St Mark’s Basilica Venice – Skip the Line!

St Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line!

Save some time by skipping the line at St Mark’s Basilica.

You might find yourself only with a day or two in Venice. You don’t want to spend lengthy amounts of time waiting in a huge line-up, do you?

Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) is the main public square in Venice. I’m sure you will wander through it during your trip. Many popular attractions are here: Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, the Campanile, and St Mark’s Basilica. It is possible to tackle every touristy spot here within a few hours. I recommend visiting as early in the morning as possible to avoid the crowds as much as possible. Even in early May around 10:00am, the piazza was filling up with tourists.

Check out our review to learn more about the Secret Itineraries tour at Doge’s Palace.

St Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) is a gorgeous church that you should not miss. The line-ups can be quite large, even first thing in the morning. To avoid waiting in the longest line, buy a “skip the line” ticket in advance. You must reserve a time and it costs €2 per person. It is definitely worth it. We purchased tickets for the first time slot from 9:45-9:55am. There was still a line to get in, though it was way shorter than the main line. In fact, I think they let everyone in with reserved tickets before letting anyone else enter. As the day progressed, the queue grew longer. I wouldn’t want to waste my short time in Venice by standing in a slow moving line-up.

Tip: Large backpacks and bags are not permitted inside St Mark’s Basilica. You must leave these items at the bag check. Walk to the left side of the church (while facing the front). The bag check is just around the corner, down the side street. I had a large purse and I brought it inside the church without any problems.

Before entering, be sure to admire the architecture and artistry of the church itself. There are some magnificent paintings in the arches above the doorways.

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

Don’t Fall for the Scams

Beware – there are scam artists working their magic in the middle of the piazza. And I fell for it.

It was the first time that Justin and I were apart, only days into our Italy trip. We weren’t even separated for that long. He wanted to take a picture of me in front of the church from a distance. Justin instructed, “Walk over there,” towards the center of the square. As I walked over there on my own and posed for a picture, a man approached. He took my hand and put some bird feed inside of it. It happened so fast.

Within moments, there were pigeons all around. I threw down some of the pigeon feed, and they were surrounding me. Some of the pigeons landed on my arms and shoulders. I have to admit, it was fun. I mean, I love animals. Birds are no exception.

Justin snapped a few photos from afar and walked over to meet me. After the bird feed was gone, the man asked for €5. I don’t know why I gave it to him. I suppose I felt as though I had a good time, and I would feel guilty for ripping him off if I didn’t pay (even though he was ripping me off in the first place).

Justin asked me, “Why did you pay him?”

“I don’t know,” I quietly replied.

If someone approaches you in Piazza San Marco, do not allow him to put anything into your hand. Always be aware of your surroundings, even in a new place. You might be in complete awe of everything all around, but have your wits about you. I learned right away from this experience and avoided similar scams for the rest of our trip.

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

Inside the Church

Even though we had reserved tickets, we still waited in a line-up for about 15 minutes. This was way better than the alternative: waiting in the main line for 45 minutes to an hour, at least. During the low season (November to April), it is not necessary to buy a reserved ticket. I don’t think they are even up for sale. There aren’t huge lines this time of the year, so you won’t have to wait at all.

Tip: You are not allowed to enter the church with bare shoulders or bare legs above the knee. Dress accordingly, or bring a shawl or scarf to cover your bare shoulders or legs.

The inside of St Mark’s Basilica is immense and impressive. Gold glimmers across the ceiling. Archaic chandeliers hang from the rafters. The mosaic tile floors have intricate, flowing designs. From floor to ceiling, this church is amazing.

In a separate room, there are ancient artifacts on display as part of a small museum collection. There is a small fee to enter this section of €3. There are many historic and intriguing pieces, though it is not essential to see this area. We did see a few relics. Relics as in…the preserved remains of Saint Mark, for whom the cathedral was named. I recall seeing a few fingers on display.

We heard that visitors are not allowed to take photographs inside the church. When we were there, no one was enforcing this rule and many people were taking pictures. We took a few photos without the flash because we didn’t want to disturb anyone or damage the paintings.

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

St. Mark's Basilica Venice - Skip the Line

Tips for a Fun Day at Piazza San Marco

  • Arrive early in the day to wander around the square, admire the architecture, and take some pictures
  • The Campanile opens at 9:00am – you can take the elevator up the tower to the top for €8. We didn’t have time to do this, although I think it would offer amazing views.
  • Reserve tickets for St Mark’s Basilica for when it opens (9:45am).
  • Reserve tickets for the Secret Itineraries Tour at Doge’s Palace for 11:35am.
  • Don’t bring a large backpack or bag unless you are prepared to check it before entering the church.
  • Cover your bare shoulders and legs (above the knees) with a shawl or sarong.
  • Don’t eat or sit at the patios in Piazza San Marco! I’ve heard that they are terribly overpriced. Wander a little away from the main square for more reasonable prices.
  • Watch out for scams and always be aware of your surroundings.


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St Mark\'s Basilica 45.434561, 12.339713 St Mark\'s BasilicaSaint Mark\'s Basilica, Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy (Directions)


St. Mark's Basilica - Venice, Italy. Skip the line!

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23 Responses

  1. Lyndall @ SeizeTheDayProject
    | Reply

    We loved the Basilica San Marco too. Such an incredible masterpiece of craftsmanship! We were fortunate enough to attend Mass inside the Basilica, which was an amazing and memorable experience.
    Lyndall @ SeizeTheDayProject recently posted…Living it up in VeniceMy Profile

  2. Hung Thai
    | Reply

    Nice pictures and great tips. We had 2 days in Venice 2 years ago and had a local tour guide taking us everywhere – it was worth the money because we skipped all the lines and learned so much about the history and culture of the place. A little more expensive than doing it yourself but I think it’s worth it.
    Hung Thai recently posted…7 hidden gems to visit in the Northeast this springMy Profile

  3. Corinne
    | Reply

    Wow! What a beautiful place! I have been in St. Mark’s square a number of times and yes, the crowds and lines have always scared me away. Love it.
    Corinne recently posted…Developing my Cherry List!My Profile

  4. Really nice pictures you got! The details of the church looks so gorgeous. My favorite part of your entry was the skip the line ticket, LOL
    Karla (Karla Around The World) recently posted…Exploring Manila One Fine Rizal DayMy Profile

  5. Colleen
    | Reply

    Great post, I really enjoyed reading. I haven’t made it to Venice just yet but your pics are fab. Elements of the building reminded me of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

  6. Colleen @ Ad-lib Traveller
    | Reply

    Great post, I really enjoyed reading. Photos of St. Marks reminded me of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Incredible. I hope to get to Venice one day 🙂
    Colleen @ Ad-lib Traveller recently posted…For the love of… Valentine’s DayMy Profile

  7. Rebecca
    | Reply

    Beautiful pictures! And €2 is definitely worth it to avoid the huge line. I’m glad you turned off your flash as there are reasons why pictures inside are not allowed – so at least you respected the history from the angle of not having your flash on.
    And the bird photos actually look really good of you – so maybe it was worth €5

  8. Anne | Girl Chasing Sunshine
    | Reply

    Thank heavens for skip-the-line tickets! Who would want to spend their day falling in line when they can take it easy. 🙂 Thanks for the tip! I enjoyed this post so much!
    Anne | Girl Chasing Sunshine recently posted…#Europamore Trip Report Day 01: 8,225 Miles Of Travel To EuropeMy Profile

  9. Great detail shots! The painstaking details in every corner and meticulous frescos really sets this basilica apart.
    Thanks for the tip about booking in advance! Saves you a lot of time.
    And thank you for sharing that experience in the piazza. Getting scammed is an inevitable and unprecedented part of traveling and I’m sure you both know this. Be sure to be more alert and wary next time!
    Enjoy the rest of your travels, Justin and Lauren!
    Trisha Velarmino – P.S. I’m On My Way recently posted…Why being lost at 25 is completely okayMy Profile

  10. annette charlton
    | Reply

    It is easy to get caught up in the moment enjoying the surroundings and taking others at face value. I was expecting to read your handbag was stolen whilst covered with pigeons, so I am happy for you that it was only a scam. Good to know as I would have done as you did also. Thanks
    annette charlton recently posted…5 Must Do Things – Pink Granite CoastMy Profile

  11. Valerie Perry
    | Reply

    I’ve seen much of Italy, but not Venice yet, sadly. Really looking forward to being there. Thanks for the tips! I’ll watch out for the birdseed tricks too – great warning.

  12. Chris
    | Reply

    Nice to be able to see inside!

    When we were there last November, we actually had the wrong closing time in our heads and missed out! LOL
    Chris recently posted…Machu PicchuMy Profile

  13. Jessica
    | Reply

    Your posts about Venice are really making me to go there and the sights that you’ve been to. Thanks for wonderful tips. Scams around a Basilica is both an expected and unexpected thing. Hehe
    Jessica recently posted…The Best Travel Itinerary in Florida Keys – How to Discover Paradise in 5 Days #SeizetheKeysMy Profile

  14. Natalie
    | Reply

    Always good tips to avoid scams…they always move so fast! At least you were only out 5 euros!! And you got some fabulous photos. 😉

    If you are staying in Venice with enough time, heading it to the church for a service is an amazing experience. We did, and even though we speak no Italian, it was a moving experience. No crowds, and able to sit and admire the incredible surroundings.

  15. Joe Ankenbauer
    | Reply

    I loved St Marks! I loved in Verina for awhile and made many trips to Rome and Venice when I was there! So beautiful!
    Joe Ankenbauer recently posted…To Boldly Go: NASA Jet Propulsion LaboratoryMy Profile

  16. Cai Dominguez - Travelosyo
    | Reply

    This Basilica is soooo wonderful. Regardless, of that scam the photo looks awesome. Just be careful next time that they won’t put something bad in your hands.
    Cai Dominguez – Travelosyo recently posted…#TravelHugotSerye; Pinilit kong hindi humugotMy Profile

  17. Vedante | The Lavish Nomad
    | Reply

    I have always wanted to go to Italy and see Venice. You gave me yet another reason.

  18. Lieurene
    | Reply

    St. Mark’s Basilica looks so beautiful but I am sure everything else in Venice is beautiful. These are great tips! It’s a bummer that you got scammed by that guy but the pictures did come out great!

  19. Vanessa
    | Reply

    I love, love, love the tips about avoiding the lines. I am such an impatient person that lines annoy me more than they should but I just can’t deal with standing around doing nothing when I could be exploring. It’s so smart to buy tickets in advance (in some places, you can even save money by doing this!).

    It’s also great for times when the weather is bad – even if you don’t mind lines, you’ll definitely mind being stuck in the rain. It would be great to hide out a local cafe and stay warm and dry until the minute your admission/tour begins.

  20. Mar Pages
    | Reply

    Wow, I had no idea about the scams and that one sounded so smoothly done. Thank you for letting us know! The photos you got from it are so lovely though, you look so happy. 😀

  21. Jenna
    | Reply

    Wow! What a gorgeous church–I love the the intricate details! I can definitely see how the extra fee would be worth skipping the lines. It always feels like such a waste of time to wait in a line especially when you are short on time. And thanks for the heads up about the scam–always good to know!
    Jenna recently posted…Organic Fair-Trade Brew: Roastery Tour at Peace CoffeeMy Profile

  22. T
    | Reply

    Great post. So Canadian!
    Loved your sharp photos, too.
    What camera did you use?

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