Arguably one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, Florence is full of incredible architecture, great food, and historic significance that will keep you going for days. In fact, there are so many things to do in Florence that it is almost certain you will need more than just one visit. Home to famous artists like Michelangelo, Donatello, Niccolo Machiavelli, and Leonardo Da Vinci just to name a few, you can see why visiting Florence should be on your bucket list.
Top Things To Do In Florence
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When it comes to choosing the best things to do in Florence it can be difficult as there are so many attractions to choose from. Regardless of whether you are an art lover, a food lover, a history buff, or just love beautiful cities this guide will help you select the best things to do based on your interest. Trust me, there is something for everyone here. These are the top attractions in Florence.
Planning to Visit Florence?
Read this complete guide breaking down all the best places and neighborhoods to stay in Florence – Where to Stay in Florence, Italy – An Insider Guide to the Best Neighborhoods
Piazza del Duomo
If there is one iconic building that is synonymous with Florence it is The Duomo. Located in the historic city center of Florence, the Piazza del Duomo is certainly at the top of places to visit in Florence. Standing front and center in the Piazza is the Duomo of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Saint Mary). It is one of Italy’s most recognizable sights with the immense dome towering overhead.
The Piazza del Duomo is a meeting place, a shopping center, and a spot to grab a bite to eat or a glass of wine as you take in the surrounding views of Ciott’s Campanile, the Duomo, and the Baptistery. Go first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral)
No visit to Florence would be complete without going into the Florence Cathedral. it is the crown jewel of the city. Simply known as The Duomo, this is a not-to-miss attraction in Florence. Take a stroll around the 360-degree white marble structure that was once the largest dome in the world. Make sure to climb up its 463 steps for panoramic views of the old city center or head over to Giotto’s Campanile (bell tower) for views of the Duomo itself.
The Duomo is the most popular and central site in Florence so make sure to book your timed entry to the cathedral dome. Get your entry tickets to the Duomo where you can climb all the way to the cupola of the cathedral. Admire the extraordinary frescoes, stained glass windows, marble floors, and vaulted ceilings of the dome while enjoying the beautiful view of the city of Florence.
Giottos Campanile stands adjacent to the Florence Cathedral and the Baptistry of St. John. This free-standing structure stands 84.7 meters (277.9 ft) high and was designed by Italian painter and architect, Giotti in 1334. It is a beautiful tower that stands high above the city. While climbing is a must, it is also beautiful to admire from the ground and from the Duomo.
The Corridoio Vasariano has been closed since 2016 but will open in 2022 to visitors. Originally constructed in the 1500s, the Corridoio Vasariano was used by the Medici family and high-ranking officials to walk to Ponte Vecchio. The rich did not interact with the poor and therefore had their own walkways.
The enclosed corridor above Florence begins at the Uffizi Gallery and goes along the Arno River to Ponte Vecchio where it reaches to Medicean Gardens of Boboli and the Grand-Ducal abode of Pitti Palace. Once it opens again in 2022, it will be fully accessible with air conditioning and museums. This is going to be a spectacular attraction in Florence and makes me want to go back just to see it!
Palazzo Vecchio is one of our favorite places in Florence overlooking Piazza dell Signoria. With a 300-foot high bell tower, you can’t miss finding Palazzo Vecchio as it looms over the city of Florence. The archeological site sits atop old Roman ruins and was once the Florence town hall and palace of the Signoria of the Republic of Florence.
Don’t miss going into the impressive Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred) showcasing beautiful frescoes and painted ceilings. While visiting Palazzo Vecchio you’ll find secret routes worthy of a Dan Brown novel and you can even go underground to the basement to see the Roman foundations.
Your ticket gets you inside to visit Palazzo Vecchio Museum. private apartments, the Hall of Maps and Torre di Arnolfo” or Arnolfo’s tower where you can climb its 416 steps for breathtaking views of the city. Avoid the lines with this guided tour
Piazza della Signoria
Located beside Palazzo Vecchio, the Piazzale Della Signoria is one of the most beautiful squares in Florence. It is one of the best places to start your tour of Florence as many tops sights are located right at Piazza Della Signoria. Palazzo Vecchio, Loggia Della Signoria, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Palace of the Tribunale Della Mercanzia all are located in close proximity. It is also the best place to eat delicious Italian food like pizza, spaghetti, tiramisu, or panna cotta. If you don’t feel like eating, you can just stay in Piazzale Della Signoria for a while in one of the romantic cafes and watch the people passing by.
It is also here that you’ll see a marvelous replica of Michelangelo’s David. In fact, the original David once stood here, but to protect the masterpiece he was moved to the Accademia Gallery. It’s a good thing because today, vendors surround this David statue. See more: Walking Tour of Florence – A Tale of Two Davids
Take a Guided Tour of Florence
One of the best things to do in Florence is to take a guided tour. We took two while in the city and it was the perfect way to learn of Florentine history and to see the sights. A walking tour is a good way to explore the city center, while a driver with a local guide lets you see more in a short time. There are so many historic buildings and museums, that it can be overwhelming.
This guided tour lets you see Florence by sunset with a Tuscan dinner. Your driver will take you to Ponte Vecchio, Piazzale Michelangelo, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistery and its Gates of Paradise, and more. You’ll then Let your expert guide lead you through historical paths to admire Piazza Della Signoria to see the imposing Palazzo Vecchio and the Loggia Dei Lanzi. At the end of the tour, enjoy a typical Italian dinner in a local, Tuscan-style restaurant. Details here.
One of the most famous bridges in the world doesn’t fail to impress visitors as it looks like from a fairy tale. The Ponte Vecchio spans the River Arno and no trip to the city would be complete without walking across this iconic bridge. The Vecchio bridge is the oldest bridge in Florence dating back to 1345.
During World War II, it was the only bridge that was not destroyed, and walking across is one of the top things to do in Florence. The bridge has two levels, however, the upper floor is closed to the public and only opens for special events once or twice a year. Along the lower level are shops where you can buy silver, Florence isn’t the only beautiful city in Europe: Check out our list of the most Beautiful Cities in Europe
One of the best views of Florence for sunset is the Piazzale Michelangelo where you’ll find a huge replica of Michelangelo’s David. You can either take a short walk up the hill or simply take a bus right to the top of it. We walked the entire way from the Piazza Della Signoria taking Ponte Vecchio across the Arno River to Piazzale Michelangelo. It only took about half an hour and it was a lovely way to explore more of the city. Be sure to stop at the Rose Garden on your way down, especially during May and June, when the roses are in full bloom.
For a unique way to visit Florence, book this Vespa Tour of Florence. On this trip, you’ll make your way from Piazza San Marco to Piazza Michelangelo on a vintage Vespa. En route, admire the panoramic views of the dome and River Arno. After a stop at Piazza Michelangelo, it’s then on San Miniato Abbey to see the beautiful historic cemetery, which is famous for its Medieval history. Details here.
Basilica San Miniato al Monte
This church is impressing both from the inside and the outside. It’s situated at the highest point of the city, so the view from the top is really breathtaking. The basilica San Miniato al Monte is just a short distance from Piazzale Michelangelo so while you are visiting David overlooking Florence, be sure to check it out. It is one of the best examples of Romanesque structure not only in Italy but also in the whole of Europe!
When picturing the top things to do in Florence, I think many people put witnessing the Statue of David at the top of their list. Well, The Galleria Dell’Accademia is the place where you’ll find the one and only Statue of David. I say one and only because there are actually three statues of David in Florence. Find out where the other two are here
The statue depicts the biblical figure of David standing naked. It is considered to be the world’s greatest sculpture. If the crowds are anything to go by, I’d say that is right! You can’t miss it, a crowd of people surrounds this iconic work of art that attracts as many crowds as the Mona Lisa painting in the Louvre or Sistine Chapel in the Vatican city.
The Accademia Gallery has a lot more to it than Michelangelo’s David though, It houses other great Italian and Renaissance art by the likes of Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pontormo, Andrea del Sarto, Allessando Allori and Orcagna
Basilica di Santa Croce
Another beautiful church of Florence is Basilica Di Santa Croce. It’s the place where some of the most famous Italians were buried. You will find the graves of Galileo, Michaelangelo, and Machiavelli. These people changed the history of the world, so it is great to be able to give them proper honor while sightseeing in Florence, Italy.
While at Santa Croce, stop by the Scuola del Cuoio. Florence is known to have many leather shops to buy quality leather and the Scuola del Cuoio is the largest and most famous leather school in Florence where you can buy quality leather goods.
You can spend hours at the Uffizi Gallery. This wonderful museum probably has so much to see that you can spend hours and hours in there. This is a wonderful place to see the best of Renaissance Art. Famous artists such as Botticelli, Da Vinci, and Raphael are showcased in the collection. Starting from Venus from Urbino and finishing on Botticelli’s Primavera you won’t forget your visit.
Make sure you prebook your timed entrance ticket to make the most of your visit to one of the most visited art museums in the world. And we suggest booking a private guide to make sure you don’t miss the best pieces of Renaissance Art with your licensed guide. With a guide you can let them know who you want to see, will it be, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael, Giotto, and Rembrandt. Details here.
Basilica di San Lorenzo
The Basilica di San Lorenzo is the oldest in Florence dating back to 393 AD and was once the main cathedral of Florence until it became the main parish church for the Medici family. It is unassuming from the outside, but make sure to go inside to see its cloisters overlooking the gardens, the crypt where you’ll see the final resting place of Donatello, the interior of the church, and the Medici Chapels.
There are so many museums in Florence it can be difficult to choose which one to see. Well, when in doubt, choose one of the largest. Palazzo Pitti is one of Florence’s biggest Museums where you can walk through the former residence of the Medici. It is a large complex located on the Arno River with several galleries to explore including the Gallery of Modern Art, The Costume Gallery, and Italian art. Inside you’ll see works of art by Italian icons such as Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, Pietro da Cortona, and Rubens.
Located directly behind Pitti Palace are the beautiful Boboli Gardens designed by the Medici Family. Boboli Gardens are a beautiful display of greenery adorned with renaissance statues, grottos, and fountains. It’s a stunning garden that is more like an open-air museum. Don’t miss seeing the Grotta del Buontalenti which is an artificial cave complete with stalactites and stalagmites. You can book timed entries which give access to Boboli Gardens, Bardini Gardens, and Grotta del Buontalenti.
Piazza della Repubblica
Piazza Della Repubblica is one of the main squares in Florence, marking the center of the city. The Square has stood since Roman Times and was once the Jewish Ghetto, but it has undergone many changes throughout the years. It is the perfect place to grab an espresso at either Caffé Gilli, Caffé Paskowski or Caffé delle Giubbe Rosse. Here you can people-watch or take in a street performance. There is a carousel and the column of the Abundance.
If you are looking for unique things to do in Florence, take a Vespa tour of the Tuscan countryside from Florence. Nothing says Italy more than driving a vintage Vespa through the streets. Follow your tour leader along the Arno River as you make your way to the quiet roads of Tuscany. On your way out you’ll stop at one of the oldest churches in Florence and stop for a view of the Florence Skyline. It’s then on to the hills for sightseeing and a stop to eat some of Tuscany’s best prosciutto and cheese with a glass of Chianti. More details on this highly rated tour here.
Take a Tuscan Wine Tour
One of the best things to do in Florence is to book a food tour for a taste of Tuscany. Florence is located in the heart of the Tuscan region of Italy, and you know what that means? Great wine! Book this tour of Chianti Wineries Tour with Food and Wine Tasting where you’ll visit vineyards to sample local wines. It includes up to 5 wines each! Learn about the winemaking process and what it takes to be classified as Chianti Classico. followed by sampling with wine, cheese, bread, and olive oil. My mouth is watering. Details here
If you don’t want to leave the city, this Florence wine tour takes you on a walking tour through Florence where you’ll enjoy tasting glasses of both white and red wines. The wine is paired with special snacks and the flavor of the local crostini with each sip of wine. Finish your tasting session with a glass of wine too.
Florence Street Food Tour
If there is one thing you cannot miss doing in Italy is to sample its delicious food. A street food tour takes you around the heart of the city to sample some delicious cuisine. Local favorites to try are schiacciata with balsamic vinegar, cantuccini, fresh homemade pasta, traditional pappa al Pomodoro, and more. It may not be on the menu, but when we visited Florence, we couldn’t get enough of the gelato. During this tour, you’ll also visit a local market. Details here.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
One of the most popular day tours from Florence is to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa. A lot of people will say not to go to Pisa, but we loved our visit to Pisa. We highly recommend spending the night to make the most of your trip.
Where to Stay in Florence, Italy
The Duomo / Piazza Della Signoria
The Duomo is one of the best places to stay in Florence for your first trip. The Duomo neighborhood is as central as it gets and is one of the best places to stay in Florence for sightseeing and museums. It is close to the Piazza Della Signoria and walking distance to all the world-renowned museums and cobblestone streets near the Ponte Vecchio.
Hotel Bernini Palace is one of the top-rated luxury 5-star stays in Florence. 15th-century building with rooms featuring Murano glass chandeliers. Minutes from the major sites. Check out Availability & Prices on TripAdvisor and Booking.com
Uffizi Harmony – This is a great hotel for an affordable stay for its central location next to Piazza Della Signoria square and the Uffizi Gallery. Check out Availability & Prices TripAdvisor or Booking.com
San Lorenzo And Santa Maria Novella
San Lorenzo and Santa Maria Novella is the best neighborhood to stay in for shopping in Florence. It is near the Central train station and Basilica Of Santa Maria Novella
Grand Amore Hotel and Spa is an elegant hotel in a central location. Offers a wellness center, lounge bar, and cathedral views in select rooms. Check out Availability & Prices on TripAdvisor or Booking.com
B&B Lorenzo de’Medici – Cozy option in the heart of the San Lorenzo district. Rooms have a desk, with some including a kitchenette. Continental or Italian breakfast is served every morning. Check out Availability & Prices on TripAdvisor or Bookiing.com
Santa Croce is a great place to stay in Florence to feel like a local while still being central and convenient to walk to. This neighborhood offers some of the best bars and restaurants, architecture, and nightlife in the city. Close to Piazza Santa Croce or wandering amongst the famous tombs of renowned Italians, this neighborhood has a lot going on.
How to Get to Florence, Italy
Florence, Italy can be reached by flying into Rome or Milan and then catching the train to the main railway station.
Pisa also has an international airport that you can fly into and then catch the bus to Florence. If flying from within Europe, some airlines fly into Florence’s Amerigo Vespucci Airport.
Most people arrive in Florence by train. The Main Railway Station, Canta Maria Novella. The train station is just a 10-minute walk from the Duomo and 20 minutes to Piazza Della Signoria and the Uffizi. It is one of Italy’s busiest train stations.
Fun fact, the train station got its name from the Basilica Of Santa Maria Novella which is located across the piazza.
And these are the best things to do in Florence. There is good reason that this is one of the most popular cities to visit in Italy. With so many iconic works of art and beautiful architecture, taking a trip to Florence is one to remember.