San Marco

One of Venice’s most iconic sights is known all over the world for its historic square, cathedral and surrounding shops and cafés.

Look out over the pigeon-packed square and long arcades beneath the towers and crosses topping St. Mark’s Square, the central attraction in the sestiere (district) of San Marco. Being here is an unforgettably peaceful experience, unlike others you will encounter in Italy or Europe. Wander through the open spaces of the square and enjoy this beautiful scene.

Spend hours studying the fine details of St. Mark’s Basilica, the cathedral on the eastern end of St. Mark’s Square. Its Byzantine exterior dazzles with its manifold arches and gold trim. Inside are some of the most decadent gold leaf paintings of any cathedral, which together symbolize central tenets of Christian iconography. Their beauty is so widely recognized that they have even served as the basis of scientific studies about the biology of artistic appreciation.

Another important attraction in San Marco is Doge’s Palace. Built for the Doge of Venice, the chief magistrate of the former Republic of Venice, today the site serves as a preeminent example of Venetian-Gothic architecture and houses an art museum. Take your time perusing the many chambers of this building, the design of which has been widely imitated throughout the world.

As is the case with most of Venice, San Marco is densely packed with elaborate Baroque churches. In particular, be sure to visit the Chiesa di San Salvatore, which sports a cannonball in one of its columns left behind after a skirmish with Austrian forces.

Before you leave, have a dry martini at the famous Harry’s Bar, a truly expatriate experience. This place has served as the favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway, Alfred Hitchcock, Philippe de Rothschild and many others. Also try two Italian treats that were invented here, the carpaccio meat dish and the Bellini prosecco cocktail.

While all of Venice is a marvel, San Marco is a wonder set right in the heart of the city. Allow enough time to explore the special treats of this perfectly European sestiere.

Guide to Exploring San Marco

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