City of romance (next to only Paris, of course), Venice's charm is largely attributed to its canals and the graceful gondolas that glide upon them. This explainer is sure to help you figure out the best places for a Venice gondola ride, popular boarding points, and which ones to pick.
The most popular pier to board a gondola is undeniably the Grand Canal, known as the city centre from where smaller canals branch out. It's a 3.8-kilometer (2.4-mile) long, S-shaped canal that winds through the city, dividing it into two parts. However, the Grand Canal is consistently overcrowded by both tourists and locals, since it also connects the central railway station, markets and other waterways.
If you’re looking for a tranquil experience away from the bustle of busy areas, you can board a gondola at Campo di Ghetto Nuovo near the Jewish Ghetto. You may have the opportunity to explore smaller, more intimate canals with unique Venetian charm, away from the main tourist routes.
Campo San Barnaba is located in the Dorsoduro district. Like the Jewish Ghetto, it is a more peaceful and relaxed boarding point. Wait times are likely to be shorter here. Before or after your gondola ride, you can explore nearby attractions like the Guggenheim Collection which is a renowned modern and contemporary art museum. You can also visit Campo Santa Margherita, a bustling square with local cafes and restaurants.
Another option is Santa Maria del Giglio, which offers a quieter experience with scenic views, located near the church of the same name. You can simply walk around the back canals, explore the neighborhood and board the gondola back to your hotel.
Some others include:
Board at: St. Marks Basilica, Grand Canal
How to get there: Vaporetto lines 1 or 5.1 to St. Marks Square
Waiting time: Upwards of an hour during peak season; 15-30 minutes during lean season. Prebooked tickets can get you a ride in under 30 minutes, regardless of the season.
Board at: Jewish Ghetto/Ponte San Polo/Campo San Barnaba
How to get there: Vaporetto Line 1 to Guglie
Waiting time: 30 minutes - 1 hour during peak season, 15 minutes or less during lean season. Pre-booked tickets can get you a ride in under 30 minutes, regardless of the season.
Go to the pier near St. Marks Square or the Grand Canal. From there, show your ticket to waiting gondoliers (or buy a new one on spot) and hop aboard a gondola. Instructions on how to display your booking will be informed to you once you purchase your ticket. Follow the gondolier's guidelines and voila! you'll be off on your cruise.
The most popular boarding points for your Venice gondola ride are near St. Marks Basilica and the Grand Canal. However, there are also less crowded ones like the Jewish Ghetto and Campo San Barnaba.
Most official gondola stations are marked with red and white striped poles, so look out for those. Another way to look out for a station is by identifying the gondoliers. They operate at official stations and typically wear striped shirts (usually red and blue or blue and white). They may also wear straw hats, adding to their distinctive appearance.
If you're looking to skip the crowds, you can board your gondola at less-famous piers like the Jewish Ghetto or Campo San Barnaba. This will give you a chance to float down smaller, less busy canals. You can also board your gondola from stations like Calle Larga XXII Marzo and Calle larga de l'Ascension.
Buying tickets online helps you skip the long waiting lines and directly meet your gondolier at the boarding point. You can also consider taking a gondola ride early in the morning or during the late afternoon to avoid the crowds.
The best place depends on the kind of traveler you are. If you want to soak up the vibrant, active culture of the city, take a gondola near St. Marks Basilica. Pass by iconic landmarks like the Doge's Palace and Rialto Bridge on this route. If you prefer a quieter and less-buys experience, take one of the smaller canals afforded by boarding points near the Jewish Ghetto and Campo San Barnaba.
It's generally not recommended to take a gondola from outside an official station. Unlicensed gondolas might not be properly maintained, and the ride might be unreliable or unsafe.