Gondolas in Venice
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Venice with a toddler: tips from a mama for a stress free stay

A mama’s tips to visit Venice with a toddler (or more than one!): how to handle the canals, how to get around, toddler-friendly attractions and practical tips for a safe and rewarding stay.

Venice is a lovely place to visit with toddlers.

However, there is no doubt that the presence of water and roads that open straight onto canals requires some extra planning and attention if you are visiting with little ones on the move.

In previous articles, I have shared tips about things to do in Venice with kids and visiting Venice with a baby.

Today, I want to get even more detailed and focus on the unique challenges faced by parents who want to visit Venice with a toddler.

In particular, we’ll talk about:

  • Is Venice toddler-friendly? Yes, but you need tips (see below!)
  • How to keep toddlers safe from the canals
  • How to get around (strollers and using water transport with toddlers)
  • Best area to stay in Venice with toddlers
  • Practical tips: playgrounds, toddler’s essentials etc.

This guide, like all others on this site, are based on my own experience of Venice with my children. Photos are my own.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission.

Venice with a toddler: is Venice toddler friendly?

Venice is a toddler-friendly city, but not in the traditional sense.

The city has many stroller-unfriendly bridges, roads along open canals with no railings, transport is either on foot or by water and there is a distinct lack of indoor play centers for little ones.

However, visiting Venice with toddlers and having a great time is possible!

What you need to do is plan your stay a little more than you would elsewhere and have the right expectations

I have been to Venice many times with my kids, and I am confident I can help!

If you want to know even more, at the end of this post, you will find a link to join my Facebook group Travel Italy with kids: it is free and a great place to chat directly with me and other like-minded parents!

Venice canals and toddlers

Venice is known for its many canals, which are one of the main reasons why people visit but also the number one worry for parents of active toddlers.

The worry is valid.

However, there are a few ways to keep small children safe while walking around canals.

The first thing to know is that not all Venice roads open onto canals.

In all areas of Venice, there are piazzas and streets that do not overlook water and that are perfectly safe for kids to run around.

This means that there are numerous opportunities for you to rest and not worry about canals at all.

You may even find Venice more relaxing than other places: the city is super safe and car and bike free, absolutely perfect for toddlers running around free!

To keep kids safe on roads that do open on water, my tips are:

Use a harness and keep the lead short: I find this to be a good compromise between giving them some freedom and having control over their movement.

I do not recommend using the lead to allow them close to the border of the canal as the harness will snap if they fall in and will be completely useless in case of a fall.

As you get running distance from the water, I recommend holding hands, holding them, or strapping them into the stroller instead.

Strap them into the stroller: I know people say Venice is stroller unfriendly and it is true if we look at its bridge.

But the peace of mind of being able to strap your child to the stroller and keep them away from the water is priceless, I am 100% ‘team stroller’, no matter how many steps I need to handle!

Think about canals like you would about a road: canals in Venice are like streets in normal cities and roads are the equivalent of sidewalks; so, whatever you are used to doing in a standard city to keep them safe will work well here.

Also, consider that canals are not appealing to dive in as they have boats, you can’t see the bottom etc.

This means that you may find that children are less attracted to them than expected.

Of course, do not count on this to keep them safe! But it is good to know that it is unlikely to be a constant struggle.

Using life vests for toddlers in Venice along the canals

Many parents ask if it is safe and appropriate to have their kids in a life jacket while strolling around Venice, just in case.

For safety, my advice about this idea is: you can do it, BUT do not let the jacket give you a false sense of security.

For many reasons, children MUST NOT fall into canals, with or without a jacket. Only use a life jacket if you know you will anyway keep your attention at a maximum.

In terms of appropriateness, the truth is that you won’t see many kids with life jackets in Venice but this doesn’t matter. If it gives you peace of mind, do it!

Using Venice water transport in Venice with toddlers

The only means of transport in Venice, aside from your legs, are boats.

Read here >>> how to get around Venice with kids

Boats in Venice come in several types, mainly:

  • Vaporetto and Alilaguna (forms of water buses) – which are basically ferries
  • Gondolas – which are non-motorised and operated with a long oar by a gondoliers
  • Water taxis – speed boats

You can use all of them with toddlers, but some tips are useful.

First of all: in Venice, water transport does not require and does not provide life jackets as standard practice.

Gondola in venice Dorsoduro

Water buses and water taxis normally have them as part of their safety equipment but do not hand them out unless in an emergency (a little like a cruise ship, or a plane). Gondolas do not normally have life jackets at all.

The best thing to do for water safety is to bring your own life jacket for kids: this is the only way to guarantee the life jacket is the right size for your child and to be sure you have one when you need it.

Since they are not compulsory, you will not be refused boarding if you don’t have one.

Using vaporetto with toddlers (water bus)

Using a water bus in Venice with a toddler is like using a bus in a big city: sometimes it is not crowded and you can sit and have space for the stroller; sometimes you are packed in like sardines.

The busiest routes tend to be those between San Mark and Rialto, which is also where most tourists are and the boat to Murano and Burano.

Unless very busy, this is a convenient way to move around Venice. Toddlers go free and since these are bigger boats, it is relatively easy to keep them safe, especially if you get a seat inside.

Water buses usually have life jackets s part of their emergency equipment. They may, however, not have suitable sized for younger kids.

My daughter on a Vaporetto in Venice (water bus)
Inside of Vaporetto in Venice (this is my daughter; I am just using this one to show the inside of the boat)

Using water taxis in Venice with toddlers

Water taxis in Venice are speed boats.

Licensed ones have life jackets as part of their standard safety equipment.

They may / may not hand them out upon boarding: with a little one, I recommend asking them for an appropriate size one at the time of booking.

Venice licensed water taxi companies are:

Taking a Venice gondola ride with a toddler

Gondolas are low, long, oar-operated boats typical of Venice used for tourist tours (set price, set itinerary) or as means of transport between the two sides of the Grand Canal in areas with no bridges (gondola traghetto).

In both cases, you can board with toddlers but it is paramount to know the following:

  • A gondola is an open boat with nothing to contain a wriggly toddler; holding them and keeping them safe is entirely up to you.
  • Gondolas do not have life jackets. While it is not impossible that they have some tucked away under the seat, bring your own if you intend on using one.

Using a stroller in Venice

I recommend using a stroller in Venice, despite the many stroller-unfriendly bridges.

The reason for my stroller recommendation is double:

First, there is A LOT of walking to be done in Venice and not having a stroller will limit you to what little legs can take

Second, you can strap them away from water!

Very stroller unfriendly bridge in Venice (they are not all like this!)

Handling Venice bridges with a stroller is a pain but doable: some bridges are annoying bit with steps wide enough that you can push a stroller on them.

Others will require you to close the stroller and carry it to the other side.

The best strollers for Venice for me are, therefore, those that you can fold and carry easily.

If you have more than one toddler, I would strongly consider two single strollers, a stroller and a carrier, or a stroller and a stroller board. Double strollers in Venice, unless you have a remarkably lightweight one, are often a pain more than a help.

Where to stay in Venice with toddlers

The best toddler-friendly hotels in Venice in terms of equipment and services for families are:

Hilton Molino Stucky – which offers a bespoke family experience for kids under 12 and a resort-style stay, rare in Italian cities!

Hilton Molino Stucky is on the island of Giudecca, so it is not the handiest in terms of location, as it requires water transport. However, the facilities, the 5-star service and the toddler amenities make it an excellent address.

Starhotel Splendid: super central, this is one of the best-equipped hotels for toddlers in Venice and puts you right where Venice’s main landmarks are.

I usually do not recommend staying near St Mark’s as the area gets very busy with fast tourism. however, for families with toddlers specifically, it is hard to beat the convenience of this hotel!

In terms of areas, the best places to stay in Venice with kids for me are:

Castello, the best area to stay in Venice with a toddler because:

  • It has several flat areas not immediately on open water (great for peace of mind and let them tot around freely) and a wonderful large park with a playground.
  • It is much quieter and ‘local’ in feel than others.

However, it is also the furthest from the station and the airport, so you will need transport to get here.

A good family hotel here is Hotel Bisanzio (very central)

Cannaregio is the area beside the train station and a wonderful area to stay with toddlers because:

  • It is close to the station so you don’t need water transport to get there. If you are a good walker and have a stroller, you can walk to St Mark’s in about 30 minutes and avoid water transport entirely.
  • It is very well served with restaurants and shops, including supermarkets for toddler essentials.
  • There are a couple of playgrounds nearby

Family hotels I love here are Carnival Palace Hotel (4 star hotel) and Hotel Abbazia (3 star hotel).

Playgrounds in Venice (with maps)

Venice is a lot greener than it may seem at first glance but most of its green spaces are tucked away so you may not see them, unless you know are there!

Some cool playgrounds in Venice we found are:

  • Parco Savorgnan – Cannaregio, close to the station. Calle Pesaro, 427, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy Map: https://maps.app.goo.gl/cfTXQsqB3jeJhdicA
  • Giardino Papadopoli – Santa Croce, in front of the station, on the other side of the canal. Map: https://maps.app.goo.gl/R3zdaem1bHW5mWLv6
  • Parco Giochi Giardini Napoleonici and Biennale Park (the best!)- Castello, Viale Trento, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy Map: https://maps.app.goo.gl/QA54fy1AHSc1JTbd7
Playground in Venice city

Rainy day activities in Venice for toddlers

Venice proper is not equipped with indoor baby parks or kids museums as such.

For an indoor playground with games and inflatables, you need to go to Mestre Magu Playground. Map: https://maps.app.goo.gl/jc8Lxg4c6WyW27B49 Contact them on Facebook before going, to make sure that are open and not booked for a private party.

In Venice itself, there are family-friendly museums where you can find refuge from the rain.

Some you may consider are:

  • Leonardo Museum – small, but cool for toddlers as they can touch the machines, pull levers etc
  • Peggy Guggenheim Museum – one of the most family-friendly in Venice
  • Maritime Museum

Eating out in Venice with toddlers

Venice restaurants are very accommodating with toddlers, most of them being able to offer high chairs and make simple dishes like plane pasta on request.

Like in the rest of Italy, you don’t usually find a kids’ menu as such, but you will find places are accommodating to requests such as plain pasta (with or without butter) or meat sauce pasta (Bolognese).

Pizza is not from Venice but you will find it like anywhere else, just don’t expect it to be a local specialty.

Restaurants in Venice we enjoyed are:

  • Ristorante San Trovaso, Dorsoduro
  • OKE, Dorsoduro
  • La Colonna, Cannaregio

Toddler-friendly tours in Venice

The best tours for toddlers, in my opinion, are not tours for kids, which are aimed at school-age children who can learn facts, but tours that talk to parents while keeping into account the needs of a toddler.

With this in mind, my favorite toddler-friendly tours in Venice are:

Venice Highlights Private Walking Tour (with St Mark’s Access) by LivTours: an excellent private tour that allows you to see Venice’ highlights with the undivided attention of a private guide who can adapt to your family’s needs before and while on the tour.

Private Venice walking tour with St Marks and Doges’ Palace by LivTours: a great family-friendly tour that includes access to the two most famous Venice landmarks with a specialized guide.

Where to buy toddler essentials in Venice (diapers, snacks etc)

You can buy toddler essentials in Venice in supermarkets and pharmacies.

Supermarkets in Venice have everyday toddler essentials such as diapers, baby wipes, pouches and snacks.

Toddler snacks in Italy are likely different from what you are used to back home and usually stocked in the baby aisle and the breakfast aisle.

Toddler snacks you find in Italy are:

  • Toddler biscuits (those that become mushy fast)
  • Ricecakes (often in the ‘free from’ aisle)
  • Kids’ Cheese and yogurt (in the main fridge aisle)
  • Pouches / jars of pureed fruit

The deli counter in the supermarkets is the most common resource for Italian kids’ snacks as they have fresh bread and baked goods, focaccia, etc.

Diaper brands you find in Italian supermarkets include (the list is not exhaustive):

  • Pampers
  • Huggies
  • Supermarket own brands (Carrefour, Lidl, etc)

You can read here >>> all about supermarkets in Italy

photo of diapers in supermarket in Italy
Supermarket shelf with diapers in Italy

The other place for daily toddler essentials in Venice are Pharmacies (Farmacia).

In farmacie you find additional brands of formula and diapers, including hypoallergenic ones, and over-the-counter medications.

You can read here >>> all about Farmacie in Italy

Finding medical help in Venice

You can access medical help in Venice in the following ways:

  • 112 General Emergency number
  • 118 health emergency number (ambulance).
  • Online Doctors: doctorsinitaly.com offers easy and fast contact with English-speaking doctors

I hope you found this introduction and my tips to visit Venice toddlers useful. Safe travels!

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Marta Correale is an Italian mama of two. Born and raised in Rome, Marta has a passion for travel and especially enjoys showing off Italy to her kids, who are growing up to love it as much as she does! A classics graduate, teacher of Italian as a second language and family travel blogger, Marta launched Mama Loves Italy as a way to inspire, support and help curious visitors to make the most of a trip to Italy and learn about Italian culture on the way.