Gondola ride in Venice: Is it worth it? (Photos + tips)
Heading to the City of Canals and wondering if a gondola ride in Venice is worth it? Let us share our experience; and important information that you must know before making your decision!
Is Gondola ride in Venice worth it? The Complete Guide
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Venice is a popular Italian destination. It is a city in northeastern Italy that is sited on a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges.
Located in the marshy Venetian Lagoon, Venice is renowned for the beauty of its setting, architecture, and artwork. The lagoon and a part of the city are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Venice is one of the most romantic cities in the world, and a gondola ride through the canals is often cited as a must-do activity here.
The city of Venice has been called “La Serenissima”, in reference to its title as one of the “Most Serene Republics”. This is because it was an independent and sovereign state for many centuries, and its history spans over 11 centuries.
With so much maritime history and the existence of water networks, you must be wondering why the gondola? So in this guide below, we will share everything that you need to know about hiring gondolas in Venice and its heritage.
History of Venetian Gondola
Venetian Gondolas have existed since the late 11th century. In the beginning, they were used as means of transport only on a series of six islands, that were located at the edge of the Adriatic Sea.
They became a great way to get around the lagoon’s islands, and today, it is a symbol of the city itself!
At the height of the Republic of Venice, there were about eight to ten thousand gondolas, but there are only around four hundred in active service today. They are all in use for tourism purposes. So when you hire a gondola, it’s being a part of its history!
Since its early days, the shape of the gondola has changed. And it took about a thousand years for it to evolve to what it is today – a beautiful, sleek, and cool gondola – painted in black with designs in gold.
And, of course, the gondolier dressed in their recognizable attire!
About the gondoliers: Guide to Venice gondola ride
The man in a striped sweater and black pants is the gondolier. Gondoliers have been in existence for over 1,000 years. In the past, gondoliers served the aristocracy and were mostly Moorish slaves.
Licenses are issued to gondoliers by the city of Venice. Most gondoliers descend from a family of gondoliers who are inspired to continue their lineage.
Gondoliers are always seen dressed in striped clothing, with black pants, and they won’t be operating a gondola without wearing it. They navigate through the floating city like no other – pushing walls, maneuvering smaller canals, under bridges whilst taking you through the nook and cranny of Venice.
They speak Italian, and some might communicate in English too. It is very rare to see a gondolier offering a guided tour with narration.
So if you need a guide, you can, however, book a shared gondola ride with a commentary (similar to sightseeing cruises). Here is a shared gondola tour. Check availability here.
Pro tip: When hiring a gondola on your own, always ask or confirm the route from the gondolier. We recommend that you opt for a mix of popular sites and smaller alleyways to explore the city from various perspectives.
How much is a gondola ride in Venice? Gondola ride venice tickets | Venice gondola ride cost
The cost of a gondola ride in Venice depends on the fact – if you want to enjoy it by yourself and a loved one, or share it with others.
The standard rate is 80 euros for a 25 to 30 minute gondola ride. At night (after 7:00 pm), however, a gondola ride cost is 100 euros for a private 25 to 30 minutes tour. These rates are fixed, and cannot be negotiated.
This cost is not per person, but for the route/ride. So you can ride a gondola in Venice with a maximum of 5 people for 80 euros. Or if you are a couple, and want to take a private ride it will be 80 euros as well.
If you require additional time on the gondola, you can pay for it in increments of 20 minutes. The charge is €40 and it needs to be confirmed prior to taking the trip. The official prices for gondola rides are posted here.
Note that you can only pay by cash at the gondola station. You can pay for it once the ride is completed.
- The cheapest gondola ride in Venice will be a shared ride, done during the daytime.
- The best gondola ride in Venice is to do it privately and in the evening. Sunset is the best time to enjoy all the views and vibes of the Grand Canal.
Some travelers have mentioned that you could get a cheaper ride (for less than €60 for 30 minutes) when it is off-season. Because these prices are officially set, you won’t be able to negotiate this, unless you are offered by the gondolier himself!
Sometimes there are specials and offers on the GetYourGuide tour’s website, so we recommend checking it in advance, especially if you want to save some money.
Private Gondola Ride: We opted for this ride. You can book this ride here
Shared Gondola Ride: There are a lot of options for shared rides with and without commentary or guides.
- Shared ride without commentary: This is one of the cheapest gondola rides available. It is valid for 30 minutes, and shared by 5 other guests. Check out the current price here
- Shared ride with commentary: This is a 35 minute shared gondola tour (5 guests). Live commentary is provided in English and Italian, and many other languages via a mobile app. Check availability here
We recommend doing this activity for your one day in Venice itinerary. You will surely love and appreciate the city’s network of canals and admire its architecture and centuries-old tradition.
Where are the gondola rides in Venice? Gondola stations
There are multiple areas including gondola stations from where you can hire one. When you book tickets online, you will get the starting point of the gondola tour.
Keep in mind if you are choosing a tour with commentary, the meeting point is essential to contact the guide.
Campo San Luca is a popular station to get on a private gondola ride. And this is where we started ours. You can book this ride here.
Another option is to hire one from the Bauer gondola station (located in front of Hotel Bauer and close to Saint Mark’s Square). This is a popular starting point, you can reserve it here online.
Other than the main stations, there are a few smaller, but popular spots where gondoliers will be hanging out and looking for guests. You can find them near bridges, canal side or by the pier.
There are gondoliers by the Gritti Palace (hotel) – Santa Maria del Giglio. Campo SM Formosa, located in the district of Castello (northeast part of St. Mark’s Square) also has Gondolas waiting for you to hire.
You can also take a Gondola ride from the Ponte de Canonica, located just behind the Doge’s Palace.
You can easily find a gondola for hire, when in Venice. They do not have to be reserved ahead of time. Simply look for signs, confirm the price, the route that you are interested in, and the number of people, and pick one to start the ride.
Remember to carry cash and pay the gondolier once the ride/route is done. The price of the gondola is for the ride, not per person. So if you are a family of 4, the price per person is cheaper, versus a couple or single on a 30 minute ride.
Gondola Ride in Venice: What to expect?
A gondola ride is a luxurious activity to do in Venice. Vintage style cushioned seats, with ornate designs, and meticulous gondoliers – maneuvering through the small alleys, ducking down when approaching a bridge, or pushing the walls to make a turn to get you going – all this sounds like royalty, isn’t it? And it is how we felt.
As soon as you pick a gondola you like, the gondolier will let you in gracefully and take you through the Venetian waters.
Just like you, we were debating if we should get a gondola ride for Salil and me.
We took a Vaporetto to get to the Grand Canal from the neighborhood of Maestre, and I was hooked. I kept looking outside, wanting to photograph the beautiful buildings and gondolas.
So we just booked a private ride for ourselves in the afternoon. And I am glad we did!
Our private tour lasted 35 minutes, and I also decided to do a photo shoot as I wanted the trip to be memorable. We had ample time for photos as well as to enjoy the ride. When you are on a short trip to Venice, hopping on a gondola ride will allow you to discover more districts.
After having experienced a private tour, we can share that there is no way to see many amazing parts of Venice without this gondola ride. It was actually very beautiful, and with the lovely breeze blowing…ahh…it was priceless!
If you are thinking of photographing the Bridge of Sighs or the Rialto Bridge, you will get a better angle and a unique perspective from the waters. Read our guide on Venice Instagram Spots to get our photo tips!
Riding the gondola also gives you a different angle from the water and you get a much better view of many structures.
Alternatives to Venice gondola rides
When we asked our followers on Instagram if they did a gondola ride, many said they didn’t opt for one, mainly due to money/budget (not enough time being the second reason).
A private gondola ride is definitely fancy, luxurious, and a memorable experience. But for whatever reason you feel that it is not for you (budget constraints, accessibility issues, etc.), then we recommend looking at the alternatives below.
We think that experiencing Venice through its network of waterways is a great way to explore the city, but of course, it is not the only way.
First up, if cost is an issue, opt for a shared ride. You can also book it as a tour with a commentary online (on GetYourGuide) and save money when they run their specials.
Secondly, other than traditional gondolas, there are ferries, small boats, water taxis, and buses (Vaporetto) that will allow you to see Venice from the waters.
A water bus or Vaporetto is a nice way to enjoy the Grand Canal as you navigate to/from various districts in Venice. A Vaporetto will be cheap (2.50 euros, or less with a savings pass), plus it is very accessible (strollers, big bags, etc).
When visiting Venetian Islands like Burano or Murano, you will be using a Vaporetto. You can also book a tour to see these islands, and that will give you room to enjoy your own space on the Vaporetto (when booked as a small group tour, as they won’t be overcrowded).
Burano, Murano, and Torcello can be visited as day trips from Venice.
If you are flying into Venice, then you can also use a water taxi to get to Grand Canal from Marco Polo Airport.
There are ferry terminals located near St Mark’s Square or San Marco Piazza (by the promenade) and you can ride on it to get a great view of the Grand Canal.
Although in a group, it may not be as romantic or intimate, it will still give you an opportunity to explore Venice from the waters – which is what you MUST do!
Have more questions? We will answer them below,
Gondola rates are fixed. At the time of writing (2022), it is 80 euros for 30 minutes. This cost is not per person, but for the route/ride. So you can ride a gondola in Venice with a maximum of 5 people for 80 euros. If you are a couple, (private ride) it will be 80 euros as well.
Gondola rides cost higher in the evening or after sunset.
No. You do not need to make reservations online. You will find plenty of gondoliers at various stations, or by bridges waiting to be hired. Only remember that their rates are fixed unless they offer you something fantastic. Carry cash, and pay the gondolier once the route is completed.
We liked both Gondola Bauer and Campo San Luca for gondola hire. But anywhere is fine really, and rates are fixed for the duration!
Typically, hours are from 11:00 AM to 7:30 PM during the day. But it is best after 07:00 pm (100 euros per ride 30 minutes) for epic sunset views.
Should you go on a Gondola ride in Venice? Is a Gondola ride for you?
Riding a gondola in Venice is absolutely worth it!
Is it touristy? Yes, it is! Probably every travel guidebook will say that. But everything in Venice is touristy, you know…. the city gets about 5 million visitors per year.
Although it’s pricey, it’s one of the things that Venice is known for. These gondolas have existed since the 11th century, and they allow you to see many amazing parts of Venice that aren’t possible without navigating through the waterways.
A gondola ride will allow you to see and appreciate the city’s canals, and how it has survived and existed for centuries.
Enjoying a gondola ride is quintessentially Venetian. We like to experience ‘things’ that a destination is known for, and so we couldn’t skip a gondola ride.
When we took the private ride, it felt wonderful soaking in every inch of Venice from the waters. Riding the gondola will also give you a different angle from the water and you get a much better view of many structures. Plus it’s great for pictures – what’s not to like?
Trust us, there’s no better way to see this magical place than by a gondola! You can use a water taxi and Vaporetto (public water bus) to experience a ride on the Grand Canal, but the traditional Venetian gondola ride is hard to beat!
Would you opt for a gondola ride?