Explore the islands of the Venetian Lagoon | Venice Italy

The Grand Canal, Venice
Explore the Venetian lagoon
Beautiful colours of Burano

Venice, Torcello, Burano & Murano

If you explore the Venetian Lagoon you don’t only get to Venice but also some other islands such as Torcello with its tower to climb, Burano with its colourful houses and Murano famous for its glass.

How to explore the Venetian lagoon and visit the islands

The islands in the Venetian Lagoon can be accessed by ferries from Punta Sabbione and full details of the facilities and services available at the ferry terminal of Punta Sabbioni can be found here. You can get ferries, waterbuses and taxis to Venice and all the islands. Costs vary but the ferries and water taxis are regular and cheap.

We were staying on a campsite on the other side of the lagoon from Venice so the ferry was the best way into the city for us. If you are travelling in from the uk you can get flight and hotel information Here

You’ve arrived at Venice, now what? 

I think it would be fair to say that most people head straight for St Marks Square when they get off the ferry and we were lucky enough to arrive around 6am so it was really quiet. Getting a picture of St Marks Square where the pigeons out number the people is a feat in itself. 

Piazza San Marco

Or St Marks Square is the principal piazza in Venice and is generally the first place that people head to. If you are arriving in to Vence by train the only way into the square is by water. It was first formed in around the ninth century and has been in it’s current form since the 1100’s. It is one of the lowest points of the city so is usually the first place to get flooded if the waters rise.

The Doges Palace 

The Palazzo Ducale to give iyt it’s Italian name was founded in around the tenth century and was originally a fortified castle it has been destroyed and rebuilt since then. It has been built upon in different styles over the centuries and houses many important works of art. It is now open to the public and used as a museum.

Explore the Venetian lagoon
Bridge of Sighs Venice
Venetian Lagoon
Doges Palace Venice
Explore the Venetian lagoon
St Marks Square Venice

The bridge of Sighs 

This enclosed bridge is made of white limestone.  It connects the  new prison with the interrogation rooms of the Doges Palace and it one of the most photographed areas in Venice today. Condemn men would walk across the bridge from the courtrooms to the prison, this would be there last view of the lagoon. You can walk across the bridge yourself when visiting the Doges Palace.

Basilica De San Marco 

Located at the far end of St Marks Square the Basilica originally was the chapel of the Doge and is connected to the Doges Palace but today is the principal catholic cathedral of Venice. It was built in the 800’s to house the relics of St mark which had been stolen from Alexandria. The current building dates from the 1100’s again this has been added to and altered over the years.

The Gondolas 

An iconic image of Venice and in some cases a tourist trap.  On our last trip we found, down one of the back canals, a factory where they mended gondolas and it was really cool watching them working away restoring and mending these lovely boats. If you want to ride a Gondola without paying the extortionate tourist rates you can cross the Grand canal on one for just a few euros look for the crossing near the fish market.

The Realto Bridge 

The oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal and very much one of the top tourist attractions of Venice today.The current bridge was finished in 1591 and was design to look like its wooden predecessors.

Exploring the Venetian lagoon
Iconic gondolas in Venice
Explore the Venetian lagoon
The Rialto Bridge Venice

The Grand Canal 

The main waterway in Venice and spanned on each side by palaces and important buildings.  Spanned by four bridges is it used as a main artery for the city. You can cruise the canal like a local by using one of the water buses (Vaporetto) which ply their trade up and down the four kilometre length of the canal.

Visit the Realto Market 

In almost every city we visit we head for the market.  Venice was no exception and because we were there so early we managed to see the best of it.  Fantastic fish from the lagoon and fruit and veg that had been brought in by boat that morning. Beautiful.

Next stop as you explore the Venetian Lagoon is Torcello 

Torcello is one of the smallest islands in the lagoon and the quietest but a really beautiful island with its fair share of sights to see. It was the first island in the Venetian lagoon to be inhabited  Here’s a few you don’t want to miss. 

Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta and the Church of Santa Fosca 

The Basilica has some impressive mosaics and if you climb the tower then you get views across the lagoon to Burano and beyond. It’s not known exactly when the church was built but it was there in the tenth century and its believed the original building date back to before this time.

The Museum of Torcello 

The Museum is split into 2 sections  the archeological and the more modern medieval.  Exhibits are interesting and displayed in both Italian and English The museum was established in1889 and houses some very important objects and is well worth a visit.

Explore the Venetian lagoon
Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta
Explore the Venetian lagoon

Trono di Attilo

Reputed to be the throne of Attila Hun but in reality it’s quite certain that he never visited this area. Having said that it is an interesting artefact dating back to the fifth century and the early settlers and you can sit on it yourself as you can see below. 

Ponte del Diavolo 

One of the two bridges that cross Torcello’s main canal and that connects the town with the lagoon.  There is a legend that it is the site of where a young girl made a pact with the devil. It is said that the devil visit the bridge looking for the souls of the children he was promised.

Explore the Venetian lagoon
Devils Bridge
Lynne in Attila's chair

Exploring the other islands of the Venetian Lagoon – Burano & Murano

What not to miss when visiting Burano

The colourful fishermen’s houses where legend has it that they painted them bright & individual colours so that the fishermen could find their way home when it was foggy.  They really do bring a smile to your face.

  • The leaning bell tower of Chiese di San Marino has become the unofficial symbol of Burano.  Its a 16th century Catholic Church and if you venture inside you’re treated with some extremely impressive paintings 
  • Excellent fish restaurants and cafes specialising in fish from the lagoon.   
  • The lace making exhibits in the museum and if you’re lucky and have a wander round the back streets you can sometimes find ladies making lace right outside their houses 

What not to miss when visiting Murano:

  • The glass making.  The history of glassmaking in Venice goes back to the Roman times.  A good source of information can be found here.  Murano is most famous for its glass making and there are various workshops you can visit as well as museums.  There are loads of gift shops and Jewellers all selling Murano glass goods.   
  • Murano is made up of lots of little small islands connected by bridges.  Its lovely to walk down, away from the main tourist areas, up and over lots of bridges and get a real feel for the area.   
Explore the Venetian lagoon
The Glass Makers of Murano

10 Tips to explore the Venetian Lagoon and its islands

  • Get there early – there is no words for how many people crowd onto the islands each day and it seemed to be that after midday it was just wall to wall people. The cruise ships disembark mid morning and the volume of people seems to hit its max between 12pm and 2pm.   So our advice is to get up early, get the first boat you can in the morning and you’ll be rewarded with clear, clean and peaceful streets.  
  • Visit the other islands in the lagoon.   Burano, Murano & Torcello are beautiful stop off points on the vaporettos so make sure you make time to visit them. 
  • Take a waterproof as a sharp shower can appear from nowhere
  • Wear comfortable shoes – there’s a lot of walking and you don’t want to miss anything
  • Get into the back streets.  There you’ll find the shops, restaurants & cafes that the local use and get a more realistic flavour of local life
  • There aren’t really such a thing as public toilets in Venice and when you do come across some they are generally expensive so best pop into a cafe, order and espresso and use the toilets there.  Remember to always carry a little packet of hankies as sometimes toilet roll is completely non existent.
  • If you’re intent on visiting the Duomo or Basilica or some of the other main Venice attractions then there really early as the queues can sometimes be over 2hrs long just for tickets.   Save some time by buying skip the line tickets or book yourself onto an organised tour. 
  • Its perfectly safe to drink the water from the drinking fountains located around the city. Take a refillable water bottle and fill up at almost every piazza.  Ditch the plastic and help save the planet! 
  • If you’re planning on having a meal in Venice then steer clear of the main tourist areas.  The food may be good but you might get a fright by the bill.  Better to explore the more “off the beaten track” areas for local cafes and restaurants serving delicious food.   If its just a snack you’re after then choose a Bacari (a small Venetian wine bar) where you’ll normally get some cicheti with your drink.  Cicheti are small snacks that generally accompany a drink in a bar. 
  • You don’t have to spend a fortune in Venice and some of the most spectacular sights don’t cost a penny.  Did you know Venice has 139 churches and two of the best churches in the city – Basilica di San Marco and Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute are absolutely free.

Booking resources for your trip


You can compare cheap flights on the Expedia platform or here on the Aviasales website.  Both will give you a good idea of how much its going to cost you to get to your chosen destination.


We have always tended to use Booking.com having said that if your on a tight budget another good site to try as a comparison is Hostelworld, If your looking to compare different sites you can do that on Hotellook, we tend to look on here first to make sure we are getting the best deal.

Tours & Tickets

You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site.  Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.

For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.

Some of the links on this page contain affiliate marketing links, which means we may get paid commission on sales of those products or services we write about. You will never be charged a fee for shopping through one of our affiliate links. You may even get a discounted rate and we will make a small commission. Our editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships.

Related posts you may like

Please leave a comment