You might think that, unless your kids have a penchant for Renaissance churches or a passion for classical art, Venice is not the child-friendly city break you’re looking for.
But delve beyond the grandeur and Venice can become a giant water park, a playground packed with ice cream and pizza – what kid wouldn’t love that? Venice needn’t be just for adults: check out these nine top tips for enjoying a visit with the kids.
1. Make an entrance
Blow your children’s minds and swap the dull taxi or bus trip from Venice Marco Polo Airport for a public water bus ride into central Venice. The Alilaguna transfer is much cheaper than a private water taxi and you get the same epic approach with multiple drop off points.
2. Keep a close eye canalside
Venice is a city built on water, hence its nicknames, ‘the Floating City’ of ‘the City of Canals’. This means that, while a fall off the pavement in Rome or Florence could cause a scraped knee, a slip in Venice and you could be leaping into a canal after them! Reins or a baby backpack are handy, as pushchairs can become a bind with hundreds of bridges and countless steps, not to mention the crowds.
Read more: 10 best things to do in Venice
3. Take a tour
Venice can be a bewildering city for a first timer, especially if you’ve got kids in tow. A guided tour is a great way to get acquainted, but choose carefully as you don’t want to end up in a massive group. The Roman Guy specialise in small group tours. Their ‘Venice Discovery’ tour lasts for three hours and includes a private boat trip on the Grand Canal, as well as a walking tour. If your wee ones love boats, then there’s also a visit to one of the last gondola workshops on the itinerary.
4. Get value for money on the vaporetti
Venice’s famous water buses (the vaporetti) are a great way to get around, but they’re not cheap at €7 a single trip. Save some cash with a one day (€20) two day (€30) three day (€40) or seven day (€60) ACTV pass. Passes can be booked in advance and having one means you never have to join those epic queues. Even more good news for families; children under six years old travel free.
5. Find family-friendly restaurants
Venetian restaurants have a bit of a reputation when it comes to surly service, speeding as many tourists through their meal as possible. Head away from the main Santa Lucia to Rialto San Marco drag and things improve. Pizzerias are a great family option; Pizzeria all’ Anfora and Pizzeria Ai Bari are two superb child-friendly, cheap pizzerias south of the Grand Canal, with the former sporting a shady garden.
6. Enjoy free kids entertainment
Ok, so the famous brace of cafés on Piazza San Marco charge a small fortune for an espresso and the meagrest morsel, but there’s an upside. At night, live music flows from their doors and out on the streets, which (along with the infamous pigeons) is enough to keep the little darlings entertained while you enjoy your meal. Another tip: order a bottle of wine rather than a coffee, you’re paying a steep cover charge anyway so you might as well and the cheapest bottle at Caffé Florian is €24.50.
7. Take a traghetto not a gondola
A gondola trip can take a sizeable chunk out of your holiday budget and the kids will probably get bored halfway through. There are still a few of the traghetti left, the dirt cheap gondolas that crisscross the Grand Canal at various points between Santa Lucia and San Marco. Note: you’re expected to stand for the duration of your journey just like the locals, although they tend to go a bit easier on younger passengers.
8. Grab a gelato
What kid doesn’t like ice cream, apart from maybe the lactose intolerant kind? But even then they’ve got the silkiest sorbet to enjoy. So grab an ice cold treat to beat Italian heat, but avoid the shoddy gelato around San Marco and the Rialto. For the real stuff, a great view of the Giudecca Canal and some cooling breezes head to Gelateria Nico. The staff have always got a smile for the kids and the cold stuff is spot on.
9. Hit the beach
You could easily leave Venice without knowing the city has a beach, a pretty big one too! Hop on a _vaporetto _out to Venice Lido to enjoy a dip in the Adriatic Sea, although be prepared to shell out a lot of euros if you want a sun lounger and some shade. Savvy locals catch a vaporetto to Sant’Erasmo, a quiet island with its own little beach and a laidback family friendly vibe.
Read more: 10 beautiful secret beaches in Europe
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