The Basilica di San Marco is certainly one of Venice’s don’t-miss sites: the interior, 8,500 square meters of gold mosaics recounting the story of Venice’s patron saint (whose remains, after being misplaced…twice, reside in the crypt), is like so much of Venice, impossible to imagine – it must be seen. The result of its popularity, however, is that the line to enter can be daunting in length, frequently extending well into the piazzetta. It does move quickly, but if the weather’s intemperate, the wait can seem eternal.
There is a way to avoid the line entirely, however: visit the San Marco Basilica website and book online. It’s free, as is entrance to the Basilica, and can make it easier to plan your visit and your stay.
In addition to booking, the Basilica site is very informative and can help you understand more of what you’ll be viewing once inside. There, under the Plan Your Visit tab, you’ll see links for both and making Reservations, and for Guided Tours (available from April through October excluding Sundays and holidays).
- the booking and the visit is free
- you may book for up to 5 people
- you may book up to 48 hours prior to you visit (better sooner, as slots fill up)
Once you’ve made your booking, you’ll be furnished with a voucher which you’ll need to print and present on arrival. You’ll enter at the Porto San Pietro, second from the left as you face the Basilica.
- you’re permitted no backpacks or other bags. You may leave them at the nearby Ateneo San Basso, which faces the left side of the Basilica (just beyond the two lion statues).
- Do not leave without taking in both the Pala d’Oro (behind the main altar), and the upstairs Museo San Marco (look for the sign and the narrow staircase on your right once you enter the atrium, before going into the Sanctuary) where you’ll find original mosaics, the four original bronze horses from Constantinople, San Marco’s chariot, sacred tapestries, and where you can step outside to take in the expansive view of the Piazza.
- The Basilica is an important place of worship. To avoid being denied entrance, remember to cover shoulders, midriff, and knees.
There’s more to see inside the Basilica; be sure to consult a good guidebook, or consider booking the group tour above or even a private guide (see suggestions in the sidebar) for an even richer experience.