Florence in 3 Days - Getting the most out of your trip

Wondering how to spend 3 days in Florence?

Roof†op view of the Duomo complexSeeing the Duomo is of course one of the stops on our suggested 3 day itinerary - keep reading for the rest!

While I could easily spend far longer exploring Florence, three days is enough time to see a lot of the top sights.

Keep reading for my suggested itinerary!

How to spend 3 days in Florence

Often people visit Florence as part of a wider Italian or European trip.

Maybe you've been to Rome or Venice and are stopping in Florence en-route to your next location, or have just a few days before or after a cruise.

This means that maximizing your time is crucial to ensuring you get the most out of visiting Florence!

ponte vecchio with pink cloudsThere is so much to see in Florence, but if you plan your time you can do a lot in just 3 days

Keep reading for our guide to having a great time during three days in Florence, including:

What you need to consider when planning your 3 days in Florence

Before getting into the details of my suggested Florence itinerary, there are a few things to think about to help refine your plans.

How do you want to spend your time?

This seems a very basic question, but what do you want to do during your trip?

Are you someone who wants to see as many churches in Florence as you can, or would you prefer to spend your time wandering around the streets of the historic city center?

Do you want plenty of time to explore everything the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia have to offer, or do you prefer seeking out more unusual sights?

Beautiful sky of florence from a streetThinking about what you want to do is an essential first step in planning your trip

Your activity level and interests will heavily influence whether my suggested itinerary is right for you.

Luckily the center of Florence is pretty small so if you want to change things up or take it slower, you can still make it work.

What time of year are you planning to visit Florence?

While the suggested activities below are mostly not dependant on the weather, if it is an extremely hot July day or a wet January one, these will impact your visit.

If you are planning to visit in the summer months, think about what you need to book in advance to avoid standing in long lines in the intense heat.

line of people queuing for the bell tower in summerQueuing for ages to climb the Campanile in the hot summer sun is not how you want to be spending your limited time!

If you are coming to Florence in the winter, plan for taking taxis or public transport and how to do this so you don't get soaked in a sudden rain shower when walking from site to site.

You also should check if you are planning a trip around the time of a national holiday.

Holidays like Easter and Christmas can cause closures of shops, restaurants, museums and other sites so be aware that these may disrupt your plans.

Christmas tree in florenceWhile Christmas is a fun time to visit Florence, opening hours and days change a lot which may disrupt your plans

Is getting the Firenze pass worth it?

I get asked this question a lot, especially when it comes to shorter visits. My answer is always that it depends!

The Firenze pass lasts for 72 hours and gives you priority entrance to some of the top sights in the city, but it only really makes sense to purchase it if the cost of the pass (85€) is less than the the cost of the entrance to the museums you are definitely going to visit.

Take a look at all the sights included and more on the official site.

3 Days in Florence - Day 1

Day 1 of our Florence itinerary is all about getting to know the city.

Wherever you are staying in Florence, get up early, grab a quick coffee and pastry at a bar and make your way to the Piazza del Duomo.

Stop 1 - Piazza del Duomo

This piazza is the heart of Florence's historic center.

It is home to the majestic Florence cathedral, and has been the focal point of the city for centuries.

Starting at the very center of the Piazza del Duomo, at the intersection with Via Martelli, you have an excellent view of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, the Florence baptistery and Campanile bell tower.

Walk around the piazza to get a good look at the incredible architecture and marble design of the three coordinating buildings.

florence duomo complexDespite being built at different times, there is a consistent style to the buildings in the Duomo complex

We'll be back here tomorrow for a closer look inside the complex, but if you want to go inside the cathedral now, get in the queue early to ensure you don't spend too much time standing around.

Be sure to walk around the baptistery and admire the wonderful panels on the bronze doors.

South doors of the BaptisteryThe intricate doors of the Florence baptistery

This is the oldest of the buildings in the Piazza del Duomo and for centuries was where everyone in Florence was baptised.

Stop 2 - Piazza della Signoria

With the cathedral behind you, walk down Via dei Calzaiuoli towards Piazza della Signoria and the political heart of the Renaissance city.

En route, turn up to the right to see Piazza della Repubblica if you have time for a detour.

The famous carousel is in this piazza, as are many of Florence's historic cafes so this is the ideal time for a coffee break!

Once you've reached Piazza della Signoria, start by walking around the l-shaped space, surrounded by medieval buildings.

piazza della signoria cloudy march dayPiazza della Signoria and its wide open space

The monuments in Piazza della Signoria

Ignore the looming Palazzo Vecchio for the moment and admire the different monuments in the piazza, which tell the story of Florence's political history.

The Neptune fountain was the first public fountain in Florence, created in the 1500's under orders from Cosimo I de'Medici.

Multiple artists worked on it and the grand styling was designed to make it clear how powerful the Medici family were.

neptune fountain on piazza della signoria back viewThe Neptune Fountain is simply superb!

Opposite this fountain is the large equestrian statue of Cosimo I himself, destined to stand tall above the crowds of people forever.

Piazza della Signoria was also the location for public executions for centuries, and you can see a plaque just in front of the Neptune fountain which commemorates the spot on which preacher Savonarola was burned in 1498 after he had overthrown Florence's rulers.

Loggia dei LanziThe sculptures on display in the open air gallery are a taster of the wide collection on display in the Uffizi Gallery around the corner

Before we take a closer look at Palazzo Vecchio itself, stop at the outdoor gallery known as the Loggia dei Lanzi and get up close with the classic sculptures on display.

Palazzo Vecchio

Now that you've explored the piazza, you're ready to take in the stark beauty of Palazzo Vecchio.

Originally built to be a safe place for Florence's magistrates to go about their business in the early 14th century, it was later taken over by the grand dukes of the Medici family as their residence until they moved to the Pitti Palace in 1589.

view of palazzo signoriaThe stark nature of the palazzo reflects its history as the central home of Florentine political life for centuries

It continued to be an important civic building through Florence's history, and today it is home to the city hall.

The palazzo also houses a museum where you can see some of the stunning architecture and decor from the time of the Medici.

You can purchase tickets to go inside the museum and climb the steep bell tower, but for this itinerary, get a glimpse of the splendor without paying anything!

cortile di michelozzi in palazzo vecchioYes, this incredible courtyard is free to see!

Pop inside the entrance courtyard and admire the artwork before leaving, but don't forget to pay your respects to the replica of Michelangelo's David sculpture just outside!

The original statue of David stood here until 1873 when it was moved to the Accademia Gallery to protect it.

Stop 3 - Piazzale Michelangelo (via Ponte Vecchio)

From Piazza della Signoria, walk up Via Vacchereccia and turn left onto Via Por Santa Maria, which after a short walk brings you to the iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge over the Arno river.

Ponte Vecchio and Arno river in winterYou'll need to cross the river to get up to Piazzale Michelangelo, and using the most famous bridge is a must!

The Ponte Vecchio is an essential inclusion in any Florence itinerary, so take the time as you walk over the bridge to look at its special architecture and views of the river.

Once you're across the Ponte Vecchio, enjoy the walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo, about 20 minutes depending on which route you take.

For more details on the different ways to walk to Piazzale Michelangelo, watch this video where we take you through the options available:

Once you reach the wide piazza, drink in the wonderful view of the entire city and Tuscan hills beyond.

florence views from piazzale michelangeloThe views from Piazzale Michelangelo are unrivalled

This offers one of the best views of Florence anywhere in the city, which is why I highly recommend coming up here at the start of your trip!

There's more things to see on the hill if you have time, including the beautiful San Miniato al Monte basilica and Rose Garden.

It's also a great spot to take a break and have lunch.

There is a panino stall just off of the piazza as well as a couple of restaurants to choose from.

Stop 4 - Uffizi Gallery

After you've had your fill of the views, head back down the hill and head to the Uffizi Gallery.

You can walk down (why not try a different route to the one you came up?) or get one of the many buses that stop at Piazzale Michelangelo.

Remember to book your entrance tickets for the Uffizi Gallery in advance (or entrance time slot if you're using the Firenze Pass) to avoid the lengthy queues.

Once inside the Uffizi, take your time and explore.

Uffizi in December - no crowdsThe halls of the palazzo that houses the Uffizi are extensive, so give yourself plenty of time to explore

The palazzo itself is stunning, designed by Giorgio Vasari (who was responsible for the paintings on inside of the Duomo) for Cosimo I de'Medici to be part administrative offices and part private art gallery.

The Uffizi collection originated with the Medici family, and was donated to the city of Florence when they died out.

It has some incredible pieces by famous Italian artists, including the Birth of Venus by Botticelli and the Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci, and really demonstrates Florence's influence on the artistic world.

Painting Birth of Venus by Botticelli in Uffizzi GallerySeeing this painting in person is absolutely magical

After seeing as much of the Uffizi Galleries as you can manage, it's time to relax!

Eat at one of the many excellent restaurants in this central area of Florence Italy, along with a glass or two of local wine, you've earned it!

Not your first time in Florence/Want to see something else?

Some alternative activities for your first day in Florence could be:

  • Purchasing tickets to explore the Palazzo Vecchio museum (worth it for the breathtaking Salone dei Cinquecento). You can also get combo tickets that allow you to climb the Torre di Arnolfo for a great view of Florence.
  • Visiting the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, built for an earlier Cosimo de' Medici in the 1400's. The relatively simple, unadorned outer walls give the impression that not much would be inside, but this is definitely not the case! Trace the rise of the Medici banking family inside this fascinating museum.
  • Traveling with kids? Add one of the Leonarda da Vinci museums to your Florence itinerary for an interactive experience that will keep them entertained!

Take a look at these pages to find out how to make the most of your time in Florence:

3 Days in Florence - Day 2

Day 2 of our three days in Florence will take you deep into the city's history through its churches.

Stop 1 - Santa Croce

Today we're starting at the Basilica di Santa Croce.

Before we go inside, stand in the piazza in front of the church and take in the beautiful facade, which wasn't actually finished until the 1800's.

The basilica dates back much further than that however, so book your entrance tickets for as close to opening time as possible so you can see all that it has to offer.

View of Basilica Santa CroceThe relatively simple facade gives no clue as to the many things to see inside!

From the outside it is not possible to grasp how far the complex extends, so as well as the basilica itself, there are also peaceful cloisters, chapels, a crypt and the museum to explore.

Key things to look out for are the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli and Giotto's frescoes in the Peruzzi and Bardi chapels, but there is so much to see!

Our dedicated page will give you more details to help you plan your visit.

statues - michelangelo tomb in santa croceVisiting Michelangelo's tomb is a must-do when you visit Florence

Stop 2 - Duomo Complex

Once you've had your fill of Santa Croce, we're heading back to where we started Day 1, the Piazza del Duomo.

You can take a bus or stroll through the historic center on the approximately 10 minute walk.

This stop will require some pre-planning on your part, as you will need to select and book your ticket option in advance.

dome of duomo from outside belowGetting to explore the Duomo complex is a wonderful experience

There are three ticket options for the Duomo complex to choose from:

  • The Ghiberti Pass, which includes access to the Baptistery, the Opera del Duomo museum and the archeological area of Santa Reparata under the cathedral.
  • The Giotto Pass, which allows you to climb Giotto's bell tower as well as the sites available in the Ghiberti Pass.
  • The Brunelleschi Pass, which allows you to climb the dome as well as all the other sites included in the Ghiberti Pass.

The cathedral is always free to enter, with or without tickets to the rest of the complex.

View of florence from duomo verticalThe view you're rewarded with if you climb the Duomo is fantastic!

If you want to climb the dome, you will want to book your chosen time slot around the rest of your plans which will allow you to skip the line for the cathedral entrance.

You do not have to select a time slot for any of the other places to visit however.

Unless you're really keen on climbing, you do not need to climb both the dome and bell tower on the same day.

The view of the Duomo up close from the bell tower is incredible but seeing the inside of the dome as you climb up is also super special, so you can't go wrong with either one!

You can of course do both, but this will eat into your time significantly.

brunelleschi's dome model in museum of the duomoSeeing how the Duomo complex came into being in the Opera del Duomo museum is the perfect way to finish your visit

Whichever order you visit the different buildings in, I would recommend finishing with the museum.

Seeing the decorative elements up close and following the story of the construction stages is so much more interesting when you understand the context!

Once you've had your fill of the Piazza del Duomo, it's time to visit another one of Florence's must see churches, the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella.

Stop 3 - Santa Maria Novella

The basilica of Santa Maria Novella was the first one built in Florence, and has been a canvas to generations of Florentine artists, so no exploration of Florence would be complete without visiting.

The basilica is just a short walk across the road from the Santa Maria Novella station so it's very easy to get there either by walking or using public transport.

santa maria novellaWhen you leave the train station, this is the view you'll be greeted with

Both the basilica itself and the museum are open to the public, but on Fridays and Sundays the basilica is open to visitors after services have taken place, so double check the opening hours for when you intend to go inside.

For lots more visitor information and tips ready for your visit, take a look at our dedicated page!

The Dominican friars who established the monastic complex here also established a garden, growing plants that they could use for the benefit of their health.

Over the centuries their experience expanded into preparations not just for health purposes but cosmetic and fragrances, and incredibly you can still buy these today at the Santa Maria Novella pharmacy, located a few minutes from the basilica.

I love browsing in their flagship store, which also includes a small museum.

santa maria novella fragrancesThe pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella is a fascinating place, as well as a great place to get some unique souvenirs

No matter what season you visit Florence, here are 4 things never to leave at home:

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Not your first time in Florence/Prefer to see something else?

Florence is absolutely filled with churches, so you could instead visit:

  • Basilica di San Lorenzo designed by Brunelleschi, filled with Renaissance art from the likes of Donatello and Michelangelo, and the Medici chapel which was added onto the basilica.
  • Santa Spirito in Oltrarno, just across the Arno river, whose plain exterior gives no hint of the beautiful interior.
  • The Basilica della Santissima Annunziata is up near the Accademia Gallery, and has a fascinating history which pairs well with the intricate Baroque decorations.
  • The Orsanmichele's unusual square dimensions are due to it's original purpose as a grain market, but you won't want to miss the outside niches, with each one having a unique statue in it.
  • Santa Trinita was the parish church for many of Florence's wealthiest families, so has undergone many additions over the centuries. Each chapel is richly decorated with special items, even the column in the piazza out front is significant, coming all the way from the ancient Roman Baths of Caracalla in Rome!

view of piazza santa trinita and columnThis column was originally erected in ancient Rome before being moved here centuries later

3 Days in Florence - Day 3

On our third day in Florence Italy we'll be starting with the Accademia Gallery, home to the original Michelangelo's David.

accademia sculpture David by michelangelo full viewSeeing the David in person is a highlight of any Florence trip

Stop 1 - Accademia Gallery

We couldn't finish a visit to Florence without going to one of the most impressive art museums anywhere in the world.

The draw of the David is not the only reason to visit the Accademia, there is so much more to see here!

I've spent hours here exploring the different rooms, the collection is eclectic but so interesting.

Accademia hall full of people view of DavidEveryone rushes to see the David but there is so much more to discover in the Accademia

As with all of Florence's top sights, you'll want to book your entrance tickets well in advance.

Make sure to arrive a little before your entrance time slot, and be aware that there is a mandatory security check which causes a short queue.

You can read our page here for all the details on how to make the most out of your visit, but my top tip is to take your time and not rush straight to the statue of David.

Discover the soul of Florence – skip lines at the Accademia and Uffizi, wander through historic streets, and explore the city's vibrant art and history with this Walks of Italy walking tour.

hall of musical instrumentsThe rooms with antique musical instruments is far more interesting than you might think!

Visitors are let in hourly, so they pour in and more often than not head straight to the main hall.

By taking your time to explore the other rooms first (the historical musical instrument collection is a definite must see), the crowds around the David will have started to ease by the time you get there.

After seeing all that the Accademia has to offer, your next stop is the nearby neighborhood of San Lorenzo.

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Stop 2 - San Lorenzo

This part of Florence is where the Medici's built their banking and political empire.

As well as being filled with grand buildings and churches, there are also numerous restaurants, shops and markets to explore.

As the Medici's grew more powerful, everyone wanted to be nearby, so there is a long tradition of quality craftsmanship here.

The San Lorenzo market stalls stretch around the covered cast-iron structure of the Mercato Centrale, selling leather goods, clothing, souvenirs, jewelry and ceramics.

florence san lorenzo marketThe San Lorenzo market is close to the Mercato Centrale, an ideal combination for filling your suitcase before you go home!

Once you've finished browsing the San Lorenzo market, go inside the Mercato Centrale and indulge at the many food stalls set up here.

You'll find grocery stores selling meats, cheeses, bread, sweets and more, as well as delis making fresh dishes for you to eat there and then.

Make your selection and then enjoy your lunch at one of the communal tables.

Stop 3 - Free afternoon

Once you've eaten your fill in the market, you have a free afternoon to explore on your own time.

You could continue shopping, head to Ponte Vecchio if jewelry is your thing or Via de' Tornabuoni for designer stores.

Cross over the river and wander the streets of the Oltrarno neighborhood before enjoying a relaxing aperitivo or gelato in Piazza Santo Spirito.

Via Tornabuoni - Florence shoppingVia de' Tornabuoni is the place to go for high-end, designer stores

For a more active afternoon, you can visit the extensive museum along with the imperial and royal apartments in the Pitti Palace, which was built by the Medici's when Palazzo Vecchio was no longer suitable for them to live in.

boboli gardens theater and obeliskBoboli Gardens, adjoining Pitti Palace, is a wonderful place to explore

Pitti Palace is vast, but you should also make time to visit the adjoining Boboli gardens, filled with interesting sculptures and architectural details.

If you are planning to visit the Pitti Palace, Boboli gardens and Uffizi Gallery all on one trip, you can purchase a combination ticket for all three sights which works out cheaper than getting them individually.

This is valid for five days so you can space out your visits!

Not your first time in Florence/Want to see something else?

If you'd rather do something else on the third day, how about one of these options:

  • the Bargello museum, a national art museum housed in a medieval fortress with a large collection of mainly Renaissance art and sculpture.
  • the Gucci museum, which tells the story of the Gucci brand, showcasing original design work and pieces - perfect if you love Italian fashion!
  • the Museo di Palazzo Davanzati, a 16th century Florentine home complete with original fixtures and furniture, giving you an insight into daily life for nobility at this time.
  • visit one of the many parks around Florence, such as the Rose garden, Iris garden or Cascine park.

florence rose gardenFlorence's Rose Garden is not only a lovely place to take a stroll, it's also a great viewpoint!

Extending your time in Florence

While you can see a lot in Florence in 3 days, there's always more to explore!

If you're looking to stay in Florence for longer, here are some suggestions for how to spend your time:

Take longer at your favorite spots

If you loved a particular site, why not go back to revisit it?

I find that on my first time visiting somewhere like the Uffizi there is so much to see that I miss some of the exhibits, so on a repeat visit I know what I missed and what I wanted to spend more time on!

On a return visit you'll be able to enjoy your experience even more, especially if you don't have any time pressures.

Plan some day trips

Florence's location in central Italy makes it very easy to get out of the city and take a day trip somewhere else.

You could take the fast train to Rome or Venice, visit nearby Siena, Pisa or San Gimignano or go wine tasting in the Tuscan countryside, there are endless options for extending your time here!

colosseumYes, you can easily take the train and visit the Colosseum from Florence!

Book a unique experience

If you'd prefer to explore more of Florence, why not book a special experience?

You can enjoy cooking classes where you learn how to make authentic Italian food, market tours where local experts show you the best of the local culinary scene, go on a Vespa or walking tour of the city, or take a boat ride along the river.

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