I’ve always wanted to take my three kids to Venice every since James and I visited the city for a weekend to celebrate my 40th birthday a few years ago.
GETTING TO VENICE
Two airports service Venice, Treviso and the larger airport Marco Polo. There are various options when it comes to getting to Venice itself.
- drive and park the car (car parking is very expensive)
- the train into termini station
- get the Alilaguna airport boat from the harbour near Marco Polo airport
- get a public bus over to the bus station
- hire a private water taxi
As we had spent a few weeks visiting other parts of Northern Italy, we arrived at Marco Polo airport not by plane but by hire car. When we dropped off the car, we headed straight into the arrivals terminal to book a private water taxi to take us over to the island.
It cost about €110 one way (take about 45 minutes), but we paid an additional €50 for the driver to take us down the Grand Canal so we could see all the sights as we entered Venice. We actually booked a return water taxi too as we got a good discount on our return journey.
It’s a 20 minute walk from the airport to the harbour where our water taxi was waiting for us. As we zoomed into Venice, I felt like we were extras in a James Bond movie. The extra cost was well worth it as we had the opportunity to see Venice in all her glory, gave the kids their bearings and we were dropped off at the closest point possible for our accommodation, just a few minutes walk away from our Halldis apartment.
STAYING IN VENICE
There are lots of hotels in Venice however we prefer the freedom of a large self catering apartment when we travel with the kids. Our Halldis apartment was just a few minutes walk from the drop off point of the water taxi.
We were welcomed by Federico who showed us around our stunning 3 bedroom self catering apartment which was laid out over two levels. The living quarters were upstairs which led out to a large balcony with stunning views over Venice.
We quickly unpacked and headed out to the nearest small grocery shop to stock up on some provisions.
The apartment was very modern and catered for everything a family could need. It’s a little off the beaten track, but it’s still central enough to allow us to walk everywhere we wanted to go. After visiting busy cities, it was such a relief to be walking in a place where there are no cars, mopeds or even bicycles. The kids could wander ahead safely and I could relax not having to worry about traffic.
GETTING AROUND VENICE
You have four main options for travelling around Venice.
Vaporetto – This is the public water bus and is a good option for taking tired children around Venice however it’s not as cheap as you might think. A one-way, ticket costs €7 per person (lasting 100 minutes). There is no discount for children, however under six year olds can travel free.
You can buy unlimited travel day tickets for €20 each which are worth it if you are planning on visiting a lot of places around Venice. These day tickets will also cover you to visit the neighbouring islands of Burano and Murano.
Walking – This really is the best way to get around Venice. Let yourself get lost and make sure you spend some time exploring the less touristy parts. It is amazing how one minute you can be in a bustling street and quick turn later you are seemingly the only people in the narrow streets and pretty bridges. We let the kids lead and they loved getting us well and truly lost.
Gondola Ride – Gondolas hold up to six people and you can hire them in various locations around Venice. It’s not cheap, around €80 for 30 minutes but people say that it’s a must do thing when you visit Venice. I would recommend, if you hire one, staying off the Grand Canal and explore the smaller canals instead.
If you don’t fancy paying out that kind of money but would still like the gondola experience, you could try a traghetto which is a large gondola taxi used for transporting people across the Grand Canal. It costs €2 per person and is a fun thing to do with the kids.
PLACES TO VISIT
Peggy Guggenheim Museum – I would recommend visiting this museum especially if your children are aged 7 and over.
It’s a stunning location with Pollock, Kandinsky and Picasso paintings on display. It’s amazing to think that Peggy Guggenheim actually lived there with her private art collection.
The view of the canal is one of the best in Venice in my opinion.
Burano and Murano – You can take a Vaporetto (water bus) out to visit these islands. Burano is famous for its lace and its colourful buildings and Murano is known around the world for its glass.
St. Mark’s Basilica
Entrance here is free so expect long queues.
The benefit of waiting in these queues is that you get the opportunity to take in the breathtaking exterior facades of these cathedral. If you’re travelling in high season I would recommend buying a timed entrance ticket or booking a tour with a company like City Wonders where you will bypass the queues altogether.
It’s worth noting that there is a very strict dress code for visitors to St. Mark’s Basilica. No shoulders or knees can be on display at any time inside so if you are wearing shorts then you will have to purchase a paper robe (€1) to cover yourself.
It’s worth climbing the stairs inside the entrance and visiting San Marco Museum. Here you will also get a wonderful view out on the terrace of the squar
Again, I would recommend buying tickets in advance for this must see location in Venice.
My three kids really loved the armoury, the prison cells and crossing the bridge of sighs.
Go to a concert
If you’re a classical music fan, I would recommend attending a concert where music from the famous Venetian born composer Antonio Vivaldi is played.
We had a wonderful evening watching Interpreti Veneziani play Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ in Chiesa di San Vidal.
Consider booking a tour –
There are some great options out there for booking a tour and finding out more about Venice.
We booked the ‘Venice Food Tour‘ with Walks of Italy where we went to the Rialto Food Market and various food locations. We learned so much about local culture and local cuisine.
I can also recommend the ‘Best of Venice Tour‘ with City Wonders where we were shown the real history behind the city. This also included the skip the line access to St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace.
EATING IN VENICE
I would recommend trying cicchetti which are small snacks typically served in traditional ‘bacari’ or osteries. Our favourite cicchetti were ‘baccala’ (which is dried and salted cod), polpette (meatballs) and cured ham panini.
This cicchetti is excellent value and often washed down with a cold glass of local Prosecco (only €2 per glass!).
There are many options when it comes to osteries but our favourite was Al Merca, very close to the Rialto market. We were introduced to this wonderful hideaway on the Venice food tour that we booked.
We found an amazing restaurant for lunch where we had black squid pasta, a real speciality of Venice. We knew that it was a good restaurant when we saw the familiar stripes of the gondoliers sitting enjoying their lunch there.
Gelato – we found some of the best gelato we had on our trip in Venice, our absolute favourite, including the kids, was an incredible walnut and fig gelato at Gelato di Natura.
Be aware of cover charges at restaurants, cafes and gelaterias, your €2 gelato for five people can cost €20 if you sit down outside at their tables. I would recommend walking to the nearest campo (small square).
Venice is an amazing city to visit with the children. Instead of staying in a hotel, why not book a modern self catering apartment like the Palazzo Mazzoni Halldis apartment centrally located near the train station. This gives you the freedom to visit the Rialto food market, buy some local ingredients and cook at home like a true venetian. You will also have room to relax and not be on top of each other.
I will always remember evenings sitting on the balcony of our Halldis apartment in Venice, sipping Prosecco while the children were asleep in their bedrooms, planning what fun we would have the next day.