Piazza San Marco is often described as the most beautiful square in the world, with its views across the lagoon and the magnificent multi-domed basilica making a truly inspiring sight. The Piazza was built in the 11th century (although much reworked since) to house the body of St Mark, which was brought here from Alexandria in the eighth century. While the exterior of the basilica is a multi-arched, highly decorative, lacy fantasy, the interior is even more ornate. It is dripping with gold, glass, and marble and adorned with 4,000 square meters of mosaic, covering the walls, floors, and vaulted ceilings. The Byzantine altarpiece, the Pala d’Oro, is also studded with priceless gems and gold leaf. The four bronze horses on the terrace of the basilica are copies of originals now in the Museo Marciano, which Napoleon once installed on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. They were returned after he lost at Waterloo in 1815. Right next to the basilica is the elegant and spiky Campanile (bell tower), Venice’s most familiar sight, and at 99 meters its tallest structure. It was finished in the 16th century but collapsed in 1901, only to be rebuilt brick by brick. Take the elevator to the top for glimpses across Venetian rooftops.
The Basilica is open Mon-Sat 9:45am - 5:00pm, Sundays and holidays 2:00-4:00pm (until 5:00pm Easter to Nov). Free admission. Check the website for Basilica closures.