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Venice Family Holidays & Breaks

Carnevale in Venice.Carnevale in Venice.© www.turismovenezia.it
Glass-blowing on Murano.Glass-blowing on Murano.© www.originalmuranoglass.com
A vaporetto.A vaporetto.© AVM/Actv Venezia
A Venetian winged lion.A Venetian winged lion.© Gianluigi Bertola
Palazzo Ducale.Palazzo Ducale.© Palazzo Ducale
Fireworks at the Festa del Redentore.Fireworks at the Festa del Redentore.© www.turismovenezia.it
Caffè Florian.Caffè Florian.© Caffè Florian
Workshop at Peggy Guggenheim Collection.Workshop at Peggy Guggenheim Collection.© Peggy Guggenheim Collection
St Mark's Square.St Mark's Square.© Caffè Florian
Flying Time 2hrs
Carbon Footprint 1.05 CO2
Timezone GMT +1
Currency Euro

Today

Overview

Venice may not be an obvious choice for a family city break, but it's surprisingly easy to navigate and kids love the boat travel. Though a contender for most romantic city in Europe, its food and people are child friendly and you can combine beaches with art and churches with masks for an experience none of you will ever forget.

Most of the important sights are outside, and one of the joys of visiting Venice with kids is just to wander aimlessly, stopping for ice creams and espressos. The lack of traffic means kids can play in the squares or meander in the streets without you having a cardiac arrest, though none of the canals are fenced off so small children need supervision. 

Things to do with kids in Venice

Wander and wonder, preferably without a buggy – most streets are cobbled and bridges tend to have steps. While you gaze in awe at the churches and palaces, the kids can have fun spotting winged lions (the symbol of Venice) or grotesque faces everywhere.

Stop at Caffè Florian on the righthand side of St Mark's Square for an (expensive) hot chocolate served in painted splendour. Then see the gold mosaics in St Mark's Basilica, which are lit up weekdays 11.30–12.30.

Head for the Doges’ Palace – kids love the giant’s steps and the lion's head with a hole in its mouth (it bites if you tell a lie).

Visit one of the many mask shops to watch the craftsmen and -women at work and perhaps pick up a souvenir.

Take to the water. Vaporetto no. 82 or no. 1 goes the length of the Grand Canal. Gondolas are very pricey but you can take the traghetto (a sort of public gondola) across the Grand Canal for a few pence.

Hop aboard one of the boats that leave the riva (bank) beyond St Mark's for the islands. Torcello has an ancient church and lots of outdoor space. Murano offers chance to watch its glass-blowers at work and perhaps have a go yourselves, plus good seafood. Burano is the lace-makers' island, with houses in rainbow colours.

If the weather is warm enough, take a boat to the Lido (Byron swam there from the Grand Canal) and have a day’s beach fun before coming home.

Take in European and African art from the first half of the 20th century at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Try to time your visit with one of the regular events, which including drawing days for all ages and Kids Creative Lab with performances by contemporary artists, sometimes in a piazza.

Sign up for a family walk with award-winning Context Travel: choose from a Lion Hunt Family Tour, Daily Life in Venice for Families or a Venice Art Tour for Kids.

Eat

The best ice cream in Venice is on the Zattere – the northern side of the Guidecca canal. 

There are hundreds of reasonably priced restaurants in Venice but avoid the very cheap looking. Pasta, pizza and rice-based dishes will keep even the fussiest child happy.

Venetian specialities require a more sophisticated palate – they include salt cod and liver and onions (bacala and fegato alla veneziana).

If you're staying in an apartment, delis and grocers' provide fantastic local produce. If you have early risers, take them to the market on the left side of the Rialto Bridge for amazing fish and vegetables.

Prosecco, the champagne of northern Italy, is almost always good and reasonably priced. A glass or two goes very well with lunch or dinner or at any other time.

When to go to Venice

The best times to visit Venice are April and late September, but as it's not generally considered a family destination, prices do not rise much in school holidays. Any time between September and March is low season. It can be pretty cold from November to February, but the light is stunning on the canals at that time of year and nothing closes for winter.  

Acqua Alta (high water) can come any time around November but the city creates elevated walkways for pedestrians – good fun for kids to race around on.

On 6 January the Regatta of the Befana takes place, delighting kids with the sight of witches in boats! For Carnevale in February, hotels book up very early. The streets are crowded but full of masked party-goers and there are plenty of street entertainers.

High summer is not a very good time to visit Venice – the heat can be stifling, and the canals start to smell. That said, the Festa del Redentore each July, which has its origins in a feast giving thanks to the end of the plague of 1576, is spectacular.

Cost

Nothing is really cheap in Venice so be prepared to spend on food, drink and souvenirs. Hotels range hugely in price but there are few bargains; staying in an apartment or at a campsite will help you to keep costs down.

By Rhonda Carrier

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