The Doge’s Palace has was the residence of the Doge, supreme authority of the Republic of Venice for centuries. Unlike a king, the Doge was elected through an electoral process with voting by the city’s aristocracy. From 726 to 1797, 120 Doges ruled over Venice.
The Doge’s Palace was first built in the 9th century by Doge Agnello Participazio when he moved the seat of government to Rialto. But the building was destroyed in a fire, and the current Doge’s Palace as we know it was constructed in 1340. Since then, the building has been ravaged by multiple fires and reconstructed several times, but the structure has remained the same.
Napoleon abolished the tradition of Doges in 1797, and as it passed through French, Austrian and Italian hold, the palace held political and cultural offices. Finally, in 1923 the Venetian Government established it as a museum.
The Doge’s Palace interiors can be best described as opulent and moralistic. The paintings, sculptures and artefacts were meant as paeans of Venice’s mastery over land and sea. Yet, it was also a reminder to the Doge and aristocracy to rule with morals as their decisions are always observed by the people and gods in heavens.
Puerta della Carta – This is the ornate marble entrance gate and with iconography depicting the Statue of Justice and four virtues. It also portrays the lion of St. Marks.
Foscari Arch – The rounded arch constructed with Istrian stone and Red Verona marble was built to link the Puerta della Carta with the Giant’s Staircase to create an impressive entry.
Scala dei Giganti – The Giant’s staircase is an imposing staircase leading to the state apartments, flanked by two giant statues of Mars and Neptune signifying Venice’s power over land and water.
Scala d’Oro – The Golden Staircase in an indoor staircase leading to the Doge’s apartment and is decorated with beautiful golden stucco decorated vaults.
Sala del Maggior Consiglio – The Grand Council Chamber was built for assembling almost 2,000 nobles and has classic paintings like ‘Paradise by Tintoretto’ and portraits of all 120 Doges.
Appartamento Ducale – Each Doge had a set of rooms that he used for his private and official use. These rooms are ornately decorated and have paintings, artefacts that depict their ceremonial and official responsibilities.
Prigione Nuovo and Ponte dei Sospiri – Prigione Nuovo also known as the Bridge of Sighs was built in 1614 and connects the New Prison ( Ponte dei Sospiri ) to the Doge’s Palace. Prisoners were known to sigh and get their last glimpse of Venice over the bridge, leading to the moniker.
Around Doge’s Palace - The Doge’s Palace is conveniently located on St. Mark’s Square, the central plaza of the city; a constant hive of activity. The St. Mark’s Square has a high concentration of tourist attractions and heritage monuments, making for an excellent walking tour route. After exploring the Doge’s Palace, take a few hours to visit the nearby attractions listed below.
St. Mark’s Basilica - The Basilica di San Marco was constructed in 1092 and has served as the chapel of the Doge’s for centuries before being declared the city’s cathedral in 1807. The church is nicknamed ‘Chiesa d’Oro’ or the Church of Gold thanks to its stunning golden mosaic interiors. The exterior is equally breathtaking with five magnificent domes and detailed Baroque architecture.
Piazzetta – The Piazzetta is a smaller piazza that connects the St. Mark’s Square to the lagoon and is flanked by the Doge’s Palace to one side and the Biblioteca to the other. It has two towering columns facing the lagoon with St. Theodore statue on one and the lion of St. Mark’s on the other.
Clock Tower – The Clock tower built in the 15th century holds an ancient clock and was constructed so as to be viewed from the lagoon. The early Renaissance building also has an archway that connects the Piazza San Marco with Rialto through the main street of Merceria.
Museo Correr – The Correr Museum holds a remarkable collection of Italian art collected by Teodor Correr, who belonged to a traditional Venetian family. The museum located on St. Mark’s Square has paintings and sculptures that depict the life, culture, and history of Venice over the ages.
The Doge’s Palace is a vast network of rooms covering three floors along with the adjacent New Prisons. A guided tour will take you through these rooms in an orderly fashion, with the local expert narrating interesting lores and facts about every nook and corner of the Palace. An interesting guided tour option is the Secret Itineraries Tour that exposes you to the myths and dark side of the Doge’s Palace. Guided tours also have the benefit of combining a city walking tour, a guided visit to the nearby attractions, a gondola ride or a glass art demonstration which works out economical in the long run.
However, if you are on a tight budget, a self-guided visit is an equally exciting option. A self-guided visit gives you the freedom to explore the palace at your own pace. You don’t need to be strained by the timings of a guided tour and neither do you have to keep up with the group. However, purchasing an audio guide is highly recommended while doing a self guided visit.
Explore the previously unseen areas of the Doge’s Palace and learn the secrets of the Republic of Venice with skip the line access. This tour is ideal for those seeking more insight into the working of the palace and the governance of the city. It is a must for history and museum enthusiasts! Here are the highlights of the tour :
Q. Is photography allowed inside the Doge’s Palace?
A. It is forbidden to take photographs or to film within the museums.
Q. Is the cloakroom a free facility?
A. Yes, the cloakroom at Doge’s Palace is a free facility and requires you to deposit anything bulky and heavy before entering the Palace.
Q. Is smoking allowed inside the Doge’s Palace premises?
A. No. Smoking is strictly forbidden in the premises.
Q. Are there any restrictions on cellphone usage inside the Doge’s Palace?
A. While you are allowed to use cellphones in most parts, usage is prohibited near the exhibitions.