Saint Mark’s Square in Venice: complete guide

Place Saint-Marc

Visiting the Serenissima? Then we’d like to take you on a tour of St. Mark’s Square in Venice.

Venice is a city like no other. Built on over a hundred islands, criss-crossed by canals and bridges, the city known as the Serenissima is like no other. Among the wonders you’ll have the opportunity to admire, you can’t miss the chance to make a detour to visit St. Mark’s Square.

Located on the banks of the Grand Canal, it is the very heart of the city. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of « Venice and its Lagoon », you’ll be amazed by its beauty.

Still not convinced? Follow the guide as Generation Voyage takes you on a tour of St. Mark’s Square.

St Mark’s Square in Venice in a nutshell

Place Saint-Marc

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Kert

First of all, visiting St. Mark’s Square in Venice is by no means a trivial experience. After all, when you get there, you can feel the life of the city unfolding before you.

Indeed, before it became the tourist and cultural attraction it is today, Piazza San Marco was above all the nerve center of the then independent Republic of Venice. All the religious, political and economic powers were gathered there, in the same place.

It has stood the test of time, through wars and regime changes, and yet it’s still here. Bordered on three sides by colonnades and arcades, it is home to numerous monuments and institutions.

You’ll be able to admire the Basilica of San Marco, which gives it its name, as well as the Campanile, the Grand Canal, the fabulous Doge’s Palace, the Archaeological Museum, the Correr Museum and the Marcienne Library.

And while you’re visiting Saint Mark’s Square, treat yourself to a sweet treat at one of the many ice cream parlors lining the square!

1. Saint Mark’s Basilica

Basilique Saint-Marc visiter la place Saint-Marc

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Simone Padovani

First, approach St. Mark’s Basilica, the most important basilica in the entire city. In fact, you can’t visit St. Mark’s Square without entering it.

Built in the 9th century (so it’s almost 1,200 years old!), it was later rebuilt after a fire destroyed it completely. When you finally step inside, you’ll be breathless by the incredible scenery.

Inspired by Byzantine decoration, the ceilings of the five domes are decorated with mosaics on a gold background. So characteristic, in fact, that the building is nicknamed the « Golden Basilica »!

In fact, you’ll have a breathtaking view of it as you climb up to the terrace. From there, admire the view over the whole of St. Mark’s Square and the Grand Canal. An experience you won’t soon forget when you visit St. Mark’s Square!

2. Saint Mark’s bell tower

Campanile Venise

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Ingus Kruklitis

The Campanile San Marco is located just in front of the Basilica and served as its bell tower. As a result, it’s a must-see when visiting St. Mark’s Square.

Measuring almost a hundred meters in height, it houses five bells, each with a specific function. For example, one rings the noon bell, another for Senate sessions, and a third called the city’s magistrates in the days of the Doges…

The square brick tower is topped by a gold weathervane depicting the Archangel Gabriel. What’s more, if you want a fantastic view of Venice, its lagoon and St. Mark’s Square in its entirety, you can take an elevator to the top!

A word of advice if you’re visiting St. Mark’s Square at the end of the day: climb to the top of the Campanile to admire the sunset.

3. Doge’s Palace

Palais des Doges

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Who hasn’t heard of Venice’s Doge’s Palace? You know, this superb palace that blends Gothic and Renaissance styles and runs the length of St. Mark’s Square!

Dating back to the 14th century, you’ll be amazed by its architectural beauty on the outside… and, of course, on the inside. Because when you’re visiting St. Mark’s Square, a visit to the Doge’s Palace is almost a must.

You can marvel at the frescoes, walls and ceilings painted by some of the greatest names of the Renaissance. Tintoretto, Veronese…

Quite simply, the building is a museum in itself. Above all, it was the seat of power for the Doges (the city’s first magistrates) for centuries. For example, the palace even had a secret prison under the roof!

Good to know:

  • Don’t hesitate to come early to avoid overcrowding, and even to book in advance;
  • There is a ticket for the museums of Saint Mark’s Square which also allows you to visit the three other museums in Saint Mark’s Square: the Correr Museum, the Archaeological Museum and the Marcienne Library;
  • With the Venice Unica Tourist Office card, you can visit municipal museums for much less.

4. Correr Museum

Musée Correr Venise

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Evgenii Iaroshevskii

If you’re going to visit St. Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace, be sure to include the Correr Museum in your itinerary for the day.

This is Venice’s main museum, and it would be a shame to miss out, given that the price of admission is included in that of the Doge’s Palace. It occupies the Napoleon wing of the Procuraties Nouvelles, which border the square.

Founded in the mid-19th century, the museum features a wealth of works of art and historical objects that trace Venetian life through the ages. In 20 magnificently decorated rooms, you can admire works by Antonio Canova, Giambattista Pittoni, Giovani Bellini…

And don’t miss a visit to Sissi’s Apartments. Comprising 9 rooms, they opened in 2012 after restoration and are now fully integrated into the Correr Museum.

As the name suggests, this is where the Austrian Empress Elisabeth stayed when she was in Venice. The Empire-style decor is well worth a look.

And if you visit Piazza San Marco, you might even be able to re-enact the famous « Viva la Mamma » scene from the film starring Romy Schneider.

Good to know:

  • Visits are free on the first Sunday of the month.

5. Venice Archaeological Museum

Musée Archéologique national visiter la Place Saint-Marc

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Steve Boyko

Located in the Procuraties Nouvelles building, like the Museo Correr, Venice’s archaeological museum exhibits magnificent works of antiquity. In fact, despite its relatively small size, it still boasts some fine finds.

Coins, precious stones, bronzes, pottery… If you’re going to visit Piazza San Marco and have a bit of time on your hands, don’t hesitate to take a look at the really interesting collections.

What’s more, admission is included in the price of a ticket to the Doge’s Palace. All in all, it’s a great little museum to visit quickly when you’re on your way to St. Mark’s Square.

6. Marcienne Library

Bibliothèque Marcienne Visiter la Place Saint-Marc

Photo credit: Facebook – Hervé de Gouzillon

When visiting St. Mark’s Square, your first choice will not necessarily be the Marcienne Library.

However, it would be wrong to disdain a visit, as it houses some real treasures. Founded in 1588, it houses over a million antiquarian books, 13,000 manuscripts (some dating back to the 16th century) and 2,800 incunabula (the first books published after the birth of printing).

What’s more, the building itself is a feast for the eyes. For example, there are incredible painted ceilings, fantastic woodwork and, for those who love to travel, ancient maps of the world.

For lovers of ancient libraries, and for those still waiting for their letter of admission to Hogwarts, the Marcienne Library is a must-see when visiting Piazza San Marco.

Good to know

  • Visits are free on the first Sunday of the month;
  • Entrance is via the Correr Museum.

7. The Clock Tower

Tour de l'horloge Venise visiter Place Saint-Marc

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Cezary Wojtkowski

When you visit Piazza San Marco, you can’t miss the Clock Tower. This large square tower, topped by the winged lion of Saint Mark, a bell and two statues, is quite simply splendid.

The clock itself is also magnificent, with its blue background and gold decorations. In fact, it has several special features. Firstly, it not only marks the hours, but also the phases of the moon and the signs of the zodiac.

Then, the two statues at the top come to life to strike the hours by tapping the bell. A fascinating spectacle, a must-see if you’re visiting St. Mark’s Square with children.

And don’t forget that it’s also possible to visit it. Guided tours in French are organized twice a day. Reservations can be made online or at the Correr Museum ticket office.

This is also where you’ll find the departure point. You’ll learn about the history of the tower, but above all you’ll be able to admire its mechanism up close. Finally, the highlight of the tour is the arrival at the terrace. From here, you’ll have a breathtaking view of Venice, St. Mark’s Square…

But also on the two automaton sculptures that ring the carillon. What’s more, on this tour you’ll find far fewer people than at the Campanile. So you’ll be much quieter, away from the crowds. So if you’re going to visit St. Mark’s Square, don’t hesitate!