If you are planning to visit Venice, then you will definitely want to visit St. Mark’s Basilica while there. With all the hidden wonders and masterpieces inside, discovering it on your own might be tricky. Keep reading for all the history, interesting facts, and tips on how to visit St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.
Brandon’s Pro Tip: Planning a trip can be pretty time-consuming but doesn’t have to be. Bookmark helpful articles like this one in your browser. This way you can circle back it when you’re ready to book your tickets or tour of the St. Mark’s Basilica.
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Doing a tour in Venice is by far the best way to understand St. Mark’s Basilica and our tours include much more than that. Tours in Venice are competitively priced and we keep our groups small. Check out our Venice Tours.
What This Article Covers
- Hours & Ticket Prices
- How Long to Budget for Your Visit
- St. Mark’s Basilica Tour Options
- History of St. Mark’s Basilica
- What to See at St. Mark’s Basilica
- Where to Eat Nearby
- How to get to the St. Mark’s Basilica
Hours & Ticket Prices
St. Mark’s Basilica is a church, therefore they require that knees and shoulders are covered in order to enter. I have broken down here the various options you have to visit the church and the areas inside, considering the price and opening times vary depending on the site.
St. Mark’s Basilica Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday | Sunday and public holidays 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Keep in mind that during the low season, from October until March/April, the Basilica closes at 4:00 p.m.
St. Mark’s Museum Hours: 9:45 am- 5:45pm ( Last entrance at 5:00pm)
Admission: 5€ | Free under 6 years old
How Long To Budget For Your Visit
Short Answer: 60 minutes
If you are the kind of person who just likes to get a feel for a monument, then 60 minutes is perfect to not delve too much in-depth. If you prefer looking more into specifics to get to really know your way around the church then you should set aside 1.5-2 hours, especially if you are to include the museum. There are some stairs to climb up to the 2nd floor, but nothing too intense.
St. Mark’s Basilica Tour Options
We highly recommend doing tours when you come to a new city. You not only gain historical and anecdotal knowledge, but you also save tons of time trying to look for things at certain sites. Plus, our guides are local and super passionate about what they do. You will find our tours are very competitively priced and our standard is fun learning, so no boring moments on our tours!
The History of St. Mark’s Basilica
In the Beginning
Did you know the St. Mark’s Basilica wasn’t built to preserve the holy ruins of the saint, but as the private chapel of the Doge during the Venice Republic? Its original name was “Basilica d’Oro”, Golden Basilica, because of the over a thousand square meters worth of golden mosaic tiles.
In 828 A.D., the Doge Giustiniano Partecipazio expanded the chapel linking it to the existing church when St. Mark’s body arrived in Venice from Alexandria, replacing the city’s protector St. Theodore. From that moment, a winged lion, St. Mark’s crest, became the official symbol of the Venice Republic.
The Middle Ages
After years of work, the Basilica was completed in 1071 and finally consecrated in 1094. In 1145, a deadly fire destroyed a huge part of the upper decorations inside of the Basilica.
To prevent it from happening again, it was then covered by the marble you’re able to admire today. A bit later, in 1159, precious mosaic decorations were added to the walls and ceilings of St. Mark’s Basilica, replacing the old frescoes.
The Fourth Crusade and Today
In 1204, after the Fourth Crusade, Venetian crusaders brought back to Venice precious marbles and works of art which were taken from the conquest of Constantinople. This includes the iconic 4 horse chariot in bronze, the icon of the Madonna Nicopeia, enamels of the Golden Altarpiece, relics, crosses, and chalices.
The names of the architects and artists who contributed are unknown, but the predominant style is Greek-Byzantine with strong German and Arabic influences. The church served as the Doge’s chapel until 1807 when Napoleon turned it into a public basilica.
What to see at St. Mark’s Basilica
The layout of St. Mark’s Basilica is shaped like a Greek cross, divided into three aisles with five domes. As you get inside, you’ll be under the “Arc of the Apocalypse”, followed by the “Dome of Pentecost” and “Dome of Ascension” until you reach the incredibly decorated presbytery.
It was created in Byzantium for the Doge Ordelaffo Falier in 1102 and was completed in 1105. Venetians in the 11th century. It was created as a screen to go over the high altar.
This is definitely one of the main highlights of visiting the church. The word Pala comes from the Latin word Palla for cloth. The church would at times decorate the images of saints with this cloth and over time it was replaced with gold or silver.
The Treasure of St. Mark’s
The Treasure of St. Mark’s” is a collection of precious objects and masterpieces kept inside of the Basilica throughout the centuries. You’ll see ancient vases, amphorae, enameled glasses covered in precious stones displayed throughout the perimeter.
The collection consists of 283 pieces in Gold, Silver, and other precious metals. The most interesting objects and also the bulk of the collection are objects that were brought to Venice after the conquest of Constantinople.
There are over eight thousand square meters worth of mosaic covering the interior of the Basilica, including the five domes. You could spend hours just looking at the ceilings.
The artwork tells stories from the Holy Bible, myths and local legends, episodes from the Virgin Mary and Jesus’ life, and most of, all St. Mark’s. The contrast between the bright ceilings and darker marble floors actually represents the contrast between life in heaven and life on earth.
The Basilica Terrace
Lastly, the terrace overlooking St. Mark’s Square is also worth a visit. On your way up, you’ll see a display of rare tapestries and precious textiles, and the original horses of St. Mark’s Basilica.
The ones you see in the facade outside are replicas to preserve the real masterpiece! Look out over the city of Venice, and maybe even catch
While we don’t usually add the floor of a church as something to see, in St. Mark’s Basilica it is definitely something to not miss. There is over 22,000 sq ft ( 2099m) of flooring that is covered in exquisite marble.
Executed in Opus Sectile ( small pieces of marble cut to form various geometrical shapes) and Opus Tessallatum ( tiny pieces of marble or glass cut to form motifs or animal figures), it is possible to see the advanced stages of artists living in Venice already in the late middle ages.
St. Mark’s Museum
The museum was established towards the end of the 19th century. As with most church museums, it houses various objects with origins to the church’s history.
The most famous and prestigious work is the bronze chariot which was taken from Constantinople from the conquest of that city during the Fourth Crusade. It has been moved here from its original position outside on the Terrace of the church in order to keep it preserved.
The Museum also contains Persian carpets, liturgical vestments, illuminated manuscripts with the texts of St. Mark liturgies, and fragments of ancient mosaics removed during restoration in the 19th century.
Where to Eat Nearby
If you are visiting St. Mark’s Basilica around meal time it is important to plan out where you want to eat. If you are having a fancy meal, you probably want to reserve a table but otherwise, walks-ins are welcome in Venice.
Tuttinpiedi € – This is a street food place of the finest and is loved by the locals, too. The place is very small, in fact, “Tutti in piedi” translates to “everybody on foot”.
Cantina Canaletto €€– A streetside restaurant a 4 minutes walk from Saint Mark’s square, is in fact located in the neighborhood of Castello. This place is a true gem, offering simple but highly qualitative dishes from all of the 20 regions in Italy, for a reasonable price.
Antico Martini €€– This historic restaurant has been welcoming guests from all over the world since 1720. Specialties in this restaurant include the black truffle pasta and the celery and coriander fish soup.
La Caravella €€€– At only 5 minutes walking distance from Saint Mark’s square, you find all Italian classics but refined to a next level in this, at first glance, unassuming restaurant
How to get to the St. Mark’s Basilica
Address: P.za San Marco, 328, 30100 Venezia
St. Mark’s Basilica is very central, Follow signs for San Marco and you will find it easily.
- 30 minutes walk from Santa Lucia Train Station
- 1-minute walk from the Doge’s Palace
- 10 minutes walk from Rialto Bridge
- 40 minutes walk and boat taxi from Murano Island
St. Mark’s Basilica is located right in San Marco square. It is probably one of the most iconic piazzas in the world. Most likely you will be arriving from the direction of the train station, which means that you will first cross San Marco square and just look to your left. Impossible to miss!