The Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), once the political and judicial hub of the Venetian Empire and home to the Doge, is one of the world’s most beautiful buildings. It is the grandest of the Venetian palazzi, and one of the finest secular buildings of its era.
Doges ruled the Venetian Republic from this grandiose palace, built and rebuilt many times from the 7th to the 18th centuries. It’s a testament to the stability of the state that the Doge’s Palace was not a castle or fortress, but an elegant assemblage of pink and white marble.
The façade of Palazzo Ducale is punctuated with sculpted figures representing wisdom and the other virtues symbolising the Venetian concept of Civilization and Governance.
The Palazzo Ducale adjoins the Basilica di San Marco at the east end of the Piazza San Marco, and overlooks the Piazzetta and the waters of the Bacino di San Marco. It is reached by taking the vaporetto #1 from the Railway Station, a beautiful trip down the Grand Canal of about 35 minutes, or by approaching it on foot. Walking from the Station takes about 45 minutes.
To see it thoroughly you should allow plenty of time, perhaps deciding in advance what you particularly want to see. The audio-guide tour takes around 2 to 3 hours, and is offered in Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese. There are information boards in Italian and English in many of the rooms. These are well worth reading if you don’t have a guidebook. There’s no ideal time to go, as the Palazzo Ducale, together with the Canale Grande, is the number one sight for every visitor to Venice.
If you’re intrigued by the Palace, you may want to go on one of the Secret Trails of the Palazzo Ducale (itinerari Segreti del Palazzo Ducale). These very popular, €16 guided tours, by appointment only, are now also available in English. Tours of the Doge’s Palace run daily at 9:30 am, 10:45 am and 11:35 am. You must reserve in advance at the buyers’ ticket entrance or by calling +041 520 9070.
You’ll peek into otherwise restricted areas and hidden passageways of this enormous palace, such as the Doges’ private chambers, the cell where Casanova was imprisoned, (and from which he escaped!), and the torture chambers where prisoners were interrogated.
The Doges Palace Venice is open daily from the beginning of April until the end of October from 9:00 am-7:00 pm. From the beginning of November until the end of March it is open daily from 9am-5pm. You must buy a Museum Card to enter the Palazzo Ducale, as single tickets are not sold. The Museum Card is valid for Palazzo Ducale, Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico and Biblioteca Marciana. Museum Cards cost €11 for adults, and €3 for children aged 6-14.