As poignant as it is beautiful, Venice’s 17th-century, white-limestone Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) spans the narrow Rio di Palazzo canal between the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) and the New Prisons just opposite. It’s one of the most famous bridges in the Floating City.
The Bridge of Sighs is one of the most photographed sights in Venice. Its ornate stonework design was created in 1603 by Antonio Contino, nephew of the architect who designed the Rialto Bridge. The structure got its name from the tale that asserts convicts who passed through the covered bridge from their interrogation to their prison cell would let out mournful sighs when catching their final glimpse of Venice through the barred windows. You can sigh over this same view while walking over the bridge during a tour of the Doge's Palace, the only way to make the crossing.
Both the palace and St. Mark's Basilica host millions of visitors each year, so it is important to book a guided tour for skip-the-line access, saving hours of time in long lines. Joining a small-group walking tour is an excellent way to see the highlights in and around St. Mark's Square, accompanied by a tour guide who can explain this fascinating city's history and architecture.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Bridge of Sighs is most striking as seen from the outside. From St. Mark's Square, walk around the corner of Doge’s Palace along the Grand Canal; as you cross the first bridge, look to your left. Otherwise, for a more romantic (and less crowded) view, take a gondola ride under the iconic bridge.
- For an even deeper dive into the political history of the Republic of Venice, consider an official Doge’s Palace Secret Itineraries tour, which includes visits to some of the historic governmental halls deep inside the palace.
- Large backpacks, bags, and umbrellas are not allowed inside; there is a free cloakroom near the palace entrance.
- Parts of Doge’s Palace, including the Secret Itineraries route and Bridge of Sighs, are not wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
S. Zaccaria is the closest vaporetto stop to Piazza San Marco. Venice is one of the most popular destinations in Italy and well-connected by train to Rome, Florence, and Milan.
When to Get There
Doge's Palace is among the most visited sights in Venice and can get unpleasantly full of tourists during the peak midday hours. Booking a skip-the-line tour is imperative during the months of April through October and also recommended even during winter , the least crowded time to visit.
Lord Byron and the Bridges of Sighs
Much of the Bridge of Sighs’ fame is due to poet Lord Byron (1788–1824), who mentioned it in his long narrative poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.