The current palace stands on the site once occupied by the castle built in 1291 by Obizzo d'Este, Marquis of Ferrara, then rebuilt half a century later. Here the various Modena canals converged, which, flowing from the south towards the Po, joined the moat of the fortress and came out of it from the back, along the current Viale Vittorio Emanuele II. After the devolution of Ferrara to the Pope, Modena in 1598 became the capital of the Este Duchy and the Duke Cesare d'Este settled in the castle, which appeared unsuitable for the needs of a European court. Therefore his nephew, Duke Francesco I d'Este, had a new building built starting in 1634 on a project by architect Bartolomeo Avanzini, with contributions by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Francesco Borromini and Gaspare Vigarani. The Palace, for its size and splendor, is among the most prestigious palaces in Europe and is the seat of the Estense Court until the last Duke Francesco V of Austria-Este (1859).
The elegant façade has three plants of windows side by side, crowned with balustrades with statues. The central part and the side ones are raised. The Cortile d'Onore, with an elegant two-storey loggia, is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. From here you access the Scalone d'Onore decorated with Roman statues, which leads to the Loggia and to the numerous rooms of the State Apartment.
The Doge's Palace hosts the prestigious Military Academy of Modena.