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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/madatticbertha

The 10 best things to do with kids in Venice

Make masks, go on a boat ride and do arts and crafts in this huge theme park of a city

Allie Early
Written by
Allie Early
&
Elizabeth Heath
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Sure, Venice is the most romantic city on earth and all that. But don’t write it off for a family holiday. The Floating City is actually as kid friendly as it gets, not least because when you think about it, the whole thing is pretty much a massive playground. From its fascinating history to its winding streets and its iconic waterways, Venice is like one huge theme park. And we love it. 

And if you’ve got kids in tow, we’ve got you covered. Grab a map and help them explore, watch glass-blowers at work, or take the infamous boat ride along the lake. There’s snacks, gelato and masquerade shows galore here, and the best part? No dragging them around on buses and trains. Everything you need is a short, scenic walk away. Whatever the little ‘uns want to try out, we’ve got it all here. Here are the best things to do in Venice with kids. 

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🛶 How to experience Venice like a local

Planning your next trip? Check out our latest travel guides, written by local experts. 

Best things to do with kids in Venice

Vaporetto rides
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/Marc Ryckaert

1. Vaporetto rides

Sure, a gondola ride is a quintessential Venice experience, but for those on a budget, the vaporettos – or slow-moving water buses in the Grand Canal – are just as cool. For the best views, you’ll want to either grab a window seat or stay standing-only area in the open air.

Walk the streets
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/gnuckx

2. Walk the streets

Venice is a crazy maze of narrow streets, covered passageways and hidden alleys – and it’s easy to get totally lost and confounded. The best thing to do is to take all that disorientation as all part of the adventure. Turn your explorations into family fun by handing your kids a map and having them lead the way to your next destination in town.

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Murano
Murano

3. Murano

Venice’s colourful, hand-blown glass has been crafted on the island of Murano for centuries – and you can still go there and watch artisans craft one-of-a-kind creations from molten glass. Avoid the factory tours offered by your hotel and instead head to Murano by vaporetto and explore it on your own. The Museo del Vetro (glass museum) is a good place to start. For purchasing glass, the farther you are from the vaporetto dock, the better the prices.

Ca’Macana
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/madatticbertha

4. Ca’Macana

Carnevale (Carnival) is Venice’s biggest masquerade party, and artisans create carnival masks ranging from simple to wildly elaborate to downright creepy. Kids can paint their own at Ca’ Macana, one of the city’s handful of mask-making workshops that continue to use traditional methods. Carnival masks are as ubiquitous in Venice as glass trinkets and toy gondolas, but painting their own lets kids appreciate the mask-makers’ craft and create a souvenir they’ll treasure long after they’ve left the city. 

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Gelateria Nico
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Irene B.

5. Gelateria Nico

There’s so much top-tier gelato in Venice to choose from, but there’s a reason this scoop shop is a favorite of Venetians and tourists alike. The historic shop has been scooping artisanal gelato since 1935 and its location on the Zattere waterfront overlooking Giudecca island makes it even sweeter. Nico makes gelato the old-fashioned way: fresh fruit and natural ingredients. Be sure to try ‘Gianduiotto’, a secret gelato order that locals enjoy.

Grand Canal at Piazza San Marco

6. Grand Canal at Piazza San Marco

You’ll see winged lions all over Venice. But what are they, exactly? Well it’s the symbol for the city’s patron saint, Saint Mark, so you’ll find it decorating buildings and stamped on pretty much any government building or institution. It’s fun to challenge kids to see how many winged lions they can spot – and a really famous one sits atop one of the two columns on the Grand Canal at Piazza San Marco. Get hunting!

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Campo San Polo
Photograph: Courtesy TripAdvisor.com

7. Campo San Polo

The farther you venture from the San Marco area, the more you’ll discover the locals' Venice, where life centres around winding streets and large piazzas. In the evening, kids play tag and learn to ride bikes while senior citizens catch up on the day’s gossip. Campo San Polo and Campo Santa Margherita are two such places to get a feel for how real Venetians live. Let your kids safely run off some steam – even if they don’t speak Italian, they may well get caught up in playtime with local children.

Cicchetti
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Brian Luster

8. Cicchetti

Love small plates? This one’s for you. Cicchetti are the Venetian equivalent of Spanish tapas – and Venetians usually take ‘em with an ombra, or glass of wine. While picks like deep-fried baby octopus or a hard-boiled egg topped with an anchovy might not be your kid’s cup of tea, they’ll certainly be won over by polpetti (meatballs) in marinara sauce or mozzarella in carrozza, batter-fried mozzarella cheese, often stuffed with ham. Get several kinds of cicchetti for a cheap family meal your kids will happily enjoy (and don’t forget to treat yourself to some celebratory libations while you’re at it).

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Rialto Bridge

9. Rialto Bridge

Sharing status with gondolas and lions as one of the symbols of Venice, this elegant bridge dates from 1591 and is the oldest of the four bridges that span the Grand Canal. It’s lined with souvenir shops selling everything from selfie sticks and cheap T-shirts to hand-painted masks and pricey Murano glass. Take some time to look out on either side of the Grand Canal for views that will hypnotise even the most cynical teenagers. If you’ve promised the kids a souvenir from Venice, this is a most memorable place to buy one.

Venetian Lagoon
Venetian Lagoon

10. Venetian Lagoon

Despite their murky appearance, the canals of Venice and the vast Venetian Lagoon are full of life – much of those fish and crustaceans for sale at the Rialto Fish Market and on your dinner plate at a local restaurant were caught in the lagoon. From one of the city’s hundreds of tiny bridges or canal-side walkways, eagle-eyed kids can often spot fish and maybe even throw them some crackers or bread.

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