If you’re spending a number of days in Venice, we can highly recommend sparing a day to visit some of the surrounding islands. The most popular islands are Murano, Burano, and Torcello, which are exactly the islands we visited.
To get to, from, and between the islands, you can buy an unlimited 1-day (24-hour) vaporetto (water bus) ticket from ACTV for €20.00 per adult. We purchased our tickets from a ticket office, but if you’re visiting during high season, it may be better to purchase them from ticket machines or authorised retailers to avoid potentially long queues. Once you have your ticket, remember to tap in before boarding the water bus so that your ticket becomes activated.
We’ll go through the islands in the order that we visited them, and at the end of the post, we’ll explain why we chose the order that we did. Let’s dive in!
Known for its colourful fishermen’s houses and lace, Burano was our favourite island. Burano sits northeast of Venice and is approximately 50-60 minutes away by water bus. There was a lovely quaint feeling and you can really get a sense of the local life simply by walking around and observing the locals.
Fun fact: The house colours actually follow a certain system. If someone wants to paint their house, they need to first get permission from the government, who will then advise them on the permitted colours to paint the house!
Why are the houses so colourful? There’s one legend saying that because of the fog that can surround the island, having colourful houses helped the fishermen make their way back home. But we’ve also heard that the houses are colourful because the fishermen were always drunk and needed to find their way home!
Everyone knows about the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but did you know that on Burano, there is a leaning campanile (bell tower)? This leaning bell tower is located at the Church of San Martino.
Close by to Burano is Torcello. Torcello is the original Venice, with the first settlement in 452 AD. People fled to Torcello to get away from the barbarian invasions that were constantly happening, and soon, the island became a political and trading centre. Then, the Black Death came in 1348, and the plague killed approximately 50,000 people. From then on, large numbers of people left Torcello for Murano, Burano, and Venice. Now, there is a full-time population of only 10 people.
The most popular place to visit on Torcello is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. You can also walk up the campanile for €5.00 per person for views of Burano and beyond.
Many places in Europe have a “Devil’s Bridge”, and Torcello is one of them. Most of the Devil’s Bridges are stone bridges and represent some technological achievement. As well, there is some Devil-related legend associated with each bridge. You can find Torcello’s Devil’s Bridge on your way from the water bus stop to the cathedral.
The most popular of the 3 islands and the closest to Venice is Murano, famous for its glassmaking. Due to the risks and fears of causing fires on Venice, where most buildings were made of wood, all glassmakers were forced to move in 1291.
Similar to the multitude of tourist shops on Venice, there exist a ton of glass shops on Murano. And like Venice, it can be hard to tell what may be made in China and what was made in Italy. There are also a lot of museums available to watch glassmaking/glassblowing, but we’d read that they can be quite pricey and simply tourist traps.
However, we did come across a family-owned place that we can highly recommend! The Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara (Former Church of Santa Chiara) is a restored church that not only offers glassblowing demonstrations, but also holds events.
Called The Glass Cathedral – Santa Chiara, we saw a 20-minute demonstration by a “Glass Master”. As we went in the “low season”, the cost was just €5.00 per person. In the high season, this rises to €7.00 per person and the demonstrations are 30 minutes long.
What we really enjoyed about this place was that it truly felt authentic, and after the demonstration was over, nobody was ushering us into a salesroom to try and force us to buy items.
Address: Fondamenta Daniele Manin 1, Murano – Venezia
Hours: 10:00 – 11:20 and 13:30 – 16:30
Now, let’s delve into why we decided to visit the islands in the order of Burano, Torcello, and Murano. It seems that tour groups and tourists typically visit Murano first, and then Burano and Torcello (or vice versa). By following the opposite route, Burano and Torcello were relatively quiet when we arrived in the morning. As well, when we arrived at our last stop of Murano, we saw a queue for the vaporetto to leave the island that was well over 100 people long! By the time we decided to leave later in the afternoon, there was no queue.
Hopefully this gave you some insight into a few of the islands surrounding Venice! There are many other islands as well, but Burano, Torcello, and Murano are the ones we chose to visit. Which one sounds most interesting to you? Have you been before? Let us know in the comments!
Have you checked out our YouTube channel?
We made a few travel vlogs featuring Venice over on our YouTube channel! Be sure to check it out and subscribe to our website and YouTube channel if you haven’t done so already!