No trip to Venice is complete without an iconic boat ride in a typical Venetian gondola. For centuries the gondola was the primary means of transportation around Venice. In a city with no roads built entirely on the water it can be quite difficult to get around. With all of Venice’s canals, gondolas made it easy to quickly cross where there is no bridge or transport goods around the city.
How much does it cost?
While riding a gondola is just about the most Venetian thing you can do, the experience does not come cheap. All the prices throughout the city are fixed so a 40 minute ride will run you €80 or about $100. Prices increase for additional time and while these are sometimes set, there may be room to negotiate on additional time.
If you’re traveling alone, consider a group tour with Turive. They offer two hour tours including a 30 minute gondola ride daily for only 49€. For budget travelers, I recommend arranging a gondola ride through your hostel. The gondolas can hold up to 6 people so the ride could come down to around 15€ per person if you can put together a group.
Where can I get one?
There are numerous stops to get a gondola around the city all of which do small tours in the area of the stop before returning to their starting location. That means that if you’re interested in the Grand Canal, you can catch a gondola there and tour that part of Venice or catch one down by the Basilica di San Marco for a little different view. We personally got ours right on the water in front of Palazzo Ducale next to the Basilica which gave us an excellent view of the Campo San Giorgio church in the distance.
What is the best time to ride a gondola?
The best time to get a gondola is about one hour before sunset depending on the length of your trip. For a 40 minute trip, leaving one hour before will give you the perfect amount of light for those golden hour photos. The lighting at this time is best near Palazzo Ducale.
For the Grand Canal, I recommend 1-2 hours before sunset as it is not exposed to the open water and therefore the building shadows will block a lot of the light. You will want the sun to be a bit higher so earlier is better.
If you’re particularly interested in taking pictures inside the narrow canals, midday is generally the best time as the sun will be directly overhead and actually reach into the canals. Usually the lighting quality within the narrow canals is poor because the tall buildings block out much of the sun. Midday is the only time the sun is able to reach these places.