Venice's islands are as glorious as the city itself. These are the ones to visit

venice islands
The must-see Venice islands and how to visittunart - Getty Images

It's hard to overstate the beauty of Venice, Italy's famous floating city. Up there with Rome and Paris as one of the world's most romantic spots, much has been written about this captivating city, as well as the Venice islands nearby.

Just as deserving of discerning travellers' attention, the islands close to Venice make for varied and adventurous holiday spots, whether for day trips during your stay in La Serenissima or alternatives to the city itself. From well-known Murano and Burano to more undiscovered spots like Torcello and Chioggia, there's so much to explore here beyond the city. You might want to plan your own route – or you could let someone else do the hard work and take a tour.

Best of all, you could tour the islands of Venice on an unforgettable cruise, like Good Housekeeping's eight-day cruise around the impossibly picturesque Venetian Lagoon. This journey through the labyrinthine canals and peaceful waterways takes place aboard luxurious river boat SS La Venezia. It begins in Venice itself, where you'll get VIP access to top sites like the Doge's Palace, as well as a private after-hours visit of Saint Marks Basilica.


Then, it's off for your choice of excursions, including trips to the best islands near Venice, including Mazzorbo, Burano and Murano, where you'll get to see live glass blowing.

Another exciting option is an eight-day cruise around the Venice islands with chef James Martin, who will join you on board for a talk and to cook a divine gala dinner one evening. You'll get to explore the pretty waterfront shops, colourful facades and peaceful canals that are unique to Burano, Mazzorbo and Torcello, as well as straying a little further to Chioggia, a southern port frequented by fishermen.


There's also the chance to explore the Venice islands on another cruise with a difference. As well as the opportunity to explore Venice's most famous sites and cruise around the islands nearby, this eight-day cruise includes an incredible, intimate performance from Russell Watson, one of the UK's best-selling classical artists.


To help you decide which of these exclusive tours to book first, we've done a little exploring of our own to bring you a list of the best islands near Venice to discover this year...


The most distinctive feature of Burano, an island at the northern end of the Venetian lagoon, has to be its vibrant canal-side houses. Beautifully bold in shades of burnt orange, ochre, fuchsia, turquoise and more, the houses never fail to charm any traveller to this unique island. Simply strolling along and admiring these – as well as Burano's 17th-century leaning tower, with its Renaissance and neoclassical architectural features – is enough to merit a trip here alone.

You'll also want to explore Galuppi Square, the centre of the island and a place where you can explore local shops devoted to the traditional art of lacemaking. To eat like a local, try risotto de gò, made with goby fish caught in the Venice lagoon.

To get to this magical island near Venice, it's around 40 minutes by the vaporetto (water bus) from the city itself. It's also a stop on Good Housekeeping's various river cruise tours of Venice, including one that stars chef James Martin and another that features an intimate performance from classical singer Russell Watson.


venice islands
Nick Brundle Photography - Getty Images


Perhaps the most peaceful of the islands close to Venice, Mazzorbo is joined to its more famous neighbour Murano by a long bridge you can cross by foot, so the two make a great pair for any visitor to these alluring lands.

Mazzorbo is delightfully sleepy compared to its buzzier neighbours – as well as bustling Venice – and the only must-visit tourist spot is the historic church Chiesa di Santa Caterina. This was built in the eighth century as part of a Benedictine convent, but bears Romanesque and Gothic touches from restructuring projects over the years.

The island's vineyards are another draw. The Venissa Estate is a walled wine land open to the public, and it's a lovely place to walk around and soak up the atmosphere – as well as sampling some of the local produce.

Foodies will want to make a bee-line for Mazzorbo, thanks to Michelin-starred Venissa Restaurant, as well as the more informal Osteria Contemporanea. For a fully epicurean trip, consider Good Housekeeping's eight-day cruise of the Venice islands with chef James Martin. This includes excursions to Mazzorbo and other islands close to Venice, as well as a very special dinner cooked by Martin himself.


venice islands
Aldo Pavan - Getty Images


Just 1.5km to the north of Venice lies one of its most famous nearby islands: Murano, which can be accessed by the same vaporetto as Burano. Of all its many charms, Murano is perhaps most famous for its glassmaking, which has been thriving here since the 1200s. To this day, you can visit modern glassmaking shops and factories on the island to witness how this world-famous material is made, as well as popping into the Murano glass museum to see historical pieces.

This is the second largest island in the lagoon – after Venice – but only has around 7,000 inhabitants. As well as glassware, it's known for its beautiful architecture, including colourful houses and artfully faded historic buildings.

Murano is an important stop on Good Housekeeping's river boat cruise tour of the Venice islands and a special trip with classical singer Russell Watson. Excursions here are combined with stops on neighbouring Burano and Torcello, so you'll get an authentic feel for the area.


venice islands
Sol de Zuasnabar Brebbia - Getty Images


Torcello is even older than Venice, having existed since the fifth century, when it was founded by the inhabitants of the Roman city of Altino. Thanks to this intriguing legacy, it's full of historical sights, though few of the grand palaces, churches and monasteries that were built centuries ago remain. It's almost uninhabited, but is well worth a visit if you're looking to escape the crowds and soak up some culture.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta is one of Torcello's oldest and most popular sites. On Good Housekeeping's tour of the islands of Venice, you'll get to venture inside this before it opens to the public, enjoying a welcome moment of peace and tranquillity. You can also visit Torcello, as well as the neighbouring islands of Mazzorbo and Burano, during a special trip with classical singer Russell Watson

Meanwhile, on GH's trip with chef James Martin, you'll get to enjoy a tour of Torcello's basilica with an art historian for a full, culturally immersive experience.


venice islands
Maremagnum - Getty Images


Known as the Venice Lido, this 11km barrier island a short journey away from the city centre is well worth a visit. It's most famous as the home of the glittering Venice Film Festival, which brings A-listers to the scenic spot each September. But you don't have to be a film star to get something from a trip to this slim island.

Separating the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea, the island is also home to a beautiful beach, which is ideal if you're looking for a bit of gentle sunbathing during your trip to Venice. This island is the origin of the use of the word 'lido' to describe pools and bathing spots in the English-speaking world, after all.

You'll find a different, more 'everyday' atmosphere here, with residential streets frequented by cars and cyclists, as well as reasonably priced shops and restaurants. On a clear day in the cooler months you might even spy the snow-capped Dolomites behind the skyline.


venice islands
Simona Sirio


Though not strictly an island (though it does have a separate island of its own), Chioggia is the name to know if you're looking for a seaside gem. Come to this spot on the Venetian Lagoon for an Italian experience and the chance that you might see no other tourist. You'll hear local Italian voices at the thriving fish market, at local restaurants and bars that serve divine cicchetti, and all over this remarkably friendly island.

The small historic centre feels very much like Venice in miniature, with placid canals and little winding streets to explore. The fish market here is famous, located between the Piazza del Popolo and the Canal Vena in the very centre of the island. Perhaps because of this bounty of produce, the dining options are authentic and delicious without fail.

If you want to discover this little-known gem for yourself, consider Good Housekeeping's Venice tour with chef James Martin. This trip includes a day in Chioggia, with time to wander around the pretty streets, see the Romanesque watchtower and explore the lively market.


venice islands

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