Is It Worth It To Ride A Gondola In Venice?
Is It Worth It To Ride A Gondola In Venice?
One of the questions I get a lot is whether some activities are worth the cost. Case in the point is whether it’s worth visiting the Blue Lagoon thermal pools in Iceland for $90. It’s one of those things that you feel like you JUST HAVE TO DO when visiting Iceland and they know it too and charge accordingly.
Another popular one is whether it’s worth it to ride a gondola in Venice. Like visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris, riding a gondola in Venice is something that you’re just supposed to do, also like eating pasta in Italy. The only problem is that it cost 80 euros for a 30 minute ride.
For some, 80 euros for this “bucket list” item is nothing, especially if you’ve already come all this way. For others, maybe not. So I went and did it to at least answer that question from my own perspective.
What Does A 80 Euro Gondola Ride Get You?
The standard ride lasts for 30 minutes and takes you around the canals. The route depends on where you get on, but popular departing points near the Rialto Bridge or the Grand Canal might have a line, especially in the warmer months. Gondolas seat up to 6, so if you have friends or family, it can cost as low as around 13 euros per person.
If you want to have that romantic gondola experience for two, then it’s basically 40 euros each. Not very cheap for a 30 minute ride.
How To Save Money On A Gondola Ride
Alternatively, you can join a shared gondola ride like this one of the Grand Canal by Venice City Tours. It costs 33 euros per person and you share it with up to 5 other people. I’ve done both the private and the shared gondola ride so here’s my take on it.
As far as the ride goes, they are both very much the same thing, so you’re not missing out on anything much by going with the shared tour option. There are pros and cons to be both, with the obvious con of a private tour being the higher cost.
The Pros & Cons Of A Shared Tour
I’ll be frank. If you are a party of 3 or more, it does not make sense to go on a shared tour. It cost less to get your own. This is best for someone traveling alone or a couple that doesn’t mind sharing and wants to save about 15 euros.
The other benefit other than saving money if you’re traveling alone is that you can skip the lines, especially during the high season. Since there are only about 300 operating gondolas in Venice, it can actually be hard to find one without waiting during the high season from March to October.
Venice City Tour offers an app you can download that will provide you with commentary of the things you’ll see on the route. It’s a nice little touch. Even if you don’t use it during the tour, you can listen to before or after to get more information about some of the famed spots.
With the tour, they’ve picked out a route that will give you a mix of the smaller pathways along with going through the Grand Canal and passing by some of the major sights. You can’t always choose your route with a private gondolier and you’ll have to try to ask them where they will take you.
During my private ride, I didn’t mind the where, so I just let the gondolier decide.
The obvious downside to the shared option is that you are sharing this with other people, which might be a dealbreaker for some.
Is It Ultimately Worth It?
To me, it’s a yes. Sure, it’s touristy, but it’s just one of those things that so unique to a place. You won’t realize it until you’re actually on the gondola, but you get a completely different perspective seeing Venice at the water level. Even if you’ve taken the vaporettos to get around, it’s different.
The slower pace and the navigating through the tighter canals is unique to the gondola. As you make your way through these canals, you’ll notice things that you just don’t notice walking around and crossing bridges. You’ll see the underside of the bridges and you’ll find doors that open right up to the water.
You’ll find hidden ramps that connect back to the main pathways and you’ll see how the gondoliers communicate with each other and steer within inches of other gondolas.
You’ll see how they take tight corners edging so close that you might cringe wondering if they’ll scratch that beautiful paint job on their magnificent gondolas.
When you exit from the smaller canals onto the Grand Canal, you get a sense of how Venice could have felt like hundreds of years ago before bigger motor powered boats. The waves are literally right there beside you. A few more inches and they’ll reach into the gondola. You feel the power of the water and get a better understand of how the tides affect the lives of Venetians.
So even if these gondolas rides are 99% for tourists, it’s something that you should do at least once in your life if you get the chance to visit Venice. You can save that money by not getting caught in the tourist trap restaurants.