of Venice.


8. See some modern art – I’d been to Venice before and fell in love with the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. I wanted to take the boys there as I thought they would probably engage with the modern art more than the impressive Tintorettos that Venice is quite rightly famous for, and that they would enjoy the sculpture garden. They had notebooks and a pencil and spent two and half hours (yes, I know, extraordinary and we didn’t even go to the café!) in the various galleries being inspired to sketch by the Kandinskys, Mondriens and Picassos on the wall. They were particularly engaged with an exhibition of Osvaldo Licini who would hide letters within his paintings. We were very thankful that this was such a success as it was pouring with rain outside!

We loved our trip to Venice especially our gondola ride, the food and a trip out to see glass-blowing at Murano. I think my biggest take-away from this trip would be to know your limits and know what interests you and your family. I chose a Treasure Sketch Hunt tour over mask-making as a kid-focused activity for example. I would have loved to go to the Rialto Market but it didn’t work out for us mainly as the fish market was closed on the days we were free and I knew that while the kids love a good fish market, they can bore quickly walking around a normal market.

We broke up our days with coffee stops (the kids were big fans of Italian hot chocolate) and after a late-afternoon rest back at the apartment enjoyed pre-dinner drinks and snacks while the kids played on the cisterne (wells) in the piazzas. Most evenings we trusted in going for a wander to find good food, but we did book a table at one particularly popular restaurant.

Our favourite restaurant was a tiny little place tucked away in the San Polo district, the Osteria al Ponte Storto. The waiters were fantastic with the boys and served up delicious food.

We also found a favourite bar, Il Mercantile, which served up amazing cocktails inspired by Magellan’s attempt to circumnavigate the world. The kids enjoyed their non-alcohol cocktails and the little bruschetta on offer.

Much of what I’ve learnt from our trip to Venice can be replicated in other city breaks, and I can’t wait to start planning our next one (Lisbon, we’re coming for you!). Have you been to Venice with your kids? What cities are your favourites for taking your kids to?

Published by grandadventurestory

I’m Debbie. Together with 'MrP' and our 7 and 9 year old boys every day trip and holiday we take is an adventure of sorts. We’re planning a family sabbatical, our Grand Adventure, but in the meantime we love exploring closer to home

34 thoughts on “A City Break in Venice with kids

  1. I love Venice but yet to take the boys and of course Go Jetters is also v popular in our house, so on their list! Aiming for spring / summer and pairing it with prosecco region which is also fab for the Parents 🙂 #MondayEscapes

  2. This sounds like such an amazing trip, I’m very impressed by your boys’ sketching in the galleries for so long. I haven’t taken my boys to Venice yet but your post has really tempted me… we’ve no plans for Feb half term yet…! #Mondayescapes

  3. My boys always go for Italy too!! I love how Go Jetters is inspiring travel in the younger generations. It looks like Venice is a great option for a family city break – with plenty of places to break up the days and eat well along the way!
    Thanks for linking up to #MondayEscapes

  4. You’ve got some great tips for travelling with kids, especially involving them in the planning process to get them a bit more excited about seeing places that they’ve learned about. And good to know that you can get “skip the line” tickets to some of the more popular places. #FarawayFiles

  5. The bridge with the shops…a great way to describe the Rialto 😂 The Peggy Guggenheim is one of my favourites, once home to the great muse the Luisa Casati. I enjoyed your tour of Venice for the kids. #Farawayflies

  6. Go Jetters must be new since our CBeebies days, the teens get their travel inspired from Travel Man! Your boys are spot on with their description of the Rialto, now you’ve got me wanted to revisit. Thank you for linking up to #CulturedKids

  7. I’ve been to Venice a couple of times in my single youth:) now, it’s time to take my husband and my baby to Venice:) #culturedkids

  8. It really is the most beautiful place, and surprisingly great fun for kids. I don’t recommend it with a pushchair however! 😀 Thanks so much for joining in with #CulturedKids

  9. Our kids ADORED Venice! We went last year for October half term and I wrote a couple of posts about the trip and the best things to see and do with kids. Venice really is the most magical place for a child. We found it easy to skip the queues for free at St Mark’s Basilica and the Campanile by going at the end of the afternoon. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    1. Ah yes, going at the end of the day to skip queues is definitely a good one. I remember doing that in Rome and feeling very smug! I missed your posts in my research…will take a look and reminisce

  10. Ahhh Venice… reading your post has made me want to return. I visited just for a day about 20 years ago and it was obviously not enough time to explore. As I was studying art at the time, I spent a few hours at the L’Accademia and was totally exhausted by so many Madonna’s and Child – the Peggy Guggenheim would be a great shout for my return visit. #FarawayFiles

    1. Visiting Venice while studying art sounds like a dream. One of my reasons for avoiding L’Accademia with the kids is that I don’t know enough about the genre to explain and excite them about it. One day I’ll do some reading up and test them out at the National in London.

      1. It was but I would definitely not consider taking children with me there. They would be very bored unless kid friendly activity packs have been brought in to help out. I doubt it though, lol…

  11. Great tips on visiting Venice with kids. Can you believe we’ve never been there! Thanks so much for linking up to #fearlessfamtrav.

  12. What a lovely post, it reminds me of our first family trip to Venice when the boys were little – the waterbuses, bridges and canals were fun! We went back when they were teens which I’ve blogged about. I can’t wait to go again actually, it’s one of my favourite places 😀 #fearlessfamtrav

  13. I appreciate how you highlight that the popular attractions are very crowded. Mentioning to purchase tickets ahead of time and avoid the queues are genius! Thanks for sharing all of these important tips!

  14. We did a tour with Macaco Tour in Venice too! It was so much fun, and the kids got to be engaged in the tour, rather than just following along. I would definitely do it again.

  15. I enjoyed reading this guide to Venice with Kids. When I visited last, I was young and free and without kids. My girls will love the kid’s tour.

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