St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), often referred to as “the drawing room of Europe,” is one of the most famous squares in Italy. The geographic and cultural heart of Venice—with St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace at one end, the campanile in the center, and the colonnaded arcade topped by the Procuratie palaces lining three sides—this elegant piazza is also steeped in history. Settle in at one of the many coveted café tables and watch tourists (and pigeons) pose for photos while you sip a Bellini and soak in the square’s Renaissance splendor.
Located at the center of Venice, St. Mark’s Square is the perfect hub around which to plan your walking tour of Venice. It is just steps from the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) and its famous Bridge of Sighs, the Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal, and the Riva walk along the waterfront. The piazza is home to a number of palaces and sculptures by the Renaissance sculptor and architect Sansovino, so a private or small-group guided tour is key to fully appreciating its rich Venetian Gothic art and architecture.
Things to Know Before You Go
- You can climb to the top of the square’s clock tower, but prebook skip-the-line access to avoid a long wait.
- Kids love to feed and chase the pigeons that flock to the center of this family-friendly piazza.
- The main square connects to the smaller piazzetta square, which is flanked by the Doge’s Palace and the St. Mark’s library (Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana), and opens out onto the Grand Canal.
- St. Mark’s Square is the focal point of Venice’s lavish Carnival celebrations every February.
- Although often crowded, the flat square is easily accessible for strollers and those with limited mobility.
How to Get There
St. Mark’s Square is located along Venice’s Grand Canal. The nearest vaporetto (ferry) stop is San Marco–San Zaccaria.
When to Get There
St. Mark’s Square is an open-air square, so the area is best enjoyed during the milder months of the year. Summer brings the largest crowds to the piazza, but overall, Venice is relatively quiet from November through February.
Flooding at St. Mark’s Square
Venice sits at sea level on the Adriatic, so when tides are especially high during winter, the city is often flooded. St. Mark’s Square is one of the lowest parts of the city center, and when acqua alta, or high water, hits, Venice sets up elevated walkways so locals and visitors can cross the piazza without getting wet.