Looking for the best things to do in Florence, Italy? We outline all the amazing places to see and what to do in Florence. Plan the best time in Florence without missing anything. A map is included below.
Florence is the capital of Tuscany in Italy. During ancient history, Florence was once a Roman capital called Florentia. You will still find a couple of Roman monuments in the city. But it wasn’t until the Medici family ruled at the beginning of 1434 that the city became the heart of the Rennaissance era.
The one city in the world that takes a bigger piece of my heart every time I return to it is Florence, Italy. This historic city is full of incredible architecture, art, food, and lovely people. It’s one of those cities that continues to mesmerize me at every turn. It’s also one of the romantic cities. You will definitely see why.
Although Florence has a population of over 380,000 and has over 16 million tourists visit every year (not counting the pandemic), it doesn’t feel like it. You can walk throughout the city at any time of day, and even at its busiest, you’ll feel like you’re a part of it.
Whether you visit Florence on a day trip or spend a week there, you will not regret even the smallest amount of time. There is so much to see, do, and eat in the city of Renaissance that even a stroll past the magnificent Duomo will have you planning your next visit.
While this is a list of all the best things to do in Florence, you don’t have to do everything on it to fall in love with Florence. The city is walkable. It’s safe. All you need is comfortable shoes, a quick stop for gelato, and just let your feet hit those cobblestone streets. Get acquainted with this amazing city first.
Walk around the Duomo, see the magnificence of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Head South towards Piazza della Signoria, see the copy of Michelangelo’s David outside.
Make your way beneath the arches of Uffizi and observe some of the greatest street painters.
See the River Arno, walk alongside it north until you hit the Ponte Vecchio. Cross the famous bridge and head south to Palazzo Pitti or my favorite, walk aimlessly and just take it all in.
Maybe during your visit to Florence, you can make time to see an Opera.
Drink wine. Eat Gelato. Drink more wine. Eat more Gelato. And repeat.
Depending on the time of year you plan to visit, it is highly suggested you make reservations to visit some of these museums and monuments. Sometimes a tour may be the easiest thing to do.
Covid Vaccine Info: To enter many of these sites you will need to show proof of vaccination. They are requiring a Green Pass, which is mostly used by Italians. If you are a United States citizen, your CDC-issued card and-or negative test results should be acceptable. For more Covid-19 information for Italy, click here.
Things to do in Florence
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore | Duomo | Campanile de Giotto
No words can really describe the magnitude of the Florence Cathedral. Santa Maria del Fiore, Brunelleschi’s Dome, and Giotto’s Bell Tower stand magnanimously together in the heart of the city of Florence. The three are part of the UNESCO world heritage site.
Whether you’re coming from North, East, South, or West, you’ll eventually arrive at this epic Cathedral. Without a doubt, the grandeur of it will take your breath away.
The Cathedral of Florence is the most important landmark in Florence and it is the center of the Florentine skyline. It was completed in 1436 with the Duomo.
At the time Brunelleschi’s Duomo was built, it was the biggest dome in the world. It’s completely made out of bricks. After you climb and see the beautiful structure up close, you’ll have a full appreciation for this wonderful structure.
Fun fact: A statue of Filippo Brunelleschi sits outside Palazzo dei Canonici admiring his masterpiece.
- The entrance to the Cathedral is FREE, but be prepared to line up to enter. Closed on Sundays.
- You can also climb to the top of the Duomo for a small a beautiful view of the city. Advance reservations are needed. Please note that there are 463 steps and if you’re claustrophic, you may want to skip. [Book Tickets Here]
- If you would like to visit and climb Giotto’s Bell Tower, that is a separate line. Advance reservations are needed. Please note there are 414 steps. [Book Tickets Here]
Galleria dell’Accademia | Statue of David
No first-time visit is complete without seeing Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia Gallery in Florence. Seeing this marvelous work of art in person will absolutely help you see how extremely talented Michelangelo was.
While this museum features many sculptures from Michelangelo and artwork from other artists, the David is center of it. This is a smaller museum, compared to the Uffizi. Here you will get a sense of how Michelangelo worked. He believed that these figured lived inside the marble and it was his job to sculpt them out.
- Advanced tickets are required. Closed Mondays. [Book Tickets Here]
I highly recommend a guided tour. We took a Nude and Food tour with Florence for Foodies and it was the highlight of one of the times in Florence.
Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria is one of the main squares in Florence. It is in front of Palazzo Vecchio and it overlooks part of the Uffizi. It is also most known for having a copy of Michelangelo’s David in the square.
Fun fact: The real David statue once resided in the same spot for over 400 years.
The Fountain of Neptune is also located in Signoria Square.
Many festivals and rallies take place at the Piazza della Signoria. Basically, it’s where politics meets art as it is right in front of Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall.
I recommend sitting at an outdoor table at Cafe Rivoire. Order one of their famous hot chocolates (it’s thick and chocolatey) or espresso, admire the copy of David from a small distance and watch the world go by.
Piazza della Signoria | P.za della Signoria, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy | Google Map It
How to Spend One Day in Florence, Italy
Thinking of visiting Florence, Italy for one day? We provide 3 itinerary options to inspire your day in Florence. Take a food tour, visit the Uffizi, or explore the Duomo. See why it is one of our favorite cities in the world.
Right behind the copy of Michelangelo’s David is Palazzo Vecchio. The literal translation is Old Palace as it was named so after the Medici duke moved to Pitti Palace.
Palazzo Vecchio is now the town hall of Florence, Italy. For over seven centuries is has been the symbol of civic power.
You can book a guided tour of Palazzo Vecchio where you’ll see many works of art by Michelangelo and Leonard Davinci. It’s also an incredibly beautiful palace featuring many rooms with art and different architectural themes.
If you’re a fan of Dan Brown’s books and movies, this museum was featured in Inferno.
Uffizi Palace and Gallery
The Uffizi is the art museum in Florence that is not to be missed. This renowned gallery is located next to Piazza della Signoria. The museum architecture and grandeur of the Uffizi are worth the visit alone. It mostly exhibits collections from the Renaissance era.
The first time we visited the Uffizi, we enjoyed everything but we were slightly lost. While we do appreciate art, but we aren’t aficionados. There is a ton of collections to cover and you could literally spend the entire day here.
On our second visit, we hired a guide. If you’re looking to understand the art and its history, a tour guide is highly recommended. It was a wonderful experience and we really appreciated the history and connection behind the art. We spent about 4 hours here and didn’t even get to do everything.
- Highly recommend booking tickets with the Uffizi in advance with a timed reservation. If not you will spend hours in line just to get in. [Book Tickets Here]
- If hiring guide sounds like a good idea to you, whoever you decide to book with should book the tickets for you. You will be able to skip any long lines.
We booked the Uffizi tour with Florence for Foodies called Venus and Aperitivo. After the tour, they do a wine tasting and appetizers at a local winery restaurant.
The Corridoio Vasariano is the infamous enclosed passageway that connects Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi with Pitti Palace. It currently houses works of art.
We have yet to experience this. Prior to 2016, you had to get special permission. Then it was closed down to the public for safety reasons.
It is rumored that it will reopen to the public on May 27, 2022. This is something you want to keep in mind and in your radar for future travels to Florence. For now, you can pinpoint it’s location and know of this secret passageway where great works of arts are hidden.
Food Tour of Florence
One of the best ways to become familiar with a city and its culture is via food. One of the best things to do in Florence is a food tour. Florence for Foodies with Nat or Sam is one of the best food tours in town. I’ve mentioned them a couple of times in this post because we thoroughly enjoyed our tours with them. And no, we are not sponsored by them.
A food tour is a great introduction to any city. Book a food tour at the very beginning of your stay. It will set your vacation on the right foot.
The tour is walkable and with a local guide, so you’ll right away get the lay of the land. You’ll also taste some of the greatest foods the city has to offer while learning the history behind them. You’ll also leave absolutely full from all the delicious eats.
Mercato Centrale Florence
One of the things to do in Florence is to see where the locals do their shopping. It’s always great to stop in the small supermarkets when you see them on your explorations, but the Mercato Centrale is the central market of the city of Florence.
The first floor of the Mercato is the original and historic San Lorenzo Market. Here you’ll find butcher shops, produce local specialties, gifts, and even food stands that have been there for decades.
The second floor of the Mercato is their newest expansion of the San Lorenzo Market. It is filled with delicious food stalls, coffee bars, and specialty stores that are open until late at night. It’s a great spot for a budget meal.
If you take a food tour, it’s highly likely they will bring you to the Mercato Centrale for some tasty eats.
Where to Eat in Florence, Italy
These are some of our favorite places to eat in Florence. We cover everything from pizza, sandwiches, Florentine steak, pasta, and yummy gelato.
Did you know Ponte Vecchio means “old bridge” in Italian? It is the oldest bridge in Florence. It is also the most photographed bridge in Florence.
It’s the only bridge in Florence that survived the destruction of German forces during World World II. At one time, it used to be where butchers would prepare and sell meat. They’d discard leftovers and carcasses right into the River Arno. Thankfully that’s changed.
Presently, the bridge is filled with jewelry stores. Perfect spot to purchase a token of Italian jewelry to remember your trip by. Make sure to budget for it.
Ponte Vecchio | 50125 Firenze FI, Italy | Google Map It
Palazzo Pitti AND Boboli Gardens
Just a short walk from Ponte Vecchio resides Pitti Palace. This grand residence was once a symbol of the Medici power.
Now it houses multiple museums and exhibits. The royal apartments being one of the most interesting. If you love architecture, you will admire all the details throughout the palace.
Directly behind the palace is Boboli Gardens. The amazing and vast gardens are, in my opinion, the highlight. It’s so absolutely beautiful and peaceful, you could spend your whole afternoon exploring. So many passages and paths to be discovered.
- You can purchase your tickets to Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens here or at the entrance.
Right near Palazzo Pitti is GustaPizza. Great spot for an early or late lunch.
Add this to your must things to do in Florence… see the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo.
The best spot to see the sunset and a panoramic view of the city of Florence is in Piazzale Michelangelo. At any time of day, the view is beautiful, but at sunset it is spectacular. You’ll want to grab a bottle of wine on your way there.
You will also find a bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David.
It’s about a 20-minute walk and it’s somewhat uphill. If you’re in a rush or the walk sounds tough, a taxi may be better suited to get to the top. The view is totally worth it.
Getting there a little early to find a spot is a good idea. Locals and tourists alike all have the same idea. They gather at the steps, drink wine and enjoy every second of that sunset. It’s a view you will always remember.
We took many 10-year anniversary pictures in this spot and to this day they remain some of our favorites.
Piazzale Michelangelo | 50125 Firenze FI, Italy | Google Map It
Attend an Opera performance at St. Mark’s Anglican Church
One of our favorite things to do in Florence is attending an Opera performance at St. Mark’s English Church. It’s an intimate experience in a small church. Do not expect a big production. But due expect a quality performance by a talented Opera company that will blow you away. The acoustics in the church are excellent.
Obviously, they sing in Italian. English narration is given between scenes that do help. Even without it, you will not feel lost. The singers’ performances carry so much emotion that you will follow along with them.
We discovered this gem during our first visit to Florence. We’ve returned every single time.
EAT a Bistecca alla Fiorentina
Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine Style Steak or Tuscan Steak) is one of the most popular dishes in Tuscany. The traditional Florentine steak comes from the Tuscan breed of cattle called the Chianina.
At a traditional Tuscan steakhouse, after ordering, they will bring out the rare cut of meat to the table for approval. You can ask for a different cut if it is not to your liking. Once you see it and approve it, they will take it back to the kitchen to season and grill it properly.
There are many places in Florence that serve Bistecca alla Fiorentina. Definitely ask around.
Our best experience of Bistecca alla Fiorentina is at El Fagiole. A rustic tavern that continues to serve authentic Florentine Steak and other delicious Tuscan dishes. Reservations recommended. Cash only.
Day Trip to Lucca, Italy
Take the train or rent a car from Florence to Lucca. Explore the old Medieval city walls and underground tunnels. Eat the best focaccia. Enjoy the relaxing atmosphere Lucca offers away from all the tourists in Florence. If you love Florence, you will Loven Lucca even more.
Piazza della Repubblica
Piazza della Repubblica is a square and also is the center of the city of Florence. It’s the only one with a merry-go-round in the city. This is a great spot to come to sit at a cafe or enjoy sometimes the live music from street performers. Some nights the piazza is alive with people and others it’s so nice and quiet.
It is a lovely piazza to visit and one not to miss.
Tip: Have a drink at the rooftop terrace of the Rinascente store for a special view.
Piazza della Repubblica | 50123 Firenze FI, Italy | Google Map It
Basilica of Santa Croce
The Basilica di Santa Croce is the principal Franciscan church in Florence, Italy. Buried here are Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and other early Renaissance tombs.
There is a great collection of Renaissance art and architecture in this beautiful church. Including frescos by Giotto.
Santa Croce is also a great area to stay in and be close to everything.
Scuola del Cuoio: Florence School of Leather
Did you know that Florence is known for its leather? As you’re walking around the city, you’ll find many shops selling leather purses, luggage, wallets, belts, and all other leather items. Leather craftsmanship is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years.
Not far from the Basilica di Santa Croce, you’ll find the World’s Famous School of Leather of Florence. It was founded in 1949. It is the place in Italy that brings in students from different parts of the world to learn the art of leather making.
At the School of Leather, they have a shop. If you’d like to treat yourself, you will find everything from small keychains to beautiful leather luggage. Not gonna lie, some of it is pricey. However, the quality of work and the product are exceptional. And, guaranteed for life. You know it’s not something mass-produced in another county.
We have purchased wallets, belts, and small items for gifts that we have had for over 10 years. Hubby’s wallet came apart in the corner a little -after so much use- and when we returned, they fixed it, no questions asked. Their customer service is amazing.
Also, it is worth supporting the school.
Rub the Boar’s Nose (Fontana del Porcellino)
Ensure your return to Florence! Don’t leave Florence without rubbing the boar’s snout.
The bronze statue of a boar stands in front of Mercato del Porcellino. Legend has it, if you give its snout a rub, you’ll return to the city of Firenze. Who doesn’t want to go back to Florence?
Fontana del Porcellino | Piazza del Mercato Nuovo, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy | Google Map It
Mercato del Porcellino
Besides the school of leather, Mercato del Porcellino is the next best place to purchase great leather bags and goods in the city of Florence.
The mercato is located right behind the bronze boar. You can’t miss it if you go during the day.
I recommended waiting till closer to the end of your stay in Florence to buy it. By then, you’d have walked around markets and shops enough to know what is a local great quality bag and what is not.
Walk around the Mercato, check out all the stands and products before you decide. If you’re purchasing more than one item from the vendor, don’t be afraid to negotiate.
We have luggage and purses from here that are now 15 years old.
EAT Plenty of GELATO
Just like you’d plan to have all the limoncello in Capri, in Florence, you must eat all the gelato. It is said Bernardo Buontalenti created gelato during the Renaissance era.
Here is a tip. Something I learned from our foodie tours in Florence. If the gelato is piled high into a great mountain and the pistachio is neon green, then the gelato is factory-made. Look for spots that make their gelato in-house.
Leonardo Da Vinci Museum
If you’re a fan of Da Vinci and his work, then the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum is a great addition to your Florence itinerary.
This interactive museum is small but information. It displays models of his inventions and some hands-on so you can see the genius behind Leonardo.
- You can purchase tickets to the Museo Leonardo Da Vinci at the entrance.
Day tRips from Florence
One of the things I love about the city of Florence is that it’s a central location for many day trips within Tuscany. You can rent a car for a day (I wouldn’t keep one long term as it can be expensive to park) or you can take advantage of the amazing train system.
It is difficult to get to smaller Tuscan villages as sometimes the trains do not go there. But there are a few amazing cities and landmarks that you can take the train to.
I could write an entire blog post on all the day trips, but the next couple are the most popular day trips to consider from Florence.
Plan a day trip to Lucca, Italy
One of the best day trips from Florence is to Lucca, Italy. If you love Florence, you will fall in love with the old city of Lucca.
Lucca is surrounded by old city walls that keep most traffic out of the city, making it pedestrian-friendly and great for biking. It is a walkable city with underground tunnels, beautiful churches, great history, and delicious focaccia. It is also home to Puccini.
Train from Florence to Lucca
- Take a train from Stazione di Santa Maria
Novell a . Buy a ticket for the Viareggioroute.
- You’ll want to get off at the Lucca stop. The train ride is about 1 hr 20 min.
Tip: Book your tickets in advance. Click here for train times and info.
Plan a trip to the Leaning Tower of Pisa
One of the most popular day trips from Florence is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. While we personally took a tour to experience this, you can easily do this on your own from Florence. If we ever do this again, we will definitely take the train there.
Train from Florence to Pisa
- Take a train from Stazione di Santa Maria
Novell a . Buy a ticket for the Livorno Centraleroute.
- You’ll get off at Pisa Central stop. The train ride is about 1 hr 20 min.
- Take the No. 3 bus across from the station’s main entrance to the Cammeo-Piazza Manin stop. It will leave you right accross from the tower.
You can also opt to take a taxi from the train station to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Tip: Book your tickets in advance. Click here for train times and info.
Where to Stay in Florence
Boutique Hotels and B&B
Highly recommend small boutique hotels and B&Bs in central locations. Boutique hotels and B&B’s offer top-notch and individualize serve for half the price. A lot of the time the smaller accommodations are owned by locals.
For our 10 year anniversary, we stayed at the most amazing Bed and Breakfast. I wanted to share that with you and just found out that they are temporarily closed. Keeping an eye out when it reopens and I promise to share.
REnt an apartment
On a budget? Looking to experience Florence like a local? Rent an apartment or studio in central Florence.
On our last visit, we rented an apartment on Airbnb from a local in Santa Croce. Not only did it fit our small budget, but it felt like home. We were central to everything and it was walkable.
Planning a trip to Italy is so exciting. The food, the history, the people… it’s one of the most amazing countries to visit. Especially when you’re starting to travel. If you’re just thinking about it right now, I hope this post inspired you to book that trip.
Florence and Rome are amazing Italian destinations for first-timers and always for return visitors.
Will this be your first time in Florence, Italy? What is one of the things to do in Florence are you looking forward to?
Don’t forget to read: Our Favorite Places to Eat in Florence, Italy
Would love to hear all about your trip to Florence. Please come back and let me know what your favorite thing to do in Florence is.
Don’t forget to share the love on Pinterest: