Venice might be a hotspot for pricey romantic weekends away, but it’s possible to enjoy the city as a family – and importantly a family with children who have additional needs.
We went on a day trip for our 10th wedding anniversary this summer with The Bears, age 7 and 4. Here’s how we did Venice with kids and what worked for us:
How to get there:
We were staying at the Park Umag Euroacamp site near Umag in North Croatia. Different boat companies offer day trips to Venice so it’s best to do some research first. We booked through Kompas and travelled from Umag with Adriatic Lines. It cost about £133 (1,100KN) for all four of us. This included two free child places as the children were aged seven and under.
The crossing is three hours each way (7.30am-10.30am on the way out and 4.30pm-7.30pm on the way back). The journeys were comfortable and we each had a seat (on a first-come-first-served basis).
On the way out, we were given a big presentation to sell us transport and tours in Venice. Some people like the convenience of tours. However, if you do your preparation you can ignore that and save money in the process. We knew The Bears wouldn’t want to follow a group or be interested in a glass blowing factory, which was one of the activities on offer. Instead we made our own itinerary.
TIP: Take a few Euros with you. We spent a little while after we were dropped off at San Basilio looking for a cash machine. We saw some beautiful quiet back streets in Venice’s residential district of Dorsoduro along the way. However, we ran out of time to do other things at the end of the day.
The best way to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of Venice with kids is by boat. It’s a good idea to use the water taxis (vaporettos). A 24-hour ticket cost us €20 for two adults and one child. Under-fives travel free so we didn’t have to pay for Little Bear.
It was getting towards lunchtime by the time we’d arrived and found a bank. We decided to take the number 5:1 vaporetto up to Giardini Pubblici to eat our picnic. This is a large and pretty park with shaded areas, a playground, picnic area and toilets (which cost a euro to use).
We visited Venice in the busy tourist season in the middle of August in 30-degree heat. Our itinerary focused on getting a flavour of Venice with the kids whilst staying away from the crowds and trying to keep cool.
From Giardini Publicci, we took the No.1 vaporetto down the Grand Canal – a magnificent water traffic corridor. It’s one of the main routes through the city.
We got off at Giglio to take a gondola ride. There are lots of different places to do this. Some are better than others and it’s a good idea to do some research before you go. I’ll admit we did very little research. Because we were short on time we ended up grabbing one we spotted from the vaporetto.
I can’t compare it to other gondola rides but we had a lovely tour. The gondolier took us through the back streets and back down the Grand Canal. There was no commentary but it was a nice gentle way to see another part of Venice. The first part of the ride was very quiet and we didn’t see many people, which was an added bonus. The Bears really enjoyed it.
Tip: Standard gondola rides in Venice have a fixed cost of 80 euros for a private 25-30 minutes tour for up to six people. The price goes up if you want a longer ride, to be serenaded or go in the evening.
After our ride, we walked through the back streets of Giglio to get an ice cream. We paid €2 each for a single scoop which was well below what I thought we’d have to pay in the centre of Venice.
Our plan was to cross the bridge and get the No.2 vaporetto from Accademia to travel the full length of the Grand Canal. However, we were running out of time. Instead, we walked through the back streets to San Basilio to make sure we didn’t miss the ferry.
Tip: It’s a good idea to pick up slices of pizza to take with you back to the ferry.
Did I see everything I wanted to see in Venice? No. Would I do it again? Definitely. The Bears (Big Bear in particular) loved this different city and learning about how everybody lives their lives there. They were fascinated by the fact there were no roads and everyone travelled by boat.
We missed most of the main tourist hotspots on purpose. With only six hours to explore the city, I had no desire to take The Bears into the busy Piazza San Marco. I also didn’t want to queue in the heat to see Doge’s Palace.
We did Venice our way. We soaked up the atmosphere, avoided most of the crowds, and had fun incorporating The Bears’ interests into our day. It was a long trip and they fell asleep on the ferry on the way back but it was worth it.
- What are your Venice highlights? Would you go with the kids? I’d love to know in the comments below.
- If you enjoyed reading How to visit Venice in a day with kids (without losing the plot), please share using the buttons below.