How can you go to Venice and NOT take a gondola ride? A lot of people say, that the gondola ride is not the best activity in Venice, and it’s quite expensive, not worth the money. To me, it’s a simply ‘Must-Do’ for every first timer there. But to make sure you don’t go home disappointed – pick the right kind of ride for you.
How to Choose the Right Ride
You have a few options – and your experience (and appreciation) will vary depending on which option you take.
Type of ride (based on 30 min duration)
- Shared ride (+/- EUR30 per person)- This is suitable for those who do not want to spend so much money but just want to have a taste of the ride (bearing in mind, shared ride may not provide you with the greatest of experience). These are cheaper – you share a ride with 5 (or less) strangers. Of course if you are travelling in a small group, your group may well have the gondola all to yourselves anyway. So no biggie.
- Private ride (+/- EUR80 per ride – higher rate in the evening) – This is quite expensive but recommended for people who appreciates this kind of attraction, and for those who like their space, especially couples. The gondolas are quite small and it can feel a bit ‘intimate’ – depending on what kind of people that you end up with in the boat.
Anyway – I was travelling alone – obviously, I didn’t feel the need a romantic private ride. I went for a shared ride – I personally enjoyed it (despite being a shared ride, although I wished I paid a bit more for a private gondola, looking back, especially since I didn’t get the best spot in the gondola. They tend to put solo travellers in the middle seats. Plus I didn’t have the friendliest of co-passengers). But I didn’t want them to spoil my experience so whatever.
Which Station to Depart From
Another thing is that there are several gondola stations – so depending on what you want to see in your 30min ride, you need to make sure you depart from the right station. It’s probably obvious – but just in case. Try to google the gondola tour map from various key stations to make sure you get the best experience. Although – if you do travel during the peak seasons, you may find that there are long queues at certain popular stations, and you may end up with boats in front and behind you, when in the water, which is not the best experience. So in that case – go to the quieter stations/canals. You will get a beautiful view of Venitian buildings and bridges on any ride.
What can improve your experience on the ride is to get information on what you will see during your ride. The gondoliers do not provide commentary, but you can check out gondola rides that provides you with headset and pre-recorded commentary via mobile apps, if you want that.
Gondola Ride with Serenade
You can also book a gondola tour with serenade. I would have if I had a companion. Yeah – I am that type. Why not? It’s different and uniquely Venice. If you didn’t have time to catch any live shows or performances – why not squeeze in a serenade tour by the locals.
Anyway – one thing you must do is book the gondola rides in advance. If you want to do the shared rides, just for the sake of experience, they do sell out quite fast, because quite often the gondola rides are included in tour packages.
Islands, Canals and Bridges
Venice has 118 islands connected via bridges and boats. There are more than 400 bridges connecting the islands. When the city began to expand around 402 AD, the settlers drained the muddy islands, digged many canals, and strengthened the banks with wood piling. The buildings in Venice are also standing on top of foundations of wood pilings pounded close together in the mud. Wood underwater do not rot. The foundation is very solid and many buildings that you see in Venice today are still standing on the same wooden foundation built centuries ago. (Source from: www.livitaly.com/how-was-venice-built).
Many buildings in Venice especially hotels have docks or landing area, so that you can take a water taxi right up to your hotel. How cool is that?
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
You will also pass by this beautiful church.
Venice was hit by a deadly plague in early 1630s killing a third of its population (about 100k people died). The people vowed that when/if the plague ended they would build a church dedicated to the Lady of Good Health (or Deliverance); and the result was this basilica – commonly known as La Salute. The church was completed in 1681.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
You can see the modern art museum in a distance from the gondola whilst on the Grand Canal. It was not my top list of places to visit (I only had a day) but it is worth visiting if you are into art. You can walk over to the museum from the Rialto Bridge.
Peggy Guggenheim was an American heiress; she lived in the 18th century palazzo turned museum, which she purchased in 1949. The museum displays principally her own personal collection and includes pieces from Picasso and Dali Salvador. Check out the collection from the website.
San Giorgio Maggiore
Across the canal, you will see the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. If you visit, (via the waterbus), you will find the San Giorgio Maggiore church, with a bell tower that gives you a beautiful view of the main island – with St Marks Tower and the Doge Palace and also the surrounding islands. Also on this island, you can find the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, a cultural foundation based out of the former San Giorgia Monastery. There are beautiful inner gardens and 2 beautiful libraries (one ancient one with very old books, and another modern one with the latest technologies) within the compound.
Like I said – if the sights are important to you, make sure you book the Gondola at the right pier. On the type of ride, for people who travelled all the way from other parts of the world like me, it’s probably worthwhile to spend a bit more to get a private ride. I would have regretted it big time if I didn’t take this ride. Highly recommended.
Check out my other posts on Venice.