Ah, Florence. This beautiful Tuscan city on the river Arno is a popular destination and it’s easy to see why. There’s great food, impressive architecture, art, history and shopping. I hate to say it but there really is something for everyone. Whilst the list below covers some of the best things to do in Florence, there’s so much more that’s waiting to be discovered. Truly one of the best things you can do is turn that GPS off and wander the streets.
I’ve been fortunate to visit Florence several times with family and always find something new which makes me appreciate the city even more.
The best things to do in Florence
Climb the Duomo
Florence’s Duomo is one of the main sights in the city. You can climb to the top of it if you feel like taking on 476 stairs. From here you’ll get views of the entire city and that’s a magnificent site to see. A ticket to climb the Duomo in Florence will cost about 8Euros.
Or the Bello Tower
Alternatively, you could climb the Bell Tower just next to the Duomo. From up here you’ll get a good view of the Duomo and it’s slightly cheaper too, at just 6Euros.
Find the funny street art
As the Renaissance capital of the world, Florence also has a less well known contemporary art scene. Street artists such as Clet Abraham have been changing street art signs into pretty funny art work. You’ll see them all around the city and they’re bound to put a smile on your face.
Cycle the city
One of the best things to do in Florence is to hit the bike paths. Luckily for cyclists these paths actually go straight through some of the city’s most scenic neighbourhoods.
There are bike rental stands just outside the Santa Maria Novella station and it’ll cost you roughly 10Eurso a day. Grab a map and hit the trails!
Get Coffee at Chiaroscuro
One of Italy’s most sacred rituals is sipping espresso at the bar. They’re practically obsessed with the quality of the espresso and not in a beard-weilding-hipster way either.
At Chiaroscuro’s espresso bar you’ll get to sample a variety of beans from over 15 countries. It’s the place to go for the real Italian coffee experience.
Eat as much ice cream as you can
It’s believe that Florence is the birthplace of Italian ice cream. Perche’ No is known for its seasonal flavours such rose and lavender or (my favourite) salted caramel. It’s been open since 1939 and also has plenty of traditional flavours.
Another great gelateria option is La Carraia. This is just across the river and is tasty, fresh and surprisingly cheap. You can get a scoop for only one euro!
Picnic at Giardino delle Rose
Between Piazzale Michelangelo and San Niccolo is a little garden which is a nice place to relax from Florence’s hustle and bustle.
Inside Giardino delle Rose you’ll find over 350 varieties of roses, lemon groves a Japanese garden and great views of the city too.
Pack some snacks (and a bottle of red!), and head here in the afternoon for a relaxing picnic.
Everyone knows that Italian food is delicious (and especially Tuscan food!) Some of the best food in Tuscany is on offer at the covered Mercato San Lorenzo and you should definitely head here hungry! There’s fish, meat, bread, the best olive oil, honey, balsamic vinegar, truffles and more.
Once in the market make sure to get a “panino con lampredotto” (tripe sandwich). This typically Florentine sandwich might sound strange but it’s a local delicacy so you’ve got to try it!
Top tip: the stalls with lots of signs in English will probably have inflated their prices for tourists, so either be prepared to haggle or steer clear.
Find even more food at Mercato Sant’Ambrogio
This market is less well known than Mercato San Lorenzo. It’s a bit smaller but you’ll find the same high quality, delicious Tuscan produce.
Learn about leather
During your trip to Florence you’ll quickly learn that Florence has a long tradition of leather making. There are leather bags, wallets, belts and shoes on sale pretty much everywhere.
At Santa Croce’s leather school you’ll be taken through the leather making process step by step. You’ll learn about how it’s sourced, sewn and dyed. You can take a one hour tour for 14euros if you’re interested in learning all about leather.
Check out the Uffizi
The Uffizi museum is one of the reasons so many people visit Florence. Leave yourself plenty of time to explore the museum and the classics housed inside such as Venus de’ Medici; The Birth of Venus; Bacchus and Ognissanti Madonna.
Also make sure to walk along the Vasari Corridor where you can walk from the Uffizi to the Palazzo Pizzi on the other side of the river. Make sure you book tickets in advance to avoid waiting in very, very long lines.
Explore the Bargello Museum
If you’re not museum-d out after visiting Florence’s Uffizi and the Accademia then take a look around some of the city’s smaller museums. The Bargello Museum is one of these. It’s the national sculpture museum and is home to Donatello’s sculpture of David in bronze. There are also ancient artefacts from Europe and the Middle East.
Visit Villa Bardini
Villa Bardini dates back to the 14th century and sites on top of a hill looking down on Florence. The villa has two small galleries and some beautiful gardens. It’s a great place to relax after a day of sightseeing in Florence.
Head up to the Belvedere Terrace, from where you can see Brunelleschi’s dome, the Piazzale Michelangelo, and the tower of Palazzo Vecchio.
Eat bistecca fiorentina
You might see hoards of people scrambling to get into restaurant, il Latini. It’s a famous Florentine restaurant known for its super thick bistecca Fiorentina. AKA a huge steak.
If you don’t want to wait then head on over to Ristorante del Fagioli. This restaurant has been open since 1966 and serves up delicious bistecca fiorentina too. Maybe even better…
Visit Palazzo Pitti
Palazzo Pitti is the largest palazzo (palace) in Florence. It was once owned by the Medici family who you’ve probably heard of before. Inside you can visit a whole eight different galleries!
Go people watching at Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria is the historic and political centre of the Florence. It’s right next to the Uffizi Gallery so it’s a good place to rest after taking a look at all the art in the museum.
La Basilica di Santa Croce
The Santa Croce was built for more common citizens of Florence. It’s just 15 minutes walk from the Duomo so you can easily combine the two in one morning.
It houses the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Rossini and many more well known Italians. For this reason, the Santa Croce is also known as the Temple of the Italian Glories
At Palazzo Strozzi you’ll find a different exhibit with pretty much every visit. The exhibits are also in English as well as Italian so you’ll be able to fully understand what you’re seeing.
Grab a bottle from an enoteca
You can’t come to Florence without sampling some (or a lot of) Italian wine! Head into one of the countless wine shops (enotecas) and pick up a bottle. It’s bound to be good.
Watch the rowers on the Arno River
Walking along the Arno River is a great way to take in Florence. From river level you’ll also get a great view of the architecture (and escape the crowds).
You’ll undoubtedly see some rowers on the river at some point during your stay in Florence as their club is right next to the Ponte Vecchio. As a former rower myself I’m pretty jealous of their training ground!
Eat at La Cucina del Garga
If you visit La Cucina del Garga make sure to call ahead (+39 055 475286) and make a reservation. Then, ask to sit in the painted room. They serve some of the best food in the city and it’s not that well known amongst visitors. Get some burrata and enjoy a variety of authentic Tuscan dishes.
Day trip to Fiesole
This is one destination you won’t find in many guidebooks or on websites, however it is definitely not to be missed.
Fiesole is a town and commune in the Italian hills which looks down onto Florence. If you thought the views from the Duomo were good you haven’t seen anything yet.
Simply make your way to Piazza San Marco and buy a ticket for about 1euro 20. Take the number 7 bus straight into Fiesole which leaves every 15 minutes.
Fiesole has a beautiful little monestary as well as great walks providing spectacular views of the whole of Florence. It also claims to be the place of Michaelangelo’s first flight and houses an ancient amphitheatre and Etruscan archaeological sight with a great museum that is well worth the price.
One thing you simply must do on a visit to Florence is to watch the sun set over the city from Piazzale Michelangelo. It’s probably the most well known view of Florence but you’ll see why when you experience it yourself..
Stroll the Ponte Vecchio
You simply can’t visit Florence without at least seeing the Ponte Vecchio. This famous bridge was the first built across the Arno River and is the only surviving bridge from Florence’s medieval days.
The bridge is lined with shops selling gold and silver jewellery as well as souvenirs. It’s also a very popular place from which to watch the sunset. Visit at sun rise and the bridge will be a little emptier but just as beautiful!
Wander through the Oltrarno neighbourhood
Meaning “Across the Arno”, the Oltrarno neighbourhood is home to local artisans. It’s filled with quaint streets and wonderful shops and restaurants. Many visitors to Florence miss this area entirely and that’s a shame!
Make sure to wander the streets here and enjoy the Piazza Santo Spirito, the trees, and a younger, more bohemian crowd. It’s more of a “locals” neighbourhood so the atmosphere you will breathe here is absolutely different.
There are good local coffee places and wine bars and some of the cheapest restaurants in town. What’s not to love?
Get pizza at Gusta pizza
The lines at Gusta pizza are often very long but the pizza here is some of the best you’ll ever have. They don’t have a website but they don’t seem to need one!
Eat authentic Tuscan
If you’re after something other than just pizza and pasta then head to La Beppa Fioraia for some authentic Tuscan food. It’s on the opposite side of the Arno to most of the things to do in Florence but it’s worth heading over for this tasty food.
Do some luxury shopping
At Piazza Santa Trinita you’ll find Via de’ Tornabuoni which is home to Gucci, Armani, Ferragamo, Versace, and many more. Even if designer labels aren’t your thing wander down this street for some entertaining window shopping.
How to get around Florence
One of my favourite things about Florence is how walkable it is. You can get pretty much everywhere just on foot (so pack comfortable shoes!).
If you do need a day off from walking you could get a bus around town. It’s pretty easy to work out how to use it, just look up the routes beforehand on the ATAF site.
Where to stay in Florence
Getting to Florence and away
You can fly directly into Florence or Pisa from the UK and take a train from the airport to the city centre. I always use Skyscanner to book flights as it’s super easy AND cheap!