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St. Mark's Square | The heart of Venice

St. Mark’s Square | The center of Venetian life

You can’t show up at Venice without stopping by St. Mark's Square, the lively center of the city’s San Marco district! This square has been around since the 12th century, and it's jam-packed with fascinating sights like Saint Mark's Basilica and the clock tower. Napoleon even called it ‘The drawing room of Europe,’ and once you're there, you'll understand exactly why. 

Whether you're admiring the wonderful architecture, getting to the top of the bell tower, sipping espresso at a quaint café, or people-watching, a visit to St. Mark's Square is a must-have experience. So, why not let yourself get swept away by the magic of Venice's grandest piazza?

Plan your visit to St. Mark’s Square

St. Mark's Square

Opening hours

General timings: You can explore the outdoor spaces of San Marco at any time, though access to attractions may vary.

Best time to visit: Aim for April to June or September to November. These months offer milder weather and fewer crowds compared to the bustling summer months. Arrive early to beat the rush and be ready for higher prices during peak times.

St. Mark's Square


Address: San Marco, 30100 Venezia VE, Italy

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St. Mark’s Square, also known as San Marco Piazza, is the main public square in the town of Venice, Italy, and is located in the San Marco neighborhood. The square lies at the end of the Grand Canal, and features notable Venetian sights including Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Basilica.

Nearest landmark: Grand Canal, 1 min away

St. Mark's Square

Visitor information

  • St. Mark’s Square has hidden side streets: Dodge the crowds and wander down the tranquil side streets surrounding St. Mark's Square, where charming hidden gems lie in wait for discovery. Explore quaint shops, cozy cafes, and historic buildings off the beaten path.
  • Experience the carnival: Make your trip extra memorable by visiting during the Carnival of Venice, where you'll be treated to vibrant festivities and stunning costumes that add a touch of magic to your experience.
  • Book water transport ahead of time: The quickest transportation options from Venice Marco Polo Airport to St. Mark's Square are the blue or red (seasonal) Alilaguna water bus lines, the shared water taxi, or a private water taxi. Booking in advance is crucial to avoid any disappointment.
  • Dress appropriately for the Basilica: To honor the sacred atmosphere of St. Mark’s Basilica, remember to ensure your shoulders and knees are covered when entering.
  • Know that the square floods: Keep in mind that St. Mark’s Square is the lowest part of Venice, so it may flood during high tides. This usually happens in the middle of the day. You can wear rubber boots, which you can buy around the city. Raised walkways are set up to help you get around.

The history of St. Mark’s Square in a nutshell

Throughout its storied past, St. Mark's Square has been witness to significant events, from hosting the infamous meeting between Hitler and Mussolini to serving as a venue for bullfighting and lottery drawings, further cementing its place in history as a vibrant epicenter of Venetian life and culture.

Origins and early development

  • Founding and early use: It all began with the construction of the Basilica di San Marco, starting in the 9th century and reaching completion in the 11th century. Originally a smaller center of political and religious authority, the square gradually expanded, becoming a symbol of Venice's heritage.
  • Initial expansion: During Sebastiano Ziani's rule (1102-1178), the 39th Doge of Venice, St. Mark's Square underwent significant expansion. The dock in front of the Ducal Palace was filled in to create the present Piazzetta San Marco. Nearby canals and the 'rio batario' were also covered, doubling the square's size and incorporating a donated vegetable garden from San Zaccaria monks.

Renaissance and Baroque periods

  • Major developments and changes: St. Mark's Square in Venice saw the completion of the Basilica di San Marco and the addition of key public buildings like the Procuratie Vecchie and Nuove, which housed government offices. The square flourished as a center of cultural activity and trade, highlighting Venice's prominence as a maritime power.
  • Key historical events: Gentile Bellini's Renaissance painting from 1496 depicts a procession carrying a relic of the Cross of Christ, housed at the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista. This event was pivotal for Venice, symbolizing significant social, political, and religious importance.

Modern era

  • 19th and 20th-century transformations: In the 19th and 20th centuries, St. Mark's Square in Venice experienced the collapse and restoration of its bell tower, hosted historic meetings like Hitler and Mussolini's, and saw Venice's liberation from Fascism. It also became a cultural venue, hosting Pink Floyd's concert during the Redentore festival in 1989.
  • Recent restoration efforts: Recent restoration efforts at St. Mark's Square have focused on preserving its historic architecture and combating the effects of rising sea levels. Efforts include repairing the bell tower, renovating walkways, and implementing flood prevention measures to safeguard this iconic Venetian landmark.

Book your tickets to St. Mark’s Square

Tickets to St. Mark’s Bell Tower
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Combo (Save 5%): St. Mark’s Basilica + St. Mark’s Bell Tower Tickets
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Cultural significance of St. Mark's Square

St. Mark’s Basilica

Today, St. Mark’s Square is the heart of Venice. A lively place where people meet, and tourists visit St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace. Enjoy coffee at outdoor cafes, listen to live music and watch the sunset. The square is always busy with activity, whether it’s street performers entertaining crowds or visitors strolling in the streets. It's also a place where Venetians come to celebrate festivals and events like CreArt by Swatch and Andrea Bocelli. Summer is especially lovely at St. Mark’s Square because the piazza comes alive with concerts and classical music by artists such as Paolo Conte, Laura Pausini and more.

Frequently asked questions about St. Mark’s Square

Can I bring my pets to St. Mark's Square?

Yes, pets are welcome at St. Mark's Square. Feel free to bring your leashed dog to Venice's main square.

Is it safe to visit St. Mark’s Square at night?

Yes, St. Mark’s Square is generally safe to visit at night. It is a well-lit and popular tourist destination with a visible police presence, especially during peak tourist seasons. However, as with any tourist area, it's advisable to remain cautious and aware of your surroundings, particularly in crowded areas, and to take standard precautions to safeguard your belongings.

Are there public restrooms available in St. Mark’s Square?

Of course! There are public restrooms in the square as well as some of the attractions like the Basilica and Doge’s Palace.

Can I feed the pigeons in St. Mark’s Square?

Feeding the pigeons is prohibited as it is against the law. Kindly refrain from accepting grain offered by individuals working in the square.

Does the square have places to sit?

In the square, you'll find benches and outdoor cafe seating. Be prepared to spend a lot of time on your feet, so take advantage of the seating available to rest and enjoy a meal.

Can I bring my own food to the square?

Unfortunately, outside food and drinks are not allowed at the square. You can always dine at one of the famous cafes or restaurants there!

How much time should I spend at the square?

You can easily spend three hours exploring the main attractions, such as St. Mark's Basilica and the Doge's Palace, and even more time relaxing at cafes, people-watching, or taking in the atmosphere. It's a good idea to allocate at least a few hours to fully experience everything the square has to offer.

I understand the piazza is really huge. How can I navigate the square without feeling lost?

While there's an information office where you can buy a map, don't forget that the locals and fellow travelers are like living guidebooks! Feel free to strike up a conversation and ask them for tips or directions—it's a great way to discover hidden gems and insider secrets about the square.