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Venice > Sightseeing > Top 11 free sights > Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco

From: Venice's Top 11 Free Sights

Piazza San Marco

ABOVE: A view of the Piazza and Campanile di San Marco from the arcades that surround the square.

photoThe Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark's Square, is one of the world's great squares. It's also a honeypot for swarms of daytrippers and other tourists, but don't let that bother you: The square is vast, the crowds are good-natured, and backpackers coexist peacefully with the well-heeled tourists who enjoy overpriced drinks and orchestral music at the café tables.

photoSome Venetians claim that pigeons outnumber the tourists. Certainly there are plenty of them, although their numbers have dwindled since the city began enforcing an ordinance against feeding the birds. (Note: Rick Steves suggests letting pigeon poop dry before brushing it off; this may work on clothing, but it's less effective when the poop is sliding down a balding scalp.)


  • photoFrom fall through spring, the square and the neighboring Piazzetta occasionally resemble a wading pool as acqua alta storm tides force pedestrians to put on boots or keep their feet dry on elevated walkways. The flooding doesn't last long, so if you see the waters rising, put on your wellies or come back when the tide recedes.

  • Don't picnic or sunbathe on the steps in the arcades that surround the square, or you'll be shooed away by enforcers from the city government.

  • If you have time and money to spare, consider visiting the Campanile or bell tower, the Torre dell'Orologio or clock tower, and the Museo Correr beneath the banner at the arcaded end of the piazza.

Related articles:

Next page: Basilica di San Marco

Top 11 Free Sights in Venice:
1. Piazza San Marco
2. Basilica di San Marco
3. Venice Waterfront (St. Mark's Basin)
4. Grand Canal
5. Rialto Bridge
6. Rialto Food Markets
7. Venetian Ghetto
8. Canali, Campi, Calli (canals, squares, back streets)
9. Churches (Salute, Carmini, and others that don't charge admission)
10. Shopping Streets
11. Islands (San Michele, Murano, Burano, Torcello, Lido)
Printable 'Top 11 Free Sights' List

About the author:

Durant Imboden photo.Durant Imboden has written about Venice, Italy since 1996. He covered Venice and European travel at for 4-1/2 years before launching Europe for Visitors (including Venice for Visitors) with Cheryl Imboden in 2001.

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Top photo copyright © Velsilvio.