Venice is a great place to visit with children, a bit like Barcelona and New York, two other places that will always leave a great impression on them. This summer is a particularly good time to visit and enjoy a wonderful and quite playful Venice Art Biennale. Here’s a few tips to prepare your trip…

Venice is one of the only urban places where you can let your children walk freely, without being scared of cars. The only danger might be the crowds, and the water, but as a well informed Venetian friend remarked, there is no history of children falling in the canals!

If you prepare well, you can avoid the hordes of tourists. How? 1/ Stay away from hotels too close to Piazza San Marco 2/ Travel in August (it’s a bit hot but less frequented) or in September/October 3/ Do your visits early in the morning (7am on Piazza San Marco is great), 10am at the Biennale.

There is an incredible amount of things to see in Venice, and the Biennale is a nice way to discover places that are a bit off the beaten paths. I am preparing a detailed article for Naif Magazine, about the art on display that children will particularly enjoy, so don’t miss the next issue of the magazine.

Here are some suggestions for a 3 days visit :

DAY 1The Arsenale with a group show curated by 55th Biennale’s director Massimilano Gioni and spaces curated by countries. Our favourites this year were Chile, Kossovo, Argentina, United Arab Countries, Iceland and Bahamas.

DAY 2The Giardini. The gardens contain 30 permanent pavilions, each one allocated to a particular nation. Several of the pavilions were designed by leading architects of the 20th century, including Carlo Scarpa and Alvar Aalto. With children, make sure you visit Italy (the largest pavilion), Russia (very Playful), Poland, Venezuela, Austria, Spain, Germany (in the French Pavilion this year).

DAY 3The off Pavilions and events. They are spread in town, on the main island as well as on La Giudecca and San Giorgio (the two islands in front of San Marco). Not to be missed : Ai Weiwei in the Sant’Antonin church (which is wonderful itself), featuring six large iron boxes, into which visitors can peek to see sculptures recreating scenes from the artist’s detention. The Portuguese boat located in front of the Giardini with a giant installation by Joana Vasconcelos. The Cuban Pavilion in San Marco, hosted in the Archeological Museum, that offers a mix of contemporary artists and ancient art in a wonderful palace (the ceiling in the large room are stunning).

Sleeping in Venice

In the Castello area (ideal to visit the Biennale) : Palazzo Contarini (fantastic place), La Residenza Hotel (only kids +12y accepted), Locanda Novecento (apartments), Locanda Cavaleri.

In DorsoduroHotel DD724 (chic, good breakfast, very convenient location), Don Orione (ancient couvent, quiet, very simple but clean and affordable), Ca Maria Adele ($$$), Pensione Accademia (affordable).

In San MarcoPalazzina Grassi (Philippe Starck), Hotel Bauer ($$$$, amazing terrace), Hotel Monaco & Gran Canal ($$$, very nice renovation), Hotel Ala (Affordable, no charm but somehow practical).

Eating in Venice

Aciugheta (Castello) – NEW, Campo Filippo e Giacomo (Castello). Pizza, fish, delicious homemade desserts, nice terrace.

La Cantina, Campo San Felice

Naranziaria, Campo dell’Erbaria

La Corte Sconta, Calle del Pestrin, Castello (excellent fish, including soft shell crab in season).

Osteria Bancogiro (near the market – don’t miss the “bacala mantegata” and the “fegato alla venetian”, two typical Venetian dishes). Nice terrace in front of Canal Grande.

Il Paradiso Perduto, A very lively, popular abd delicious restaurant in the old jewish ghetto. Cannaregio 2540, Fondamenta della Misericordia.

Alle Testiere, Traditional Venetian cooking. Castello 5801, Calle del Mondo Novo (Rialto).

Cantinone Gia Schiavi, Tipical, local, simple food at an affordable price. Dordoduro 992, Ponte San Trovaso (Academia)

Shopping in Venice

For a very long time, shopping in Venice was very poor with only 3 options : the tourist souvenirs shops, the chains (Calzedonia, Sergio Tacchini, Benetton) and the luxury boutiques (Vuitton, Prada, Bottega Veneta…). There is finally a bit more choice, with great store at Palazzo Grassi and La Dogana (Pinault’s Museums) which have nice children’s books and objects, and a few nice boutiques (adult’s):

Antica Farmacia Santa Maria Novella (still nice to visit, even if the brand now belongs to a big group, not sure if Eatee Lauder or L’Oreal)

Caigo Da Mar : A selection of objects and pefumes (Fornasetti, Cire Trudon) beautifully displayed

The Store : A beautiful mix of women’s clothing and accessories (linen and silk dresses, scarves, silver morrocan leather sandals, etc).


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