Brief history of the Doge’s Palace
Il Palazzo Ducale, as it’s so beautifully called in Italian, is the Palace of the Doge, the leader who ruled over the Most Serene Republic of Venice for more than 1,100 years. He decided that a prominent building should be built for such a prominent position. Therefore, in 1340, he ordered the construction of the palace to be built on ninth century foundations.
In 1483 a large part of the Venetian-Gothic building was destroyed by a fire, so it was necessary to renovate. The architect Antonio Rizzo gave a beautiful Renaissance makeover to the building, making it look as beautiful as it still is today. Later, another fire broke out, but this time only damaging the inside. Since 1923 it has officially served as a museum.
What is there to see in the Doge’s Palace?
Of course it’s not just the exterior that looks stunning, you can also admire the magnificent interior. These are five eye catchers that you shouldn’t skip during your visit to the Doge’s Palace:
- The Chamber of the Great Council (Sala del Maggior Consiglio)
This giant room was the scene of a democracy avant la lettre. At this place men of the most important Venetian patrician families decided on the fate of the Republic. The Doge might have been the leader of Venice, without their approval he could not decide anything. The Hall of the Great Council is decorated with fresco’s of the first 76 doges, with the exception of the black-veiled bust of Marin Faliero. This ruler tried to get rid of the Council in 1355. That not only resulted in getting the death penalty, but he was also sentenced to “damnatio memoriae”; the complete eradication from the memory of history.
- The courtrooms (Sala del Magistrato alle Leggi)
Unlike most of Italy, which was subordinate to the Roman justice system, Venice could decide on its own legislation. As a result, their trading system could flourish. The Doge’s Palace didn’t only serve as the chamber of the doge, but it was also here that laws were made and seen if they were respected. In this room there is also a beautiful triptych of Hieronymus Bosch.
- The chambers of the Doge (Appartamento Ducale)
Although he was considered as the supreme leader of the Republic, he was also a minister of the state. This is why his private rooms in the palace are surprisingly small and humble. The eye catcher here is the shrine, where you can see a collection of land cards that shows how enormously expansive the Venetian Republic actually was. In addition, there are also some beautiful paintings and two giant world globes that show the 18th century worldview.
- The armory room (Armeria di Palazzo)
To ensure its domination of maritime trade routes, one had to have the necessary weapons to deter jealous opponents. The Venetian army was available at any time to counteract a possible attack. Most of the weapons houses here were made in the Arsenal, which is definitely worth a visit as well. Furthermore you can find swords, crossbows and harnesses, but also the “Devil’s chest”. This is a real booby trap where four guns and poisonous arrows were shot at the unfortunate person that opened this chest.
- The secret rooms (Stanze segrete)
This name was given to a number of rooms where things were happening that were very secretive and often quite dark… These are mainly the interrogation rooms and cells. The latter consist of the pozzi (small humid rooms for the ordinary criminals) and the piombi (somewhat more comfortable cells for more ‘pristine’ prisoners). It was from one of these piombi that the famous seducer Casanova managed to escape. The secret rooms also contain a torture room where the Venetians tried to get confessions out of the prisoners by using a hanging noose.
- The New Prison and Bridge of Sighs (Prigione Nuovo and Ponte dei Sospiri)
In the seventeenth century, Antonio da Ponte, the architect who designed the Rialto bridge, decided to move the prison cells from the Doge’s Palace to an adjacent building on the other side of the canal. In order to connect this house with the interrogation rooms, he charged his nephew Antonio Contino with the task of designing the Bridge of Sighs. A few centuries later, this became one of the world’s most famous bridges, due to its dark name. Prisoners could catch a last glimpse of the outside world and do nothing but sigh…
What does the Doge’s Palace cost?
Adults pay twenty euros for a ticket and children between six and fourteen thirteen euros. Students from fifteen to 25 and seniors also pay thirteen euros for a visit to this magical building. Children up to five years may enter for free.
With these tickets you can visit the Museo Correr, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale and the monumental rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana. Tickets are valid until three months after purchase, but you can only use them once.
You can book tickets for the Doge’s Palace online on their website.
Doge’s Palace skip the line tickets
If you want to skip the long queues -When it’s high seasons you sometimes have to wait two to three hours …- you can also buy ship-the-line tickets for the Doge’s Palace. These costs €3 more per person. These tickets can also be booked online here.
Opening hours of the Doge’s Palace
Please note that there are different opening hours for the high and low season.
High Season: From 1 April to 31 October, the palace is open from 8:30 am to 7:00 pm, with the last visitors entering at 6:00 pm.
Low season: From 1 November to 31 March, the palace is open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, with the last visitors entering at 4:30 pm.
On December 25 and January 1, the Doge Palace is closed.
After visiting the Palazzo Ducale, a visit to the San Marco Basilica (St Mark’s basilica) is also highly recommended. After that, you may want to escape the hustle and bustle by getting lost on purpose in one of the many little streets. Venice is a beautiful city and there is a big chance that you’ll want to come back for more of its cuteness.
If you can’t visit the city of the bridges for the time being, you can always walk here virtually in the game ‘Assassin’s Creed II’. Here you can even climb the Doge’s Palace! But be warned… Once you see Venice virtually, you’ll want to see it in real as well!
Tickets, guides and combination tours
I would recommend taking a tour with a guide. They are much more interesting than the audio guides, and you can also ask all of your urgent questions.
A ticket for the Doge’s Palace is in many cases available as a combination ticket with other sights or activities in Venice. Check out these interesting offers:
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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.