Travel Guides

St. Mark’s Basilica Venice: A Visitor’s Guide to the Historic Cathedral

Why to visit the Cathedral of San Marco?

San Marco Cathedral is perhaps the most visited temple in Venice and one of the most popular tourist attractions. It is located in the city center — on St. Mark’s Square near the Doge’s Palace. St. Mark’s Cathedral is famous not only for its stunning architecture in the Byzantine style, but also because it is in this church that the relics of the Apostle Mark are located. In addition, many art objects brought from Constantinople back during the Crusades can be seen here.

Sunrise at St. Mark's Basilica in Venice with a clear reflection on water.
St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, as the majestic architecture.

The architects used tens of thousands of larch piles to build the Cathedral of San Marco. The fact is that this tree becomes very durable when in contact with water, which is the best way to build buildings in Venice.


The history of the Cathedral of San Marco began in 828. Two Venetian merchants Buono and Rustico, while in Alexandria, decided at all costs to save the relics of the Apostle Mark and deliver them to their hometown. The fact is that the Italians became aware of the upcoming construction of mosques on the site of Christian churches.

Crowded St. Mark's Basilica in Venice overlooking the sea.
Bustling St. Mark’s Square

When the merchants realized that there would simply be nothing left of the churches, they decided to take such a serious step. It is worth noting that Buono and Rustico have developed a cunning plan. They hid Mark’s body in a basket under the pig carcasses and thus transferred the relics to their ship. After the evangelist’s body was transported to Venice, St. Mark transformed into the city’s patron saint, and the winged lion emerged as Venice’s emblem.

The Cathedral of San Marco is still in operation to this day – as in any church, divine services are held here. The basilica houses one of the main Venetian shrines — the golden altar, or Pala D’Oro. It consists of 80 small icons, richly decorated with gold and stones. The altar is unique — it took almost 500 years to create.

Practical information

The tour of St. Mark’s Cathedral lasts about 10 minutes. Visitors should be appropriately dressed — it is not necessary to visit the temple in provocative outfits. Photo and video shooting are prohibited. 

  • Operating hours from November to April: 9:30 am – 5:15 pm, Sundays and holidays:from 2 pm. 
  • The final entry at 4:45 pm; admission fee: €3. Children under the age 6 can enter for free.
  • With the same ticket you will also have access to Pala D’Oro. Pala D’Oro Operating hours: 9:45 am -4 pm. For more info visit Basilica San Marco.