Trying to decide on what to do in Florence? In this article we’ll guide you on what to see in Florence in a simple step by step guide. We love Florence so much this is one of the most beautiful places in Italy and the entire world, after Rome and Venice, Florence is the 3rd most visited city in Italy.
The city is very easy to explore and can be done by food for the most part as the centre is not so vast. Why we love Florence so much? Because of the fantastic architecture, the incredible history, the great food and wines, in addition from Florence you can do fantastic day trips depending how long are you planning to stay in this magical city.
Where to Stay in Florence
How To Get To Florence
Before we discover the top things to do in Florence let’s find out on how to get to Florence. If you are landing at Amerigo Vespucci (Florence airport) the easiest way to get to the centre is by shuttle bus €10 for a round trip (Vola in Bus) or by tram T1 line that goes all the way to Santa Maria Novella the cost is €1.50 one way if you have big suitcases you need to buy extra tickets or with a taxi more info here
If you are travelling by train you can get to Florence from anywhere within the big cities in Italy with the fast trains by Freccia Rossa or Italo to Santa Maria Novella train station. Always try to book the train as soon as possible as the prices will increase, also if you can travel during the weekends to get the best offers.
Because there are so many things to do in Florence, we have divided the article up in different sections so you can choose on what do to and see during your stay.
Things you don’t want to miss are Piazza Duomo (for the Cathedral), Mercato Centrale, Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza della Signoria, Uffizi Gallery, Galleria dell’Accademia, Mercato Centrale and Ponte Vecchio.
Take in the incredible art at the Uffizzi Gallery which holds the most important art collections of the Renaissance period, antique sculptures, thousands of Medieval and modern paintings, manuscripts and tapestries. The gallery, which is an institute, holds the work of the most incredible artist Italy had such as Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Raphael and Perugino.
To be able to see the Uffizzi Gallery you need to set a side minimum two hours. Make sure you buy the tickets ahead as the Gallery is one the most visited museum in Italy. You may want to consider buying the Florence city pass or skip the line passes all depends on how long your stay is, keep in mind this option if you don’t want to wait in line for hours. Another tip always is to go early when the Gallery first open and this goes for any activities or museums visit especially during the summertime.
Florence Duomo, the most celebrated cathedral in the entire world designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and is named in honour of Santa Maria del Fiore. The Duomo is located in the centre of the city and can be seen from miles away creating an imposing presence amongst all the other Renaissance and Medieval buildings.
The outside of the Duomo is covered in white marble (they come from the ancient Roman building of Florence), the red, the pink and the green colours can be found around the city. The Duomo took two centuries to be completed. The inside of the cathedral in contrast with the outside is quite plain but very enjoyable in the summer day as the inside keeps quite cool. One of the best parts of the inside are the mosaic pavement they look spectacular.
The most beautiful and biggest artwork is by Giorgio Vasari the Last Judgment, another great piece of frescoes is located alongside the nave of the cathedral by Domenico di Michelino (Dante Before the City of Florence) this piece is very interesting not only because shows some part of the scenes of the Divine Comedy but also a view of Florence in the 1465. You don’t need to buy any entry fee as the entrance of the Duomo is free, but if you wish you can buy the auto guide for 2.50 euro. If you wish you can also get access to the Duomo with a tour guide if you want to have more inside details and get access to the special areas, get more info here.
Campanile di Giotto (Giotto’s Campanile) was built between the 1334 to 1359, the design of the building was done by Giotto but the work was finished by Talenti who added the last level of the design after Giotto died in 1343. The structure of the tower is a Gothic architecture and is divided in five level the exterior is similar to the Duomo with white marble and green and pink colours, people think that the Campanile is connected in some sort of way to the Duomo but is a completely different building.
Inside the Campanile you’ll find detailed statues and carvings as well as replica by the artists Andrea Pisano and Donatello (originals are kept in the Museo dell Opera inside the Duomo) Make sure to get up to the over 400 steps (no lift sorry) to the top of the tower to admire the most incredible views over Florence.
Palazzo Vecchio located in the centre of Piazza della Signoria is the town hall of Florence and was built in the in the 1299. The building looks like a castle with a large bell tower (Torre di Arnolfo) overlooking the piazza. Palazzo Vecchio was transformed by the Medici family into a fascinating labyrinth of chambers, apartments, terraces and courtyards and was used as their residence.
All the Quartieri Monumentali (the rooms) where decorated by Donatello, Michelangelo and Vasari, don’t miss out the Hercules Room and the Room of Cyble.
Pizza della Signoria
Pizza della Signoria is the most famous piazza in Florence where you’ll find the copy of the Michelangelo David that stand on the square along some other very important statues like the Roman god Neptune, the bronze statue of Perseus and Medusa that was created by Benvenuto Cellini in the 1545, the Hercules and Cacus statue, inside the Loggia dei Lanzini we have the Rape of the Sabine Women statue composed of two men and one women all craved in one piece of marble. The Renaissance period is well known for the artwork and nudity but not everyone loved the idea of having naked statues all over the city and one of them was called Girolamo Savonarola a Roman Catholic preacher and this is why we have his Execution Plaque in the Piazza.
Ponte Vecchio (the Old Bridge)
The bridge was built in 1345 and was the first one in Florence to be built along the Arno River and the last one remaining of the Medieval era as all the others were destroyed during the World War Two.
Who built the bridge is a bit of mystery some people attribute it to Taddeo Gaddi some to the Dominican Friars. After the Medici family moved from Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti they wanted to create a route that would keep them out of contact from the people a connecting route from the Uffizzi to Palazzp Pitti, so in 1565 the Corridoio Vasariano was built by Giorgio Vasari.
The corridor runs above the goldsmith’s shops on the Ponte Vecchio, these shops were added after they were sold to the merchants.
The shops have been on the Ponte Vecchio since the 13th century, at the beginning there were all kind of merchants like fishmongers, butchers, tanners etc. Then Ferdinand I 1593 decided that only goldsmiths and jewellers were allowed to have a shop on the bridge. The bridge has incredible views over the Arno river and Florence.
The Pitti Palace and Boboli Garden
A short walk across the Ponte Vecchio you will find the Boboli Garden (il Giardino di Boboli) a wonderful park in the middle of Florence. The garden is located behind the Pitti palace with incredible views from the Forte Belvedere, on the hillside part, over Florence. The park is a great place for a stopover before heading to Palazzo Pitti.
Pitti Palace was the residence of the Medici family and the largest palace in Florence. Once the palace was the residence of a very affluent Florentine banker Luca Pitti. The palace was also the residence of two other dynasties, the Lorraine Habsburg family (they succeeded the Medici in the 1737) and the Savoy family the Kings of Italy from the 1865 to the 1871. The Pitti palace was built by Luca Fancelli a close collaborator of Brunelleshi who the architect was.
The palace can be visited daily from Tuesday to Friday from 8.15am to 6.30pm. As always will be better to buy the tickets in advance online to avoid to be in line for hours.
Galleria Dell’Accademia (For the Michelangelo’s David)
The Galleria is the home of very important painting and sculptures from the 13th to the 16th century. The most famous sculpture is the David by Michelangelo but allowed yourself more time to visit the gallery properly as the other less crowded halls will offer you the opportunity to discover great treasury.
If you don’t have lots of time make sure to at least see, apart from the David, also Gianbologna’s Rape of the Sabines, the paintings by Perugino, Bronzino, Lippi, Ghirlandaio and Pontormo and the Botticelli’s Madonna and Child and also the Madonna of the Sea.
The Medici family also started an interesting musical instruments collection ca be found in the Galleria. To avoid being in line for hours and skip the queue you can book in advance the tickets online.
Skip the line at Galleria dell’Accademia tickets here
Mercato Centrale at San Lorenzo
If you are a foody you don’t want to miss the Mercato Centrale at San Lorenzo for a great Tuscan meal experience. The market is divided in two sections the inside where you’ll find everything related to food and the outdoors selling souvenirs, leather and clothing.
The outdoor of the San Lorenzo market is a great place to find a very affordable present to take home with you, there are so many options for leather goods like belts, wallets, bags and jackets. The building of Mercato Centrale was designed by Giuseppe Mengoni and built from the 1870 to the 1874.
The inside of the market is divided into two floors, the ground floor the home of the butchers, fruits and veg vendors, fishmongers and small retailers selling local products like olive oil, cheeses, various cured meats all produced in Tuscany. The upper floor, that was reopen to te public in 2014 after a makeover, is more dedicated to shop stalls where you can sit and eat the wonderful Tuscan and food from all over Italy.
Depending on your time you are spending in Florence during your visit you could consider to also visit the following places:
Piazza Santa Croce
Piazzale Michelangelo for amazing views
Piazza Santo Spirito
Abbey of San Miniato al Monte
National Museum of Bargello
Museo San Marco
Archeologic Museum of Florence
Day Trips Ideas From Florence
Taking a day trip from Florence offers a great opportunity to explore the beauty and history of the Tuscan region. Here are some ideas for memorable day trips:
- Siena: Famous for its medieval cityscape, the Piazza del Campo, and the stunning Siena Cathedral. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and offers a deep dive into medieval Tuscany.
- Pisa: Known worldwide for its iconic Leaning Tower, Pisa also boasts beautiful historical buildings and charming streets. The journey from Florence is quite short, making it an ideal day trip.
- Lucca: This charming town is famous for its well-preserved Renaissance walls encircling its historic city center and its beautiful cobblestone streets. It’s a great place to explore on foot or by bicycle.
- Chianti Wine Region: For wine enthusiasts, a trip to the Chianti region is a must. Enjoy wine tasting and picturesque views of vineyards and olive groves. Many tours offer visits to multiple wineries.
- San Gimignano: Known as the Town of Fine Towers, San Gimignano is famous for its medieval architecture and tower houses. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site and offers stunning views of the Tuscan countryside.
- Cinque Terre: Although a bit further away, the five picturesque villages of Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera are breathtaking. Known for their colorful houses and vineyards clinging to steep terraces, they’re connected by scenic walking trails.
- Arezzo: Rich in history, Arezzo offers a quieter experience compared to the more touristy cities. Visit its Romanesque church, Gothic cathedral, and the Piazza Grande, which hosts a famous antique market.
- Cortona: This hilltop town offers stunning views and is rich in Etruscan history. It’s also known for its role in the book and movie “Under the Tuscan Sun.”
- Montepulciano: Famous for its wine, particularly the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, this town combines a love of gastronomy with beautiful Renaissance architecture.
- Bologna: A bit further afield but reachable by high-speed train, Bologna is known for its culinary tradition, medieval architecture, and the oldest university in the Western world.
Each of these destinations offers a unique glimpse into the rich culture, history, and natural beauty of Italy, making them perfect for a day trip from Florence.