Ciao! Are you contemplating taking your kids on a gondola ride in Venice but aren’t exactly sure what it entails?
Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of a romantic gondola ride with your partner but aren’t sure if you should attempt it with your little ones along for the ride.
Either way, I hope I can help you decide if going on a family gondola ride is a good decision for your family.
I’m a mamma living in central Italy with my husband and three boys. Below is my advice for going on a gondola with kids based on our visits to Venice and a recent chat I had with a gondolier in Venice. No matter what you decide to do, your family can have an excellent experience on the canals and lagoon of Venice!
Know What You’re Getting Into
Do you have a wiggly toddler?
Does your preschooler love swimming?
Does your child have a short attention span?
Are you visiting Venice on a day trip in the summer?
Do the number of small children in your group outnumber the adults?
Do you get nervous being in boats without life jackets?
Do you have a potty-training child?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the questions above, think long and hard about whether you really want to take a gondola ride with your kids. While a ride can be an amazing family experience, it could also be a stressful 30-minute ride – depending on your family’s situation.
A gondola ride takes place on a small black boat – a gondola – that’s maneuvered by a trained gondolier through the small and large canals of Venice.
There are no lifejackets, you can easily get into the water from the gondola (there aren’t any high railings), there is no cover from the elements (you’re exposed to the rain and sun), and when you get on, you’re committed (if you’re in the middle of the canal, and there’s a potty emergency, you’ll need to wait until the gondolier can get you safely to land).
What We Do: I haven’t taken my younger kids on a gondola ride yet. They are currently thrilled with gondola alternatives (more on those below).
How Much Does a Gondola Ride with Kids Cost?
The official costs are currently:
80€ for a 30-minute ride between 9:00 and 19:00
100€ for a 35-minute ride between 19:00 and 3:00
You can have 5 passengers in the gondola. Kids count as passengers, but a baby under 1 year old that’s held in a parent’s arms does not count as a passenger. Note that not counting a baby in your arms isn’t an official rule (I haven’t been able to find any documentation) – so you’ll need to confirm it’s ok with your gondolier.
So, you can for sure go on a Venice gondola ride with:
- 2 adults
- 3 kids
And, depending on your gondolier, you may be able to take:
- 2 adults
- 3 kids
- Baby in mom or dad’s arms (or in a baby carrier)
The cost is for the boat, not per passenger. So, you will pay the 80€ for a 30-minute ride between 9:00 and 19:00 – whether you’re riding by yourself, or you have four companions with you.
You can also add more time to your ride. The cost is calculated proportionally by time. For example:
A 45-minute ride at 10:00 will cost 120€
A 70-minute ride at 20:00 will cost 200€
You can always check the most up-to-date rates on the City of Venice’s official site.
Decide if You Should Reserve Your Gondola or Not
This is a tough one – on one hand, if you’re visiting during the busy spring, summer, or fall, it’s nice to have a reservation (through a third party, like Get Your Guide or Viator) so you won’t have to wait in line for a gondola.
On the other hand, when I’m traveling with kids, I try not to schedule too much, because we all know that our kids can get sick, decide they want to go back to the hotel, be thrilled with a playground and want to stay, etc.
You’ll need to decide for your family if you want to prebook the experience or do it on the fly.
If you’re undecided, you may want to try a gondola alternative (see below) before you make a decision (my youngest kids are perfectly happy riding the gondola alternatives I’ve listed).
Bring Your Stroller if You Need To
Yes, you can bring your stroller on the gondola if you need to. You’ll need to fold it up so it fits on the boat. However, if you’re looking for lovely gondola photos with your family, it’s best to leave your stroller in your hotel room so it won’t be an eyesore in your shots.
Either grab a few snacks (like nuts or fruit at a grocery store) or stop for cicchetti or a gelato before you get on your boat so no one in your group gets ‘hangry’ – (hungry/angry).
Helpful Tip: If your kids like bread, you can pick up rosette, a type of local bread that looks like a flower. Or, grab a little sack of bussole or esse cookies at a pastry shop.
Use the Toilet Before You Start the Gondola Ride
Ok, so I know this is a basic tip for any activity with kids, but it’s really easy to get caught up in exploring Venice and forget to use the bathroom before you hop in the gondola.
Fortunately, Venice has a network of public toilets (you’ll see signs with arrows pointing to WC, like in the photo above). Or, you can use the toilet if you are a customer at a restaurant, bar, or museum.
If your child really needs to use the bathroom during your gondola ride, it’s up to your gondolier to decide if the time will count as part of your ride. Try to avoid any ‘emergencies’ and use the bathroom right before you depart.
Read more about Bathrooms in Italy
Choose the Right Time of Day
The main times of day you may want to ride are:
Morning – I think this is one of the best times to go on a gondola ride, but not necessarily with kids. If your kids are like mine, they have a lot of energy at the beginning of the day, so telling them we’re going to sit still in a boat may not be met with enthusiasm. But, if your kids are fine with an early morning ride, it’s an excellent time – you can see the city waking up, and if you go into the Grand Canal you’ll see all sorts of boats out – from delivery boats to garbage boats, taxi boats, boats carrying construction equipment, and more.
Afternoon – If you’re visiting Venice during the winter, or the weather is mild, this is a great time to take a gondola ride with kids. They’ve had all morning to explore and run around, so it’s the perfect time to take a break and rest their little legs in the gondola. Definitely avoid this time in the hot summer months.
Early evening – A sunset gondola ride is very romantic, but kids don’t care much for romance! This is usually a busy time to catch a gondola, so expect a longer wait. Also be aware of timing with dinner.
Night – In general, I find the night to be one of the best times to take a gondola ride, because you can look up at the lit-up rooms along your route and the city looks magical with the lights reflecting on the water (especially during the holidays!) But, little kids may be either hungry or sleepy late at night, so this option works best for older kids or teens.
Be Aware of the Weather
One of the biggest complaints I hear about going on a gondola ride in Venice is that “it’s so hot!”
Kids feel the heat even more than we do as adults, so keep that in mind when you’re planning when to go on your gondola ride.
There is no shade or cover during a gondola ride, so your kids will feel the heat and be exposed to the sun (sunburns!).
Likewise, if it looks like it’s going to rain, know that you won’t have any cover. Yes, you can bring an umbrella or a rain jacket, but I would wait and go when it’s not raining.
I use the Il Meteo weather app. It’s one of my most used Italy travel apps.
Get a Gondolier Who’s Friendly to Your Kids
If you’re choosing your gondolier at one of the stazi, take a minute to talk to the gondoliers there and see what the vibe is. Some are eager to take families for a ride, while others may not be as keen.
If you can’t get a good read on the gondolier, try another stazi.
You can also ask the gondolier if they’re willing to sing, explain the sites, etc. There’s no shame in asking!
Let Older Kids Help With What You’re Looking At
If your kids usually like being the navigator or are learning about maps, this is a good time to let them use Google Maps on your phone or look at a paper map as you make your way along the canals.
Your gondolier can point out interesting buildings and share fun facts – and your child can match them up on the map, see what’s coming next, and get the ‘lay of the land’ in Venice.
This activity is a win in our family – navigating is one of my 9-year-old’s favorite activities when we are in a new city, and I can relax and follow his lead for awhile!
Helpful Tip: Choose a route that combines the Grand Canal (and its classics like the Rialto Bridge) with smaller canals. The Grand Canal is exciting for kids because there’s so much to see – famous buildings, different types of boats, bridges, and people walking around. But, some time on smaller (quieter) canals is a nice balance for kids and adults.
Helpful Tip: If your kids are interested in gondolas, you can also visit the Squero San Trovaso boatyard to see gondolas being made and repaired. And you can stop in the Acqua Alta Bookshop to see a gondola used to display books!
Alternatives to a Gondola Ride for Kids
I’ve mentioned gondola ride alternatives for kids (and adults). The two that work really well for my small kids are:
Vaporetto – The vaporetto is a little boat that is essentially a water bus or ferry taking people around Venice. They move along the Grand Canal and in the lagoon (you can also take them to other Venetian Islands). I love taking the vaporetto with kids because you can buy a single ride or a multi-day pass, and kids 5 and under travel for free. Kids 6 and up ride for a discount. You can go all over, there are lifejackets, there are proper seats, and if you have wiggly kids, you can sit indoors (so you don’t have to worry about anyone jumping off the boat).
Good To Know: You can roll your stroller on the vaporetto, but I’ve had issues in busier months when it’s crowded – the staff haven’t wanted me to bring it on unless it’s closed up. This may or may not happen to you – it’s just a heads up that you may need to fold your stroller for the ride.
Gondola Ferry – This is called a traghetto da parada in Venice, and it’s a quick ride (a couple of minutes) in a larger gondola across the Grand Canal. These boats can take larger groups (12 people) so if you have a big family, it’s a great option. The traghetto da parada is just 2€ per person and it’s a nice trial ride to see how your kids would do on the gondola (and it may just satisfy their craving for a gondola ride!).
I hope these tips help you for your gondola ride with kids in Venice!
You can also check out Going on a Gondola Ride in Venice for a map of where you can get a gondola as well as more general gondola ride tips.
And, you may want to read
20 Tips for Your First Trip to Venice
Best Things to Do in Venice
Venice with Kids
Italy Packing List for Kids
Italy Packing List for a Baby or Toddler
Italy with a Baby or Toddler