๐Ÿšฃโ€โ™‚๏ธ Gondola Ride in Venice: Firsthand Review & Tips

A woman standing on a boat in a narrow canal with colorful buildings surrounding it.
๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Overall Rating6.6
๐Ÿฆ„ UniquenessHigh
๐Ÿ˜Š EnjoymentModerate
๐Ÿ’ฐ ValueVery Expensive
๐ŸŽ’ PreparationVery Minimal
Overall Rating is based on a weighted average of factors (learn more).

Riding a gondola through the Venice canals is one of Italy’s most iconic activities. Here, I review my experience with a coherent rating system before sharing firsthand tips.

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๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Overall Rating

6.6
I recommend riding a gondola in Venice โ€“ it’s worth it if you have a flexible budget.

My overall rating is based on a weighted average of four factors travelers consider important when assessing an experience. I break down the factors in my review below.

Verdict

Riding a gondola through Venice’s canals is a unique experience that’s distinctive to Venice. It’s a delightful ride that can be made extraordinary by a good gondolier.

However, it’s a very expensive experience that borders on feeling like a tourist trap, so I recommend it only if you don’t have a tight budget.

Very minimal preparation is required, but I recommend picking a good spot to catch one if you want to experience both the narrow canals and the Grand Canal.

A woman sitting on a boat floating on a small canal surrounded by colorful buildings.
Venice gondola ride

Planning a trip? Here’s what to know about Italy.

๐Ÿ† Where Does It Rank?

Riding a gondola in Venice ranks as my #7 thing to do in Italy. Here’s how it compares to other experiences on my trip:

#ExperienceLocationOverall Rating
1โ›ฐ๏ธ Cinque Terre HikeLiguria8.0
2๐Ÿฅ– Cicchetti by CanalsVenice7.6
3๐Ÿ’ง Lake Como Day TripLombardy7.3
4๐ŸŽจ Sistine Chapel / Vatican CityRome7.3
5๐Ÿท Tuscany Wine TourFlorence7.1
6๐ŸŒŠ Trevi FountainRome6.8
7๐Ÿšฃโ€โ™‚๏ธ Gondola RideVenice6.6
8๐Ÿ–ผ๏ธ Uffizi GalleryFlorence6.5
9๐ŸŸ๏ธ ColosseumRome6.4
10๐Ÿฐ Brunelleschiโ€™s DomeFlorence6.4
11โ˜€๏ธ Michelangelo PlazaFlorence6.3
12๐Ÿฐ St. Mark’s SquareVenice6.3
13๐ŸŒน Rose GardenFlorence6.1
14๐Ÿง€ Parma Day TripEmilia-Romagna5.9
15๐Ÿ Pasta Making ClassFlorence5.7
16๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธ Spanish StepsRome5.5
17๐ŸŒ‰ Rialto BridgeVenice5.1
18๐ŸŒณ Boboli GardensFlorence4.9
Overall Rating is calculated using Lukiihโ€™s rating system.

See myย Italy itineraryย featuring the experiences above.

โœˆ๏ธ About My Trip

For context on my review, here’s what to know about my trip:

  • ๐Ÿ€ย Self-fundedย โ€“ I finance my trips and don’t receive sponsorship, so this review reflects my honest opinions.
  • ๐Ÿ—“๏ธ 2022 โ€“ This post has updated 2024 information, but I rode a Venetian gondola in 2022.
  • โ˜€๏ธ Low season โ€“ My Italy trip was in May when it was less crowded and expensive.

๐Ÿฆ„ Uniqueness: High

The Uniqueness Score is based on how rare and memorable an experience is.

Rarity: Rare

A Venetian gondola ride is a rare experience, as the only authentic gondola ride is in Venice.

๐Ÿ’Ž What Makes It Rare?

  • For centuries, gondolas were a common method of transportation through the Venice canals, making them an authentic and historical experience in Italy.
  • Authentic Venetian gondolas are hand-made and have unique asymmetrical designs. Gondoliers undergo rigorous training, and their licenses are limited and controlled by a guild.

๐ŸŒ What Makes It Less Rare?

  • Although no place can replicate Venice’s atmosphere and history, several tourist destinations worldwide offer gondola rides. These include Las Vegas in the United States, Venetian Macao in Macau, and Venetian Village in the UAE.

Memorability: High

Riding a gondola through Venice’s canals was one of my most memorable experiences in Italy.

๐Ÿ“ธ What Makes It Memorable?

  • Floating quietly on the canal, past the colorful buildings of Venice, has a notably different atmosphere compared to just walking around.

๐Ÿ’ค What Makes It Forgettable?

  • Rides are typically only 30 minutes long. You don’t go far, so your experience heavily depends on your specific route.

See the best places to catch a ride below.

๐Ÿ˜Š Enjoyment: Low

The Enjoyment Score is based on how much happiness and reward an experience provides.

Happiness: Moderate

I found the gondola ride decently fun and delightful.

๐Ÿ˜ƒ What Makes It Enjoyable?

  • Aside from the serene and beautiful aesthetics, a good gondolier makes the ride informative and entertaining.
  • Waving at different tourists on the canal bridges was delightful.

Not all gondoliers sing, so ask if thatโ€™s something they do if that’s important to you. Singing costs an additional fee.

Three people taking a selfie on a boat in a small canal. One man is standing and wearing a striped shirt.
Entertainment gondolier

Gondoliers have historically been men, so all but one are women today. Giorgia Boscolo became the first and only female gondolier in 2010. It might be challenging to find her; I tried but failed.

๐Ÿ˜ฅ What Makes It Less Enjoyable?

  • Venice is a city, and when the tide is low, trash is exposed and smells like sewage.
  • Every gondolier is different, so some may not put in much effort to make your experience special.

Reward: Low

Riding a gondola is not a particularly rewarding experience.

๐ŸŒŸ What Makes It Rewarding?

  • It’s a bit enriching in that this is an authentically historical experience, as you see Venice the same way it was experienced a thousand years ago.

๐ŸŒŸ What Makes It Rewarding?

  • Riding a gondola is pleasant, but it won’t enlighten you.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Value: Very Expensive

The Value Score is determined by the price divided by the duration of an experience. All prices mentioned here are in USD.

Price: $90 PP

A standard 30-minute gondola ride in Venice costs โ‚ฌ90 (roughly $98 USD). I last checked prices in May 2024.

The City of Venice determines the official rates, so the price is non-negotiable. However, certain factors can increase the price.

The cost is fixed and split by the number of passengers. A gondola can hold up to five passengers, not including the gondolier, so if you find other riders, you can pay as little as $19.

Two people standing on a blue boat in a big canal surrounded by colorful buildings.
Grand Canal gondola ride

Seeย my Italy trip expenses.

๐ŸŽ’ Preparation: Very Minimal

The Preparation Score is based on the required skills & fitness, transportation, and bookings & packing. The higher the score, the less preparation is needed.

Skills & Fitness: None

You don’t need any skills or fitness to ride a gondola. You’ll need to step onto the gondola and balance briefly, but the gondolier can help you.

Transportation: Very Easy & Short

Gondoliers are available in all six of Venice’s districts. Most gondola rides are concentrated around St. Markโ€™s Square or Rialto Bridge, where the tourists are concentrated.

However, if you catch a ride in a tourist hot spot, you may not be able to experience the smaller, serene canals as gondoliers have set routes they can take.

Scroll down for the best places and best times to catch a ride.

Booking & Packing: None

Riding a gondola doesnโ€™t require any advanced booking or packing. The two things to keep in mind are:

  • You don’t need to book a ride ahead; you can easily catch one when you see a gondolier or gondola station in Venice.

Booking a ride online is entirely optional. But it’s the only way to guarantee splitting the ride with others to save on the costly price.

  • Bring euros, as gondoliers only accept cash (they do not carry credit card readers).

How To Guide & Tips

Interested in riding a gondola in Venice after reading my review? Below is a practical how-to guide and firsthand tips.

When Do Price Increase

Although the price is non-negotiable, there are a few things that can increase or decrease the cost of a gondola ride in Venice:

  • ๐ŸŒ… Timing โ€“ A 30-minute ride is the standard โ‚ฌ90 price before 7 pm. After 7 pm (around sunset), the price increases to โ‚ฌ110.
  • โฐ Ride duration โ€“ Before 7pm, you can extend the ride by 20 minutes for an additional โ‚ฌ45. After 7 pm, the price increases to โ‚ฌ55 for extra time.
  • ๐ŸŽถ Singing โ€“ If you want a gondolier to sing, they will charge an additional โ‚ฌ20 or more. Not all gondoliers provide this service.

Remember that the total cost is fixed. It will be cheaper if you split the ride with others.

Top of guide โ†‘

Best Places & Routes

There are two types of Venice canals you can pass through on a gondola:

  • The Grand Canal โ€“ wide, touristy, and scenic
  • Smaller canals โ€“ narrow, quiet, and authentic

Gondoliers have a few set routes they can take depending on the starting location. This means that the starting point of your ride determines your route.

A map of Venice with circular dots highlighting different locations to catch a gondola ride.
Venice gondola ride map

I divide the routes into touristy, serene, and combo, and I think the latter is the best.

  • ๐Ÿ“Tourist route โ€“ Most rides will be where the tourists are concentrated, around St. Markโ€™s Square or Rialto Bridge (see red circles on the map).
    • Pros: These places are the easiest way to get a ride, as theyโ€™re available anytime. Youโ€™ll see iconic landmarks like the Dogeโ€™s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, and the Rialto Bridge.
    • Cons: These areas are crowded, and there might be a line depending on the time of day. Your route will also be mostly or entirely along the busy Grand Canal, so you wonโ€™t experience the authentic, small canals.
  • ๐Ÿ“ Serene route โ€“ If you donโ€™t want to experience the Grand Canal, you can also catch a ride that only passes through the narrow canals.

Finding a gondolier in these quieter canals will be more challenging as there will be fewer of them, but if you walk around long enough, you will eventually see a gondola station.

  • ๐Ÿ“ Combo route โ€“ I recommend catching a ride from a location where you can experience the smaller canals for 20 minutes and the busy Grand Canal for 10 minutes. The yellow circles on the map above are potential places to get a route that combines both. The green circle on the map is where I caught my ride.

Top of guide โ†‘

Best Times

Gondola rides are available daily from morning to night, typically from 9 am to 9 pm.

  • ๐Ÿ‘ Best times โ€“ To avoid crowds, the best times to catch a ride are in the early morning (before 9 am) and nighttime (after 9 pm). Sunset time (6:30 to 7 pm) is also great for beautiful lighting and stunning photos.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ Worst times โ€“ Late mornings and early afternoons (11 am to 3 pm) are usually the most crowded, so those will be the most hectic times to ride one.

If youโ€™re in Venice during the summer, bring sunblock or shade, as most of the ride is exposed.

Top of guide โ†‘

Italy Trip Planner 2024

To make your travel preparation easier, download the trip planner below. It has destination-specific travel information, itinerary, map, and packing list.

My trip planners are built on Notion, which I use for all my travel planning. I genuinely love this tool and creating an account is free.

Three Notion template screenshots are shown: travel information, itinerary, and map + packing list templates.
Preview of Italy trip planner.

Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below.

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2 Comments

  1. Candice

    Great advice Lukiih! Weโ€™re headed to Venice in a few weeks and love your idea of a gondola ride that covers quiet canals as well as some of the grand canal. Iโ€™m curious on how you located your gondolier. Was he in a square? On the water? Iโ€™m still getting used to the limited amount of โ€œsidewalkโ€ areas there are next to the canals. Along a fondamenta? Thanks!

    1. Lukiih

      Hey Candice, thanks! If the gondolier isn’t actively rowing other tourists, they will generally be standing near gondolier signs that also state the official price of a ride. I just walked around the small canals looking for the signs and for the uniform and found several without a problem. Good luck!

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