Visiting the Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice

The San Marco Basilica is one of Venice's most popular things to see along with the Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. From all corners of the world, tourists come to La Serenissima to visit the beautiful Saint Mark's Basilica. In order to make your visit as smooth as possible, I will tell you everything you need to know about this gorgeous and immense building.

Tickets and guided tours

Would you like to rent an audio guide for the Saint Mark’s Basilica? You can do so for only €4 per person.
Do you prefer to visit the golden Saint Mark’s Basilica with a real guide, or perhaps even together with the Doge’s Palace? Check out these tours from GetYourGuide. You can cancel for free up until 24 hours before your tour begins!

 


st. Marks basilica Venice

From the outside, the St. Mark’s Basilica is adorned with beautiful paintings and statues, but the inside is even more impressive!

A piece of history and info on the San Marco Basilica

In 828 some Venetian merchants stole the remnants of Marcus the evangelist from Alexandria. The doge decided to set up a church in his name, right next to his palace. Four years later, the church appeared on St. Mark’s Square, but in 976 she was destroyed by fires in an uprising. Two years later, it was rebuilt but nothing about the appearance of this church is known today. It’s suspected that the San Marco Basilica was built in its current form in 1063. Throughout the ages, its lush design and golden mosaics have become the status symbol of Venetian wealth and power. Since the eleventh century she has nicknamed ‘Chiesa d’Oro’ (Golden Church). Originally, it was a chapel of the doge, only since 1807 it’s the city’s cathedral and seat of the Archbishop of Venice.

golden ceilings san marco basilica st mark

Golden ceilings and golden walls! The inside of the basilica seems to be made out of pure gold!

The most beautiful sights in the San Marco Basilica

The absolute crown jewel of this church building are the golden mosaics, of which over 8000 square meters are covering the walls, ceilings and domes! They depict stories of, among other things, the Bible, allegorical figures and events from the life of Christ, the Virgin Mary and San Marco.
You can’t miss the Pala d’Oro. This is an impressive altarpiece that features gorgeous gems and gold. It’s still in its original place behind the high altar, where the San Marco sarcophagus is also located.
Finally, you have the San Marco Treasure Room where you find 283 pieces of gold, silver, diamonds and other precious materials. These were taken here during the Fourth Crusade.
In any case, go up the stairs up until you reach the Loggia dei Cavalli. Here you can see the Quadriga, four beautiful bronze horses, but you can also enjoy an unbeatable view of St. Mark’s Square. Here is also the access to the Marciano museum. To enjoy this amazing view and to enter the museum, you need to buy tickets.

saint mark's basilica interior inside

A piece of the interior of the Saint Mark’s basilica. In fact it is forbidden to take photographs, but I couldn’t resist showing the beauty of this church to all of you.

Visiting the Saint Mark’s Basilica

La Basilica di San Marco is one of Venice’s most beautiful sights, and you shouldn’t miss out on it during your visit to La Serenissima. First of all, you should know that you should wear appropriate clothing: no short shorts or bare shoulders. The use of photo and movie cameras is forbidden and the visit to the basilica is limited to ten minutes at busy moments (during low season you can admire for as long as you want). It’s a very popular attraction, so you may have to wait for a few hours to get in. (I read comments on a blog where people said they spent more than five hours in line!). This is also made worse because of the free entrance…
If you don’t want to wait and at the same time want to learn more about the basilica, I recommend buying priority tickets. These only cost €3 per person and can be booked through the official website. Of course there’s also options to explore the Basilica with a real guide. This way you can stay in longer and ask all of those questions you have. Guided tours in the Saint Mark’s Basilica start at €27 per person.

quadriga horses san marco basilica saint mark's basilica

From the outside you already see a couple of horses. The Quadriga in the museum were even prettier!

St. Mark’s Basilica Tickets

If you just want to visit the San Marco Basilica, you can enter for free. For the small price of three euros you can make a reservation in advance so that you don’t lose time waiting in line. If you want to visit the imposing Pala d’Oro altar you have to pay two euros extra and another three euros for the treasure room. The Marciano museum costs five euros. The majestic campanile (clock tower) is not included in the visit, tickets for this cost 8 euros per person and the entrance is at the bell tower itself.
Opening hours depend on the season and thus it’s best to look at the official website.

For combination tickets or guided tours, please check out these offers:

 

Five fun facts about the Basilica of St. Mark

  1. The Pala d’Oro contains 1300 pearls, 300 emeralds, 300 sapphires, 400 grenades, 100 amethysts, plus rubies and topazes. Napoleon stole a number of gems in 1797 but fortunately enough remain to make this an impressive sight inside the St. Mark’s church.
  2. There are a lot of columns in this cathedral, over 500! The majority of these are Byzantine and date from the sixth and eleventh centuries. In addition, there are also pillars of the third century.
  3. The San Marco Campanile is a bell tower of 98.6 meters (323,5 ft), built in the ninth century. It had to be rebuilt in 1903 because it collapsed, on July 14, 1902 to be precise.
  4. Above the great central window of the basilica is the Winged Lion pictured (the symbol of Venice). On top of the central portico there are statues of San Marco and the angels.
  5. To prepare for your visit, you must play the Assassin’s Creed II game in which you can climb the San Marco basilica and campanile. In addition, you can walk in medieval Venice and sail with your own gondola!

The San Marco Basilica is more than just a showpiece of Venice. Calculate at least one hour to see everything and if you want to take your time then even double won’t be enough! Book your ticket in advance so that you can spend more time in the building than waiting in line. After your visit, there are plenty of other attractions in the area such as the Bridge of Sighs, the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Square. Your day may even end in a great way with a gondola ride on the canals of Venice.

Would you like to read more about the top things to do in Venice? Then check out this blog post as well.

st marks square basilica and bell tower

The St. Mark’s square with on the left the basilica and on the right the bell tower.

Video: The Saint Mark’s Basilica in all its glory

You can’t actually film or take pictures in the Basilica, but this didn’t stop some people from doing so either way! In this video you can see a few pictures and videos from this famous church. They look beautiful, but of course they’re nothing compared to the real deal! So… What are you waiting for? Head over to the Saint Mark’s Basilica!

Venice: Basilica di San Marco: exploratory tour in 4k

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In this article you'll find a few affiliate links. When you book something with these travel organizations, I get a small commission. You don't pay anything extra for that. You can thus see it as a way to support this blog if you found the information helpful. I use all of these travel organizations myself, and I will only recommend the ones that I really like.
 

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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.
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