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Jan 31

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7 Must-See Things on Murano, the Glass Island of Venice

No trip to Venice is complete without visiting Murano and Burano, the nearby islands where Venetian glass and lace are made.I’d like to begin by showing you the must-see things on Murano, the glass island of Venice. (You will find the link to Burano at the end of this article, so never fear.)

Most first-time tourists spend the majority of their time in Venice seeing the sights around its (rightfully) famous Saint Mark’s Square. Those with a bit more time also try to squeeze in a half-day tour to Murano, where they can watch a glass making demonstration and maybe buy a glass souvenir or two.

However, the more intrepid visitors, with more time and curiosity, will avoid that whirlwind “tourist attraction” experience. Instead, they will spend a day or two on Murano just exploring its back streets and remaining on the lookout for all that the island has to offer.
looking down a canal, Murano Italy

Perhaps, to be more precise, I should say islands. Actually, Murano is a collection of 7 individual islands, all linked together by bridges.
Bridge on Murano

Getting to Murano

The following morning we walked straight to St. Mark’s Square, where we caught vaporetto line 42 to Murano. Unlike our previous day on Burano, the weather was cool, with wisps of clouds high overhead. As we stepped off the boat we felt as though we had entered a different world. Here was a quieter, more laid-back island with its own Grand Canal and (of course) fascinating shops and sidewalk cafes.

Travel tip: Beware of the scams offering to take you on a free boat ride to see the glassworks at Murano or the lace-making in Burano. You’ll pay for your “free” ride with the grossly overpriced shops you’re escorted to, and may find yourself obligated to pay more than you thought you’d agreed to.
colorful boats on Murano waterfront

 

7 things to see on Murano island

Murano has been occupied since Roman times and its centuries of varying architectural styles vie for attention. Unfortunately, our cruise itinerary only gave us a few hours to enjoy what the island had to offer. We couldn’t fit everything in, but here’s my list of the top things we wanted to see. Maybe you’ll have more time and can do more than we were able to.

1. Glass factories

Many of these fornaci offer demonstrations and have a shop for visitors. We didn’t visit because we were told that the best factories prefer to focus on their craft, rather than on tourism. Besides, I enjoy watching glass blowers so much that I have been known to completely lose track of time. Better not to start at all. Maybe another time….
doorway to legendary glass factory La Cristalleria, Murano Italy

2. Glass museum

If you’re interested in the art of glass making, Museo del Vetro is for you. This is a history museum that showcases Venetian glass techniques over the centuries, and displays varieties of glass from as far back as Egyptian times. The building itself has served a number of purposes over its lifetime: first built as a patrician’s palace, it became home to the bishops of Torcello in 1659, then two centuries later it became Murano’s town hall. It only became a museum when Murano was annexed to Venice in 1923. Admission is €10 (some discounts are available).

Glass sculpture on Murano

3. Basilica of Saint Mary and Saint Donatus

Basilica dei Santa Maria e San Donato is known for its 12th century Byzantine mosaics, both on its floor and in its dome. Its floor is similar to Venice’s Basilica di San Marco and the bell tower, like most bell towers, is separate from the Church. While many churches contain the bones of saints, this basilica has the bones of a dragon that was slain by Saint Donatus, hence its name. Or so they say.

Photo, http://colin.barschel.net/

4. The Church of Saint Peter the Martyr

Chiesa di San Pietro Martire was built in 1506. It houses the chapel of the Ballarin family and art works by Bellini.

inside of church of st. peter the martyr

5. Campo Santo Stefano

Campo Santo Stefano is best known for the abstract blue glass starburst sculpture in the middle of the square. Next to it are the Church of St. Stephen and its 19th Century clock tower. As a result, this is one of the most visited spots on the island.

Campo Santo Stefano and abstract blue glass sculpture

6. Palazzo Da Mula

This was a luxurious summer residence of the Venetian patricians. The ornate facade features large Gothic windows and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Veneto-Byzantine patere and panels from the 12th and 13th centuries.

By Unofeld781 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

7. Murano glass shops

The island of Murano is known for its exquisite, hand-crafted glass worldwide. Besides that, there is not much else worth buying, unless you’re in the market for postcards and other standard tourist souvenirs.

Linda looks in Murano glass shop window, glass blower in the shop

Handmade Murano glass vase
Tiny bud vase for sale in Murano Italy

Buying glass? Buyer beware.

Because so many souvenir shops try to pass off cheap Chinese counterfeits as Murano glass, true Murano glass is now protected with a trademark. Look for the “Vetro Murano Artistico” trademark decal in the windows of shops and showrooms that sell authentic Murano glass.

Travel tip: No matter where you travel, never sign a contract that’s not in English, and use a healthy dose of skepticism if anyone offers to “translate” it for you.

the official trademark image of Murano glass

Our best tip for visiting Murano

In addition to these 7 “must-see” things in Murano, there’s an even more important “must-do” item you must put on your itinerary: Savor every moment. Avoid the temptation to rush from place to place so you can squeeze everything in. You will miss so much as you pass the island’s many ancient buildings, beginning with all those details that make Murano so uniquely Venetian and the quirky things that its creatives have sprinkled around their island.

Moorish architectural details on a Murano building's windows

Murano isn’t just living in its past glory; it has a fun, modern vibe as well. We got a real kick out of these quirky lamp posts.

Quirky lampposts on Murano
Two

The most precious thing about travel is the opportunity it offers to expand your horizons. It’s a chance to see new things, experience new traditions, meet new people, taste new foods.

Italy should not be rushed. Take a bit of time to just sit and watch Murano’s daily life: exasperated mothers with crying children, excited teens with cell phones in their ears, wizened old ladies walking hand-in-hand with their beloved husbands. Sit quietly in a church for a while and savor its peace. Sip a glass of the local wine and enjoy the waiters’ foreign chatter, just because you can. It’s all part of the travel experience.

Church in Murano
red wine and the house meat lasagne in Murano

This is your trip and your opportunity. Seize it.

Inspired?

Continue to Part 2: One Day in Burano, Italy, Murano’s lacy twin

See more: Click here to view our gallery of photos from Murano, Italy.

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  1. Kerry Ascione

    Great photo’s and memories – it inspired my own wonderful memories. My family spent a week in Venice in 2011. I really loved the day we spent on Murano. It was great to have my kids see the glass blowing demonstration, and I did enjoy a bit of glass shopping! Nothing crazy though!

    1. Linda

      We enjoyed looking in the shops and windows but didn’t buy anything. We’re minimalists at heart; if we don’t need it we don’t buy it. Rather spend the money on travel. 🙂

  2. Becc

    Haha, I thought I caught one of the Wiggles in one of your photo’s!

  3. Becc

    Somehow I submitted my comment without the rest of what I wanted to say….
    I agree totally with sitting back with your glass of wine and truly take it all in. This is our favourite way of enjoying wherever we are. People watch, be present and really take time out to “see” the place.
    Becc recently posted…You Don’t Have to Kill or Remove Your Hyperthyroid to Improve Your HealthMy Profile

  4. Kae Lani | A Travel Broad

    Wow! These photos are gorgeous! What a lovely mix of history, architecture, artisan crafts and my favorite, FOOD!
    Kae Lani | A Travel Broad recently posted…The Seedy Side of Sin CityMy Profile

    1. Linda

      Busted. I admit that our lunch was a highlight.

      1. Andrew

        Hi Linda, I am planning to go to Venice visiting the Biennale. After reading your blog, I would like to also take the opportunity of going to Murano. I really like Palazzo Da Mula you took a picture of, do you know if it is open for tourists?

        1. Linda

          Actually, I tried to research if it is possible to visit Palazzo da Mula when I wrote the article but I was never able to find out. I hope one of our other readers will be able to answer that question.

  5. Anda/Travel Notes & Beyond

    Beautiful place, I agree. I’ve seen it before but I would see it again anytime…

  6. Conall Caddick @ Italian Murano Glass

    Hi Linda! Your post is very useful to me as I’m planning a trip to Murano Island. I would surely visit the 7 must-see places you’ve recommended. Yeah, the island is home of magnificent Murano glass factories and shops that manufacture masterpieces in several varieties. Looking forward to a wonderful time there!

  7. samiya selim

    We really need to give Venice another chance…I think we had gone at the wrong time – end of our 7 countries Europe road trip, smack in the middle of August, we find it really crowded and hard to navigate, plus only had a day so felt very rushed with the kids…and after all the outdoor stunning landscapes in Slovenia and Croatia, it wasn’t the right time to be in Venice..reading your post, looking at all the beautiful images, colourful houses and your words – travel is the opportunity to enjoy a different way of life. This is your trip, your opportunity. Seize it – very inspirational 🙂

    We loved travelling in Italy so much, hope to be back sometime in the future. Perhaps will give Venice another chance!
    samiya selim recently posted…10 lessons learnt from 10 years of life and travels with ShahaarMy Profile

    1. Linda

      One day in Venice … with kids? In the August heat and crowds? Goodness, you never had a chance to enjoy yourselves! Yes, go at a different time of year and take some time to do nothing. Venice is meant to be savored, in my opinion. Dan and I love wandering through its residential areas.

      Then again, when you get right down to it, that’s all we’ve ever done. Do you know, we have yet to visit the Cathedral of St. Mark or the Duomo? I keep telling Dan that one of these days we really need to go back and play tourist.

      1. Feline

        You article reminds me when I went to Murano with my partner. It was amazing, we thought to visit an island similar to Venice but we did not know about the beautiful Murano glass. We discovered it there and we literally fell in love with it. I hope one day to go back there and perhaps visit one of the furnaces.

        1. Linda

          So do I. We spent so much time exploring the island and looking at glass shops we never actually visited an actual furnace!

  8. Audrey Blakeney

    I had no idea that Murano was known as the “Glass Island,” but after reading about its glass factories, I can certainly see why it is referred to that way. You listed so many amazing sites that I would love to see on this island, and I can hardly wait to add it to my list of future travel destinations. In fact, I may have to move it to the top of the list for next summer. Other than the glass factories, what would you say is the number one must see attraction or place in Murano?

    1. Linda

      Considering that the island is known for its glass, I’d say the #1 attraction is the glass museum, Audrey. That said, the architecture in Venice is so impressive that Palazzo da Mula comes in a close second.

      Actually just walking through the streets is an attraction in itself. And speaking of the architecture, if you do go, be sure to visit the more colorful Burano, which is known for its lace.

  9. Mark Savage

    Linda, I enjoyed your blog and video post for Murano. We are headed that way in 32 days (but who’s counting), and found your offerings very helpful in making a final decision to go. It’s certainly nice to see some things other than the glass museum for visiting. The Basilica of Saint Mary and Saint Donatus and its mosaics will make a good primer for our stop in Ravenna later in the trip. We’re figuring that St. Mark’s will be a challenge to absorb. Once again, thank you for some great information. Caio!

    1. Linda

      You’re more than welcome, Mark, and I’m so glad our story has inspired you to go! I’m happy for you and I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time. We absolutely adore Italy and would live there if we could. By the way, since you’re planning a stop in Ravenna, perhaps you’ll also enjoy reading our article about Ravenna and Her Mosaics.

      Please do come back after your trip and share any other treasures you discover. I’m sure other readers will appreciate it.

  10. ReisReis

    I enjoyed your blog 🙂
    i have made a film in a glass factory in Murano with a brief explanation of how to do a few pieces of glass.
    check this video :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE3k6QDBnQ4

    1. Linda

      Thank you for sharing your video. 🙂

  11. Boha Glass

    Venice is such a special place. Full of not just wonderful architecture and history but some of the best glass art in the world

    1. Linda

      It does indeed. We have also been fortunate to visit two other exquisite sites. Moser Glass in the Czech town of Karlovy Vary makes luxury Bohemian crystal and the House of Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland.

  12. Priti

    Hey would you say a day in Murano and a day in Burano is enough to have an explore and take photos & try some dining? I am there in January 🙂

    1. Linda

      Absolutely, Priti. That’s what we did. Our stories about Murano and Burano are the result of only one day on each island.

  13. Lori

    Murano looks amazing! A friend of mine was there two years ago and was truly impressed. And I am planning to visit it next year – so I’m glad to discover even more things to see and do in Murano 🙂

    1. Linda

      Oh, lucky you. We know you will have a wonderful time. Be sure to visit Burano as well, and bring your camera!

  1. One Day in Burano Island: What to See on the Lace Island of Venice

    […] 7 Must-See Things on Murano, the Glass Island of Venice » […]

  2. Venice Undercover | This Little Lady Goes to Europe

    […] For me, I’d say that it didn’t live up to expectations, but I am glad that I visited. Though now, when people tell me they’re going to Venice, I don’t recommend they stay too long (three days at the absolute most). Once you get used to being surrounded by alleyways of water, you do get a little bored. And tired of getting lost! After all the fun I had left behind in Florence, Venice just wasn’t as gratifying. However, there are still a few things I would recommend doing should you find yourself there. The first being, Murano Island. […]

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