The bridge is conveniently located near many of Venice’s main attractions, including St. Mark’s Basilica, Rialto Bridge and some of the city’s best restaurants, markets and shops.
Arriving in Venice by train? The Bridge of Sighs is 20 minutes from Santa Lucia station. Take the number 2 or A vaporetto (ferry) from Ferrovia B, outside the station, to the Rialto stop. From here, it’s a 7-minute walk to the Bridge of Sighs.
What’s in this guide?
Bridge of Sighs history and facts
The Bridge of Sighs is an enclosed white limestone bridge over the Rio di Palazzo. It connects the Doge’s Palace with the New Prison (Prigione Nuovi or Palazzo delle Prigione).
The palace was the seat of the Doge of Venice from 1340 to 1866, when Venice became part of newly-unified Italy. The Bridge of Sighs was added in the 17th century to enable prisoners and criminals to be taken from the interrogation rooms at the Doge’s Palace to the adjoining prison cells.
The architect of Rialto Bridge, Antonio da Ponte, began building the prison in 1589. It was completed by his nephew Antonio Contino in 1614. The former jail is now an exhibitions and events space, used as the Taiwan Pavilion during La Biennale.
How old is the Bridge of Sighs?
The Bridge of Sighs was built between 1600 and 1603. It was designed by Antonio Contino in the Baroque style, popular throughout Venice in the 17th century. Like much of the city’s architecture, the Bridge of Sighs was constructed in white limestone from nearby quarries in Istria, Croatia.
The bridge was commissioned by the 89th Doge of Venice, Marino Grimani. His family’s coat of arms is located in the centre of the façade. He ruled the Republic from 1595 to 1605, famous for his quarrel with the papacy that brought Venice under papal interdict after he died.
How long is the Bridge of Sighs?
Although this bridge is one of the best-known in Venice, it is only 11 metres long and 9 metres in height. It looks more like a decorative feature than a passageway, which was surely intentional, allowing more discreet movement between the palace’s interrogation rooms and the prison.
Why is it called the Bridge of Sighs?
Although the bridge was built in 1600, it was given its current name in the 19th-century by the English writer Lord Byron. He claimed that prisoners would sigh as they walked across the bridge and saw Venice for the last time.
However, this is unlikely as inquisitions and summary executions no longer took place in Venice when the bridge was built. Another reason Byron’s claim is disputed is because the Bridge of Sighs is enclosed, with windows and stone bars, so views would have been limited.
The Bridge of Sighs has also been the subject of many artworks, operas, films and an award-winning album by the British songwriter Robin Trower.
Rio di Palazzo
Whilst you can’t cross the Bridge of Sighs today, you can enjoy picturesque views from neighbouring bridges on the Rio di Palazzo. This narrow canal begins at the city’s main waterway, the Giudecca canal, passing behind the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica.
Another well-known bridge crosses the Rio di Palazzo, the 19th-century Ponte della Paglia. This is a popular place to view the Bridge of Sighs as it is open to pedestrians.
Restaurants, bars and shops near the Bridge of Sighs
Need a break from sightseeing? There are plenty of restaurants, bars and shops to enjoy near the Bridge of Sighs in the San Marco neighbourhood. This area has everything from canalside terraces to watch the sunset to designer and high street shopping.
Best restaurants near the Bridge of Sighs
Although San Marco is the tourist hub of Venice, you’ll find restaurants and cafés to suit all budgets and tastes. Whether you want to grab lunch on the go, head for dinner at an authentic trattoria or enjoy a few drinks with some cicchetti (bar snacks), these are the best spots in the area:
- Restaurant Terazza Danieli
- Osteria alle Testiere
- Ristorante Antica Sacrestia
- Osteria di Mare
- Al Chianti
- Trattoria ai Leoncini
- Osteria Calle 21
- Trattoria alla Rivetta
Explore more of the best restaurants in Venice here.
Best bars near the Bridge of Sighs
After you’ve finished sightseeing in San Marco, why not stop for a drink or some cicchetti at a nearby bar? Whether you’d prefer a cosy pub, local wine bar or upscale cocktail lounge, these are the best places to head near the Bridge of Sighs:
- Birreria Forst
- Bacaro Risorto Castello
- Osteria da Bacco
- Ai Do Leoni
- A Le Bande
- Wine Bar 5000
- Oriental Bar and Bistrot
- Bar Dandolo
Our Venice nightlife guide includes all the best bars, pubs and clubs in the city, so you can plan your night out from start to finish.
Best shopping areas near the Bridge of Sighs
Looking to treat yourself during your trip to Venice? For designer shopping, head to Salizada San Moisè and Calle Larga XXII Marzo. Here you’ll find Italian designers and international luxury brands, including:
- Jimmy Choo
- Louis Vuitton
- Miu Miu
- Salvatore Ferragamo
- Dolce & Gabbana
- Giorgio Armani
For high street shopping, visit Le Mercerie. This area is located just a stone’s throw from the Bridge of Sighs, where you’ll find shops like:
- Max Mara
- MAC Cosmetics
- United Colors of Benetton
Discover more of Venice’s best shops and markets in our dedicated guide.
Travelling to Venice by train?
If you're planning to spend some time in Venice, why not travel by train? Travelling to Venice by train is easy due to the high-speed rail connections operated by Trenitalia and Italo. You can travel to Venice from some of the most popular cities in Italy, including Milan to Venice (2h 12m), Rome to Venice (3h 16m) and Bologna to Venice (1h 15m).
Need more information about travelling to Venice by train? Check out our dedicated page to trains to Venice.