Known as the Athens of the Middle Ages, the cradle of the Renaissance, the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, and the capital of the Tuscany region and Firenze province, Florence is a popular tourist destination in Italy with its beautiful architecture, vibrant areas, and delicious food. You have countless exciting things to do in Florence, Italy.
Florence has several must-see places and tourist attractions within walking distance of one another. In this article, we will provide you with a list of things to do in Florence, Italy to have a wonderful trip there.
Where is Florence, Italy?
Florence is located in central-northern Italy on the Arno River. The distance from Rome to Florence is about 275 km (171 miles) and from Milan to Florence is about 318 km (198 miles), depending on the route and the time of day.
How to get to Florence
Florence is easily accessible. You can reach it by train, plane, car, or bus. From Rome, it takes around 90 minutes to reach Florence by train.
Flying to Florence is so easy and comfortable, too. You can fly to Florence through Florence Airport (FLR), known to the locals as “Peretola.” Then, you can take the shuttle bus from the airport to the Santa Maria Novella railway station in downtown Florence. You can also travel to Florence through Pisa Airport (PSA) which takes around 75 minutes to Florence by train or bus.
What Are the Best Things to Do in Florence, Italy?
As the biggest city in the Tuscany region, Florence is best known for its palaces, museums, churches, galleries, and renaissance art. Its historic centre was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Whether you want to delve into the history of this fascinating city or relax in the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, here are the best things to do in Florence, Italy.
1. Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge)
One of the most illustrious landmarks in Florence is Ponte Vecchio, which means “Old Bridge” in Italian. Ponte Vecchio is the first segmental arch bridge in the western world, built across the Arno River.
Made of stone and wood, Ponte Vecchio was created in the Roman era. Unlike the Roman semicircular-arch design, the bridge has fewer piers in the stream, allowing navigation and free passages.
The bustling bridge is lined with various jewellery and watch shops. When you cross it, you can enjoy the amazing view of the river through the two open wide terraces that interrupt the lined shops.
2. Giardino Bardini (Bardini Gardens)
Want to relax in a magical quiet place and enjoy the stunning architecture and the splendid panoramic views of Florence? One of the best things to do in Florence is visiting the astounding Giardino Bardini, Bardini Gardens, behind Palazzo Mozzi. You can explore the Villa Bardini with its Baroque stairs and Wisteria view on the hilly part of Oltrarno.
The garden consists of three parts. The centre contains the 17th-century grand staircase and the Wisteria Tunnel. Both of them lead you to the restaurant and Kaffeehaus where you can grab a sandwich and drink a cup of coffee. Near the Baroque staircase, you will find the 19th-century Anglo-Chinese garden with a running canal. On the other side of the grand staircase, enjoy the garden’s agricultural park with its many statues, woodpigeons, rock pigeons, blackbirds, and more.
3. Oltrarno Quarter
Meaning “Beyond the Arno,” Oltrarno Quarter is located south of the Arno River and is home to countless craftsmen. In the Oltrarno Quarter, you will see numerous notable sites, such as Palazzo Pitti, Piazzale Michelangelo, Basilica Santo Spirito di Firenze, and more.
In 1550, the Medici took the Pitti Palace as their residence and many noble families built palaces there. Craftsmen settled in this area as the Medici and the other noble families commissioned them to decorate their palaces with sculptures, paintings, and mosaics. That is why Oltrarno gained further importance.
4. Opera di Firenze (Florence Opera)
Do you love music and opera? Then, don’t miss out on Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Opera di Firenze. Opera di Firenze, or Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, is a modern auditorium on the outskirts of Florence. It hosts the longest-running classical music and opera festival Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (Florence Musical May).
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino is an annual Italian art festival, held from late April to June every year. It was the first music festival in Italy. Italy’s finest orchestras, theatre directors, and artists collaborate in every annual festival season.
5. Ospedale degli Innocenti (Hospital of the Innocents)
One of the top things to do in Florence is visiting Ospedale degli Innocenti or the Hospital of Innocents. The hospital is a former orphanage and the first of its kind in Europe. It was considered an example of early Italian Renaissance architecture. Nowadays, the hospital has a small museum that includes Renaissance art.
The hospital’s decoration consists of grey stone and white stucco because they are cheaper and more practical. Between the round arches on the facade, there are nine blue medallions with new babies inside.
6. Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square)
One of the most visited places in Florence, Europe, and the World, Piazza del Duomo is in the heart of Florence’s historic centre. In Piazza del Duomo, you will find Florence Cathedral with its Gothic architectural style, along with Giotto’s Bell Tower, and the ancient Romanesque Baptistery of San Giovanni Battista.
7. Florence Cathedral (The Duomo)
Florence Cathedral or the Duomo, as locals know it, is the largest church in Europe and the third-largest church in the world. Located in Piazza del Duomo, the cathedral complex includes the Opera del Duomo Museum, the Baptistry of Saint John, and Giotto’s Campanile. UNESCO listed them all as World Heritage Sites.
This major tourist attraction is formerly known as Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore or the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower. A visit inside the Duomo is totally free. However, if you want to climb the Duomo, you need to book in advance. The ticket costs €18.
8. Giotto’s Campanile (Giotto’s Bell Tower)
Made of white, green, and pink marble, Giotto’s Campanile is the bell tower of Florence Cathedral, which has a Gothic architectural style. For panoramic views of Florence’s skyline, you can climb up this tallest historical tower, approximately 84 meters high. When you are at the top of the tower, you can view the Duomo and the surrounding areas.
9. Brunelleschi’s Dome
Brunelleschi’s Dome, also known as Cúpula de Santa María del Fiore, is one of the top attractions in Florence, Italy. It was the world’s biggest dome at that time. Without a supporting structure, the dome consists of two domes; one inside another.
Florence’s fathers addressed a monumental problem, which is, the enormous hole in the roof of Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. The problem is how to start building a dome 180 feet above the ground. A competition was announced and it was declared that the one who would come up with the ideal design would win a prize of 200 gold florins.
So who built the Duomo in Florence, Italy? In 1436, Filippo Brunelleschi won the contest. He showed great mastery of technical knowledge while building this duomo, financed by the Medici.
10. Piazza della Signoria (Signoria Square)
Between the Arno River and the Duomo, the L-shaped Piazza della Signoria is located. It is named after Palazzo della Signoria. In Piazza della Signoria, there are Galleria degli Uffizi, Loggia della Signoria, Palazzo del Tribunale di Mercatanzia, Palazzo Uguccioni, and Palazzo della Signoria.
11. Piazza della Santissima Annunziata
A short walking distance from the Cathedral in Florence’s historic centre is another square, called Piazza della Santissima Annunziata. It is named after the Church of the Santissima Annunziata. In the centre of the square, there are two Baroque bronze fountains and the bronze Equestrian statue of Ferdinando I, the Grand Duke. Going there is one of the top things to do in Florence.
12. Casa di Dante (House of Dante)
Casa di Dante is another must-see tourist attraction. It is a three-floor museum in Florence, Italy. It was the house of the greatest poet, the father of the Italian language, and the author of Divina Commedia or The Divine Comedy masterpiece. Snooping around it is one of the top things to do in Florence. You will see the life and works of Dante, a figure of great importance in the history of Italian and international literature.
Inside the museum, you will find 14th-century clothes and reconstructions of the streets in medieval Florence. In front of the museum, there is an engraved portrait of Dante of mysterious origins on the floor of the square.
On the first floor, there are ancient objects used by the physicians and apothecaries of this time. There is also the recreation of the Battle of Campaldino in which Dante participated. The second floor is called the political room since it contains documents related to Dante’s exile and panels describing the war between competing factions.
What are the Best Art Museums in Florence, Italy?
One of Europe’s great art cities, Florence is full of art museums and galleries. Among other things to do in Florence, Italy, we will provide you with a list of art museums and galleries that you can visit.
1. Museo Nazionale del Bargello (National Museum of Bargello)
Visiting the Museo Nazionale del Bargello is among the top things to do in Florence. The museum is also known as the Bargello, Palazzo del Bargello, and Palazzo del Popolo (Palace of the People). As the oldest building in Florence, this art museum houses many Gothic and Renaissance sculptures and fine artworks, distributed on the first and second floors of the museum.
On the staircases, explore the bronze animals that were formerly in the grotto of the Medici villa of Castello. On the ground floor, there are 16th-century works of Tuscan. There is also the Medicis’ luxurious collection of medals.
The Bargello was the headquarters of the Capitano del Popolo, the Captain of Justice of the People, and later of the Podestà, the highest magistrate of the Florence City Council. As a former barrack and prison, the Bargello, which means the head of the police, resided in the Bargello Palace in the 16th-century and was used as a prison during the whole 18th century.
2. Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery)
Located near Piazza della Signoria, Galleria degli Uffizi or Uffizi Gallery has priceless Italian Renaissance artworks, sculptures, and paintings. As one of the World’s most famous Renaissance masterpieces, Botticelli’s The Birth of Venice is among the collection of Galleria degli Uffizi.
In addition, La Primavera is another amazing artwork by Botticelli that is in the gallery. Other artworks in the gallery are Raphael’s The Madonna del Cardellino or Madonna of the Goldfinch, Titian’s The Venus of Urbino, Caravaggio’s grotesque artwork Medusa, and more. Visiting this gallery is one of the top things to do in Florence.
3. Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze (Accademia Gallery)
Do you like Michelangelo’s sculptures? Then, head to Galleria dell’Accademia at once. A bit smaller than Galleria degli Uffizi, visiting it is one of the best things to do in Florence. It is another amazing art gallery that houses Michelangelo’s sculptures and other Florentine artists’ collections of paintings from the 13th and 16th centuries. The museum also includes the Russian icons assembled by the Grand Dukes of the House of Lorraine.
3. Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace)
Palazzo Pitti is a must-see palace in Florence, Italy with its Renaissance architecture. Going there is among the best things to do in Florence. It was owned by the Medicis from the 17th and 18th centuries. Transformed from a royal palace into a museum, the palace has 250,000 catalogued artworks. It also has several galleries and museums.
The greatest collection of paintings is in the Palatine Gallery which means “of the Palace.” The Palatine Gallery has 28 rooms inside with portraits, paintings, and frescoed ceilings. The rooms of the gallery include Room of Justice, Room of Venus, White Hall, and Room of Iliad. Other galleries there are Royal Apartments, Costume Gallery, Carriages Museum, Gallery of Modern Art, Treasury of the Grand Dukes, Porcelain Museum.
5. Museo Nazionale di San Marco (National Museum of San Marco)
One of the best things to do in Florence is to visit the Museo Nazionale di San Marco. The 15th-century Museo Nazionale di San Marco (the National Museum of San Marco) is situated in Piazza San Marco. In the museum, admire a wide collection of frescoes and paintings on wood by Fra Angelico.
The museum complex has a preserved convent and a library with illuminated Medieval and Renaissance choir books. On the first floor, there are the friars’ dormitories with three corridors: First Corridor Cells, Novices’ Corridor, and Third Corridor Cells.
7 Historical Churches in Florence
In Italy, there are many historical churches that you would like to visit. Visiting these historical churches is among the best things to do in Florence.
1. Basilica of San Lorenzo (Basilica of St Lawrence)
As the most significant church in Florence, the Basilica of San Lorenzo is one of the largest and oldest churches. The Basilica complex contains this church and other architectural and artistic works. Part of this complex is the famous library of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana which contains the most prestigious collection of Italian manuscripts.
On its facade, white Carrara marble was used. The Basilica of San Lorenzo developed the style of Renaissance architecture. It has an integrated system of columns, arches, and entablatures. Going there is one of the top things to do in Florence.
2. Baptistry of Saint John
Known as Florence Baptistry, the Baptistry of Saint John is an octagonal religious building in Florence, Italy. Many notable Renaissance figures were baptised in this baptistery, including members of the Medici family.
The baptistery has a magnificent mosaic ceiling and mosaic marble pavement. There are baptistery gates on the baptistery sides with bronze statues above them. Visiting it is one of the top things to do in Florence.
3. Basilica di Santo Spirito (Basilica of the Holy Spirit)
Visiting Basilica di Santo Spirito, known by locals as Santo Spirito, is one of the top things to do in Florence. It is an outstanding example of Renaissance architecture. It has 38 side chapels with numerous significant artworks and a crucifix by Michelangelo.
The church is divided into three aisles by columns. With no ornamentation, pillars, and decorations on the facade, appreciate the church’s interior design with a coffered ceiling and pilasters on the sidewalls.
4. Orsanmichele Church and Museum
One of the best things to do in Florence is to visit Orsanmichele Church and Museum. Built on the site of the Kitchen Garden of St. Michael’s Monastery, Orsanmichele was a grain market, then a grain storage area. There is no front door and the entrance to the church is around the corner in the back.
So how was Orsanmichele transformed into a religious building? The image of the Blessed Mother held on one of its columns went missing and a new portrait was painted. Over the years, pilgrims visited it to pray in front of the portrait of the Blessed Mother. Since then, the place was transformed into a church.
The building consists of three floors. On the ground floor, there are 13th-century arches. There are also 14 external niches where their original sculptures were removed or replaced by copies. The original sculptures were set in the Museo di Orsanmichele (the Museum of Orsanmichele).
5. Basilica San Miniato al Monte (St Minias on the Mountain)
On top of one of the highest points in the city stands San Miniato al Monte. This Romanesque-styled basilica is one of the most scenic basilicas in Italy. Visiting it is one of the top things to do in Florence. It is a three-aisled basilican church with a geometrically-patterned green and white marble facade. To the right of the basilica, there is an adjoining Olivetan monastery.
6. Basilica of Santa Croce
Visiting the Basilica of Santa Croce is one of the best things to do in Florence. With its new Gothic marble facade, it is the largest Franciscan church in the Middle Ages. Known as the Temple of the Italian Glories or Tempio dell’Itale Glorie, some illustrious Italian figures, such as Galileo, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Rossini, and others, were buried in the Basilica of Santa Croce.
7. Cappelle Medicee (The Medici Chapels)
Another must-visit place in Florence is Cappelle Medicee or the Medici Chapels. In the San Lorenzo Basilica complex, the Medici Chapels consist of three structures: Sagrestia Nuova, which means New Sacristy, Cappella dei Principi, which means Chapel of the Princes, and the Crypt.
Sagrestia Nuova is a mausoleum for members of the Medici family. The Crypt includes the remains of 50 minor members of the Medici family. In Cappella dei Principi with its interior octagonal cupola, there are six buried Medici Grand Dukes.
Things to Do in Florence at Night
By the light of the moon, Florence is charming at night when the sun goes down. Don’t miss out on the night in Florence. Here is a list of things to do in Florence at night.
1. Loggia del Mercato Nuovo
Near Piazza della Signoria and Ponte Vecchio, you will find the New Market or Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, known by locals as Loggia del Porcellino. Shopping there is among the top things to do in Florence. With a Renaissance architectural style, Loggia del Mercato Nuovo is a covered marketplace. On its southern side, it has the famous bronze wild boar fountain, publicly known as the Fountain of the Piglet.
If you love taking photos, your best chance to take one there will be at night after they close because, during the day, your photos will have tourists, vendors, and merchandise in the background. However, do not miss going to the market in the morning to buy souvenirs.
2. Piazzale Michelangelo
One of the things to do in Florence at night is to go to Piazzale Michelangelo. Offering an impressive view of the city, Piazzale Michelangelo is on a hill on the Arno River’s south bank. In the centre of the square, there is a replica of Michelangelo’s David. Entry to Piazzale Michelangelo is free.
What Food is Famous in Florence, Italy?
Florence is famous for its delicious traditional dishes that you must try. Here is the top famous food in Florence.
1. Ribollita (Vegetable Soup)
In Winter, one of the things to do in Florence with kids is to try the Winter dish, Ribollita. The soup is full of beans, rustic country bread, greens, parmesan, and tomato-based stew. It is a must-try dish that will warm you in the Winter.
2. Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine Steak)
Another most famous dish in Florence is the Florentine steak, Bistecca alla Fiorentina. Seasoned with salts, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon, it is a fire-grilled large t-bone steak. For a smoky flavour, the steak is cooked over roasted chestnuts. Before the chef cooks it, it is customary to bring you the uncooked steak to approve it. Trying it is among the top things to do in Florence.
If you love pasta, you should try Pappardelle. Eating it is one of the best things to do in Florence. It is a wide flat pasta with a heavy sauce. Pappardelle can be served with rabbit, hare, goose, or wild boar. It has a rich flavour and texture.
Don’t miss trying the Italian handmade Gelato. Trying it is one of the fun things to do in Florence with kids. You will find the best Italian Gelato ever in Florence. It has a lot of flavours, like caffé “coffee,” nocciola “hazelnut,” fior di latte “milk,” pistacchio “pistachio,” and more.
What is the weather like year-round in Florence, Italy?
Florence has a mix of humid subtropical and Mediterranean climates. Summers are hot with light rainfall and winters are very cold and partly cloudy. In Florence, the hottest month is July and the coldest month is January.
In summers, the average temperature fluctuates between 25°C (77°F) and 32°C (90°F). However, in winters, the average temperature fluctuates between 7°C (45°F) and 2°C (35°F). The wettest months in Florence are November, December, January, and February.
What to Pack for Florence
In the summer, you can pack a light coat, shorts, pants, dresses, skirts, blouses, sleeveless shirts, sunglasses, sunscreen lotion, sandals, and walking shoes.
In winters, pack a winter coat, a jacket, long-sleeve shirts, jeans, pants, an umbrella, boots, and scarves.
What is the best month to visit Florence, Italy?
For the general outdoor activities, the best time to visit Florence is from mid-May to mid-July and from late August to early October. The third week of September is the ideal time.
Now, after you have read about Florence, tell us which tourist attraction you will visit first. You can also read our articles: Florence, Italy: The City of Wealth, Beauty, and History, 10 Free Things to do in Florence, Italy, and 10 Fun Things to Do in Florence with Kids.
Florence with its amazing architecture, wonderful views, and delicious food is awaiting you!