Imagine walking out of a small piazza in Venice and facing a quiet canal. On said canal, you see things you’d expect to see on a Venetian canal – motorboats moored to buildings near doorways that are slowly disintegrating where they meet the water, tourist-laden gondolas drifting by silently (save for the chatter of the occupants or potentially the singing of a gondoliere), and dreamy-eyed visitors stumbling over bridges as they come to grips with the experience of walking head-first into a postcard.
Then imagine you see three kayaks glide up the canal to the piazza.
It’s not such a crazy idea, if you think about it for a second. It’s a city entirely on water – why would kayaks in Venice seem weird? And yet they do at the moment. René Seindal of Venice Kayak is on a mission to change that.
I met René in just the manner described above – I walked around the corner of a campanile in a small piazza and there he was with two friends, pulling their kayaks out of the canal for a lunch break. I’d arranged to meet him there, but as I walked around the campanile I knew he’d already arrived because I saw everyone within sight turn and stare as if they’d just seen a medieval knight in a full suit of armor ride a purple horse out of the canal.
Yeah, kayaks in Venice aren’t exactly an everyday sight. Yet. But if the idea of kayaking through the famous canal city sounds like a good one to you, then René is a good man to know.
A tall Dane with impossibly blue eyes, René lives in Venice for roughly half of each year, leading guided kayaking tours of Venice’s canals. He maintains there’s no better way to see the city than from the water, and I can understand why he’d say that. He knows Venice so well from the water, in fact, that he’s hard-pressed to give locations based on anything but which canals intersect nearby.
Contrary to what most people think, Venice, René told me, is just like any other city – you just have to change your vocabulary a bit. A large motorized boat passed by and he said, “That boat? That’s a truck.” Gesturing to a small motorboat going in the other direction, he said, “That’s a private car. And these,” he said, turning around and pointing at the three kayaks he and his friends had just arrived in, “these are bicycles.” When he put it like that, it made even more sense that kayaks would be a regular fixture in Venice’s canals.
But like I said, that vision may still be a few years in the future. In the meantime, René is doing his part to allow Venice visitors to have an experience that is typically something only the city’s residents can enjoy – piloting your own watercraft through the canals.
Venice Kayak Tour Options & Costs
Routes are designed with your individual preferences and skill level in mind, and can be totally customized to include certain sights, certain islands, etc. Most days start around 9am and finish up around 6pm, so even if you’re just opting for the day-trip you’ll want to set aside the entire day for it. All kayaking skill levels are welcome.
You can choose from day-trips in Venice, 3-day paddling trips, 6-day paddling trips, and a complete week-long kayaking holiday in Venice. Details about each tour option can be found from the links on this page, and the current pricing information is here. As of this writing, the cost of a Venice day-trip is €150 for an individual or €100 per person for groups of 2-5 people. That price includes all the gear you’ll need (kayak, paddle, life vest, dry bags, etc.), maps, and a bilingual (English & Italian) tour guide.
Venice Kayak Contact Information
René can be reached in Italy at +39 346 477 1327 and in the off-season in Denmark at +45 2685 4199; you can email him at [email protected]
all photos in this post are by Venice Kayak & may not be used without permission