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Best things to do in Florence

Florence could be considered the capital of art and culture in the entire world: if you want to make the most of your trip, don't miss my essentials of the city home to Michelangelo's 'David'

Vicky Del Moral

Vicky Del Moral

29 de jun. de 2021 • 9 min read

Best things to do in Florence

The roofs of 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 over a week, the perfect amount of time to explore Florence in 15 amazing different ways.

1. Stand in awe at 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 affection he suffered when he could not assimilate the great beauty of this Italian city would become a syndrome diagnosed as 'Florence Syndrome' or 'Stendhal Syndrome'. That is the evocative capacity of Florence, capital of the beautiful Tuscany and icon of the Renaissance era, 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 landmark 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 Giotto's Bell Tower.

2. Marvel at the collection of 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 Ancient Greece to the 18th century.

You will need 4 hours on average to visit the entire complex, although for a shorter itinerary you can choose to admire only the highlights of the collection, such as Botticelli's 'The Birth of Venus', Michelangelo's 'Doni Tondo' or Titian's 'The Venus of Urbino'.

A great way to visit the Uffizi Gallery is to book 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, 374 feet high and which you can climb to get a spectacular view of the city.

The Duomo and especially its dome receives millions of visitors a year so it is advisable to 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-sees in Florence. Today is chock full of jewelry stands, but this bridge was where butchers of the city sold their viands and is one of the best and most famous examples of bridges with hanging houses in the world.

As you will get the chance to see, thousands of padlocks hang from its structure, left by couples throughout the years who vowed eternal love in this bridge. I am always chasing sunsets wherever I go and let me tell you that the faint light of the last moments of the day reflected in the Arno is simply magical.

5. 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, 16 feet high.

The long queues to access the Accademia Gallery are practically guaranteed, so buy an entry ticket or book a guided tour to skip the line and make the most of your visit.

6. Get 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 bustling with life, 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 viewpoint of Piazzale Michelangelo | ©Eleonora Altomare
View of Florence from the viewpoint of Piazzale Michelangelo | ©Eleonora Altomare

Going up the highest point of a city to get a panoramic view and take the best souvenir photos is always a great plan wherever you travel. Well, that place in Florence is the Piazzale Michelangelo, a viewpoint somewhat away from the center that you can reach on foot or by bus.

In addition to the views, which are especially beautiful at sunset, in this square built as a 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 you will find there, 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, and is known as the Pantheon of Italian Glories. Without being as popular as the Piazza del Duomo, its intimate atmosphere makes it very special.

10. 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 impressive works of art that will leave you in awe.

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 to visit.

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 illustrious members of the most 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 the 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 don't miss out!

The good thing is that this region is really easy to visit from Florence. 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 check out 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 fascinated 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 different options there are: 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 schedule 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 since 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, here's 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

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. Check itineraries, price, duration, routes, and much more here: Hop on Hop off Bus Tours.

Things to do in Florence