The Best things to do in Florence

Florence or Firenze is the capital city of the Tuscany region of Italy and is considered as the birthplace of the Renaissance. It has everything for everyone- be it art and architecture, culture, history, romance and last but not the least- delicious food. Once you have been there, you would understand why it is rated as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and the entire city center is considered as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The view of the city of Florence across the river from the Villa Bardini Belvedre Terrace

While it is almost impossible to list out an extensive list of major attractions, best places to go, things to do and delicacies to feast upon in Florence, in this blog, our endeavor is to present you with the things that you should not miss while you are in this charming city. All the recommendations made here are based on our own experience of being there done that.

1. Visit the Galleria dell’Accademia and Galleria degli Uffizi

The Galleria dell’ Accademia, or the Galleria as it is simply called, is an art gallery and museum of the Academy of Florence. It is most famous for hosting the famed statue of David by Michelangelo, which is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture.

The Uffizi, located just at one corner of the Piazza della Signoria, is the other famous place which is flooded by millions of tourists and art lovers every year. We have clubbed these two places since these are the most common sites that art enthusiasts visit in Florence. It is one of the top 10 museums in the world, and hosts some of the finest collections of Renaissance Art. One of the major attractions is ‘The Birth of Venus’ by Botticelli.

Galleria degli Uffizi on a rainy and not-so-busy afternoon

Traveler Tips:The waiting times to enter both these museums can even range upto 5 hours in peak season. Irrespective of the time of your visit, it is highly recommended to book the tickets to Uffizi and tickets to Galeria dell’ Academia online or via a phone call. Check out the official website of the city of Florence, from where you can buy all the tickets. Alternatively, you can call +39-055-294-883 to book by phone. An online booking charge of €4/ ticket is levied.

2. Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio and Loggia de’ Lanzi

The Piazza della Signoria, considered as the civic hub of Florence, is dominated by locals and tourists alike. The Palazzo Vecchio dominates one corner of this wide square while the Loggia de’ Lanzi, an open-air museum with Renaissance sculptures, overlooks it from its southern end. In the center of this Piazza there is the magnificent Fountain of Neptune, which is a sparkling example of an outlet of a Roman aqueduct.

The Palazzo Vecchio

Traveler Tips:If you are interested in observing how different people carry out their daily chores in this city, it might be a good idea to feast on some Florentine delicacies while seated on an outside table at one of the cafes or restaurants surrounding the Piazza.

3. From Uffizi, walk along the Vasari Corridor to the Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio, one of the most-seen structure in Florence postcards, stands out due to its uniqueness and the number of shops built on both sides of the bridge in the form of houses. It is the oldest bridge in Florence and the only one to survive the world war bombings. It is one of the best places to cross the Arno river when coming from the Uffizi or the Palazzo Vecchio.

The external facade of Ponte Vecchio

Traveler Tips:Take the shaded path via the Vasari Corridor that was treaded by the Medici family royals to go from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Pitti Palace on the other side of the river. This would also provide you a beautiful view of the exterior of the bridge. It up at the center and provides photogenic views across both sides over the river through its arches. Looking north, you can see the Ponte Santa Trinita, is the oldest elliptic arch bridge in the world. Recommended visiting time is dawn for excellent photo shots.

4. Florence Duomo, Giotto’s Campanile and St. John’s Baptistery

The Florence Cathedral or the Florence Duomo is one of the most famous cathedrals in the world. It houses the largest masonry dome in the world, built by Filippo Brunelleschi. Walk along its sides to the Giotto’s Campanile or the Bell Tower and the St. John’s Baptistery to experience the best of Renaissance architecture. Look out for the grand doors of the Baptistery. It is believed that the Renaissance period started from this very place. Once you are done visiting, walk along the main square of the city or the Piazza del Duomo. Together with the buildings, it is declared a Unesco World Heritage Site and amazingly beautiful.

Baptistry, Duomo and the pathway leading to the Duomo from the Galleria.
L2R Clockwise: Baptistry, Duomo and the pathway leading to the Duomo from the Galleria.

Traveler Tips:The Duomo offers spectacular views of the city if one can climb its 476 stairs. However, for another spectacular view of the city with the Duomo in frame, I would recommend climbing the Bell Tower, which has few less steps, 414. You can get a combo ticket from the ticket center right beside the Duomo or buy it online. Please note: Access to the Duomo is free, but to access Dome, you need a ticket and time booking needs to be made in advance.

5. Visit Pitti Palace, climb up to the Villa Bardini crossing the Boboli Gardens

Once home to the Medici family, this palace is now considered as the largest museum complex in Florence. It is connected to the beautiful Boboli Garden, which has a beautiful main lawn with fountain and an obelisk. It is connected to the Villa Bardini. It is recommended to walk up to the Belvedere Terrace, which provides an amazing view of the city across the Arno river

The Palazzo Pitti as viewed from the Boboli Garden main lawn

Traveler Tips:While the Terraces in the Villa Bardini provides beautiful views, it is highly recommended to walk up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, especially shortly before sunset. It provides the best views over the city of Florence. Be there at 5:45 pm to witness the mass sung by the residents in Gregorian chant. When you are in front of Pitti Palace, do not forget to check out the Piazza Santo Spirito, just 5 minutes’ walk down the opposite lane. It quite aptly reflects the city’s cosmopolitan life with bars, restaurants, street markets and a quiet church, mostly flanked by the locals.

6. Walk around the old town and keep an eye on the Florence Road Signs

There is a stellar exhibition of contemporary art mixed with humor reflecting from the road signs of Florence. The notable French artist Clet Abraham turned the street signs in the city to a comic form with subtle alterations mixed with his sense of humor.

The Street Signs in Florence created by Clet Abraham

Traveler Tips: The old town of Florence is pedestrian-only. However, it may also be a good idea to hire a bike from outside of the main train station Santa Maria Novella to explore the city around. It costs approx. €10 per bike per day.

7. Visit the Santa Croce, Basilica di San Lorenzo and the Santa Maria Novella

Florence is a beautiful city to walk around. While enjoying the city, you may sneak some time out to visit either of these churches. The Santa Croce is famously known as hosting the tombs of famous people like Michelangelo and Galileo. While these churches are not as grand as the Duomo, yet, they have magnificent frescoes and some innate work of Renaissance art spread all across their inside walls.

The Santa Croce overlooking the Christmas Market at the Piazza Santa Croce

Traveler Tips:All or most of the above churches would have an entry fee and there can be waiting times during peak season. Online booking, if possible, is highly advisable. If you visit shortly before the Christmas, there is a nice Christmas Market held at the Piazza Santa Croce.

8. Shop perfumes from the oldest working pharmacy in the world

The ‘Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella’, established in 1221 is perhaps the oldest pharmacy in the world, and definitely the oldest functioning one. It was established by the monks from the Santa Maria Novella Basilica, who started by making herbs and medicines. Just a 5-minute walk from the main train station, this is one of the hidden gems in Florence. Inconspicuous from outside, it boasts of some grand interiors and still keeps and sells the original recipes of the monks.

Only a tiny bit of the collection is displayed here

Traveler Tips:If you want to buy some of the oldest perfume recipes in the world, this is your place to be. Take your time, try out and select as they are not cheap.

9. Forget your diet and feast on Florentine delicacies

Tuscany region as a whole, and Florence, boasts of some of the most delicious dishes you can get. Almost every restaurant, dish and café are equally good. So, forget your diet chart and satiate your taste buds while you are there. Dieting can wait!

Florence is rich in Tuscan delicacies.
Florence is rich in Tuscan delicacies.

Traveler Tips:There is nothing called ‘Best Food in Florence’, as all are equally good. However, some of our recommended dishes would be:

  1. Peposo from La Fettunta, located at one of the by-lanes beside Palazzo Vecchio. It is really tasty and not so expensive.
  2. Panini from All’Antico Vinaio, the most famous restaurant in Florence. You get big tasty sandwiches for €5. We tried Inferno and it was delicious. There is a huge queue during usual hours. Hence, account for some time.
  3. Bistecca alla Fiorentina or the Florentine Steak
  4. Gelato from any Gelateria, as all are famous
  5. Taste Chianti Wine.

10. If you get the chance, visit Florence during the F-LIGHT Festival

If you ever visit Florence during December-January, check out the schedule of the F-LIGHT Festival. We were lucky to be there at the time of the festival and it was a splendid experience, with all the major monuments and landmarks all over the city decorated with light illustrations.

We had an amazing experience in Florence and liked the city very much. We felt that it is best explored by foot and the Florentine people are really friendly and welcoming.

I hope that this article was of help to you for your travel to Florence. If you like the content, do not forget to like and follow us and subscribe to our newsletter. In case you have comments or feedback, please drop in a note in our comments section below or use the Contact Page.

A view of the  Ponte Santa Trinita, is the oldest elliptic arch bridge in the world
A view of the Ponte Santa Trinita, is the oldest elliptic arch bridge in the world