LivingTravelWhat to see in the Doge's Palace in Venice

What to see in the Doge's Palace in Venice

The Doge’s Palace, also known as the Palazzo Ducale, is one of the most famous buildings in Venice. Situated on the grand Piazza San Marco, the palace was the home of the Doge (ruler of Venice) and the seat of power for the Venetian Republic, which lasted for more than 1,000 years. Today, the Doge’s Palace is one of the must-see museums in Venice.

Any building worthy of being called a palace must be luxurious, and the Doge’s Palace is especially ornate. From its impressive exterior, decorated in the Gothic style with an open portico, a second-floor balcony and patterned brick, to the interior of grand staircases, gilded ceilings and frescoed walls, the Doge’s Palace is a sight to behold inside and outside. . . As well as being a home for the doge and a gathering place for Venetian dignitaries and administrators, the Doge’s Palace also contained the prisons of the Republic, some of which are accessed via one of Venice’s most famous bridges: the Bridge of Sighs.

A visitor could easily get lost in awe of all the paintings, statues and architecture of the Doge’s Palace.

Arcade Statues by Filippo Calendar

The main architect of the Doge’s Palace was the mastermind behind the open gallery that defines the exterior of the palace’s ground floor. He was also responsible for the design of several arcade sculptures, including “The Drunkenness of Noah,” depicted in the corner of the south façade, and allegorical tondos depicting Venetia in seven of the arcades in front of the Piazzetta.

Door of the Card

Built in 1438, the “Paper Gate” is a gateway between the Doge’s Palace and the Basilica of San Marco. The architect Bartolomeo Buon embellished the door with spiers, carved clovers, and beautiful statues, including one of a winged lion (the symbol of Venice); The gate is a magnificent example of the Gothic style of architecture. Theories as to why the portal was called the “paper door” are that the state archives were housed here or that this was the door where written requests were submitted to the government.

Arco Foscari

Just beyond the Porta della Carta is the Arch of Foscari, a beautiful triumphal arch with spiers and Gothic statues, including sculptures of Adam and Eve by the artist Antonio Rizzo. Rizzo also designed the palace courtyard in the Renaissance style.

Staircase of the Giants

This grand staircase leads to the main floor inside the Doge’s Palace. It is so named because the top of the Staircase of the Giants is flanked by statues of the gods Mars and Neptune.

Golden Staircase

Work on the ‘golden staircase’, which is decorated with a gilded stucco ceiling, began in 1530 and was completed in 1559. La Scala d’Oro was built to provide a grand entrance for dignitaries visiting staterooms in the upper floors of the Ducal Palace.

The Opera museum

The Doge’s Palace Museum, which begins at Scala d’Oro, displays original capitals from the palace’s 14th-century gallery, as well as some other architectural elements from the palace’s first incarnations.


Known as I Pozzi (the wells), the damp and sterile prison cells of the Doge’s Palace were located on the ground floor. When it was determined in the late 16th century that more prison cells were needed, the Venetian government began construction of a new building called Prigioni Nuove (New Prisons). The famous Bridge of Sighs was built as a walkway between the palace and the prison and is accessed through the Sala del Maggior Consiglio on the second floor.

The Doge’s Apartments

The former residence of the doge occupies almost a dozen rooms on the second floor of the palace. These rooms contain specially ornate ceilings and fireplaces and also contain the Doge’s Palace painting collection, which includes spectacular paintings of the iconic Lion of Saint Mark and paintings by Titian and Giovanni Bellini.

The Sala del Maggior Consiglio

Here is the great hall where the Grand Council, an unelected electoral body of all nobles of at least 25 years of age, would meet. This room was completely destroyed by fire in 1577, but was rebuilt with lavish details between 1578 and 1594. It contains an incredible golden ceiling, which has panels depicting the glories of the Republic of Venice, and the walls are painted with portraits of the Doge and frescoes such as Tintoretto, Veronese and Bella.

The Hall of the Scrutinio

This second largest room on the second floor of the Doge’s Palace was a vote-counting room, as well as a meeting room. Like the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, it contains exaggerated decorations, including a carved and painted ceiling, and huge paintings of Venetian sea battles on the walls.

The hall of the college

The cabinet of the Republic of Venice met in this third-floor room, featuring the doge’s throne, an elaborate ceiling with paintings by Veronese, and walls decorated with famous paintings by Tintoretto. The 19th century English art critic John Ruskin said of this room that no other room in the Doge’s palace allowed the visitor “to enter so deeply into the heart of Venice.”

The Senate room

The Senate of the Republic of Venice met in this great room. Tintoretto’s works decorate the ceiling, and two large clocks on the walls helped the senators keep track of time as they gave a speech to their colleagues.

The Hall of the Council of Ten

The Council of Ten was an intelligence service created in 1310 after it was learned that Doge Falier was plotting to overthrow the government. The Council met in this separate room to keep track of the other branches of government (for example, reading incoming and outgoing mail). Veronese’s work decorates the ceiling and there is a large painting of “Neptune Giving Gifts to Venice” by Tiepolo.

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