How to get the best of Venice Carnival with kids? Living in Italy, I’ve been lucky enough to visit Venice several times, but last year was our first time during the Carnival. First I was a little sceptical because of comments I’ve heard : “Too many people”, “disappointing”, “tourist trap” … But I came back absolutely delighted of Carnival of Venice with my children! It’s one of the most beautiful scenery in the world, and magic acts. More than a party, it’s a show, sublimated by beautiful Venice.
We spent 4 sunny days in Venice, in February.
After this great experience (ok, I’m in love with Venice, see here why), here is my tip N ° 1 to enjoy Venice Carnival with kids: participate, at least a little!
1. Wear a costume!
Being a spectator is nice, but being an actor is even better. And kids love so much to dress up! Relax: I’m not talking about these incredible and very expensive costumes, besides rented. It can also be very simple, more inventive and fun for children.
The mask is the most important. You can buy in Venice a white Venetian mask and let the children decorate it themselves: feathers, shiny, glitter, the more there is the better! Pack the glue and decorative elements they have chosen and enjoy a fun activity to do with them once in Venice.
Don’t have enough time? You’ll find on the spot a large choice of decorated masks and domino masks. The first prices are 3/5 € (of course, Chinese manufacture).
The costume: if you want to adopt the Venetian style, opt for the classic long cape with a hood. Very easy to make! (no one will blame you if there are no hems, but may be a grandmother with nimble fingers not far could…)
Doctor of Plague is very popular among teens – the “dark side” may be! On the left pic the traditional costume (note the refinement of the details, like the little mouse climbing along the left glove), on the right my son’s “homemade” version, with borrowed accessories, a mask bought in Venice and sneakers!
Otherwise, you can simply pack their favorite costume. We really saw everything, from the most traditional to Casa de Papel, mariachis in ponchos and sombreros, nurses, policewomen, and even a jellyfish bench straight out of the lagoon!
Couples, friends, families, the idea is to be all dressed up on the same theme. It can be just a color, or an accessory like a wig, a domino mask… Nice for siblings!
2. Stroll in Venice’s streets
Strolling is really one of the main activities in Venice. Walking is the best way to discover the city of the Doges, but also in my opinion to enjoy Venice carnival with kids (rather than the organized activities). The show is going on in the street! Put on comfortable sneakers and go explore the city (complete guide to visit Venice with kids here). It’s fun and weird to meet people in costume taking the vaporetto to move or eating a sandwich on a terrace …
The rules of the Venetian carnival are also interesting. Main is anonymity. It’s not possible to know who is hiding behind a traditional mask. You should either not make your voice heard. Man or woman, young or old, Venetian or foreigner, you’ll not know! You greet each other by bowing your head, thank with a hand gesture… staying incognito. The carnival offers the possibility of being someone else, for a few hours or a few days: what a great idea!
A mysterious touch that adds to the unique atmosphere of the Serenissima, especially at night …
To have fun and get pretty pictures, you can also buy on the spot a little pack of confetti (1 €): enough to make the stroll more funny for the kids.
3. Where to take the best pictures
Taking pictures is THE activity during the carnival! A bit of “Cannes Film Festival” on the lagoon … Do not hesitate to kindly stop the costumed people and ask them for a picture. They will pose with pleasure – I bet they enven like it.
There are also real photographers, with real gear and huge zooms, organizing photo shootings for these stars of a day. The models, wearing sumptuous costumes, pose for long sessions. There you will be able to see the most beautiful carnival’s costumes, in front of the most beautiful views of Venice.
Here are the best Carnival “shooting spots”:
- on the Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore: the most beautiful in my opinion, in front of the lagoon, with the Doge’s Palace in the background … really magical! Easily accessible by vaporetto.
- On the Accademia bridge
- In the square behind the Basilica San Marco
- and in front of some churches
4. How to avoid the crowd in Venice carnival with kids
Of course, the Carnival of Venice attracts thousands of tourists. However, we wandered very quietly in almost empty neighborhoods…
Easy and simple tips:
Avoid weekends! A short reminder about the carnival calendar: it lasts 10 days and ends on Fat Tuesday, a day before Ash Wednesday, the day of penance that marks the beginning of Lent. So there are 2 weekends : one opening the carnival, and one between the Thursday and the final Fat Tuesday. On Saturday night, when all the local youth joins the party, it is very animated !
Skip the Carnival “events”, such as the Flight of the Angel and the final contest mask on St. Mark’s Square (you can find the program here). These are the most crowded moments. You could be stuck with children in the small streets that lead to the square, and that’s not fun at all.
So avoid the San Marco area on weekends and days of celebration –anyway, it’s the area with the highest tourist density… That said, it’s fun in the week, late afternoon, when many people gather there in costumes (around 6 pm). It’s busy, but still bearable. And as soon as you leave this district, just a hundred meters away, you will find a peaceful Venice …
5. Enjoy venetian donuts and other sweets
Yes, in “Fat Thursday” and “Fat Tuesday”, there is fat! When the Carnival ends comes Lent, these 40 days of deprivation during which the fast allows to remember the Passion of the Christ … In the meantime, place to the festivities and the Venetian fritelle! The fritelle are the traditional donuts of the carnival period. Some looks like ribbons, others like circles and are more typical. Plain, or with sugar and small dried grapes, filled with cream or zabaglione (with a hint of alcohol), Nutella … a treat for sweet lovers!
It is delicious and rich enough to have it for lunch during Venice Carnival with kids! And it’s also cheap.
Carnaval of Venice is less crazy than Rio, but more exotic than Dunkirk, so just perfect with kids. Whether it’s your first stay or not in the city of the Doges, it’s a magical experience for the whole family.
Practical information to prepare your trip to Venice
- When is the next Carnival of Venice ? Dates are determined according to Ash Wednesday, thus variable from one year to another. Here for the next 4 years: in 2020: from February 15th to 25th. In 2021: from February 6th to 16th . In 2022: from February 19th to March 1st . In 2023: February 11 to 21
- How to get there? The simplest way to reach Venice, Italy, is the plane. Many direct daily flights, especially on Easy Jet. To find the best flight deals, you can use Skyscanner.
- Where to sleep in Venice during Carnival?
Beware that accommodations are getting quickly full during the Carnival period: you have to book well in advance.
Here are some nice hotels with family rooms:
Crush on the Combo Venezia: in a great area (Cannaregio, away from mass tourism), a renovated twelfth century cloister that offers a family apartment with 2 bedrooms. Superb historic building, modern and tasteful accommodation, kitchenette, table and chairs if you prefer to eat pasta at home, and a lovely terrace overlooking a canal for coffee…
The Palazzo Odoni: ideal location in the district of Santa Croce, in the heart of the city but far from the hustle and bustle. The hotel, a small Venetian palace from the 15th century overlooking a canal, offers a lovely family suite with 2 interconnecting rooms. Comfortable and perfect for families! Very good value for money.
Foresteria Levi: in San Marco, a stone’s throw from the Accademia Bridge (very central but far enough away from the touristy San Marco). Beautiful palace on the Grand Canal (but rooms are at the back of the building so no view). Spacious family room for 4, with a mezzanine. Recent (the rooms, not the building of course), clean, convenient !
Apartment rental is of course very convenient with kids (for 3 nights minimum): I recommend Friendly Rentals, which offers a wide choice of well located apartments, some with views of the canals, roof terrace or in a beautiful palazzo like this one for 5 people on the Giudecca island… Would be great to be there, sipping a spritz after a busy day, right?
More about Venice Carnival
Venice Carnival has existed since the Middle Ages. Created to celebrate the political and economic success of the Serenissima, this popular festival was intended to strengthen the social bond between the inhabitants. During the event, under the anonymity of costumes and full masks, excesses, transgressions and greater freedom of expression was possible. In the 18th century, the Carnival reached the peak of its splendor. Less in the streets, it was held in cafes, theaters and gambling houses. At the end of the century, under the Napoleonic occupation, the carnival was forbidden. Very framed under the Austrian domination, it will lose its superb over the years. It was not until the 1970s that it again became a major event, before being officially re-established by the Venice’s municipality in 1980.
NB. The pictures published in this article were all taken by myself during the 2019 Venice Carnival. Thank you to everyone who graciously posed! However if you do not want to appear on this blog, please let me know by sending me an email.