What To Expect From A Gondola Ride In Venice

Last Updated on May 12, 2021

Gondolas In Venice

A gondola ride is on the bucket list of many visitors to the “City of Canals”. The elegant gondolas in Venice are one of the iconic symbols of the city. During your gondola ride, you will experience the serene beauty of  Venice. As you float through the small and romantic canals that act as the Venice roads, you’ll be taken back in time as you experience doing what the Venetian people did for centuries.

There are often many questions surrounding a gondola ride and what to expect. In this post, we share with you everything we know about gondolas, based on our experience.

Here is everything you should know about a gondola ride in Venice:

  Venice back alley canal

What Is A Gondola Ride?

A gondola is a long and narrow flat-bottomed boat with a high prow and stern. It is a traditional Venetian rowing boat that looks like a cross between a canoe and a coffin. It is made entirely of wood. Gondoliers row with a long wooden oar that pivots on a Venetian oarlock. It is also the only Venetian boat with the bow ornament (“fero da prova”).

A gondola ride in Venice is the one tourist trap that most people will willingly fall into. Some feel it has become too touristy. However, your visit to Venice really will not feel complete until you go for a ride and are sung to by a gondolier during your journey.

Gondolas were the primary form of transportation in Venice from the 12th century until the late 20th. These days the point of the gondolas is not to get from point A to B but to rather serve as tourist mini-cruises. 

How Long Does The Gondola Ride Last?

The standard gondola ride will last around 40 minutes. You can add on additional time for an additional fee. The ride typically starts and ends in the same spot.

Gondola ride in Venice

The Gondoliers

Gondoliers represent one of the eldest trades in Venice. The striped shirts worn by the gondoliers are an important Venetian icon. It is a reminder of a glamorous lifestyle.

Back in the day, the gondoliers knew many secrets of the highest classes in society by overhearing the discussions had on the rides. This made the gondoliers high on the social scale and they were treated with respect. What happens in a gondola, stays in a gondola! 

Not all gondoliers sing, so when you are looking for a ride, ensure you confirm singing will be included. Most gondoliers are also able to give you information about the scenery around you.

Why Do Gondolas Have To Be Black?

The gondolas are painted with six coats of black paint as a result of a 17th-century law. The law eliminates competition for the fanciest gondola. However, each is unique with its upholstery and details, making some gondolas nicer than others.

Gondolas that are not used for work, and rather leisure, are able to be painted differently.

Where Do Gondolas Take You?

The gondolas will take you on a journey through the smaller waterways of Venice and, if you wish, into the Grand Canal. The small waterways are a symbol of romance in Venice, history and tradition. On the gondola ride, you will get to see sights you otherwise would miss.

Decide what kind of trip you want, and use that as the basis to find a gondola stand around your destination. A quieter and more romantic ride can be found along the side canals. The leisurely pace of travel through the passageways allowed us to really absorb the flavor of Venice. We would also recommend that it is best to ask to stay in the side canals, instead of the Grand Canal, because you can get a similar experience from the Vaporetto instead.

You will find there is no shortage of gondoliers available to give you a ride, so don’t hesitate to ask around a bit until you find what you are looking for.

You can avoid some of the crowds by finding a gondola that is on the small canals instead of the Grand Canal.

Gondola Ride Price

There are three important rules when considering a gondola ride in Venice:

(1) If the price bothers you, do not do it.

(2) If the price does not bother you, make sure you understood the gondolier correctly.

(3) You should always negotiate both the rate and the length of the ride before you get into the boat.

There is a “standard” rate of 80 euros for a 40-minute ride, but it is really only a guideline that is often deviated from.  After 7 pm, the rate goes up to 100 euros for a 40-minute ride.

This is just a base example of the rates. Keep in mind that it is entirely possible to ask a gondolier for a price, walk away for two minutes, and return to have the price jacked up more. One gondolier tried this with us.

There is not really a gondola ride price per person in Venice, but rather a price per boat. If you have people to split the ride with, the cheaper it will be for you!

Special services, such as singing, can boost the fare as well. This is not something we considered asking, but the gondolier sang, so we did not do too poorly after all.

Gondola ride in Venice

Is A Gondola Ride In Venice Worth It?

We totally think it is worth it! We think it is wonderful to see the small canals of Venice from the water; the way the city was meant to be seen.

Critics are right to complain about the price, but those that complain are missing one thing:  the experience. From the moment we stepped foot in the gondola, we were giddy young adults in love, soaking in the romance of Venice. It was magic!

As you travel down the small canals, you realize that you are really experiencing history. Though many Venetians do not ride in a gondola today (unless for a special occasion), we were doing what the Viennese people did for centuries. For that forty-minute ride, we were experiencing the past in our present, as the history came alive through the ride.

We are so glad we did not listen to the critics. Overpriced, perhaps. But, worth every last euro.

What Is The Best Time To Go On A Gondola Ride?

If you take a gondola ride during the day, expect to have to deal with the hot sun. After 7 pm, while very romantic, the rates are more expensive. We found that a good time to take the ride was in the late afternoon when the sun was not scorching, but we were not paying any additional fees for the night ride.

Gondola ride in Venice

How Many People Does A Gondola Hold?

Typically a gondola will hold six people. I’ve never seen or heard of a weight limit per se for a gondola. However, a new restriction has the gondolas reduced from six to five passengers. The change is said to be from the rise in the average weight of tourists.

Do Gondoliers Sing?

We were lucky to get a gondolier that sang. We assumed that all did, but many do not sing. Some of the tours include a singer, and some an accordion player, too.

Can You Drink In Gondolas In Venice?

Yes, you can bring a bottle of wine into the gondola. In Venice, you are allowed to have your drink while on the streets. However, Venetians do it mainly during big events such as the Carnevale.


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