Florence is full of wonderful things to do and see. If you only have a short time or just want to see the highlights, here are 21 things you absolutely cannot miss.
Santa Maria del Fiore
You couldn’t actually miss seeing this if you tried, but if you get a chance to go inside, it’s highly recommended. During peak season there are lines, but if you plan it and schedule your time, you can definitely make it happen.
Il Battisterio di San Giovanni
Adjacent to the duomo is the famous battistero, or baptistery. This small building that sits in front of the city’s main cathedral is breathtaking. Buy your ticket before going inside, which includes all attractions for the cathedral and museum below.
Campanile di Giotto
Although this is usually implied when people say to visit the duomo, not many people know you can actually climb to the top for an amazing, up close view of the cathedral. Climbing Giotto’s bell tower is among the most popular things to do when in Florence, all 414 steps.
This famous landmark is also hard to miss. The bridge itself is lined with jewellery stores from one side of the river to the other, where the windows attract with their glittering allure dripping with gold and jewels. This is also a great spot for photos on the river.
Piazza della Repubblica
Just off of the the main piazza del duomo (each main cathedral in Italy is called the duomo) is Piazza della Repubblica where you can find a grand arch, a colourful old carousel and fancy restaurants with outdoor seating. This is a great square for people watching and having a drink.
The Uffizi Gallery
This one is obvious, but you can’t have a list of Florence unmissables without mentioning one of the most famous art galleries in the world. Full of Renaissance masterpieces, famous artists, and gorgeous architecture, the Uffizi Gallery is a must see. Remember to buy your tickets ahead of time and get there early as the line accumulates quickly.
Piazza della Signoria
This grand piazza is home to Palazzo Vecchio, the loggia of outdoor statues and sculptures, the Fountain of Neptune, The Gucci Museum and is surrounded by bars and restaurants, with outdoor seating and filled with the music of local street musicians. With a great ambiance and plenty of art and history to take in, this piazza is highly recommended.
Located in Piazza della Signoria, this famous old palace has lots of history from the Medici family. During the Renaissance period when the Medici family ruled much of the region, this building which was originally the political point of Florence, turned into the residence of Cosimo Medici I. The interior of the building is now a beautiful museum with a collection of art, gorgeous detailed design and architecture, frescos, and gold gilded ceilings. It also has one of the best views in Florence from the top of the bell tower.
Piazza Santa Croce
From the outside, this church looks like the others with a similar white marble facade and Renaissance architecture, but on the inside, it’s a gorgeous oasis with a chapel, museum, and adjacent garden. There’s also a famous state of Dante Aligheri (a native born Florentine) standing over two meters tall in front of the church. Book your ticket in advance during peak season to go inside. This square is also great for people watching with a drink in hand, or catching any of the frequent events that are held in the square throughout the year. In June, this large piazza is the location of the famous Calcio Storico (meaning historic soccer) which is a medieval game traditional only in Florence. It’s sort of like rugby meets mixed martial arts, but with no rules and a lot more blood. During the Christmas season, there’s a big Christmas market with handmade goods from all over Europe and delicious food too.
For a great photo, unforgettable view and maybe even some great memories, take the short hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo and let Florence show off its beauty. The best time to go is at sunset, where the sun drops down behind the city, turns the sky into a water colour painting and then the city lights begin to twinkle. It is magical.
Stroll Down Florence’s Version of Rodeo Drive
Much like Rodeo Drive, this high fashion street is full of great Italian and non-Italian brand stores. From Gucci and Prada to Tiffany’s and Cartier, this street is great for shopping.
This sprawling garden is the backyard of Palazzo Pitti and is an attraction in its own right. With over 11 acres of green space, standalone museums, statues, sculptures, art, hidden pathways and fountains, Boboli Garden is a popular attraction. In the warmer months, buy your tickets ahead of time to beat the lines. Bring some snacks and water and maybe even have a mini picnic and enjoy a relaxing afternoon surrounded by beauty in the middle of the city.
This huge palace is the old residence of the Medici family, which is now the largest museum complex in Florence. It’s divided into several different themed museums including silver, clothing and costumes, the residential quarter and the family’s art collection, to name a few. The original core of the palace was much smaller and built in 1458 for Lucca Pitti, a successful banker. It was later purchased by the Medici family in 1549 and underwent expansion by later generations of the family to show their power and wealth in the city. There was also a long corridor built from Palazzo Pitti, over the Ponte Vecchio, above the Uffizi Gallery and reaching Palazzo Vecchio to allow the family to cross high over the city avoiding the common people to get between the centre of government to their residence. It is open now as a gallery and museum called the Vasari Corridor.
Mercato del Porcellino
Find some Tuscan leather goods at this outdoor daily market and bring home a souvenir. Although most of the leather at this market is real, be careful not to overpay for something fake. Do your research beforehand to be a savvy market shopper and maybe you can score a bargain. Don’t forget to rub the nose of the boar fountain for good luck -put a coin in its mouth as your rub its nose and drop the coin down with a wish!
Hill Top Town Views
So this one isn’t exactly in the city of Florence, but it made the list for a good reason. This little hilltop town called Fiesole (pronounced Fee-EHZ-oh-leh) sits on the north side of the city and can be reached directly by local bus. Just a short hike up the street from the main square is a lookout point where the view of the city below and the surrounding green Tuscan hills is to die for. There’s also a quaint church and an old monastery where you can go inside and see the rooms the monks lived in. Two weekends a month, there is also a market that fills the main square. There is one museum Fiesole has that is older than the entire city of Florence, which is the old Etruscan amphitheater. Stay for lunch with a view and enjoy the peace and quiet before heading back into the city centre.
This old indoor produce market is where all the local restaurants get their ingredients fresh every morning. The first floor is filled with spices, oils, meats, cheeses, breads, vegetables, fruits and even some household goods. The second floor above is a recently renovated food court with delicious street food and all kinds of options.
Basilica di Santa Maria Novella
This piazza is right near the main train station of Florence, which is named after the church. The basilica has much more to offer than meets the eye with numerous separate chapels inside, a gorgeous courtyard, famous Renaissance frescos that have been uncovered and some famous designers’ work on the Tuscan Gothic architecture. For some reason, many tourists don’t make it a point to go inside, only enjoying the pretty square. Be sure to not make the same mistake and see what lies in store in one of the older churches in the city.
Piazza della Santissima Annunziata
Just a few blocks away from the duomo, this square has an equestrian statues, lots of history and a great view of the main cathedral down its narrow street. The main building is the old orphanage called Ospedale degli Innocenti and although it translates to hospital, it really means hospitality. Now a museum, the place was once where poor women would leave their babies for adoption, come to give birth, where rich families would board their children, or even where poor blue collar families would leave their children to be raised until marriage age. There is also a secret church opposite of the view of the duomo which is one of the most intricately decorated churches in the city.
Piazza Santo Spirito
This neighbourhood is mostly for locals, but there are a few savvy tourists who wander through. This church immediately stands out from the rest you’ve probably seen due to the lack of an ornately decorated facade. The facade was never finished and was therefore left plain. Don’t let that fool you however, the inside is beautiful. This piazza is where many markets are held, locals hang out in the warm summer nights and local dogs play and roam free.
See Michelangelo’s David
Book your tickets to see the world famous David up close and personal at the Galleria dell’Accademia. Although this perfect man is the main attraction, stay awhile and enjoy the other amazing sculptures and statues in the gallery. As always, get there early and be prepared to marvel.
tThis isn’t necessarily an attraction, but you can’t say you’ve experienced Florence without trying some of the city’s most famous gelaterie, or ice cream parlours. Grab a cup or a cone of your favourite flavour and enjoy strolling the cobblestone streets taking it all in. Check out our list of best gelaterias in Florence to know where to go.