How I longed to return to Italy! My second home! So I organized a stay in Venice as part of our holiday itinerary, after leaving Croatia. We had already been to Venice as a couple, a few years ago. I was delighted to discover Venice with my family: Ticoeur and Titpuce were really charmed and surprised by this city, so different, so atypical, with all its canals and the absence of cars. Magic ! A journey through time and history…
This summer, Venice was less crowded than usual… Effect of the current context, the new bans on large cruise ships and the non-resumption of international tourism. A chance to see this city without the crowds (except at the Rialto where everyone seems to meet). Several times in the morning, we even felt alone in St. Mark’s Square! Not to mention the Doge’s Palace which we had not managed to visit during our previous trip to Venice and in which this time we crossed vast, almost deserted rooms. We will not forget this Venetian break with the children! I would also like to point out that the city was extremely clean, with an impressive work by the garbage collectors who crisscross the streets and canals. No unpleasant smell either! In short, I hope you see Venice as we saw it this summer and of course, I will now detail our little, totally improvised program on site…
Venice for the family: our 10 essentials:
1: The Grand Canal: you might as well start with the Grand Canal as soon as you arrive because it gives an excellent first overview of the city. With our suitcases, we simply took the vaporetto from Piazzale Roma (point of arrival on the island) to get to our accommodation which was located a stone’s throw from St. Mark’s Square. This made us enjoy the whole canal! The journey is not cheap (7.50 euros) but it should be seen as an attraction in itself, like a riverboat ride :-). Free tickets for children under 6 years old. To remember these magnificent views from the water, we also took the vaporetto again at the end of our stay before leaving Venice. During our stay, we crossed the Grand Canal several times at the bridges and we never tire of the changing light… Venice is so beautiful at any time of the day!
2. A gondola ride: Ticoeur and Titpuce really wanted a little gondola ride! But: it’s very expensive for what it is: count 80 euros for a half-hour tour. So I’ll give you the following tip: instead of taking a tourist gondola, you can take a traghetto. It is a gondola which serves as public transport and allows you to cross the Grand Canal from one bank to the other. It’s a very short crossing but the budget is only 2 euros per person and that’s a big deal for the children who were delighted to have set foot in a gondola and admired the gondolier’s maneuvers. There are several places where it is possible to take a traghetto. We took it at the fish market ( Mercato del Rialto ). As we arrived early in the morning (around 9am), we were alone and therefore had the gondola to ourselves! Finally, another opportunity to have the children pose in a gondola is to go to the Acqua Alta bookstore which has its own gondola moored in the back of the store, available for photos (see information on this bookstore further down in the article).
3. Saint Mark’s Square and the Duomo : this is the heart of Venice… This square is immense and has so much allure! The Basilica seems to be covered in lace. .. It is possible to go up to the Campanile but we preferred to choose another viewpoint (free and less touristy) which I tell you about below…
4. The Doge’s Palace: The palace is sublime from the outside but the visit is definitely worth it! We pass through immense pompous rooms sumptuously decorated with paintings. The children especially enjoyed visiting the prisons and passing through the Bridge of Sighs. We learned in passing that the Bridge of Sighs is so called because by crossing it, the prisoners knew that they were seeing the day, the sky, freedom for the last time… Here is the link to reserve your tickets.
5. The panoramic terrace of the T Fondaco dei tedeschi department store: a view not to be missed near the Rialto . It’s free but you need to book as the number of visitors is limited.
6. The Venetian mask shops: Titpuce was fascinated by these pretty masks so we visited all the artisans in the city! We bought our sweetheart a pretty handmade mask from Atelier Marega where we particularly liked the welcome. The Ca del Sol boutique is also worth seeing. Above all, do not buy the horrible Chinese counterfeits that are sold in the street for a few euros (they are not artisanal and they are full of products dangerous for the skin)… As an indication, the Titpuce mask is 25€.
7. The Acqua Alta bookstore: a marvel! This old bookstore located in the Castello district is full of treasures and surprises. First of all, the store is invaded by old books, some stored in gondolas. At the back of the bookstore, we climb onto large tomes to admire the canal (which shows that encyclopedias are very useful!). Finally, as I said above, it is possible to sit in the gondola which belongs to the bookseller. We also fell for some pretty posters that we brought back as souvenirs.
8. The La Fenice Opera House is an exceptional building. We would have liked to attend an opera but dates didn’t work for us so we opted for the daytime visit (with audio guide). It’s beautiful and interesting, with a special children’s audio guide. In the photo below, you see the entrance on the canal side because in Venice you can go to the Opera by gondola! Real class!
We would have preferred Venetian masks 🙂
9. Walking tours through the 6 districts of Venice… Walk, walk, walk and walk! We never tire of walking the streets of Venice. At every turn, it’s so beautiful and each neighborhood has different looks…
San Marco and San Polo are the central and most touristy districts. In San Marco, don’t miss the spiral staircase of the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo:
Dorsoduro is larger and therefore there are lots of pretty corners and quiet little squares… My favorite square is Campo Santa Margherita (see restaurant addresses below) … Dorsoduro also includes the island of La Giudecca, rather very quiet and where you can enjoy a beautiful view from the San Giorgio Maggiore campanile (cheaper and less touristy than the campanile in San Marco square).
Also, a stroll in the old Jewish town ( Cannaregio district) is essential: you can see buildings that are less tall and less rich but just as charming and colorful:
10. Living by Spritz and cichetti : You probably know the Spritz, this famous Venetian cocktail that is drunk as an aperitif. I particularly like the Campari version because I’m not a fan of Aperol. To accompany it, there’s nothing like tasting cichetti (small Venetian-style tapas). Ok, the Spritz is not very kid friendly (get them a good fresh orange juice!) but on the other hand, the children are entertained and enjoy the cichetti. Here are two places we liked for a Spritz con cichetti : Corner pub: ok, the name doesn’t seem typical Italian but yes, yes, you will find great Spritz and cichetti there at low prices. We stand outside, around a barrel, at the level of a small bridge (few places but not a long wait). Osteria al Squero: another Spritz and cichetti bar located along a canal. Very popular. We drink standing up, leaning on the low wall that runs along the canal.
Here are visits that we made during our previous stay in Venice (as a couple) and which we also recommend for a stay in Venice with family:
- The island of Burano with its colorful little houses (on the other hand, we liked the island of Murano less).
- The Peggy Guggenheim Collection Museum
- The Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art: an international meeting for art lovers… The next Biennale will take place from April 23, 2022 to November 27, 2022.
Our good restaurant addresses in Venice:
Ai Cugnai dal 1911: It was delicious. We were on the terrace and it was nice to see people walking by in the evening in Dorsoduro. Bakaro: one of the restaurants located in my favorite square, the huge Campo Santa Margherita square. I love the atmosphere there for a Spritz or an outdoor meal!
Practical information for visiting Venice with the family:
Parking outside Venice: if (like us) you go to Venice by car, you must leave your vehicle before reaching the island. We chose the Venice Utility Park car park for its attractive rate and free shuttle service. When to leave? This time we were in Venice in August. Normally, this is undoubtedly a period to avoid and this summer was particularly calm. The last time, we were in Venice in June and it was really very pleasant and not too busy either because it was outside school holidays. Of course, Venice is famous for its Carnival but for the moment, it would be too crowded for me… Overall, I would say that it is a good idea to choose Venice as a family for the spring, the beginning of summer or All Saints’ Day. Outside of school holidays it’s even better if your children are still young. Where to stay? The first time, as a couple, we stayed in Dorsoduro, a neighborhood that we really like. It was accommodation for two. To stay in Venice with family, I liked this apartment but it was not available when we were there. We ended up staying just a stone’s throw from St Mark’s Square (incredible location!) but in a smaller and darker apartment. This was a last minute deal, otherwise it was way overpriced for what it was. Overall, the accommodation budget in Venice is high. You must book well in advance and do not hesitate to travel far from the center. How long to stay in Venice? I recommend staying there between 4 days and a week. Covid rules in Italy (in 2021): a health pass from 12 years old is required for museums, transport and restaurants (except terraces)…
Venice is in danger:
It is threatened by rising sea levels due to global warming… In the meantime, it is a matter of protecting it, continuing efforts to avoid overcrowding (regulations on cruise ships) and ensuring cleanliness of the city. Besides, we left the city with our trash. Let’s realize how lucky we are to see Venice so beautiful and alive! So let’s take care of it so that many generations after us can still have this pleasure! So, want to discover Venice with your family?