Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale)

This grand building was home to Venice’s rulers for centuries and is still a statement of wealth and power.

The pink marble façade of the 14th-century Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) is a striking sight on St. Mark’s Square. The arched loggias and the fortress-like peaks on top of the walls convey a sense of wealth and power to those who approach Venice by sea. Every aspect of this building was designed to impress, from the imposing décor of the Hall of the Great Council, to the luxurious apartments.

Begin your tour in the courtyard, with its towering marble loggias. Statues of Mars and Neptune overlook the open space from atop the wide, white steps of the Giant’s Staircase.

The system of elected rulers in Venice lasted from the seventh to the 18th century. As you wander through this palace, you will see that the rulers, “doges,” were surrounded by luxury. Admire the rooms containing frescoes, paintings and resplendent fireplaces. They still look as they would have in the days when Venice was the so-called Serene Republic. Cast an eye upwards; the carved wooden ceilings are works of art in their own right.

Ascend the Golden Staircase to reach the Hall of the Great Council, the largest and most impressive room. Admire Tintoretto’s massive painting Paradise, which hangs behind the throne. More paintings, frescoes and sculptures by Tintoretto and other artists adorn the walls of every room in the Institutional Chambers.

Find the prison cell where the legendary womanizer Casanova was once held. It is linked to the palace by the Bridge of Sighs. Legend has it that the bridge is so called because it is where an inmate would take his last breath with a view before his imprisonment.

The palace is open daily, with extended hours during summer. Audio guides are available to rent. For a more detailed look at the rooms, as well as a chance to skip the lines, consider booking the museum’s Secret Itineraries tour (for an extra fee). This tour also takes you to rooms that aren’t usually accessible to the public. The museum’s café offers great views back over St. Mark’s Square.

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