A city of Renaissance art, an illustrious history and a beguiling modern day atmosphere, Florence is a serene and culture-filled spot to spend some time. Here’s our guide on the best things to do in Florence.
Where is Florence?
The capital of Tuscany in the heart of Italy, Florence was a former centre of European trade, making it an important hub throughout history. Found in a basin surrounded by hills, Florence enjoys a Mediterranean climate in a geographically stunning setting.
Unmissable Sights in Florence
Officially known as Cattedrale di Santa Maria di Fiore or the Duomo di Firenze, the historic cathedral is an icon of Florence and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Often simply called the Duomo, the dome of the cathedral was famously designed by Brunelleschi – a founding father of Renaissance architecture. The cathedral complex also includes the intricately crafted octagonal Baptistery of St John – known for its doors depicting notable religious scenes, and Giotto’s Campanile – the bell tower offering a glorious, panoramic view of the city. All found in the grand Piazza del Duomo, this is a place to soak up history, architecture and art. Those especially interested in art should also visit Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, a museum housing many works that were originally created for the cathedral.
Duomo di Firenze
A celebration of the city’s famed Medici family, the Medici Chapels (Cappelle Medicee) incorporate incredible designs by Michelangelo and an enchanting 59 metre high dome. Found at the Basilica of San Lorenzo, the oldest part of the chapel dates back to the 16th century.
A medieval covered bridge crossing the Arno river, Ponte Vecchio captures the spirit of Florence. With numerous shops built into the bridge itself, walking across it is also an opportunity to buy art, jewellery and souvenirs.
Basilica of Santa Croce
Located on Piazza di Santa Croce, this is another of Florence’s awe-inspiring cathedrals, with an exterior adorned with marble. The largest Franciscan church in the world, Santa Croce has an impressive 16 chapels. It is best known as being the resting place of some of the most famous Italians from throughout the ages, including Michelangelo and Galileo.
Ponte Vecchio, Florence
Located behind the Pitti Palace are the 16th century Boboli Gardens, with wide avenues, lavish sculptures and fountains, found amid swathes of greenery. The Belvedere Fort can also be found within the Boboli Gardens – an impressive fortification that dates back to the 1500s. A haven in the city, this is an enchanting spot to enjoy a peaceful stroll.
Basilica of San Lorenzo
This church dates back to the 1400s, although it was consecrated in 393, making it one of the oldest churches in Florence. This is where all the key members of the famed Medici family are buried. The Basilica of San Lorenzo is also home to various important works of art and architecture, including the Old Sacristy by Brunelleschi, a sculpture by Donatello, and the Laurentian Library by Michelangelo.
This enclosed passageway connects Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti from an elevated position – originally built for high ranking Florentines who didn’t want to walk in public. Home to a number of important artworks too, the Vasari Corridor will re-open in 2021 following renovations.
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
Home to some famous artworks and frescoes by Gothic and Renaissance masters, this is a fascinating church to explore. Brim-full with history and architectural splendour, Santa Maria Novella is also home to numerous funerary chapels of the powerful Florentine families who funded the construction of the church. Artworks include pieces by Botticelli and Brunelleschi.
Stadio Artemio Franchi
A place to soak up the Italian love affair with football, get tickets to see a match at the stadium that is also home to ACF Fiorentina. Fascinatingly, the stadium was designed by the architect Pier Luigi Nervi, who is also responsible for the Nervi Hall at the Vatican.
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
Museums in Florence
Florence’s famed home of the sculpture of David by Michelangelo, the Accademia Gallery is another of the city’s must-visit art museums. Other works include a range of pieces by Florentine artists from the 1300s to 1600s.
The old palace of Florence, this was the former home of the powerful Medici family, and is nowadays an ode to art and architecture from a previous era. This is a museum where it’s possible to explore secret passageways, get lost in grand chambers and see maps of the world from the 16th century.
Found in Piazza della Signoria and adjoining the Loggia dei Lanzi – a building with wide arches that captured the imagination of Michelangelo – this art museum is known as being a haven of Renaissance art. Originally created to display the works collected by the Medici family – who previously ruled the city – visitors can now explore the Uffizi galleries to discover works by the likes of Botticelli, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian and Rembrandt.
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Found on the city outskirts, Museo Stibbert is a former villa filled with an eclectic collection of historical artefacts. Ranging from armour that spans different civilisations to Tuscan crucifixes, an abundance of unexpected discoveries await.
Bargello National Museum
Housed inside a former barracks and prison is this art museum particularly known for Donatello’s works. The collection includes David and St. George Tabernacle by Donatello, while Michelangelo’s Bacchus and Brutus can also be seen here. Visit http://www.bargellomusei.beniculturali.it/
Collezione Roberto Casamonti
Showcasing another side to art in the city, this intimate museum showcases the personal collection of the Florentine art collector, Roberto Casamonti. In addition, there are thousands of international works by artists spanning from Picasso and Klee to Warhol.
A Renaissance palace located to the south of the Arno river, this is now the largest museum complex in Florence. Several museums call this former palace ‘home’, including the Palatine Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Carriages Museum and the Costume Gallery.
Palazzo Pitti, Florence
Best Places to Eat in Florence
A hub where the best regional ingredients can be found, the vibrant ground floor market – also known as San Lorenzo Market – is topped by a first floor food court. Expect fresh pastas, lovingly hand crafted pizzas, incredible antipasti and gelato. Perfect for a spot of lunch.
You can’t visit Florence without sampling the gelato, and Vivoli is one of the longest standing gelatarias in the city. There’s a wide range of flavours using locally sourced ingredients.
Running for almost 300 years, Caffé Gilli offers a true slice of Florentine history as well as delectable meals. Stop in for a coffee, glass of wine or for authentic Tuscan lunches and evening meals.
Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura
A restaurant by three Michelin star chef Massimo Bottura, this is a dining experience like no other in Florence. Located in the Gucci Garden, a visit to this multifunctional space also means stopping off at a Gucci store with one-off items, and exhibition rooms depicting the past and present of the Florence fashion house.
Shopping in Florence
Piazza Santo Spirito
Located a little outside the city centre, this square hosts street markets during the mornings. It’s ideal for finding original Florentine knick-knacks, while the surrounding cafés and restaurants are ideal for a post-shopping coffee or lunch.
San Lorenzo Market
The tradition of leather making dates all the way back to Renaissance Florence, and this outdoor market is one of the best places to pick up leather goods today.
Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella
This building dates back to the 16th century, when it was a pharmacy founded by friars. While the interior remains to be a historical wonder, this is also a place to buy perfumes and a selection of luxurious creams.
San Miniato al Monte
This fascinating church sits atop one of the highest points of the city, and is regularly noted as being one of the most scenic churches in Italy. The monks at the adjoining monastery are famed for making herbal teas, honey and liqueurs, and it’s possible to visit to buy some of these goods.
Home to part of the historic centre of Florence, the Oltrarno quarter is also a place to find many of the city’s artisans selling their wares. From wood carvings to mosaics, it’s a fabulous spot to pick up some original souvenirs. Piazza Santo Spirito is a picturesque locality to stop for a coffee after shopping too.
San Lorenzo market
Experiences in Florence
Secrets of Florence
This tour of Florence uncovers the lesser known facts of the most iconic places in the city. Discovering everything from the meaning behind the embellishments of the Duomo to fascinating stories about Dante’s home, this tour shows a side of Florence most people don’t see.
Chianti half day tour
The Tuscan countryside surrounding Florence promises some captivating day trips, and this half day excursion is one of them. Stop off in pretty villages amid the rolling landscapes before sampling a variety of wines in the region’s vineyards.
Follow the link for more experiences in Florence, all of which can be pre-booked.
Tuscany wine tasting
Free Things to do in Florence
For sweeping views of Florence, head straight to this square dedicated to the Renaissance sculptor, Michelangelo. It’s one of the most beloved viewing points in the whole city.
Mercato delle Pulci
A perfect place to people watch and get a glimpse of local life, this flea market is full of fascinating stallholders selling bric-a-brac and antiques. The last Sunday of every month turns into a much larger market filling the streets surrounding Piazza dei Ciompi. Ideal for a stroll and a snapshot into local life in Florence.
Take a stroll alongside the river that runs through the heart of Florence and soak up history, architecture and the changing cityscape.
Arno River Florence
Things to do in Florence at Night
Opera at St Mark’s Church
An original way to spend an evening in Florence, the operas hosted at St Mark’s Church have received critical acclaim. The intimate setting, English explanation of the opera at the beginning and interval with drinks make evenings here truly memorable.
Biblioteca delle Oblate
This library is a lesser known spot in Florence that also hosts occasional cultural events in the evenings. It’s the perfect spot to listen to live music from a city centre venue that is mostly visited by locals.
A less frequented Florentine palace compared to others in the city, Palazzo Strozzi is now an art gallery. Experience a new side to the art showcased here on Thursday evenings, when special exhibitions stay open until 23:00.
Romantic Things to do in Florence
Soak up the countryside surrounding Florence on a day trip to the hilltop town of Fiesole. As well as outstanding views, the town is home to a Roman theatre, pretty streets and captivating hiking trails in the surrounding area. This is also said to be the spot where Leonardo da Vinci first tested his flying inventions.
Instead of buying your loved one a perfume, create your own bespoke scent at this renowned perfume atelier. Learn more about essential oils and the scents you like best, before crafting your own perfume.
This villa and garden is a little off the beaten track in Florence, making it a perfectly romantic place for a stroll. As well as glorious gardens, there’s a tucked away bar too. Visit: https://www.villabardini.it/en/
Giardino Bardini Florence
What is Florence famous for?
Florence is most famous for its cathedral – known as the Duomo – and as a centre of Renaissance art, particularly the works of Michelangelo.
What food is Florence famous for?
Food specialities of Florence include crostini toscani – bread topped with chicken liver pâté, crespelle alla Fiorentina – a ricotta and spinach filled crêpe, and a sweet cake known as schiacciata Fiorentina.
Is Florence the city of love?
Paris is considered to be ‘the’ city of love, while Venice is Italy’s city of love thanks to its pretty canals and opportunities for romantic gondola rides. However, Florence is considered by many to be a romantic city thanks to its historic winding streets, pretty squares and striking spots with panoramic views.
How to get from Florence to Pisa?
It is possible to visit Pisa from Florence in just over an hour by car, or by train in approximately two hours.