Venice has plenty to offer tourists, but to get a better feel for the Venetian culture, I think it’s important to visit some of the outer islands. Many people like to do a day trip to either Burano or Murano or both.
If you have limited time, which Venetian Island is best to visit for a day trip? Is it possible to go to both or will it be too rushed?
Ideally, you could visit both Murano and Burano in one day as we did. If you do need to choose, I want to provide a comparison of the two based on our experience.
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The Islands of Venice
Venice is made up of 118 islands. The historic center includes six different areas (sestieri, in Italian): Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, San Marco, San Polo, and Santa Croce.
Some of the islands in Venice are connected by bridges, while others you will need a boat to get there – like Burano or Murano. We took the Vaporetto, also known as the water bus, but there are also boat tours. The iconic gondolas will not take you to Murano or Burano.
Burano is one of the most colorful places you will ever visit. The houses are all painted bright bold colors so that the fisherman would be able to find their way home even if they were drunk. Or maybe it was to help the fisherman find their houses in the fog?
Regardless of the reason, it feels like a fairytale. I had a hard time imagining what it would be like to live there, even though I know people do. I also had a hard time picking my favorite spot, there were so many that were picture perfect. It felt more like I was walking through a painting.
In addition to all the colorful houses, Burano is also known for making beautiful lace. Noblewomen started making lace in their homes back in the 16th-century. Other European countries could not mimic the intricate designs created by the women in Burano. Today, lace production in Burano is still a cherished, traditional art form.
Burano is actually made up of four islands. These four islands and the island of Mazzorbo are all connected by bridges.
What to Do in Burano
- Wander and take photographs. The colorful houses and their reflections make a lovely backdrop for photos. There are plenty of good spots to take photos but during peak hours you are going to need to be patient with the crowds and the sun can be quite harsh. After about 5 pm or 6 pm, the island empties out, but the vaporetto isn’t very frequent. You could also try to go to Burano early in the day.
- Visit the Lace Museum. Unfortunately, the museum is closed on Mondays and that is the day we visited, so I can’t tell you much more about the museum. It is part of the Venice Museum Pass, so if you have that, you might as well stop by.
- Shop for Lace. There is no shortage of lace shops on the island. The handmade lace will be expensive. You will find more affordable pieces of lace in some souvenir shops, but it’s probably not handmade.
- Visit San Martino Church. Peek inside this 15th-century church or get a photo of the exterior with its leaning tower, Il Campanile Storto.
- People watch. We had fun watching the Instagram husbands work hard to get the perfect shot.
- Eat. We had planned to have dinner at Trattoria al Gatto Nero, which came highly recommended, but unfortunately, it was closed.
Staying in Burano
Since Burano is so picturesque, you may be tempted to make it the home base for your trip to Venice. Although I have not stayed in Burano, I would think twice about it. Vaporetto service starts to be infrequent in the early evening. If you wanted to go out in the evenings, you could have to wait a while for transportation. Restaurants and shops on the island seemed to close early too.
If you do want to stay in Burano, you won’t find a typical hotel. Accommodations here are more like vacation rentals. The most popular option is Casa Burano, which is a collection of five recently renovated houses in the heart of Burano. Click here to check price and availability.
Another option would be to stay at Venissa, a wine resort, on Mazzorbo Island. In addition to the modern rooms, they have a Michelin-starred restaurant set in a walled vineyard. It’s a short walk from the vaporetto stop across a footbridge. Click here to check price and availability.
Murano was initially settled by the Romans and from the sixth century by people from Altinum and Oderzo. At first, the area prospered as a fishing port and through its production of salt. Murano is actually a collection of seven individual islands, all linked together by bridges.
Murano is where the amazing Venetian glass is made. The glass blowing industry was moved to Murano from Venice when it was decided there was a serious fire risk. It’s not as colorful or as crowded as Burano, but it still has charm.
What to Do in Murano
- Eat! We had a lovely lunch at Osteria al Duomo. Our meals (pizza and pasta carbonara) might have been the best food we had during our short time in Venice. We also enjoyed the atmosphere in the courtyard.
- Glass Making Museum – The Glass Making museum tells the story of the history of Venetian Glass and has a colorful collection of glass artwork. They don’t have any demonstrations of the glass making process though. Since we had the Venice Museum Card, we were able to see the museum for free. If you don’t have a card, the admission price is €10. While you will see some amazing pieces of glass in the shop windows around Murano, the museum is the best place to learn more about the history of glass-making.
- Basilica di Santa Maria e San Donato – This church was originally built back in the 7th century and has some exquisite Byzantine mosaics on its floor and dome. The relics of San Donato are inside the basilica in a marble sarcophagus. Additionally, suspended behind the altar are four rib bones, measuring more than three feet long. According to legend, these bones came from a dragon that St. Donatus slew in Greece or maybe they came from a large extinct Pleistocene mammal.
- Chiesa di San Pietro Martire – This Roman Catholic Church may not look like much from the outside but inside it has some Renaissance art by artists such as Tintoretto and Bellini.
- Campo Santo Stefano – This square is home to Simone Cenedese’s eye-catching ‘Comet Glass Star,’ sculpture and a 19th-century clock tower. Unfortunately, you cannot go inside the clock tower.
- Window Shopping – I say window shopping because Venetian glass is not cheap. There were so many creative and artistic pieces that I would have liked to buy. If you don’t make it to the Glass Making Museum, you can still see some high-quality pieces. Those that do want to purchase authentic Murano glass should look for the “Vetro Murano Artistico” trademark decal in the windows of shops and showrooms.
- Glass Blowing Demonstration – I could watch artists making the Venetian glass for hours. How the glass is transformed into art using fire is beyond my comprehension. I think if you can only do one thing while in Murano you need to see the glass blowing demonstration.
Staying in Murano
Unlike Burano, I would consider staying in Murano. It is closer to all the main tourist spots and the transport options are better than Burano. The hotels in Murano are less expensive than those in central Venice. If you prefer to stay with the large American chains, there is even a Hyatt. Click here to check price and availability.
Choosing Between Murano and Burano
We enjoyed visiting both Murano and Burano. It was fun to see the creative glass artwork in Murano and to take photos in Burano. You could spend a day exploring each one. They are very different places and I am not sure I could pick a favorite. The island you will enjoy more depends on your preferences.
If you are interested in learning more about the Venetian glass, Murano is the place to go. For those that are interested in lace, Burano is for you. Photographers will also probably prefer Burano for the colorful buildings, but keep in mind it can get very crowded at times.
Tours to Burano and Murano
If you prefer to have someone show you the highlights of the islands and not have to worry about figuring out transportation, then a tour is the best option. Beware of the scams offering a “free” excursion to see the glassworks at Murano or the lace-making in Burano. They will take you to grossly overpriced shops, often at higher prices than you thought you’d agreed to.
In the long run, it might be cheaper to pay for a vetted tour guide who will bring you to reputable vendors. It can also be more efficient from a time perspective. There are several reasonably-priced tours to choose from including:
- Venice: Murano and Burano Excursion: This five-hour tour takes you to both islands. You get to see a glass-blowing demonstration, the Church of Santa Maria e San Donato, the colorful houses of Burano, and enjoy a glass of Prosecco when you return to the main island. Click here to check price and availability.
- Murano, Burano and Torcello Islands Full-Day Tour: In addition to visiting Murano and Burano, this tour will also take you to Torcello. On Torcello Island, you can see the 7th-century Cathedral of Santa Maria Dell’Assunta. Click here to check price and availability.
- Gems of the Venetian Lagoon: 4-Hour Tour by Boat: Before stopping in Murano and Burano, this tour will pass by San Giorgio Maggiore, where you can see the public gardens, and the Lido, Venice’s famous beach resort. Click here to check price and availability.
- Full-Day Venice Island Boat Trip With Murano Tour, Burano, Wine Tasting & Monastery: This 8-hour tour will take you to five different Venetian islands. In addition to Murano and Burano, you will go on a private boat to San Francesco del Deserto, Torcello, and Mazzorbo. You’ll walk in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi at a lovely monastery, see vibrantly painted houses in Burano, visit a secret island vineyard (to taste their famous wine), view Venice’s oldest church, see a glass-blowing demonstration, and much more. Click here to check price and availability.
How to Travel Around the Venetian Lagoon
The best way to get to the islands is to take the water bus aka the vaporetto. We used the vaporetto to go everywhere in Venice, so we bought passes to save money. If you don’t plan on using it much, you can buy individual tickets, which cost €7.50 each trip.
How to Get to Murano From Venice
Murano is closer to Venice than Burano. To get from Venice to Murano, you can take the number 7 vaporetto from San Zaccaria (close to St. Mark’s Square). There are also several water buses (4.1, 4.2, 12, 13) you can take from the Fondemente Nove stop. The Fondemente Nove stop is about a 15-minute walk from St. Mark’s Square. Murano has two stops – Murano and Murano Faro. The area is very walkable so it doesn’t really matter which one you choose. The ride takes about 12 – 20 minutes.
How to Get to Burano from Venice
To travel from Venice to Burano pick up the number 12 vaporetto at Fondament Nove (it stops in Murano on the way). The ride takes about 40 minutes. Be sure to check the schedule as in the early evening service becomes infrequent.
To get to Burano from Murano, take the number 12 vaporetto from the Murano Faro stop to Burano.
Murano Vs. Burano
Ideally, when you visit Venice, you will have time to see both Murano and Burano. It is possible to see both islands in a day. We did it independently, but there are tours that will take you to both as well.
If you don’t have time to visit both, I hope this post helped you decide which one would be best for you. It’s a personal preference, and I don’t think you can go wrong with either.
Have you been to Burano or Murano? Which island did you enjoy most?
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