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Best Things to Do on Murano Island, Venice, Italy

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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. This is the place to go if you're interested in the famed Murano glass, where you can watch a glass making demonstration and maybe buy a Venetian glass souvenir or two.

Even if you have limited time in Venice, you can still fit in a quick trip to Murano, as it is only a few minutes by vaporetto. On the other hand, you might have more time and curiosity and want to explore the area. If you want to avoid the whirlwind “tourist attraction” experience, we encourage you to stay on the glass island for a while so you can enjoy all Murano has to offer.

Bridge on Murano

Er, perhaps I should be more precise and say islands. Murano is actually a collection of 7 individual islands, all linked together by bridges.

Getting to Murano

Getting to Murano is pretty straightforward. On our second day in Venice, we walked straight to St. Mark's Square, where we caught vaporetto line 42 to Murano. Unlike our trip to Burano, the weather was cool, with wisps of clouds high overhead.

Stepping off the boat brought us to a different world. Here was a quieter, more laid-back island with its own Grand Canal and (of course) fascinating shops and sidewalk cafes.

Murano has been occupied since Roman times, and each century brought its own architectural style to the island. They are still there, all vying for attention, and that makes Murano that much more attractive.

What to see in Murano Island

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 were able to see. Maybe you'll have more time and can do more than we were able to.

Tip: For an organized excursion with specific start- and stop times, Get Your Guide offers plenty of options, such as this popular Murano and Burano Half-Day Glass and Lace Tour.

1. Museo del Vetro 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.

old glass objects in display case

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.

Arched facade of Church of Saints Mary and Donatus on Murano

3. Chiesa di San Pietro Martire

The Roman Catholic Church of Saint Peter the Martyr 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, as well as excellent Renaissance art works by artists such as Tintoretto and Bellini.

Murano, inside of the Church of St. Peter the Martyr

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.

Maybe as a result, this is one of the most visited spots on the island.

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. A garden and courtyard made Palazzo da Mula unique among Venetian palaces due to the high price of land in the island empire.

Palazzo da Mula facade opens onto a narrow walkway along the waterfront
source: Wikimedia.com

6. 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, and this kept the workshops safe. Curious eyes were eager to steal the secrets of the trade. It didin't take long for Murano to become associated with the most coveted and high quality glass in the world.

Their reputation has been secured, so these days many of Murano's glass factories offer demonstrations and have a shop for visitors. We didn’t visit any during our day on the island because

  1. We had read that the best factories prefer to focus on their craft, rather than on tourism, and
  2. I enjoy watching glass blowers so much that I have been known to completely lose track of time.

Better not to start at all, we thought. Only later did we find out that time-pressed visitors like us can take a 40-minute factory tour. *sigh* Maybe next time.

Tip: Beware of the scams offering a “free” excursion 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, 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.

Lion of St. Mark over doorway
This is the entrance to Murano's legendary glass factory Cristalleria. Unfortunately, it closed down in the 1960's.

7. Glass shops

Murano is best known worldwide for its exquisite, hand-crafted glass. If you're not in the market for glass and just want to look, visiting a shop is still fun. Also remember that many glass factories have showrooms where they display their best products. 

Besides its glass, few other sourvenirs are worth buying as a memento of your visit. Don't waste your time in a souvenir shop. That is, unless you’re in the market for postcards and other standard tourist stuff. 

woman looking into a Murano glass shop

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.

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.

Explore the island of Murano

In addition to these “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 by rushing 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.

Closeup of arched windows on building Murano Italy

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 quirky lamp posts.

Quirky lampposts on Murano

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.

Murano Italy interior
red wine and the meat lasagne in Murano

This is your trip and your opportunity. Take your time and make the most of it.

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Inspired?

Trip planning resources

Where to stay

We recommend using either Booking.com or HotelsCombined to make your lodging arrangements, check prices and ratings and read reviews before you book. Very reassuring.

We stayed at Hotel Paganelli near St. Mark’s Square.

Getting around

  • The nearest major airport is Venice Marco Polo Airport. Airport code VCE.
  • Find and book a rental car RentalCars.com is affilated with Booking.com so yes, they are reliable.
  • For other options, this website shows how to get anywhere by plane, train, bus, ferry and car.

Book a guided tour

Cultural immersion adventures in Italy

Peregrine Adventures offers premium adventures, which means embracing the spirit of adventure through a more immersive cultural journey. Hand-picked accommodation, small groups, award-winning local guides, added inclusions and a slower, more considered pace. Premium means an exceptional experience, but never an artificial one. Check out their Italy tours here.

Responsible travel

If you'd like a done-for-you trip that takes care of all the arrangements. Small groups and responsible travel – that’s their thing. Choose your travel style, from basic backpacker to comfort lover. They have a wide selection of Italy tour itineraries.

Venice tours and day trips

For shorter tours, we recommend Get Your Guide. We use them to book local tours, attractions and activities. Find a complete list of Venice and Murano day trips here.

Read more about Venice

Online

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Venice canal and boat in front of brick-colored 4-story house in Murano Italy with typical Venetian architecture. Text overlay on black circle says What to See in Murano Italy.

Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages has inspired her to create As We Saw It with her husband Dan, a professional photographer. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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46 thoughts on “Best Things to Do on Murano Island, Venice, Italy

  1. Thanks for your beautiful review of Murano. It’s my island, I always appreciate when his beauty is narrated around the world.

  2. Really beautiful photos! Visiting Murano is definitely one of my favorite thins to do in Venice. Love the detailed post of what see and do on the island! Especially that you mentioned to watch out for the authenticity of the glass – I see far too many people getting caught in the trap.

  3. Very inspirational post, Linda. We visited Murano some years ago, and it was a pleasure to rediscovered these beautiful sites in your post. I remember we visited a glass factory from were we bought some small clocks for my kitchen. They had different, funny shapes. Every single thing they make on this island of so beautiful and delicate! Did you buy any souvenirs too?

    1. No, but I saw some beautiful vases so perhaps we will get one once we have a permanent home. Fragile mementos make us nervous, with all our moving about.

  4. I’ve been to Venice twice but I haven’t had time to venture to Murano either time. I need to go back! I would love to look at the glass there! Your closing thought about taking time to sit and savor a glass of wine is good for me to read. I travel at fast speed, trying to fit everything in, and get antsy just sitting. But that is the finest way to enjoy Italy, I’m sure!

    1. We’re convinced that the Italians have perfected the art of slow living. Somehow, we don’t think of savoring a glass of wine (or a coffee) at a sidewalk cafe often enough. Like you, we try to see as many sights as we can while we’re in a country.

      If you do return to Venice, be sure to see Burano too. The lace is exquisite, and the rainbow-colored houses keep your camera busy. Speaking of slowing down, Dan spent an hour there walking around with his camera, and I waited for him with wine … We were both in heaven.

  5. thank you, Linda. I am planning to visit with my sister and nephew. Definitely, those information will be helpful for me. thanks for sharing this post.

  6. Venice is a poetry. I’m glad I could experience it. Though my stay in Venice was short, I could grasp its essence. You are right, Italy shouldn’t be rushed. It’s so interesting to savor the everyday living there.

  7. I love the pictures. Venice appears to be so peaceful, historic and gorgeous. Some of my golf friends have recommended me to make a trip to this beautiful place, but I haven’t had a chance yet. This article has added up to my passion and curiosity in Venice. Thank you for posting and sharing the tips!!

    1. You’re welcome, Paul. There are some nice courses near Venice. I hope you’ll manage to find a nice balance between the green and sightseeing, because your memories of the canals and bridges will last a lifetime. 🙂

  8. 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 🙂

  9. 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. 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. 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. 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.

  11. 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!

    1. 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. 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.

  12. 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!

      1. 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. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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. 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. 🙂

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