Newest Review: ... pillars. The square is surrounded on three sides by imposing buildings built in the 16th Century housing shops and cafes in a colonnade... more
You don't have to be a square to like this!
Piazza San Marco (Venice, Italy)
Member Name: garymarsh6
Piazza San Marco (Venice, Italy)
Advantages: Superb location to take in the vast history of Venice.
Disadvantages: Expensive if you allow it to be.
Piazza San Marco Venice.
I would be absolutely amazed if anyone who visits Venice does not end up in the Piazza San Marco at some point during your visit to Venice. The Piazza is the heart of the city where most of the main tourist and important sites can be found. The Doges Palace, The Basilica San Marco, The Campanile San Marco, The Torre Dell' Orologio are all found here at the square. So many historical and beautiful buildings surrounding the square make it The place to visit if you like. If you are arriving in the city from the International airport of San Marco the Alilaguna boat will probably drop you off near the Piazza just in front of the Doges Palace. Most of the water buses depart from here too.
Meandering through the alleyways and streets of Venice you will see signs directing you either towards Rialto or to Piazza San Marco. If you are lost in the side streets you could perhaps look towards the sky and catch a glimpse of the Campanile San Marco that looms above the square in order to get your bearings.
Historical features of the Square.
At the Eastern end of St Mark's Square you will find the Basilica San Marco, the Doges Palace, San Marco campanile and the Astrological clock. Some of these buildings have been here since the early 800's AD. At different stages throughout the centuries these buildings have been added to and improved especially as Venice became a major maritime Republic and an important trading centre. The Square was used for grand parades of both church and government not only that market traders plied their wares in the square. At the Eastern end of the square there is a smaller square to the left of the Basilica and the area in to the front of the Doges Palace is a smaller Piazzetta leading to the lagoon and waterfront promenade passing the two winged lions on high pillars.
The square is surrounded on three sides by imposing buildings built in the 16th Century housing shops and cafes in a colonnaded walkway above which are offices and homes that originally housed important government officials and important figures from San Marco. The pavement was originally built in the 12th century using bricks that were placed in herringbone fashion but due to the Aqua Alta (High tides from the Adriatic) and regular flooding the pavement was raised by one meter with improved drainage. The pavement was redesigned in the 14th Century and a pattern of squares of white Istrian stone was built into the brickwork which is thought to mark out places for the traders to set up their stalls.
St. Marks square today!
St. Marks square is still the place to head for if you wish to visit the Basilica and the Doges palace. The square is full of historical buildings and interesting buildings you could spend a couple of days here exploring all it has to offer. However as most people visiting Venice are likely only to be there for a couple of days there is a lot to pack in if you wish to see more of Venice. During the day time the square is full of tourists who flock here to these great buildings. The queues to enter these sites are really long so if you wish to get in to all these places get there early before the thousands of day visitors arrive by train, bus and cruise liners or leave some to later in the day when they have departed. Even when most of the people have left Venice is still packed with tourists but it is easier to find places to eat without having to wait for tables to become available. Walking around the square you will notice that some of the steps and pathways are quite worn due to the thousands of tourists who visit the square each day. There are by laws in place to ensure that you are not allowed to plonk yourself down and start eating a snack anywhere in the square you will be asked to move on by the police. There are virtually no places to sit and admire the architecture around the square unless of course you are feeling flush and sit with a drink in one of the expensive cafes surrounding the square.
Eating and drinking in St. Marks Square.
My advice is DON'T...... unless of course you have a very deep wallet or you really want to soak up the atmosphere or you are foolish with money and madly in love. To sit in one of the cafes or restaurants surrounding the square is probably one of the most expensive things you will do in Venice. The restaurants are pavement style cafes which allows you to soak up the ambiance of Venice and people watch at a price of course The bills are astronomical for example Euro 9 for a small coke plus Euro 6 Supplement for listening to the music. For coffee expect to pay around 18 euros. As for eating dinner don't expect any change from Euro 200 each for dinner. A bottle of wine starts from Euro 42 to Euro 300. You could probably get away with lunch for around Euro 100.
The Grancaffe Quadri is one such restaurant. There is a large outside eating area and a small band stand with white drapes. Five musicians play music in competition with a restaurant on the opposite side of the square. You can also eat inside and there is a lovely restaurant upstairs too which is finely and tastefully decorated with a superb ambiance overlooking the square. We were not able to get a table overlooking the square so chose to eat elsewhere. To listen to the band playing Con te Partiro made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and sent a shiver down my spine. It really is something special but of course at a price. My advice is to find a café or restaurant off the square down one of the maze of alleyways where you can find much better standard of food at a far better price.
There is a variety of tourist type shops surrounding the square and high class shops selling glassware and costume jewellery. These high end shops do not display prices on some of the things but it will make your heart flutter when they reveal the prices. Do yourself and your credit card a favour and walk down the alleyways of Venice if you really want to nab yourself a bargain, well a bargain compared to the prices you will pay in St. Marks square. Murano glass can be bought far more cheaply in the little side streets as opposed to here.
St. Marks square is a hive of activity full of tourists and lovers out to soak up the ambiance and beauty of this small area. It can be very busy during the daytime but much calmer once most of the day trippers have departed on their coaches or massive cruise liners. It certainly is the place to be during your stay in Venice not only for people watching but more importantly to visit the historical sites around the square. I absolutely adore Venice and although I have only visited the place twice and for only a couple of days each time we have packed an awful lot into our trips there. Be prepared to do a lot of walking, standing, queuing but it is well worth it. Historically it is a beautiful city with many beautiful buildings you won't be disappointed with it. Venice is a very expensive place but you can help save yourself a little money by eating and shopping away from St. Marks Square. Personally I love St. Marks Square very early in the morning and very late at night when there are less people in the square. Once in the square it feels quite safe but getting to the square when Venice is deserted can be quite spooky walking alone down the small dark alleyways. There are always people walking about no matter what time of the day so you will never be quite alone.
Summary: Great sights sounds but very crowded at times during the day.