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The Venice Bridge of Sighs: everything you need to know

Don't miss a visit to the Bridge of Sighs, one of the most mysterious and iconic places in the city of Venice.

Carmen Navarro

Carmen Navarro

8 min read

The Venice Bridge of Sighs: everything you need to know

Bridge of Sighs, Venice | ©Nick Karvounis

With over 400 bridges spanning the canals of Venice, the Bridge of Sighs should be on your list. Although it has a dark history of being used to transport prisoners, today it is one of the most romantic places in Venice. In fact, there is even a famous tradition related to this bridge.

I invite you to get to know that tradition, to know the secrets surrounding this bridge, to enjoy the views it offers and to contemplate the architectural and artistic part of this construction.

Visit the Bridge of Sighs entering the Palazzo Ducale

Inside the Bridge| ©Dimitris Kamaras
Inside the Bridge| ©Dimitris Kamaras

The Bridge of Sighs is not open to the open air like the other bridges in Venice, but runs along the rear facade of the Doge's Palace. Apparently it appears as a sort of closed tunnel connecting a former Inquisition prison to the palace; hence the only way to cross the bridge and move around inside is by booking a ticket for the Doge's Palace.

On the walk across the Bridge of Sighs to the prisons, you will walk through the same place and have the same views as the prisoners did centuries ago. At the same time, you will also notice that the walkway of the bridge is divided into two parts and separated by a wall. This was done so that prisoners walking in opposite directions could never see or cross each other.

I recommend visiting the inside of the bridge both during the day and at night, as the panorama changes completely. Both the temperature inside and the views from the windows of the bridge are very different at both times of the day.

Book your ticket for the Doge's Palace.

What is so special about the Bridge of Sighs?

View of the Bridge of Sighs| ©Soroush Karimi
View of the Bridge of Sighs| ©Soroush Karimi

Called the Ponte dei Sospiri by locals, this iconic Venice landmark was built in 1600 and connects the Doge's Palace to the historic prison across the canal.

It must be said that the history of the bridge is somewhat obscure. Initially prisoners on trial in Venice were held in the subway prison chambers inside the Doge's Palace. However, as the number of prisoners grew, the prison was expanded to a building across the canal called the New Prison, and the Bridge of Sighs was built primarily to transport prisoners directly from their trial to their cells.

According to legend, the bridge's name comes from the sighs of prisoners who crossed the bridge on their way to their prison cells or execution chamber, catching one last glimpse of the beauty of Venice through the small windows. The bridge became a symbolic monument of Venice when the acclaimed Romantic poet Lord Byron mentioned it in his 1812 book Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.

Book your ticket for the Doge's Palace.

Enjoy the best views of the Bridge of Sighs from a gondola

Sunset on the Bridge of Sighs| ©Alessio Furlan
Sunset on the Bridge of Sighs| ©Alessio Furlan

The easiest way to see the Bridge of Sighs from the outside is by stepping onto one of the neighboring bridges. The easiest to reach is the Paglia Bridge next to St. Mark's Square and just behind the Doge's Palace. Even though it is one of the busiest bridges in Venice, I would recommend you go, as the light comes in from behind and perfectly illuminates the Bridge of Sighs. Just what you need for a high quality photograph!

The other option is the Canonica Bridge, a much less popular bridge and one that is also not on one of the main streets of the city. From this point you can not only admire the Bridge of Sighs without other tourists pushing you impatiently, but you can also get a photo of the lagoon behind the bridge - a perfect combination!

If you feel like indulging yourself, then the most luxurious way to get a view of the bridge is to book a gondola ride. They are a bit pricey, but you can go directly under the bridge and take mental or real photos whenever you want and from whatever angle you feel like.

Prices for gondola rides

  • During the day you pay 80 euros for a half hour ride. For every additional twenty minutes you will have to pay 40 euros extra.
  • Atnight you will pay 100 euros for a 40-minute ride and 50 euros for every additional twenty minutes.
  • Undoubtedly the most economical way would be to share the experience with other tourists, or friends.
  • Also, for more information, I recommend this post about the prices of the gondolas.

Book a gondola ride

Best time to visit the Bridge of Sighs

View from the Bridge of Sighs| ©Dimitris Kamaras
View from the Bridge of Sighs| ©Dimitris Kamaras

Venice is always full of tourists and the Bridge of Sighs is one of the most popular sights in Venice. Ideally, you would like to visit the bridge in the low season (i.e. in all months except June, July and August) in Venice, when the city receives relatively fewer tourists. This way, not only will you be able to visit the interior of the bridge and contemplate it from a distance without being disturbed, but you will also be able to book a guided tour of Venice in greater peace and comfort.

Of course, if you go to Venice in July, August, or during the Venice Carnival season, you will have no choice but to visit the bridge in the off-peak hours (when there are fewer tourists inside). I recommend heading there early in the morning (between 8:30 and 11), or during the afternoon/evening (between 6 and 8), as the bridge is not often visited at such late hours.

Remember that the Bridge of Sighs is one of the most photographed places in the city. If you are looking to take a photo from the outside, then it doesn't matter much what time it is. Although, from experience, the best time for a souvenir photo is between an hour and 30 minutes before sunset. And if it is from a point of equal or lower altitude, so much the better.

Book a guided tour of Venice.

Architecture of the Bridge of Sighs

At night on the Bridge of Sighs| ©Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar
At night on the Bridge of Sighs| ©Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar

This beautiful bridge hangs over the Rio Palazzo canal, is about 11 meters high and is made of beautiful white Istrian marble. If you look at this building more closely, you will notice twenty mask heads.

The highly ornamental bridge is also made of white limestone, a material typical of most buildings constructed in Venice during the Renaissance. The architect Antonio Contino was the nephew and apprentice of Antonio da Ponte, the same man who designed Venice's most famous flyover, the Rialto Bridge. Curious, isn't it?

The arched bridge is not open -air like most of the city's bridges, and features only two small rectangular lattice-like windows. Therefore, you can only visit the inside of the bridge if you can have access to the Doge's Palace. The bridge has a walkway that is divided into two parts, each of which has the same surface area as the other - not one centimeter more! You can feel the influence of the perfection that had sown the Renaissance.

Book your ticket for the Doge's Palace.

Timetables and prices to visit the Bridge of Sighs

Money in euros| ©cottonbro
Money in euros| ©cottonbro

Of course you can see the Bridge of Sighs at any time of the day, as it is located in a very visible area, and at night it is well lit. On the other hand, if you are looking to be inside and look outside from the interior walkways of the bridge, there is nothing to worry about, since it is open **from 8:30 am to 8 **pm. **Of course, it is closed to the public on December 25, January 1 and January 6.

As far as ticket prices are concerned, a small distinction can be made. Those who enter for free and those who have to pay an entrance fee that costs about 10 euros per person. Remember that there is no visit for the bridge only, since to get to the bridge you have to enter through the Doge's Palace.

  • Free admission: This goes for Venice residents, ICOM members, disabled persons with an escort, licensed guides and interpreters, and children up to five years of age.
  • 10 euro entrance fee: For all other cases.

Book your ticket for the Doge's Palace.

How to get to the Bridge of Sighs

Vaporetto on the Grand Canal| ©David Jones
Vaporetto on the Grand Canal| ©David Jones

The Bridge of Sighs is one of the best bridges in Venice. Logically, depending on the area you are in, you will have to choose one way or another to get to the famous Bridge of Sighs. However, knowing how to get around Venice is key to save time and expenses.

  • From Piazzale Roma, the best way to get there is by vaporetto. In this case, I recommend line 1 stopping at Vallaresso, line 2 stopping at Giardinetti or lines (5.1 or 4.1) stopping at the San Zaccaria stop.
  • From Venice Santa Lucia train station the best way to get there is by vaporetto. I recommend line 1 stopping at San Zaccaria or line 2 stopping at Giardinetti.
  • From Venice Lido you can opt for vaporetto line 1 stopping at Vallaresso, or line 5.2 stopping at San Zaccaria.

Book a guided tour of Venice.

The romantic tradition of the Bridge of Sighs

People waiting for the Gondola for the bridge.| ©Son of Groucho
People waiting for the Gondola for the bridge.| ©Son of Groucho

Today, the bridge is associated with a different legend, which tells that if a couple kisses on a sunset gondola ride under the bridge, they will be granted eternal love. What's more, the typical image of two lovers riding a gondola at sunset is nothing more and nothing less than a simulation of sailing under this bridge. Sound familiar? If you are a fan of romanticism, it will surely ring a bell.

What's more, if you go out at sunset in Venice and head near the bridge, you will see how most couples follow this tradition, some joining together even when it is already dark in Venice. A tradition that is already Italian culture.

Of course, in the past not everyone associated the bridge with something romantic, but rather with something funereal and sad, as it served as a corridor for prisoners to enter their cells or were taken for execution. Today that idea is no longer contemplated. Moreover, since the romantic poet Lord Byron began to dedicate writings to this iconic bridge, it didn't take long for the legend of the sighs of suffering to be renewed by one in which the sighs were of happiness and love.

Book a guided tour of Venice.