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How to visit the Basilica of St Mark in Venice Italy

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Do you wish to visit the Basilica of St Mark in Venice, Italy? I toured the Basilica di San Marco on my recent trip to Venice (April 2024). Read how to visit the Basilica of St Mark and find out what to see in the Basilica di San Marco, how to get tickets, and more.

St Marks Basilica in Venice
St Mark’s Basilica in Venice
The golden interior of the Basilica of St Mark in Venice
The golden interior of the Basilica of St Mark in Venice

Just like Venice itself – unique and beautiful, the Basilica of St Mark in Venice is one of the most beautiful and unique churches in the world. 

The St Mark’s Basilica in Venice is the finest example of a unique mix of Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic architecture. Not many churches around the globe can rival the beauty of its wealthy design and gilded mosaics. Nicknamed the Church of Gold (or Chiesa d’Oro in Italian), the St Mark’s Basilica in Venice is a masterpiece of sacral architecture. It covers an area of over 4000 sq m, has five domes, 500 columns and capitals, and about 8000 sq m of gilded mosaics on its walls and ceilings. 

The church as we see it today dates back to the 11 century. It was built in 1072. The original church, built in the 9th century, got burnt. The original church was Dodge’s private chapel, which opened to the public to display the relics of St Mark in the 10th century. 

Venetian merchants brought St Mark relics from Alexandria (Egypt) to Venice in 892. The custodians of the sanctuary in Alexandria told the merchants that the Islamic governor of Alexandria was planning to destroy the sanctuary of St Mark the Evangelist in Alexandria. So, the Venetian merchants smuggled his relics hidden under pork in wicker baskets. Since pork is haram (unlawful) in Islam, the port officials did not inspect the baskets. And this is how the relics of St Mark Evenagelist came from Alexandria to Venice.

The Basilica of St Mark as we see it today architecturally mimics the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. Many ornaments (reliefs, sculptors, and columns) that adorn the Basilica of St Mark in Venice are from the buildings in Constantinople that Venetians stripped during the Crusader Wars (the Fourth Crusade, more precisely). 

The Basilica of st Mark in Venice
The Basilica of St Mark in Venice

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How to Visit the Basilica of St Mark in Venice & What to See

Five parts of the St Mark’s Basilica are available for visits: the Basilica, Museum of St Mark, Pala d’Oro, the Treasury, and the Bell Tower (Campanile in Italian). All five parts have separate entries, ask for queuing, and have entrance fees (except for Basilica). 
While visiting the Basilica is free, the entrance fee for the Museum of St Mark is 7 €, Pala d’Oro is 5 €, Treasury is 6 € and Campanile 10 €.

However, before entering the Basilica, please pay attention to its facades. The basilica has four ornamented facades. Some of its oldest mosaics are on its facades.
The main entrance to the Basilica is from the western side, which you will use to enter the Basilica of St Mark in Venice.

And here are the five parts to see on your visit to the Basilica di San Marco in Venice, Italy!

The Interior of the Basilica of St Mark

The golden mosaics of the Basilica of St Mark in Venice Italy
The Ascension Dome is in the center of the Basilica di San Marco

As soon as you enter the Basilica you will encounter shiny marble and golden mosaics covering the interior of St Mark’s Basilica. 

The golden mosaics depict biblical scenes, saints, and prophets. Mosaics of the five domes depict different stories. The mosaics on the enclosed porch show the Creation, the mosaics on the western dome show the Pentecost, the mosaics on the central dome show the Ascension, on the northern dome the Life of Saint John, and the southern dome the Life of Saint Leonard, Saint Nicholas, Clement, and Blaise. The cathedral has a few chapels with beautiful mosaics dating from the 12th to 15th centuries. Nothing less stunning is the floor of the Basilica of St Mark. Marbel covers more than 2.000 sq m of its floors.

The Basilica di San Marco in Venice Italy
The Basilica di San Marco in Venice Italy

The Crypt chamber with the tomb of St Mark

The Crypt chamber holds the relics of St Mark. The Crypt chamber is under the main altar of the Basilica of St Mark. Bronze and marble statues decorate the tomb of Saint Mark Evangelist, and mosaics cover the chamber.  The crypt is still a burial place for Venice’s Patriarchs (bishops)!

Today, the crypt chamber of St Mark’s Basilica is rarely open to the public. However, this evening guided tour of the St Mark’s Basilica includes visiting it!

Altar of the Basilica of St Mark in Venice Italy
Altar of the Basilica of St Mark in Venice Italy

Pala d’Oro 

Pala d’Oro  (meaning Golden Panel), the high altar retable with 1927 precious gems, is a showpiece example of Byzantine art.
Gold, silver, pearls, garnets, emeralds, sapphires, amethysts, agates, rubies, topazes, carnelians, and jaspers adorn it. It took 366 years to make it!
Pala d’Oro is in a separate room behind the main altar in the Basilica. The entrance fee is 5 €.

The Museum of St Mark’s Basilica (with Horse Lodge & Terrace) 

The Museum of the Basilica of Saint Mark is on its first floor.

The Quadriga, the 13th-century four-gilded bronze horses known as the Horses of San Marco, is its crown exhibit. Quadriga adorned the facade of the Basilica once. Today, Quadriga is in the so-called Horse Lodge (Loggia dei Cavalli) in the Museum of St Mark’s Basilica. The replicas are on the facade of the Basilica of St Mark instead. The Loggia and its terrace overlooks the Square of St Mark and provides some of the best views of the square. 

Treasury of the Basilica of St Mark 

The Treasury is a series of rooms with a precious collection of mainly Byzantine, Venetian, and Egyptian art. 

It holds many valuables like Persian carpets, fragments of mosaics, liturgies, and relics (such as bones of saints). 

Because of this, touring the Basilica of St Mark is one of the most unique things to do in Venice.  Yes, it is also a touristy thing to do in Venice. But, it is a must-visit in Venice for good reason. The Basilica of St Mark in Venice is a unique and unparalleled treasure!

The Bell Tower 

View of the Basilica di San Marco from the Bell Tower in Venice
View of the Basilica di San Marco from the Bell Tower in Venice

The Bell Tower (Campanile in Italian) is a symbol of Venice. 
The Campanile is not attached to the basilica. It stands alone a few meters from the basilica on the Square of Saint Mark. 

It was initially a watchtower to watch the coming ships and protect the city. The watchtower got a bell in the 13th century and became a bell tower.
The tower is 99 m tall and provides the best views of Venice since it is the tallest building in Venice! The famous Angel Flight happens from the Campanile during the Carnival of Venice (Read here about my visit to the Venice Carnival). An elevator takes its visitors up to the top.

If you want to escape the crowds, I recommend buying a ticket for the last time slot.  On my recent visit to Venice, I climbed the Campanile at 8.45 pm. At that time, day-trippers had already left Venice, and there were no queues to the Campanile. I took many great photos of Venice from the Campanile. 

The Bell Tower is open from 9.30 am to 8.45 pm from Monday to Sunday. The entrance fee to the Campanile is 10 €.

How to get a ticket for visiting the Basilica 

You can buy tickets for the Basilica on-site or online. Expect long queues if you decide to buy your ticket on-site. Be prepared to wait in a queue for anything from 30 minutes to one hour. So, I recommend getting your ticket online in advance and saving your precious time in Venice. Skip-the-line tickets are more expensive than regular entrance tickets, but they save you time in Venice!

You can choose to buy a skip-the-line ticket on the official site of the Basilica or take a guided tour to get expert insights into the Basilica. Buying the ticket online will allow you to choose the time slot for visiting the Basilica of St Mark. The entrance to the Basilica with a skip-the-line ticket is from the left side of the church.
This guided tour takes visitors to the Basilica, Musuem, and Terrace. It is a great value for money

Many visitors who visit Venice for more days choose to take an evening tour of St Mark Basilica to see the spectacular mosaics of the Basilica illuminated in the evening. This evening tour includes visiting the Basilica, Pala d’Oro, and the Crypt, but it does not take visitors to the Terrace. Optionally, visitors can also choose to visit the Dodge Palace on this evening tour. The tour usually starts around 8.30 pm, depending on the dates. Select your date and check out the starting time!

However, if you wish to visit St Mark Basilica and Dodge Palace during the day, this 3-hour tour will give you access to the Basilica di San Marco (with Pala d’Oro, Museum and Terrace!) and the Dodge Palace.

Dress Code for Visiting the Basilica 

The Basilica of St Mark in Venice is a religious place. It is a Catholic Cathedral. So, dress respectfully. Cover your arms and knees (no shorts and skirts above keens are allowed).
Luggage is not allowed either. 

Opening times of the Basilica of Saint Mark in Venice

The Basilica of St Mark in Venice is open from 9.30 am to 5.15 pm (Mon -Saturday) and from 2 pm to 5.15 pm (Sun and on Holy Days of Obligation). Remember that the last admission to the Basilica of San Marco is at 4.45 pm.
It is worth mentioning that the Museum of Basilica of St Mark is open from 9:30 am to 2 pm on Sundays.

Where to stay in Venice Italy

(Luxury) Ca’di Dio-Small Luxury Hotel – is a 5-star hotel within walking distance to the Basilica of St Marka and Dodge Palace in Venice. It is a newly refurbished hotel with beautiful rooms and incredible views. It is an outstanding hotel in a perfect location in Venice.

(Mid-range) Al Gazzettino – is a 3-star hotel within a 5-minute walk from the Basilica di San Marco, the St Mark Square, and the Rialto Bridge. It has spacious and beautiful Venetian-style rooms and offers delicious breakfasts.

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