A gondola ride in Venice is on everyone’s bucket list, but everyone has mixed opinions about whether it’s worth it. I’m a believer. In fact, I believe it’s the only way to experience Venice in the way that the city was intended to be traveled! Gondola rides can be expensive but they don’t have to be! We travel during shoulder season, and we’ve never paid more than 90 euro for a gondola ride. Fortunately, I know a few ways to enjoy a gondola ride in Venice, so hear me out!
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Choosing a Time of Day
Gondola, gondola, gondola. All day long, you’ll hear gondoliers calling to you. My first gondola ride was on our honeymoon in Venice. Though I had been to Venice twice before, I felt like this romantic activity should be saved for a special occasion, and what a special occasion is was!
Morning Gondola Rides
We decided to take our gondola ride on Sunday morning around 10:00. Venice wakes up a bit more slowly on Sundays, so we experienced the city coming alive. After negotiating for a 45 minute ride, we boarded our gondola near Rialto. Our gondolier took us on a well-worn path through the side canals and finished in the Grand Canal. (Don’t forget to kiss under Rialto!) While we enjoyed our gondola ride, the midday sun made it feel a little less romantic. I can see the morning time being perfect for families though. There is plenty to see and you can ask your gondolier for a guided tour of the landmarks. Our gondolier was proactive in pointing out the important buildings. We felt like we got a great overview of the city, but it wasn’t exactly the romantic trip I had envisioned.
Sunset / Blue Hour Gondola Rides
On our second trip to Venice, I booked a walking tour that included a gondola ride. (This is the most cost effective option.) Our tour started in late afternoon and we boarded a gondola on the Grand Canal near sunset. We experienced blue hour during our gondola ride. I will say it’s definitely one of the magic hours in Venice. The thing to know about this tour is that you’ll be with a group. Our gondola included 4 other people and my husband and I weren’t able to sit together. In retrospect, I might have asked if we could, but I was not comfortable saying anything. That made it a little less romantic, but without a doubt, it’s the most beautiful time to see Venice by gondola. The sunsets in Venice are absolutely stunning.
The downside is that there can be a lot of gondola traffic during this time of day, but your gondolier will expertly navigate it. Trust their judgement!
Late Night Gondola Rides
On our third trip to Venice, we decided to try and find a gondolier on an impulse. It was close to 10:00 and many gondoliers had gone home for the evening. Eventually, we found a gondolier packing up near San Marco, and we convinced him to give us a ride. He agreed to a 30 minute ride, and we ventured down the canals behind the Hotel Danieli and through Castello. It was mostly silent except for the gondola cutting through the water. We found this to be very romantic and enjoyed snuggling on a cool evening in Venice. I don’t recommend this for your first gondola ride because you can’t see as much, but it’s certainly the most romantic option.
The Cheap Thrill Gondola Ride in Venice
If you are on a budget and a gondola ride isn’t in the cards, you can always board a traghetto to cross the Grand Canal. It’s two euros per person and it can be a little intimidating. Sometimes you will stand. Other times they will let you sit. You need good balance and you’ll want to do what the oarsmen say. (See the photo below for Tom on the traghetto, lol.) It’s similar to a gondola and it won’t break the bank. (It’s also good for those with limited time.) You can skip the vaporetto – no matter what people say, that’s nothing like a gondola. A vaporetto cruise is a great way to see the sights of the Grand Canal, but it’s not a stand-in for a gondola ride in Venice.
The bottom line is this: use a boat to get around Venice at some point during your trip. It’s how the city was design and it’s a trip back in time. This isn’t an ordinary city and a gondola isn’t an ordinary boat.