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Venice Family Holidays & Breaks

Gondolas Gondolas © Mdyson1 | stockfreeimages.com & dreamstime.com
Rialto Bridge and Grand CanalRialto Bridge and Grand Canal© Gary718 | stockfreeimages.com & dreamstime.com
Island of BuranoIsland of Burano© Ladyamber | stockfreeimages.com & dreamstime.com
Grand CanalGrand Canal© Waiheng | stockfreeimages.com & dreamstime.com
MasksMasks© Newphotoservice | stockfreeimages.com & dreamstime.com
Flying Time 2hrs
Carbon Footprint 1.05 CO2
Timezone GMT +1
Currency Euro

Today

Overview

Although Venice is not an obvious choice for family holidays or breaks, it's surprisingly easy to navigate and children 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 Venice is just to wander aimlessly, stopping for ice creams and cappuccinos. The lack of traffic means kids can play about in the squares or meander in the streets without you having a cardiac arrest, although none of the canals are properly fenced off so keep an eye on very small children. 

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 lions or grotesque faces everywhere.

Stop at Florians café on the righthand side of St Mark's Square for an (expensive) hot chocolate served in painted splendour. See the gold mosaics in the basilica, which are lit up between 11.30 and 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).

Mask shops are everywhere - visit one to watch the craftsmen and women at work.

Take to the water. The 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.

Boats leave the riva (bank) beyond St Mark's for the islands. Torcello has an ancient church and lots of outdoor space. Murano is the glass-blowing Island, offering the chance to watch glass-blowers making tiny tacky animals, plus good seafood. Burano is the lace-makers' island, with houses painted 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.

Award-winning walking tours firm Context Travel can make Venice more accessible to those with kids with its family walks.

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 are staying in an apartment, delicatessens and fruit and vegetable shops provide good-quality provisions. 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! Carnevale is in February and the 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 good time to visit Venice - the heat can be stifling and the canals start to smell.

Cost

Expect to pay £30–£120pp for flights, depending on how early you book. 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; apartments and campsites will help you to keep costs down.

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