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A day trip from Lake Garda to Venice with kids

A day trip from Lake Garda to Venice with kids

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At the very top of our Italian holiday bucket list the summer was a day trip from Lake Garda to Venice. We knew it was going to be a long day and that there would be difficult moments with a five and three-year-old in one of the world’s most famous cities. But it was too good an opportunity to miss. So what can you expect when visiting Venice with kids, particularly young ones, and how achievable is it to do Venice in a day from Lake Garda? Here’s how we did it:

Getting from Lake Garda to Venice

We were on a press trip with my mum and dad at Camping Eden at Felice del Benco on the south west of Lake Garda. We had a hire car and after considering catching a train we decided it might work out easier to drive.

The cost was no different and it gave us more flexibility to come and go as we pleased. Plus the Tickets & Tours agent at our campsite reception had a deal for parking on the mainland and taking the ferry to Venice.

We drove from Lake Garda to Terminal Fusina – a ferry port sign posted from the A57. It was reasonably easy to find and there are signs for ‘Venezia + Boat’ from a few miles out.

The toll charge on the A4 from Densanzo del Garda to Venice was €10.90 each way and I estimated that the fuel cost €30 for the return trip. While Google Maps says the trip takes just under two hours, it took us more like two and a half tours each way.

An alternative way to get from Lake Garda to Venice would have been to drive to our closest train station at Densanzo del Garda (30 minutes away), park and get the train and ferry to Venice. 

The ferry from Terminal Fusina

Terminal Fusina entrance - Lake Garda to Venice with kids

When you reach Terminal Fuscina there’s a large grass car park. We showed our booking print out to the office and were given a parking ticket for our car. Our booking print out was also our ticket for the passenger ferry.

This was a 10 minute walk from the car park (with little people). There are toilets at the car park if you need to pop in before your onward journey. 

The ferry was running hourly when we visited in August. I’d advise getting to the car park at least 20 minutes beforehand so that you have time to get your ticket, go to the loo and walk to the pontoon.

The boat takes 30 minutes to cross the lagoon. It really was an exciting way to arrive in Venice. Our visit was just before the Venice Film Festival and there were a couple of gigantic super yachts being manoeuvred around by tugs outside the rather industrial looking port.

And then, a bit further towards the entrance of the Grand Canal you start to see the beauty of Venice which makes it so iconic.

We were dropped off at Ferry Terminal Zattere opposite Chiesa di Santa Maria del Rosario.

Ferry from Terminla Fusina Venice - Lake Garda to Venice with kids

Venice with kids: what to see in seven hours

Tin Box Grandma and Grandpa had visited Venice on two other occasions, most recently by cruise ship. So we let them be our guides for the first half of the day.

Tin Box family on Ponte della'Accademia - Lake Garda to Venice with kids

We started off walking from the ferry terminal to Ponte dell’Accademia where we got our first real glimpse of the Venice you see in films.

The bridge in its current form is a relatively new wood and metal construction. The Tin Box grandparents remember this being a ferry crossing during their first visit to Venice 40 years ago. In fact you can now walk most of Venice without the need for a ferry unless you want to visit the islands of Guidecca or Murano.

We did a lot of walking during our seven hours in Venice and the girls did really well with regular bribes of sweets, gelato and cheap Venetian masks!

St Mark’s Square

Once we’d passed the bridge there was some more winding through Venice’s maze of narrow streets and tiny crossings over the waterways. We passed shop windows full of murano glass and surprisingly reasonably priced clothes before reaching St Mark’s Square.

We had intended to stop here for a picnic, but signs around the entrances to the square informed us that no food was to be eaten here. I really should find time to research more before our trips!

In fact we found it hard to find anywhere to sit down in Venice apart from at cafes and restaurants. That’s one money saving trick scrubbed off my tips for exploring Venice with kids!

St Marks Square Venice - Lake Garda to Venice with kids
St Mark's Cathedral Venice - Lake Garda to Venice with kids

St Marks Square is an incredible space and reminded me that the Italians sure know how to build a bell tower! We arrived here not long after midday. There was plenty of room to mill around and let the kids have a bit of freedom.

If it hadn’t been for the fact they (and I) were ravenous we would have lingered longer to appreciate the scene.

We exited the square towards the Grand Canal and found a bench half hidden behind a street vendors’ stall. This is where we snaffled our sandwiches.

You’ll also find the Royal Gardens on this part of the Grand Canal. These are meant to be a good place to get away from the crowds but they were closed when we visited in August 2018.

Bridge of Sighs

Back on the tourist trail we decided to walk back past St Mark’s Square to see the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri).

The summer heat was beginning to feel uncomfortable now so Grandma took an irritable Tot off to stand in some shade.

Meanwhile Grandpa, Baby and I fought for a spot on the Pontoon Della Paglia overlooking the Ponte dei Sospiri. This is where convicted criminals crossed over on their way to prison after sentencing at Palazzo Ducale.

Baby was fast beginning to enjoy seeing gondolas passing by and gave a little wave to the tourists’ hands poking out of the ornate stonework on the Bridge of Sighs above. 

Bridge of Sighs Venice - Lake Garda to Venice with kids

Rialto Bridge

From the Bridge of Sighs and the entrance to the Grand Canal we tracked back across St Mark’s Square towards Rialto Bridge. This took us about 30 minutes including a stop for gelato which was swiftly followed by a sweet shop to keep the flagging girls motivated. I know – super bad parenting skills!

Without pit stops and deviations it is possible to walk the same distance in less than 10 minutes.

Rialto Bridge Venice - Lake Garda to Venice with kids
Steps over Rialto Bridge - Lake Garda to Venice with kids

Watching gondolas passing under the 16th century Bridge was almost surreal. It’s incredibly pretty and, like anywhere pretty in Venice, is packed with tourists.

Keep an eye on young children here as it would be easy for them to be swept away in the flow of people.

The Rialto is Venice’s oldest bridge over the Grand Canal and there has been a crossing here since the 12th Century.

While we stood in the middle the stone arch a couple were having their wedding photos on the San Marco side – what an incredible backdrop. But what a job for that photographer to try to edit out all the selfie stick wielding tourists!

Vaporetto on the Grand Canal

I did love seeing the Rialto Bridge and no trip to Venice would be complete without this experience. But the thought of taking a boat ride down the Grand Canal with a cool-ish breeze was very inviting.

On the San Marco side of the Bridge there’s a Vaporetto terminal, Rialto C, where you can buy tickets and board one of the frequent services. See my tips below on buying Vaporetto tickets. 

Vaporetto in Venice - Lake Garda to Venice with kids

According to Tin Box Grandma and Grandpa the Vaporetto is not what it once was. It’s more expensive and the boats are packed full of people.

We did manage to get seats for parts of our journey but when you are sitting down it’s difficult to get a decent view out of the smeared windows. It wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for but it got us to our next destination.

A child-friendly tour in Santa Croce

We got off the Vaporetto three stops up the Grand Canal at San Stae.

After seeking out a cafe for some drinks and down time, this is where we met Gaia from Macaco Tour.

You can read more about our child-friendly Venice tour in my review. But as an overview I know that this was our girls’ favourite part of our trip to Venice. And if they were happy so were we!

For an hour they explored at their pace away from the crowds of the main tourist hot spots. Santa Croce is more of a residential area but there is still plenty of Venetian charm to it.

I’d highly recommend including a tour like this into your Venice itinerary if you are visiting with children between the ages of four and 11.

Tin Box family on Macaco Tour - Venice tour with kids

We ended our day with a ride on the Vaporatto all the way back up the Grand Canal from San Stae to Accademia. This was again crowded but we got a seat almost straight away. This gave us time to rest before the journey back to Lake Garda.

The Vaporetto is a brilliant service for getting to destinations along the Canal. But I wouldn’t recommend it as a way to see the city.

If you have more time to explore Italy Venice could be your first stop on a tour. Intrepid Travel offer family-friendly tours of Northern Italy from here. Find out more and check out Intrepid Travel reviews.

Handy tips for visiting Venice with kids

I really should have done a bit more research about visiting Venice with kids before our trip. On the plus side I have plenty of first hand tips to share with you:

  • It costs to wee in Venice: €1.50 per person to be exact. However, we did meet one lovely toilet attendant who took pitty on me with to small children refused to take my money. To avoid any cost go to a cafe and order a drink which you’ll probably need anyway.
  • If you are planning on using the Vaporetto more than once then it might be worth getting a day ticket for €20. If you fancy riding around for 75 minutes then this costs €7.50. Children under six-years-old ride free and over six-year-olds pay the full fare. Not all points on the water bus route have a ticket machine so if you are planning on a return trip after 75 minutes buy another ticket and don’t validate it. Or get the app so you can purchase more tickets at any time. This is really easy to use and reminds you if your ticket is about to run out. You validate it by scanning your smartphone at the entrance to the pontoon.
  • You can’t have a picnic easily – only in public parks. Take the hit and buy food at a cafe but shop around. We saw a two course meal advertised just off the Rivalto Bridge for €12 per person.
  • Bring snacks your kids can eat on the move but again be aware there are strict laws about picnicking, sitting down and littering in Venice. It’s all to do with keeping Venice beautiful but it does add an extra level of complexity to a visit when you have children.
  • If you are visiting Venice with small children you’ll want to pace yourselves, particularly during the peak tourist season. I’ve been told is pretty much all year round here! Ridiculously regular stops for drinks, gelato and other treats were the only way we got through the day. 
  • If you bring a pushchair be prepared to carry it and your child over a lot of bridges.

Is a day trip to Venice with kids worth it?

YES! Don’t think I’m about to deny how tough it was – seven hours of encouraging kids around a packed city sandwiched in-between six hours of driving was exhausting. But I’d not have wanted to miss this opportunity.

Plus the girls loved their chance to explore the ‘floating city’. Tot keeps flicking through our magazine holder looking for pictures of Venice and is thrilled when she finds one. It really captured her imagination. 

Gondolas in Venice - Lake Garda to Venice with kids

If I was going to spend a day in Venice again I’d plan to stay closer. Not so we could spend more than seven hours exploring in a day because I think that was plenty.

However, it would mean I could get to my glass of prosecco quicker at the end of the day! We spotted Camping Fusina right next to the ferry terminal. This might be a good budget option for families wishing to visit Venice.

More Italy with kids

We love Italy! I’ve also written about:

Have you visited Venice with kids? I’d love to hear your experiences.

Disclosure: we were invited to stay at Camping Eden by Al Fresco Holidays and to review a tour with Macaco Tour. Otherwise we financed our own day trip to Venice.

Planning to visit Venice with kids? Or maybe you want to drive from Lake Garda to Venice like we did? Save this post for future reference! 

How to get from Lake Garda to Venice, what to see during seven hours in the city and tips for visiting Venice with kids - an essential guide for families #Venice #Venicewithkids #destinationguide #Italy #familytravel #familytravelblog #traveltips
How to get from Lake Garda to Venice, what to see during seven hours in the city and tips for visiting Venice with kids - an essential guide for families #Venice #Venicewithkids #destinationguide #Italy #familytravel #familytravelblog #traveltips

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Jenny - TraveLynn Family

Monday 8th of October 2018

I can't believe how much it costs to pee! Although so lovely for that lady to take pity on you. Does indeed sound better to all stop for a gelato in a cafe to use the facilities. Thanks for linking up to #fearlessfamtrav


Wednesday 3rd of October 2018

These sort of days can be exhausting but always so worthwhile! My little one likes to be walking and the canals have looked a bit daunting but it is on my list to take her #fearlessfamtrav

Chloe: Picture Taker Memory Maker

Wednesday 3rd of October 2018

I have dreamed of visiting Venice since I was a little girl and one of my primary school teachers told us stories of his annual visits there and brought back real Venetian masks that he gave to us as prizes for being the quickest at reciting our four times tables! I knew it would be busy with tourists but had no idea that you can't really eat a picnic there - we do this regularly when travelling so that's good to know in advance. Travelling with kids of never easy, is it? Always worth it though!

Grand Adventure Story

Tuesday 2nd of October 2018

Less than three weeks to our trip there! Can't wait. Really useful reading about your experiences. We may not get the summer heat but I'm sure we won't be able to avoid the crowds. Good to know re picknicking! #fearlessfamtrav

Claire Hall - Tin Box Traveller

Tuesday 2nd of October 2018

So glad you've found it handy. Enjoy your trip and fingers crossed there are less crowds!!

Harmony, Momma To Go

Monday 1st of October 2018

I pinned this for later since we are planning Italy this spring and venice is one city I have not been to, so want to go with the kids! I really want to do a gondola, i Know its touristy and cheesy, but why not! And I suspect we might be driving from Lecco so these are great tips! #FearlessFamTrav

Claire Hall - Tin Box Traveller

Tuesday 2nd of October 2018

So glad you've found it helpful. Have an amazing trip!

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