January 11, 2016

The Best Views of Venice

No visit to Venice is complete without seeing one of the world's great squares, Piazza San Marco. It's said that Napoleon once described the piazza as "the most elegant drawing room in Europe" and its grand cafés were frequented by the likes of Casanova. But it's not the only spot for scenic views.

Piazza San Marco, Venice

The predominant feature of the square is St. Mark's Basilica with its multitude of domes, glittering mosaics and large bell tower (campanile). Unfortunately much of the basilica's exterior was covered by scaffolding at the time of our visit (July 2014).

Clock Tower (left) and Basilica of San Marco (right)

Mosaics Depicting the Return of St. Mark's Remains to Venice

The Clock Tower of San Marco

The other three sides of the square are enclosed by a grand colonnade – a convenient place to escape from the sun on a hot summer day. In the south colonnade is Caffé Florian, the first café in Europe and in Casanova's time, the only meeting place in Venice to allow women. We had lunch here on my first visit to Venice.

The Colonnade

Caffé Florian Orchestra

Caffé Florian Interior

Many visitors take an elevator ride up St. Mark's Bell Tower to take in the sweeping views of Venice and the lagoon. Admission is €8.

Bell Tower Entrance

We chose to enjoy the panorama from another vantage point on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. This small island is directly across the basin from Piazza San Marco and reached by the #2 vaporetto from the San Zaccaria stop.

San Giorgio Maggiore

The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore was designed in the 16th century by Andrea Palladio.

The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore

Standing in front of the church was a unique art installation by German artist Heinz Mack, The Sky Over Nine Columns.

The Sky Over Nine Columns by Heinz Mack

Inside the church was more art, including three works by Renaissance painter, Tintoretto.

Church Interior

Bronze Globe on the Altar

The Choir

The Last Supper, Tintoretto

Manna From Heaven, Tintoretto

There was no lineup for the bell tower elevator and, unlike San Marco, the windows have no grillwork to obstruct the view. Admission was €6.

Top of the Bell Tower

The Bells of San Giorgio Maggiore

The skies were clear and the views were worth the boat trip. The photos below move counter-clockwise, beginning with the view to the north of St. Mark's Bell Tower and the Doge's Palace.

North - St. Mark's Bell Tower and the Doge's Palace

West - Dorsoduro and La Salute Church

West - Giudecca Island and the Cipriani Hotel

The Borges Labyrinth

South - The Lido and the Adriatic Sea Beyond

East - Castello and the Venetian Arsenale

Near the base of the bell tower there's a small alcove with the original wooden statue of an angel that once stood on top of the bell tower. It was damaged by lightning in 1993 and replaced by a copy. A nearby display case held what appears to be a golden crown.

Original Bell Tower Angel

Back outside again we ventured around the left side of the church to the small marina and Bar San Giorgio. This little restaurant was a quiet, scenic spot for an inexpensive lunch (€3.80 for a panini).

Lighthouse on San Giorgio Maggiore

The Marina

The views from the top of the tower of San Giorgio Maggiore were spectacular but the scene at ground level was pretty impressive too.

Related Post:
Venice, La Serenissima


  1. Thank you for these lovely photos. All of my old photos were on slides that faded cause they sat too long (1969 trip). I would love to go back one day but am shocked when I see the number of tourists there now.

    1. You're welcome, Denise. I've also got faded photographs from my first trip to Europe in the 80s. I hope my new digital memories fare better!


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