Best 25 Things To Do in Florence Italy: Visitor’s City Guide
Last Updated on August 27, 2023.
Tuscany may just be Italy’s most beautiful region. Its largest city, Florence — Firenze, in Italian — is famous for its iconic renaissance art and architecture. Home to one of Italy’s largest cathedrals (Santa Maria del Fiore), a uniquely Italian bridge (Ponte Vecchio) and an emblematic statue (Michaelangelo’s David), the Tuscan capital has endless attractions and masterpieces to take in. But don’t forget to eat and drink too, because Florence is also known as having some of the most incredible gastronomic experiences in the country. Here are all the things you should do and see when visiting Florence, Italy.
- How to Get to Florence
- The Best Things to Do in Florence Italy This Year
- Explore the Duomo
- Visit the Uffizi Gallery
- Don't Miss the Accademia Gallery
- Cross the River
- Go Wine Tasting in Chianti (and Beyond)
- Learn About Fashion
- Go Shopping
- Eat Florentine Delights & Drink Wine
- Snack at the Mercado Centrale
- Admire Florence from Above
- Marvel at the Stunning Artwork and Architecture of the Baptistery of St. John
- Wander Through the Beautiful Piazza della Signoria
- Visit the Basilica of Santa Croce
- Walk the Boboli Gardens
- Go in the Palazzo Pitti
- See the Frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel
- See an Opera or Classical Performance at Teatro della Pergola or Teatro Verdi
- Visit the Leonardo da Vinci Museum
- Visit the Giardino delle Rose
- Take a Guided Tour of the Vasari Corridor
- Explore the Museo Galileo
- See the Medici Chapels
- Visit the Bargello Museum
- The Best Neighborhoods & Where to Stay in Florence
- Frequently Asked Questions about Things to do in Florence
How to Get to Florence
Although you can’t fly to Florence nonstop from the US, you still have options. Flying to hubs like Rome or Milan is easy and direct on a number of US and European air carriers. Then, you can drive, fly or take a train to reach Florence. You can get notifications on flight deals as they arise here. Also, consider having a local tour guide take you around the city and/or explore the surrounding Tuscan countryside, visiting regions like Chianti and Montalcino.
The Best Things to Do in Florence Italy This Year
Explore the Duomo
One of Italy’s most recognized cathedrals, the Santa Maria del Fiore is simply spectacular. You could easily spend hours just circling the outside of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasting a Gothic Revival style marbled with colors. It is possible to enter various parts of the cathedral, including the Bell Tower and the Dome. Some portions are free, while it does cost a fee to see specific parts. Get skip-the-line tickets to the Duomo here with access to the Brunelleschi Dome climb.
Visit the Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most spectacular art museums in the world. The gallery features masterpieces such as ‘The Birth of Venus’ by Sandro Botticelli, Parmigianino’s ‘Madonna with the Long Neck’ and ‘The Coronation of the Virgin’ by Fra Angelico among many others. The museum is closed on Mondays and adult tickets cost €16. It’s best to book online to avoid long lines.
Don’t Miss the Accademia Gallery
While many think that Michaelangelo’s David statue is located in the Uffizi Gallery, it’s not. It’s actually in the Accademia Gallery, along with the Rape of the Sabines statue by Jean de Boulogne and the Coronation of the Virgin painting by Jacopo Di Cione. Similar to the Uffizi, this museum costs €16 to enter and is closed on Mondays. Winetraveler also recommends booking online to avoid long lines.
Winetraveler Tip: If for some reason you can’t get to the museum, don’t worry. You can check out pretty incredible copies of the statue in front of the Palazzo Vecchio and in the Piazzale Michelangelo.
Cross the River
Plan to cross the Arno via the Ponte Vecchio, the city’s most famous bridge, to explore a less-touristy neighborhood of Florence. This area is Oltrarno, located on the other side of the river from many of the main attractions. Here, you’ll find more local (and more affordable) restaurants, bars and shops, as well as the famous Boboli Gardens, a picturesque private park located behind the Pitti Palace.
Go Wine Tasting in Chianti (and Beyond)
The nearby Chianti region is one of the most famous spots in Tuscany for wine tasting. While we have the perfect five-day itinerary for those wanting to explore the Chianti region, you can wine taste right in the center of Florence. Winetraveler’s favorite tasting spot is the family-owned Enoteca Alessi, a wine shop with a sprawling tasting cellar downstairs. Tastings start as low as €15 per person for wine and snacks.
Learn About Fashion
Fashion lovers can admire some of the most famous Gucci designs and brand history at Gucci Garden, a museum dedicated to the designer. Continue your fashionable day with a visit to the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo. This space tells the story of the Ferragamo brand and designer, as well as hosting innovative temporary exhibits too.
Now that the fashion museums have given you some stylish inspiration, it’s time to shop for something new. Florence is chock full of incredible shopping destinations. Beyond just the larger Italian designer brands, discover small boutiques, artisan galleries and vintage shops tucked along the cobbled streets. The best way to shop is to simply wander and stop into any spot that fits your fancy.
Winetraveler Tip: Don’t miss a stop at the Mercato San Lorenzo, where you can haggle for Italian leather goods.
Eat Florentine Delights & Drink Wine
One of the most famous culinary delights offered in Florence is wild-boar ragu, a hearty meat and pasta specialty that you can order at most restaurants around the city. Another is the bistecca alla Fiorentina, or Florentine steak. The most famous place, though touristy, to eat this cut of meat smothered in a delicious berry sauce is Acqua Al 2, which dates back to 1978. Finally, you can’t leave the city without sampling Florence’s tripe, best eaten in a stew with vegetables and broth.
If you’re still hungry or spending several days in Florence, be sure to stop at Osteria Santo Spirito, located in the hip and lively Oltrarno neighborhood. This traditional trattoria offers a cozy and rustic ambiance, with a menu that features classic Tuscan dishes such as ribollita and pappardelle with wild boar ragù, as well as an impressive wine list with a focus on local wines.
Another standout eatery is Trattoria Sostanza, located near the San Lorenzo Market. This unassuming restaurant has been serving traditional Florentine fare for over 150 years, with must-try dishes such as the buttery chicken breast alla Sostanza and the artichoke pie.
For wine lovers, a visit to Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina is a must. This charming wine bar offers an extensive selection of Tuscan wines, including rare and limited-edition bottles. Winetravelers can pair their wines with a selection of delicious cheeses, cured meats, and other regional specialties.
Enoteca Fuori Porta is another exceptional wine bar located outside the city walls, offering a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, an impressive wine list, and a menu of simple and flavorful dishes made with local and seasonal ingredients.
While all of the above recommendations are fantastic for eats and drinks, we highly recommend booking a walking food tour of Florence with a local. Withlocals offers customizable food and wine tasting walking experiences in Florence, allowing you to discover some local hidden gems without having to worry about the logistics of navigating the city yourself.
Snack at the Mercado Centrale
Florence’s food market is a dream for anyone looking for a snack (or many snacks). If you want a quick, easy lunch with plenty of Italian delights to choose from, this bustling food market is your spot located in the San Lorenzo neighborhood. Try pizza, pasta, sandwiches, cannolis and beyond — whatever looks delicious.
Admire Florence from Above
The hilltop Piazzale Michelangelo boasts some of the most magical views in all of Florence. Head up to view the entire city and the river down below. It’s a little far to visit on foot from the city center, but you can take a taxi, bus or rent a bike to get there.
Marvel at the Stunning Artwork and Architecture of the Baptistery of St. John
Discover the captivating artwork and architecture of Florence’s Baptistery of St. John, an iconic religious building known for its impressive bronze doors. The most famous of these, the “Gates of Paradise,” were created by master sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti and feature ten detailed, gilded panels depicting Old Testament scenes. The southern and northern doors, crafted by Ghiberti and Andrea Pisano, showcase scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist and Christ. Inside, don’t miss the stunning mosaic ceiling, a testament to the building’s rich history and artistic heritage.
Wander Through the Beautiful Piazza della Signoria
Immerse yourself in the historic ambiance of Piazza della Signoria, the political heart of Florence, as you wander through the lively square surrounded by majestic buildings and awe-inspiring sculptures. As the main square of the city, Piazza della Signoria has been a central gathering place for Florentines since the 14th century, hosting important political events and celebrations.
One of the square’s most prominent features is the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s imposing town hall, with its iconic clock tower. The square also houses the Loggia dei Lanzi, an open-air sculpture gallery showcasing masterpieces like Cellini’s Perseus with the Head of Medusa, Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women, and the Medici Lions.
In the center of the square, you’ll find a replica of Michelangelo’s David, placed in the same spot where the original once stood, as well as Baccio Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus. The Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati is another striking feature, celebrating the Medici’s maritime ambitions and Tuscan naval victories.
Visit the Basilica of Santa Croce
Experience the breathtaking beauty and historical significance of the Basilica of Santa Croce, a stunning Franciscan church situated in the heart of Florence. Renowned for its Gothic architecture, intricate frescoes, and magnificent chapels, Santa Croce is also the final resting place of numerous famous Italians, earning it the nickname “Temple of the Italian Glories.”
As you explore the church, pay homage to the tombs of illustrious figures such as Michelangelo, the brilliant sculptor and painter; Galileo Galilei, the renowned astronomer and physicist; and Niccolò Machiavelli, the influential political theorist. These remarkable individuals have left an indelible mark on art, science, and politics, making Santa Croce an important site for both cultural and historical appreciation.
In addition to its famed tombs, Santa Croce houses exceptional works of art, including frescoes by Giotto and his pupils in the Bardi and Peruzzi Chapels, and the Cappella dei Pazzi, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. The church also features the impressive wooden Crucifix by Cimabue, which was severely damaged during the 1966 flood and has since been restored.
Walk the Boboli Gardens
Embark on a leisurely stroll through the picturesque Boboli Gardens, a true oasis of tranquility and natural beauty nestled behind the grand Palazzo Pitti. Designed for the Medici family in the 16th century, these expansive gardens showcase an enchanting mix of Italian and English landscaping styles, adorned with a myriad of fountains, grottoes, and sculptures.
As you wander through the manicured grounds, discover hidden gems such as the serene Kaffeehaus, a Rococo-style pavilion offering panoramic views of Florence, and the iconic Neptune Fountain, an impressive water feature crowned with the god of the sea. The gardens also house the enchanting Grotta Grande, a Mannerist grotto embellished with frescoes and statues, including Michelangelo’s four unfinished Prisoners.
The Boboli Gardens are an open-air museum, with numerous classical and Renaissance sculptures scattered throughout its winding paths and lush greenery. Among these, you’ll find Giambologna’s famed Fountain of Oceanus, a striking marble masterpiece depicting the sea god surrounded by nymphs and cherubs. Guided tours of both the Pitti Palace and gardens are available through Florence Pass.
Go in the Palazzo Pitti
Step into the majestic Palazzo Pitti, a grand Renaissance palace that embodies the opulence and artistic splendor of Florence. Home to a remarkable ensemble of museums, including the Palatine Gallery and the Royal Apartments, the palace offers a captivating journey through history and art. Wander through lavishly decorated rooms adorned with masterpieces by Raphael, Titian, and Caravaggio, while exploring the former residence of the Medici and Lorraine families. A visit to the Palazzo Pitti is an unforgettable experience, immersing you in a world of elegance, culture, and magnificence unique to the Florentine heritage.
See the Frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel
Discover the artistic treasures hidden within the Brancacci Chapel, nestled inside the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence. This exquisite chapel is adorned with magnificent frescoes that are considered masterpieces of early Renaissance art. Painted by renowned artists Masolino, Masaccio, and Filippino Lippi, these frescoes illustrate the life of St. Peter and showcase the artists’ skillful use of perspective, naturalism, and chiaroscuro.
Masaccio’s groundbreaking works, such as “The Tribute Money” and “The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise,” represent a pivotal moment in the history of art, with their innovative use of light and shadow, as well as their emotional intensity. As you admire the captivating frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the artistic genius that blossomed during the early Renaissance and laid the foundation for the period’s subsequent masterpieces.
See an Opera or Classical Performance at Teatro della Pergola or Teatro Verdi
Attend an opera or classical music performance at one of the city’s historic venues: Teatro della Pergola or Teatro Verdi. These elegant theaters, steeped in history and architectural charm, provide the perfect setting for a memorable cultural experience.
Teatro della Pergola, built in the 17th century, is one of Italy’s oldest opera houses and has hosted numerous premieres, including several of Rossini’s and Verdi’s works. With its ornate interiors, plush red velvet seating, and gilded decorations, this theater transports you to a bygone era of glamour and sophistication.
Teatro Verdi, dating back to the 19th century, features a neoclassical facade and a magnificent auditorium adorned with frescoes and gold leaf. This renowned venue offers a diverse program of operas, ballets, and symphonic concerts, showcasing both classic and contemporary works.
Attending a performance at either Teatro della Pergola or Teatro Verdi is not only a feast for the ears but also a visual and historical treat. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the magic of Italian opera and classical music in these magnificent Florentine landmarks.
Visit the Leonardo da Vinci Museum
Delve into the fascinating world of Florence’s most celebrated polymath at the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, dedicated to showcasing the life and work of this extraordinary artist, inventor, and scientist. Located in the historic heart of the city, the museum offers a unique glimpse into da Vinci’s genius, creativity, and innovative spirit.
The museum features interactive exhibits and full-scale models of many of da Vinci’s inventions, including his flying machines, military devices, and engineering marvels. Witness his brilliance in fields as diverse as anatomy, cartography, and botany through detailed displays and replicas of his famous notebooks, sketches, and drawings.
Art enthusiasts will also appreciate the museum’s exploration of da Vinci’s painting techniques and his contributions to the world of art, such as his pioneering use of sfumato and chiaroscuro. Highlights include high-quality reproductions of some of his most iconic masterpieces, including the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.
Visit the Giardino delle Rose
Escape the bustling city streets and find serenity in the tranquil Rose Garden (Giardino delle Rose), a charming and lesser-known gem in Florence. Nestled on the hillside below Piazzale Michelangelo, the garden offers a peaceful retreat where visitors can admire a stunning array of fragrant roses, blooming in a multitude of colors and varieties.
Established in 1865, the Rose Garden is also home to an impressive collection of modern art, including sculptures by the Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon. As you meander through the garden’s winding paths, you’ll encounter these whimsical bronze figures, harmoniously blending with the natural surroundings.
In addition to the roses and sculptures, the garden boasts captivating views of Florence’s iconic skyline, with its famous landmarks such as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Palazzo Vecchio. This picturesque setting provides a perfect backdrop for a leisurely stroll, a romantic picnic, or a quiet moment of contemplation.
Take a Guided Tour of the Vasari Corridor
Embark on a guided tour of the Vasari Corridor, a fascinating and historically significant elevated passageway commissioned by the Medici family in the 16th century. Designed by the renowned architect Giorgio Vasari, this hidden gem stretches over 1 km, connecting the Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Palazzo Pitti, allowing the ruling family to move safely and discreetly between their residences and government offices.
As you venture through the corridor, your expert guide will regale you with stories of the Medici family’s power, influence, and their significant role in shaping Florence’s cultural and political landscape. The passageway is lined with an extraordinary collection of artwork, including a selection of priceless self-portraits by renowned artists such as Rembrandt, Velázquez, and Delacroix.
One of the highlights of the tour is the unique perspective of the Ponte Vecchio, as the corridor passes directly above the iconic bridge. The corridor’s narrow windows offer a captivating view of the Arno River and the bustling streets below, providing a truly exclusive vantage point.
Explore the Museo Galileo
Unveil the secrets of science and innovation at the Museo Galileo, a captivating museum in the heart of Florence dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history of scientific discovery. This unique institution houses an extraordinary collection of scientific instruments and artifacts, many of which were once used by prominent figures such as Galileo Galilei, whose groundbreaking work forever changed our understanding of the universe.
As you explore the museum, you’ll embark on a fascinating journey through the annals of scientific history, encountering an array of telescopes, globes, compasses, and early medical tools. Interactive exhibits and multimedia displays bring these objects to life, revealing the stories of the pioneering minds who revolutionized fields such as astronomy, physics, and mathematics.
One of the museum’s highlights is the collection of Galileo’s original instruments, including his telescopes and the objective lens he used to discover Jupiter’s moons. Additionally, the museum houses the famous middle finger of Galileo’s right hand, a symbol of defiance and the pursuit of knowledge in the face of adversity.
See the Medici Chapels
Behold the opulent Medici Chapels, the magnificent mausoleums of the influential Medici family, nestled within the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence. These lavishly decorated chapels showcase stunning marble sculptures, intricate frescoes, and striking architecture, reflecting the wealth and power of the family who shaped Florence’s history and artistic legacy. Don’t miss the chance to admire these awe-inspiring monuments to one of Italy’s most renowned dynasties.
Visit the Bargello Museum
Step into the fascinating world of Renaissance sculpture at the Bargello Museum, a historic palace-turned-museum boasting an unrivaled collection of masterpieces by renowned artists such as Donatello, Michelangelo, and Cellini. As you explore the museum’s captivating galleries, marvel at iconic works like Donatello’s bronze “David,” Michelangelo’s “Bacchus,” and Cellini’s intricate “Ganymede.”
Housed in a 13th-century former barracks and prison, the Bargello Museum showcases the artistic genius that flourished during the Renaissance, providing visitors with an unforgettable journey through the creative spirit of the era. A visit to the Bargello Museum is a must for art enthusiasts and history buffs alike, offering a unique opportunity to admire the exceptional skill and innovation of Italy’s most celebrated sculptors.
The Best Neighborhoods & Where to Stay in Florence
In this section, we’ll introduce you to five of the top neighborhoods to stay in Florence during your visit, each with its unique charm and attractions. To ensure a truly unforgettable experience, we have handpicked an upscale hotel in each neighborhood that combines luxury, comfort, and exceptional service.
From the iconic Duomo area to the bohemian Oltrarno district, Florence’s diverse neighborhoods offer a wealth of experiences for every type of traveler. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a foodie, or simply looking to immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of this captivating city, our recommendations will help you find the perfect base for your Florentine adventure.
The Duomo neighborhood is the heart of Florence and a perfect base for exploring the city’s iconic landmarks, such as the Florence Cathedral and the Baptistery. The area is bustling with shops, cafes, and restaurants, offering an authentic Florentine experience.
Stay at the luxurious yet boutique Hotel Brunelleschi, nestled in a quiet street just steps away from the Duomo. Housed in a restored Byzantine tower and medieval church, Hotel Brunelleschi offers a mix of history, elegance, and modern comforts.
Santa Maria Novella
Situated near the main train station, Santa Maria Novella is a vibrant neighborhood with a mix of historic attractions, like the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, and stylish contemporary venues. Its central location makes it an excellent choice for those who want easy access to the city’s highlights.
If we had to pick one hotel in the neighborhood, stay at the St. Regis Florence, located along the Arno River, this opulent hotel is set in a historic palace, blending Renaissance style with modern luxury. Winetravelers can enjoy exceptional service, fine dining, and an indulgent spa experience.
San Lorenzo is a lively neighborhood known for its bustling markets, such as the Mercato Centrale, and its close proximity to the Accademia Gallery, home to Michelangelo’s David. The area is popular for its variety of eateries and vibrant atmosphere.
Here, stay at Palazzo Castri 1874. This elegant boutique hotel offers a blend of classic Florentine design and modern amenities. Guests can relax in the hotel’s lush garden, take a dip in the outdoor pool, or unwind in the spa.
Located across the Arno River, Oltrarno is a more relaxed, bohemian neighborhood with artisan workshops, quaint cafes, and beautiful gardens, like the Boboli Gardens. It’s an ideal choice for travelers seeking a quieter, more local experience.
Within Oltrarno, Hotel Lungarno offers luxury and stunning views of the Arno River and the iconic Ponte Vecchio. With its sophisticated design, curated art collection, and excellent service, Hotel Lungarno makes for a refined and memorable stay.
Santa Croce is a historic neighborhood known for its impressive basilica, bustling squares, and charming streets. The area offers a mix of local experiences, cultural attractions, and vibrant nightlife.
The Place Firenze is a chic and intimate boutique hotel is located just steps from the Santa Croce Basilica. With its stylish decor, personalized service, and cozy atmosphere, J.K. Place Firenze is a luxurious haven in the heart of the city.
Frequently Asked Questions about Things to do in Florence
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