Here are my top three reasons to visit the lovely Venetian island of Burano:
1. If you like to amble, or enjoy a wander off the beaten track, you'll appreciate Burano's atmosphere (less touristy, authentic, but still lots of pretty things to see), size (small thus manageable), and location (about 45 minutes from Venice: far enough, but not too far).
2. Can you really resist those gorgeous painted houses?
You may notice that buying lace is not on the list, even though Burano is famous, historically, for lace. There's even a lace museum, and some days it features lace-making demonstrations. But these days not much lace is actually produced on the island. There is lots available for purchase, but check before you commit: most of it is made in China.
Don't get me wrong: Murano is pretty, and worth a visit, especially if you like glass or want to buy a chandelier (they do ship). Plus, it's on the way to Burano. Visit the Glass Museum, the church of Santi Maria e Donato, and one of the glass factories to catch a glass-blowing demonstration – which will most likely produce a Ferrari-like horse.
Don't fall for the we'll-take-you-to-Murano-for-free-from Venice boat tour/scam unless you're comfortable in a hard-sell situation. And don't worry if you do get stuck: if you're not interested, walk away, and get the vaporetto back to Venice on your own time.
If you want to get a little further off the beaten path, hop on the shuttle vaporetto from Burano to the island of Torcello. It used to be the seat of the Venetian Empire so has a couple historically significant churches which house some incredible frescoes and mosaics. Apart from that, and a couple restaurants, there isn't much more to see on Torcello.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
I usually recommend people visit the islands if they have at least 3 full days in Venice. If you have fewer than 3 days, don't use one of them for the islands – just enjoy Venice itself. If you want to visit all 3 islands, allow a full day. For just Murano and Burano, plan on at least 6 hours, round-trip, though of course it depends on individual shopping/eating/wandering preferences.
Take the vaporetto 41 or 42 from Venice. It depends where you catch it, but if you leave from Fondamenta Nuova, it's 15 minutes to Murano. From Murano, it's 33 minutes to Burano. From Burano to Torcello, it's a very quick hop.
Photo of Ferrari-like Murano horse taken in Murano by Sanjay
Photo of Burano houses from www.istockphoto.com
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