One of Italy’s most iconic activities is riding a gondola through the canals of Venice, also called the “Floating City”. Gondola rides were historically a means of transportation in the 11th century, but it is now exclusively a tourist experience.
Having ridden one in Venice, I share practical tips on riding a gondola for the first time. This post covers:
- 💰 How much a ride costs
- 📍 Best places to catch a ride
- ☀️ Best times to catch a ride
- 💧 Small vs. Grand Canal
- 🎵 Tips on choosing a gondolier
- 🛶 Alternatives to a gondola
- 🤔 Whether it’s worth it
Planning a trip? Here are things to know about Italy before going.
- Gondola Ride Overview
- How Long is a Ride?
- How Much is a Ride?
- Do You Need To Book Ahead?
- Best Place To Get a Ride
- Best Time To Get a Ride
- Choosing a Gondolier
- Tipping a Gondolier
- Is It Worth Riding a Gondola?
- Alternatives To a Gondola Ride
Disclosure: Lists By Lukiih is readers-supported. If you buy through an affiliate link on this post, I may earn a small commission. Thanks!
What’s a Venetian Gondola Ride?
Venetian gondolas are ancient row boats with unique asymmetrical designs that allow one person, the gondolier, to maneuver it with a single oar.
Gondolas are all painted black by law, but the passenger seats can have custom decoration.
One of Venice’s most popular attractions is riding a gondola through its many canals. While in one, visitors can admire the colorful buildings, enjoy the atmosphere, listen to interesting facts about Venice, and be serenaded by a singing gondolier.
Not all gondoliers sing. Read on for tips on choosing a gondolier.
How Long Is a Gondola Ride in Venice?
A standard gondola ride in Venice is 30 minutes long and that’s a sufficient amount of time to enjoy a ride. If you catch one in the right place, you can experience both the iconic Grand Canal and smaller canals during the ride.
You can extend a gondola ride for an additional fee. Due to the high price of a ride, most people don’t ride for longer than an hour.
How Much Does a Gondola Ride Cost in Venice?
A standard 30-minute gondola ride costs €80 (a bit over $85 USD) in Venice.
The City of Venice determines the official rates of gondola rides, so the set price is non-negotiable. You’ll see signs that show the standard rate near any gondola station.
That said, there are a few things that can increase or decrease the cost of a ride:
- If you catch a gondola ride before 7 pm, it’s the standard €80 price. For a longer ride, you can extend the ride by 20 minutes for an additional €40.
- If you catch a gondola ride after 7 pm (around sunset), the price of a 30-minute gondola ride increases to €100. You can extend it by 20 minutes for an additional €50.
- If you want a gondolier to sing, they will charge an additional €20 or more. Not all gondoliers provide this service.
- The standard €80 cost of a gondola ride doesn’t change with the number of passengers, so you can split the ride with other rides to make it cheaper for yourself.
Unless you book a gondola ride online, you’ll need to pay your gondolier in cash, so be sure to bring enough euros.
💰 How To Split a Gondola Ride With Others in Venice
One of the best options to make a gondola ride cheaper is by splitting it with others. A gondola can hold up to five passengers and the gondolier.
Here’s how much a standard 30-minute gondola ride will cost if you split it with others:
|# of Passengers||Price Per Person|
💡 Tips On Splitting a Gondola Ride in Venice
My partner and I didn’t want to pay for a private gondola ride, so we tried to find someone to split it with. We were not successful and ended up taking one by ourselves (which actually turned out great).
If you’re hoping to split a gondola ride with others, here are some tips so that you’re successful (unlike me):
- Book ahead. The only way to guarantee splitting a gondola ride is by booking a gondola ride online which is always split between riders. Otherwise, you’ll have to find someone to split it with in person.
- Be in a touristy area. It’s easier to find other riders if you’re in a popular tourist area (e.g., St. Mark’s Square, Rialto Bridge). In these areas, visitors sometimes have to wait in line for a gondola since they get so busy.
- Don’t catch a ride around sunset. Most tourists seem to ride a gondola in the late morning, early afternoon, or around sunset. Around sunset, many couples are hoping for a romantic private ride.
💰 Why Are Gondola Rides So Expensive?
At €80 for a 30-minute ride, a gondola ride can feel like a tourist rip-off. Understanding why a gondola ride is so expensive can help you mentally justify the cost (or maybe not):
- Gondola boats are hand-made. Each gondola boat is hand-made, takes at least two months to make, and costs over $43,000 USD. Gondoliers own and maintain their own boats.
- There’s a limited number of gondoliers. Gondoliers are part of a guild that controls the number of gondolier licenses (there are ~400 in total and a handful are issued every year). Demand for a gondola ride is high in Venice, so the laws of economics drive the price up.
- Gondoliers have to go through rigorous training. Becoming a gondolier has its benefits (e.g., earning a ~$150,000 USD salary), but to become one, you have to go through 400 hours of training over six months and pass a major exam that some fail.
🎟️ Do You Need to Book a Gondola Ride Ahead in Venice?
No, you do not need to book gondola rides in advance.
Booking rides ahead is generally cheaper, but that’s only because you’re splitting the ride with others. Many of the gondola rides booked ahead will be full and you’ll see that customers’ reviews vary widely.
If you want your Venice trip to be pre-booked and you have the budget for it, the most well-rated five-star experiences tend to be private, custom tours.
Best Place To Get a Gondola Ride in Venice
You can get a gondola ride in any of Venice’s six districts.
The majority of them will be near Piazza San Marco, where the tourists are, but that’s not necessarily the best place to get a ride.
🎵 Narrow Canals vs. The Grand Canal Experience
There are two types of Venice canals you can go through on a gondola:
- The Grand Canal, which is wide, touristy, and scenic
- Smaller canals, which are usually narrow, quiet, and authentic
Gondoliers have a few set routes they can take depending on the starting location of their gondolas. This means that the starting point of your ride determines your route and experience.
The different routes can be split into three types: touristy, serene, or combo. I think the combo route is the best way to ride a gondola.
📍 Option 1: Tourist Route
- Pros: Going to these places is the easiest way to get a gondola ride as they’re readily available at any time of the day. You’ll also get to see iconic landmarks, including Doge’s Palace, Bridge of Sighs, and the Rialto Bridge.
- Cons: The tourist areas are crowded and there might be a wait for a gondola depending on the time you visit. Your route will also be mostly or entirely along the busy Grand Canal, which is very touristy, so you won’t experience any of the authentic, small canals.
📍 Option 2: Serene Route
If you don’t care to experience the Grand Canal at all and want to float along the quiet, local, narrow canals the entire time, you can grab a gondola ride away from the Grand Canal.
It’ll be harder to find a gondolier in these quieter canals as there will be fewer of them, but if you walk around long enough, you will eventually see a gondola station.
📍 Option 3: Combo Route (Best Route)
I recommend catching a gondola ride from a location where you can experience the quiet, authentic, smaller canals of Venice for about 20 minutes and then experience the expansive Grand Canal for roughly 10 minutes. This combination will give you the best gondola ride in my opinion.
The yellow circles on the map above are some potential places where you can get a route that combines both. The green circle on the map is where I caught my gondola ride.
Based on what I saw during my Venice trip, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have thought my gondola ride was “worth it” had I been on the Grand Canal the entire time due to the crowds.
Before boarding a gondola in a small canal, ask the gondolier which route they plan to take. Some of the nicer gondoliers will give you a few options depending on the weather and how busy it is. My gondolier gave me a few routes to choose from.
When To Get a Gondola Ride in Venice
Gondola rides are available daily from morning to night, typically from 9 am to 9 pm, with some gondoliers available earlier or later.
☀️ Best Times For a Gondola Ride in Venice
Here are two of the best times to get ride a gondola ride:
- Early morning (before 9 am) and nighttime (after 8 pm) are the best times for a gondola ride if you want to avoid the crowds. The Venice canals will largely be empty and quiet, so you’ll have a serene boat ride.
- Sunset (6:30–7 pm) is the best time for a romantic gondola ride if you want beautiful lighting for stunning photos. I took my ride a bit before this timeframe around 6 pm because I wanted to avoid the increase in price at 7 pm.
⏰ Worst Times For a Gondola Ride in Venice
Late mornings and early afternoons (11 am–3 pm) are usually the most crowded, so those will be the most hectic times to ride a gondola.
If you’re in Venice during the summer months, those are also the sunniest times of the day so make sure to bring some sunblock or shade.
For another romantic place in Italy, visit Lake Como, home of stunning villas and botanical gardens.
Tips for Choosing a Gondolier in Venice
Like other tour guides, gondoliers vary in knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm.
My gondolier was entertaining and energetic, but not all gondoliers were like him based on what I saw. Some looked like they spent more time checking their phones than interacting with their passengers.
Here are three tips when choosing a gondolier:
💬 1. Talk to the gondolier for a bit beforehand.
Before you decide to get on a gondola, talk to the gondolier for a bit if they’re available (they won’t be during busy times, especially in popular areas like St. Mark’s Square).
Exchanging a few sentences with a gondolier will give you an idea if they’re energetic or entertaining at that moment. You’ll find that some gondoliers are more enthusiastic than others to get work.
🎶 2. Ask the gondolier if they sing.
Not all gondoliers sing, so if you’re hoping for a singing one, ask ahead if that’s something they do before you get into the gondola. Singing costs an additional $20 to $30 USD.
Gondoliers must wear the standard striped shirt and black pants uniform, but the straw hat with a ribbon is optional. If you want the complete classic uniform, also look for a gondolier with a straw hat.
👩 3. You can ride with a female gondolier.
Due to traditional norms (e.g., the gondolier role is historically handed down from father to son), all but one gondolier today is a woman.
Giorgia Boscolo became the first and only female gondolier in 2010. However, it might be challenging to find her (I tried with no success).
Should You Tip a Gondolier in Venice?
Tipping in Italy is not mandatory, but tipping a tour guide is common and gondoliers fall in that category of workers.
If you enjoyed your ride, a 10% tip is standard for a gondolier. If you had an almost full boat, consider at least adding a 5% to 10% tip similar to a service charge in a restaurant.
🍀 My Experience: I gave my gondolier a 10% tip because I found him knowledgeable, highly entertaining, and energetic. Not all gondoliers were like him though. Some seemed tired and jaded with their work.
All my travel expenses are shared in this Italy trip cost breakdown.
Is It Worth Riding a Gondola in Venice?
Now that you know that riding a gondola in Venice is iconic, but expensive, the question becomes: Is the experience worth it?
To provide some guidance, here are the highlights and lowlights of riding one.
🌟 Highlights of a Venice Gondola Ride
Here are the best things about riding a gondola:
- Riding a gondola is a unique experience. You get to experience Venice how it was experienced a thousand years ago and look at it from a different perspective. Watching colorful buildings slowly float by in a serene atmosphere feels special and is hard to describe, even after having done it.
- An expert gondolier is entertaining and knowledgeable. My gondolier was one of the best parts of the gondola ride. He shared interesting tidbits about the canals and entertained some of my spontaneous questions about Venice and his profession, all with high energy.
- It’s fun to wave at people. This one may sound a bit odd, but people on canal bridges tend to like to wave at gondola passengers. I had a good time casually waving at other tourists and thought it was an interesting way to people-watch.
👎 Lowlights of a Venice Gondola Ride
Here are the worst things about riding a gondola:
- The canals of Venice can smell. Venice is a city after all, and when the tide is low and trash is being exposed, it can smell a bit like sewage.
- A shared gondola ride may not be ideal. If you want to save money and skip a private gondola ride, you may not get neighbors you particularly like (e.g., maybe they have loud kids, want to hog all the most picturesque moments, and talk too much).
- Your gondolier may not put in a lot of effort. Every gondolier is different and they can make or break your experience depending on how their work day is going.
- It’s very expensive. As noted above, riding a gondola is pricey and can feel like a tourist rip-off. See below for alternative ways of seeing the Grand Canal.
Some people consider the gondola ride a lifetime experience. I don’t think riding one is an absolute must-do, but it’s certainly a memorable experience.
This Venice itinerary shares other great things to do in the city.
Alternatives to Riding a Gondola in Venice
If riding an authentic gondola in Venice is too expensive for your budget or not appealing, there are alternatives.
Here are other ways to be in the Venice canals:
- Thragetto. A traghetto is a similar wooden boat rowed by two oarsmen instead of a gondolier. At €2 per person, they are a much cheaper way to cross the Grand Canal compared to a gondola. They can look similar to a gondola to an untrained eye, but they are a different type of boat.
- Water taxis. A water taxi is a motorized boat that is mostly used as transportation in Venice. They can be cheaper or more expensive than a gondola depending on the type of water taxi and your departing and arriving destinations.
- Vaporetto. A vaporetto, also called a water bus, is a motorized, large cruise boat that you’ll see on the Grand Canal. They can cost anywhere between €7 to €25 per person depending on your ticket type.
- Kayak. For a less traditional way to explore the canals, you can also kayak. This is one of the few ways you can see the narrow canals without being in a gondola.
- Rowing lessons. For an off-the-beaten-path way to explore the Venice canals, you also take rowing lessons that visitors seem to love.
If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.
Italy Travel Guides
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- ⛰️ How to Hike Cinque Terre Guide: Best Trails + Tips
- 🛶 One Amazing Day in Venice: Best Full-Day Itinerary
- 🛶 Best Gondola Rides in Venice: Tips + What To Know
- 🌷 How To Plan a Lake Como Day Trip: Itinerary + Map
- 👨🏻🎨 3 Perfect Days in Florence: Best Itinerary + Map
- 🧀 Parma, Italy: 1-Day Itinerary + 14 Great Things To Do
- 💰 Trip to Italy Cost: 2023 Travel Expense Breakdown
🧋 This site is run entirely by me, Lukiih. I spend hours researching each destination to ensure its accuracy. If you find my tips helpful, say thanks by buying me bubble tea!