Venice . . . ahh, Venice. The mere mention of the name of the city evokes a certain je ne sais quoi. Magic, romance, glamour, exclusivity. It is the perfect place for a honeymoon, a marriage proposal, a trip back in time, a romantic get-away. But Venice as a place to visit with kids? A family destination? Blasphemy!
Yes, like you, I thought that Venice with kids, especially young ones, was a terrible idea. What would the kids enjoy in Venice? What would we enjoy with the kids in Venice? And how would I keep my three eager, young explorers from falling into a canal?
Well, worry not. First of all, no one fell in a canal. Second, the kids loved it. Gondolas, museums with armor, weaponry, ships, and dinosaur bones, pizza, pasta, and gelato. When you get down to it, what's not for them to love? Finally, by having the kids with us, we saw Venice in a whole new light. We did things we never would have done without them - like exploring local parks, seeking out the best gelato (okay, maybe we would have done that regardless), finding the most kid-friendly museums in town. And of course we meandered, as you do in Venice.
Five Reasons Why Venice with Kids is a good idea
1. Navigating by boat is simply the coolest way to see a city.
Let's be honest. Cruising around a city by boat is cool whether you are four or 94. Not only is riding the boats a fun experience, but the kids can get really into the experience by helping to decipher vaporetto (Venice's water taxis) maps, determining which line to take, and figuring out where to get on and off. It is the epitome of an interactive travel experience. And of course, a gondola ride. You cannot leave Venice without taking your kids on a gondola ride. Yes, it will be expensive (the current going-rate for a 30 minute ride is about €80), but the memory of that ride - assuming you get a good gondolier - is priceless. I found this article from Hilton Mom Voyage helpful when deciding upon a gondolier.
2. There are a number of museums that kids will enjoy.
Did you know that the Venice Natural History Museum has an awesome collection of fossils of all types, including a dinosaur exhibit? Did you know that the Ships Pavilion at the Naval Historical Museum is home to a torpedo motorboat from World War II, a coal-fired motorboat from 1895, and an eighteen-oar royal vessel that carried a king? And what about the medieval Doge's Palace? Did you know that it has an armory with an awesome array of arms and ammunition sure to appeal to a boy (or man, or even girl or woman, for that matter) of any age? Yes, people, yes. Venice is more than a stunning exterior. There are some cool museums to discover that are great for the whole family.
3. The liveliness of the city is intoxicating.
Venice has a wonderful vibrancy about it. As you meander down the small alleyways and along the canals, wander into the small shops or galleries of local artisans, stop by the Rialto fish market, visit a Venetian mask shop, or even book the kids into their own Venetian mask-making class. Sit in a piazza and have a glass of wine while the kids chase pigeons and eat gelato . . . perhaps multiple times a day. Discover the six different neighborhoods, their style and characteristics. If you need a resource, Ciao Bambino has this outlined in an excellent article that you can find here.
When it comes to exploring Venice, I completely agree with this quote:
"Here’s the thing about Venice. It’s not like Rome. Or Florence. In Rome and Florence, there are specific things you want to see, and that you stand in line to buy tickets for — like the Colosseum, or the David. In Venice, the thing that you want to see? Is Venice. . .You can go island hopping, you can walk 30 minutes to visit a church, but the alley around the corner might be just as cool, or cooler.
Venice is the attraction in Venice."
- Gabrielle Blair of Design Mom
4. The kids will ADORE the food.
I mean, this one is pretty self-explanatory, but just in case you need visual proof:
And when your gang is on pizza/pasta overload (is there such a thing?) or your wallet needs a break (there is definitely such a thing), search for cicchetti, small snacks unique to the bars in Venice. My kids inhaled some wonderfully tasty parma ham and brie mini-sandwiches on the walk home one night and we managed not to break the bank for dinner for once.
5. There is so much to explore in such a small space.
Venice is compact and manageable with a family. It is not overwhelming. There are not traffic jams. If you sense a meltdown coming on, there is food on every corner (and the right type of food). There are public restrooms to use for a small cost all around town. There is even a beautiful park with an outdoor playground for kids to enjoy.
While Venice is not a stroller-friendly city (hundreds of bridges with no ramps), I recommend a carrier for infants and toddlers. With slightly older children (four and up), we learned that a good old-fashioned scooter was a fabulous - and fun - way to get around (provided that scooter folds up and you can pack it in your luggage).
6. (BONUS) Because, after all, it's Venice. Arrivederci!
And at the end of the day, dare to be different. People may tell you that Venice is not a kid-friendly destination. Those people? They may not be as daring as you. As adventurous as you. As awesome as you. So go, take the kids, and see for yourself. Venice is a good idea with kids. You, nor they, will be disappointed.
If you are planning a trip to Venice, visit our Venice itinerary to find recommendations on the best museums, gelaterias, and more to visit with kids!
Do you have family-friendly activities in Venice to recommend? If so, share below. We love hearing new ideas!