Basilica San Marco, the grand, multi-domed church on Saint Mark's Square is one of one of Venice's top attractions and one of Italy's most spectacular cathedrals. Exhibiting influences from Byzantine, Western European, and Islamic architecture all due to Venice's powerful seafaring past, Saint Mark's Basilica is truly an embodiment of the Venetian aesthetic.
Visitors flock to Basilica San Marco to admire its gleaming, golden Byzantine mosaics, which adorn the church's main portal as well as the inside of each of the basilica's five domes.
Most of the astounding ornamentation of Saint Mark's Basilica dates from the 11th to the 13th centuries. In addition to gorgeous mosaics, Basilica San Marco also houses the relics of its namesake, the apostle Saint Mark, and the sumptuous Pala d'Oro, a golden altarpiece decorated with priceless jewels.
A visit to Saint Mark's Basilica is a must for a first-time tourist to Venice, and indeed the church holds so many precious artworks and relics that subsequent visits are recommended.
Book The Power of the Past from Select Italy for a small-group guided tour of the Basilica, Saint Mark's Square, and the Doge's Palace, for a good introduction to Venice.
Saint Mark's Basilica Visiting Information
Location: Basilica San Marco dominates one side of Piazza San Marco, or Saint Mark's Square, the main square of Venice.
Hours: Saint Mark's Basilica is open Mondays through Saturdays 9:45 am until 5:00 pm; Sundays and holidays 2:00 pm until 4:00 pm (during March and April – Easter – the Basilica is open until 5:00 pm on Sundays and holidays).
Mass hours are at 7:00 am, 8:00 am, 9:00 am, 10: 00 am (in the Baptistery), 11 a.m., noon (September through June only), and 6:45 pm. Check current times
Admission: Admission to the Basilica is free, but visitors should expect to pay entrance fees during holidays or to special parts of the basilica complex, such as the Saint Mark's museum, Pala d'Oro, the Bell Tower, and the Treasury.
While admission to Basilica San Marco is free, it is restricted however. Visitors are allowed approximately 10 minutes to walk through and admire the basilica's beauty.
To maximize your visit and ensure that you spend more time inside Saint Mark's than queued up outside of it, consider reserving a ticket (free, with a service charge). You can book your free reservation (for a 2 euro service fee) on the Veneto Inside web site for a specific day and time from April 1 through November 2.
You can also take a guided tour of Saint Mark's Basilica. Guided tours are available at 11 am, Mondays through Saturdays from April to October. See the Basilica San Marco web site for further details and information.
Visitors may attend mass for free and it requires no reservations at this time. However, visitors are also not allowed to tour the church during mass. Note that on special holidays, such as Easter, mass will be very crowded so arrive early if you really want to attend.
Important Restrictions: Visitors will not be allowed inside unless they are dressed appropriately for entering a place of worship (for example, no shorts). Photos, filming, and luggage are not permitted inside.
Find out about what to see in Saint Mark's Basilica so you can make the most of your time inside the cathedral.
Editor's Note: This article has been edited and updated by Martha Bakerjian