Venice with Kids
A late March weekend before an early Easter turned out to be the perfect time to visit Venice. It wasn’t too hot, it wasn’t too crowded – and it wasn’t flooded!
Transavia (KLM’s discount airline) has some screaming deals out of Amsterdam. We found cheap tickets to Venice and knew it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. Turns out the timing was perfect. We had beautiful weather requiring only a light jacket during the day. Venice was busy but not overcrowded.
At the Venice airport (Marco Polo) we collected our bags and made the walk to the water terminal to take a ferry boat into the city. The walk takes 10 min with two kids and even with one rolling bag we should have grabbed a free luggage trolley so the oldest could ride a bit. Jeff purchased the public ferry tickets while we were waiting for our luggage so we were able to hop right on to the available ferry.
The ferry was crowded, hot and slow. After sitting on an airplane for just under two hours the kids were not real thrilled to sit more. We entertained the kids for a while taking boat selfies. We took a private water taxi to the airport at the end of this trip and it took a third of the time for twice the price. I think next time I would book a private water taxi to my hotel as well given that our trip started off with all of us cranky and wondering when we would arrive. All types of water transportation can be arranged at the dock.
Our hotel, Hotel Firenze, had the most incredible location two blocks off St. Mark’s Square. If we go back I won’t stay here again because I prefer the quieter parts of Venice. However, for a first time stay this location was perfect. We were close to attractions that get crowded, so we easily started our day places before they turned into mad houses. The location was easy to find by walking and on public transportation since St. Mark’s Square is well marked (or just follow the hordes of tourists). Our hotel had a great breakfast included in the rate and your typically small European rooms. Wine was available for purchase on the roof terrace in the evenings, adding to the hotel’s charm. The drinks came with a tower of snacks too.
Once we were checked in we headed out, getting off the main roads and just exploring Venice for a bit with no real destination. We popped into Cantine del Vino gia Schiavi, where Jeff grabbed a glass of wine and some little bruschetta for us to enjoy by the water out front. If you don’t have kids you can stand at the bar and enjoy several glasses of the house wine and make a small meal out of the bruschettas.
When the kids got hungry we consulted the Foursquare App to find a close place to grab a bite to eat. Pizzeria Ai Sportiva was on the square where we were standing and despite its somewhat touristy look, it hit the spot for good pizza at a place tolerant of our tired children.
We grabbed some gelato at the place next door for our walk back, the perfect motivation for our three year old to walk on his own. We enjoyed the lights of Venice turning on as we walked home.
Day One. Our first morning we were up early, as always. We left everything except essentials in the hotel and made the two block walk to St. Mark’s Square and had the plaza and pigeons mostly to ourselves. The square was shrouded in morning fog.
We walked to the docks and watched the Gondoliers ready the boats for the day. By 8am there was already a queue for Doges’ Palace. I hopped in line while the kids and Jeff continued to watch the boats. They also took a photo in front of the Bridge of Sighs, without having to fight the crowds. At 8:30 they opened the doors and we were able to get our tickets.
We purchased the Venice Museum Pass knowing we were going to hit a few more of the museums during our visit. The pass allows you to visit all the museums listed ONCE within a 6-month window.
We explored Doges’ Place relatively on our own, with the exception of a tour group now and then. We moved quickly through the rooms.
The kids loved laying on the floors to look up at the ceilings.
They were also impressed by the large display of arms.
We all enjoyed our trip over the Bridge of Sighs from the palace into the prison. H loved leading us through the jail area as we tried to “escape.” After about an hour of exploration the kids were done and ready to move on.
The line for Basilica San Marco already stretched back toward the water, so Jeff hopped right into line while I ran around the plaza with the kids. At 9:45 the doors opened and we headed inside. We discovered there was a small backup in the line for those wishing to go upstairs into the treasury and museum. Our kids were not interested so we hopped out of line and went through the small door to the left, into the church. There were school children singing inside the church which thrilled the kids and kept them entertained while we took it all in.
We popped into the hotel to pick up our things and then started our walk to the Rialto Bridge (bags aren’t allowed inside the basilica). We tried to avoid the more crowded marked streets. The Rialto Bridge was under construction during our visit so everyone was forced through the center of the bridge, making it quite congested and a bit less magical.
Our reward however was the Rialto Market where we enjoyed seeing the fresh fish, veggies and other products being brought in by boat. We bought a few snack items and a huge bag of sun dried tomatoes.
A block or so down an ally is Trattoria Alla Madonna, which was recommended by our hotel. You need a reservation for dinner but at noon for lunch, you won’t have any problem getting in. We found the food to be delicious but the service to be lacking. The servers left us sitting for long periods of time, despite walking by and us flagging them down. They also seemed quite annoyed by the boys, who were actually quite well behaved at this meal. This could all have been cultural difference, of course.
I headed back to the hotel with the little one for an afternoon nap. I did hit up a gelato stand for my daily fix on the way back! Jeff took our oldest one to the Museum of Natural History, which is part of the Venice Museum Pass. After the museum they headed to one of Venice’s hidden playgrounds where they met another English speaking family living in Holland. The children got along fabulously, which is always a plus when traveling.
Jeff and H took the water taxi back from the playground and we met up with them at the water taxi dock just beyond St. Mark’s Square. We went to Happy Pizza and grabbed a few slices. We should have ordered a whole pizza and gone back to the hotel, sat on the roof and enjoyed the pizza. Instead we wandered about eating the pizza on the steps in the square next to the signs that say you cannot eat there. Oops!
The bands started to come out on the plaza just as we were finishing our dinner. We enjoyed some music standing and dancing in the square until H announced he was tired. I took him back to the hotel while Jeff wandered around with O, eventually buying and enjoying a few more slices of pizza!
Day Two. On our second day we visited a few of the surrounding islands. The original plan was to take the public ferry to the islands we were interested in, but we quickly decided that would not be cost or time effective for us. Several of the islands are only reached from the other islands, which would mean doubling back and waiting for ferries – not a good use of your tourist time.
Instead we booked a Murano, Burano and Torcello Half-Day Tour. We booked the tour the day prior to our departure and it was sold out in the morning when we went to board the boat. At each island stop the tour had arranged a demonstration of the local craft. We skipped these demonstrations and instead did our own thing for the allotted time.
On Murano the boat docked right at one of the glass blowing factories. We passed right through the factory, with one other couple, and headed over to the Glass Museum. This is pretty much the worst place in the world for kids. Jeff had to remove O from the backpack as a safety measure, which only meant he was set free into the museum. Jeff quickly took O into the museum’s courtyard, which is filled with stone ruins. H and I enjoyed a brief look at the glass and glass beads before joining them. The Glass Museum is part of the Venice Museum Pass. We returned to the boat on our own in time for departure.
Burano is known for lace making, colorful buildings and cookies. As the group from our boat headed to a lace making demonstration we turned right down an ally and away from the main square.
We were treated to an amazing walk among the colorful houses, which eventually dumped us back into the bustling square. We popped into a shop to sample the cookies, but decided they were not our favorite. Instead we grabbed some gelato, pizza and chips. We set up a little picnic near the boat in a grassy area behind the bell tower.
Torcello is scarcely populated and covered in ruins. The walk from the dock into town is quite long. We passed a few tempting cafes on the way.
When we reached the church we quickly took a peek and then decided to forgo the museums and church and return to a large cafe with a playground we spotted on the way in. The kids happily ran around, playing in an old boat, Jeff enjoyed some Prosecco and I sipped a bubbly water while enjoying the afternoon sun.
The kids and I went to the hotel when we got home and laid down for a nap. Jeff went back into the square and visited the Archaeology Museum, which is part of the museum pass.
The kids were ready to go by 4pm. We decided around this time that a Gondola ride was not going to be worth the money for us. The kids were not interested in sitting still. Instead we headed to the Traghetto and for €2/adult we were paddled across the Grand Canal. We were all expected to stand, but that made it even more of an adventure. There were once many Traghettos in Venice but during our visit there were only two operating. So be sure to check with your hotel concierge for updated information. Even our 2016 tour book listed several Traghettos that were no longer in operation.
We wandered a bit more looking for dinner and settled on Trattoria alla Rivetta. This was an amazing meal, with great service and the servers were incredibly sweet to the boys. Jeff opted for the 3-course menu which enabled him to try some Venetian dishes he had never had. We left with our bellies full!
We hopped onto the public water taxi which took us down the Grand Canal after sunset. The back of the public water taxi is open air. H and I found a seat and were both quiet, enjoying all the lit buildings that front the water.
Day Three. Honestly by day three we had accomplished everything on the “must do” list and settled into just being in Venice.
We walked up the island enjoying the view until we reached the Naval History Museum. The museum itself was closed for renovation but the Ships Pavilion around the corner was open. The boys loved looking at the collection of boats there.
The Ships Pavilion is adjacent to the Naval Ship Yard. We walked up on the bridge to take a peek into the ship yard.
Following Viale Giardini Pubblici along the water away from St. Mark’s Square a bit further you will run into a little park and playground near La Biennale di Venezia-Giardini.
There are two playground sections here, one for little children and one for older children. We popped into Paradiso Gallery for some cake and coffee as well, sitting outside with a view of the water.
Just over the bridge across the Rio del Giardini we found our favorite park of the trip – Parco delle Rimembranze.
This playground was scenic and had amazing playground equipment for the boys. It was the cleanest playground we found on San Marco. We played here till everyone got hungry.
At noon we arrived outside of Dal Moro’s – Fresh Pasta to Go and a line had already formed down the block. This was by far the best meal of the trip and shouldn’t be missed on your visit to Venice.
You order the type of pasta and topping you want. It comes in a little takeaway box and you can go sit somewhere to enjoy it. Having learned from our pizza experience, we took the pasta to the roof terrace of our hotel and enjoyed our last meal in Venice with a quiet view of the city.
After lunch we gathered our things and proceeded to the private water taxi the hotel had arranged.
We asked the captain to cut through the island instead of going around, so we got a parting view of the canals from the water.
The private water taxi was a quick and relaxing way to end our trip. The boy loved having the boat to themselves and I loved not worrying about them disturbing anyone. It was a perfectly magical way to end our trip to Venice.
Looking for even more ideas for kids in Venice? The blog, Our Bucket List Lives, has a list of 15 Must Do’s With Kids in Venice that is worth checking out.