Gondolas are like taxis and are available through the day, though the numbers dwindle by night. Most gondola tours start around 9 AM and if you’ve opted for one with dinner, you will get a chance to experience a gondola ride in the late hours of the evening.
Though there are no set timings, gondolas on the canals are sparse from 11:00 PM to 6:00 AM.
Though gondola rides are an absolute pleasure through the day, it really depends on the kind of experience you’re looking for.
If you’re taking a gondola ride anytime between 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, so be prepared to wade through a dozen other gondolas and massive tourist hordes. Moreover, peak hours like lunch hours, office relieving hours, school hours etc attract a lot of local crowds on the waterways as well. However, when the sun is out, you can witness and enjoy the city fringing the canals, examine details and enjoy the charm of Venice illuminated by the sunlight.
In the evenings, the temperature is less humid, locals retire home, tourists dwindle and you can experience the ride under the twinkling sky. However, know that you won’t be able to witness the intricacies of the attractions lining the canals at nightfall.
Another parameter to be considered is the weather and season. April to October sees maximum tourists in Venice, hence prices for gondolas are higher and less enjoyable during the day due to the unbearable heat. Off season runs from November through March and you’ll find very less tourist hordes and traffic on the waterways as the water level is higher due to rains. However, these months see less Gondolas on the run as it can be a dangerous affair.
The best time for a Gondola ride, keeping in mind the time, season and weather would be around sunset, not on the Grand Canal but on a narrow, inner waterway. You can see the city soaking in pinkish hues and the warm shadows over pastel gothic buildings across the city. It’s a sight behold and worth every penny!
While there is no bad area for a Gondola Ride, those looking for a quiet ride should avoid the Grand Canal. While the Grand Canal is definitely the most popular, it also happens to be the most crowded. Riding on the quiet back canals, meandering through the muted alleyways exposes you to a whole new side of Venice, some of them which you cannot reach by foot. For this quiet expedition, take a gondola from San Polo, the Campo San Barnaba areas, and the Jewish Ghetto. However, if you’re interested in viewing the bustling markets of Venice, locals getting on with their lives and the famous attractions like Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Basilica etc, cruising on the Grand Canal is suggested.
An average gondola ride lasts 30 to 40 minutes. Depending on the nature of tour you have selected, the duration is subject to change. If you’re haggling for a Gondola yourself, make sure to agree upon the price and duration before getting onboard.
The City of Venice has set official rates for gondola rides. Uptil 7 PM, the base rate for 40 minutes is €80 . Additional 20-minute increments are priced at €40. After 7:00 PM, the base rate swells to €100, with €50 for every additional 20 minutes. Note, this price is per gondola and not per person. Each gondola can accomodate 6 people ( excluding the gondolier), so if you’re in a large group or can find someone to dutch the cost with you, the price won’t seem as steep.
Buying gondola ride tickets online work out cheaper and is a more peaceful affair than haggling with the gondoliers who rarely entertain bargaining their quoted price.