Venice is sometimes called “the living museum” and even though I do not agree with the statement, I do realize that it can be a bit, well, “boring” for children. All those old buildings, monuments and crowds of tourists can be a bit daunting for younger visitors.
Still, there are many things to do with children in Venice that will make their holiday one to remember. The following suggestions have been tried and tested with children of all ages and backgrounds: from tiny toddlers to bored teenagers, from wild primary school boys to young girls.
Vaporetto ride on the Grand Canal
As you arrive in Venice the first thing you should do is to take a vaporetto (water bus) ride on the Grand Canal. Get yourself and your child (children under one meter do not pay transport fees in the city) a daily pass. (A 12-hour pass costs €16 per person—it allows you unlimited rides within the allotted period.) For more information, visit ACTV, Venice’s transportation Web site.
Take vaporetto line 1 and admire the beautiful palaces, gondolas, roaring boats and the innumerable seagulls and pigeons flying above you. I have not met a child who does not enjoy the ride.
To get the best views, sit outside either at the front or at the back of the vaporetto. The journey from Piazzale Roma to San Marco Square takes about one hour.
The Palazzo Ducale
San Marco 1, 30124 Venice
Tel.: +39 (0)4 12 71 59 11
Hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. (April 1st to May 31st), 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. (June 1st to October 31st), 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (November 1st to March 31st)
Getting there: With vaporetto, line 51 or 41 to San Zaccaria
Admission: €13 (adult), 7.50 (reduced)
For children, the main attractions are likely the weapon and armor collection and the dungeons. If you take part in the guided tour of the dungeons, you will be sure to have a very happy kid when you come out.
Gondola and traghetto rides
Another kid-pleaser is a nice gondola ride (if you do not mind the cost—a whopping €80 for a 30-minute ride). If you want a cheaper alternative, try hopping on a traghetto.
Traghetti are big gondolas, also called barchette (small boats). You can use a traghetto to cross the Grand Canal at various points. A ride costs just €0.50 and the crossing lasts about 10 minutes. The catch is that passengers have to stand up during the journey, and this can be a bit tricky with the waves rolling around the boats. In any case, it’s definitely an exciting, if short, experience!
Natural History Museum
Fontego dei Turchi-Santa Croce, 1730
Tel.: +39 (0)4 12 75 02 06
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (Wednesdays), 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Saturdays and Sundays)
Getting there: With vaporetto, line 1 or 52 to Riva de Biasio
Admission: €4.50 (adults), €3 (reduced)
Children will also enjoy the Museo di Storia Naturale—the Natural History Museum. Just recently refurbished and reopened, the museum hosts a very interesting collection of fossils and finds from all over the world.
The most interesting (and scary) exhibition is the stuffed animal collection, which the museum has been displaying for over 100 years.
Don’t forget gelato!
No list of kid-friendly activities would be complete without mentioning gelato. For a nice break between traghetto rides and museum visits, seek out one of the gelaterias mentioned in this post.