Not many destinations astonish like Venice – the city's staggering beauty and unique setting knows few rivals on the continent (or anywhere, for that matter).
Sauntering about Venice's distinctive web of waterways, canals and bridges as a family evokes Walt Disney World-level marvel and awe around every turn, each nook and cranny wowing kids and adults alike. So grab the little ones – the magic here is real!
Is Venice good with kids?
One of the world's most spectacular destinations, Venice dazzles all ages – nobody is immune from that instantaneous and unparalelled love-at-first-sight moment when uninitiated eyes spy the city for the first time. The city's radical deviation from the typical urban landscape is, in and of itself, an attraction for kids. The endless maze of footbridges and staircases, traversing a web of intertwined waterways, is one giant playground for the little ones.
Children love getting around the city. The city's fleet of water taxis, vaporetti (public waterbuses), gondolas and private boats insure constant fascination. Although Venice does presents its own set of unique challenges: parents don’t need to worry about their kids crossing the street without looking both ways, but the constant concern of falling into a canal isn't exactly a welcome trade-off.
Venice is not stroller-friendly either, with numerous staircases throughout the city making for an exhaustive workout for parents.
Family-friendly public facilities are also limited, though parks and playgrounds can be found in a few neighborhoods – Canereggio's Parco Savorgnan and Castello's Parco delle Rimembranze for example.
While Venice's public toilets do have baby-changing facilities, you'll need money (and good timing) to use them. Bars and restaurants cannot be counted on for baby-friendly bathrooms. A portable changing mat for on-the-go changes, wherever there's a flat surface, is the way to go.
The best news for families traveling in Venice is that kids are genuinely welcomed in most cases: expect a cheeky wink or a joke with your kids from a restaurant waiter, or a knowing smile from a local nonna (grandmother) when you're carrying everyone's luggage and wondering if you'll make it to your accommodation before you collapse. You won't encounter intolerant glares like you can in some less family-orientated cultures.
Where is best in Venice for kids
A vaporetto ride along the Grand Canal is fun for the whole family – line 1 runs the complete length from Piazza Roma to Piazza San Marco, passing the ornate facades of Venice's most regal palaces along the way.
Head out on a winged "Lion of Venice" hunt – the city's official symbol since 828 CE is everywhere, including Piazza San Marco. Alternatively, head to the beach. Venice's Lido was Europe's first beach resort (note: reservations are required for free spots).
Best things to do in Venice with babies and toddlers
Pre-mobility, you can enjoy the city no differently than you could "before kids". Do consider bringing a baby carrier as strollers can be a real drag in the city.
Once they're up and at 'em, it should be noted that in lots of places there are no railings. For this reason, Venice is probably best avoided by families toting toddlers in the early walking stage (you know, when they are constantly tripping over themselves and/or tending toward any direction that isn't the one you want!).
A gondola ride is probably a guaranteed hit if you do bring them at this age, but a lack of life vests will turn off some parents!
Best things to do in Venice with younger children
Once kids get the walking thing down, are more aware and curious of the world around them and more inclined to follow instructions (let's call it 4 and up though your mileage may vary), options abound.
Child-friendly museums like the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, the Natural History Museum and Peggy Guggenheim Collection all feature fun, interactive exhibits geared towards younger children (the latter also offers Sunday workshops for kids).
Heading straight to the top of Venice's towers for astounding views – St Mark's Campanile and, across the water, San Giorgio Tower – are both a surefire good time.
You might consider a picnic as well. Green spaces such as the Giardini Pubblici – created under Napoleon's watch – are full of atmospheric spots for an al fresco meal. You could also pick up provisions at a top-notch gastronomia (gourmet self-service/deli-like establishments) like WEnice La Gastronomia Veneziana and head to a nearby campo (city square).
Lastly, your kids will love the chance to make their own Venetian disguise. Ca' Macana offers family-oriented workshops for making city's famed Carnevale masks. Young children will also gawk in awe at the city's vibrant and colorful Rialto Market.
Best things to do in Venice with tweens and teenagers
Venice is your oyster! By this age, your offspring will have likely developed an appreciation for the culinary arts and Venice delivers in the form of chicchetti – the Venetian answer to tapas.
Bar-hopping from bácaro (wine bar) to bácaro sampling the creative wares of each is can't-miss stuff. Cantinone Del Vino Già Schiavi, All’Arco, Cantina Do Mori and Al Timon are all mandatory stops in a chicchetti food tour.
Older kids will also be awed by Venice's extravagant palaces. Palazzo Ducale and its Vatican-evoking 24-carat gilt stucco-work Scala d’Oro tops the list.
Top art museums such as Gallerie Dell’Accademia and excursions further afield (such the glass-blowing island of Murano and the Instagram-ready Burano) are also top choices for this age group.
For the active and sportier teens, Venice Kayak can get the whole family out on both the inner and outer lagoons.
Learning to voga (Venice's signature stand-up rowing technique employed by gondolieri throughout the city's canals) is another fantastic option. Row Venice will have the kids piloting their own gambero (shrimp-tailed boat) in no time.
- Arm yourself with a changing mat and plenty of wipes for on-the-go diaper action (changing facilities aren’t prevalent).
- Ditch the stroller – baby carriers, slings and backpacks are the way to go in Venice.
- If you must, consider lighter, umbrella strollers to ease the pain and for optimal foldability on public transport.
- Vaporetti, water taxis, gondolas and boats are your new best friends.
- In times of doubt or desperation: gelato!