Summary. The best advice we received prior to visiting Venice, Italy, was "it's worth seeing but one night is enough." The City is beautiful and the maze of channels are remarkable, making this stop worth the extra few hours on the train. However, the City is also very packed with tourists which is not ideal by our measure. The reason, of course, is no where else will you see a City with over 400 bridges and 118 islands. After exploring the streets and canals spend some time in and around Piazza San Marco. Here you will find a cathedral, museums, clock tower, and campanile.
San Marco Basin. Arriving near Piazza San Marco we started by walking the San Marco Basin, which is located just adjacent to San Marco Square. Take a stroll along this waterfront to snap a photo of the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore. Steps away from the waterfront is Doge's Palace, where historically, Venice's public offices, court rooms, stables, armories and prison was located. In addition to viewing the Building's Gothic architecture, self-guided tours are available to view this historical site that dates back to 14th Century.
From the San Marco Basin, we walked towards the square and stopped at the Campanile di San Marco. At 99 meters high, this bell tower was once used by Galileo as an observatory to study the skies. For 10 Euros per person you can take the elevator to the top to take photos of Venice from the same observatory. Tip: we elected not to spend 40 euros on this view.
Piazza San Marco is the heart of the City, where for centuries it has served as a major political and social center. The Torre dell'Orologio, a late 15th Century clock tower, sits on the north end of this Plaza, which Plaza famously floods on a regular basis due as it sitting barely above sea level. On the eastern end of the Plaza sits the Basilica di San Marco, a Roman Catholic church that is emblematic of Venice's Italo-Byzantine architecture.
Anything on the square, like restaurants, cafes, and shops, are all super pricey. Skip these places and enjoy a Venetian coffee in a café off the beaten path from significant savings. In the square though, take the time to walk around to enjoy the people watching and architecture.
After exploring the Square we headed back out towards the Grand Canal. Here we came upon an artist painting the Canal. While Venice is definitely a tourist magnet, and at times packed tight, you can still find quiet moments like this.
The family consensus is that Venice is neat to see but staying just one night is plenty of time for this very touristy city.