THINGS TO DO IN FLORENCE, ITALY – CITY TRAVEL GUIDE

In the heart of Tuscany lies this medieval city which is the birth town of the Renaissance. Florence knows how to charm a person. Hands down, it’s our favorite city in Italy and in this post, we want to share some of our favorite places and things that you should not miss when you go.

By the way, we were totally fascinated by how the ancient cobbled streets had big retail names popping all over. Imagining Michaelangelo walking past the same streets as we pass by Michael Korrs. Florence is not staying behind in making its presence felt in the 21st century. Florentine people were some of the friendliest we’d met in Italy and the food was beyond delicious. If you are anything like the history buffs we are then you are in for a major treat.  

Shopping in Florence

Top shops in the fashionable Florence

How many days to spend in Florence?

In our opinion, you need at least 2 days to see the highlights and enjoy the city briefly. But to actually soak in the beauty of Florence without rushing yourself you will need 3-4 days or even more. Don’t forget there are plenty of day trips to take from Florence, such as Pisa, Siena, Tuscany countryside, winery tours etc. So if day trips are in your itinerary then definitely 3-5 days is a must. We initially planned to spend 2 days in Florence and on the 3rd day head to Chique Terre en route Pisa. But ended up using a good part of our 3rd day in Florence as well. Lucky we hadn’t booked the trains to Chinque in advance.

Related: Read about taking a half-day trip from Florence to Pisa on a budget

How much time to spend in Florence Italy

So much to do so less time! We love finding new spots on paper maps after reaching a place.

Related: Basic travel tips you must know before going to Italy

Best time to visit Florence?

As a norm, most people like to visit Europe in the summer. Which means you are going to be there with most people. So ideally spring or fall would be a perfect time to visit. However, we visited Florence (and rest of Italy) in the winter month of January. As apprehensive as we were in the beginning, we can now happily recommend the non-peak season of winter to visit Florence.  Italy, in general, doesn’t get super cold unless you are in the mountains. 

Visitng Florence Italy in Winter

Related: Learn basic Italian words and phrases 

How to get there?

Trains: Italian cities are very well connected by trains, Trenitalia is their official train website, so no matter where you are coming from in Italy you will find a route to Florence. The main station in Florence is called Firenze Santa Maria Novella. We had booked our trains from Rome to Florence online in advance but it’s not very difficult to get last minute tickets if you are traveling in non-peak season. For example, to keep our schedule flexible we did not book our tickets to Cinque Terre from Florence but were easily able to buy them in person in January. TIP: Keep an eye on your luggage at all times in Italy, there have been cases of stolen luggage in Italian trains.

Cars: We’ve heard from a few friends who opted to drive because they wanted to enjoy the road trip through Italy. Personally, we went with the trains to be time efficient. In our 2 weeks in Italy, we wanted to see as much of the country as possible and save as much time in traveling. But if driving is what you prefer by all means enjoy the Italian countryside and smaller cities on the way to Florence and let us know your thoughts on it. 

Things to see 

Finally to our favorite part since we can’t stop raving about how amazing Florence is. PS: We both are big-time history buffs and Renaissance period have been our favorite from history lessons in school. TIP: Best way to see Florence is by walking since everything in the historic district of Florence is so close to each other.

So let’s jump into what to see in Florence starting with Cathedrals to Museums to famous landmarks/ picturesque spots and ending at shopping in Florence.

Piazza del Duomo

The most famous piazza or square in Florence is home to 3 very important structures which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site –

1. Cathedral de Santa Maria del Fiore a.k.a The Duomo 

Brunelleschi, a famous goldsmith at the time, won the competition to be the lead architect of the most sorted after Dome in Florence. Fun Fact: The dome of Pantheon in Rome is said to be an inspiration to Brunelleschi for his dome in Florence. Medici: Master of Florence on Netflix? It’s a great show if you like period drama! You’ll actually get to see how the city of Florence got built amongst other political things. It’s FREE to enter the cathedral. However, if you want to go inside the Baptistery or climb on top of the Duomo or Bell Tower then you will have to purchase the Museum ticket which includes all three entries. TIP: As any European tower climb, these stairs are extremely narrow and circular so keep that in mind in case you are claustrophobic. All though I was feeling nauseous with the climb, I have to admit the ceiling fresco up and close made me forget all about it.. definitely worth taking the hike!

2. Baptistery di San Giovanni

Most people skip the Baptistery of San Giovanni which in our opinion was a hidden gem, just see the photos below.  Highly recommend seeing this for its brilliant golden ceiling fresco, also if you’ve read Inferno you’d want to check this out! Another attraction is the golden door of the Baptistery facing the Cathedral. Fun Fact: It is said that Michaelangelo, the master himself, was so impressed by this door carving that he called them “the doors to Paradise”. Our understanding is that what we see today is a replica of the original door. 

3. Campanile di Giotto a.k.a Giotto’s Bell Tower

The entrance fee for the top of Duomo, Baptistery and Bell tower is included in one ticket and costs €15. The best part is that this ticket is valid for 24 hrs so you can spread the two staircase climbs (Duomo and Bell Tower) in two days. 

Best places to see in Florence Italy

Piazza del Duomo (left to right) – Santa Maria Cathedral, Giotto’s Bell Tower and San Giovani’s Baptistery

La Basilica di Santa Croce

Santa Croce Basilica was a last minute addition to our itinerary and so glad we did. Why? This is where we saw the tombs of legends. Legends like Galileo, Michelangelo, and many other Renaissance artists. FUN FACT: This is also where you’ll find a strikingly similar Statue of Liberty, perhaps the first ever Lady Liberty! You have no reason to miss it, it’s a short walk from Duomo and Uffizi.  The only thing missing here is the tomb of their very own Frienze born Dante. You can learn all about Dante’s history at his house which is now converted into a museum in Florence. The entrance fee is about €6. Since this was a last minute addition, we bought the ticket in person but if you want to reserve online you can do it at their official site.

Uffizi Gallery

Uffizi Gallery holds some of the best of Renaissance artwork which you cannot and should not miss. I recommend booking your timeslot in advance. The entrance fee is €12 for full entry. For online ticket reservations, go to B-ticket website which is the official museum ticket site. Once you make the payment you will get an email, save that email as a proof to collect tickets at the entrance. Uffizi is closed on Mondays so plan accordingly.

Galleria dell’ Accademia

Go to Galleria to see “The David”, there isn’t much besides that. We honestly underestimated Michelangelo’s statue of David from the David and Goliath story. It is much larger and detailed than we imagined. This masterpiece is so close to a real human that if it wasn’t for the white marble we would’ve mistaken it for a human. Recommend booking this timeslot also in advance. The entrance fee for full ticket is €16.50. Galleria is closed on Mondays so plan accordingly. For online ticket reservations, go to B-ticket website which is the official museum ticket site. Once you make the payment you will get an email, save that email as a proof to collect tickets at the entrance. FUN FACT: David’s right hand is larger than the rest of his body and it was carved out of a single block of flawed unwanted marble by Michelangelo. 

David Michaelangelo in Florence

David from all angle – What a well chiseled body! 😉

Museo Casa di Dante

Have you read Dan Brown’s Inferno? No, have you heard the old poem The Divine Comedy? Yes, then you have heard of Dante Alighieri, the famous Italian poet active in the early Renaissance period. FUN FACT: Florence was the birthplace and home of Dante until unfortunate political events got him exiled from his beloved city forever. The house where Dante Alighieri was born in 1265 is now turned into a Museum. Dante’s House Museum is closed on Mondays so plan accordingly.

Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Garden

Pitti Palace was the official residence of Florence’s famous banker family – The Medici’s in the 16th and 17th century. Pitti Palace has four museums and the entrance fee is €16 for a full ticket. Right behind the Pitti Palace is Boboli Garden whose entrance fee is €10 for a full ticket. For online ticket reservations, go to B-ticket website which is the official museum ticket site. Once you make the payment you will get an email, save that email as a proof to collect tickets at the entrance. We missed seeing these two because we only had 2 days! Telling you in advance that you need more time in Florence 🙂

Palazzo Vecchio at Piazza Della Signoria 

Palazzo Vecchio is the actual working government office town hall of Florence which also holds a small museum and is famous for its hall of 500 exhibiting some of the finest work of artist Vasari. FUN FACT: Piazza della Signoria was where Michaelangelo’s famous David was originally inaugurated in 1504. Today there is a copy of David’s statue in the same spot. The original David has been moved to Academia Galleria. We didn’t get a chance to see the hall of 500 but hopefully, we will come back to Florence to cover all that we missed.

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio, the oldest standing bridge from medieval times over Arno river, makes for a romantic walk. For a picturesque view of Ponte Vecchio walk to one of the adjacent bridges. A perfect spot to capture a beautiful sunset. It’s FREE to walk across the bridge.

Piazzale Michelangelo

You cannot return from Florence without seeing this postcard view of Florence at Piazzale Michelangelo. Located on top of a hill providing an aerial view of the city, another great sunset spot! If you are in a mood to hike take the park stairs up to Pizzale Michelangelo.

STREET SHOPPING AT San Lorenzo Leather Market

This famous leather shopping market in Florence is open 9am to 7pm from Tuesday to Saturday. If you are not a supporter of leather then, unfortunately, you will have to see a lot of it in Florence since it’s quite famous for it. Go to San Lorenzo market for the experience or perhaps buy small souvenirs or gifts but for quality leather shopping, I’d not recommend this local market. We ended up buying leather passport covers, a cross body purse as you see hanging in the 2nd photo (I quite like that) and leather belts. For premium quality leather stuff check out one of the many boutique leather showrooms in old town Florence and be ready to pay a premium price as well. TIP: You will get a better deal if you bargain at San Lorenzo market. 

Where to Stay in Florence?

We stayed at Stanze del David Place, a lovely boutique hotel which is just 5 minutes walk from Piazza del Duomo. In fact, everything was within 10-15 minutes walk from where we stayed.  Wherever you choose to stay in Florence, make sure you stay in the historical center or old town of Florence which is easily walkable.

Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post.

Where to Eat?

  • Ristorante Paoli
  • La Giostra Florence
  • Taverna Divina Commedia
  • Ristorante il Caminetto
  • Gelato where ever possible!

FUN FACT: Did you know the famous cartoon character Pinnochio was born in Italy. Carlo Collodi, the creator of Pinnochio was a Florentine 🙂

We really hope this comprehensive guide comes handy in your Florentine trip planning. If you liked this post then do share with family and friends!

Top Things to do in Florence Italy

Happy Traveling!

 

 

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30 comments on “THINGS TO DO IN FLORENCE, ITALY – CITY TRAVEL GUIDE

  1. I love Florence so much! I visited for the first time this NYE and it was still very busy (I guess local holidays). I definitely need to go back and see (and eat!) more

    • Haha.. go back for food that’s the best reason of all! I bet it was the festival holidays that made it more crowded but I hope you still had fun 🙂

  2. I was in Florence at the beginning of November. Ideal time to travel since it was not too busy. Tuscany was a bit rainy here and there, but in Florence it was nice and sunny. I spent there 2 nights, and it is not enough time, since there are so many things to do and see. Will I go there again, for sure, no question about it!

    • I hear ya girl.. same with us we only had 2 days and cheated on our 3rd day to stay here longer. We will be back just like you, no doubt 🙂

    • Yes.. I know right! You are so welcome! I feel like going back and re-exploring Florence all over again after I’ve read a few books and documentaries since my visit 😀

  3. This is PERFECT!! I was just planning a trip to Florence, honestly! I’ll be going in the beginning of June (so it will be very touristy unfortunately), but I’ll follow your post closely, you definitely have the same test in things to see <3

    • Thanks so much Rosie!! 🙂 Yay, so glad to hear you are headed to Florence. Well if you are going in June make sure you do advance booking of timeslots online (and trains) so as not to miss something you really wanted to see. I think you also skip the lines with online bookings.

  4. Beautiful Florence! I first visited many years ago and I remember clearly the beautiful view from Piazzale Michelangelo! You’ve compiled a great list for those wanting to visit this gorgeous italian city!

    • YES for the food!! I think we had the best food in our Italy trip in Florence 🙂 And the wine.. ahh.. I feel like going back, lol

  5. Italy is one of my favorite countries ever! I haven’t been to Florence yet though, I’ll be saving your post for when I go!

  6. I’ve never been to any cities or countries in Europe but it’s on my list. I’m pretty sure I’ll love Florence as I’ve always loved Europe for its history and timeless structure.. So good to know that Italy’s cities are connected by train. Much easier for planning trips!

    This is such a great list of historical things to see in Florence. I enjoy looking at your photos as well as reading the details. The Piazzale Michelangelo looks awesome. I’d love to see the entire city from above, too!

    • Marvi, Italy was my first country in Europe to visit 😀 I had to pick Italy as my first as I had read so much of history growing up. People usually go to Europe and see multiple countries. I decided to spend 2 weeks just exploring Italy! And yet I still have so much more to see.

    • Haha you know how I found out about that? I kept seeing Pinnochio souvenirs everywhere in Florence but didn’t see them anywhere else in Rome or Venice or Naples. So I had to ask one of the shopkeepers and he gave me a look like – “you don’t know this?” LOL So yes, here’s my fun fact about Pinnochio.

  7. Love the photos. I had to sacrifice Florence when we went to Italy since there just wasn’t enough time. Would’ve loved to go to the Dante museum. 🙂 Enjoy other people’s photos instead.

    • Thanks!! I know sometimes difficult sacrifices have to be made on trips give the amount of time you have. Hope you get to come to Florence someday soon to explore 🙂

  8. Yes! I love Florence! I spent a week there a couple of summers ago and it was so beautiful. Loved day trips to Siena and Pisa too. Great guide!

    • Wow, I would have ideally loved to spend a week there too! Siena was on my mind but didn’t have enough time 🙁 Which means we have to come back to Italy! 🙂 haha, especially Tuscany, I do want to see more of the countryside

  9. I always had a weird feeling that Florence was overhyped but there lo is to be so much stunning art and architecture (I particularly enjoyed your study of the David!)
    It must have heartbreaking to leave all that work behind for Michelangelo.

    • Have you been to Florence? I had to idea what to expect from this city and maybe that’s why we were blown away. I really like Florence more than Rome. Also, we are kind of crazy about renaissance period, lol, so we felt very connected to Florence history 🙂 PS: We still have so much more to see, have to come back again!

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