Family Vacations to Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy
Venice's picturesque setting and fairytale feel appeal to families (PhotoDisc)

Venice, Italy Family Travel Tips

  • Chase pigeons and waltz with your kids in the Piazza San Marco.
  • Watch hot glass being blown.
  • Bargain for necklaces and T-shirts at the Rialto market.
  • Admire the modern art at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
  • Ride the ferry boats, the vaporetti, to visit other islands.

Known for romance and revelry, Venice rates as one of Europe's best cities for families. The dreamy cobblestone alleys coupled with the fairytale-like setting of pastel palaces reflected in the canal waters (not to mention the absence of cars) make Venice a walker's delight.

Kids will appreciate the picture-book prettiness and the sense of urban adventure you get simply by meandering. Almost any street winds you past shop windows blooming with feathered masks and trays of rainbow-colored gelato. Continue on and eventually you land in a square, graced by a centuries-old church, filled with street vendors proffering strings of red and green glass beads and other sidewalk treasures. Alas, the cobbled walkways and the frequent bridges that cross the canals make pushing tots in strollers difficult, but for school-age kids and teens Venice is magic.

Napoleon described the Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark's Square), dominated by the Basilica di San Marco, as "the finest drawing room in Europe." The grand edifice, with its domes, turrets, and arches gleaming in the sunlight, as well as its 43,000 square feet of golden mosaics glittering inside, outshines any storybook castle. The pink marble Palazzo Ducale (Doges' Palace), is next door. If that doesn't entertain your kids, the pigeons will. Hundreds of them peck for hand-outs in the piazza, swooping just over the heads of scampering kids to land en masse a few yards away. Come back in the evening when classical music ensembles play Strauss melodies that spill into the square from the sidewalk cafes.

As expected, art abounds in Venice. Enter a church and you're likely to come upon a mural by Titian, Bellini, Tintoretto, or other masters. But the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, housed in her former home on the Grand Canal, has the most kid-friendly setting. Whimsical sculptures grace the garden, and works by Picasso, Braque, Klee, Kandinsky, and Chagall adorn the walls. The café also serves light lunches and good coffee for when you and your kids need a break from all the art.

Venice is also a shopper's paradise. Kids like to bargain with the vendors at the Rialto Bridge for necklaces, fountain pens, marbleized paper, magnifying glasses, T-shirts, and other trinkets. The fresh fish stalls and the colorful fruit and vegetable stands add an element of earthiness for children accustomed to the plastic-wrapped plainness of state-side supermarkets.

Though known for its hand-blown glass items and fine lace, Venice also sells lots of Italy's chic leather items. Shop windows feature eye-catching vases, delicate champagne flutes, and impressive glass sculptures, as well as stylish shoes, purses, and gloves.

Forgo the overpriced gondola rides for a trip via the vaporetti, the ferry boats that carry passengers on the Grand Canal and across the lagoon to Venice's other islands. At Murano's glass factories, craftsmen demonstrate the centuries-old art of glassblowing, transforming molten glass tubes into prancing ponies in minutes. Burano, an island known for its houses painted yellow, cranberry, lilac, and other bright colors, has a centuries-old tradition of lace making. The finely crafted tablecloths, runners, and blouses are lovely, but expensive. An affordable take-home keepsake from Burano: the glass Christmas angels sold at many of the gift shops along the canal.

Tip: For a sun-and-sand break, stroll the beaches of the Lido. The water, however, is not the best for swimming. Most people splash in the hotels' pools.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 9 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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