Top Tourist Attractions and Best Things to do in Florence (Italy)
A lot of the things to do in Florence are related to the city’s strong connection with Renaissance art and architecture. Several famous people from the period were either born in Florence or lived a part of their lives here. These include poet Dante Alighieri, artist and sculptor Michelangelo, politician and writer Niccolò Machiavelli and astronomer/scientist Galileo Galilei.
Some of the main top tourist attractions in Florence are situated in the Piazza del Duomo including the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. This cathedral’s brilliant dome by Brunelleschi is one of its major Florence highlights.
Other than this, there are several things to see in Florence for art lovers such as the Uffizi Galleries, the Palazzo Pitti, and the Accademia Gallery. Those with a love for science will be delighted with the exhibits at the Museo Galileo. You can enjoy the attractions and views at Piazza della Signoria and Piazzale Michelangelo.
Read further to learn more about other Florence points of interest!
Table of Contents
- 1 Experiences and best things to do in Florence
- 2 Top Landmarks and attractions in Florence
- 2.1 Galleria Degli Uffizi
- 2.2 Visit Piazza Della Signoria
- 2.3 Visit Piazza del Duomo
- 2.4 Take a walk along the Ponte Vecchio
- 2.5 Visit Palazzo Pitti
- 2.6 Visit the Basilica di Santa Croce
- 2.7 Piazzale Michelangelo, and San Miniato al Monte Church
- 2.8 Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral)
- 2.9 Accademia Gallery
- 2.10 Mercato Centrale
- 2.11 Museo Galileo
- 2.12 Church of Santa Maria Novella
- 3 What to eat and restaurants in Florence to try
- 4 Have extra time? Look at these day trips from Florence!
- 5 Practical information and Florence travel tips
- 5.1 Why should you visit Florence?
- 5.2 When is the best time to visit Florence?
- 5.3 Do you need a visa for Florence?
- 5.4 Where to book your flights to Florence?
- 5.5 Do you need an insurance?
- 5.6 Where to stay in Florence at night?
- 5.7 How save money sightseeing Florence?
- 5.8 Short on time? Go on a tour in Florence!
- 6 Are you on Pinterest? Pin these for later read!
Experiences and best things to do in Florence
Go to a local market
Going to a local market is the most amazing and fun thing you need to do during your travels. When you are planning your trip and thinking what to do in Florence, do not forget to add Mercato Nuovo to your list of Florence tourism. This market is also known as Loggia del’ Porcellino, because of a copy of a bronze wild boar by Pietro Tacca originally made in the sixteenth century.
Why is this statue so important? Well, there is a popular tradition that rubbing the nose of it will bring you the fortune and you will come back to Florence. Another thing you need to do after rubbing the nose is to put a coin in the mouth of the boar and make a wish. If your coin tumbles through the grate whence the water flows, your wish will come true. You can find the original statue at Palazzo Pitti.
Besides doing this superstitious thing, here you can buy all sorts of goods, like clothing, shoes, jewelry, bags, food, fruit etc. This is the new market in the city and the old one, Mercato Vecchio, was located at today’s location of Piazza Della Republica.
Go cycling and explore the city
Florence is not the big city. It plays an important part in the historic, artistic and cultural center of Italy, but the city is not that big itself. So, one of the best things to do in Florence, if you want to explore the city and see all these cute little streets is rent a bike! Renting bicycles in Florence is not that expensive and it is one of the best ways to explore the entire city, especially during spring and summer. This is also perhaps a cheaper alternative to travel around the area and see the best of the city on your own!
Go on a wine tasting tour around Chianti Region
There are so many Florence tours that will take you from the city to the vast region of Tuscany where, not only you’ll get to see stunning views that looks like it was taken from a fairytale, but you’ll also get the chance to learn about Chianti’s long history and wine traditions. It is worth the trouble, truthfully speaking, as wine in this region is well praised all over the world! Sip some Chianti Classico or some Brunello whilst overlooking stunning vineyards and epic views of the region.
If you’re interested to participate in a wine tasting tour or event, make sure to check this post about how not to ruin a day of wine tasting – they gave real vital tips for those who want to take wines seriously!
Top Landmarks and attractions in Florence
Galleria Degli Uffizi
If you are an art lover wondering what to do in Florence, head to the Uffizi Galleries, one of the Florence must see and most visited art museums in the world. Situated close to the Piazza del Duomo, the museum collection gifted by the House of Medici contains masterpieces by the who’s who of the Renaissance art world.
Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt are just among the famous artists whose works are displayed here. There are several rooms with paintings, statues, and sculptures in this 16th-century building. A must visit is the room with paintings by Sandro Botticelli.
TIP: You can skip the line at the Uffizi if you purchase the ticket beforehand so you don’t have to wait for long. There are so many Florence top attractions after all!
Visit Piazza Della Signoria
Among the interesting places to go in Florence, Piazza della Signoria’s main attraction is the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall that is now a museum. At the entrance, you can see a copy of Michelangelo’s famous sculpture David along with the sculpture of Hercules and Cacus by Bandinelli.
Inside the Palazzo, there are courtyards and chambers including the fabulous Salone dei Cinquecento. It has attractive paneled ceilings and artistic displays such as frescoes and sculptures. Another fascinating aspect is the fact that the building was built on the site of Roman ruins which you can also see on your visit here.
The main building in the square is Palazzo Vecchio. This palace was the home to Florentine rules and today it is the city hall. During the history, this building had changed its name many times – Palazzo del Popolo ( People’s Palace), Palazzo Dei Priori ( Prior’s Palace), Palazzo Ducale ( Duke’s Palace). Today’s name, Palazzo Vecchio was given after the Medici family moved to their new palace, Palazzo Pitti, by the river Arno.
While you are enjoying the surroundings and the beauty of Palazzo Vecchio, you think you are looking at the best of Florence. But your adventure is just starting. Take a moment and enjoy listening to Italian music, practice it and live the moment. This square is always full of people, walking and enjoying the scenery.
Visit Piazza del Duomo
Explore this square that contains some of the most exquisite places to see in Florence. Admire the details of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral). If possible, climb up the 414 steps in Giotto’s Campanile (tower) located in the square for stunning views including that of the brilliant cathedral dome. Another captivating site is the Florence Baptistery with its gorgeous doors and lovely mosaics on the interiors of its dome. Several prominent people including Dante were baptized here. The vicinity of the square also has restaurants and shops.
Duomo is one of the greatest tourist attractions and one of the most amazing places to visit in Europe. The fact that you are standing in front of the 800 years old building takes your breath away. Just imagine the scene of its constructions and think for a moment that this building is here in front of you today.
Take a walk along the Ponte Vecchio
When you think of Tuscany and what to see in Florence, the first place you think of is Ponte Vecchio. This bridge is one of the most photographed and one of the most picturesque places in Europe. The old bridge was built in 1345, on the narrowest point of Arno river.
If you decide to take a walk along this bridge you will have the opportunity to visit numerous shops here. It is considered that these shops were here since the bridge was constructed. The reason why so many shops are located here is very simple. If the shops were on the river, on “no man’s land”, the owners didn’t have to pay the taxes to the city and government.
Today, here you can find shops owned by jewelers, art dealers, and souvenir sellers.
Visit Palazzo Pitti
Once the former residence of the Medici family, the Palazzo Pitti–a massive palace complex–is today the biggest museum in Florence. It is not only impressive in its size but also remarkable for the wide range of exhibits housed in various galleries and rooms. You can see some amazing Renaissance artworks by famous painters in the Palatine Gallery.
Other attractions include the Planetary Rooms and the Royal Apartments. The Palazzo Pitti also has a silver museum, a gallery of modern art, and a carriages museum. You can explore the extensive Boboli Gardens situated on the property. It contains lush green areas, sculptures, fountains, ponds and much more. The Palazzo Pitti is your answer to what to see in Florence for an enriching art experience.
Visit the Basilica di Santa Croce
A wonderful church with 16 chapels, the Basilica di Santa Croce is also on every tourist’s list of places to visit in Florence. It is among the most popular Florence, Italy attractions as it contains the tombs of famous Italians. You can see the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo whose contributions to the country and the world are immense. Also buried here are Niccolò Machiavelli and the composer Gioachino Rossini. A splendid feature of the church and the chapels are the incredible frescoes by Giotto and Gaddi. You can also feel the serenity in the cloisters here.
Piazzale Michelangelo, and San Miniato al Monte Church
While views from the cathedral dome and the bell tower are marvelous, Piazzale Michelangelo is another place in Florence with a splendid view of the city. And, you don’t even have to climb numerous steps for it. Built in honor of Michelangelo, the square offers a panoramic view of the major attractions in Florence during the daytime and especially at sunset. From here, you can also visit the beautiful church of San Miniato al Monte located close by on a hilltop. The 11th-century church with its pretty exteriors and interiors also has a monastery beside it. A cemetery situated on the property includes huge family tombs adorned with statues.
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral)
An engineering marvel, the huge brick built dome of the cathedral is the most striking feature of the cathedral. Of course, the exterior of the cathedral designed by Arnolfo di Cambio too is impressive with intricate details. In contrast, the interior is simple. The centerpiece is the remarkable dome (cupola) built by Filippo Brunelleschi. You can actually see the inside of the dome in close proximity by climbing to the top through a series of 463 steps. Well, it’s not an easy climb but you will be rewarded with a close-up view of the dome’s stunning frescoes of the Last Judgment by Giorgio Vasari. Also, the rooftop has panoramic views of Florence. Definitely among the top Florence attractions!
One of the top things to do in Florence goes on a visit to the Accademia Gallery where you can see the original statue of David. It is a sculpture that deserves to be seen by every visitor, after all, it is one of the most important works of Michelangelo. That’s not all. The Florence museum also contains additional works by Michelangelo as well as various paintings by other artists. Besides this, the Accademia Gallery has an excellent collection of musical instruments including harpsichords and violins. If you were thinking of what to see in Florence that showcases the genius of Michelangelo, this is it.
Do you know what to do in Florence in between visits to tourist attractions? Eat! You can enjoy delicious food options at various restaurants but if you want an assortment of food under one roof, head to Mercato Centrale. Savor Tuscan food and buy various food products at this market. While the ground floor has a variety of products such as vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, spices and more, the upper floor is where all the foodies can go to devour an amazing range of dishes. You will usually find a crowd here but there are plenty of seats. Drop by for lunch or dinner, the top floor is open until midnight.
If you are a science buff, and even if you are not, Museo Galileo is one of the unmissable Florence tourist attractions. Situated in the 11th century Palazzo Castellani, this museum has a range of fascinating exhibits as well as an interactive area, popular with both adults and children. See the interesting scientific items and instruments such as telescopes, globes especially Santucci’s armillary sphere, and thermometers. There are several other captivating exhibits related to science. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions. Undoubtedly, the Museo Galileo is one of the best places in Florence.
Church of Santa Maria Novella
Among Florence activities that involve religious structures, the Church of Santa Maria Novella is a lovely site to visit. Corinthian columns, stained glass windows, and frescoes adorn the church. There are superb works of art inside including Masaccio’s Holy Trinity as well as frescoes by Filippino Lippi. The pulpit of the church was created by Filippo Brunelleschi, the man who also designed the dome of the Florence Cathedral. If you are looking to visit, the church is situated near the Santa Maria Novella railway station.
What to eat and restaurants in Florence to try
Truffle Pasta in Savini Tartuffi
Located in the market hall, this restaurant is famous for its to-die-for truffle pasta. For €20, you’ll see the chefs prepare the pasta in front of you and witness them shave fresh truffles from San Marino on top of your meal. It is quite expensive but it is absolutely worth it!
This is steak is not for the weak! Not only you’ll get it perfectly medium rare but it is oozing with so much juiciness as it is a T-bone cut steak so it has so much flavor that will surely melt in your mouth. You can find the list of places where to get the best Bisteca alla Fiorentina in Florence!
Eat your steak with a good Chianti Classico
You’re in Tuscany after all and Chianti is legit just a jizz away so why not pair your steak with a good glass (or bottle) of red from the famous wine county of Italy? Thank me later.
Enjoy Tuscan food and take a cooking class!
Italy is one of the best travel destinations in the world when it comes to food. There are so many different dishes you need to taste. There are numerous variations of pizza, pasta, and lasagna that every tourist need to try. The most famous dishes of this region are Schiacciata, Cantucci, Zuppa di Fagioli, Panzanella, gelato, Ribollita, Pappardelle with cinghiale sauce, Olive Oil, Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, Lampredotto and so on!
Have you always dreamt of learning how to cook like real Italian woman? Then is there a better way to do it than taking a cooking class at the Tuscan farm or household? Well, if you decide to take this class, you will be learning from Italian grandmas, the world greatest chefs and using the ingredients that are coming from the local market or from the gardens of the farm. After all, spending some time learning how to cook, eating amazing food and meeting new people is the best way to spend a pleasant afternoon in Tuscany.
If you’re interested, you can learn how to find the right cooking class in Florence for you!
Have extra time? Look at these day trips from Florence!
Florence sightseeing can also involve going on day trips to the surrounding regions. You can enjoy a Chianti wine tour or visit Pisa, famous for its leaning tower. On your Chianti tour, you can travel through picturesque landscapes dotted with town squares, vineyards, and castles. Visit wineries where you can taste the best Chianti wines teamed with delicious Tuscan food.
Have you ever heard of this place? If not, then you’re in for a treat! San Gimignano is a hill town just outside Florence and you’ll find it interesting as its medieval walled town will keep you entertained because of its beauty and surrounding areas. Not to mention, a famous gelateria called Dondoli is located here. You’ll know which one it is because you’ll find super long lines outside! But is it worth it? In short, yes.
If Florence hasn’t satisfied your appetite and you’re still looking for something more to eat then head over to the student city of Bologna! Only about thirty minutes away from Florence by train, you’ll find yourself in culinary heaven as Bologna is considered the heart of cuisine in Italy!
Practical information and Florence travel tips
Why should you visit Florence?
Do you love art, culture, history, and good food? If you said yes to all then there’s no doubt you’ll fall in love with Florence! It is, after all, one of those cities in Italy many famous people throughout history lived and fell in love with. As mentioned above, iconic historical figures such as Michelangelo has lived in this famous historical city. Not to mention, you’ll see notable architectural designs in the city you won’t find elsewhere!
Regarding food, you’re in Italy! Florence, of course, offers great varieties that will tickle your love for food and on top of that, it is only thirty minutes away from Bologna – the culinary heart of Italy. So, yes, you should visit Florence.
When is the best time to visit Florence?
This is absolutely not up for any debate as Florence is a great destination to visit all year round! However, we also have to consider the seasonal changes as this part of Italy certainly experiences all four season: winter (December-February), spring (March-May), summer (June-August) and autumn (September-November).
That said, the peak season in Florence starts already in April just in time for Easter so expect big crowds and it will last until August. The only difference is that the heat will most likely wear you down in July and August so it is best to plan your holiday to Florence perhaps in time for Spring or Autumn when the weather is calmer and there are lesser crowds.
Do you need a visa for Florence?
Florence is part of the Schengen area and citizens of EU group of countries can freely enter this Baltic state while citizens of USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia can enter the country just with their passports and stay for 90 days. You can check our guide on how to get a Schengen visa and as well to see if you’re eligible to enter the country with just your passports or if you’ll need to apply for a visa prior entry.
Where to book your flights to Florence?
Check our handy-dandy guide on how to find the cheapest flights around the world – read it here.
Do you need an insurance?
Remember this: anything can happen! Read our take on why you need a travel insurance and how it can save you money when things go unplanned – read it here.
Where to stay in Florence at night?
We have compiled the best design and luxury hotels in Florence complete with details, you can read it here. But if you’re in a hurry to book your stay, here are the top three we recommended: Grand Hotel Minerva, Villa Cora, and Ottantotto Firenze. Cost per night for these hotels starts at €170.
If you’re on a budget, we recommend you stay at hostels where per night for a bunk bed will cost you only €50. Here are our top three recommendations: Hostel Gallo D’oro, Hostel Archi Rossi, and Plus Florence.
How save money sightseeing Florence?
To start with, all tourist attractions in Florence have a walkable distance in between so you won’t need any public transport to trot its streets. Moreover, if you’re interest lies on architectural wonders when you’re lucky because they are free to look at and you can even get an aerial view from Pizza di Michelangelo. Otherwise, if you’re interested in visiting museums and galleries, then these aren’t free and on top of that – they most likely have long lines! This is why getting a Florence City Pass would be ideal because it enables you to cut the line and enter these famous Florence attractions with ease.
Short on time? Go on a tour in Florence!
Here are our top recommendations:
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