Venice Landmarks

A look into the more famous Venice landmarks from Piazza San Marco to Chiesa del Santissimo Redentor.

Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s square) is the heart of Venice, and the most important reference point for most visitors traveling to Venice, as well as the location for most important events in Venice.

The square’s origins date back to the 9th century. Prior to the current square, the the area had a lighthouse, two small churches, and a large vegetable garden of nuns, who, in the 9th century, decided to sell the place to the community as a place for offices of government, Saint Mark’s Basilica, and the Doge’s Palace.

Saint Mark’s square was rebuilt and enlarged to its current size in 1177, after a great flood.

The square is surrounded by buildings and arcades called Procuratie, with the name coming from the fact that Venice’s prosecutors used to work and live here. There are in fact two sections of these buildings: Old and the New Procuratie.

The arcades feature a clock tower from the 15th century, one of the most famous works of architecture in Venice,  located above an arch that leads to one of the most lively sections full of shops. The towers astronomical clock is characterized by gilded reliefs, and, in addition to indicating the hours, also shows the moon phases and zodiac signs. Above the clock, you can find a depiction of Madonna with a child.

Once you’re in the square, it is worth walking around the place and take a look at the arcades, the luxury shops and have a coffee or a chocolate bar in one of the historic cafes.

In one corner of the square you’ll find the 98 meter tall Campanile bell tower, which was completed in 912, and a climb to the top is worthwhile, because from there, you can admire the wonderful views of entire St. Mark’s Basin.

The construction of the basilica was completed to house the remains of Mark the Evangelist from Egypt, which fell to the hands of Venetian merchants in the year 828.

In 976, the original building was destroyed by a fire that also, in fact, killed the only people who know the exact location of the remains of St. Mark within the basilica. The present building dates back to 1094, and during the inauguration of the new church, one of the columns suddenly crumbled, and there they found the remains of St. Mark, which are now kept in a special vault.

The plan of the church has a Greek cross, and the place is decorated with marbles and precious stones from the East, which were also used on the mosaics of the internal structure, with gold used on domes and vaults.

The main facade of the church consists of five main entrances, closed by gates of bronze. Of the entrances, the main gate contains one of the most important artworks, a “Nativity” bas-relief. Basilica of San Marco also contains the famous bronze horses from Constantinople.

To the side of the Basilica of San Marco you’ll find the majestic Doge’s Palace, restored several times, whose biggest renovation occurred after the fires of 1574 and 1577.

The Ducal Palace was the seat of the Doge (a ruler of Venice) and the Venetian government, as well as the a place for the city’s courts and prisons, until the fall of the Republic in 1797.

Doge’s Palace is, in fact, the most important example of Gothic architecture in Venice, with a facade that is decorated in pink and white marble, giving it a striking appearance when illuminated by the sun.

Inside, you’ll find a wonderful courtyard, whose main facade has been done in the Renaissance style, with extraordinary sculptural decorations and tiers of arches. At one side of the building, over the canal, there is the famous Bridge of Sighs (among the major Venice landmarks by itself), which takes its name from the sighs of prisoners who, on their way to the prisons after being sentenced, saw Venice for the last time through the bridge windows.

Until the second half of the 16th century, Venetian prisons were located in the Doge’s Palace. New prisons, however, were built next to the Palazzo Ducale, on the opposite side of the adjacent canal. At that time the Bridge of Sighs was also built, in 1602, with the purpose of connecting the Doge’s Palace to the new prisons.

The prison cells were cold places, across narrow underground tunnels. Some cells were built fortified with metallic materials, while others used primarily wood, but all the cells were located below the sea level.

La Fenice theater, one of the top Venice landmarks, on the other hand, was built between 1790 and 1792.

The theater is characterized by abundant gold and silver decorations, as well as bright colors. A fire destroyed the theater in 1996, and the present appearance is the result of the reconstruction, which was carried out in 2003 using the techniques of traditional Venetian building.

As one of the Venice landmarks, Grand Canal, or “Grande Canale” for Venetians, is the main canal of Venice, and divides the city into two parts.

The canal is a major route of transportation within Venice, and along its route, you can see the most important buildings in Venice, which, at one time, belonged to rich patrician families of Venetian merchants.

Grand Canal also housed buildings for foreign merchants, who were assigned their own quarters, one of the most famous of which was the Fondaco dei Turchi (also among the Venice landmarks).

Near Rialto Bridge, the most famous of the bridges over Grand Canal, were built palaces for commercial purposes such as the Venetian Mint. Throughout its history, this canal has been the busiest waterway in Venice for vaporettos, water taxis, and gondolas.

In order to see most of the beautiful buildings located along both sides of the Grand Canal, many tourists take a ride on a gondola.

Other bridges over the Grand Canal are Accademia bridge, Scalzi bridge, Calatrava bridge, and the Bridge of the Constitution.

Annually, every first Sunday of September, the Historical Regatta is held here, which includes a race with a number of typical Venetian boats.

Initially, the Rialto Bridge, among the major Venice landmarks early on, was the only bridge that connected the two opposite banks of the Grand Canal.

Today, the bridge consists of two inclined ramps, with a row of typical Venetian shops on each side and everything is covered by a portico (but open on both outer sides).

Trade and social life of Venice have always concentrated here, throughout the city’s history. The Rialto Bridge is, in fact, the oldest of the bridges spanning the Grand Canal.

In this area, you will find the Rialto market, built in the 11th century, which gave great importance to this area, containing shops and sellers for gold, textiles, and spices. Also, here you could find the first banks and insurance companies in Europe.

Ca ‘d’Oro, meanwhile, is one of the most characteristic buildings in terms of architecture in Venice, and stands adjacent to the Grand Canal, standing out particularly for its gilding (hence the name) and its decorative marble.

Inside the palazzo, you can find the famous painting, “Saint Sebastian” (1490) by Andrea Mantegna.

Of other Venice landmarks, Arsenal was the center and heart of maritime Venice.

Arsenal dates from the 12th century, and was, for centuries, the largest and most important shipyard in Europe.

Punta della Dogana, on the other hand, is the place where you can enjoy one of the best views of the entire basin of San Marco. The building was the customs house in the 15th century, with its function being the inspection of goods arriving to Venice.

Venice landmarks also contain several major churches.

One of the most important churches in Venice is the Santa Maria della Salute, which was built as a votive for Venice being freed from the plague epidemic of 1630, constructed on the site of an ancient monastery.

It is located near Punta della Dogana, and stands out in the landscape of the basin of San Marco as a majestic building, with a grand staircase, magnificent entrance, and a white dome.

The church was designed by Longhena in one of best baroque styles in Venice. Each November 21, the city celebrates the day of the end to the plague, which is a day when Venetians make a visit to the church, to pray to the Virgin.

San Giorgio Maggiore church, one of the major Venice landmarks, meanwhile, is located on the island of San Giorgio, in front of Piazza San Marco.

It was built between 1566 and 1610, from a design by Andrea Palladio, which stands out for its perfect proportions, typical to Palladio, and for the important works of art and paintings such as “Last Supper” by Tintoretto.

The church of San Moise is one of the oldest churches in Venice, dating back to the 8th century. The original building was made of wood and eventually rebuilt in stone according to the will of Moisé Vernier, who gave the church its name.

The building was destroyed in the fire of 1105 and its reconstruction was built in Byzantine style with Gothic elements. After a fire in 1630s, the church was again restored in 1632, with the current façade built in 1668.

Of the major churches, Santa Maria Gloriosa Dei Frari is located in the San Polo district, with its history linked to the first friars, followers of Francis of Assisi.

Its construction started in 1340, replacing an older church at the location, but as the building work lasted a long time, the current building shows a variety of different architectural styles, with abundant decorations and elegant contrasts that are part of the overall beauty of this great church.

Important works of art inside the church include “Assumption”  by Titian (1516).

Of the Venice landmarks, Church of San Zaccaria is located in the Castello district, and was built between 1444 and 1515.

In addition to its Gothic style, there are also elements of Renaissance architecture. One of the most famous paintings inside this church is the “Holy Conversation with Saints”, by Giovanni Bellini.

Church of the Carmine (also known as The church of Santa Maria Assunta), was constructed from 1286, and was not completed until 1348. The church, which is located in the Dorsoduro district of Venice, has a façade of a  combination of Gothic and Byzantine styles.

Church of the Redeemer, on of the major Venice landmarks, is located on the Giudecca island and was built between 1577 and 1592 from a design by Andrea Palladio.

The church was built to commemorate the end of the plague epidemic of 1576, and for this reason, every third Sunday of July is a celebration of the Feast of the Redeemer. This church is best characterized by its elegance and classic style.