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Basilica di San Marco

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Basilica entrance photo

ABOVE: The main visitor entrance is on the Piazza side of the church; look for the crowd-control barriers and the stanchions with signs.

Visitor information

sign photoThe Basilica di San Marco is open for tourist visits from Monday through Saturday from approximately 9:30  a.m. to 5 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 current times.

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 Basilica.

  • 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.

More tips:

  • 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 audio tour in MPEG-4 (iTunes) format.

Official Web site:

The Procuratoria in Venice has an official English-language Web site about the Basilica, with historical information, a 3D "Virtual Basilica" tour, a liturgical calendar, etc.

Next page: More photos with captions


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