Basilica di San Marco
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ABOVE: The main visitor entrance is on the
Piazza side of the church; look for the crowd-control barriers and the
stanchions with signs.
Basilica di San Marco is open for tourist visits from Monday through Saturday
from 9:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. (On Sunday
mornings, you can attend mass, but wandering around isn't allowed.) Visiting
hours can vary slightly by season; the sign in front of the Basilica will show
Admission is free, but it's polite to leave a donation in one of
the coinboxes. Unless you're on a budget or in a hurry, consider visiting the
San Marco Museum, the Treasury, and the Golden Altarpiece. (You'll need to buy a
separate ticket for each.)
Avoiding the queue:
The line to enter the Basilica through the main door can be long during high season
and on weekends. To minimize waiting time, try one of the following strategies:
Reserve a free ticket in advance. See Alata.it's
Basilica di San Marco
booking page for details.
Check your bag or backpack at the Ateneo San Basso, a former church
just around the corner and down the Calle San Basso from the Basilica's main
entrance. (You'll need to do this anyway if you're carrying anything larger
than a purse.) When you check your gear, you'll be given a
plastic claim check that can be used to bypass the queue at the front of the
Visit when the Basilica opens or late in the afternoon, when
it's less likely to be packed with tour groups and daytrippers. (Downside: The gilded mosaics are most impressive at
midday, when the church interior is illuminated.)
Join a tour. Book a sightseeing tour in advance
through Viator, or look for freelance
guides in front of the Basilica.
Dress conservatively. Tank tops, shorts, and other
"scanty" clothing aren't allowed. (Mankind may have been created in God's image,
but the church authorities apparently think God has a body-image problem.)
Keep moving. The Basilica's interior is smaller than the
typical cathedral's, and visitors are expected to shuffle more or less
continuously along the roped-off sightseeing route. (In high season, you'll be
lucky if you have more than 10 minutes to see the main floor of the church.)
Visit on a sunny day, or at midday if crowds aren't too
heavy. (The lights are normally turned on between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and
the illumination makes the gilded mosaics shine.)
"Pre-sightsee." Rick Steves has a PDF
map of the
Basilica on his Web site. You'll also find a Rick Steves
in MPEG-4 (iTunes) format.
Official Web site:
The Procuratoria in Venice has an
Web site about the Basilica, with historical information, a 3D "Virtual
Basilica" tour, a liturgical calendar, etc.
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