Unmissable Attractions in Florence, Italy

Florence on a foggy morning as seen from Fiesole hill
Florence on a foggy morning as seen from Fiesole hill | © StevanZZ / Alamy
Photo of Nikki Crowell
4 September 2021

Renaissance art. Tuscan cuisine. Hand-in-hand strolls along the Arno River. Florence is a city of culture and romance. And there’s so much to see and do in this walkable destination, that you’ll need to plan your time accordingly. To help you out, here are the attractions you shouldn’t miss in the capital of Tuscany.

Florence Cathedral

Cathedral, Church
Map View
Detail of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence
© Terence Waeland / Alamy
You actually couldn’t miss Florence Cathedral (also known as Santa Maria del Fiore), even if you tried; its grand, gothic structure and giant dome standing sentinel above the city. While many may be tempted to take a few been-there-done-that photos from the outside, you should take the time to wander its cavernous interior and admire the frescoes. You can also climb all 414 steps to the top of Giotto’s Bell Tower.

Uffizi Gallery

Museum, Art Gallery
Map View
Florence Uffizi Museum, view at sunrise of the courtyard of the Uffizi gallery - the Piazzale degli Uffizi - in Florence, Firenze, Tuscany, Italy.
© Michael Brooks / Alamy
Obvious, perhaps, but you can’t have a list of Florence’s unmissable sites without mentioning one of the most famous art galleries in the world. Full of Renaissance masterpieces and gorgeous architecture, the Uffizi Gallery is a must. Remember to buy your tickets ahead of time and get there early as the queue builds quickly.

Palazzo Vecchio

Building, Museum, Historical Landmark
Map View
The Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence, located on the Piazza della Signoria (Signoria square) in the old town Florence, Italy
© jiGGoTravel / Alamy
During the Renaissance period, when the Medici family ruled much of the region, this palace was 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, frescoes and gilded ceilings. It also has one of the best views in Florence from the top of the bell tower.

Basilica of Santa Croce

Church
Map View
Gothic Basilica di Santa Croce on Piazza di Santa Croce in Florence
© Wojciech Stróżyk / Alamy Stock Photo
Inside the white-marble Basilica of Santa Croce you’ll find a chapel and museum, while there’s a statue of Dante Alighieri (a Florentine) standing over 2m (7ft) tall in front of the church. Book your ticket in advance during the peak season to go inside. The square on which it sits, Piazza Santa Croce, is also great for people-watching or catching any of the frequent events that are held here throughout the year. In June, it’s where the calcio storico (meaning historic soccer) is held –imagine a sport that combines rugby and martial arts, and you’re pretty close to getting to grips with this traditional Florentine game.

Piazzale Michelangelo

Architectural Landmark, Building
Map View
View of Florence seen from Piazzale Michelangelo Hill, Florence, Tuscany, Italy, Europe
© Frank Fell / Alamy

For a great photo, an 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 watercolour painting and the city lights begin to twinkle.

Palazzo Pitti

Museum
Map View
Palazzo Pitti from the Boboli Gardens with the Artichoke Fountain in the historic centre of Florence, Unesco World Heritage Site, Tuscany, Italy
© Simona Abbondio / Alamy
This huge palace is the old residence of the Medici family, and now the largest museum complex in Florence. It’s divided into several different-themed exhibits including silver, clothing and costumes, the residential quarter and the family’s art collection. The original core of the palace was much smaller and built in 1458 for Lucca Pitti, a successful banker. It was purchased by the Medici family in 1549 and underwent expansion by later generations of the family to show their power and wealth. There was also a long corridor built from Palazzo Pitti to Palazzo Vecchio, which went over the Ponte Vecchio and above the Uffizi Gallery, to allow the family to reach the centre of government without coming into contact with the general public. It is open now as a gallery and museum called the Vasari Corridor.

Boboli Garden

Park
Map View
Boboli garden, Florence
© JOHN KELLERMAN / Alamy Stock Photo
This sprawling garden is essentially the backyard of Palazzo Pitti, but an attraction in its own right. With more than 11 acres (4ha) 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 queues. Bring snacks and water and maybe even have a mini picnic and enjoy a relaxing afternoon surrounded by beauty in the middle of the city.

Mercato del Porcellino

Architectural Landmark
Map View
FLORENCE, ITALY - MAY 11, 2019: Fontana del Porcellino, a bronze boar rubbed by thousands of hands for luck. Tuscany, Italy
© Oleksii Sergieiev / Alamy

Find 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 you rub its nose and drop the coin down with a wish.

Fiesole

Architectural Landmark
Map View
FLORENCE, ITALY - March 20, 2014: unidentified tourist visit monastery of San Francesco on the crest of Fiesole hill in Firenze,
© Eddy Galeotti / Alamy

This little hilltop town sits on the north side of the city and can be reached by taking a 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 in which the monks lived. Two weekends a month, there is also a market that fills the main square.

Mercato Centrale

Market, Italian, Vegetarian
Map View
Interior of Mercato Centrale
© Andriy Blokhin / Alamy Stock Photo
This old indoor produce market is where the local restaurants get their fresh ingredients every morning. The first floor is filled with spices, oils, meats, cheeses, breads, vegetables, fruits and even some household goods. The second floor is a food court with delicious street food and plenty of options.

Piazza di Santa Maria Novella

Church
Map View
San Domenico frees a possessed by the devil 1581 Lorenzo Sciorina 1535-1598  Grand Cloister ( Basilica of Santa Maria Novella - Basilica di Santa Maria Novella ) Florence, Italy .
© Peter Horree / Alamy
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, renaissance frescos and dramatic Tuscan gothic architecture. For some reason, many tourists don’t make it a point to go inside, only to enjoy 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

Building
Map View
Florence, Florence Province, Tuscany, Italy.  Piazza della Santissima Annunziata.  Statue of Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, 1549 ? 16
© Classic Image / Alamy

Just a few blocks from the duomo, this square has 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. Now a museum, this is where poor families would leave their babies for adoption or come to give birth, while rich families would leave their children to board.

Piazza Santo Spirito

Historical Landmark
Map View
bar on The Piazza Santo Spirito in Florence, Italy
© Christian Müller / Alamy Stock Photo
This neighbourhood is mostly frequented by locals, but there are a few savvy tourists who wander through. The church here stands out from the rest you’ve probably seen due to the lack of decoration on its facade (it was never finished). But don’t let that fool you, the inside is beautiful. Many markets are held in the piazza, locals hang out here on warm summer nights and local dogs roam free.

See Michelangelo's David

Architectural Landmark, Museum, Art Gallery
Map View
Florence. Italy. Tourists visit Michelangelo's statue of David at the Galleria dell'Accademia museum. Gallery of the Academy of Florence.
© adam eastland / Alamy

Book your tickets to see the world-famous statue at the Galleria dell’Accademia. Although David is the main attraction, stay a while in the gallery to admire the other amazing sculptures and statues. As always, get there early and be prepared to marvel.

Gelato hunting

Ice Cream Parlour, Dessert
Map View
A gelateria, traditional Italian ice cream shop, in Florence
© Vaidas Bucys / Alamy Stock Photo
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. Tempted? Check out our guide to the best gelaterias in Florence.
These recommendations were updated on September 4, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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