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St Mark's Square

This is the heart of must see Venice; St Mark's Square, or Piazza San Marco as it is known in Italian, has been the center point of Venetian life for close on a thousand years.

A splendid square indeed; in summer it is so full of light and color that the buildings themselves seem to shimmer and float above it all...beautiful!

San Marco is the most expensive part of Venice but there's some good news, you can stay just around the corner at the great value and superb Hotel Opera. One of the very few hotels in Venice I recommend with confidence. These are the others!

Arriving in St Mark's Square by boatArriving in St Mark's Square by boat

In this one square, you will find most of the great sights of Venice, ranging from the famous Basilica through to the bell tower. Despite often being overcrowded, St Mark’s Square is truly a magnificent place.

If you can find a Venetian in the piazza, they will gladly tell you that this is the most beautiful piazza in the entire world, and they aren’t far wrong. It is also strangely enough the only piazza in Venice – all the others are called campi (our FAQ section at the bottom of this page has many more fascinating facts) .

The History of the Square

Piazza San Marco

The square dates back to 828 but it was in the twelfth century that the square became recognizably the square of today. Thanks to the fall of Constantinople marble suddenly became available on a massive scale and the rulers of Venice went absolutely crazy with it.

It's great that they did; the result is an immensely beautiful space full of light and color. Even at the height of summer, I manage to ignore the tourists and transport myself back in time. It is actually easy to do, and the scale of this piazza makes the tourists seem quite insignificant.

Changes were made over the following centuries with the addition of of various buildings, new paving and statues, but the enchanting nature of the Piazza has never been lost.

Tips and Suggestions

Don’t buy anything to eat or drink anywhere near here unless money is no concern for you. Yes, the atmosphere is incredible but even a beer is likely to cost you close on ten Euros.  If money is no object, then try the Café Florian; it's expensive, but it is an important part of Venice's history, so supporting that is worthwhile.

My advice is to enjoy the atmosphere, visit all there is to see, and then go to one of the places in our Venice Italy Restaurant Guide for lunch or dinner.

If you would like to avoid the long lines getting into any of the buildings on the piazza, then this just might be the solution.

Visiting Venice during the summer months and staying in Venice? 

Visit early; just before dawn is best. The experience of watching the morning light slowly illuminate the piazza is something you'll always remember. Often, there are only a handful of people around and the oppressive heat of summer has yet to settle on the city

A Fact that Few Know

The Bell Tower in VeniceThe Piazzetta of St Mark's at dawn.

An intriguing detail often overlooked is that the bell tower in St. Mark's Square is not the original. The Campanile di San Marco, as it's known, met a dramatic fate in 1902 when it tragically collapsed, resulting in the demise of the resident cat. Over the subsequent decade, meticulous efforts were made to restore this iconic landmark to its former grandeur. 

While the current bell tower closely resembles its predecessor in appearance, it incorporates modern construction methods and materials to enhance its durability and safety.

FAQ About St Marks Square

What is St. Mark's Square in Italy known for?

St. Mark's Square, or Piazza San Marco, is renowned for its historical significance, stunning architecture, and vibrant atmosphere. It's often considered to be the heart of Venice.

When was St. Mark's Square built?

The square has evolved over centuries, with its origins dating back to the 9th century. However, significant development and expansion occurred during the medieval and Renaissance periods.

What are some notable landmarks in St. Mark's Square?

Key landmarks include St. Mark's Basilica, a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture, the Doge's Palace, symbolizing Venice's political power; the Campanile bell tower, offering panoramic views; and the Procuratie buildings, once government offices and now housing cafes and shops.

Is St. Mark's Square the only piazza in Venice?

No, Venice has numerous squares (or "campi" in Venetian dialect), but St. Mark's Square is the most famous and the only one that is called a piazza; the others are all known as campi. Other notable squares include Campo Santa Margherita, Campo Santo Stefano, and Campo San Polo.

What events take place in St. Mark's Square?

The square hosts various cultural events, festivals, and celebrations throughout the year, such as the Venice Carnival and religious processions. It's also a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists alike.

What are some recommended activities in St. Mark's Square?

Explore the landmarks, enjoy a coffee at a historic café like Florian or Quadri, listen to live music, take a gondola ride along the Grand Canal, or simply soak in the vibrant atmosphere.

How can visitors reach St. Mark's Square?

You can access the square by foot, water bus (vaporetto), or gondola. It's centrally located in Venice and easily reachable from major landmarks and transportation hubs.

What is the best time to visit St. Mark's Square?

Early mornings or late evenings offer a more tranquil experience, avoiding the crowds that flock to the square during peak hours. However, visiting during festivals or special events can provide a unique and lively atmosphere.

What is the Piazzetta in St Marks?

The Piazzetta San Marco, on the other hand, is a smaller square adjacent to St. Mark's Square, situated between the Doge's Palace and the waterfront. While it's part of the same complex, the Piazzetta has its own distinct character and charm, offering stunning views of the Venetian lagoon and the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.

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