Most first-time visitors to Venice spend the majority of their time around its (rightfully) famous Saint Mark’s Square. Those with a bit more time in Italy also fit in a visit to Murano, a nearby island.
Or perhaps I should be more precise and say islands. Murano Venice is actually a collection of 7 individual islands, all linked together by bridges.
This is the place to go if you’re interested in the renowned Murano glass. Most people come here to tour a glass factory and watch a glass-blowing demonstration … and maybe even buy a few hand-blown glass souvenirs.
Murano has a totally different atmosphere than Venice does, and we promise you’ll enjoy it.
What to see and do in Murano Italy
Most Mediterranean cruises stop in Venice, and ours was no exception. We had the luxury of two days in Venice, but we’d seen the main sights on our previous trip. So we set our sights on the islands of Burano and Murano, Italy.
We began our day near St. Mark’s Square, where we caught a vaporetto to Murano. The weather was cool, with feathery wisps of clouds high overhead.
Stepping off the boat brought us into a different world. Suddenly we were on a quieter, more laid-back island. Murano comes complete with its own Grand Canal, fascinating glass shops, and romantic sidewalk cafes.
The island of Murano has been occupied since Roman times, and each century has added its own architectural style to the island. They’re all still there, all vying for attention, and that makes Murano such a fantastic destination.
Unfortunately, our Adriatic 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 were able to see. Maybe you’ll have more time and can do more than we were able to.
If you want to make the most of your time in Venice, Get Your Guide offers a variety of organized excursions to Murano. The Murano and Burano Half-Day Glass and Lace Tour is especially popular.
1. Museo del Vetro glass museum
If you’re interested in the art of glass making, Museo del Vetro is for you. This history museum 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).
- Find it at: Fondamenta Giustinian 8, Murano, Venice, Italy, +39 041 5274718
2. Basilica di Santa Maria e San Donato
Dating from the 7th century, the Basilica of Saint Mary and Saint Donatus is the duomo for Murano Island. Inside, exquisite, Ravenna-quality Byzantine mosaics cover its floor and dome. Outside, the bell tower, like most bell towers, is separate from the Church.
While many churches contain the bones of saints, this basilica contains more than just the relice of St. Donatus. Suspended behind the altar are four rib bones, measuring more than 1 meter long. According to legend, these bones came from a dragon that St. Donatus slew in Greece. Who knows? Maybe it’s true.
- Find it at: Campo San Donato 11, Murano, Venice, Italy
3. Chiesa di San Pietro Martire
The Roman Catholic Church of Saint Peter the Martyr (Chiesa di San Pietro Martire) was built in 1506 and still functions as a parish church.
This naked brick building is popular with tourists because it houses the chapel of the Ballarin family, notable for their glassmaking skills. It also has excellent Renaissance art works by artists such as Tintoretto and Bellini.
- Find it at: Chiesa di San Pietro Martire, Murano, Venice
4. Campo Santo Stefano
Campo Santo Stefano is best known for Simone Cenedese’s “Comet Glass Star,” an abstract blue glass starburst sculpture in the middle of the square. Next to it are the Church of St. Stephen and a 19th century clock tower. Both dominate the island and can be seen from far away.
That’s probably why this is one of the most-visited spots on the island.
- Find it at: Campo Santo Stefano, Murano, Venice, Italy
5. Palazzo da Mula
The Palazzo da Mula is one of the last remaining examples of Venetian Gothic architecture. The building was once a luxurious summer residence of the Venetian patricians, who could afford an ornate facade with large Gothic windows.
What made this palace unique was that it had a garden and courtyard. Due to the high price of land in the island empire, most Venetian palaces were unable to have that.
- Find it at: Fondamenta da Mula, Murano, Venice, Italy
6. Murano glass factories
As a precaution against fires, the Doge of Venice ordered all Venetian glass makers to move their furnaces (fornaci) to Murano in 1291. This worked out well, as glass was becoming a coveted craft. Moving to another island kept the workshops safe from prying eyes that were eager to steal the secrets of the trade.
It wasn’t long until the island of Murano became associated with the most coveted and high quality glass in the world.
Things have changed over the years. Murano’s reputation is so secure that many factories now offer factory tours and glass blowing demonstrations as well as glass artistry workshops, where you can try your hand at glass making and leave with your own souvenir.
Looking back, I regret not booking a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience like that. We seriously missed out.
7. Venetian glass shops
The island of Murano is best known worldwide for its exquisite, blown glass. If you’re not in the market for glass and just want to look at it, it’s still fun to visit a shop. Just about every Murano glass factory has a showroom where they display their best products.
Besides Murano glass, few other souvenirs are worth buying. Don’t waste your time in a souvenir shop. That is, unless you’re in the market for postcards and other standard tourist stuff.
ⓘ TIP: No matter where you travel, never sign a contract that’s not in English. Use a healthy dose of skepticism if anyone offers to “translate” it for you.
Why should you visit Murano?
In addition to these “must-see” Murano tourist attractions, 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 if you rush past the island’s many ancient buildings, beginning with all those details that make Murano so uniquely Venetian, and ending with the quirky things that its creatives have sprinkled around their island.
Murano doesn’t just live in its past glory. It has a fun, modern vibe as well. We got a real kick out of these zany lamp posts.
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.
We’ve learned that 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.
This is your trip and your opportunity. You’ll make the most of it by taking your time.
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Even if you’re on a tour of northern Italy and have limited time in Venice, you can visit Murano. Here are some answers to common questions:
How do I get to Murano from Venice?
Getting to the island of Murano is pretty straightforward. Catch Line 4.2 at the San Zaccaria vaporetto stop, which is near Piazza San Marco. This line will take you there in about 40 minutes.
Alternatively, Line 4.1 will get you there in about an hour. Stop at Colonna for glassblowing demonstrations. Museo is better for the Glass Museum and the Basilica.
Where can I stay on Murano?
Staying on the island of Murano is the perfect way to enjoy all the glass island has to offer. Imagine exploring after the tourists have left for the day!
Murano Palace offers an exceptional experience and gets good reviews. For other places to stay in Murano Italy, click here.
Can I book a tour to Murano?
Sure! Plenty of companies offer guided tours. Some visit only one island while others include Murano, Burano and Torcello islands on one trip. Burano is a must because of all the colorful houses.
These tour are run by reputable operators. They will bring you to factories that create and sell real Murano glass at a fair price:
How can you tell if Murano glass is real?
Because so many souvenir shops have tried to pass off cheap Chinese counterfeits as authentic Venetian glass, all true Murano glass now carries a label. Shops and showrooms that sell real Murano glass art will always display the “Vetro Murano Artistico” trademark decal.
Are there any scams to be aware of?
Yes. Beware of the touts offering a “free” excursions to watch glass blowing in Murano or the lace-making in Burano. It’s a common scam, and they get a kickback from the shop. You’ll often get a crowded shop, high pressure, and a higher final price.
Do I need a visa to enter Italy?
Italy is a Schengen area country. To find out if you need a visa for the Schengen Zone, click here.
As of November 2022, foreign citizens who do not need a visa for the Schengen Zone will need to apply for an ETIAS visa to enter.
Italian visa policy allows foreign citizens of over 90 countries to visit Italy without a visa.
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- Venice’s tourist website can be found here.
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- Airport. The nearest major airport is Venice Marco Polo Airport. Airport code VCE. Check prices here.
- Currency. The XE website will help you calculate currency exchange values.
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- Hotels. We stayed in Venice when we were there. Hotel Paganelli is near St. Mark’s Square. You can’t beat the location. But travel styles differ. Click here to find one that suits your budget and style.
- Murano photos. Want to see more of this destination? Click here to view our gallery of photos from Murano, Italy
ⓘ TIP: Want to add an extra country to your itinerary? Venice has ferries that go to the Greek Islands.