Step into Venice's Gothic Past at the Doge's Palace

Explore the Secret Life of the 1,100-Year-Old Venetian Republic

Italy, Veneto, Venice, St Marks Square, Panoramic view of Doges Palace
••• seng chye teo / Getty Images

The Doge's Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, is the symbol of Venice's magnificent past and an artistic spirit that pulls in crowds of visitors to the Serenissima (the "Most Serene One"), as Venice is known.

This gorgeous Venetian Gothic structure on Saint Mark's Square was the residence of the Doge, the erstwhile "Duke" of Venice, who ruled as the chief magistrate and leader of the Most Serene Republic of Venice, a city-state that endured more than 1,100 years.

An Architectural Masterpiece

First built in the 10th century, then added to as Venice grew by Italy's greatest architects, this building was the center of every aspect of the republic's official life, from courts to administration, for the 400 years it controlled trade and commerce in the Mediterranean.

Since 1923, the Doge's Palace has been a museum, showing off its elaborate exterior and rococo interior architecture, its unbelievably grand halls at the heart of Venice's history and politics, and its priceless paintings by Venetian masters such as Titian, Veronese, Tiepolo, and Tintoretto.

An Unforgettable Visit 

You can still walk the opulent hallways, where it's no stretch to imagine conspiratorial politicians whispering their secrets. Today, the Doge's Palace is a major museum of the city, one of 11 run by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia. 

There is much to see, so when you visit, allow plenty of time to explore.

Before you go, read about the palace and establish a few highlights you'd like to hit or follow our suggestions. For now, here are a few basics that will help you plan an unforgettable visit to the Palazzo Ducale.

Visitor Information

Location: San Marco, 1, Venice

Hours: Daily 8:30 a.m. to  7:00 p.m. (5:30 p.m. in winter).

The last visitor is admitted one hour before closing. Closed January 1 and December 25.

More information: Visit the website or call (0039) 041-2715-911.

Admission: If you wish to buy tickets the day of your visit, ask about prices at the ticket window or call ahead. Visitors can purchase a Saint Mark's Square Museums Pass, which includes the palace and three more museums. Reduced price for visitors over 65. The Doge's Palace is also included in an 11-museum pass, which is good for a longer period of time.

Buying Tickets in Advance: Avoid the ticket line and purchase a Venice Museum Pass ahead of time. It includes either four or 11 museum, and it is good for one month. Purchase these in US dollars online through Viator

Tours: Particularly popular is the Secret Itineraries Tour, which includes a visit to secret passageways, prisons, an interrogation room, and the infamous Bridge of Sighs. Reservations are required.