Venice: Travelling as a family

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How to get to Venice from the UK

We flew to Marco Polo Airport in Venice from Heathrow (Terminal 5). There are 6 airlines that fly non-stop to Venice from the UK.  British Airways, Ryanair, FlyBe, Jet 2, Tui and EasyJet.  We flew with British Airways as part of a package deal we booked direct with them.  We checked Skyscanner to see the best deals on flights to Venice from the UK and booking.com to find out the cost of hotels.  Booking the package worked out cheaper than booking separately.  British Airways often have deals like this.

We try to book flights which depart early in the morning to make the most of the day at the other end.  For this reason we usually stay at an airport hotel the night before our flights.  This way, we start our travels a day early and make sure we are close to the terminal for departure.

Airport Hotel

The night before our flight to Venice we stayed at the Sheraton Skyline on Bath Road.  We really like this hotel and have stayed there several times.  Being a family of four we like the fact the rooms have 2 double beds (some with a runway view) and the breakfast is always great.  It also has a swimming pool which we usually take advantage of as a start to the trip.  Including the parking for 5 days we paid £148.51 (which included return Hoppa Tickets).  We also like the fact that you park your car yourself and keep your car keys.  Breakfast was available and payable at the Hotel. 

We booked The Sheraton Skyline as part of an Airport Hotel and Parking deal through Holiday Extras.  In our experience Holiday Extras offer unbeatable value for pre-flight accommodation and parking.  We also booked the Heathrow Hoppa through them.

We have no hesitation booking through Holiday Extras.  They provide the best value for money when it comes to hotels and parking.  Even better value than booking direct with hotels or booking separately.  You can also book extras such as airport lounges.

Timing can make a huge difference when you book with Holiday Extras.  We have found prices changing significantly over a six week period, sometimes saving as much as 33%. 

Transfer to Terminal

We used the Heathrow Hoppa bus for our transfer to the Airport as we usually do.  The buses can get quite full, but it is an efficient service which runs regularly from outside the hotel.  

You can get a taxi to and from the terminal which cost approximately £12-£15 each way.  The Hoppa cost £11 per adult for a return ticket (when bought in advance) with children under 15 travelling free.  

From the Sheraton to Terminal 5 it takes approximately 15 – 20 minutes and the Hoppa runs from 4.30 a.m. to 11.30 p.m.  Buses run every 30 minutes to Terminal 5 and every 20 minutes to the other terminals.  Remember to ask your driver where your bus departs from for your return journey as signs for the buses/stops have been an issue for us in the past.  As it happened, on the way back, the Hoppa was waiting for us at bus stop number 18.

Flight

The flight to Venice takes around 2 1/2 hours.  It was pleasant, on time and we arrived on schedule.  The crew on these flights were good as we have found usual with British Airways.

Transfer from Airport

The airport in Venice is Marco Polo Airport which is approximately 14 km from the centre of Venice.  Transfer time to the city centre depends on which way you choose to travel.  You can get to Venice from the Airport by taxi, bus or Water Taxi.  A taxi or bus will take approximately 20 minutes.  A Taxi will cost around 35 Euros and the bus approximately 8 Euros one way.  Both stop at the Piazzale Roma Terminal.  From here you can walk or take a waterbus to your Hotel.  

We had decided to stay in a Hotel on Murano Island and the hotel had its own private launch which we were able to book prior to our arrival for transfer from the airport to the hotel.    

Water Taxis are a convenient and quick way of getting directly from the airport to your Hotel.  However a one way journey will cost approximately 150 Euros. 

The water taxi pier is well sign posted and easy to find if you do decide to transfer from the airport this way.  It is quite an experience to leave the airport and arrive at your hotel by boat. 

Where we stayed

Having looked at hotels we decided that staying on Murano Island would suit us for a family trip to Venice.  We wanted to visit Murano on our stay anyway and it offered the opportunity to be away from the main tourist spots.  Our thinking was that staying on Murano would give as a real feel for it rather than just visiting for a few hours.  And so it proved.  We managed to get around the whole island while we were there.  There were less tourists and more locals than in Venice itself and we liked that.  We felt it was a slightly more authentic experience.

The hotel we chose was LaGare Hotel Venezia Isola di Murano (now the Hyatt Centric Murano).  Conveniently, it had its own launch and provided us with transportation back and forth to Venice (as well as from the airport and back).  We were able to book breakfast and an Executive Room.  This was great for us as a family of four.

Our suite had a sofa bed and single bed with a king sized bed in a separate area upstairs.  All were very comfortable.  The only down side was that the room was dark and did not have a view. 

The reception staff could not have been more friendly and helped us sort out transportation for the whole of our stay.  Computers and printers were available to use so it was easy to check-in for our return flight and print boarding documentation.

We took breakfast in the main restaurant which was semi al-fresco.  It was a very nice touch as the weather was good and the bougainvillea was in full bloom.  The food was good and consisted all the usual fare including continental and cooked buffet breakfast.  Something for all the family!  It made a really good start to the day. 

When we went to Venice

We chose to visit Venice in late Spring.  We like to visit cities in the spring or summer and find that there are some great deals out there.  The weather makes sightseeing much more pleasant and offers the opportunity for dining and/or drinking al fresco.  What’s not to like?

As a family with school aged children we’re limited to the school holidays and Whitsun is a particular favourite of ours.  We travelled in May and it was very hot and sunny every day until at least 7pm, turning cooler in the nights.  We didn’t find the need for an extra layer in the evenings and saw no rain. 

How we got around

How we got around Venice

Not by gondola!  We mostly explored Venice by foot and think this is the best way to see most cities.  Especially when they are as compact as Venice.  This DK Top 10 Venice guidebook helped us with the planning.  It also really helped us navigate the city.  It was surprisingly easy even though there are hundreds of narrow alleyways. In fact, for us, exploring these alleys was an attraction in itself.  Apart from the water, obviously, it’s one of the main memories that would identify the city for us.  Most of the main attractions are well sign posted and we didn’t find getting around Venice too difficult at all.

As an aside, private gondolas were around 80 Euros for 25-30 minutes for 1-6 people

Public Transport

We did use the water bus, or vaporetto, once and it was very easy to use.  There are signs pointing the way to vaporetto stops which can be seen on most maps of Venice.

You can buy passes from 12 hours to 7 day (Tourist Travel Cards) as well as single journey tickets.  Once you have bought your ticket you must validate it at an electronic ticket reader and then wait on the platform for the water bus.

Money in Venice

The currency of Venice is the Euro.  We got ours from the Post Office.  At the time of our travel the exchange rate was 1.14 Euro to 1GBP.  We found that cards were widely accepted but mostly used cash and in terms of cost found Venice to be on a par with the UK. 

Lots of things in Venice are free!  Such wandering through the numerous alleyways and along the canals, visiting St. Marks Square, the Basilica Santa Maria, strolling across the Rialto Bridge and generally people watching.  In fact during our wait for the hotel launch we were fascinated by the workmen having to adapt to Venice’s difficult environment.

Food and Drink in Venice

All of us enjoyed everything we ate in Venice.  Pasta, Pizza, Ice Cream – what’s not to like?  We do like to try as much of the local cuisine as we can as we feel this is a big part of the experience.  We had done some research on restaurants, coffee shops and ice cream vendors before we went.  However, finding a specific coffee shop or ice cream shop proved a little bit difficult as the streets are so small and so numerous.  We found it better just pop in somewhere if we liked the look of it.  And the prices!  If a coffee shop or ice cream parlour is busy, especially with locals, it’s a sure sign it’s pretty good.  

Pizza

Having arrived just after lunch time we decided to find a Pizzeria.  We ate at the Ozteria Al Duomo Murano which offered outdoor seating.  It was very family friendly and we noticed they also did take-away.  Pizza was very reasonably priced and we were allowed to share.  Cost 10-12 Euros

Cafes

There are so many small cafes, coffee shops and bakeries in and around Venice that you’ll be spoilt for choice.  Choose carefully though!  As this is a tourist hot-spot some can be quite expensive.  

We enjoyed Caffe del Doge and the costs were:

  • Espresso        2.50 Euros
  • Americano     3 Euros
  • Cappuccino   3.20 Euros
  • Latte               4 Euros

Fast Food

In the main we found that the fast food outlets and restaurants were very reasonably priced.  We decided one evening to visit a supermarket and bought cold meats, breads and cheeses, and a litre of red wine.  The wine was quite good and cost just 80p! 

We also had a take away pizza one afternoon and ate it in a local park.    

Ice Cream

You can’t come to Venice as a family and not have Ice Cream.  Fortunately you will find these little Ice Cream shops all over.  This one was actually on Murano and the Ice Cream was fantastic!  Costs:

  • 1 Scoop   – 2 Euros
  • 2 Scoops – 2.50 Euros
  • 3 Scoops – 3.50 Euros

Table Service

We found a great restaurant right on the Rialto Bridge which offered a set two course meal.  This is always helps as you know exactly how much you’ll pay.  We have heard some stories of restaurants charging for meat or fish dishes by the kilo and this not being conveyed clearly enough to customers.  The bill then comes as a bit of a shock!  At the Riva Rialto 2 courses was 12.50 Euros per person. 

The Prosecco was really good here and reasonably priced.  Especially as you can stare at the Rialto bridge whilst drinking it.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

What we did in Venice

The centre of Venice is fairly compact so we managed to get around it several times during our visit.

Before we went we made a list of the things we wanted to see and do.  We then worked out the best way to combine at least a couple of these on each day.  It worked quite well.  This guide really helped.  We did manage to get around all the places we wanted to see and things we wanted to do.

Piazza San Marco/St. Marks Square

St. Mark’s Square or Piazza San Marco is a welcome space in the maze of streets of Venice.  The square itself is huge but always busy.  The buildings here are incredible and include the Clock Tower, the Bell Tower (St. Mark’s Campanile) and the Basilica di San Marco itself. 

Basilica di San Marco

A visit to the Basilica is a must.  When we visited the queue to enter wasn’t too long.  We saw it much longer on another occasion, winding down to the water and back!  If you are considering visiting and notice the queue doesn’t stretch down to the water, our advice would be to get in it!  There were probably between 50 and 100 people in the queue when we joined it but it moved quite quickly.

There are strict rules inside.  Appropriate clothing for a place of worship is required.  No shorts (for women) or revealing clothing are allowed.  Paper shawls are available for a small charge.  No luggage is allowed in, taking of photographs/video is forbidden and the quiet has to be observed.

The Basilica is open most days from 9.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. (except Sundays and holidays where the opening times are 2.00 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.)  Entry is free.

Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs can be seen from the south side of St. Marks Square close to the water’s edge.  This is probably one of the most famous bridges in Venice and one which links the Doge Palace to the cells in the Prigioni. 

A tour can be taken of St. Marks Square Museum which allows entry to Doge’s Palace, Bridge of Sighs and prisons.  There is a fee for this.

Rialto Bridge and Grand Canal

In our opinion the Rialto Bridge is the most impressive bridge in Venice.  Straddling the Grand Canal, It’s usually busy and there are two rows of small shops each side.  There are then three walk ways, one through the middle of the shops and one on each side.  We found our way to the Rialto Bridge and Grand Canal quite easily and it is well sign posted.  It’s hard to miss!

Murano and its glass factories

The island of Murano is quiet in comparison to Venice.  The streets are fewer and there are more open and green spaces.  There are numerous glass factories on Murano and shops selling extremely expensive glass.  We think it’s worth a visit for the change of pace and peace and quiet. 

James Bond movie location

Being James Bond fans we wanted to see two movie locations which appeared in the film Moonraker.  One is the Venini shop in St. Marks’ Square and the other is a glass factory on Murano which houses the glassworks interior.

Wandering the streets

One of the most enjoyable things for us was simply wandering the streets and crossing some of the very many bridges.  Very narrow and sometimes claustrophobic they are like nowhere we’ve been before.  And you never know what you’re going to see!

Thoughts

We really enjoyed our trip to Venice as a family.  It’s so different to any other city we’ve been to.  What fascinated us most was the way they’ve adapted everything you can think of so that it works here.  It may seem obvious that it’s all got to float but it’s still a surprise and a bit of a novelty to see, police boats, fire boats, delivery boats, refuse boats and boats with cranes on!  There were probably things we didn’t see while we were here but we did manage to pack in the main things we wanted to do.

For more things to do check out our post on Things to do in Venice.

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