The eye-catching features in Piazza San Marco are primarily the Ducal Palace, the Campanile (bell tower) and, of course, the impressive Saint Mark’s Basilica. During the day, the square can be filled with locals and tourists alike, which can take away from the experience. Read on to learn about the piazza, church, and how to visit these attractions in Venice at night.
Unlike other Italian cities, Venice cannot claim Roman origins. Until the fifth century CE, most of its islands were a vastly inhabited swamp. All this changed with the arrival of the Visigoths who arrived from the east, exactly today’s Croatia. They finally settled where Venice lies today.
Usually, in cities founded by the Romans, the streets are forming perfectly aligned street blocks, the pattern we know from today’s North American cities. Venice is the opposite: no street is aligned parallel to each other and many lead into a dead end.
Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco is one of the most famous squares in Europe. Poems were written about it, thousands of paintings were painted of it, and millions of photos were taken in this heroic space. For the Venetian Republic, this place had been the staging of the great civic and religious ceremonies.
The piazza has been a rather chaotic space at the times of the republic. Food stalls and vendors of all kinds once gathered all over the piazza, now completely banned, mainly to keep the birds away.
St. Mark’s Basilica
The average visit inside the Basilica lasts about 10 minutes. You might want to spend an additional 20 minutes outside to admire the facade, which was restored in the nineteenth century. Most spectacular are the famous four bronze horses, located on the short columns on the loggia above the central portal.
The building was nicknamed Chiesa d’Oro, the Golden Church. A name which is more than justified, because of the huge amount of gold you can find on the inside and outside. The icon of the city is just located in front of it: Saint Marks Lion. The importance of the Basilica can be expressed in numbers, more than one million visitors flock every year into the church for a visit.
The Crypt of St. Mark’s Basilica
The Crypt of St. Mark’s Basilica is underground, below the church dating back almost a thousand years. The crypt was sealed about 500 years after it was built and opened again only at the end of the 1800s to be the final resting place for the Patriarchs of Venice. Heavy red brick-built columns connected with round-bodied ceilings create a very mystic atmosphere.
On a self-guided visit you won’t be able to visit the crypts, they are only open to the public on occasion. This is why The Tour Guy offers a night tour of St. Mark’s, one of the only times you can enter!
An Evening St. Mark’s Basilica Tour
An evening visit to St. Mark’s is worthwhile during your exploration of Venice at night. You can enjoy the incredibly mystic setting of the crypt with very little noise, take your time to marvel at all the pieces of Christian art, and enjoy the expertise of a well-informed guide.
First, you will get an introduction by the guide on the role St. Mark’s square played throughout history and how it changed over time. After this brief inauguration, you will head towards the heavy gates of the basilica and enter into the impressive building.
Once you enter the impressive halls and see the five golden domes from the inside, you will see the Venetian style of all the handcrafted sacral objects. Your guide will be able to answer any questions about the objects, architectural elements, or artwork. The highlights in these halls are surely the mosaics, the oldest, in fact, were realized at the end of the 12th century.
You will then experience a more eerie side of St. Mark’s and descend beneath the church’s floors to the underground crypts. If you take this tour with us, you will be the only group inside St. Mark’s Basilica. The Basilica will open its door just for our group’s special entrance.