10 Things to Do in Florence in December

The Christmas lights, the ambiance in the streets and the festive atmosphere that pervades Florence in December make it a great time to brave the cold and spend a few days there.

Joaquín Montaño

Joaquín Montaño

9 min read

10 Things to Do in Florence in December

Christmas Lighting | ©Any.colour.you.like

The cold of December does not manage to eclipse the many attractions of Florence. The effect, in fact, is the opposite, since during that month the city is decked out for Christmas preparations.

As it could not be less in a city as lively as Florence, December is full of activities and events for both Florentines and visitors to enjoy during those days.

1. Go back to childhood at the Santa Croce Christmas Market

Santa Croce Christmas Market| ©Claire Garcia
Santa Croce Christmas Market| ©Claire Garcia

Although you are sure to visit the Santa Croce either on your own or with an organized tour, it is well worth your time to visit the most popular Christmas market in Florence, located in Piazza Santa Croce.

This Florentine market is modeled after the German Christmas markets. The entire square, decorated for the occasion, is filled with small wooden huts offering decorative products, handicrafts and, of course, various typical dishes from the Italian regions, as well as German dishes such as gingerbread or strudel.

If you have gone to Florence with children, this square offers them a splendid carousel where they will have a great time.

Practical information

  • Where: in Piazza Santa Croce.
  • When: the first three weeks of December.
  • Hours: from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm.

Book a visit to the Santa Croce Basilica

2. Discover the pre-Christmas atmosphere with this short tour.

Christmas in Piazza della Repubblica| ©Kari
Christmas in Piazza della Repubblica| ©Kari

Strolling through the streets of Florence in December means doing so under the special lighting and decorations of the season, as well as in the store windows. I suggest you take a little tour among the smell of roasted chestnuts and the magical atmosphere that envelops the city during this time:

  • A good start could be Piazza San Lorenzo, one of the most beautiful squares in Florence and home to an interesting market.
  • From there you can walk to Piazza del Duomo, where (in addition to the cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiori) you will see the big Christmas tree that is traditionally lit on December 8.
  • Walking down Via Calzaiuoli you will reach the fantastic Piazza della Signoria.
  • Continue towards the Ponte Vecchio but not before contemplating the facade of the Uffizi Gallery.
  • A good place to finish is the Palazzo Pitti, although if you feel like it is not a bad idea to go up to the Piazzale Michelangelo to enjoy the views of the city from its viewpoint.

This small pre-Christmas itinerary can be done using a tourist bus, where you can get off and on whenever and wherever you want to enjoy the bustle of the streets.

Book your Florence sightseeing bus

3. Don't miss the Fierucola dell'Immacolata

Fierucola dell'Immacolata| ©Sailko
Fierucola dell'Immacolata| ©Sailko

As in all Catholic countries, on December 8 is celebrated in Florence the day of the Immaculate Conception. The tradition among Florentines is to start preparing for the approaching Christmas. However, if you are in the city you will be able to enjoy the Fierucola dell'Immacolata.

For two days, December 8 and 9, the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata (near the Leonardo Da Vinci museum, of which I leave you information about its entrances) is filled with food and craft stalls where Florentines take the opportunity to buy some of the gifts for Christmas.

On the other hand, the same day December 8 you can attend another important event in the city: the lighting of a large Christmas tree that is placed in the beautiful Piazza del Duomo. The ceremony is attended by all the authorities of Florence and there are usually some events such as concerts and animations.

Book the Duomo tour in Florence

4. Taste the typical autumn-winter dishes in Florence.

A good glass of prosecco| ©TourKari
A good glass of prosecco| ©TourKari

If you decide to go on a gastronomic tour of Florence during these dates you will notice that some dishes change with the arrival of cold weather and the approach of winter. In addition to this, there is the appearance of Christmas recipes. A good way to try more things is to go to the markets in the historic center where they serve food and discover new flavors:

  • Appetizers are a must at any meal during this time of year, always accompanied by a good glass of prosecco.
  • The crostini Toscani (chicken liver pate on Tuscan bread) are one of the classics.
  • Another typical dish is the handmade tortellini.
  • Of course, roasted chestnuts are a must.
  • Finally, with the cold of December comes the very thick hot chocolate.

Book an Italian cooking class in Florence

5. Learn about history at the celebration of the Marquis Ugo of Tuscia

Badia Florentina| ©Sailko
Badia Florentina| ©Sailko

On December 21, a small celebration is held in Florence to remember one of its most influential but, at the same time, most unknown personages outside the city. My advice is to join some of the historical-religious itineraries that take place in various neighborhoods of the old center on the occasion of this celebration.

The main center of the celebration is the Badia Florentina, where the tomb of Marquis Uno of Tucsia, the first lord of Tuscany who decided to move the court to Florence, is located. Several events take place there to remember his figure, although the commemoration extends to the rest of the historic districts of the city.

In addition to the aforementioned itineraries that follow in his footsteps, you can also see an interesting parade of the Florentine Republic, in which the participants wear costumes that will take you back to the Middle Ages, a time when Florence had a state of its own.

Book a guided tour of Florence

6. The museums: the best place to escape the cold (and with less crowds).

Uffizi Gallery| ©Andres Alvarado
Uffizi Gallery| ©Andres Alvarado

One of the problems of December when visiting Florence is the cold and the possibility of rain (or even snow). Fortunately, there is no shortage of indoor places to visit in the city and, moreover, with considerably fewer people than in the high season. In your agenda, therefore, you cannot miss the best Florentine museums.

  • Uffizi Gallery: no visit to Florence can be considered complete without seeing the best paintings in the Uffizi Gallery. Although in December you are not going to find the same influx as in other months, it is always a good idea to buy a ticket in advance and, if you are interested in art, book a guided tour in English.
  • Accademia Gallery: another must-see museum if you are in the city. Among the great works it houses stands out the famous David by Michelangelo. As in the previous case, the smaller number of visitors should not make you trust, so I advise you to buy the ticket to the Gallery in time and without queues.
  • Palazzo Vecchio: you should also not miss a visit to the Palazzo Vecchio, where you can admire several rooms full of works of art in a unique setting. The museum is located in the beautiful Piazza della Signoria.
  • Museo Nazionale del Bargello: although less known than the previous ones, booking tickets to visit this museum located in a palace in the historic center should be part of your itinerary when visiting Florence. Its collection of Renaissance works is impressive, highlighting the David by Donatello.

Buy your ticket to the Uffizi Gallery

7. Marvel at the F-Light, Florence's Festival of Light.

Christmas Lights in Florence| ©Sajiv Gurung
Christmas Lights in Florence| ©Sajiv Gurung

On December 8, a festival usually starts in Florence that completely changes the image of the city: the Firenze Light Festival. During it, several of the most representative squares and corners of the city are illuminated in the most creative way.

These lights are joined by other initiatives such as installations and artistic projections, among which highlights the videomapping of the Ponte Vecchio.

Other places that are part of this festival of light are the Galileo Museum, the Basilica of San Lorenzo, the Novecento Museum, the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte and all the towers and gates surrounding the historic center.

If you stay in areas further away from the center you may also find places illuminated during the festival, as it reaches places like Piazza delle Cure, San Donato Park, Piazza dell'Isolotto and many other corners.

Torchlight walk in the Museums

As part of this festival there is an activity called Torchlight Walk in the Museums. It is open to both children and adults and is held in the following centers belonging to the Florentine Civic Museums (dates and times are approximate):

  • Santa Maria Novella: from December 17 and January 7, at 19:00 for families with children aged 8 to 12 and at 20:30 for young people and adults.
  • Palazzo Vecchio: starts on December 18 and lasts until January 8. The schedule is the same as in the previous case.
  • Bardini Museum: starts on December 9 and ends on January 9, all with the same schedule as above.

Book a guided tour of Palazzo Vecchio

8. Go to Piazzale Michelangelo to contemplate the illuminated city.

View from the square| ©Emiliano Felicissimo
View from the square| ©Emiliano Felicissimo

Although going up to this viewpoint, one of the best in Florence, is recommended at any time of the year, in December the views are even more spectacular if you arrive when the sun has set. Thus, from Piazzale Michelangelo you will be able to enjoy the view of the whole city illuminated with the special lights typical of these dates.

The square also has a bronze replica of Michelangelo's David, as well as a cafeteria where you can sit for a while to enjoy the views. If you want to stay longer there are no problems either, as you can enter the restaurant in the square or buy food in some of the kiosks that are there.

How to get there

Those who feel like walking can get there from the south bank of the Arno River, where there are several well marked paths. For those who prefer to go more comfortably, however, just use the city bus lines 12 or 13 or the City Sightseeing bus.

Book a seat on the sightseeing bus

9. Attend the performance of The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker| ©Colombaroli
The Nutcracker| ©Colombaroli

The intense cultural life that characterizes Florence in winter includes classical ballet performances. Among them, there is none better to go to in December than The Nutcracker, which is performed on December 23 every year at the Teatro Pergola, one of the most beautiful in Italy.

This performance is given by the famous Moscow Ballet. The Nutcracker, one of Tchaikovsky 's greatest works, tells the story of a toy (the Nutcracker of the title) given to a little girl on Christmas Eve. When she falls asleep she has a dream in which some mice try to steal her new toy, but she defends herself by throwing a shoe at the Mouse King.

10. Dare to skate on one of the city's ice rinks.

Longest ice rink in Europe| ©Richard Chester
Longest ice rink in Europe| ©Richard Chester

Even if you have gone to Florence to enjoy its culture by visiting, for example, the best works of the Accademia Gallery, that should not stop you from doing fun things. In December you have the opportunity to ice skate in several areas of the city.

One of the most popular rinks is the one in the Parterre, in Piazza della Libertà:

  • It costs about €6 per skating session (about €4 if you bring your skates).
  • You can rent the equipment there without any problem.
  • It is open all December and the first days of January.

Another of the city's traditional places to practice various winter sports, including skating, is the Florence Winter Park, located in the Tuscany Hall (Lungarno Aldo Moro, east of Florence).

  • In this area you can also try your hand at skiing and jump down some snow tubes.
  • The price varies according to the activity.
  • It is open from Thursday to Sunday, with different opening hours depending on the day.

Finally, near the Fortezza da Basso is the Florence Ice Village, the largest ice rink in Europe with its 300 meters.

  • Here you can visit Santa Claus' house and several food stalls.
  • The first hour costs about 8 euros, while the second hour is only about 5 euros.
  • The price of skate rental is about 2 €.
  • Open until February, from 10:00 to 24:00 hours.

Weather in Florence in December

Snow in Florence| ©Sara
Snow in Florence| ©Sara

December is one of the coldest months of the year in Florence. The average maximum temperature during this month only reaches 11° C, while the minimum is 3° C.

Faced with these low temperatures, all you have to do is prepare your luggage well with a scarf, hat, gloves, a good coat and, if you are very cold, some thermal underwear. In any case, I advise you to check the weather forecast before starting your trip.

On the other hand, when planning your itineraries it is advisable to take into account that the sun sets shortly after 16:30, something that will affect the visits that do not involve entering a building.

Book a guided tour of Florence