I love cities, I like to wander and lose myself in endless streets. As I expected, Venice was mind-blowing, beautiful, stunning and breath-taking – a family holiday I will always remember and I hope to go back again and again to explore some more.
I went with teenage children (and the husband) and they were a good age because of all the walking we did – about 12 miles a day when we stayed in Venice. While there was still a bit of whinging we stopped in bars for refreshments to rest, recharge and look at the map – I can’t imagine doing it in such a relaxing way with younger children, although there were plenty of younger kids pounding the streets with their parents.
We flew into Marco Polo and took the water bus to Venice (Alilaguna Blue Line) which was 25 Euros each return and takes about an hour. You can also get a water taxi which can be about 100 Euros and you can get a coach by road for about 20 Euros return.
We stayed in a fantastic Airbnb which was right next to the water, 5 minutes from the Grand Canal and St Mark’s Square and close to supermarkets, food markets, bars and restaurants but it was also really quiet and peaceful.
We mainly explored by foot – we wanted to explore and get lost in the maze of alleys, canals and bridges. And we wanted to get away from the day tourists who only really wanted to see the famous sights. It was surprisingly quiet for August- yes there were tourists but there was still plenty of room to move and wander a couple of streets away from St Mark’s Square and the streets will be quiet.
There are no roads on Venice but there are waterbuses – get a Vaporetto travelcard and see the Grand Canal and explore the different islands and districts. A tourist travel card is 20 Euros for one day, going up to 60 Euros for a week, which is well worth getting as one journey is about 7 Euros! The waterbus system is really efficient, with plenty of buses which seemed to run to time.
Gondolas – we didn’t do one as didn’t really fancy it but if you do there are bloody hundreds to choose from.
Expensive? – as with any city, there are expensive restaurants but if you eat in normal places, meals are on a par with the UK. There are some great cafes and snack bars with coffee, ice-cream and sandwiches for about 2 Euros each and sandwiches for 3-5 Euros each. Wine is pretty cheap – a couple of Euros for a glass but beer is more expensive at about 6 Euros for just under a pint.
A coffee in St Mark’s Square is about 10 Euros – Café Florian is stunning and one of the oldest coffee shops in Europe and as you sip your coffee, an orchestra plays in the background. But to the right of the Square you can enjoy still enjoy a coffee with a view for a couple of Euros.
My favourite spots – everywhere in Venice is beautiful, you turn a corner and find another surprise but, on this visit, there were definitely a couple of favourites: the Cannaregio district which was quiet and very charming and also contains the Jewish Ghetto, which needs to be seen.
and Giudecca, which is another quiet, charming and residential district and it is an island which you need to get to by water bus/taxi. It is also home to a couple of exclusive hotels – George Clooney stays there – and Elton John is reported to have a house there. It is also home to a women’s prison, which has grows and sells produce and it also takes in the laundry for atleast one of the hotels.
My tips for Venice
- walk, explore and get lost
- carry water and snacks for you and the kids, especially if it is hot, although there are plenty of water fountains dotted about
- wear comfy shoes
- if you are going with a baby, a sling will be essential
- if you are going with young children, a lightweight buggy will be helpful for tired legs and naps – but there are a lot of bridges to cross!
- get away from the crowds and there is lots of space for toddling
- buy a tourist travel card so you can get around
- avoid the weekends – we were pleasantly surprised at how quiet it was for August but we were in the city from Monday-Friday. The enormous cruise ships arrived at the weekend and apparently each day sees 30,000 day trippers
- you will stumble across some great little bars, cafes and restaurants
- research when to go – we went in August due to the school holidays and it was great – it was hot but there is plenty of shade in Venice and lots of sea breeze so I found it very pleasant and it was nowhere near as busy as I expected it to be. Areas of Venice can flood between October and April, so factor that it when planning a trip.
- read Venice for Visitors – really spot on and up-to-date information
- Venice has a range of hotels to suit different budgets but also check out Airbnb for your stay as well
While we love a city trip, we also love the beach so we usually aim to do both on our family holidays. Venice itself doesn’t have a beach but Venice Lido has 6kms on beach so we stayed there for 5 days as well. It provided a relaxing break from the city. Lido is very different from Venice – there are roads, cars and buses and it is residential but the beaches are lovely, the sea is not deep so perfect for young children and it is just a short waterbus journey from Venice and the other islands.
The Venice Film Festival is held on Lido every Summer, so there is a touch of glamour with the majestic Excelsior Hotels and it’s private beach – we snuck in one evening to see the exclusive beach cabanas.
While Lido is a bit more ‘ordinary’ than Venice, it was truly relaxing, very beautiful and it was the perfect base for us to switch off, rest our weary feet and then get a waterbus to the other islands. There are beaches will facilities and beach chairs and huts but we chose to stick with our closest beach, which was 5 minutes from our apartment, which was wild with no facilities and only a handful of locals.
We will definitely go back – there’s more I want to see and I want to do more coffee shop sitting to soak in the city.