Small in size but a giant on the world stage, there’s a long list of wonderful things to do in Florence. Renaissance masterpieces, regal palaces, and unique culture are the beginning of Florence’s enchantment.

By: Paul | Last Updated: 21 Nov 2023 | Jump to Comments & Questions

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With Roman history, medieval fortresses, and Renaissance buildings, Florence is from another era.

As the birthplace of the Renaissance, prominent artists sought lucrative commissions. Their output has blessed the city with a bounty of art like nowhere else.

Witness the beauty of Botticelli’s masterful brush strokes. Admire exquisite frescoes in serene churches. Marvel at Michelangelo’s awe-inspiring sculptures.

But Florence is also a city of today. A thirst for culture exists in crafty cocktail bars and aging tavernas. In unassuming chapels with era-defining art and quiet streets with humble restaurants.

We’ve visited the city several times, never failing to be seduced. Here are our favourite things to do in Florence that we think you shouldn’t miss.

1 – UFFIZI GALLERY

Few galleries in the world have amassed such a prestigious collection of art as the Uffizi in Florence. Witness the progression from early medieval works to Renaissance masterpieces.

Our highlights were the Coronation of the Virgin by Lippi and The Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero della Francesca. Both are in Room 8 and mark the start of the early Renaissance period.

Botticelli’s masterpieces adorn Rooms 10-14 including Spring, the Birth of Venus, and The Cestello Annunciation.

There are only 20 Leonardo da Vinci surviving paintings in the world. The Uffizi has two of them as well as Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo.

Even if you’re not a massive art fan, the Uffizi is one you shouldn’t miss.

DETAILS | UFFIZI GALLERY


hours – 8:15 am to 6:30 pm (Tue-Sun) | cost – €26 but prices vary over the year | tickets – book timed entry skip-the-line tickets in advance.

UFFIZI GUIDED TOUR  

uffizi gallery things to do in florence
DONI TONDO, MICHELANGELO

2 – THE DUOMO

The green and white marble façade of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as the Duomo, is the heart and soul of Florence.

It’s easily admired from several vantage points across the city. The whole complex includes the duomo, the campanile (belltower), and the Baptistry of San Giovanni.

After 100 years of construction, the cathedral was still missing a dome. Filippo Brunelleschi’s ingenious design enabled the construction of one of the most recognizable icons in Florence.

The Duomo is free to enter, however, the queues can be very long. It’s also important to note that the interior is not especially ornate. (It’s much less impressive than the Siena cathedral).

Our recommendation is to admire the building from the outside. Don’t miss the remarkable Baptistry doors. Head up the dome instead.

DETAILS | FLORENCE DUOMO


hours – 10:15 am to 3:45 pm (Mon-Sat) closed Sunday | cost – free, advance bookings are not required.

3 – BRUNELLESCHI’S DOME

The dome of the duomo lacks the typical supporting buttresses of Gothic architecture. This is because Florence was not keen on adopting a style that had become popular with their enemies in Siena.

It also required ingenious engineering solutions.  

Filippo Brunelleschi designed an internal octagonal dome supporting the external dome. In doing so, he kicked off the Renaissance architectural style.

Climbing the dome is one of the best things to do in Florence.

Apart from the breathtaking views of the city, you also see the most impressive aspects of the Duomo interior. The 16th-century marble floor and the Last Judgement painting from the dome are extraordinary.

DETAILS | FLORENCE DOME


hours – 8:15 am to 6:45 pm (Mon-Fri) / 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (Sat) / 12:45 pm to 4:30 pm (Sun) | cost – €30 / €12 includes the Dome, the Bell Tower, the Museum, and the Baptistery.

FLORENCE DOME TOUR

4 – FLORENCE CAFES

It’s not hard to find a traditional café in Florence where the atmosphere is vintage, the food authentic and the waiters as old as the framed photos occupying every inch of available wall space.

Here are some of our favourite cafes in Florence.

SimBIOsi Organic Cafè – Their espressos, slow brews and pour-overs are made with individual attention to detail. Inside, the medieval walls with contemporary art provide a great place to enjoy your coffee.

Melaleuca bakery + bistro – Right beside the River Arno, Melaleuca has hard-to-walk-past pastries, a regularly changing brunch menu and excellent coffee in a cool location.

Ditta Artigianale – With a casual modern vibe and strict attention to the quality of the coffee, Ditta Artigianale is a diversion from the traditional Florence cafe scene but possibly one of the best coffees in town.

5 – BASILICA SANTA CROCE

The handsome Basilica of Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in the world.

The gorgeous square of the same that it sits on, was one of our highlights in Florence. Both were embellished after renovations in the 1860s.

The basilica was the preferred final resting place for notable figures in Italian history. On a stroll through the basilica, you’ll see the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli.

There are also commemorative shrines to Leonardo da Vinci and Dante.

Within the church, 16 chapels are decorated with beautiful art. Don’t miss the impressive frescoes by Giotto di Bondone and the huge crucifix by Donatello.

DETAILS | BASILICA SANTA CROCE


hours – 9:30 am to 5:30 pm (Mon-Sat) / 12:30 pm to 5:45 pm (Sun) | cost – €8 / €6

SANTA CROCE GUIDED TOUR

6 – SAN LORENZO MARKET | MERCATO CENTRALE

The San Lorenzo Market has two separate markets: the indoor Mercato Centrale and an outdoor market lining the nearby streets.

The outdoor market sells a wide variety of goods including pottery, clothing, leather, and souvenirs. Many of the stalls have warehouses nearby, so if you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for, ask what else they have.

The Mercato Centrale is a two-level food market in a glorious building.

The ground floor has butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers, and specialty artisan shops. The second floor is a gourmet food court with an excellent selection of Italian specialties. It’s a great place to stop for lunch.

DETAILS | SAN LORENZO MARKET


outdoor market – Tuesday to Saturday | Mercato Centrale – 7 am to 2 pm (Mon-Fri) 7 am to 5 pm (Sat) closed Sunday

7 – PALAZZO VECCHIO & ARNOLFO TOWER

The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence and a civic treasure.

A Medieval fortress was built upon the ruins of a Roman theatre which was later restored into a series of beautiful Renaissance chambers.

The result is a demonstration of the wealth and power of the Medici family.

It’s all lavishly decorated by several Florentine masters.

The most imposing room is the Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred). Here, the greatest Florentine artists depict Italian victories on huge frescoes. Keep an eye out for unfinished works by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

A stunning staircase designed by Giorgio Vasari leads to the Renaissance chambers. The highlight here is the Room of the Four Elements. Don’t miss the two small but glorious chapels and the views across the rooftops of Florence to the Duomo.

The bell tower, the Arnolfo Tower, is the oldest part of the building. You can climb the 400 steps for stunning views over Florence.

PALAZZO VECCHIO TOURS

DETAILS | PALAZZO VECCHIO


museum – 9 am to 7 pm (Fri-Wed) / 9 am to 2 pm (Thu) | tower – 9 am to 5 pm (Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri) | cost – £12.50 (museum) / £12.50 (tower)

8 – LOGGIA DEI LANZI PORTICOS & PLAZA DELLA SIGNORIA

Plaza della Signoria is located between the Palazzo Vecchio, the Duomo, and the Ufizzi Gallery.

It has existed since Roman times and was the location of the Bonfire of the Vanities. Here, the righteous religious burnt objects considered sinful.

There are a few excellent free Florence attractions in the square.

Outside the Palazzo Vecchio – the town hall of Florence – a copy of Michelangelo’s David overlooks the crowds below.

Next door, the portico of the Loggia dei Lanzi contains some of the most evocative sculptures in Florence. Two of Giambologna’s works, The Rape of the Sabine Women, and Hercules and Nessus are stunning.

But our favourite is Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini. It’s an amazing collection of art and one of the best free things to do in Florence.

9 – DAVID IN THE GALLERIA DELL’ACCADEMIA

Under the direction of Donatello, Florentine sculptor Agostino di Duccio began working on a huge lump of marble in 1463.

Upon Donatello’s death, the project was abandoned, and the marble was left neglected in a workshop of the Duomo.

In 1501, a 26-year-old Michelangelo was commissioned to take up the project to produce a statue of David to go on the roof of the Duomo.

He worked on the sculpture for 2 years by which time it was obvious the massive statue would never get to the roof of the cathedral.

It was placed outside the Palazzo Vecchio before it was moved in 1873 to the Galleria dell’Accademia.

Seeing David is an unmissable thing to do in Florence. But, there are also there are plenty of other great works in the gallery including 4 incomplete Michelangelo statues.

DETAILS | GALLERIA DELL’ACCADEMIA


hours – 8:15 am to 6:50 pm (daily) / open until 10 pm Tuesday and 9 pm Thursday from 13 June to 31 Oct | cost – €13

SKIP-THE-LINE | GUIDED TOUR

10 – MEDICI CHAPELS IN THE BASILICA SAN LORENZO

The Medici family came to prominence in the early fifteenth century. Making their wealth in banking and accruing political power, they became the predominant force in Florence.

Basilica San Lorenzo by Filippo Brunelleschi became the family church and their final resting place.

The highlights are the impressive Medici Chapels.

The first, Sagrestia Nuova or New Sacristy, was commissioned by Pope Leo X in 1520 as a tomb to hold his illustrious family members. It was designed by Michelangelo and contains several of his magnificent statues.

The second is the Cappella dei Principi or Chapel of the Princes. The octagonal chapel of monumental proportions was constructed in the early 16th century. Every wall is covered in green and red marble stretching to a dome, 59 metres above the floor.

It’s one of the most extraordinary attractions in Florence.

DETAILS | MEDICI CHAPELS


hours – 8:15 am to 6:50 pm (closed Tuesday) | cost – €10 | audioguide – €6

SKIP-THE-LINE TICKETS

11 – MERCATO NUOVO (LOGGIA DEL PORCELLINO)

The Loggia del Porcellino is a typical Florentine market, built in the 16th century.

Located in Republic Square it originally sold luxury products including silk and straw hats. Today, leather, embroidery and souvenirs are the staples of the market.

Strolling the market is a great way to get a taste of traditional Florence converted into a tourist-pleasing attraction.

The market is known as Porcellino Market due to the sculpture of a bronze wild boar. It was crafted by Pietro Tacca in the 19th century.

The building itself is an initiative of the Medici Family and features elegant arches.

The market is open every day from 9 am to 6:30 pm.

12 – EAT ON A CHARMING STREET

Walking the little laneways that spread out from the duomo, you are regularly treated to glimpses of the rusty orange dome as it flickers between the buildings.

Although Florence can be very busy, there are still a few charming streets that remain free from tourists. One of the more local things to do in Florence is to stroll the small streets radiating from the Duomo and have lunch watching the world go by.

Malborghetto – Tucked on an unassuming lane in a quiet corner of the city, Malborghetto has a small but excellent menu of daily specials with a good selection of pizzas. They only have 3 or 4 tables on the footpath so you need a bit of luck to grab one.

Osteria Nuvoli – This delightfully no-frills restaurant just around the corner from the duomo has simple dishes at great prices. Don’t miss the biscotti with a very generous serving of sweet wine to finish up.

13 – SANTA MARIA NOVELLA

Santa Maria Novella is a 13th-century church in the western end of Florence with exceptional art treasures.

The permanent highlight is Masaccio’s, Holy Trinity. Painted between 1425 and 1427, it’s one of the first artworks to use perspective. It’s an important way-marker in the development of Renaissance art.

On the first Sunday of every month and two days before it, an exceptional unveiling takes place. The 16th and 17th-century paintings are lifted off the walls to reveal 14th and 15th-century frescoes underneath.

Incredibly, they were only discovered in 2004 and were not open to the public until 2017.

Chapel of Filippo Strozzi // Don’t miss Cappella di Filippo Strozzi which has incredible frescoes depicting the lives of the Apostles Saint Philip and Saint John.

DETAILS | SANTA MARIA NOVELLA


hours – 9 am to 5:30 pm (Mon-Thu) / 11 am to 5:30 pm (Fri) / 9 am to 5:30 pm (Sat) / 1 pm to 5:30 pm (Sun) | cost – €7.50 / €5

SKIP-THE-LINE + AUDIOGUIDE

14 – PONTE VECCHIO

The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval stone bridge stretching across the Arno River. It’s one of the iconic images of Florence.

It’s believed that a bridge was first built here during Roman times. The road (now closed to traffic) was an important connection to other Roman centres.  

Today it connects two busy tourist attractions in Florence: Piazza della Signoria and Santo Spirito on the other side of the river.

The bridge is lined with shops that originally served the city’s basic needs: fish and meat. After complaints about the smell, the butchers and fishmongers closed, making way for the vendors you see today. Leather goods and jewelry today serve Florence’s tourists’ needs.

It looks its best at dusk when the sun sets over the river and the bridge and buildings glow a yellow-orange.

15 – PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO

Set on a hill in the southeast of town, Piazzale Michelangelo was constructed during Florence’s grand period of urban renewal in 1869.

Although dedicated to Michelangelo, a planned museum for his works never happened.

In our opinion, it’s not the prettiest square in Florence, but there is one excellent reason to visit. Piazzale Michelangelo has the best view over Florence.

Take the 25-minute walk up from the centre to enjoy stunning views of the Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Vecchio, and Duomo. To the south you’ll see the grand Palazzo Pitti and its landscaped Boboli gardens.

Arrive for sunset. As the sun drifts over the horizon and the last rays of light hit the city, Brunelleschi’s glorious dome glitters like half a luminescent orange.

16 – DINE IN SANTO SPIRITO

There’s no better place to spend an evening in Florence than on the streets of Santo Spirito, on the south side of the river.

Tamerò – For tasty food at good prices on the lovely Piazza Santo, Tamerò keeps the food and wine flowing and the patrons happy.

Babae – The little wine window made famous by Stanley Tucci is a favourite Florence thing to do. Ring the bell, order a Chianti and sip it in the charming street. There’s also a great menu of Florentine classics.

Il Santo Bevitore – This former coach house with wood-panelled walls serving a modern take on Tuscan classics has received a Michelin gong. Reservations are required.

Il Santino Gastronimo – The casual sibling of Il Santo Bevitore serves a collection of tasty small dishes. Sit in the delightfully cramped interior or on tables on the footpath. If you just fancy a drink, you can stand on the street joining the hubub.

17 – PITTI PALACE & BOBOLI GARDENS

The Pitti Palace was purchased by the Medici Family as a symbol of their power over Tuscany. Today, it’s packed with art museums, grand apartment rooms, and ducal treasures.

The Treasury of the Grand Dukes is a collection of decorative arts in the family’s sumptuous summer apartments.

The Palatine Gallery is a lavish art collection containing around 500 pieces.

Directly behind the palace, the Boboli Gardens is a historical park and a wonderful thing to do in Florence. It was one of the first examples of Italian gardens that would inspire many European courts.

Immaculate lawns and grottos are decorated with fountains and statues.

DETAILS | PITTI PALACE


hours – 8:15 am to 6:30 pm (Tue-Sun) closed Monday | cost – €17 (palace) / €23 (palace + gardens)

SKIP-THE-LINE | GUIDED TOUR

18 – SAN MINIATO AL MONTE

San Miniato al Monte is an iconic church perched on one of the highest points in Florence, Italy,

It was originally established by the Bishop of Florence in the 10th century. It’s dedicated to Saint Minias, who is considered the first Christian martyr of Florence.

The church is a great example of beautiful Tuscan Romanesque architecture. Black and white marble panels adorn both the interior and exterior. Timber paneling adds some additional charm.

Defensive walls of the church today surround an ornamental cemetery.

Higher than Piazza Michelangelo, the views over Florence are possibly even better.

19 – TAKE A DAY TRIP INTO THE TUSCAN COUNTRYSIDE

Florence is perfectly located to enjoy some of the most idyllic countryside Italy has to offer.

Tuscany is a region in central Italy with diverse landscapes, beaches, and the Chianti olive and wine-growing region.

The picture-postcard scenery framed with rows of cypress trees and other iconic towns and villages are easy to see from Florence.

Here are a few ideas:

OTHER THINGS TO DO IN FLORENCE

There are so many great things to do in Florence that they, unfortunately, couldn’t all make it on our list. If you have time, here are some other suggestions.

STROZZI PALACE

The Strozzi Palace holds temporary art exhibitions and it’s always worth checking out what’s on. While we were there Jeff Koons’s shiny sculptures were the perfect contrast to the palace’s grand square and old rooms.

BARGELLO MUSEUM

The Bargello Museum is home to some fantastic sculptures, dotted around a grand courtyard. There are works by Giamboligna and Michelangelo as well as Donatello’s bronze David, the first nude statue made since antiquity.

PIAZZA DELLA REPUBBLICA

Piazza della Repubblica is a grand square surrounded by cafes and restaurants. It’s one of the main squares in Florence which has held significance since Roman times. It was originally the location of the city’s Roman forum. Today the square is busy with street artists and improvised shows, especially after sunset.

DUOMO CAMPANILE & BAPTISTRY

The Baptistry of the duomo is worth a stop for its impressive marble pavement and the gold gleaming mosaic ceiling. The Campanile Tower is another grand viewpoint over Florence but the top is covered in a wire mesh obstructing the views slightly.

FLORENCE, ITALY MAP

We have included our list of the best things to do in Florence on the below map so you can plot your course for your time visiting the capital of Tuscany.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


WHERE TO STAY IN FLORENCE?

Most accommodation in Florence is based around the historic city centre where you’ll find busy streets packed with shopping, bars, and attractions. It’s a great area to base yourself in if you like staying in the heart of the action.

Alternatively, Santa Marie Novella is still convenient but a little less busy, and slightly cheaper.

CENTRAL

BOUTIQUE HOTEL DEL CORSO

Located in the heart of Florence just 250 yards from the cathedral, this is a comfortable and stylish boutique hotel with panoramic city views.


OUR PICK

SANTA MARIA NOVELLA

HOTEL ROMA

Located off the beautiful Piazza Santa Maria Novella, Hotel Roma is housed in a 17th-century building with classic design features and elegant furnishings.


TORNABOUNI

PARIONE UNO

Tucked into a quiet neighborhood near the River, Parione Uno has clean well-appointed rooms which are perfect for families. The friendly host will help with local recommendations.


HOW TO GET TO FLORENCE?

If you’re arriving from the USA, you’ll likely fly into a major European hub such as London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt Airport, or Amsterdam Schiphol.

From there you can catch a connecting flight to Florence Vespucci Airport which is 5 kilometers from the city centre.

Alternatively, some of the larger nearby airports are Rome Fiumicino and Milan Malpensa. Both have connections to Florence via a high-speed train.

The main train station in Florence is Firenze Santa Maria Novella. Some of the popular routes to Florence include:

  • Venice – 2 hours
  • Rome – 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Pisa – 48 minutes
  • Milan – 1 hour, 45 minutes

HOW MANY DAYS IN FLORENCE?

We recommend 3 or 4 days in Florence to see all the main sights. But you could easily stay for longer and slow down the pace or add in some day trips.

Just a short journey away is breathtaking Tuscan scenery which you can enjoy on a day trip from Florence including the vineyards of Chianti and a number of cities just as intriguing as Florence.

HOW TO GET AROUND?

The best way to get around Florence is on foot. The city center is compact, and most of the main attractions are within walking distance of each other.

Florence has a reliable network of buses that run through the city center. There’s also a tram line that runs into the central railway station, Santa Maria Novella.

Another great way to get around is the Hop On Hop Off Bus which you can purchase for 1, 2 or 3 days.

BEST TIME TO VISIT FLORENCE

The best time to visit Florence is the shoulder season from March to May when the weather is mild and the city’s festivals are in full swing. September is also a great time to visit when the crowds are fewer and there are still plenty of cultural experiences happening.

However, Florence is an all-year destination, depending on the experience you’re looking for.

SPRING (MARCH-MAY)

Spring is a fantastic time to explore Florence. The weather is mild and the temperatures are warming up. The gardens are in bloom creating a colorful canvas in the city. The crowds will also be slightly down compared to summer.

SUMMER (JUNE-AUGUST)

Summer is the high tourist season in Florence. It’s generally hot and sunny, making it perfect for exploring outdoor attractions. However, the crowds are larger and there will be longer queues at the attractions. You can also expect higher prices over the summer.

FALL (SEPTEMBER-NOVEMBER)

With pleasant temperatures and fewer tourists, fall is a great time to visit Florence. There are still plenty of festivals and cultural experiences without the crowds.

WINTER (DECEMBER-FEBRUARY)

While it can be cold, Florence has a cozy charm in winter. The queues at the big attractions will be much shorter. The Christmas Markets might be reason enough to visit.

florence italy things to do

TIPS FOR VISITING ATTRACTIONS

The museums and churches can book out in advance, so book your skip-the-line museum tickets a week or 2 before you arrive.

Similarly, good restaurants are often booked out months in advance, so book early, especially in Santo Spirito which is popular with locals and tourists.

THE FIRENZE CARD

The Firenze Card provides access to 58 museums over 3 days and costs €85. While this does sound appealing, it’s important to note that it does not include the Duomo Dome and Tower.

If you were to visit all the museums we listed in this guide, the Firenze Card would not be worth it. However, if you plan on visiting a lot of museums, it might add up to a saving.

FLORENCE TOURS

Joining a tour can be a great way to see Florence’s attractions if you’re pressed for time. It’s also good to avoid waiting in line at some of the city’s more popular sites. Here are a few we recommend.

things to do in florence 2

MORE ITALY GUIDES

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