St Mark's Square (or Piazza San Marco in Italian) is the main public square of Venice in Italy - although it is generally just called "la Piazza" or "the Square." As the beating heart of the city, any essential weekend itinerary for Venice will inevitably lead one to the square.

Venice is famous for its gondola rides along its stunning canals, one can decide if these tourist traps or romantic highlights of the visit. Venice is an expensive destination so if one is going on a budget, then plan ahead! At least it is free to visit St Mark's Square!

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Venice and History of St. Mark's Square

In Venice, all the other urban spaces (except for the Piazzetta and the Piazzale Roma) are called fields (campi). Piazzetta (meaning "little square") is just an extension of the main Piazza. These two spaces form the social, political, and religious center of Venice and are generally considered together.

  • Where: In The Heart of Venice
  • Size: 590 Feet (180 Meters) by 230 Feet (70 Meters)

The square is often thought of as one of the most beautiful in the world. It is often claimed that Napoleon (without proof) called the Piazza San Marco "the drawing room of Europe".

The square contains the most famous buildings in Venice including St. Mark's Basilica and Doge's Palace. The most famous buildings in the square:

  • St Mark's Basilica: Dominates the Eastern End
  • The Doge's Palace
  • The Museo Campanile (Basilica's Bell Tower)

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The square was first established in the 9th century with its current size and form coming into being in 1177 but wasn't paved for another hundred years.

Horses of Saint Mark

In the heyday of Venice, there were four carved horses that presided over the square. They were such potent symbols of Venician power that the rival Genoese stated in 1379 that there couldn't be any peace between the enemies until they were bridled. Naturally, when Napoleon marched in 400 years later ending the Venice Republic he had them taken down and shipped to Paris.

  • Displayed: In Their History, The Horses of Saint Mark have Been Displayed In Constantinople, Venice, Paris, and Venice Again

They had been looted by the Venetians when they treacherously sacked Constantinople in 1204. They had long been displayed at the Hippodrome of Constantinople. After the French defeat in 1815, they were forced to return them and they are in Vence today.

To see the originals do just inside the basilica where they have been moved to protect them from air pollution. Outside one can see exact replicas.

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Related: Visit These Stunning Italian Cities Instead Of Venice (To Avoid The Crowds)

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Flooding In The Acqua Alta

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Venice is famously low - it was founded by Roman refugees seeking refugee in its marshy lowlands against the barbarian invasions. And the Square is the lowest point in Venice. Several times in the year the square is flooded when there is an "Acqua Alta" or "high water." Venice often floods and the square is one of the first parts to flood, when this happens wooden footbridges are put down for people.

  • Flooding: St. Mark's Square Floods During The Acqua Alta

Attractions And Things To Look Out For

When in the square, look at the top balcony of the Torre dell’ Orologio (the Clock Tower) and see two bronze figures (representing Moors) strike the hour. On the special days of the Ascension week and Epiphany one will also see three statues of the Three Wise Men emerge from the clock tower. These are presided over by an angel when they strike the hour.

  • Torre Del' Orologio: Check Out The Clock Tower's Moorish and Three Wise Men Figures Striking The Tower

The Columns of Saint Mark and Saint Theodore in the square are particularly old and bloody. These two granite and marble columns were placed there in 1172 and the public executions were held between the pillars in the bad old days.

  • Executions: In The Past Executions Were Carried Out Between The Columns of Saint Mark and Saint Theodore

Visit the square after dusk and see the square come to life in the spring and summer and enjoy the various bands playing their live music.

  • Caffe Florian: One of The Oldest Bars In Italy (Est. 1720 And Has Offered Live Music For The Last 100 Years)

Tip: The Cheapest Drink in the Caffee Florian Costs Around 10€ or $11

Related: Heart Of Bogota: Bolivar Square Is Home To Many Of The City's Must-See Historic Buildings

Don't Feed Yourself or The Birds!

While it is forbidden to feed the pigeons in London's Trafalgar Square (risking a $680 fine), even more is forbidden in St. Mark's Square. Of course, it is forbidden to litter (like everywhere), but it is also forbidden to eat or drink in the square (as well as feed to the birdies).

  • Prohibited: It is Forbidden to Feed Both Yourself and The Pigeons In The Square

Next: Visiting Venice Beach? Here Are Some Unusual Things To Do There