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Grand Canal Cruises in Venice

If you are lucky enough to visit the beautiful Venice soon, a cruise on the Grand Canal is the best way to easily and quickly see the most important attractions of the place. Today I present to you all the alternatives available, which are possibly more than you can imagine!

Katherine Betances

Katherine Betances

10 min read

Grand Canal Cruises in Venice

Boat among the buildings of Venice | ©Pixabay

Along the Grand Canal of Venice you will find monuments, churches and palaces from different periods that together make up a spectacular harmonious whole. As you can deduce there is a lot to see and do in Venice, but starting your adventure with a cruise along its waters is the best way to get in tune with the city. Here are the many options for Grand Canal cruises so you can see beyond the Venetian Vaporetto and gondola rides. Venice offers spectacular alternatives!

1. Traditional gondola ride on the Grand Canal of Venice

The Grand Canal| ©Marco Paiano
The Grand Canal| ©Marco Paiano

Designed to enjoy the typical Venetian experience of a short gondola ride along the Grand Canal, it serves to admire closely the most important architectural and historical landmarks. The Grand Canal is a place in Venice where the most important buildings of the city are located. During the gondola ride the guide will point out the historical landmarks, share interesting facts and you can get close to the facades of certain buildings to admire them more closely. Some of the buildings generally included are:

  • Ponte di Rialto, of the four bridges that connect the two banks of the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge is the most beautiful and oldest in Venice.
  • Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, the second most important Basilica in the city.

Types of excursions

These tours are usually presented in two different formats to choose from.

  • Group Excursion The group alternative is ideal if you are looking to share the experience of a gondola ride in Venice with other tourists like yourself. It is also the most economical option. The maximum capacity is 6 people.
  • Private Excursion The ideal alternative if you are looking for an intimate ride with your friends, your family or your partner. Although it would be a bit more expensive because of the privacy, it generally has the same duration and itinerary.

What do these excursions include?

In addition to the classic gondola ride with stops included, they include the accompaniment of a trained expert guide who will explain all kinds of historical details about the city. The guides in Venice speak several languages, so you can find tours in Italian, French, English and Spanish.

Useful information

  • Price: From 30 € for group tours, individual tours are more expensive.
  • Duration of the excursion: Minimum 30 minutes of travel along the canal watching the stops.
  • Recommended if... You are looking for a typical Venetian boat or gondola ride experience.

Book a gondola ride in Venice

2. Gondola ride on the Grand Canal with serenade

Gondolas by Night| ©Sergey Galyonkin
Gondolas by Night| ©Sergey Galyonkin

An attentive gondolier dressed in the typical striped attire of the classic Venetian scenery will take you on a ride along the Grand Canal while you enjoy the scenery, the architecture and a fabulous serenade. The excursion includes stops at some points of high tourist interest such as:

  • Peggy Guggeheim Museum: Space that houses the largest collection of impressionist art in Venice.
  • Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute: One of the most important works of 17th century Venetian architecture.
  • Ponte dell'Accademia: The only wooden bridge in Venice, built after the Austrian occupation.

Types of excursions

This type of excursion is usually offered in two different formats

  • Group Excursion With gondolas designed for groups of maximum 6 people, it can be a shared trip with other tourists. From the meeting point about 8 or 9 gondolas will depart and an Italian musician will sing for everyone.
  • Private Excursion You will have a private gondola with capacity for 4 or 6 people; it is ideal for a private family trip or for a romantic excursion with your partner.

What do these excursions include?

In addition to the gondola ride experience, on this type of excursion you will enjoy a group of musicians led by a professional singer who will sing beautiful Italian ballads as you glide through the waters, the guides usually speak several languages so you may find some excursions in Spanish or any other language you can easily understand.

Useful information

  • Price: The group option can be found at approximately 40€ per person, private options will always cost a little more.
  • Duration of the tour: Since the tour generally only covers the Grand Canal it can be done in 35 minutes maximum.
  • Recommended if... You are looking to share a unique and special moment with your friends, family or partner. It is a type of experience that is much more enjoyable when accompanied by special people.

Book a gondola ride with serenade

3. Private Gondola ride on the Grand Canal with exclusive photographer

People leaving in Gondolas| ©gnuckx
People leaving in Gondolas| ©gnuckx

Accompanied by an expert gondolier and a professional photographer, you can enjoy a romantic ride on the Grand Canal while having exceptional pictures taken.

What do these excursions include?

Some alternatives include photo stops at locations other than the gondola on the Grand Canal. These locations are usually places within Venice with great visual appeal such as St. Mark's Square and the beautiful Bridge of Sighs. In most cases the photographer will provide the client with a digital photo album with the number of photos previously agreed upon. Some companies also include round-trip transportation to and from your hotel.

Useful information

  • Price: This is a premium quality service whose price is around 600 €.
  • Duration of the excursion: The gondola ride with photo stops is estimated to last 2 hours.
  • Recommended if... you want to celebrate and treasure a very special moment; it is a fantastic idea if you are on your honeymoon in Venice, if you are celebrating your anniversary or birthday; also if you want to make an original marriage proposal and document the experience.

Book your Grand Canal Cruise

4. Grand Canal cruise with walking tour of the city

Basilica Santa Maria della Salute| ©Jorge Franganillo
Basilica Santa Maria della Salute| ©Jorge Franganillo

Embark on an adventure to learn interesting details about the city of Venice and its most important tourist attractions. After walking through several alleys, squares and the most important historical monuments of Venice with a local expert guide, you will finish your excursion with a quiet stroll along the Venetian waters of the Grand Canal.

The route of the tour may change depending on the company you decide to hire, the expected time and the duration of the excursion. Anyway some monuments or historical sites you could expect to see are:

  • Piazza San Marco, a must stop on any excursion to Venice, it is the most popular square in Venice.
  • Casa di Marco Polo, famous Italian ambassador and merchant.
  • Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, one of the most important works of Venetian baroque architecture.
  • Teatro La Fenice, Venice's main theater and one of the most famous opera stages in the world.

What do these excursions include?

By hiring this type of service you will have a ride on the Grand Canal in a handcrafted Venetian gondola or a shared boat. Additionally, you will have the opportunity to tour historic Venetian buildings with the company of a guide who will provide you with interesting facts about the city. These types of excursions are usually available in several languages.

Useful information

  • Price: This type of experience is available from €45 per person.
  • Duration of the tour: The walking tour with the gondola ride on the Grand Canal takes approximately 3 hours to complete.
  • Recommended if... You have a short stay in the city of Venice, one or two days, and you want to take a look at the main points of interest. Also if it's your first time visiting the beautiful city and you want to quickly soak up all it has to offer.

Book your Grand Canal Cruise

5. Gondola ride on the Grand Canal with historical tour of Venice

Doge's Palace| ©Didier Descouens
Doge's Palace| ©Didier Descouens

Unlike the previous excursion, this type of tour includes not only a walk through the beautiful Venetian streets but also a tour inside several historical buildings such as basilicas and palaces. It is a fantastic way to save time, money and effort on your trip to Venice.

You should note that the tour options and visits may vary depending on the company you hire and the duration of the excursion. However, most historical tours of Venice include stops at the monuments of greatest interest to tourists visiting the city. These are:

  • Doge's Palace or Doge's Palace The most luxurious and impressive Venetian palace, it is an obligatory stop on any trip to Venice.
  • Basilica di San Marco The most famous of Venice's many religious buildings, it is located right next to the Doge's Palace, so it is great to combine them in a tour on the same day.
  • Piazza San Marco Located just outside the Basilica is the most famous square in Venice.
  • Ponte di Rialto The most famous and beloved by Venetians of the many bridges that connect the Venetian canals.

What do these excursions include?

This type of excursion includes the accompaniment of an expert guide who will explain all kinds of interesting details about the palaces and historical buildings included in the tour. In addition, skip-the-line entrance tickets to places such as: entrance to the Doge's Palace or entrance to the Basilica of San Marco are included.

Useful information

  • Price: Available from 115 € for tours with less hours of duration. Longer tours will have a higher price.
  • Duration of the excursion: It may vary depending on the tours that each particular excursion contemplates. However, the minimum time is usually 3 hours and maximum 5 hours.
  • Recommended if... You will spend between two days in Venice or three days in Venice in Venice, this tour will take up a large part of the one-day itinerary but will serve you to get to know the most relevant of the capital and the main historical buildings.

Book your Grand Canal Cruise

6. Night cruise on the Grand Canal under the lights of Venice

Enjoying the night at the Gondolas| ©Šarūnas Burdulis
Enjoying the night at the Gondolas| ©Šarūnas Burdulis

A trip along the Grand Canal of Venice at night or at sunset is a magical experience at all levels. With this type of excursion you can enjoy a beautiful sunset over the waters of the canal or the spectacle of lights that, during the night, color the main palaces and historic buildings along the canal.

Due to the timetable of the excursion, most people only see the façades of the buildings from a distance. If your interest is merely to see the architectural side, a daytime Grand Canal cruise might be more enriching. Or both, if you have the time.

Types of excursions

  • Group Excursion You will share the gondola or boat with other tourists; some group tour options may add stops for snacks at a street stall.
  • Private Excursion You will have the gondola or water cab for the exclusive use of you and your companions. The maximum capacity is usually up to 6 people.

What do these excursions include?

Some excursions include stops for dinner in Venetian restaurants. Some include the presence of musicians who harmonize the evening with beautiful songs, while others include more extensive tours along the Grand Canal and some secondary canals.

Useful information

  • Price: The price varies depending on several characteristics, you can find alternatives from 37€ for group tours or up to 375€ for private tours.
  • Duration of the excursion: A minimum time of 30 minutes for shorter tours or up to two hours for longer tours that include other experiences.
  • Recommended if... You want to enjoy an original romantic and family evening. Even if you take the Grand Canal tour during the day, the evening offers a new perspective of the city that I recommend doing at least once during a trip to Venice.

Book your Grand Canal Cruise

7. Grand Canal Cruise and visit to the other islands in the Venice Lagoon

By boat on the Grand Canal| ©Pedro Szekely
By boat on the Grand Canal| ©Pedro Szekely

Some motorboat cruises on the Grand Canal combine a half-day tour of the most important canals of the island of Venice with a visit to the islands north of the lagoon.

While it is true that the itinerary may change depending on the company you hire, it is also true that this type of experience usually includes stops at St. Mark's Square, the Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Basilica. Then you take a tour to Murano and Burano to visit both islands in a few hours. This type of experience is a great way to see the most impressive sights of Venice and the surrounding area in one trip.

What do these excursions include?

All excursions of this type include transportation within Venice, transportation to the islands of Murano and Burano, and additionally an expert guide who accompanies you throughout the trip. On the islands there are stops to see the glass art on the island of Murano and the art of lace on the island of Burano.

Useful information

  • Price: For this type of experience the price usually exceeds 150€ per person; although it is certainly not a super economical alternative you can consider it if it also includes the entrance fees to the monuments.
  • Duration of the excursion: You will need to reserve a full day of your itinerary if you want to take this tour; the morning is usually reserved to see the most impressive sights on the island of Venice while the afternoon is reserved for the northern islands.
  • Recommended if... You are planning a multi-day trip in Venice, including a visit to the islands of Murano and Burano is usually a fun experience that allows you to see a quieter, less crowded side of Venice.

Book your Grand Canal Cruise

Frequently asked questions

  • How long does a Grand Canal cruise last?

    Most Grand Canal cruises last between 1-2 hours, as they usually take a tour of some of the smaller canals to give you a closer view of the heart of the city.

  • Why is the Grand Canal of Venice so famous?

    Venice's Grand Canal is itself a marvel of civil engineering, being the key point of the city's infrastructure. Venice being a totally car-free city, most of the city's imports and exports depend on the Grand Canal.

  • Is it possible to swim in the Grand Canal?

    You can't, in fact, a recent law was passed according to which you can be fined up to 500€ for falling into any of the canals in Venice.