Visiting the St. Mark’s Basilica | The floating city of Venice is connected by 118 bridges to its islands. The heart of Venice is St. Mark’s Square considered by Napoleon as ‘Europe’s most beautiful salon‘.
In fact, it’s probably the most beautiful, open-air salon in the world. The square is named after the Basilica di San Marco surrounded on 4 sides. What Notre Dame is for Paris or Saint Peter for Rome, is San Marco for Venice.
Numerous descriptions of the basilica – Called ‘St Mark’s Basilica‘ in English – fill entire libraries. The interior of San Marco – Gold, wherever the eye looks, has been built according to the Byzantine model. The church is a magnificent monument to the self-confidence of their great naval power. Golden, shining scenes attract many visitors’ eyes to the most splendid.
- 1 St. Mark’s Basilica – The Great Architectural Theater
- 2 Campanile – The freestanding bell tower
- 3 Opening hours of St. Mark’s Basilica
- 4 Numerous sights – what can be seen?
- 5 Exploring the “Golden Picture Book” of St. Mark’s Cathedral – Discovering History
- 6 And it was the evangelist Marcus’ church
- 7 Safety first – No luggage in the cathedral allowed
- 8 Magnificent and magical – The overall impression
- 9 Time travel between power and wealth – Why the visit is worth
- 10 St. Mark’s Cathedral – entrance fees and guided tours
- 11 Practical information
- 12 Visit the St. Mark’s Basilica – Location and how to get there
- 13 What can be seen nearby?
- 14 St. Mark’s Basilica at night
St. Mark’s Basilica – The Great Architectural Theater
What makes Venice and its St. Mark’s Basilica so unique is the combination of Byzantine, Arabic and Gothic elements combined into an individual medieval architectural language. Inspired by the Orient, and preciously furnished – the St. Mark’s Basilica fascinates with the largest mosaic cycle in the entire Occident. Visitors drift into a ‘picture book’ – a kaleidoscope of Venetian styles. This is the result of a comprehensive iconographic plan.
The mysterious magic of the shining gold mosaics which cover all the inside walls was not only intended to be a symbol of divinity, but also to provide the building with its paint and flair of an early Christian sacred place. While the main and secondary facades were decorated with sculptures, the interior presents a multicoloured marble floor. Over an area of 4000 square meters, golden glimmering mosaics show biblical scenes, episodes from city life and the St. Mark’s legend.
Bricks are the original substance structure of the building. Planned scenes were already sketched in colour on the wet plaster. Later on, the artists added individual mosaic pieces to the mortar. Furthermore, much care was taken to different angles and inclination in the static. These angles create a more vivid effect of light reflections. The figure-rich images on the walls narrate the suffering of Christ and the work of St. Markus. In the vestibule, barely visible behind inconspicuous stone gateways, there are the oldest surviving Doge’s graves from the 12th century.
The apostle church of Constantinople (536-546) was destroyed in 1461 and acted as a model church building. The architecture is based on the close connection between Venice and Byzantium. The original artists basically worked according to the Byzantine model.
Campanile – The freestanding bell tower
The phenomenal Campanile with Patrician-Loggetta was reconstructed after its spectacular collapse from 1902 in an unchanged form. The magnificent bronze horses over the main entrance had to be replaced with copies in order to protect the originals from air pollution. The four horses were stolen from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. Today they are lying in the Museo di San Marco.
The Campanile of Venice is the original bell tower of St. Mark’s Basilica. Its height is almost 100 meters, making it the tallest building in Venice. After a varied history, the imposing building is now seen as the landmark of the city. The bell tower of the Campanile can be accessed with a lift and offers visitors a fantastic view over Venice and the lagoon with shipping activities.
Opening hours of St. Mark’s Basilica
Here you will find a brief overview of the opening hours of St. Mark’s Basilica.
For more information regarding the access times, including the Campanile, the famous freestanding bell tower of the “Basilica di San Marco”, the Pala d’Oro (“Golden Altarpiece”), the St. Marks Museum and the Treasury there is a separate article St. Mark’s Cathedral opening hours.
|St Mark's Basilica||Opening times||Last Admission*|
|29 October to 15 April||9:30 a.m - 5:00 p.m||4:45 p.m|
|Sunday & Bank holidays||2:00 p.m - 4:30 p.m||4:15 p.m|
|16 April au 28 October||9:30 a.m - 5:00 p.m||4:45 p.m|
|Sunday & Bank holidays||2:00 p.m - 5:00 p.m||4:45 p.m|
✓ Access to St. Mark’s Basilica is possible all-year.
Numerous sights – what can be seen?
The abundance of artwork is overwhelming. The church contains treasures from almost two millennia. From the four horses over the façade to the magnificent marble floor and from the 11th to 16th-century gold-rich mosaics to the huge, altar Pala d’Oro decorated with gold and precious stones.
For those who can endure even more splendour: In the right side wing is the treasury with the most magnificent gold and silver treasures in the world. You should not miss the visit to the Museo d’Oroso / Tesoro.
No less enthusiastic is the Museo di San Marco. It was once the workshop of the Mosaicists. Here you can admire vestments, icons, mosaic remains and the original Quadriga. From the rear of the main portal, you can also get to the gallery and the terrace.
✓ Breathtaking views of from lofty can be seen from the Campanile. From here you can see directly into the centre of the old town.
Exploring the “Golden Picture Book” of St. Mark’s Cathedral – Discovering History
St. Mark’s Basilica was completed in 1073 replacing the original church of the Doge’s Palace. According to the Byzantine model, the church was planned as a central building on Greek cross with five domes and vestibules. It may be the most beautiful church in the world. Thus, a city like Venice, which unfortunately cannot prove any ancient lead, resorted to artistic means in order to make its main church appear a little older.
Those who are bothered by the tourist crowds should know: The St. Mark’s Cathedral has always served for purely mundane purposes. Finally, the cathedral was the palace chapel of the Doge. Here the Doge was praised by his choice for centuries. At this point, valuable loot, which had been snatched from the Muslims on the high seas, was also housed. Yes, even robbed relief plates and columns. Most of the statues, reliefs and capitals the church are decorated inside and out with, came to Venice from the Levant as booty.
✓ St. Mark’s Basilica was once Venice’s best-kept vault.
And it was the evangelist Marcus’ church
According to the tradition two Venetian merchants allegedly abducted St. Mark of Egypt to Venice in 828, hiding him among salt pork halves. On a pillar on the right of the main altar, this scene is shown. Around this relic, the church grew over the centuries.
Today, it combines an impressive mix of Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic styles. Strangely enough, St. Mark’s Basilica did not become the episcopal church of Venice until 1807. Until then, this had been San Pietro di, Castello.
Safety first – No luggage in the cathedral allowed
For safety reasons, it is not allowed to carry bags or backpacks during the visit to the cathedral. In the entrance area, the visitors are controlled in small groups. There are strict baggage checks. To the left of the church, at the north gate of the Piazetta, there is luggage storage. Friendly guards and security personnel will gladly show you the way to the Ateneo San Basso. You have to leave your bags before queueing.
Even the advertised, sightseeing without queue, do not exclude the security checks. As everywhere with larger crowds, you should beware of pickpockets.
Magnificent and magical – The overall impression
St. Mark’s Church and Doge’s Palace meet at the Piazzetta. It is a magical place where lions fly and pigeons walk, as Jean Cocteau once described it. From the courtyard of the Doge’s Palace, the famous giant staircase leads to the upper floor. The domes of St. Mark’s Church rise above a decorative clock. An overwhelming picture!
The tower of the Campanile appears like an obelisk over St. Mark’s Square.
The cathedral clearly shows the representative will of a city intending to impose against the Byzantine emperor, the Pope and the old powers of Europe.
In the early evening, the cathedral unfolds its enchanting splendour.
Time travel between power and wealth – Why the visit is worth
The visit to St. Mark’s Cathedral is undoubtedly the highlight of every visit in Venice. For an exhaustive visit with countless details, you will probably need days. However, this great structure leaves a lasting impression in less than two hours. Many visitors are repeat offenders. The impressions are burnt indelibly in their memory. Piazza San Marco and its dome – they look as immaculate and sophisticated like being part in a glamorous film set. Anyone who visits the cathedral goes on a journey through time, indulges oneself with power and wealth.
Last but not least, do not be put off by the often apparently endless queue in front of the cathedral. It usually progresses quickly. Even if it takes a little longer: you are already enjoying the view of the magnificent west facade. Even when it feels like it takes a bit longer, the queue should not be longer than 10 to 15 minutes. There is no guarantee for this. Visitors who have already booked one of the coveted tours for the St. Marcus Basilica online have direct access to the Basilica di San Marco at the agreed time.
St. Mark’s Cathedral – entrance fees and guided tours
The admission to the Basilica di San Marco is free.
Art and culture enthusiasts are may be interested in guided tours or paid visits to Campanile bell tower, the Pala d’Oro (Golden Altarpiece), the St. Marks Museum or the Treasury.
Everything else included in St. Mark’s Cathedral admission. As an example of a guided tour in English, there is the following booking option.
|St Mark's Basilica||Duration||Price*||Tickets|
|Guided tour +|
|1 hour||32,00 €||Buy online ticket|
Golden Basilica Tour
|1 hour||33,00 €||Buy online ticket|
|Guided tour +|
|3 hours||69,00 €||Buy online ticket|
* The price may be subject to change. It always counts the current provider’s offer.
Visitors are kindly requested to access the sacred site with the necessary respect. It is recommended to wear appropriate clothing. Carrying bags is not allowed. Lockers are available next to St. Mark’s Basilica in the Ateneo San Basso on the Piazzetta di Leoncini – on the north side.
X taking pictures and filming is not allowed in St. Mark’s Basilica.
It is kindly requested to avoid any type of disturbance. Wearing headphones with audio guides is allowed.
People with reduced mobility have unrestricted access to St. Mark’s Basilica. This also applies to the treasury. The St. Marks Museum located on an upper floor of the basilica, can also be accessed to using a lift.
Visit the St. Mark’s Basilica – Location and how to get there
The Basilica di San Marco is located directly at St. Mark’s Square, next to the world-famous Doge’s Palace, which is also one of the most important monuments of Venice.
It also has a postal address: Piazza San Marco, 328, 30100 Venice, Italy.
If you are walking through the labyrinthine alleys of the lagoon city, you should pay attention to the signs – Basilica di San Marco. You can also follow the signposts to the Doge’s Palace, as both lie side by side: “Palazzo Ducale” or the English term “Doge’s Palace”.
Everything is in the tourist centre of Venice and is easily accessible on foot. It is often even faster than transporting by water. The distance from the train station or bus station to St. Mark’s Square is about 30 minutes. By waterbus, the journey from Santa Lucia Station or Piazzale Roma takes between 20 and 45 minutes with lines 1, 51 and 2.
Everything else concerning transport on Venice waterways can be found under the category Transport.
What can be seen nearby?
Every tourist in Venice will certainly spend some time in St. Mark’s Square in front of the Basilica di San Marco. It is one of the most beautiful places in Europe and one of the main attractions of the lagoon city. St. Mark’s Square in the heart of Venice and shines with a special glow.
Many visitors enjoy the true flair of this vivid square while having coffee on the terraces in one of the elegant cafés. One should already be able to ignore the fact that while hearing the music in the background one will probably be drinking the most expensive cappuccino of his life.
Among the tourist attractions of St. Mark’s Square are the obligatory photos with many pigeons. There are many justifiable reasons which I do not want to list here, why it is forbidden to feed the birds. So please keep in mind the feeding prohibition of the city, otherwise, it may be expensive.
There is so much to see in Venice. In order not to lose time, you should combine the visit of the St. Mark’s Basilica with the visit of the Doge’s Palace. Interesting suggestions for guided tours of the Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale can be found on the article of the St. Mark’s Cathedral regarding ticket and Doge’s Palace entrance fees. Especially interesting is the 2-hour combined tickets if you are in a hurry.
Entrance fees and opening hours for the lift to the bell tower can also be found on the mentioned sites.
St. Mark’s Basilica at night
Although it is a bit more expensive, I recommend staying in the city centre if you are only staying in Venice for one night. The selection of hotels and guesthouses of all categories is incredible, but maybe you might like something from my Top 10 hotel list in Venice.
Everyone now has the opportunity to experience St. Mark’s Square with the illuminated St. Mark’s Basilica in the evening. The crowds of tourists are gone, musicians of the famous and expensive cafes play wonderfully in a unique atmosphere which is now getting really romantic…