St. Mark's Square is Venice's main square. This famous 12th-century piazza is vast and very popular.
Along the sides of the piazza, you see arches and arcades. The arcades are lined with shops and elegant restaurants.There are two famous cafes in St. Mark's Square. One is Cafe Quadri and the other is Cafe Florian. I stopped at Cafe Florian (1720) for a drink and sat and watched the activities going on in the piazza.
The square itself is a favorite playground of the many pigeons of Venice. Children love to feed the birds the corn that is sold in the piazza.
When there is a 'high water' flood, wooden planks are laid out in the square so you can get around. Luckily, I experienced no flooding. I had seen pictures of the flooding and was glad I did not have to suffer that mess!
The square has several attractions. The 16th-century Campanile (bell tower) is 300' high. There is an elevator that takes you up the tower. The view of the square and of Venice was spectacular. There is also the clock tower. The columns of San Marco and San Teodoro were brought to Venice in the 12th century.
But the most dramatic and beautiful piece of history in the square is the Basilica of St. Mark. This huge basilica has been there since the 11th century. The mosaics on the facade depict scenes from the life of St. Mark.The golden mosaics are historic art. Inside the basilica the Pala d'Oro is a precious altar with gold and more than 3,000 precious stones.
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Hail in San Marco
Since I was a teenager, Venice has captivated my imagination and sustained my love of beauty, history, and of course, travel. When I graduated from college I decided to take myself on my first trip to Europe. I arrived in Venice in mid-July and was immediately overwhelmed, understanding at last what Stendhal was talking about with that syndrome of his. I met what would come to be amazing friends at the hostel I stayed at in Santa Croce. We walked into Piazza San Marco that first afternoon. As we stood in the middle of the square, listening to string music at the restaurant nearby, staring up and around at the Campanile, the basilica, a bright summer day transformed itself into a hail storm! Hard pellets started to fall from the once-blue sky. We ran, drenched and laughing to find cover, picking up pieces of ice in our hands. This odd introduction to the Serene One is one of my fondest memories -- the timeless eccentricity of this remarkable corner of the world was brought to life.
In the summer of 2009, I celebrated my first trip to Europe. The annual Venetian celebration of the Redentore coincided with my twenty-third birthday, and certainly one of the best birthdays of my life. My newly-found hostel friends and I funneled into Piazza San Marco with the rest of the city to watch the explosive fireworks display above the Basin. Wandering back to our hostel, we made friends with a local who had his own small boat. Most generously, he offered to give us a private night time tour of the canals. Gliding quietly through the once teeming canals, I understood why this great city was dubbed the Serene One so many years ago. Its palazzos stand in exquisite silence and grace while the old city sleeps, with only the sweet lapping of the green waters at their feet. We went to a spot farther out into the lagoon and swam in the bathwater warm salt seas. More words could not express how lucky I felt that night, when one of the greatest cities of the world came alive on my birthday.
St. Mark's Square appeared much less busy in the morning, as we passed it in our cruise ship. But by the time we had walked from the cruise terminal to the square (completely doable, despite what the tour companies want you to believe) around lunchtime, it was packed with tourists!
St. Marks Square in Venice is probably one of the craziest, busiest, most crowded and confusing places in the world. The amount of people who pass though on a daily basis is mind-blowing, and it does take a certain amount of patience to deal with the jostling and confusion. But it´s Venice. There really is no other place like it in the world, so crowds aside, it really is worth it... just be prepared for insanity.
If you want to visit Piazza San Marco before the streets of Venice sink under the weight of global warming, make sure to plan your trip for the off-season (think winter for your quietest option). Wear a warm coat, and sip an Aperol Spritz in the main square as you watch daily life pass by. Another great option if you aren't scared of crowds -- come during Carnevale to see some of the most elaborate costumes and balls in all of Europe.