St Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco)

Address: Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy

- Free


This magnificent square is the throbbing heart of Venice.

Napoleon called it "the drawing room of Europe" – which perhaps says more about the emperor's lodgings than about this magnificent square surrounded by museums and galleries ( all of which are visitable on a cumulative ticket, and by charming but rather over-priced cafés. Think twice before occupying a table on the square.

The view across the square from its western edge, the basilica glittering at the far end, never fails to take my breath away... even when the view is obstructed by hordes of visitors. On the northern side, the long long Procuratie Vecchie building dates from the early 16th century; on the south, the Procuratie Nuove was built in the 17th. During his short reign, Napoleon joined them on the west with what is still known as the Ala napoleonica – the Napoleonic wing. 

To the left of the basilica as you look at the facade stands the 15th-century Torre dell'Orologio (clock tower): the tour (pre-booking obligatory through is marvellous. To the right stands the campanile (bell tower) which can be climbed.

The Museums of St Mark’s Square pass gives access to the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale), the Museo Correr (history and art), the National Archeological Museum and the city’s historic Marciana library. 

Value for money

Price advice

The Museums of St Mark's Square pass costs €12 (€6.50 reductions) in Nov-Mar and €13 (€.50 reductions) for the rest of the year. Through Venice Connected ( you can get the same pass for use between 3pm and 6pm for €10 (€4.50 concessions). Passes are valid for six months, but allow only one admission to each site.

The campanile costs €8, €4 reductions.

Expert tips

If you're travelling on a budget, bear in mind that the cafés in the square are horribly expensive.

A few drops of rain tends to clear the piazza fast: it's a great time to have it to yourself.

Recommended for

  • Culture vultures
  • Families with teenagers
  • Families with younger children
  • First-time travellers
  • Seasoned travellers
  • People watching
  • Romance
  • Art
  • History
  • Design and architecture