Long the political and religious heart of Venice, it’s hard to believe Piazza San Marco was once just a monastery garden crossed by a stream. The glittering basilica and Doge’s Palace command the east side of the square, while other stately buildings along its borders have been the backdrop for magnificent processions. The western end was remodelled by Napoleon, who wished to construct a royal palace here. Today the piazza continues to bustle, with a museum complex, cafés and costumed Carnival crowds.


Plan of Piazza San Marco


prac_info Campanile: Open 1–15 Apr: 9am – 5:30pm; mid-Apr–Oct: 8:30am–9pm; Nov–Mar: 9:30am–5:30pm; book guided tours on; Adm €8

prac_info Torre dell’Orologio: 041 427 308 92 (from abroad); 848 082 000 (from Italy); Guided tours: 10am & 11am Mon–Wed, 2pm & 3pm Thu–Sun. Adm €12.

prac_info Museo Correr Complex: Open 10am–7pm; Nov–Mar: 10am–5pm (last admission 1 hour before closing). Adm €20 (includes Doge’s Palace)

Google Map

  • The best time to appreciate the beauty of the square is early morning, when only the city sweepers are here.

1. Basilica di San Marco

see Basilica di San Marco.

2. Doge’s Palace

See Doge’s Palace

3. Torre dell’Orologio

A marvel to behold, the imposing and impressive Renaissance-style clock tower is topped by two bronze Moors hammering out the hours on the upper terrace. At Epiphany and Ascension there is an hourly procession of clockwork Magi that are led by an angel. According to legend, the craftsmen were subsequently blinded to prevent them repeating the work.


The impressive Renaissance-style clock tower

4. Campanile

Incomparable views of the city and lagoon can be had by taking the elevator to the top of this 98-m (323-ft) bell tower. It was masterfully rebuilt to its 16th-century design following its clamorous collapse in 1902.


The soaring bell tower

5. Piazzetta

Once an inlet for boats and witness to the arrival of distinguished visitors during the Republic’s heyday, this now fully paved mini square fronts the lagoon.


The Piazzetta and the Palace

6. Column of San Marco

This is one of two granite columns erected in 1172 by Nicolò Barattieri; the other symbolizes San Teodoro. Public executions were held here.


12th-century column made of granite

7. Procuratie Vecchie and Nuove

The Procurators, who were responsible for state administration, lived in these elegant 15th-century buildings.


Elegant 15th-century residences of state administrators

8. Piazzetta dei Leoncini

This is the site of a former vegetable market, where a pair of small lions (leoncini) carved from red Verona stone have been crouching since 1722.


A lion carved out of red Verona stone

9. Caffè Florian

Reputedly Europe’s first coffee house (see A Day in San Marco), the premises still retain their original 1720 wood-panelling, marble-topped tables and gilt-framed mirrors.

10. Giardinetti Reali

These shady public gardens, created during the Napoleonic era, took the place of boatyards and grain stores, situated just behind the panoramic waterfront.


Booming through the city, the five bells in the Campanile have been employed to mark Venice’s rhythms for centuries. The Maleficio bell was sounded to announce an execution, the Nona rang at midday, the Trottiera spurred on the nobles’ horses for assemblies in the Doge’s Palace and the Mezza Terza was used to indicate that the Senate was in session. The Marangona bell is still sounded to mark midnight.

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