What to do in Florence?
Gushing with charm, Florence is one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in Italy, making it easy to get around and see a lot.
We love walking around Florence and think it's the best way to see this Renaissance jewel.
It can be a little more affordable than Venice, and a little tamer than Rome.
Let's start exploring!
You are dreaming of Florence...
And the first thoughts that come to mind are visions of cobblestone streets lined with medieval towers, unique buildings, and some of the world's most beautiful churches from the Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance periods.
For the most part, this image isn't all that far off from the truth.
But as I'm sure you can imagine, there’s so much more to Florence Italy than just this.
Take a look at our favorite things about this city which will cause you, like us, to come back time and time again, including:
We are a little biased because we are art lovers and can't get enough of the museums we are blessed with in Florence.
But no trip to Florence would be complete without visiting some of the city's world-famous collections.
The Uffizi Gallery, housing the Medici family collection of pieces by famous artists, and the Accademia Gallery, home to Michelangelo's David as well as lots more Renaissance art, are both must-see locations, especially if it's your first time here.
Palazzo Vecchio doubles up as both Florence's town hall and an outstanding art museum.
Overlooking Piazza della Signoria, the stunning Renaissance architecture complements the fine arts on display.
If you're a history buff, visiting the Pitti Palace should be on your itinerary.
Bought by the Medici's in the 1500's, this Medici palace on the banks of the Arno river has been the location for many important points in Florence's history.
Now the largest museum complex in the city, you can wander the grand halls and admire works by many Renaissance artists, then visit the Royal Apartments before switching it up and seeing the Gallery of Modern Art.
Check out the Opera del Duomo Museum as part of your ticket to the Florence Cathedral complex to explore the history of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, right in the heart of the city on the Piazza del Duomo.
Leonardo da Vinci is closely linked with Florence Italy, and you can learn more about his life, works and designs in the dedicated da Vinci museum - a great place to visit if you're visiting Florence with kids!
The historic district of Florence is beautiful enough all on its own, but the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, commonly called the Duomo, definitely adds to the charm.
We never fail to be gob-smacked by it every time we turn a corner and see the duomo and its stunning dome looming above us.
This beautiful and most recognizable building in Florence’s landscape is popular with both tourists and locals alike.
Even if you’re not into churches, its red-tiled dome, the geometrical designed façade clothed with polychrome marbles makes it totally photo-worthy!
Frankly, we love the duomo more from the outside, and don't think it's worth your spending a huge amount of time waiting in line to get in.
On the other hand, it's definitely worth it to climb the dome (if you're up for it!)
In addition to the famed cathedral, you can also visit a number of other stunning churches in Florence:
The central basilica of Santa Croce is known for being the home of the tombs of some of Italy’s most eminent personalities, such as Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Rossini and Galileo Galilei.
As well as a lovely church in its own right, Santa Croce is considered the most important church-museum in Florence, for the quantity and quality of art you will find there.
Right opposite Florence's main railway station, I very much recommend paying a visit to the Santa Maria Novella church, one of the most important in Florence.
As you come out of the train station, it's hard not to notice the beautiful marble facade.
Within the massive walls of the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella there is a large monumental complex including three cloisters and an ancient auditorium.
Perched high above the city, up a little way from Piazzale Michelangelo, is the church and abbey of San Miniato al Monte.
As well as the perfect spot to get a great view of the beautiful city below, this church has seen a lot of history over the centuries!
One of the largest churches in the city, the Basilica di San Lorenzo is where the principal members of the Medici family were buried.
The adjoining Medici Chapel is another Florence must-see, a truly wonderful place that shows how important the Medici's were to the city's development.
At the heart of the city you cannot miss the Piazza della Signoria.
This oddly shaped piazza has been the site of many historical events and is still the focal place for visitors and Florentines alike.
From the imposing Palazzo Vecchio to the Uffizi Gallery, this piazza is a must-see.ù
This ornate loggia is filled with a collection of statues and sculpture from the Renaissance and antique periods, well worth taking a closer look at on your way to the nearby gallery.
The Ponte Vecchio has a magical and unique atmosphere.
Old artisan and jewelers shops, with their distinctive wooden doors, make the Ponte Vecchio bridge the eternal symbol of Florence.
I prefer to walk over the Ponte Vecchio early in the morning, when the stores start to open and the crowds of tourists haven't appeared yet.
Stop in the center and admire the view over the river Arno!
Cross the river Arno and explore the Oltrarno district, in particular Piazza Santo Spirito, to see a different side of Florence.
The vibrant piazza is filled with shops, restaurants and bars, popular with locals and visitors alike, which has been the case for hundreds of years.
Making sure you have some great options for eating and drinking is essential for making sure you have a really good trip - at least, this is how I feel whenever I travel!
The good news is that Florence is filled with lots of wonderful restaurant options, whether you're looking for great gelato, cosy wine bars, pizza, pasta, Florentine steak or simply a quality cup of coffee in the morning.
Florence is an excellent place to shop, both for souvenirs to take home or to find something to treat yourself with.
From the expensive stores on the banks of the Arno river to the backstreet leather shops, we'll show you where to find authentic and good quality items.
Sightseeing can be draining, especially in the summer heat, so it's a good idea to know where to go to cool off and relax.
The vantage point of Piazzale Michelangelo will reward you with the best view of the Florence skyline.
Although it might seem like an obvious tourist attraction, there is nothing that can compare to the panoramic view over the rooftops of Florence from the stunning Piazzale Michelangelo, the highest point in the city.
While Florence has many noteworthy gardens and parks, my favorite is the Boboli Gardens.
Lined with oak trees, alluring fountains and countless sculptures, this 80 acre private park is the absolute essence of the Florentine zest for great design.
The Boboli Gardens are one of the greatest open-air museums in Florence, part of the regal estate of the Palazzo Pitti.
Located on the right side of the Arno river, the Cascine park is the largest public park in Florence.
It's the perfect place for sports or picnics and it periodically hosts cultural events.
It is also the location of the largest vintage market in Florence, which takes place every Tuesday.
The Rose Garden is right below Piazzale Michelangelo, overlooking the historic centre of Florence.
It stretches to the tip of a panoramic promenade which leads to the district of Oltrarno.
This garden is home to more than 300 species of roses, scattered among perfectly groomed greenery.
Plus, it's free to enter!
Another historic Florentine park, built in the 16th century, is Villa Strozzi.
If you have limited time and you are in the Oltrarno area, this sprawling green landmark is not one to be missed.
The centerpiece of this park is a 19th century building known as “The Limonaia”, which hosts art exhibits, as well as theater and ballet performances.
While Florence is full of things to do, if you are here for an extended time or have seen the main sights on previous trips then there is a lot to do outside of the city as well!
Take a food tour in Tuscan wine country for a more in-depth tasting experience, or jump on the train to nearby Pisa to see the famous leaning tower.
Explore further afield with day trips to Rome, Bologna or even Venice, Florence has great connections to lots of other places in Italy.
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