Experience the timeless charm of Venice’s glorious heart, home to the city’s most famous cultural icons, many cafés ... and several thousand pigeons.
Step into Venice’s most famous square and expect to be impressed by the opulence of St. Mark’s Basilica, the towering Campanile, and the gothic façade of the Doge’s Palace. This lively hub has been the focal point for Venetian life for over 10 centuries. Enjoy a drink in one of the cafés under the colonnaded arcade that lines the square or visit its most iconic buildings.
The large, open space in crowded Venice is known by locals simply as El Piazza. Visit at various times of day to get experience the piazza’s ever-changing appeal. See the beautiful colors of the sunrise at dawn, join in the bustle during the day and savor the romantic atmosphere in the evening.
The façade of the 11th-century St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) immediately draws your attention with its high arches, gold and marble décor and carved figures. To the right of it stands Venice’s landmark bell tower, the Campanile. Climb to the top or stand back and listen for the ring of the Torre dell’Orologio on the hour. Two bronze figures strike the bells as they have done for over five centuries.
Another common sound is the cooing of the pigeons that flock here in search of food, even though feeding the pigeons is no longer allowed.
Look for the two columns that mark the traditional entrance to the city in the southeast corner. On top, the figures of St. Mark and St. Theodore keep a watchful eye over the lagoon on which Venice was built.
Numerous cafés offer cappuccinos and open-air dining, with prices often higher than the rest of the city. As evening falls and the crowds disperse, find a table at a café and listen to musicians perform while you enjoy a glass of wine. Be aware that sitting at a table, rather than standing at the bar, will add to your bill.
St. Mark’s Square, in the San Marco district, backs on to the Grand Canal and is easily reached by vaporetto (water bus) or on foot. At high tide during the cooler months the square can get flooded, but raised walking platforms still make a visit possible.