19 BEST Things to do in Florence Italy (2023)
Things to do in Florence Italy
Table of Contents
- 1 Things to do in Florence Italy
- 1.1 What is Florence Italy Known For?
- 1.2 Florence Cathedral, The Duomo
- 1.3 Take in the Views at Piazelle Michelangelo
- 1.4 See the David Statue at the Accademia Gallery
- 1.5 Uffizi Gallery
- 1.6 Ponte Vecchio
- 1.7 Mercato Centrale
- 1.8 Take a Day Trip to See Tuscan Highlights
- 1.9 Palazzo Vecchio
- 1.10 Have a Sandwich at All’ Antico Vinaio
- 1.11 Florence Walking Food Tour
- 1.12 Have the Best Gelato in Florence
- 1.13 Have Aperitivo on a Rooftop
- 1.14 Try Authentic Tuscan Cusine
- 1.15 Pasta and Desert Cooking Class with Wine
- 1.16 Basilica Santa Croce
- 1.17 Horseback Ride & Wine Taste in the Countryside
- 1.18 Boboli Gardens
- 1.19 Bardini Gardens
- 1.20 Shop in Florence
- 1.21 Bonus: Book this Hotel for Unobstructed Rooftop Views
Florence Italy is just one of those cities in Italy you HAVE to visit! I’m sharing the top things to do in Florence Italy that are perfect for first-time visitors, and seasoned travelers to the area.
From the top things you must do (which can fit in on a day trip) and unique things to do like horseback riding in the countryside, this list covers it all.
And the great thing about Florence Italy is that it’s relatively small and walkable! In just one day you can cover almost the entire city!
What is Florence Italy Known For?
Florence Italy is known for being home to the birthplace of the Renaissance. The same streets have been walked by famous Renaissance artists and scholars like Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and more.
And to this day, Florence looks almost the same as it did during the Renaissance.
Florence Italy is home to famous Renaissance art like Michelangelo’s David statue, the original Ponte Vecchio bridge finished in 1345, and has the air of a flourishing Renaissance city, but with modern comforts.
No wonder it’s home to many college study abroad programs, and one of the most visited cities in Italy.
Now let’s get into the best things to do in Florence Italy!
Florence Cathedral, The Duomo
The Florence Duomo is the 4th largest cathedral in Europe and has influenced the skyline in Florence for centuries. It was first started in 1296 and was completed in 1436. Brunelleschi’s dome was built without a supporting structure and is still standing today.
You can marvel at the stunning marble facade, or you can visit inside.
Tickets to enter are free and it’s on a first come first serve basis. During the summertime, the lines were incredibly long, so I actually didn’t get to see inside.
But there are guided tours you can book (at a fee) and skip the line and learn more about this fascinating structure.
And to go even further, you can book another kind of ticket to go inside the dome and get a bird’s eye view of Florence. Book now.
Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:15 AM -4:15 PM. Closed on Sundays and holidays
Take in the Views at Piazelle Michelangelo
One of the best FREE views in all of Florence is Piazelle Michaelangelo, a large square that has panoramic views of Florence.
Now to get the best views, you have to get to the top of approximately 548 feet. To reach the top of Piazelle Michalego involves a short “hike”.
How hard is the walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo?
In my opinion….the walk-up isn’t nearly as bad as people are making it. And I walked up in mid-day HOT 90-degree weather.
If you’re in average fitness you’ll be okay. And if you’ve been to the Amalfi Coast it’s actually a breeze.
You can always take breaks during your accent to the top and take in the views.
Plus, if this motivates you, there’s a bar ready and waiting for that post-hike Aperol spritz with a view!
But I do recommend at least wearing some sensible shoes like sneakers as the incline can be steep at points.
If a walk-up is not your thing, yes there is a bus you can take to the top. However, I think the effort to get there makes it all more special and enjoyable.
When to go to Piazalle Michelanglo?
You can go to Piazelle Michelango anytime during the day.
Sunset is a beautiful time to go and see Florence lit with an orange glow, however, it’s the busiest time so don’t expect the view to yourself. Expect plenty of locals and tourists alike taking in the views. My advice, bring a bottle of wine (yes you can drink in the open) and try to find a front-row view.
If you want beautiful lighting sans crowds, venture off during sunrise! Since the view is panoramic, you’ll get that orange glow without the crowds. Florence is a sleepy morning city, and you’ll most likely have the view to yourself.
And if you can take the heat during summer, going mid-day isn’t as crowded as sunset. But be aware there is NO shade as it’s an open square so sun protection is a must!
Tip: Have coins available as there are restrooms at the top with a small charge.
See the David Statue at the Accademia Gallery
A must-see in Florence is Michelangelo’s David State located inside the Accademia Gallery, a smaller art museum in Florence.
Not to be confused with the Uffizi Gallery, this is a separate museum located a short walk from each other.
And in my opinion, both should NOT be missed when in Florence.
The David state was started in 1501 and was completed in 1504. This work of art is larger than life, a symbol of the Renaissance, and the details of the carving are worth seeing in person.
Here are my tips to Visit Michelangelo’s David inside the Accademia Gallery.
Be sure you have a pre-booked reservation!
This is one of the most popular things to do in Florence, and the lines can get extremely long- especially during the summer high season. So having a pre-booked ticket is essential.
If you don’t pre-book your tickets, you’ll be waiting outside in the sun, and a short wait is “around 2 hours” when I asked an employee.
So rather than waiting (and wasting precious time) in the hot sun for hours, just pre-book your tickets!
If you took any Renaissance art history classes in school, this is the place where you can see those original works in person!
The Uffizi gallery is a large art museum that shouldn’t be missed when in Florence. The museum itself is stunning with gorgeous marble and decadent rooms.
You’ll see famous works like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and works from Leonardo di Vinci, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, and more.
In fact, the size of this museum surprised me, it’s HUGE! So you could easily spend more than 2 hours here. But this is the kind of place that you would need to revisit multiple times to see everything.
Uffizi Gallery Visiting Tips:
Want the best visiting experience? You need to book your tickets in advance.
This is one of the most popular things to do in Florence, and having a pre-booked time entry ticket will ensure a seamless entry without a wait.
You can book your timed entry tickets here.
And if you want a guided tour with a local guide, you can book guided tour tickets here.
A walk across Ponte Vecchio is like going through a walk in time. The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval bridge over the Arno River that was completed in 1345!
Other bridges were completed during that time, but this is the only one that is still standing today.
In the past, it was filled with butcher shops- if you can imagine the smell. But in the 13th-century jewelry shops took their place.
Now to this day, all you’ll find is some jewelry shops while you walk across the bridge!
Calling all foodies! Mercato Centrale is a large Florence food market serving local bites from numerous vendors. Not only will you find Italian specialties, but you’ll also find other cuisines from around the world.
It can get a bit overwhelming due to the crowds, but if you like trying and sampling the food, this should be a must-stop on your time in Florence.
Take a Day Trip to See Tuscan Highlights
If you’re in Florence Italy for a few days, I highly recommend getting outside the city and taking a day trip to experience other places in Tuscany.
The tour I took was FANTASTIC! And it was a highlight of my time in Florence.
I booked an entire day trip exploring everything I wanted to check off my list including Siena, visiting a Chianti winery with lunch, visiting the medieval village of San Gimignano, and visiting Pisa to see the leaning tower.
While it was a long day, the tour was paced nicely and everything was planned out for you with enough time “on your own” in each place so you could spend your time how you wanted.
I’ve been on a lot of organized day trip tours, and this one just stood out for being so well-planned, enjoyable, educational, and relaxing!
To see more of what the tour was like, watch my Youtube Vlog and definitely book this tour for your trip!
See rates and availability (plus there’s free cancelation) Trust me, it’s worth it!
Palazzo Vecchio is a historic palace that has served as the seat of the city’s government for many centuries.
Now, Palazzo Vecchio is a popular attraction that’s known for its ornate architecture, which is a blend of Gothic and Renaissance styles. It features a number of notable artworks and frescoes, including a famous fresco by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Salone dei Cinquecento.
You can book a guided tour to learn more about this historic sight.
Have a Sandwich at All’ Antico Vinaio
Ready to taste the best sandwich of your life? You’ll have to wait in line at All’Antico Vinaio to find out if the hype is worth it!
Every time I passed this sandwich shop, which is located right near the Uffizi Gallery, there was a HUGE line.
During the evening, however, past 9 pm there is hardly a line. So maybe the best time to try the sandwich is for a cheap night’s dinner?
I did not wait in line, so I can’t tell you if it’s worth the hype… it’s up to you to decide.
P.S. I tried Il Cernachio, a low-key sandwich place around the corner with no line and tables to eat, and it was DELISH!
Florence Walking Food Tour
One of my favorite ways to learn about a city is by taking a walking food tour.
This Florence food walking tour will give you insightful information about Florence’s history from a local guide, and you get to taste regional foods.
Some foods you will try on this tour are chiacciata with balsamic vinegar, cantuccini, fresh homemade pasta, traditional pappa al pomodoro, and more!
This tour is approximately 2.5 hours and costs $38 a person.
Have the Best Gelato in Florence
Two places I frequented multiple times during my trip were Gelateria di Neri & Gelateria di Carraia.
And based on the long lines filled with Italians, I knew these shops were the local favorites!
Gelateria di Neri & Gelateria di Carraia were the REAL deal. The creamy texture of the Gelato and natural flavors were so delicious. Trust me, you’ll notice the difference and might shun ice cream forever.
Pistachio and hazelnut together is an Italian favorite- so give it a try. It’s the only combination I ordered in Italy and you can’t really find the same flavors in the US.
Tip: during summer, eating Gelato in a cup is the way to go. By the time you step outside your cone would be completely melted. I know, I know it’s not the most instagrammable, but your hands will thank me for not being sticky all day.
Have Aperitivo on a Rooftop
After all the walking you’ll do in Florence (it’s inevitable as it’s a pedestrian city) take time to enjoy an aperitivo with a view.
Loggia Rooftop doesn’t have a Duomo view but is set in a stunning outdoor terrace overlooking other parts of Florence. It’s located on top of a hotel Palazzo Guadagni, and you can make reservations online to secure your table, or you can just walk in.
Try Authentic Tuscan Cusine
A traditional regional dish is Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, a dry-aged beefsteak made from the Chianina breed of cattle, that should be tried at least once during your visit.
Reserve a table at La Bruschetta Ristorante for authentic dishes in an intimate space with walls filled with wine corks.
You’ll also find lots of dishes in Tuscany with truffles. (Heaven is a place on earth, am I right?!)
The region of Tuscany is filled with truffles, which are edible fungi grown in the ground. They are rich and delicious.
You’ll find truffles offered over pasta, and other dishes at restaurants. Plus you can find them sold by the jar at stores to take home as authentic souvenirs.
Pasta and Desert Cooking Class with Wine
Learn the secrets of how to cook the perfect pasta with a cooking class hosted by an Italian Chef.
This cooking class will teach you how to make 3 different kinds of pasta and sauces and give you the best tips for parking with wine- so you can impress your friends when you get back from your trip!
Wine & dine with your own class cooking.
This class is open Monday – Saturday
Basilica Santa Croce
The Santa Croce Church is a Franciscan church known for its architecture and important role in the history of Florence.
What’s notable about this church, it’s the burial place for many famous figures like Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli.
It’s open to visitors daily from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm, with extended hours on Friday and Saturday.
Admission is free, but there is a fee to visit the museum and the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo, or when you take a guided tour to learn more about this beautiful Gothic Church
Horseback Ride & Wine Taste in the Countryside
Ever dreamed of riding horseback in the countryside of Tuscany? Your dreams can come true with this amazing day trip where you will horseback ride through the scenic hills of Tuscany.
And the trip doesn’t end there. Afterward, you’ll have a wine tour at a stunning luxurious winery where you’ll learn and try Chianti wines and have a small lunch!
This tour is perfect for beginners, or advanced riders and is a highlight of any trip to Italy.
Looking to escape the city and enter a marvelous garden designed by the Medici Family? A visit to Boboli Gardens should be on your list of things to do in Florence if you enjoy gardens. Inside are different types of flowers, plants, sculptures, and landscapes.
Note: wear comfortable shoes as there is a large hill involved and might not be suitable for those with limited mobility. Also, there’s not a lot of shade, don’t forget your sunscreen.
Similar to the Boboli Gardens, the Bardini Gardens is a stunning garden that has beautiful views over Florence. If you already have tickets to Boboli Gardens, then the entrance to the Bardini Gardens is included.
What’s notable here is the famous wisteria pergola that blooms around April/ May.
These gardens may not be able to fit into a first-time visitor’s time in Florence but is sure to be put on your list for the next time. (Because there will be one!)
Shop in Florence
Can’t leave Florence without some shopping!
Want high-end designers? Shop on Via Roma.
Want your favorite stores like Zara H&M? Shop on Via Calzaulini.
The great thing is that these streets are right next to each other, so all your shopping can be done in one area.
If you’re looking for local finds, visit the San Lorenzo Market. This market is home to a variety of stalls selling leather goods, clothing and accessories, souvenirs, and local specialties.
Plus there are food vendors- so you won’t go hungry shopping!
The market is open Monday through Saturday from around 8:00 am to 7 pm. It’s a vibrant place and busy place, and it’s a great way to see and experience the local culture!
Bonus: Book this Hotel for Unobstructed Rooftop Views
Looking for an affordable hotel to stay in with absolutely incredible rooftop views?
This hotel is located right near the Santa Marie Novella train station and has affordable cozy rooms. Don’t expect the 4 Seasons (and the a/c was a little weak during the summer heat wave), but for the price, it’s a great budget-friendly option with incredible views.
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