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Best things to do in Florence

Vicky Del Moral

Vicky Del Moral

May 14, 2021 • 8 min read

Best things to do in Florence

©Ali Nuredini

Small in size, but truly rich in charm and cultural heritage, Florence is home to gems such as the Duomo, Michelangelo's David, the Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery. It can be visited in two days or enjoyed for a week, time that I recommend you take advantage of to explore these 10 amazing places in Florence.

1. Marvel yourself walking through the Piazza del Duomo

Piazza del Doumo | ©George M. Groutas
Piazza del Doumo | ©George M. Groutas

When Stendhal, the famous French author, visited Florence in 1817, he did not know that the vertigo he suffered when he could not assimilate the great beauty of this Italian city would become a syndrome diagnosed as 'Florence Syndrome' or 'Stendhal'. That is the evocative capacity of Florence, capital of the beautiful Tuscany and Renaissance city par excellence, which must be visited at least once in a lifetime.

And if there is a maximum representative of this beauty and splendor, it is the Piazza del Duomo: located in the historic center of Florence, declared a World Heritage Site, it is the most famous enclave of the city. It encompasses the wonderful architectural ensemble formed by the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, known as the Duomo, the Baptistery of San Giovanni and the Giotto's Bell Tower.

2. Culture at the Uffizi Gallery

Uffizi Gallery | ©Matt Twyman
Uffizi Gallery | ©Matt Twyman

Considered one of the best museums in the world, the impressive Uffizi Gallery houses a huge collection of works of art, 1,500 in total, spanning the history of classical art, from Greece to the 18th century.

You will need 4 hours on average to visit the entire complex, although you can choose to admire only the most outstanding works, such as Botticelli's 'The Birth of Venus', Michelangelo's 'Doni Tondo' or Titian's 'The Venus of Urbino'.

A good way to organize your visit the Uffizi Gallery is to hire a tour or at least get a fast-track ticket that will save you the endless queues at the entrance of the most visited museum in Florence.

3. Enter the Duomo of Florence

Dome of the Duomo | ©Bianca Ackermann
Dome of the Duomo | ©Bianca Ackermann

The Duomo is one of the most important buildings in the city, being one of the largest Christian temples in the world and very appreciated artistically for its exquisite white marble facade and its extraordinary Dome of Brunelleschi, 114 meters high and which you can climb to get a spectacular view of the city.

The Duomo and especially its dome receive millions of visitors a year so it is advisable book a fast-track ticket access and even a tour to discover all its history and that of its annex buildings.

4. Crossing the Ponte Vecchio at sunset

Ponte Vecchio | ©Ansgar Scheffold
Ponte Vecchio | ©Ansgar Scheffold

Undisputed symbol of the city of Florence, the Ponte Vecchio is one of the must-see in Florence. Today full of joyeries, this bridge was initially occupied by the butchers of the city and is one of the best and most famous examples of bridges with hanging houses in the world.

For years and as you will see, thousands of padlocks left by couples who have vowed eternal love in this romantic enclave hang from its structure. I personally am a born hunter of sunsets and I can assure you that the faint light of the sun hiding reflected in the Arno, is magical.

Contemplate Michelangelo's 'David' at the Accademia Gallery

Detail of Michelangelo's David | ©Steve Barker
Detail of Michelangelo's David | ©Steve Barker

Located in the rich historical center of Florence, you will find the second most visited museum in the city, the Accademia Gallery. It is there that, among other art gems, stands imposingly the authentic Michelangelo's David, the quintessential Renaissance work, 5.2 meters high.

The long queues to access the Accademia Gallery are assured, so buy a entry ticket or hire a guided tour to enrich your visit.

6. Buy a take-away pizza and dine al fresco in Piazza della Signoria

Piazza della Signoria | ©Allie_Caulfield
Piazza della Signoria | ©Allie_Caulfield

Together with the Duomo, Piazza della Signoria is the most famous square in Florence and one of its main places of interest.

It is an authentic open-air museum made up of historic buildings, including the Palazzo Vecchio and its incredible Sala del Cinquecento, unique monuments, such as the Fountain of Neptune, and magnificent sculptures, with the Loggia dei Langi and its Perseus with the head of Medusa or those of Hercules, Cacus and Michelangelo's David, a replica of the original which, don't forget, you will only find in the Accademia Gallery.

At night, this square is full of atmosphere, with dozens of Florentines and tourists admiring the beauty of its sculptures. Enjoying a pizza sitting on the steps of the square while several musicians provide the evening ambiance is a unique (and very cheap!) experience.

7. View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

View of Florence from the belvedere of Piazzale Michelangelo | ©Eleonora Altomare
View of Florence from the belvedere of Piazzale Michelangelo | ©Eleonora Altomare

We all like to climb to the highest point of a city to observe its panoramic view and take the best souvenir photos. Well, that place in Florence is the Piazzale Michelangelo, a viewpoint somewhat away from the center and you can climb on foot or by bus.

In addition to the views, which are especially beautiful at sunset, in this square designed in homage to Michelangelo you can admire replicas of some of his greatest sculptures, such as the David and the four statues of the Medici Chapel.

8. Relax in the Boboli Garden

Boboli Gardens | ©Andrey O!
Boboli Gardens | ©Andrey O!

If you need a moment of relaxation among the endless works of art that Florence offers (remember what happened to Stendhal, I have warned you), the right place is this: the Boboli Gardens.

This oasis behind the Palacio Pitti is a wonderful Renaissance garden full of surprises along the way, from an amphitheater to fountains, grottoes and sculptures that will make your walk a truly delightful experience.

9. Discover Piazza Santa Croce and its Church

Piazza e Chiesa della Santa Croce | ©Pom'
Piazza e Chiesa della Santa Croce | ©Pom'

Another of the most visited places in Florence, partly because of the great atmosphere it exudes, is the Piazza della Santa Croce, in the heart of the historic center of the city. Rectangular in shape, the square is guarded by majestic palaces and a statue of Dante Alighieri.

Its church is popular for housing the tombs of illustrious figures such as Michelangelo, Galileo Galiei, Machiavelli or Lorenzo Ghiberti, being known as the Pantheon of Italian Glories. Without being as popular as the Piazza del Duomo, for me, its intimate atmosphere makes it very special.

Notice the details of the Baptistery in Piazza del Duomo.

Baptisterio del Duomo | ©Cristian Martinez
Baptisterio del Duomo | ©Cristian Martinez

Don't make the mistake of overlooking the beauty of the Baptistery's details. Although the size and spectacular nature of the Duomo and its dome are usually the main focus of visits to the square, the Baptistery has some details that are well worth your time.

Right in front of the Duomo, you will find Lorenzo Ghiberti's Paradise Door: it is one of the most acclaimed works of the Renaissance, depicting the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham in the Old Testament. Today, the original doors are in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, which I also recommend.

11. Enter the Medici Chapel

Detail of one of the tombs in the Medici Chapel | ©George M. Groutas
Detail of one of the tombs in the Medici Chapel | ©George M. Groutas

The Medici Chapel might go unnoticed if you are not looking for it, however, its interesting interior is well worth a visit.

Highlights include the New Sacristy, designed by Michelangelo, and the Chapel of the Princes, an octagonal room lined with marble and semiprecious stones where the remains of some of the most illustrious members of the most famous and powerful dynasty of patrons in the history of Italy are laid to rest.

12. Immerse yourself in the Tuscan countryside

Tuscany landscape | ©Evan Verni
Tuscany landscape | ©Evan Verni

Florence's exceptional location makes your visit a unique opportunity to get to know other wonders that Italy has to offer. Florence is located in the beautiful region of Tuscany, with idyllic villages, colorful hills and miles and miles of vineyards. This is probably the best eating and drinking region in Italy, so you can't miss it.

The good thing is that this region is totally prepared to receive visitors from Florence, so there are several organized tours and excursions that will save you from having to rent a car or waste time researching to find the best itinerary. In my article on Tours and Daytrips from Florence you can read what are, for me, the best options.

13. Visit Cinque Terre from Florence

Costa di Cinque Terre | ©Mike Swigunski
Costa di Cinque Terre | ©Mike Swigunski

If there is one region that enchanted me (and surprised me, in equal parts) in Italy, it was Cinque Terre. This area is made up of five small villages linked along its coastline with picturesque colorful houses and wonderful beaches. Although in recent years it has become very fashionable, the fact that it is close to other popular areas such as Tuscany or Pisa takes it a little away from the masses and gives it a special charm.

If you want to leave the cultural and artistic itinerary of the city of Florence to spend a pleasant day in nature, do not hesitate to make a visit to Cinque Terre from Florence. In this guide I will tell you all the possibilities that exist: Cinque Terre Day Trips from Florence.

14. Visit Pisa from Florence

Cathedral and Tower of Pisa | ©a m
Cathedral and Tower of Pisa | ©a m

While the Tuscan countryside is one of the most popular destinations for visitors arriving in Florence, Pisa is a small city very pleasant to visit in as little as half a day on an organized excursion from Florence.

There are several options (in fact, some even take you to visit other charming towns like Lucca or San Gimignano), so I recommend you to read my article on Pisa Day Trips from Florence: to choose the one that best suits your time and budget.

15. Travel back in time with an excursion to Siena from Florence

Piazza del Campo, Siena | ©Antonio Ristallo
Piazza del Campo, Siena | ©Antonio Ristallo

As you already know, the location of Florence on the map will allow you to visit a large number of places of interest with very little travel time. And if there are also organized tours that take you there and back in a day, you have no excuse not to visit the surroundings of the city.

With only 55,000 inhabitants, Siena has always been a relevant city both for its historic heritage and its culture. With cobblestone streets and buildings dating back to the Middle Ages, touring the city will be like traveling back in time. If you are curious and want to know more about Siena and how to organize your trip there, I leave you a link to my article on Siena Day Trips from Florence.

16. Tour the city comfortably in its tour bus

Tourist bus in Florence | ©Chris Sampson
Tourist bus in Florence | ©Chris Sampson

Although a priori it may seem a cliché, touring the city aboard a tourist bus with free stops will allow you, on the one hand, to enjoy the views of its streets comfortably seated, but also, to move from one point of interest to another comfortably without having to worry about the public transport. You can check here: Hop on Hop off Bus Tours their itineraries, price, duration, routes, etc.