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The best things to do with kids in Venice

Make memories exploring the lagoon, eating pasta, crafting masks and more with these things to do with kids in Venice

Photograph: Shutterstock
By Elizabeth Heath and Allie Early |
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This visually dazzling Italian city – referred to as “Serenissima, “City of Water and “City of Masks,” among other nicknames – is the perfect destination for travellers and, to help your family navigate everything it has to offer, we’ve rounded up the best things to do with kids in Venice.

Beautiful canals, picturesque streets, gondolas and gilded attractions await but, in order to avoid the hordes of tourists and get a true taste of the area, you’ll want to really plan out your tackling of top activities, your meals at the best restaurants in Venice and your exploration of the other charms of the Floating City (including the best things to do in Venice for adults).

Best things to do with kids in Venice

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Vaporetto
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/Marc Ryckaert

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. You’ll want to either grab a window seat or stay in the open air, standing-only area for the best views.

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Venice, Italy
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/gnuckx

Walk the streets

Venice is a crazy maze of narrow streets, covered passageways and hidden alleys – and it’s easy to get turned around. 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

Murano

The island of Murano is where Venice’s colourful, hand-blown glass has been made for centuries, and where you can still 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.

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Ca'Macana
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/madatticbertha

Ca’Macana

Carnevale (Carnival) or Mardi Gras, 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 remaining handful of traditional mask-making workshops. 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 Venice.

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Gelateria Nico
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Irene B.

Gelateria Nico

There’s so much 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.

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Grand Canal, Venice, Italy

Grand Canal at Piazza San Marco

The winged lion is the symbol for Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice, and thus the symbol of the city itself. Winged lions decorate buildings and motifs everywhere in Venice, and it’s fun to challenge kids to see how many they can spot. The most famous version sits atop one of the two columns on the Grand Canal at Piazza San Marco. This treasure hunt of sorts can help kids take a closer look at their surroundings as the family tours Venice.  

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Campo San Polo
Photograph: Courtesy TripAdvisor.com

Campo San Polo

The farther you venture from the San Marco area, the more you’ll discover the locals' Venice, where life centres around large piazzas,or squares. In the evening, kids play tag and learn to ride bikes, and 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.

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Cicchetti
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Brian Luster

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

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 make even the most cynical teenagers sigh. If you’ve promised the kids a souvenir from Venice, this is a most memorable place to buy one.

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Venetian Lagoon
Venetian Lagoon

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.

Take the fam out of town

Things to do

The best day trips from Venice

Venice is far from the only shining light of the Veneto region, nor even of the lagoon. Opportunities abound for an easy and accessible break from the not so serene Serenissima, whether you opt for majestic mosaics at Torcello or Ravenna, Renaissance gardens in Verona, or sun and sand on the Lido.

More to explore

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