About Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco, also known as Saint Mark's Square, is the largest and one of the most important tourist attractions of Venice. Being the widest swath of flat, open land in the water-bound city, the square has long been a popular destination for visitors to enjoy the true essence of Venice. Since the earlier Republic days, life has revolved around this piazza; then it was a market, as well as the center of social, religious and political life. Being of the finest squares in the world, Piazza San Marco is certainly Venice's prime attraction.
The square is surrounded by the stately arcades of public buildings on three sides and on the fourth, by Basilica di San Marco's riot of domes, arches, and the soaring St. Mark's campanile. It is 180 m long and 70 m wide and is the only “piazza” in Venice, and the remaining squares are called “piazzales” or “campos”. The Piazza has been developed over a long period of time and under the leadership of many strong personalities, it started around 800 and the construction and reconstruction continued till the time of Napoleon and later. The great Napoleon marked this square as “the drawing room of Europe" for its incredible artworks.
The Square was named after the unusual and stunning Basilica of St Mark that dominates the east end of the square. The slender Campanile di San Marco, the Basilica's bell tower, and the number of museums are the attraction for the visitors. The lines waiting to enter the basilica, always crowded piazza, ringing bells from the clock tower, fascinating waterline, all make the square the most popular attraction in Venice.
How to Reach Piazza San Marco
The nearest Airport to reach Piazza San Marco is Venice Treviso Airport (TSF) which is 27km away. There are many ways to reach Piazza San Marco from Venice Treviso Airport including Bus, taxi, Drive, and Towncar. The fastest mode of transport to reach the place is to take a taxi which costs around INR 6,500 - INR 8,000 and takes approx. 33 min. One the other hand, the cheapest way to get from the Airport to Piazza San Marco is to drive which costs INR 330 - INR 480 and also takes 33 min.
The driving distance is 31km. The visitors can also avail of the direct bus services available here which starts from Treviso Airport and arrives at Venice. The Bus services depart hourly and operate every day. The journey takes around 1h 10m and costs about INR 750 - INR 1,100. The bus services to Piazza San Marco are operated by ATVO S.p.A. and it departs from Treviso Airport station.
Best Time to Visit Piazza San Marco
The best time to enjoy the beauty of Piazza San Marco is in April, May, September, and October. The best season for Sightseeing of the Piazza is mid-spring; particularly the first half of May is an excellent time to enjoy sightseeing in this Piazza and the entire Venice. In the summertime, the square is teeming with tourists.
Though the fall is also a lovely time to visit Venice, there is a change of occurring the acqua alta or “flooding” or "high water". October to January is the typical high water season in Piazza San Marco, though flooding can occur at any time during the year.
During winter, the temperature falls but the sun makes a daily bright appearance, while the weather becomes comfortably warm. Therefore, winter can be very romantic and ethereal to the visitors. No matter what time of year you visit, there are always some things to do and see on St. Mark's Square.
What Not to Miss at Piazza San Marco
Here are some of the best attractions at Piazza San Marco
1. Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark's Basilica) – This is one of the most beautiful and incredibly designed cathedrals of Italy as well as the world and also a gem attraction of the city. The architecture of the church exhibits the coexistence of different types of art influences including Byzantine, Islamic, and Western European style. The structure encompasses over 500 pillars to hold the whole construction.
When exclusive golden mosaics adorn the main portal to the Basilica, the interiors of its five domes are decorated with amazing art works. The Basilica also possesses a museum containing a huge collection of tapestries, carpets, liturgies, and so on. You can also find the bronze Horses of San Marco in this museum.
2. Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace) – Doge's palace stands just beside, St. Mark's Basilica; the smooth repetition and harmonious, airy design and soft colors of the palace are refreshing and eye-catching to the visitors. Like the fascinating exterior, the interior of the palace is highlighted with the Sala Del Maggior Consiglio and exclusive oil painting created by Tintoretto.
The palace is also decorated with Sansovino's golden stairway and many other fabulous paintings by the greatest artists including Bellini, Veronese, Carpaccio, and Titian. The Doges' Palace was the former headquarters of the rulers of ancient Venice. Doge was the famous king of Venice and he established this massive palace during his time which is equipped almost like a self-contained city.
3. Campanile – Campanile is basically a tall brick bell tower of St. Mark's Basilica present in a corner of the square. The tower is basically linking the Piazza and Piazzetta. The construction of the tower started in 1173 and completed in1514. The tower is a significant tourist spot of the square; it is so tall that approaching ships used to find this as a landmark to their destination.
The tower has a pointed roof accompanied by a gilded pinnacle. The original tower collapsed in 1902 and reconstructed in 1912. The current tower was constructed reusing the original stones and sculptures to recreate the original form of it. It also possesses four bronze masterpieces of Sansovino, which stand between the twin columns.
4. Torre dell'Orologio (Clock Tower) – The clock tower was designed and built between 1496 and 1499 by Mauro Codussi. The huge clock that gives an entity to the tower was made by Ranieri and his son; the clock shows the hours, phases of the moon, and the signs of the zodiac; and at the top of the tower are two great bronze figures, hinged at the waist, which strike the hours on a bell. The clock tower was constructed to be visible from the waters of the lagoon and give notice to every one of the wealth and glory of Venice.
5. Bridge of Sighs – The Bridge of Sighs is constructed using white limestone. It has windows with stone bars and also passes over the Rio di Palazzo. It connects the Prigioni Nuove (New Prison) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace. This excellent piece of architecture was designed by Antonio Contino and was built in the late 16th century. It was highly ornamental; the footbridge served a very practical purpose to lead prisoners from the examining rooms to their cells in the Prigioni.
6. Museo Correr and Museo del Risorgimento – The museum has a huge collection of interesting historical evidence of Venice, and also owns a series of beautiful artworks of ancient ages. The historical collection of the museum is exhibiting the architectural development of Venice.
The paintings also support the ancient form of Venice. The state robes of the Doges, Procurators, and Senators are also exhibited in this museum which contribute to the political life of Venice. The museum has a treasure of ancient lace work, silk banners, costumes, and accessories.
7. Biblioteca Marciana – This is a public library of Venice, founded in 1468. This is one of the oldest surviving public libraries. This library is also a repository for a huge number of manuscripts in Italy and holds one of the supreme collections of classical texts in the world. The library is also named after St. Mark.
8. Procuratie and Ala Napoleonica – The northern and southern boundary of Piazza San Marco are bordered by the Procuratie; those are the former offices of the Procurators, the chief officials of the Republic. In the year 1582, the construction of the second building, Procuratie Nuove was started at the opposite side of the Piazza. This new building was also designed to maintain similarity with the earlier one.
In between 1805 to 1814, the great Napoleon visited Venice and ordered to construct the third building that ends with the end of the piazza. Now this construction is known as the Ala Napoleonica.
9. Archeological Museum – The museum offers its visitors a unique chance to compare classical archaeological findings with comparatively new Roman copies. The museum also possesses a huge collection of classical sculptures that influenced the Renaissance artists of Venice. You can also find a massive collection of carved gemstones, Byzantine ivory-carvings, cameos, and Assyrian reliefs of ancient ages. The museum also has a small Egyptian section which contains two mummies along with statuettes and canopic jars.
10. The Church of San Moisè – In 1668, Italian architect Alessandro Tremignon designed the church. Though some visitors have an opinion that the church is simply overcrowded with artworks and ornamentation, some people also love its elaborate decoration and sculptures. Along with the main building, a square brick bell tower also accompanies the main construction that seems to have no relation to the architecture of the church. Every year thousands of visitors come here to visually experience the 1732 Pieta on the interior wall of the church.
11. San Zaccaria – This church was constructed in 15th-century, a former monastic church situated in central Venice. This church is dedicated to St. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. It is a large structure, located in Campo San Zaccaria, just off the waterfront to the southeast of Piazza San Marco and St Mark's Basilica.
12. Giardinetti Reale –This little green oasis is not exactly located in Piazza San Marco. The scenic beauty of the place with fragrant roses and oleander attracts the visitors to enjoy the excellent pool, and shaded benches of Giardinetti Reale. The location was discovered in the 1800s and since then it is attracting people with its natural beauty. This piece of land basically belongs to the royal palace of Napoleon, the “Procuratie Nuove''.
Attractions near Piazza San Marco
1. Island of Burano – This is a picturesque and wide-open island in the northern Venetian Lagoon. This island is quite popular for its brightly-colored fishermen's houses and its local food stalls serving seafood from the lagoon.
Museo del Merletto, the Lace Museum exhibits more than two-hundred rare, priceless pieces of handmade laces, the exhibition chronicles the evolution of lace-making art in Venice from the 16th to the 20th centuries. The local shops also sell lace products like linens and clothes. The island also owns the ancient Chiesa di San Martino, which has a 17th century’s bell tower.
2. Scuola Grande di San Rocco – The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is an art museum situated in Venice, northern Italy. It is a unique site showcase over 60 paintings by renowned painter Tintoretto, his son Domenico, and assistants; all are preserved in their original setting in a building that has hardly undergone any alteration since its construction. The Scuola Grande is open daily all year-round, except for Christmas Day and January 1st.
3. Museo Leonardo da Vinci – This is an interactive museum exhibits the different art forms the universal genius Leonardo Da Vinci. The Museum of Leonardo da Vinci offers each visitor a unique experience through anatomical studies, interactive machines, and multimedia exhibits. Visit to this museum can be memorable as it contains the original machine codes drawn for the art works of Leonardo.
4. Peggy Guggenheim Collection – This is a contemporary art museum situated on the Grand Canal of the Dorsoduro sestiere in Venice. The museum exhibits the famous art pieces by modern masters such as Picasso, Pollock, and Calder. This is one of the most visited museums in Venice and Peggy Guggenheim’s personal collection of 20th-century art comprised of masterpieces ranging in style from Cubism and Surrealism to Abstract Expressionism attracts people around the world.
Other Essential Information About Piazza San Marco
Location: Piazza San Marco, 30100 Venezia - Venice, Italy
Entry Fee: Piazza San Marco is free to enter and requires no ticket. There are several places to visit in this square and some of them need admission fees. To save time for the visitors, a single San Marco Square Museum Pass is available which includes admission to the Doge's Palace, Museo Correr, Archaeological Museum, and the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.
Distance from Nearest Airport: Venice Treviso Airport (TSF) is the nearest airport to Piazza San Marco. The distance between Venice Treviso Airport (TSF) and Piazza San Marco is about 27 km. By road, the distance is about 31 km.
History of Piazza San Marco
The construction of this popular public square of Venice was started in the 9th century in front part of the Saint Mark's Basilica & Doge's Palace. Then the Piazza San Marco was detached from the Doge’s palace by the Rio Batario, a small canal. Later the square was enlarged in the 12th century. The construction of the campanile, the bell tower of the square, started in 1173 and ended in 1514. It was rebuilt a total of three times in different periods of time and the latest version of the tower was constructed in 1912. Since the 14th century, the piazza has been surrounded by the Saint Marks Basilica, the Doges' Palace and the Church of San Geminiano on three sides of it.
Later in the sixteenth century, a lovely, richly decorated building “Loggetta del Sansovino” was constructed by Jacopo Sansovino at the base of the bell tower to be used as a council waiting room for the Doge’s palace. Initially, the Piazza was made up of bricks; the bricks were arranged in a unique pattern called herringbone. With time, the bricks started to degenerated and in 1735, the bricks were replaced with natural stone to make the piazza more strong and decorative. In 1493, an astronomical clock was specially made by Venice to install it in a new clock tower in the Piazza with a high archway beneath.
The Architecture of Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco has developed over a long period of time and reflection of different eras and architectural techniques can be observed here. The rectangle design of the Piazza always exhibited the city's aristocracy and is most impressive from its sea approach, which is a reminder of Venice's centuries-old legacy as a powerful maritime republic. Here you can find a number of evidences of Venetian Renaissance architecture.
Travelers Tip for Visiting Piazza San Marco
1. Start early in the morning - It’s a good idea to start your Sightseeing of the Piazza early in the morning to avoid overcrowded in pick season; popular tourist spots and museums remain almost empty in the early morning.
2. Packing Tips - Regardless of the time of year, it is very important to carry your travel umbrella when you are in Venice.
3. Caution - In an effort to restrict the damage by pigeon droppings on Venice's many UNESCO Heritage sites, feeding the pigeons is prohibited here and any violators could be fined €50 to €200.