Top 20 Amazing Things to Do in Florence (Italy)
The many fantastic things to do in Florence and the variety of breathtaking attractions make this city, for many visitors, the absolute highlight of Tuscany. This wonderful Italian city is considered the cradle of the Renaissance and enchants with a wealth of unique things to do, with the world’s best museums and fascinating art from various eras. And so, there is something interesting to discover at every corner and in every alley during a city walk! The best things to see in Florence are the world-famous David Statue, the picturesque Ponte Vecchio Bridge and the impressive Uffizi Gallery. But while sightseeing in Florence, there are many more spectacular monuments, piazzas, museums, churches, and viewpoints to visit.
In this travel guide, we will show you the absolute best things to do in Florence, Italy. To help you plan your unique city trip, we have also included some non-touristy things to do and hidden gems in addition to the main attractions. In addition, there are numerous of tips and information about the best viewpoints, photography spots, tickets and accommodation.
General Information about Florence
Florence, also known in Italian as Firenze, is a city of about 370,000 inhabitants. It is the capital of Tuscany and, moreover, a real gem in Italy. It is one of the most sought-after destinations in Europe and, together with the metropolises of Pisa and Siena, is one of the highlights of the region. Every year, millions of visitors from all over the world come to visit this dreamlike Tuscan pearl. No wonder because Florence in Italy is regularly titled as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The historic center of Florence is especially worth seeing. It is located directly on the Arno River and its attractions can be easily explored on foot via a city walk. The city center has been on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1982.
There are so many unique things to do and to see in Florence. It is well-known for its rich history, Florentine architecture, imposing palaces and monuments, and numerous world-famous museums. It is considered the cradle of the Renaissance and was one of the wealthiest cities in Europe between the 15th and 16th centuries. Many popular artists and scientists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Galileo Galilei once made their home in this major Tuscan city. For five years, from 1865 to 1870, Florence was even the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.
The Best Things to Do in Florence
On a city trip to Florence, plenty of attractions are waiting for you, and almost all the places to see in the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town can be explored on foot. To save time, you should definitely book your tickets to the famous museums and churches in advance! Here are the best things to do in Florence, including some hidden gems, that you should not miss on any trip:
Piazza della Signoria & Palazzo Vecchio
For many, probably the most beautiful place to see in Florence, if not of Italy as a whole, is Piazza della Signoria. It was built between 1250 and 1400 and has always been the political center of the city. Around the square there are countless interesting attractions. The magnificent Palazzo Vecchio, the Loggia dei Lanzi with its beautiful statues and the bronze equestrian statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici are just a few of the best highlights to be admired here. Unique and very worth seeing is also the Neptune Fountain in Piazza della Signoria. Built between 1563-1565 by Bartolomeo Ammannati, it was the first public fountain in the city.
Probably the most famous sight in Florence and a landmark of the city is Ponte Vecchio, the so-called Old Bridge. This attraction is part of the fixed program of every trip to Florence and is also one of the city’s highlights. Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge that stretches over the Arno, and the oldest segmental arch bridge in the world. It was completed in 1345 and in 1565 the old tannery stores were replaced by silver and goldsmiths. Today, Ponte Vecchio is still lined with numerous expensive jewelry stores, noble watchmakers and leather stores.
Ponte Vecchio is one of the most popular photo spots in the city, and a visit is high up on any list of the best things to do in Florence. You will find the most famous viewpoint of the bridge right after passing the Uffizi Galleries. In the morning, there is relatively little activity here, so you can take great photos at this time of day.
Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore
An absolute best thing to see in Florence is the impressive Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore. It is located in the heart of the old town, at the Piazza del Duomo, and thanks to its size it cannot be missed on any city trip. It is the 4th largest church in Europe! Furthermore, it offers space for about 30,000 people and its pompous dome, built by the Florentine goldsmith Brunelleschi in only 16 years, is a real masterpiece of the Renaissance. Breathtakingly beautiful is also its marble façade, which shines in the three colors green, white and pink.
In the complex of the cathedral, you can explore several attractions at once. In addition to the imposing cathedral, you can climb the giant dome by Brunelleschi and also the high bell tower by Giotto. Also the adjacent baptistery is open for visitors.
Tip: The entrance to the cathedral is free of charge, but in most cases you will have to queue for hours.
Opening hours: The cathedral opens daily from 10:00-17:00 | Admission: free of charge
Bell Tower & Dome (Viewpoints)
At the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore there are two of the most popular viewpoints in Florence. The dome and the bell tower of the Cathedral. Up there, you can enjoy a spectacular view over the roofs of the city. The most popular one is from the imposing dome of the Cathedral. This is an excellent viewpoint over the city, but you must expect latencies. Another fantastic viewpoint over Florence is the bell tower on the opposite side, the so-called Campanile. From here you have a spectacular view of the dome, but a grille clouds it. One positive aspect though is that the bell tower is always less busy than the dome. Climbing the tower or the dome, and enjoying these outstanding views, is one of the unique things to do in Florence and should not be missed.
Tip: If you decide to climb up the dome, we recommend that you organize your online ticket in advance.
A must-see and definitely one of the top 10 things to do in Florence is the Uffizi Gallery. Formerly the offices of the ministries, you can find a huge art collection here today, with paintings and statues from antiquity to the late baroque. The imposing complex of buildings was built in the middle of the 16th century and the museum is now considered to be the main attraction of Florence, attracting almost 2 million visitors per year. No wonder, since some of the most famous works of art by artists such as Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Michelangelo and Botticelli are exhibited here in the Uffizi Gallery. If you like, you can take a travel guide or audio-guide to get additional information on the gigantic collection.
Unique, apart from the art, is also the beautiful view from the Uffizi Gallery to the Ponte Vecchio bridge. For a short break, there is a lovely café with a roof terrace on the second floor.
Tip: An online reservation for the Uffizi Gallery is highly recommended. Without a reservation, you will have to stand in line for hours. Tickets can be found here.
Opening hours: from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:00-18:30 | Admission: starting from 20 Euros per person
Fountain of Neptune
The beautiful Neptune Fountain is a real jewel in the heart of Florence. It is located in Piazza della Signoria and is one of landmarks of the city. The fountain was built in 1565 on the occasion of the wedding of Francesco de’ Medici with Giovanna d’Austria and is the work of the sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati. In the center of the fountain there is the famous statue of Neptune, although at present the original can be seen in the National Museum. In the basin that surrounds the god of the sea, there are also many beautiful details and statues with nymphs and river deities to be admired.
Baptistery of San Giovanni
The Baptistery of San Giovanni is one of the most magnificent Renaissance buildings in Florence. It is said to date back as far as the 11th Century, probably inspired by the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Laterano. Today it is one of the most popular sights in Florence. A special feature is the 12th century lantern on the dome. But a visit to the interior of the church is also worthwhile. Inside the dome is one of the largest cycles of mosaics in the world, the work of artists such as Giotto and Cimabue. The three magnificent gilded bronze portals are also a must-see.
Tip: Save time and money with a Combined Ticket. This 3-day pass also includes other attractions in the Cathedral complex, such as the Bell Tower and the Cathedral Museum.
Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze
The Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze is, after the Cathedral, the most important church in the city. The history of the Basilica goes back to the 4th century. Later, from 1377-1446, it was transformed into a magnificent Renaissance building by Filippo Brunelleschi. Until now, however, the façade is still undecorated, which gives the church an exceptional charm. The interior of the church can also be visited for a fee. Worth seeing is the altar vault with the starry sky, on which the sun, the moon, and the planets are represented. The square in front of the church, the so-called Piazza di San Lorenzo, where concerts take place in summer, is also very inviting.
A truly significant attraction is Palazzo Pitti, which is located in the Oltrarno district, so on “the other side of the river Arno”. Together with Piazza Pitti, this palace is extremely worth seeing and a really popular photo spot in Florence. The countless wolves, which decorate Piazza Pitti as statues, are unique in this diagonally arranged square. Also from the inside, Palazzo Pitti is interesting because during a visit one marvels at a whole museum complex consisting of different galleries, which, apart from famous paintings, also house collections of sculptures and art objects.
If you are looking for a green oasis in the city, a visit to Boboli Gardens is one of the best things to do in Florence. Especially couples, but also families with kids love to visit this attraction. Originally designed for the Medici family, the park was opened to the public in 1766. Covering an area of about 45,000 square meters, you will discover several beautiful sights while walking through the greenery. Ancient and Renaissance statues, the breathtakingly beautiful Grotte del Buontalenti, a picturesque avenue, the 16th century Neptune Fountain and a small rose garden are just a few of the highlights to be admired in the Boboli Gardens.
Tip: This historic park is located right next to the famous Pitti Palace. If you want to visit both attractions, you can save money with a combo ticket.
Galleria dell’Accademia (David Statue)
Definitely a must-do in Florence is a visit to the Galleria dell’Accademia, one of the most important museums in town. Not nearly as large as the Uffizi, it nevertheless houses some valuable works. Here you can admire an interesting collection of Florentine art as well as beautiful sculptures from the 13th to the 19th century. The most essential attraction of this exhibition, however, is Michelangelo’s David Statue. The statue of David is over 5 meters high and weighs almost six tons. It was created between 1501 and 1506. The statue of David is one of the most famous sculptures in the entire history of art and for this reason alone, a visit to the Galleria dell’Accademia is a must for every art lover.
Tip: For this attraction it is worthwhile to buy your ticket online in advance because also here the crowd of visitors is huge and longer waiting times can be expected.
The Piazzale Michelangelo is certainly one of the most stunning viewpoints of Florence and a visit to this attraction is free. It was built by architect Guiseppe Poggi as part of a redevelopment project when Florence was the capital of Italy for a short time in 1865. To this day, you can marvel at a breathtaking panorama from here and enjoy probably the best view of the city’s most beautiful attractions and landmarks from the top. An insider tip is especially a visit in the evening to experience Florence at sunset. Numerous young adults but also couples gather and enjoy the evenings there.
Tip: If you want to save yourself the 30-minute climb to Piazzale Michelangelo, you can take the bus, line 13, to the square comfortably.
Church of San Miniato al Monte
An insider tip in Florence is a visit to the church San Miniato al Monte. It is located a bit above the viewpoint Piazzale Michelangelo, on one of the highest points of the city. Here, too, you can enjoy an excellent view in an incredibly beautiful setting. Worth seeing is the church facade made of white Carrara marble and dark green serpentine stone. The interior of the church is particularly interesting with its marble floor on which the zodiac is depicted. Right next to this church there is a small monastery that sells homemade products in a store.
The Mercato Centrale is a large market hall in the heart of Florence, and a visit is one of the top tourist activities. On the first floor you can mainly find groceries like fruits and vegetables, but also Italian specialties like cheese, oils, truffles, pasta, and ham. Moreover, there are several places for having lunch and enjoying some typical food of Florence. A few small snack bars also cook good pasta dishes here. On the upper floor there are various tasty restaurants, but the prices are a bit higher.
Fontana del Porcellino
The Fontana del Porcellino, or Piglet Fountain, is definitely one of the most famous tourist attractions in Florence. The original bronze statue, which actually represents a wild boar, is made of marble and is currently on display in the Uffizi Gallery. The replica, however, is one of the most recognizable sculptures in the center of Florence and therefore a popular photo spot. This unusual attraction is slightly hidden in the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, a small leather goods market not far from the famous Ponte Vecchio. A special feature is the boar’s nose, which is said to bring good luck when touched.
Piazza della Repubblica
Another beautiful square in Florence is Piazza della Repubblica in the heart of the old town. It was already the center of the city in the Roman era, and later in the Middle Ages it was home to Piazza del Mercato Vecchio and the Ghetto. During any time of the year, spring, summer, autumn and winter, there is always something going in Piazza della Repubblica. This attraction in Florence is also so family friendly and there are many fun things to do. Artists, painters, bubble artists and even a red glittering merry-go-round radiate a lot of nostalgic charm here. In the evening, there is always live music, which is best enjoyed in the surrounding restaurants and cafés.
Santa Croce Church
The church of Santa Croce is one of the most important churches in the city and is nicknamed the “Pantheon of Florence”. Not because of its architecture, but because in Santa Croce there are tombs of many Italian personalities. Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Gioachino Rossini and Guglielmo Mrconi are just a few of the famous people who have found their final resting place here. Basilica di Santa Croce was built in 1294 by Arnolfo di Cambio and today it is the oldest Gothic church in Florence. The square in front of the church, where you will find cozy cafés and restaurants, is also worth seeing.
National Museum Bargello
Worth seeing in Florence and a highlight for history and art fans is the National Museum Bargello. It is located in one of the oldest buildings in the city, and its collection includes top-class works by Michelangelo, among others. The exhibits are mainly medieval and renaissance art, statues and cabaret. The picturesque courtyard and the splendid loggia of this medieval palace are also beautiful. The architecture of this national museum alone is worth visiting, as it makes this museum one of the most beautiful attractions in the city.
Santa Maria Novella
The church of Santa Maria Novella is one of the most impressive religious buildings in the city center. It is located in the northwest of Florence’s historic center, in front of the Santa Maria Novella train station. The building has a long history. Built in the 13th and 14th centuries, the church has been renovated several times over the years. The beautiful Renaissance façade was completed in 1920. The interior of the church is also very interesting. Inside you can admire important works such as the 50-meter-long fresco “The Holy Trinity” by Masaccio and the pulpit by Brunelleschi.
Tip: Also worth a visit is the wonderful historical pharmacy in the church complex, also known as the Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella, which is considered one of the oldest in Europe.
Florence: Guided Tours, Tickets & More
Those who do not necessarily want to explore Florence on their own have the possibility to join a guided tour. On the online portal GetyourGuide you will not only find recommended city tours, but also cheap entrance tickets without queuing, cooking classes, excursions to the Chianti region and much more.
Also great are the reviews you can compare before booking.
Where to Stay in Florence
In Florence there is a massive offer of different accommodations. From inexpensive hostels, boutique hotels or absolute luxury hotels, everything is available. Everyone can be sure to find the perfect place to stay. If you are still looking for a recommendable accommodation in Florence, we can give you these accommodation tips…It’s worth a look!
- 5-Star Hotel: The Portrait Firenze is the hotel for a very special stay in Florence. Here, the top location at the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge and the elegant suites will enchant you.
- Hotel with Pool: The Grand Hotel Minerva will delight you with its roof terrace, pool and the breathtaking view over Florence. Also rooms, location and breakfast are TOP here.
- Budget Friendly B&B: The Rooms by Anna Affittacamere offer beautiful and very individually furnished rooms at a reasonable price. They are also not far from the city center!
- Backpacker Hostel: The My Friends is the address for those who want to stay within a low budget. This hostel offers clean rooms, good breakfast and a relaxed atmosphere.
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