Basilica San Marco – St Mark's Basilica in Venice

Basilica San Marco is sometimes called "the soul of Venice". It's also the most richly decorated basilica in the world. It took 30 years to complete and is a miracle of engineering. Unlike other churches in Italy, St Mark's takes its inspiration from the east — the styles of the Byzantine Empire.

St Mark's Cathedral is the most popular sight in a very popular city, and there are always lines waiting to get inside to see the five sacred domes. We don't want you to just line up outside and hope for the best. A guided tour is the only way to skip the lines while getting a better understanding of a milliennum of history and art. That's why we've chosen these highly-rated walking tours. Walk past the lines and learn from your guide how Basilica San Marco helped to transform the tiny island-city to one of the biggest powers in the medieval world.

St Mark's Basilica + Doges Palace

St Mark's Basilica + Doges Palace

Before you enter, stop and admire the lavish Byzantine exterior of Basilica San Marco. Also view the long lines as your guide leads you past them and into the basilica.

There, your guide will explain how the city begged, borrowed, and yes, stole, almost all of the art that surrounds you. You also get special access to the upper terrace to see the famous bronze horses stolen from Constantinople and to take in the amazing views over the busy piazza below.

Next, it's a short walk over to the Doge's Palace, the political heart of the empire for 700 years. Visit the opulent apartments and the Hall of the Great Council, where state affairs and secret dealings took place. Before you say goodbye to your guide you stroll to the famous Bridge of Sighs.

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Very informative and interesting. I'm ot a group or tour type, I prefer my independence, yet this tour was worth the cost, as you can appreciate so much more the significance of these sites and ties to the history of the city. Our guide was wonderful & the pace was just right. Be prepared to be amazed!"
– 5-Star Review

Basilica di San Marco + Venice Walking Tour

Basilica di San Marco + Venice Walking Tour

Starting at the iconic marble Rialto Bridge — Ponte di Rialto, Venice's oldest bridge — you pass Marco Polo's house, and learn about the explorer's seafaring adventures. Then walk through lively Venice squares like Campo San Luca and Campo SS Giovanni Paolo, while watching locals going about their daily business.

The highlight of your walking tour is Piazza San Marco — St Mark's Square — and the Basilica itself, the finest example of Byzantine architecture in the world. Skip the long lines and take a rare tour that includes the upper level and terraces.

We recommend you choose the small-group tour option that includes a Grand Canal luxury water taxi ride to see the magnificent Bovolo Staircase and Goldoni Theatre. Or, add an insiders tour of Doge's Palace to see the palace's ornate decorated rooms, Renaissance art, and ceiling frescos.

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This was the best tour of our 4 days in Venice. Our tour guide was amazing, and we learned so much about Venice and all of its history. The walking tour was at a good pace, not too fast, and was extremely enjoyable! Well done!!"
– 5-Star Review

VIP – St Mark's Basilica After-Hours

VIP St Mark's Basilica After-Hours

It's thrilling to see the doors of St Mark's Basilica unlock for you and your guide on this VIP after-hours visit. Marvel at the mosaics illuminated by soft lighting. The rare silence in the cathedral will be a powerful memory of your trip to Venice.

Meet your guide in Palazzo San Marco, then set off towards the grand domes and soaring steeples of the Basilica. Learn how the long history of the basilica and Venice are intertwined. You'll get to see treasures like the Pala d'Oro, the Byzantine altarpiece. You even head to the crypt where the remains of St Mark himself are believed to lie. You can also upgrade to see the Doge's Palace, also after hours. Then, cross the 17th-century Bridge of Sighs to admire the bell tower, library and clock tower.

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This is one of those special tours that you want to take if you would like an insider's look at Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Basilica. Being after hours, made the crowds disappear and the Palace and the Basilica come to life! Our guide, Italian Moses was excellent with pointing out key art designs and informing us about the special stories behind them. We also had access to non-public items such as the under-the-altar crypt and walking around and behind St. Mark's altar to see the incredible hidden art work. Our understanding for the history of Venice grew exponentially as did our fondness for this unique city!"
– 5-Star Review

Highlights of San Marco

Highlights of San Marco

Lastly, here's another way to take in the best and most awe-inspiring gold mosaics, and other highlights of the basilica — an action-packed skip-the-line tour that's a great value for the money.

Your guide fills you in on all its secrets as you walk through the Basilica San Marco, and see the dazzling gilded highlights — the Pala d'Oro the golden altar, the bronze horses and other masterpieces stolen or created by generations of Venetians. The tours are kept small to ensure you get a better experience!

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The tour was terrific. The guide was very knowledgeable and interesting. We had a great time. And we skipped the long lines."
– 5-Star Review

Fascinating Facts About St Mark's

Facts About St Mark's

  1. Early Venice lacked a spiritual figurehead. Rome had St Peter. But the Venetians believed they had the claim of someone greater — St Mark, whose body supposedly lay in Egypt. Local legend has it that two Venetian merchants stole the bones of St. Mark from Alexandria.
  2. News of the theft spread quickly and ships were searched in the harbour. The merchants hid the bones underneath pieces of pork, luckily the Muslim soldiers were repelled by the scent. St Mark came to Venice! The city had a saint to rival even that of Rome.
  3. The Venetians built a church to house the remains of St Mark in a basilica that would become one of the most recognizable buildings in the world.
  4. The symbol of Saint Mark — a winged lion — is the emblem of Venice and it's everywhere in the city. You can find it on buildings, tiles, and flags. It serves as a reminder of the enduring relationship between Venice and their saint.
  5. The mosaic in front of the building depicts the body arriving from Alexandria. The inspiration is from the east, the church is in the form of a Greek church, supporting five great domes. The interior is dominated by Christ and his disciples with 4,000 square feet of mosaics.
  6. Beneath the water lies the tomb of St Mark, the sacred heart of the city. But it's more than just the expression of religious devotion, it's a political statement as well. One of the church's pulpits was reserved for religious addresses, the other for the doge's civi addresses. Venice would submit to no one — emperor, king, or pope.
  7. In 1075, the doge proclaimed that it was the duty of every traveling Venetian to bring back treasures to adorn the facade of Basilica San Marco. Thus, the exterior is an extraordinary confection ornamented with precious objects from across the known world.
  8. It's the domes of St Mark's that create the memorable profile. The famous eastern-influenced, onion-shaped domes were added at a later date. The hidden structural domes are made of wood — they are flatter and less glamorous than the gilded tops and undersides. Thus, St Mark's became the greatest stage set the world had ever known.
  9. The Basilica San Marco helped to transform fishermen to merchants and merchants into princes of trade. Early wood houses were replaced by brick and stone palaces, and Venice began to take shape as a world power.
  10. By the 12th century, Venetians were major trading figures with links to Byzantine and Constantinople. Venice was gaining the upper hand in ht Italian peninsula and had become a major economic, spiritual, and artistic centre.