Last Updated on: 19th June 2023, 07:13 pm
Tourists and travelers from all across the world flock to Florence almost every year and for good reason.
After all, Florence happens to be one of the most renowned historical cities in the world that is steeped in history and packed with amazing architecture and iconic Italian landmarks.
And there are so many fabulous things to do in Florence, a trip here will never cease to be exciting.
If you’re considering a visit to this beautiful Italian city then don’t miss out on these absolute must-see attractions in Florence outlined in this guide on the top things to do in Florence, Italy!
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My Favorite Travel Booking Sites for 2023
These are my favorite companies that I use on my own travels.
Protect Your Trip via Safety Wing
Find the best deals on hotels & vacation rentals on Booking.com.
For English-speaking private airport transfers, book through Welcome Pickups.
For road trips and independent travel, rent a car through Discover Cars.
Find information and cruise reviews on Cruise Critic.
For packing and travel essentials order via Amazon.
Where to Stay in Florence
Looking to stay in the heart of Florence? Here are three popular hotels located near the city center, one for every budget!
Budget (Under $75 per night)
The Hotel Victoria is a 3-star hotel located near the Accademia Gallery. There is air-conditioning in some rooms and private bathrooms in all (not always the case in a European budget hotel).
Check reviews, availability, and prices for the The Hotel Victoria.
Mid-Range ($75-175 per night)
The Arte’ Boutique Hotel boasts some of the best cathedral views in all of Florence. Located just 650 feet of Accademia Gallery, 1,300 feet from Mercato Centrale, and 1,000 feet from Florence Cathedral, you really can’t beat this location!
Rooms are elegant and decorated with beautiful Italian fabrics and details. Flat-screen TVs (with Netflix!) give you the best of both the old world and the new.
Check reviews, availability, and prices for the Arte’ Boutique Hotel.
Luxury ($175 per night or more)
Hotel Firenze Number Nine is a five-star hotel with exceptional reviews that’s located just two minutes from the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. You can enjoy the hotel’s spa with a relaxing massage at the end of a long day of sightseeing, or spend a morning enjoying their treatments before starting your day. Rooms are gorgeous, comfortable, and peaceful. This is a true Florence hidden gem.
Check reviews, availability, and prices for the Hotel Firenze Number Nine.
The 10 Best Things to Do in Florence, Italy
Florence, the capital of the Tuscany region, is tucked away in central Italy and is known for its rich history, stunning natural beauty, and of course the delicious Tuscan cuisine (which rivals Milanese food, in my opinion, as some of the best in the country).
The city of Florence is hailed as the birthplace of the Renaissance movement, and some of the most notable figures such as Machiavelli, Dante, Galileo, and Lorenzo Medici all came from here.
Go ahead and plan a relaxed itinerary to explore Florence, its palazzos, churches, museums, markets, and bustling squares.
Loggia dei Lanzi – An Open-Air Museum
The museum of Loggia dei Lanzi was designed in the 14th century by a notable architect and artist, Orcagna. This open-air museum draws crowds of tourists and locals alike and is located to one side of the Piazza Della Signoria.
You can instantly recognize it thanks to the wide arches that open towards the street and rest on a group of columns with Corinthian capitals. A pair of Medici lions adorn the steps of the Loggia and are seen as the heraldic symbols of Florence.
Do not miss out on the Latin inscription from 1750 that commemorates the change to align it with the Roman calendar. Other highlights include the fountain of Neptune. There’s a cafe here if you need a pick-me-up.
Take your time wandering around and admire the most magnificent sculptures – Cellini’s Perseus and Giambologna’s Sabines as well as Perseus, Menelaus, and Hercules.
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – The Shining Crown of Florence
Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Florence Cathedral, the Florence Duomo, or the Duomo di Firenze, is one of the most iconic landmarks and churches in all of Florence. Dating back to the 13th century, it took about two centuries to complete the church (though the facade wasn’t finished until the 19th century). It was the largest in the world until 1881.
You simply have to climb to the very top of the structure of the famous dome. Once you reach the top of the dome (or cupola), you can appreciate the remarkable views out over the city and the Duomo itself with its emerald green and pink marble slabs.
The grand dome was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and the entire building and intricate detail are absolutely exquisite. The mosaic works within the Duomo are spread out like immense colorful carpets and a must-see when visiting Florence.
You can also visit Giotto’s Bell Tower (Campanile di Giotto) which is located on the complex. Take guided tours to admire the incredible masterpieces from Verrocchio, Michelangelo, and Donatello and the frescoes of Giorgio Vasari’s Last Judgement, plus the scenes of Florence by Dante.
The Uffizi Gallery – A Treasure Trove of Renaissance Art
The Uffizi Palace and Gallery is considered to be one of the most important art museums in the world as it showcases some of the most magnificent pieces of Renaissance art. It is the first modern museum of Europe that was created in the 16th century by the Medici family and is one of the top attractions in Florence worth exploring.
If you are an art and history buff, you can spend hours inside the Uffizi Gallery. Once inside the horseshoe-shaped gallery, you will come across the inner courtyard lined with a series of intricate columns and arches.
The best way to explore the museum is to take a tour and gaze upon a few of the finest pieces in history such as Raphael’s “Madonna of the Goldfinch”, Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”, Da Vinci’s “Baptism of Christ”, Caravaggio’s “Sacrifice of Isaac”. and Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” to name but a few masterpieces found here.
Undoubtedly one of the most iconic sights in Florence has to be the charming Ponte Vecchio bridge or Old Bridge as it is known locally. This colorful and historic bridge that dates back to 1345 is one of the most photographed sights in all of Florence and a top sight to see when visiting the city.
Today the bridge, that stretches out across the Arno river, is lined with various boutique jewelry and artisan stores. It is a popular stopping point for visitors wanting to snap one of the most romantic sights in Florence.
Get there early morning to avoid the crowds or alternatively at sunset leading into nighttime when the bridge is equally magical. To get the best view of the bridge, head just past the Uffizi Galleries to enjoy the perfect vantage point of Ponte Vecchio.
Mercato Centrale – Food Market
Mercato Centrale is located just above San Lorenzo, the oldest indoor market in Florence. It is housed within a great historical and architectural site that was constructed by architect Giuseppe Mengoni in 1874.
Today the market introduces visitors to the cultural influence of Florence and offers honest produce and traditional cuisine prepared by local artisans. Mercato Centrale is seen as a site for social and cultural events as well as a supply of fresh and delicious Tuscan foods.
Visit the vibrant market for local fresh produce such as meat, fish, cheeses, wine, fruit, oil, and spices that are sold on the ground level, or head upstairs to enjoy fresh Florentine pasta, vegetarian burgers, dumplings, fried fish, cold cuts, and of course, gelato, washed down with your favorite Italian drink of choice!
The Battistero – One of the Oldest Structures in Florence
You cannot fail to notice this iconic octagonal, pink, and green marble building that reflects Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. Lorenzo Ghiberti sculpted the 16th-century bronze doors, known as Gates of Paradise, and once inside the 13th-century building, you will be impressed by the painstakingly detailed artwork found on the domed ceiling, arches, and alcoves.
Many historians date the Baptistery back to the fifth century, although this has not been proven to be true yet.
If you are a first-time visitor and history and architecture buff, you simply must visit the Baptistery, which was once a temple dedicated to the Roman god of war, Mars. Admire the most celebrated Gates of Paradise, the gilded bronze doors decorated with illustrations of Christ and other religious symbols.
Giardino Bardini – Italian Renaissance Style Garden
Located behind Fort Belvedere, Bardini Gardens are home to stunning architecture and well-maintained gardens and parks. It is easy to feel immersed and lost in the magical silence that surrounds you once you are inside the beautiful gardens.
Bardini Garden also encompasses a 17th-century villa with a museum, café, and terrace. Walk through the olive grove or enjoy looking at the wonderful purple wisteria in bloom. Climb to the top of the baroque staircase to gaze at some splendid views of the city.
Take a tour of the Bardini garden during the early morning hours to avoid the crowds. Other highlights of the garden include brightly colored camellias, roses, irises, azaleas, viburnums, plus 60 varieties of hydrangea.
The Piazzale Michelangelo – For Stunning Views
Designed by architect Giuseppe Poggi, Piazzale Michelangelo commands a panoramic view of the city as it is built on the hills set above the city itself. This spot is a firm favorite as it offers some of the most enchanting views of Florence and boasts a replica of Michelangelo’s David.
Enjoy uninterrupted and picturesque views of Florence and its historical landmarks at sunset or explore other nearby attractions that include the Bardini Museum and Casa Buonarroti.
Da Vinci Museum- A Journey Into da Vinci’s Genius Mind
The Da Vinci Museum is dedicated to Leonardo Da Vinci, one of the foremost innovators of his time. Located in the center of Florence, the museum offers a unique experience to its visitors and immerses them in a sensory perception of extraordinary relevance.
Leonardo da Vinci’s art and inventions offer an insight into his entrepreneurial and innovative spirit as you see various models that establish the study of gravity, mechanics, and design. There are five sections of the museum that showcase the principles of mechanisms, earth, water, air, and fire.
The museum contains the actual machine codes and made drawn from Leonardo and offers an insight into his sophisticated intelligence and advanced skills. Take a tour of the Da Vinci Museum and experiment with interactive displays and learn about the innovative spirit of Leonardo Da Vinci.
Vivoli Gelato – The World-Famous & Oldest Gelato Shop in Florence
Your trip to Florence will remain incomplete if you return home without at least tasting the best gelato from the oldest shop in Florence.
Vivoli started making gelato way back in the 1930s, and during that time, when there was no refrigeration, they shipped ice blocks from the Apennine mountains. Their recipes and fervor for homemade ice creams have been handed down from generation to generation since.
Vivoli Gelato creates homemade gelato with high-quality ingredients as well as a lot of passion. Some of the favorite flavors include hazelnut, pistachio, cocoa, and dozens of other flavors of gelato and sorbets, perfect for cooling down after a long day of sightseeing & exploring.
The Best Florence City Tours
Sometimes you don’t want to figure out seeing each of these great things on your own. In that case, I love going on a walking tour or bus tour of a city to get a good introduction. Then afterwards, I can go explore more on my own.
More Fun Things to Do in Florence, Italy
There really is so much to do in Florence that just one day would never be enough. You might have a hard time seeing just the highlights in two or three days. Here are more things to do in Florence to keep on your radar as you make your plans.
If you love art, make sure to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia to see the original of Michaelangelo’s David.
Visit thePalazzo Vecchio, a medieval fortress built in 1299.
Wander the Boboli Gardens after your visit to the Uffizi Gallery. They are located in the Oltrarno behind Pitti Palace.
Looking for something to do in Florence at night? Cross the Arno to check out the Piazza Santo Spirito.
Here you can also see Filippo Brunelleschi’s last church, the Basilica di Santo Spirito.
Go on a private tour of the Palazzo Pitti (or Pitti Palace).
Stroll the Piazza Santa Croce and marvel at the intricacies and detail on the facade of the Basilica of Santa Croce.
Give yourself time to enjoy the Piazza del Duomo after your Duomo tour.
Visit the 13th-century Santa Maria Novella chuch which features artwork by Giotto and Ghirlandaio.
If you love seeing the opera in Europe, you will want to see the opera here since the first-ever opera was performed in Florence in 1597. You can see shows at the Teatro della Pergola.
For modern and contemporary art, check out the Museo Novecento.
If you can’t get enough architecture, head up to see the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte.
For more art and architecture, head to the Palazzo del Bargello to see the Bargello Museum.
Day Trips from Florence
If you will have a lot of time and you want to get out a little further, here are a few day trips from Florence that you can take while here.
If you’ve always wanted to try your hand at keeping the Leaning Tower of Pisa standing up (or at least take a trick picture), you can visit Pisa as a day trip from Florence. You can go on your own via train (or by renting a car), or you can go on a guided tour.
This guided tour includes stops in Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano, and a wine-tasting in Chianti.
There’s enough to do in Siena that you can easily make it it’s own complete day trip without adding other stops. Make sure to see the town’s cathedral and the famous city tower.
5 Things to Bring with You to Florence
The Lonely Planet Italy guidebook or the Rick Steves Italy guidebook for your trip. It can be kind of a pain to find the major guidebooks once you arrive in Italy, or you’ll find them overpriced. I always like to pick mine up ahead of time.
An Unlocked Cell Phone so that you can use an Italian sim card while here to help navigate the trains.
Backup Charging Bank for your cell phone since you’ll be using it as a camera, GPS, and general travel genie.
A Great Day Bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc). My current favorite is the Pacsafe Citysafe, which is especially great for Italy because it has many anti-theft features. (Italy is the ONLY country where I have almost been pickpocketed).
More Italy Travel Resources
I also have city-level guides:
If you’re planning to see DaVinci’s Last Supper, here’s a guide to getting tickets for Santa Maria delle Grazie so you don’t miss it! (Tickets sell out early).
Next, while you’re in Milan, you should make time to see these beautiful Milan Churches.
If you’ll be spending time in Rome, check out my interview with Mike Duncan on the history of The Roman Forum. I also have several episodes of my travel podcast, Rick Steves Over Brunch about Rome and Venice. Plus I have 101 Italy Quotes for Italy Instagram captions.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging out in cities (like Florence…ahem) where tourists can be the victims of pickpockets. Italy is the only country I’ve been to (out of almost seventy) where I’ve had someone try to pick my pocket!
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for my big international trips since I founded this blog in 2015. If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.