The powerful Doges ruled the Venetian Empire from the Gothic fantasy palace that is Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) until 1797. The site was one of the first things those arriving in Venice saw as their ships sailed through the lagoon and landed at St Mark's Square, and the doges ruled with an iron fist—justice was often meted out here. Today, the site is one of the most well-known attractions in Italy.
The BasicsThings to Know Before You Go
The Palace of Doges is a significant historical site in Venice, with many travelers arriving to hear about the strict rule of the Venice Doges from an expert local guide. The site is most often visited on a two- to five-hour Venice tour and can be combined with a stop at St Mark's Basilica, once the private chapel of the Doges. Inside the palace, admire the many paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese, and climb the narrow staircases to visit the Doge's apartments and the prison cells, as well as the ducal notary. Outside the palace is the Bridge of Sighs and the beautiful columns along the piazzetta.
The popular Secret Itineraries tour allow visitors, accompanied by a guide, into chambers of the palace not open to the general public. You'll see the secret chancellery where the delicate work of governing was done, the secret archives, the torture room, and the cell from which the famous writer Giacomo Casanova made his escape.
- The palace is best explored on a guided tour for an in-depth historical understanding.
- Booking a St. Mark's museum pass allows access to the three museums in St. Mark's Square.
- The palace is wheelchair accessible, and an audio guide is available for rental.
- The majority of palace tours include Venice hotel pickup and dropoff, although a few tours offer departures from Florence and Milan.
How to Get to the Doge's Palace
The Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) is located next to St. Mark's Church in St. Mark's Square. The site is easily accessible by vaporetto (the public water taxi) on the Grand Canal or on foot.
When to Get There
Summertime is popular in Venice; be prepared for lines and crowds. The palace's hours vary seasonally.
A Haunting History
Death sentences were declared between the 9th and 10th columns outside the palace, while executions were carried out between the freestanding columns in the piazzetta next to the lagoon; even today Venetians won't walk between them. A final chance at life was offered if the accused were able to walk around the edge of the third column on the seaward side of the palace.