The city of Venice is actually a big island – or a collection of lots of islands, separated by canals and connected by hundreds of bridges, depending on how you want to look at it.
Venice is on a lot of peoples' travel buckets lists – and for very good reason! But an important thing to know before you visit is that Venice is not the only island in the Venetian Lagoon.
The Venetian Lagoon covers more than 200 square miles and is dotted with tons of small islands – some not big enough to hold a house, while others are home to large communities. Venice is the largest island in the Lagoon, with a population of around 50,000 (and a tourist population closing in on 70,000 per day). But it's not the only island worth visiting.
While you might be tempted to spend your whole visit in Venice getting caught up in its twisty streets and narrow canals, do yourself a favor and visit some of the other islands in the Lagoon, too.
Other islands near Venice to visit
There are four main islands in the Venetian Lagoon that are worth visiting on a day trip from Venice (and yes, you can technically visit them all in one day if you want to!). The islands are:
- San Giorgio Maggiore
1. For the views: San Giorgio Maggiore
You can start out close. Take a ferry or water taxi over to San Giorgio Maggiore, just south of the city center of Venice. The tiny island has been home to a monastery since the year 982, and the current church there dates back to about 1600.
The attached bell tower (rebuilt in 1791 after the original fell) offers up great views over Venice – and you don't even have to climb steps to see them! An elevator will whisk you up in less than a minute, and tickets cost just 5 Euro.
2. For the glass: Murano
Next head out to Murano, which is renowned for its glassblowing. In the 13th century, all of the glassblowers were driven out of Venice to Murano due to a fear of the city catching fire; they have never left, and now their craft is what brings people to this little island.
The coveted art here includes lamps and jewelry, and you can easily spend a whole afternoon wandering in and out of shops and workshops.
Architecturally, Murano isn't much different from the main island of Venice. But it's not nearly as crowded, and you can pick up some really great (and unique) gifts here. Just be sure that the glass you are buying was actually blown on Murano!
You can get to Murano using a semi-guided tour, or by simply using the public vaporetto (water bus/ferry) from Venice. Several ferry lines serve Murano (check all of them here), and I recommend purchasing a ticket in advance – opt for the 24-hour ticket if you plan to visit more than one island in a day!
3. For the color: Burano
By far my favorite island in the Lagoon (other than Venice) is Burano. The island is known for two main things: it's lacework, and its colorful houses. (I'm sure you can guess which I was most interested in!)
With only a few main streets and canals, Burano is a great place to roam around, gelato in hand, simply appreciating the life that this little island exudes. You won't find any neighboring homes here painted the same color, or even the same hue. There are strict rules on Burano, and homeowners have to appeal to the government when they want to repaint – and then they are told which colors they can choose from.
It makes for a rainbow of a town.
Just remember that places like Murano and Burano are islands where normal people still live, so be respectful when taking photos of homes. (And by “be respectful,” I mean don't go climbing steps or walking through doorways you're not invited to walk through.)
And you can also get to Burano by using the public vaporetto (water bus/ferry) from Venice. The 9, 12, 14, and N ferry lines serve Burano (check all of them here), and I recommend purchasing a ticket in advance – opt for the 24-hour ticket if you plan to visit more than one island in a day!
4. For the history: Torcello
Lastly, I'll recommend the island of Torcello. Torcello has had an interesting history – Venetians fled to the island during the barbarian invasions, and the island at one point was more powerful (and more populated) than any other in the Lagoon.
Today, though, Torcello is one of the quietest islands, with only about a dozen permanent residents. People visit these days to stroll along the long canal, and admire the Byzantine mosaics in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Dell'Assunta.
Torcello makes a nice last stop on a Venetian island tour, since it's so green and peaceful.
Torcello is close to Burano, and you can also reach it by using the public vaporetto (water bus/ferry) from Venice. The 9, 12, and N ferry lines serve Torcello (check the map here), and I recommend purchasing a ticket in advance – opt for the 24-hour ticket if you plan to visit more than one island in a day!
Tours to Murano, Burano, and more
It's pretty easy to visit any of these islands on your own. But if you'd prefer to visit with a guide or as part of a semi-guided tour (where all the transport is taken care of for you), here are some tour options:
- Venice Boat Tour With Grand Canal And Tower Climb (includes a visit to San Giorgio Maggiore)
- Burano, Torcello & Murano Boat Tour w/Glassblowing
- Murano & Burano Islands Guided Small-Group Tour by Private Boat
- Murano by Private Watertaxi Including Glass Blowing Demo
Which island would YOU most want to visit?
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Amanda Williams is the award-winning blogger behind A Dangerous Business Travel Blog. She has traveled to more than 60 countries on 6 continents from her home base in Ohio, specializing in experiential and thoughtful travel through the US, Europe, and rest of the world. Amanda only shares tips based on her personal experiences and places she's actually traveled!