If you’re planning a trip to Venice, chances are you’ve seen your fair share of gondola photos and videos. Gondolas are one of the most iconic and traditional Venetian experiences, so it’s just normal that you would want to go for a gondola ride while in Venice. However you’ve also heard they’re expensive and touristy, so you’re wondering, is it really worth it? In this guide I’ve included everything you need to know about doing a gondola ride in Venice, including average price, where to book, what to expect and more.
But first, what is a gondola?
A gondola is a traditional Venetian wooden rowing boat with a flat-bottom and high points at each end. It’s very narrow and powered by the gondolier, a man that stands at the back of the gondola and uses a long rowing oar to move the boat. The oar isn’t attached to the gondola, it’s used both for power and direction. Gondolas are the traditional Venetian boats that were used in the canals of Venice for hundreds of years. There used to be about 10,000 but the number has dropped to around 500 today.
How much does a gondola ride cost?
Gondola rides in Venice can be pretty pricey. We wandered around Venice for a while before deciding to do a gondola ride, we checked prices at different gondola stations and were told that the prices were standardised and would be all the same anywhere in Venice. A private gondola ride in Venice is 80 EUR for 25 – 30 minutes and 120 EUR for 45 minutes.
Gondolas can hold up to six people. The price is fixed for the boat so the more people you share it with, the cheaper it is. There is no need to book a gondola ride online, you will easily be able to find available gondolas in Venice. However if you like planning your trips ahead and want to know you have your gondola ride booked and confirmed, you can check out the gondola tours below.
The best place for a gondola ride in Venice
Many people want to do gondola rides close to Piazza San Marco or on the Grand Canal as they think that will have the best views, however in my opinion there is a more tranquil beauty to doing a gondola ride in the quite back canals. Also if you do a gondola ride close to Piazza San Marco you will have to cruise part of it in the open sea, where it can get a bit choppy due to the waves from all the boats.
We started our gondola ride close to Rialto Bridge and found this to be the perfect starting spot since it allowed us to see some very scenic views (I mean just look at those photos of Rialto Bridge!) while also spending some time in the narrow back canals.
What to expect during a gondola ride
Most gondoliers work with tourists every day and should be able to speak at least a little bit of basic English, maybe some French and German too. If you ask them they’ll tell you a bit of sightseeing stories of the places you see during your gondola ride. For example during our gondola ride we cruised past Casanova’s house but we would have never known if our gondolier hadn’t told us. However don’t expect them to sing, I’ve only seen that happen in movies. You can try asking your gondolier if he will serenade you but realistically, I don’t know if he will.
If there is a specific spot you want to go to it’s best to start your gondola ride from somewhere close to it, so that it’s easy to reach. Just ask your gondolier and he should be able to help. If you want to go massively off the beaten canals (see what I did there?) there might be an extra cost. Gondolas are pretty basic boats and don’t have awnings or sun umbrellas, if you’re visiting in summer just bear in mind it can get pretty in the Italian sun. You might want to do your gondola cruise early in the morning or at sunset instead (this is also the best time for photos)!
When you go for a gondola ride in Venice you can expect to spend 25 to 45 minutes on a relaxing cruise, admiring the beauty of the architecture that surrounds you. Some parts of Venice are more relaxing than others, around the Grand Canal and Piazza San Marco it can get quite busy with all the other boats so its up to you whether you want to see the main sights, but risk a bit of boat traffic, or if you’d rather be away from the chaos in smaller side canals. Some of the smaller canals don’t even have pedestrian sidewalks so doing a gondola cruise is the only way to reach them.
Where to stay in Venice
Being the famous tourist destination it is, accommodation in Venice can get very expensive. On my last trip to Venice I stayed at Hotel alle Guglie, which was just inside Venice city, but just outside the main tourist area. It’s a short 15-minute walk away from Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco. Being marginally outside meant it was slightly cheaper than the average and a great value for money.
Should you do a gondola ride in Venice?
Personally, I think you should do a gondola ride in Venice. Yes it’s an extremely touristy attraction and yes it’s very expensive, but it’s also one of the most traditional and unique experiences you can have in Venice. Gondolas allow you to see Venice from a completely different angle; many of the canals we cruised through didn’t even have a pedestrian walking area so you would never be able to visit them on foot. You’re only in Venice once so I’d aim to make the most of it while you’re there, gondola rides are unique to Venice and you don’t want to miss this once in a lifetime experience.
Have you been on a gondola ride before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below! While it’s true that gondola rides are expensive and very touristy, I still think they’re a great experience and unique to Venice. I hope you find this guide useful in planning your trip to Venice and your own gondola ride.