The Doge's Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, is a gorgeous Venetian Gothic structure on Saint Mark's Square. It was for centuries the residence and power center 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 for over 1,100 years.
History of the Doge's Palace
The Doge's Palace was the residence of the Doge (the ruler of Venice) and also housed the political bodies of the state, including the Great Council (Maggior Consiglio) and the Council of Ten. Within the lavish complex, there were law courts, administrative offices, courtyards, grand stairways, and ballrooms, as well as prisons on the ground floor. Additional prison cells were located across the canal in the Prigioni Nuove (New Prisons), built in the late
16th century, and connected to the palace via the Bridge of Sighs. You can see the Bridge of Sighs, torture chamber, and other sites not open to visitors on the Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour.
Historical records note that the first Ducal Palace in Venice was built around the end of the 10th century, but much of this Byzantine part of the palace was a victim of subsequent reconstruction efforts. The construction of the most recognizable part of the palace, the Gothic-style south façade facing the water, was begun in 1340 in order to hold the meeting chamber for the Great Council.
There were numerous expansions of the Doge's Palace throughout subsequent centuries, including after 1574 and 1577, when fires ravaged parts of the building. Great Venetian architects, such as Filippo Calendario and Antonio Rizzo, as well as the masters of Venetian painting, contributed to the elaborate interior design.
Venice's most important secular building, the Doge's Palace was the home and headquarters of the Venetian Republic for approximately 700 years until 1797 when the city fell to Napoleon. It has been a public museum since 1923. Today, visitors come to see 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 be sure and see or follow our suggestions. For now, here are a few basics that will help you plan an unforgettable visit to the Palazzo Ducale.
Location: San Marco, 1, Venice
Hours: From April 1 to October 31 8:30 am – 9 pm (last admission 8:30 pm) Sunday to Thursday, and 8:30 am – 11 pm (last admission 10:30 pm) Friday and Saturday. From November 1 to March 31 8:30 am – 7 pm (last admission 6:30 pm) daily. Closed January 1 and December 25.
More information: Visit the website or call (+39) 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. For €25 (2019 price), visitors can purchase a Saint Mark's Square Museums Pass, which is good for three months and includes the palace and three more museums. There is a reduced price for visitors over 65. The Doge's Palace is also included on the Museum Pass, which costs €35, covers 11 museums and is good for six months.
Buying Tickets in Advance: The Doge's Palace website contains links for purchasing your tickets in advance, which we strongly recommend you do.
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 and can be made from the Doge's Palace website.