Kid-friendly museums in Venice

Rebecca Winke's guide to family activities in Venice

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Rebecca Winke

Rebecca  Winke 
HomeAway travel expert on Umbria 

Collage of Venice Venice is, like most Italian cities, an open-air museum with its 1,000 year history played out in the palazzi and piazze (called campi in Venice) which line its ubiquitous canals. This is good news for travelling families, as “churched-out” kids can spend almost their entire stay in La Serenissima in the fabulously traffic-free outdoors and still get a fine look at the city’s history and culture. That said, there are days when the weather doesn’t cooperate and it may be handy to have an indoor back-up plan including some of Venice’s excellent museums, many of which are also interesting for kids. Here are some suggestions for your next visit, come rain or shine!

Extra tip: If you think your family will be visiting a number of Venice’s museums, consider purchasing a Family Museum Pass (valid for families of two adults and at least one child), which offers discounted admission. Information and prices on the Museo del Palazzo Ducale.

Rebecca’s picks: Venice museums for kids

Venice is divided into six sestieri, or neighbourhoods, four of which are home to the museums recommended here:

 San Marco: This is the heart of both the city of Venice and its tourist traffic, as Piazza San Marco holds the Basilica of Saint Mark, the Doge’s Palace, and the Campanile (bell tower). Though the crowds can get thick, the wide open piazza is a good place for some pigeon chasing and a climb to the top of the bell tower is always a hit.

 Dorsoduro: Where you will find both the Guggenheim and Punta della Dogana collections, this neighbourhood has the Giudecca Canal on one side and the Grand Canal on much of the other. For some outdoor fun, have a walk through the Campo Santa Margherita market and pick up some fresh fruit to snack on during the day.

 Santa Croce: This quiet, largely residential sestiere is off the tourist track and thus a great place for a family to wander. The Natural History and Palazzo Mocenigo museums are both here, as are a number of small, neighbourhood piazzas including Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio, where you’ll find the wonderful Majer bakery for a snack.

 Castello: Tail to the “fish-shaped” city of Venice, Castello is a large neighbourhood where the Naval Museum (near the historic shipyard) is located. This is also one of the spots to hop a boat to the island of Murano and the glass factory.

The two additional sestiere are San Polo (home to the bustling morning fish market) and Cannaregio (where the historic Jewish Ghetto is located).



Rebecca's top tips for visiting Venice museums


History: Doge's Palace History: Doge's Palace

Luckily you don’t have to delve too far into the B-list of Venice’s museums to find one compelling for younger travellers; in fact, one of Venice’s top sights is also a good stop for kids. The Palazzo Ducale in Venice’s only official “piazza” – San Marco – is a sprawling Gothic palace adjoined to Venice’s breathtaking Basilica of Saint Mark, and is where the historic Republic’s ruling dukes once lived and worked. The Doge’s sumptuous Apartments and the Governmental Chambers are open to the public as part of the Museo del Palazzo Ducale, and lines can get long in the summer so it’s a good idea to book your tickets ahead through the museum’s website. Kids especially get a thrill out of visiting the former prisons and the Armoury, where a collection of antique weapons and suits of armour are displayed. Older children may enjoy the Secret Itineraries tour (which can be booked in advance online in English), during which visitors are accompanied by a specialised guide through a number of “secret” rooms in the palace generally off-limits to the public.

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Art: Peggy Guggenheim Collection and Punta della Dogana Art: Peggy Guggenheim Collection and Punta della Dogana

Kids are often more interested in modern and contemporary art than staid historic works, as the bright colours and bold lines can catch and hold their attention. Venice is rich in art both old and new, and home to a number of art museums and galleries with collections from the 20th and 21st centuries. Perhaps the most well-known is Venice’s own Guggenheim, located in Peggy Guggenheim’s former home on the Grand Canal and housing her personal art collection. The Guggenheim is free for kids aged ten and under, and offers children’s workshops each Sunday (advance booking required; information on their website). Just a short distance from the Guggenheim is the lesser known but no less compelling Punta della Dogana, housed in the former customs house on the triangular prominatory where the Grand and Giudecca Canals meet. Home to the Pinault Collection, Punta della Dogana offers great views over the water and is free for kids aged eleven and under.

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Science: Museum of Natural History Science: Museum of Natural History

If your kids are not only “churched out” but also “art and cultured out”, try a visit to the Natural History Museum. Dinosaur skeletons, hanging sharks, stuffed animals of all sizes and shapes, butterflies, fossils...there’s more than enough here to keep the whole family busy for a few hours.

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Museums for girls and boys Museums for girls and boys

More for girls: Palazzo Mocenigo
Housed in a recently renovated aristocratic Venetian palazzo, this museum just opened in November of 2013 and is focused on fashion and perfumes of the 18th century. Though the subject matter may be more compelling to girls, the hands-on section of the perfume exhibit is interesting for everyone (my 9 and 12-year-old sons spent a long time sniffing the different Venetian glass bottles) and even fashion-indifferent boys are fascinated by how much smaller adults were three hundred years ago, judging from the elaborate costume displays.

More for boys: Naval Museum
Though boys tend to gravitate to model ships more than girls, everyone will enjoy the examples of typical Venetian boats on display here, including bragozzi fishing boats, the iconic gondola, and the elegant Bucintoro state galley. The museum’s vast space displays scale models of sea-faring vessels from a number of different periods of Venetian history and also houses an interesting collection of seashells.

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For everyone: Glass Museum Murano For everyone: Glass Museum Murano

If Venice has two internationally recognized symbols, they would have to be gondolas and glass. This museum is located on the island of Murano, home to most of Venice’s famous glass workshops and a short vaporetto boat ride from the city. Here visitors find an interesting explanation of the history of Venetian glass-making and techniques, examples of ancient glass in the archaeological exhibit, and a vast collection of examples of Murano glass from the 1400s to modern day. The “Glass in Action” guided tour (tickets at the entrance) is especially interesting for kids.

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Collage of Venice by DanieleDF1995
Doge's Palace by Andrew Balet 
Peggy Guggenheim by G Lanting
Natural History Museum by Godromil
Naval Museum by G.dallorto
Glass Museum by Deror avi

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