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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 more than 400 bridges spanning the canals of Venice, you'd have to be a local to visit them all. But if you're looking for the best bridges in Venice to see on your next trip, then 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 to visit in Venice. There is even a famous tradition related to this bridge that is the reason why thousands of couples visit this curious bridge.

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

What is 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 the locals, this emblematic monument of Venice was built in 1600 and connects the Doge's Palace with the historic prison on the other side of 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 their last glimpse of Venice's beauty 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".

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How to visit the Bridge of Sighs

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

The Bridge of Sighs is not open-air like the other bridges in Venice, but runs along the rear facade of the Doge's Palace. Apparently it appears as a kind of closed tunnel that connects a former prison of the Inquisition with the Doge's Palace; hence theonly way to cross the Bridge of Sighs and move around inside it is by booking a tour of the Doge's Palace. In this way, you will also be able to see the interior of the Doge's Palace, which in turn completes the history of the bridge.

On a visit to the Bridge of Sighs you will learn a little about the history of the Republic of Venice and the system of government at that time. You will then take a tour across the Bridge of Sighs to the prisons, walking along the same path and getting the same views as the prisoners did centuries ago. I would certainly recommend you stop for a while and imagine how hard it would be for you to see the daytime lights of Venice from the windows of the bridge for the last time.

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 day and 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.

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The best views of the Bridge of Sighs

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 to go there as the light enters 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 not located 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 picture of the lagoon behind the bridge - a perfect combination!

If you feel like treating 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 fancy.

Gondola ride prices

  • 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 each additional twenty minutes. Without a doubt 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.

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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 monuments in Venice. Ideally, you should visit the bridge in the low season (i.e. in all months except June, July and August) in Venice, when the city is relatively less crowded with tourists. This way, not only will you be able to visit the interior of the bridge and see it from a distance without being disturbed, but you will also be able to take more tours of Venice in greater peace and comfort.

Of course, if you go to Venice in July or you go to Venice in August, or during the Venice Carnival season, you will have no choice but to visit the bridge in the less usual 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 photogenic places in the city, so don't expect no one wandering around the area. If you are looking to take a picture 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 one hour and 30 minutes before sunset. And if it is from a point of equal or lower altitude, so much the better.

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 eleven 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 overpass, the Rialto Bridge.

The arched bridge is not open-air like most of the city's bridges, and has only two small rectangular lattice-shaped windows. Therefore, you can only visit the interior of the bridge if you 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 as the other, not one centimeter more! You can see the influence of the perfection that had sown the Renaissance.

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 day, as it is located in a very visible area, and at night it is well lit. On theother hand, if what you are looking for is to be inside and look outside from the interior walkways of the bridge, there is nothing to worry about, as it is usually open for much of the day (from 8:30am to 8pm). However, it is closed to the public during the key days of the Christmas season in Venice (December 25, January 1 and January 6).

As far as admission 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, as to get to the bridge you have to enter through the Doge's Palace.

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

How to get to the Bridge of Sighs

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

Logically, depending on the area you are in you will have to opt for one way or another to get to the famous Bridge of Sighs. However, knowing how to get around in 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.

The romantic tradition of the Bridge of Sighs

People waiting for the Gondola on the bridge| ©Son of Groucho
People waiting for the Gondola on 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're a fan of romance, 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 of the couples follow this tradition, some even joining together when it is already night in Venice. In the past, however, 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 to be taken to their execution. Today that idea is no longer contemplated. Moreover, since the romantic poet Lord Byron began to dedicate writings to this iconic bridge, it did not take long for the legend of the sighs of suffering to be renewed by another in which the sighs this time are of happiness and love.

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