Ignore the crowds and savor the setting.
Napoleon famously described the Piazza San Marco as "Europe's finest drawing room."
In peak season, the Piazza is the busiest spot in Venice, but don't let that bother you: The crowds are good-natured, and there's plenty of room for everyone.
- Don't picnic in the piazza. It's illegal.
- The cafés around the square are insanely expensive, so don't grab a table casually.
- Don't feed the pigeons. (That's illegal, too.)
- Don't be alarmed if you see water oozing out of the drains. (Parts of the Piazza often get wet during high tide.)
Basilica di San Marco:
Venice's most famous and ornate church is awash in stolen property, from the bones of St. Mark to many of the precious objects that cover the opulent Byzantine façade and interior.
The gold glass mosaics alone make a visit worthwhile.
- Hours: 9:45 a.m. - 4:45 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 2 - 4 p.m. on Sundays.
- Admission: Free. (Donation welcome.)
- Avoiding the line: Book ahead (free entry ticket) or check your tote or backpack at the Ateneo San Basso (in the Calle San Basso), where you'll be given a plastic claim check that lets you skip the queue at the Basilica.
- More information: Basilica di San Marco (Venice for Visitors)
The Palazzo Ducale was the Venetian Republic's seat of government, and parts of the building date back to 1340. Allow plenty of time for a visit.
- Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 8 p.m. (April-October), 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. (November-March). Last admission one hour before closing.
- Admission: €16 standard adult ticket, or €10 reduced. Add €20 (adult) or €14 for the "Secret Itineraries" tour of the prison, torture chamber, Chamber of Inquisitors, etc.
- More information: Click here.
- "Skip the Line" tours: Viator, our tour partner, offers several tours that let you bypass the queue. Click here for tour listings.
Campanile di San Marco:
The Piazza San Marco's bell tower is a replica of the original tower that collapsed in 1902 after nearly a thousand years.
The Campanile has an elevator and offers great views of the Piazza and central Venice.
- Hours: Officially 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. in summer, 9:30 a.m. - 5:45 p.m. in winter, and 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. in shoulder season. (Opening hours often vary.) Tickets are sold until one hour before closing.
- Admission: €8 standard adult ticket, or €4 reduced.
- More information: Campanile di San Marco (Venice for Visitors)
Guided tours of the historic Clock Tower are available in Italian, English, and French.
You'll get to see the clock's internal workings unless you're bothered by steep steps or claustrophobia.