The gondola is a symbol of Venice, and no tour of the city is complete without a gondola ride. While a gondola ride is an experience in itself, Venice has other exciting options where you can get around its picturesque canals and the expansive lagoon in cheaper and more efficient ways. You can choose to go on boat tours with local expert guides, and access organized routes so you don’t have to do the planning, and enjoy cheaper rates thanks to shared groups. Whatever is your budget, time, and interest, there is a Venice Boat Tour that will suit your requirement. Here is a guide on how to explore Venice and its waterways on a boat tour.
What You Need To Know About Boat Tours in Venice
Venice Boat Tours are broadly of three types – Guided Boat Tours, HOHO Tours, and ACTV Boat Tours .
The Guided Boat Tours are led by private operators and run tours on routes around the Venetian islands, and it takes anywhere between 4 to 6 hours. This is a shared experienced, and the group is of 25 or fewer guests, you will also enjoy the narration by an English guide, depending on the cruise you may get a multilingual guide.
The HOHO Tours and ACTV Boat Tours are suited for travelers who like to plan their own schedules. Both entertain large groups and run in particular routes; you can get on and off on them according to your convenience.
Most Popular Venice Boat Routes
The Venetian Islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello
Venice and its lagoon including the island settlements of Murano, Burano, and Torcello are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and renowned for retaining their essence over the centuries. Murano is famous for its glass-making; Burano is known for its colorful houses and lace-making, while Torcello is a step back in time and has well-preserved Byzantine architecture.
The guided boat tours cover either two or all the three islands and complete the trip in about 5 hours. , and you can also enjoy perks like admission into glass-making factory, and discounts on souvenirs. These tours are great for travelers who wish to explore beyond the touristy spots of Venice and want options that are budget-friendly.
To know all about spending a day at Murano, Burano and Torcello, check out our detailed guide on visiting these three enchanting islands of the Venetian Lagoon.
Hop-on Hop-off Boat Route
The Hop-on Hop-off Boat Tours run exactly like the bus tours, you can get on and off at any of the designated stops to explore the surrounding area. The HOHO Venice Boat Tour has two routes – Line A and Line B.
The Line A runs along seven stops including Santa Lucia, Tronchetto, Marittima, San Marco, Lido Island, Murano, and Zattere. The boat runs every day with a frequency of 30 minutes, and while there is WiFi on board, there is no live guide commentary. The Line B runs exclusively from April to October and covers the islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello, and the boat frequency is every 60 minutes. The HOHO tours are ideal for travelers who have a lot of time on hand and don’t mind exploring on their own.
If you're interested in knowing more about Hop On Hop Venice - the routes, timings and more, head to our detailed guide on Hop on Hop off Bus Tours in Venice. You'll find all that you need here.
ACTV Boat Taxi Route
ACTV is the official public water transport system of Venice; it has vaporetto taxis that run along 23 different routes including three routes that have night boat taxis. The routes cover all the islands of Venice Lagoon including Lido, Murano, Burano, and Torcello. The timings vary according to the season, but there is a regular frequency throughout the year.
The boat taxis are a great way to get around, and you can purchase one-way or two-way tickets. However, the best value for money and convenience is offered by the ACTV Water Bus Pass which provides unlimited use of the vaporetto. You can also use it on ACTV buses in Mestre, Marghera, and the mainland. This is convenient for those staying in Venice for a long duration and on a tight budget.
If you're interested in knowing more about ACTV Taxis, head here
Boat Tours Vs Gondola Rides in Venice
The boat tours navigate the Venetian lagoon and cover the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello, and can be combined with factory visits and sightseeing.
The iconic Gondola tours explore the waterways of Venice, and can be upgraded to a serenade and combined with walking tours.
Around 2-3 hours
About 30 minutes ride
The route covering all the three islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello as all of them are unique
The Grand Canal covering major landmarks of Venice and the small canals around San Marco Square and Rialto
You will meet at a designated point and aboard a modern boat with a multilingual guide onboard. You will be taken to all the islands and in an organized seamless manner be shown all the highlights of the Venetian Lagoon, including a glass-making factory.
You will meet at the designated point and aboard a traditional gondola with a gondolier. For 30 minutes you will navigate the canals and soak in the beautiful landmarks and iconic Venetian architecture. If you have chosen, a musician will serenade you with songs.
|Private or Shared|
Shared with a group of maximum 25 people, and in case of ACTV water bus between 150-250 people
Shared with a group of maximum 6 - 8 people
|Why choose this?|
A guided boat tour takes away the trouble of planning a route, organizing transport and offers the expert local knowledge of a guide. Plus, the added benefits like factory tours and discounts make it enticing. And if you are short on budget then the HOHO and ACTV tours are ideal.
A great way to find out why Venice is called the City of Canals, aboard the iconic Gondolas which are unique to Venice. You can get new perspectives from water and view landmarks that are not accessible on foot!
Know Before You Go On A Venice Boat Tour
- The boat tours timings depend on the season; there is higher frequency in the months April to October which is the high tourist season. The guided boat tours usually run once or twice in the day from November to March, but run up to 4 times a day during the high season. The HOHO and ACTV have regular frequency which is increased from April to November.
- If you choose to go on an ACTV tour or HOHO Tour you will need to navigate and find out the attractions on your own. Buy a good guidebook like Lonely Planet that will give you information about each attraction.
- The departure point for each tour is different and depends on the service provider. You will need to plan your travel to the departure point properly, because the tour will not wait for you if you are late.
- The guided boat tours are not completely wheelchair-friendly and for those with walking disabilities. However, ACTV boats on most routes have wheelchair infrastructure and they also have discounts for disabled passengers. You can find more information on the Venice Tourism website here.
- The guided boat tours are super flexible and you can cancel them within 24 hours of departure if you are unable to continue with your planned travel. However, the HOHO tours need to be cancelled 4 days prior to departure.
- All the guided boat tours are valid for the time and date of booking, so if you are late or miss out on the day then you will be stuck without any recourse!
- If you're interested in learning all about Public Transportation in Venice, check out our detailed guide that will acquaint you to the various water crafts in Venice and when it's best to use them.
Frequently Asked Questions About Venice Boat Tours
What are my boat tour options from the Marco Polo airport to Venice city?
While there are no "boat tours" from the Venice Marco Polo Airport to Venice city, you can an alilaguna, water taxi or travel via a minivan, bus or car to reach your destination. Check out our detailed guide on Venice airport transfers to gain better clarity on how you can travel to and from the Venice airport.
Are there any luggage restrictions on boat tours in Venice?
Yes. Each mode of water craft has its own restriction. On ACTV's you are allowed two pieces of baggage/luggage or packages, provided the sum of the dimensions does not exceed 120 cm. On the othe hand, luggages, awkward bags, big backpacks or bulky baggages are strictly prohibited onboard the Hop on Hop off Boats.
Are the boats in Venice wheelchair friendly?
The guided boat tours are not completely wheelchair-friendly and for those with walking disabilities. However, ACTV boats on most routes have wheelchair infrastructure and they also have discounts for disabled passengers. You can find more information on the Venice Tourism website here.
What is the best time of the day for a boat tour?
Most boat tours have a specific departure time and a specific route they follow. This does not give you much leeway to choose an ideal time. However, a ride on Venice's waterways around sunset is very popular and highly recommended.
Am I required to tip the Skipper?
Not compulsorily, however if you're exceptionally happy with the service; you can tip the skipper as you please.
Can I step out of the boat and explore the adjacent areas during my boat tour?
Depending on the nature of the boat tour, you can step out and explore the areas. The boat tours to Murano, Burano & Torcello give you ample time to explore the islands. The Hop on Hop off Boats & ACTV Water taxi allow you to disembark only at the designated stops , but you have the freedom to spend as much time as you'd like and then hop back on.
More Venice Guides
Still planning your Venice vacation? Here are a few more detailed guides that will help you plan your trip better.