A romantic gondola ride in Venice at sunset.
Updated: August 2019. When chatting to friends, family, and co-workers about our trip to Italy, the first question they all asked us about Venice was, “Did you take a gondola ride?”. Yes, Justin and I did take a romantic gondola ride in Venice down the canals. How could we not? It might be considered touristy, but it’s just something you’ve gotta do if you’re visiting Venice with your special someone. We took a gondola tour in Venice on our very last evening, after 3 wonderful days in the city. It was the perfect way to wrap up our first three days in Italy: a lovely Venice gondola tour on the water to conclude our days in this magical place.
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One of the most famous things to do in Italy is ride a gondola in Venice. There’s such a rich history of the gondola, dating back potentially to the year 697 (though they were first documented in 1094). Gondolas are uniform in their weight (1500 lbs!), shape, structure, and design. Each oar is carved to suit each individual gondolier, and allow eight distinct maneuvers. There are about 400 licensed gondoliers in Venice and the vast majority are men. There is one female gondolier currently; the first female gondolier came out as transgender in 2017.
How Much is a Gondola Ride in Venice
How much does a gondola ride cost in Venice? There are official rates set by the Italian government for Venice gondola rides: €80 for up to 6 people for a 40 minute ride. Every additional 20 minutes costs an extra €40. After 7:00pm, the rates rise to €100 for up to 6 people for a 40 minute ride, and every extra 20 minutes costs €50 more.
So, you are paying for the gondolier and the boat, and it doesn’t matter if there are only two of you or six of you. It will cost the same amount. If you’re interested in having music and singing to set the romantic mood, that will cost extra. You’ll likely have an accordion player and a singer on board to serenade you.
Where to Get a Gondola Ride in Venice
There are a few ways to book the best gondola ride in Venice. There are many gondola stands all along the Grand Canal and scattered throughout Venice. You can choose to take your gondola ride in Venice once you arrive by finding a gondolier and setting a price, or you can book a Venice gondola tour in advance. As it was our first trip to Venice and we didn’t want to spend time trying to find a gondolier at sunset to set a price, we decided that it would be best to sort it all out ahead of time. That way, we’d simply show up to the set meeting point and take our romantic gondola ride in Venice without any worry or stress.
Finding a Venice Gondola Tour on the Spot
Even though there are official rates that I mentioned above, it might be tricky to find a gondolier that sticks to those rates. You can try to barter a gondolier on the price, but it’s possible that he’ll turn you down and send you on your way. It’s possible that he will charge more than those set rates. If you don’t want to spend your precious hours hunting down a gondolier who will give you a fair price, I suggest booking one ahead of time from the comfort of your home.
Booking a Romantic Gondola Ride in Venice
There are a few options for reserving a romantic gondola ride in Venice. I highly recommend the Venice gondola tour that we experienced, which was the Gondola Serenade on the Grand Canal. It’s a gondola ride at sunset with music, which was the perfect way to summarize our amazing few days in Venice. By booking this tour in advance, you don’t have to worry about finding a gondolier and potentially paying a higher price for the optimal time of day and music/singing.
We met our tour operators in a set location on the Grand Canal where we boarded the gondola. There are six passengers and a gondolier to each boat, with the exception of one gondola. That gondola has four passengers, a gondolier, an accordion player and a singer. We had four gondolas in total in our group, and we toured around together.
Our Experiences on the Best Gondola Ride in Venice
As we drifted on the Grand Canal and navigated further down the narrow, smaller canals, we were serenaded by the musicians performing famous Italian songs. It felt right out of a movie. Justin and I admired the intricate details of the buildings. I adored all of the detailed windows, archways, and balconies. The sun was beginning to set, which contributed even more to the romantic atmosphere.
It was fascinating to watch the gondoliers in action. First of all, it requires a lot of balance to stand on top of the boat without falling in the water. Next, they need to keep the gondola perfectly balanced so the boat doesn’t tip over. The gondoliers often use the walls of the buildings and boats to maneuver down the canals, and they never collided with any other gondolas. With all of the extensive training and tests, they are masters of their craft.
We really enjoyed the musical entertainment as we glided along. As we watched many gondolas touring down the canals during our days in Venice, we never saw any others with musicians. It definitely added to the overall experience. Many people stopped along the edges of the water to watch our gondolas pass by. They were enjoying the music, too, and even taking photos and video of our experience.
While it was not a private affair, we didn’t mind that there were a few boats in our group and four other passengers in our gondola. It was actually convenient as we were able to ask them to take our photo. We really loved this romantic gondola ride in Venice for the overall price, time of day, music and singing, and professional gondoliers.
Other Traditional Venice Gondola Rides
Now, that gondola ride in Venice isn’t your only option. There are some cheaper tours out there that don’t come with the extra frills of music or touring around at sunset. You can book this traditional Venice gondola experience. You’ll enjoy a shared tour, much like the one we took, where you’ll see the Grand Canal and some of the smaller canals. However, there won’t be any music or commentary. You’ll simply enjoy riding in a gondola with your partner or friends, soaking up all of the sights. And that’s the most important part, in my opinion.
Private Gondola Ride in Venice
If you don’t like the idea of sharing your gondola with other tourists, a private gondola ride in Venice is the choice for you. The best priced option I’ve found is a private gondola tour with Tinggly. This company specializes in experiences all around the world: over 350 activities in more than 80 countries. A private Venice gondola ride is part of their Premium Collection of experiences. With this travel gift box, you can select any activity around the world from a massive list. The private gondola tour in Venice is one of them.
Although this tour is a little more expensive than the Tinggly gift box, it works best if you have a group of more than two people. If you have between three and six people in your group, consider booking this private gondola ride in Venice. You’ll be reserving the entire gondola for your group, no matter if there are two people or six people. You’ll also cruise in your gondola down the Grand Canal and the smaller waterways for the full experience.
Cheap Gondola Ride in Venice
Though technically it isn’t the same experience, you can ride a gondola in Venice for only €2! There is a public gondola called a traghetto that ferries people from one side of the canal to the other. There are officially seven in operation along the Grand Canal, although you might only find one or two operating when you visit. The most popular traghetto routes are:
- Campo de la Pescaria (Rialto Fish Market) to Campo Santa Sofia
- San Tomà to Sant’Angelo
The other routes that aren’t as popular but might be operating are:
- Fondamente S. Lucia to Fondamenta San Simeón Piccolo
- Riva del Carbòn to Fondamente del Vin
- San Samuele to Ca’ Rezzónico
- San Marcuola to Fóndaco dei Turchi
- Campo del Traghetto to Calle Lanza
Follow the traghetto signs down to the pier, and you pay the gondolier directly with cash. If you’re looking for other ways to get around Venice, I suggest checking out our Venice transportation guide. You can learn the most common ways to get around the city and the transportation methods we used during our 3 days in Venice. For instance, you’ll want to take a vaporetto while exploring various parts of the city, including a day trip to the islands of Burano and Murano.
The Verdict: Should You Book It?
I highly recommend taking a gondola ride in Venice and definitely book one in advance. You don’t want to have a bad experience trying to book one on the spot, especially if you’re seeking a sunset tour. It was also very unique to have the musicians floating down the canals with us.
We had a fantastic time and it was a brilliant conclusion to our wonderful days in Venice. For those questioning whether or not a gondola ride is worth the price, I think it’s well worth it, especially if you’re traveling as a couple in Venice. It’s a unique experience that you really won’t find anywhere else in the world.