What’s in this guide?
- What to see at the Doge’s Palace
- Building history and facts
- Restaurants, bars and shops nearby
- The Doge’s Palace opening times and tickets
Who is the Doge of Venice?
The Doge of Venice was the leader of the Republic of Venice between 726 and 1797. The position was elected by the aristocracy, symbolising the Venetian state. 120 people were the Doge of Venice during the period.
How to get to the Doge’s Palace
Like many parts of Venice, you can get to the Doge’s Palace on foot or by boat. It’s located in St Mark’s Square, next to St Mark’s Basilica, making it a perfect addition to any sightseeing schedule. This is the central part of the city where you’ll undoubtedly spend most of your time, so you won’t need to go to great lengths to visit the Doge’s Palace.
Venice’s waterbus system is easy to use, with many lines stopping at San Marco terminals. Once you’re back on dry land, it’s just a short walk from San Marco terminals to get to the Doge’s Palace.
What to see at the Doge’s Palace
The public entrance to the Doge’s Palace is also the oldest part of the building, the Porta del Frumento. Pass underneath the 14th-century waterfront façade and prepare to be dazzled by this one-of-a-kind Venetian palace.
The Museo dell’Opera (Opera Museum) is the Doge’s Palace museum, including six rooms full of historic treasures. Each space shines a light on various Capitals of the Opera Museum (the carved tops of columns from throughout the city’s past).
The intricate sculptures and reliefs which decorate the Doge’s Palace offer more than just aesthetics. Each one makes a political, social or religious statement through carved people, animals, plants, myths and symbols. See the Capitals in their new home, inside the Museu dell’Opera, when you visit the Doge’s Palace today.
As well as the Capitals, every wall and ceiling in the Opera Museum is decorated with ornate art. Stroll around this one-of-a-kind museum for a taste of Venice in days gone by.
The Doge’s Apartments
The Doge’s Apartments have been in the same place since the palace was built in the 15th century. They were rebuilt in the Renaissance style after being destroyed by fire in 1483. Head to the apartments between the building’s water entrance, the Golden Staircase and the apse of the Basilica of Saint Mark.
This part of the Doge’s Palace stands out for its intricate architecture and interiors, including carved wooden ceilings, marble chimneys and artwork. These apartments would be filled with furnishings from the doge’s own home, removed by his family after his death to make way for the newly elected’s belongings.
Prisons and the Bridge of Sighs
The Doge’s Palace was once the home of all government operations in Venice, including the Chambers of Magistrates. It’s connected to prisons on the other side of the canal, built in the mid-16th-century to improve the conditions with lighter, airier cells.
The cells are connected to the palace by the iconic Bridge of Sighs. The bridge is enclosed on all sides and comprises two parallel corridors, studded with small windows. The name is supposed to have come from the Romantic period, referring to the sighs of prisoners passing from the courtroom to the cell, glimpsing Venice for one last time.
The Doge’s Palace history and facts
Venice’s Doge’s Palace is an example of Gothic architecture with Rennaisance and Mannerist elements. It’s the result of layering throughout the years, with parts added to 14th and 15th-century foundations.
The wing near St. Mark’s Basin is the oldest, built in the early 1300s, while the palace near St. Mark’s Square was added from 1424 onwards. The canalside wing, where you’ll find the Doge’s Apartments and government offices, dates from the Rennaisance.
The first Doges
In 810, Doge Angelo Partecipazio moved the Venetian government from Malamocco to Rivoalto (Rialto today). The Doge’s Palace was imagined. An early structure went up, but sadly there are no remains of this 9th-century building today.
The Old Castle
The Doge’s Palace is surrounded by canals and would have been protected by walls and corner towers in the 10th and 11th centuries. The early palace was a combination of various buildings inside the walls, serving different purposes for the government and administration. The complex included public offices, courtrooms, prisons, stables, armouries and apartments.
Fire and rebuilding
In the 10th century, part of the palace was destroyed by a fire. The doge was Sebastiano Ziani (1172-1178), who made reconstruction plans that significantly changed the layout of the St. Mark’s Square area.
Two new parts of the palace were built. The first faced the Piazzetta, housing courts and legal offices. The other was for government institutions overlooking St. Mark’s Basin. These new parts of the palace would have been designed in the Byzantine-Venetian style, but sadly only a few traces remain.
Venetian political changes in 1279 meant more people had the right to participate in meetings. More space was needed, and it was time to extend the palace again.
These changes helped create the building we know today, focusing mainly on the Lagoon-facing side of the palace. In 1365, Guariento di Arpo, a Paduan artist, was commissioned to decorate the east wall of the Great Council Chamber. He chose an impressive fresco which visitors can still see today.
The Great Council Chamber met in this new space for the first time in 1419.
Doge Francesco Foscari
Renovations were continued in 1424 when Doge Francesco Foscari was elected. He focused his efforts on the side of the building facing St. Mark’s Square, or Piazzetta San Marco.
The style continued in the same fashion as overlooking the Venetian Lagoon on the other side. This included a ground floor arcade with open balconies stretching along the façade. The vast internal courtyard was built on the same floor as the Great Council Chamber.
After a fire in 1483, essential reconstruction works were needed. Antonio Rizzo was commissioned, introducing the new Rennaissance style to the palace. A new building was erected next to the canal.
Rizzo was replaced by Maestro Pietro Lombardo, who updated the decorations on the façade and the Giants’ Staircase in the internal courtyard. Next, Antonio Abbonti took over, and works were completed in 1559.
Two marble statues of Mars and Neptune were unveiled in 1565, marking the end of this phase.
After the fall of the Venetian Republic
While the Venetian Republic existed, the Doge’s Palace was the heart of political and public administration in Venice. When the Republic fell in 1797, Venice went through French and Austrian rulership before becoming part of united Italy in 1866. the palace housed various administrative offices during this time.
At the end of the 19th century, the Palazzo Ducale showed signs of decay, so the government set aside funds for restoration. Many of the original 14th-century capitals (carved pillars) were removed and moved to safety inside the Museo dell’Opera. Public offices were also moved; only the State Office for the Protection of Historical Monuments remains today.
In 1996, the Doge’s Palace became part of the Civic Museums of Venice.
Restaurants, bars and shops near the Doge’s Palace
Whatever your reasons for visiting Venice, your trip is likely to be studded with excellent food, refreshing aperitivo and browsing local shops. Good news! There are many great restaurants, bars and shops near the Doge’s Palace.
Hungry? When in Italy, there’s always something delicious around the corner. You could grab a bite to eat inside the Doge’s Palace – there’s a great Museum Café inside! The Ducale Caffé promises the best Italian bites, with a menu built around traditional Venetian dishes.
If you can wait until leaving the Doge’s Palace, you’ll be in for a treat. Venice boasts many world-class restaurants, and the busy area around this landmark is home to some of the best.
- Grotta – with a large terrace on Piazza San Marco, ideal for coffee and people-watching
- Ristorante Canova Venezia – an upscale restaurant serving seasonal Venetian cuisine
- Ai Do Leoni – a fuss-free lunch option serving fresh sandwiches packed with the best Italian ingredients
- Al Chianti – a long-standing restaurant for pizza, pasta and other Italian favourites; ask for a table on the terrace
- Restaurant Terrazza Danieli – a beautiful rooftop dining room overlooking the city
Head to the museum shop if you want to pick up a unique souvenir from the Doge’s Palace. Browse a wide variety of high-quality books, homewares, jewellery, prints, local crafts and more. Choose a Venetian-made item to remember your trip to this iconic palace.
Doge’s Palace opening times and tickets
The Doge’s Palace is open every day from 09:00 to 18:00, with the last admission at 17:00.
If you plan on doing some sightseeing while in Venice, a St Mark’s Square Museums ticket is the best type to buy. You’ll gain access to Museo Correr, Museo ArcheologicoNazionale and Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, as well as entry to the Doge’s Palace.
St Mark's Square Museums ticket
Child (6 to 14)
Infants (0 to 5)
Disabled visitors & companion
Taking the train to Venice?
If you want to take a trip to 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 Europe, including Paris to Venice (9h 8m), London to Venice (13h 54m) and Munich to Venice (6h 38m).
Need more information about travelling to Venice by train? Check out our dedicated page to trains to Venice.