Biblioteca Marciana

Historic Building and Library in Venice

Biblioteca Marciana
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Venicescapes

The Marciana Library or Library of Saint Mark is a public library in Venice, Italy. It is one of the earliest surviving public libraries and repositories for manuscripts in Italy and holds one of the world’s most significant collections of classical texts. It is named after St Mark, the patron saint of the city.

The library was founded in 1468 when the humanist scholar Cardinal Bessarion, bishop of Tusculum and titular Latin patriarch of Constantinople, donated his collection of Greek and Latin manuscripts to the Republic of Venice, with the stipulation that a library of public utility be established. The collection was the result of Bessarion’s persistent efforts to locate rare manuscripts throughout Greece and Italy and then acquire or copy them as a means of preserving the writings of the classical Greek authors and the literature of Byzantium after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. His choice of Venice was primarily due to the city’s large community of Greek refugees and its historical ties to the Byzantine Empire. The Venetian government was slow, however, to honour its commitment to suitably house the manuscripts with decades of discussion and indecision, owing to a series of military conflicts in the late-fifteenth and early-sixteenth centuries and the resulting climate of political uncertainty. The library was ultimately built during the period of recovery as part of a vast programme of urban renewal aimed at glorifying the republic through architecture and affirming its international prestige as a centre of wisdom and learning.

The original library building is located in Saint Mark’s Square, Venice’s former governmental centre, with its long façade facing the Doge’s Palace. Constructed between 1537 and 1588, it is considered the masterpiece of the architect Jacopo Sansovino and a key work in Venetian Renaissance architecture. The Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio described it as “perhaps the richest and most ornate building that there has been since ancient times up until now” (“il più ricco ed ornato edificio che forse sia stato da gli Antichi in qua”). The art historian Jacob Burckhardt regarded it as “the most magnificent secular Italian building” (“das prächtigste profane Gebäude Italiens”), and Frederick Hartt called it “one of the most satisfying structures in Italian architectural history”. Also significant for its art, the library holds many works by the great painters of sixteenth-century Venice, making it a comprehensive monument to Venetian Mannerism.

Today, the building is customarily referred to as the ‘Libreria sansoviniana’ and is largely a museum. Since 1904, the library offices, the reading rooms, and most of the collection have been housed in the adjoining Zecca, the former mint of the Republic of Venice. The library is now formally known as the Biblioteca nazionale Marciana. It is the only official institution established by the Venetian Republican government that survives and continues to function.[

Visiting Biblioteca Marciana

Address: Biblioteca Marciana, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy
Duration: 25 minutes

Tours and Activities from Venice

With its iconic canals, picturesque gondolas, and winding streets, it’s no surprise that Venice is considered one of the most romantic cities in the world. But while the city is popular with honeymooners, it’s also a huge destination for cruisers and backpackers too.

Venice is beautiful, fun, and full of narrow streets and alleys to get lost in. It’s a magical place unlike any other. There are museums, palaces, historic town squares to explore, and endless gelato to eat.

Unfortunately, the city is also expensive and over tourism has become a real problem. No matter what time of the year, you’re going to encounter crowds. In fact, if you come in the summer, it’s going to be unbearable (and if you come when a cruise ship is docked, it’s even more unbearable!)

How to get to Venice

By Train: This is a very convenient way of getting to Venice. You will need to arrive at Venezia Santa Lucia (ignoring Venezia Mestre & Venezia Porto Marghera railway stations). A return train ticket from Padova will cost €10, from Mira-Mirano on the ourskirts of mainland Venice only €6.

Parking: You can drive to Venice although you will have to pay for parking. Tronchetto car park costs €22 for 24 hours.

Getting Around Venice

Water taxis:  Water taxis (speedboats) are a wonderful way to get around, but a bit expensive.  A trip from the train station to San Marco will cost at least €70!

Vaporettos (water buses): are busses on the water, they leave from the stop called Ferrovia right outside Santa Lucia station. You’re looking at €7,50 for a single ride and €21 for a day pass. See https://actv.avmspa.it/en/content/vaporetto. Waterbus line 1 links Piazzale Roma (where the buses and road vehicles arrive), Ferrovia (= Santa Lucia station), Rialto, San Marco & Venice Lido, and runs early until late, usually every 12 minutes or so.

Walk: The main sites are all 20-30 minutes away from the station. You will get lost but should still be able to find the main sites.

San Marco Museum Pass

A single ticket to visit the 4 magnificent buildings and museums of St. Mark’s Square: the Doge’s Palace, the Correr Museum, the Archaeological Museum and the Museum Rooms of the Marciana Library: € 30 (€ 25 if you buy 1 month in advance from https://muve.vivaticket.it/).

Museum Pass

This gives you the same as above but also access to: Museum of Palazzo Mocenigo; Carlo Goldoni’s House; Ca’ Pesaro, International Gallery of Modern Art + Oriental Art Museum; Glass Museum – Murano; Lace Museum – Burano; Natural History Museum; Fortuny Museum. (€ 40. Buy from https://muve.vivaticket.it/)

Chorus Pass

If you want to visit more than 4 churches in Venice it is cost effective to purchase the Chorus Pass (gives free access to 18 churches in Venice): € 12.

Rialto Bridge

Ponte Di Rialto, Canal Grande
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Veronika.szappanos

There are two ways to get the the Rialto Bridge to the left of the grand Canal, through Santa Croce and San Polo or to the right through the Carnnaregio sestieri and the Jewish quarter.

Santa Croce and San Polo: Start by walking out of the station and turning left to cross the beautiful Ponte degli Scalzi across the Grand Canal, completed in 1934. It’s the elegant stone bridge you’ll see to your left when you walk out of the station. Then follow the many street signs to Rialto, keep the Grand Canal on your left about 5-6 blocks ways from you.

Carnnaregio sestieri and the Jewish quarter: You quickly reach the Chiesa dei Santi Geremia e Lucia, and cross over into the Jewish Quarter, if you want to find out more about this area detour and visit the Jewish Museum of Venice. After walking for about 3 minutes you need to turn of the street you are in to head to the right down Calle del Pistor. Generally follow this street, passing over 4 bridges. When you get to Chiesa Cattolica Parrocchiale dei Santi Apostoli turn off to cross over another bridge, turn immediately left under the arcade. From here you can follow signs for Per S. Marco.


Rialto Bridge was the city’s first bridge over the Grand Canal connecting the highest points on the Venice islands settlement. The first bridge was built in 1180 and the current solid marble one was built in 1588-92.The bridge is an elegant arch with steps and shops, a mass of water traffic passing underneath, and huge numbers of tourists and locals heading across it.
Today, Rialto Bridge is one of the most photographed images in Venice and a major stop on the tourist trail. Rialto Bridge is located about the mid-point of the Grand Canal connecting the main arrival point for visitors at the Railway Station with St Mark’s Square being the main visitor destination. In the immediate area of Rialto Bridge, on the southern bank is the main food market Mercato di Rialto.

For great views of the bridge head towards the nearby Fondaco dei Tedeschi and its rooftop terrace. Book in advance at https://www.dfs.com/t-fondaco/rooftop-terrace-booking/booking/terrace_venice_en.html.

Read more about the Rialto Bridge

St. Mark's Basilica

BenQ Digital Camera
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Gary Ullah

From the Rialto Bridge turn right as you come off the bridge from San Polo. Look for the signpost directing you to St Mark’s Square.


St. Mark’s Basilica, known in Italian as Basilica di San Marco and popularly as San Marco Basilica, is a medieval church in Venice. It is devoted to honouring the remains of St. Mark, the patron Saint of Venice. The Basilica is the pride of Venice and its history dates back to the 9th century. The marvellous architecture blends Byzantine, Romanesque, Islamic, and Gothic influences. St. Mark’s Basilica is open every day from 9:30 AM to 5:15 PM, if you have not booked in advance you need to purchase tickets to the side of the Basilica at Piazzetta dei Leoncini. Tickets cost €3 for the Basilica (although free for prayers, Mass and Service), €10 for the tower and €7 for the Museum & Loggia dei Cavalli (the balcony overlooking the St. Mark’s Square).

The Basilca and St Mark’s Campanile are a very cost effective way of seeing the splendour of Venice.

NB. You cannot bring backpacks into the Basilica.

Read more about the Basilica di San Marco

Doge's Palace

(Venice) Doge's Palace And Campanile Of St. Mark's Basilica Facing The Sea
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Didier Descouens

The Doge’s Palace is one of the symbols of Venice. The palace has been used for everything from the residence of the Doge to the prison of the Venetian republic. Originally a fortified castle founded between the tenth and eleventh centuries. The palace was partially destroyed by a fire and was rebuilt between 1172 and 1178, as was the Piazza San Marco. During this period, the Palazzo was used as a fortress and prison. The structure combines layers of different architectural styles, including Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance. This impressive building houses paintings by renowned Italian artists such as Titian, Tintoretto and Bellini. The building has been the Doges’ residence and public offices since the old castle was built in 810. Over nearly 1,000 years, 120 doges ruled over Venice from the Doge’s Palace.

The main areas yo will see are:

  • The armory, a collection of over 2,000 artifacts including a few unusual objects.
  • The courtrooms where laws were made, and cases were heard.
  • The doge’s chambers are private rooms containing a shrine, priceless paintings, and two globes showing how the world was understood at the time.
  • The secret rooms, which include cells, interrogation rooms, and a torture chamber.
  • The chamber of the Great Council, where important state meetings were hosted.

Unfortunately unless you booked a month in advance online entrance will be €30 each. (Audioguide: 5 euro extra) – But does include the The Doge’s Palace, Museo Correr, National Archaeological Museum and the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.

Read more about the Palazzo Ducale

Dorsoduro

Punta Della Dogana
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Jean-Pol GRANDMONT

You will head to the island to the south Dorsoduro, which holds the Venice university and will probably a more economical place to eat than St Marks Square! Head west from St Marks Square cross 5 bridges until you get to a large square – Rielo de le Erbe. Head south from here to cross over Ponte dell’Accademia to reach Dorsoduro.
.


You have a number of options here. Punta della Dogana – Pinault Collection is an art museum, in a triangular former customs house, exhibiting international contemporary artworks. Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and Gallerie dell’Accademia.

Read more about the Punta della Dogana - Pinault Collection

Tours and Activities from Venice