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19 BEST Places to See & Things to Do in Florence, Italy (+Map & Tips)

19 BEST Places to See & Things to Do in Florence, Italy (+Map & Tips)

Looking for the best things to do in Florence, Italy, and feeling overwhelmed?

Indeed, with so many impressive landmarks and museums, deciding what to see and do in Florence is not always easy, especially if your time in the city is limited and you also want to make a few day trips nearby.

So to help you figure out where to go and what to see in Florence, in this guide we focus mainly on the VERY BEST sights and TOP tourist attractions in Florence that are worth your time the most if you are visiting the city for the first time.

In addition to the ‘must-sees’, we also share a couple of our personal favorite things to do in Florence – experiences that will make your visit so much more memorable.

For all the sights and attractions in Florence mentioned in this guide, we also include our experience-based tips and useful information for your visit.

At the end of this article, you will also find a map of the best places in Florence. It will help you plan your sightseeing itinerary and make the most of your first trip to the beautiful Firenze. Take a look!

Florence bike tour with views at Piazzale Michelangelo
Sightseeing in Florence.

The cultural capital and one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, Florence (Firenze) is famous for its art, spectacular architecture, and rustic cuisine. Nestled on the banks of the Arno River and surrounded by the scenic Tuscan countryside, it is home to the world-famous artworks of Michelangelo, but also Botticelli, da Vinci, Rafaello, and many others.

You’ll find gorgeous Renaissance buildings and monuments at every turn and the city is filled with traces of its historic wealth and power.

With so much to explore, it’s really not easy to decide which of Florence’s landmarks to see unless you have at least 3-4 days in the city. So in this guide, we mostly focus on the top sights, places that are worth it the most if your time is limited.

At the same time, your visit will be much more pleasant if you get a bit off the beaten path as well, even if just to get a drink and enjoy the views from some of the amazing rooftop bars in Florence. So in our guide, we include a few additional recommendations, beyond the ‘musts’.

TIP: I also recommend that you check our Florence 1-day itinerary for recommendations on how to see the very best of Florence in a short time.

What to see and do in Florence, Italy
Ponte Vecchio is one of the must-sees in Florence.

Here are the best things to see and do in Florence:

1. Duomo & Brunelleschi’s Dome

The most recognizable landmark of Florence, the Cathedral or the Duomo is absolutely not to be missed when visiting Florence for the first time.

And there’s a lot more to see and do here than it looks at first sight! So much, in fact, that we listed the main attractions as separate points in this guide.

But let’s start with the main sight – the Duomo – first. The spectacular Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is an enormous structure towering high above the skyline of Florence. The fourth-largest cathedral in the world, its beautiful exterior is covered in a combination of pink, green, and white marble.

Inside you’ll see many beautiful frescoes and mosaic pavements, along with a magnificent 15th-century clock that still works to this day. However, the interior of the Dome is not nearly as impressive as that of the other magnificent churches in Florence. The most decorative is the inside of Brunelleschi’s Dome above the altar.

Florence Duomo complex is not to be missed in Firenze, Italy
Florence Duomo complex is like a destination in itself – with so many different museums and places to see.
Brunelleschi’s Dome inside the Cathedral of Florence
Brunelleschi’s Dome inside the Cathedral of Florence

One of the best things to do at the Duomo is climb Brunelleschi’s Dome, which covers the cathedral. Climbing the 463 steps to the top is the only way to see its incredible paintwork from close by. In addition, the panoramic views of Florence from the top of the dome are simply stunning and well worth the effort.

Climbing the dome is one of the most popular things to do in Florence. Luckily, you can get timed tickets in advance, so you don’t have to waste time (guided tours are also available). These tickets/tours normally also include a visit to Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistery, and Cathedral Museum (you can find more information about these places further below).

Alternatively, there are many more tours that include a climb here, usually in combination with some other sights nearby.

Good to know: The cathedral itself is free to visit, but there’s usually a long queue to get in. If you climb the dome, you can enter the cathedral via a separate entrance and get to see it without extra queuing. Be sure to dress appropriately when you visit the cathedral (knees and shoulders covered).

Viewing terrace on top of Brunelleschi’s Dome at the top of Florence Duomo
The viewing terrace on top of Brunelleschi’s Dome.
Florence city view from the dome of the Duomo
Florence city view from the Duomo dome.

TIP: Not widely known is the fact that in addition to climbing Brunelleschi’s Dome, you can also visit the Duomo Terraces.

This level can only be visited with a guided tour (it also includes the Dome climb). While the Duomo terraces aren’t an absolute must, we opted for this option and found that it was quite interesting.

It gives you a very different perspective on the Cathedral itself, plus you get to enjoy some nice city views from yet another angle. It’s also really special to be able to visit a place that not many people get to see.

Our experience: Because we wanted to see the Duomo terraces and also visit Galleria Accademia with a guide, we opted for this amazing tour. It includes the Duomo Dome climb, exclusive access to the Duomo terraces, as well as Galleria Accademia (Michelangelo’s David).

Florence Duomo terraces
Duomo terraces can only be visited with a guided tour.
Duomo terraces and city views in Florence
Duomo terraces and city views with Medici Chapels in the distance.

2. Giotto’s Bell Tower

Standing right next to the cathedral, you’ll find another landmark of Florence, Giotto’s Campanile. This is the cathedral’s bell tower.

The construction of this magnificent tower began in 1334. Thanks to its unique coloring and sculptural decorations it is considered to be one of Italy’s most beautiful spires.

If you like to see the best high-angle view of the Duomo and its impressive dome, be sure to climb the 414 steps to the very top! The views from here are almost as impressive as from Brunelleschi’s Dome, except that you also get to see the dome itself.

TIP: If you have the time and are physically capable, I highly recommend both – the dome climb and Giotto’s bell tower. If you have to choose just one, most people go for the dome. Both towers give you great views of Florence, but the artwork of the Last Judgment in Brunelleschi’s Dome is just too special to miss.

We did both and found that each experience was unique and worth the effort. This ticket includes everything there is to see at the Duomo including Giottos’ Bell Tower, the Dome climb, and more. While the dome climb is timed, you can come back to Giotto’s Tower at any time you like. It’s also open quite late and tends to be much less busy.

Florence Duomo and Giotto's Bell Tower
Florence Cathedral and Giotto’s Bell Tower.
Giotto Bell Tower viewing platform with a view of the Duomo in Florence
Giotto’s Bell Tower viewing platform offers amazing views. But it is also completely covered making it difficult to take pictures.
Florence Duomo view from Giotto's Tower
View from Giotto’s Tower – from here, you have a very close view of the Duomo and its dome.

3. Piazza del Duomo & the Baptistery of St. John

Piazza del Duomo is Florence’s main square, home to the cathedral and the splendid buildings of Giotto’s Campanile and the Baptistery of St. John.

There are other impressive buildings to see there, too. These include the Loggia del Bigallo (originally a place for lost or abandoned children awaiting adoption) and the Palazzo Nonfinito (Unfinished Palace), which now houses the Museum of Mankind.

The Baptistery of St. John is the oldest religious site in Florence. It dates right back to the middle of the 12th century. It’s wrapped in marble just like the Duomo and the bell tower, but its most stunning features are its incredible bronze doors, which were added in the 15th century. You can see the impressive doors from the square – no need to enter inside.

However, the interior of the Baptistery is equally spectacular, with some beautiful mosaics lining the ceiling of this octagonal building. So if it’s not too busy, be sure to check it out! The good thing is that most people only spend a few minutes inside, so even if there’s a queue, it moves very fast.

Good to know: The ticket to the Baptistery of St. John is usually included with the tickets for the Dome climb and/ or Giotto’s Tower. Most tickets also include admission to Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, which contains many of the original works of art created for the Duomo, and also the Crypt of Santa Reparata, where you can see archeological remains under the cathedral.

You can easily spend half a day at the Duomo complex if you want to visit all these places. But if your time is limited, my personal top-3 would be the Dome climb, Giotto’s Tower, and the Baptistery. If it’s not busy, the Crypt of Santa Reparata can be visited in 10-15 minutes, so I’d consider that too.

Baptistery of St John in Florence
Duomo Square and the Baptistery of St. John.
Gates of Paradise - Eastern Doors of St John's Baptistery in Florence
Gates of Paradise – the Eastern Doors of St. John’s Baptistery.
Ceiling mosaics inside the Baptistery of St John in Florence
Ceiling mosaics inside the Baptistery of St. John
Crypt of Santa Reparata under the Florence Cathedral
The Crypt of Santa Reparata under the Cathedral is also worth a quick visit if it’s included in the tickets you buy and if you have a few minutes to spare.

It would be unthinkable to go to Florence without paying a visit to the Uffizi Gallery. Established in the 16th century, this is one of the oldest museums in the world. This galleria actually gave name to all the art galleries in the world.

This awesome art museum is the most visited museum in Italy. It’s considered equally as important as the Louvre in Paris or New York’s Metropolitan Museum. You’ll find some of the most important renaissance masterpieces in the world here. These include works by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raffaelo, and Leonardo da Vinci.

You could easily spend an entire day admiring the thousands of unique exhibits, but it’s so overwhelming too. As a minimum, allow yourself at least 2 hours to see the very best pieces. However, the challenge is to know where to go and what to see, so I highly recommend visiting the Uffizi Gallery with a guide.

Uffizi Gallery - top things to do in Florence, Italy
Uffizi Gallery. It’s only this quiet very early in the morning. When it opens, it’s a real beehive…
Portraits of Agnolo and Maddalena Doni by Raffaello - Uffizi Gallery in Florence
Portraits of Agnolo and Maddalena Doni by Raffaello, plus Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo at Uffizi Gallery.

TIP: There are so many tours that visit Uffizi that the choice can get really overwhelming. After lots of research, we opted for this small-group tour and it was absolutely excellent.

Good to know: If you decide to go on your own, be sure to get timed entrance tickets! The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most popular attractions in Florence, so the crowds here are enormous.

PRO TIP: If you can, try to visit very early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The busiest hours are between 10 am and 3 pm. Also, be sure to do some research about the main paintings in the gallery so that you don’t miss them. Also, please note that Uffizi Gallery is closed on Mondays.

TIP: Check out the Uffizi Gallery Café on the top floor. It has a lovely outdoor terrace with a view of Palazzo Vecchio – it’s a nice place to rest a bit after all the sightseeing.

Botticelli's Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence
Botticelli’s Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery.
Uffizi Gallery is among top things to do in Florence
Uffizi Gallery is an absolute must-see in Florence.

5. Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio (the Old Bridge) is the most iconic bridge and one of the must-sees in Florence. It’s located right next to the Uffizi Gallery and connects the city center to the other side of the river.

Until 1218, this was the only bridge crossing the River Arno, and later it remained the only bridge that the fleeing Germans did not destroy in World War II! What you see today is a slightly more recent version which was rebuilt in 1345 after a flood.

There have always been shops on the bridge, however, originally, they were occupied by butchers, tanners, and blacksmiths. This changed in the 16th century when the Medici family built the Vasari Corridor over the bridge and found the meat smell disturbing. Since then, the colorful bridge is lined with gold- and jewelry shops.

The bridge makes a lovely spot for a romantic evening stroll. But my personal favorite time to come here is very early in the morning when there are hardly any people around. This is the only time when you can see the bridge empty.

TIP: In addition to walking over this bridge, it’s just as interesting to simply see it from the sides. That way, you can better appreciate its unique structure. The Ponte Vecchio is especially impressive from a distance. For the best views and photos, head to Ponte Santa Trinita, but don’t forget to see the bridge from the west side too – it’s from here that you can also see the Vasari Corridor (more about it further below).

Must see in Florence - Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio.
Florence Ponte Vecchio early in the morning
Ponte Vecchio is only this empty if you come very early in the morning. During the day, it’s always crowded here.

Galleria dell’Accademia (Accademia Gallery) is another must-see in Florence, attracting huge crowds. The Gallery of Fine Arts was founded here in 1563, making it Europe’s very first art academy.

The main attraction in this museum is the most famous statue in the world – Michelangelo’s ‘David’. Also not to be missed are Giambologna’s ‘Rape of the Sabines’, plus Botticelli’s ‘Madonna and Child’ and ‘Madonna of the Sea’.

In addition to its famous statues, you’ll find collections of paintings from local artists, religious prints dating back to the Middle Ages, and even works created by Accademia’s students.

The building also houses a fascinating Museum of Musical Instruments. It contains more than 50 instruments, some of which were owned by the Medici family and made by famous violin maker Antonius Stradivarius.

Good to know: This is Florence’s second most visited museum and it’s much smaller than the Uffizi Gallery. So the queues here are usually very long. Be sure to get the timed priority entrance tickets online, as they allow you to jump the queue. Please note that Accademia Gallery is closed on Mondays.

TIP: If you want to visit both the Accademia Gallery and the Uffizi museum with a guide, you’ll find plenty of tours that include the two museums.

Galleria dell'Accademia, Michelangelo's unfinished sculptures, and David in Florence
Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures and David at Galleria dell’Accademia.
Michelangelo's David at the Accademia Gallery is among most popular things to do in Florence
Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia Gallery. This is one of the masterpieces that you have to see in reality – no pictures do it justice.
Rape of the Sabines sculpture model at Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence
‘Rape of the Sabines’ sculpture model at Galleria dell’Accademia. The original can be seen on Piazza della Signoria.

7. Piazza della Signoria

Located in the heart of the old town, the L-shaped Piazza della Signoria is one of Florence’s most beautiful town squares. Filled with incredible sculptures, statues, Neptune Fountain, and home to the impressive Palazzo Vecchio, this square feels somewhat like an open-air museum.

Don’t miss the extraordinary sculptures at Loggia dei Lanzi, right under the terrace of the Uffizi Gallery café. Also note a copy of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ at the entrance of Palazzo Vecchio. If you don’t have the time to see the original at Galleria dell’Accademia, this gives you a bit of an idea of how special it really is. And if you think this one is impressive, the details of the original will take your breath away.

Be sure to pop back and visit the square in the dark as well. The lit fountains, statues, and buildings give it a magical appearance.

Piazza della Signoria is a great place to learn more about the city’s history, or simply hang out and people-watch. There are many cafes nearby and lots of benches on which to take a break and enjoy a gelato.

TIP: Try to avoid the tourist-oriented gelaterias selling ‘mountains’ of colorful ice cream. Instead, ask locals for recommendations or go for the less colorful, artisanal gelato. One of the better gelaterias in this area is ‘Perché no!’, just 2 minutes walk from Piazza della Signoria. Be sure to try the traditional Florentine ice cream flavor ‘buontalenti’. It’s named after Bernardo Buontalenti, a 16th-century artist, who is often credited as an inventor of Italian gelato.

Best things to do in Florence - Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio
Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio.
Fountain of Neptune on Piazza della Signoria in Florence
Fountain of Neptune on Piazza della Signoria.

8. Palazzo Vecchio & Views from Torre di Arnolfo

The city’s most important historic government building, the 13th-century Palazzo Vecchio now serves as Florence’s town hall and houses a museum. In addition, you can also climb Arnolfo Tower for some of the best views in Florence. The most famous postcard views of the city are photographed from this tower.

Some people prefer to do this to climbing the Duomo dome, as it gives you a great view of the Duomo itself. Having done them all, I think that each is worth it (I know, I’m not helping here). But Arnolfo Tower climb is not as high as the Duomo Dome or Giotto’s Tower, and it’s also less busy and cheaper.

Soaring to 95 meters high, the palace towers over the city, its foundations resting on the remains of an ancient Roman theatre. This means that a visit here gives you a glimpse of three different eras – Roman, Medieval, and Renaissance.

With its cubic shape and battlements, the building of Palazzo Vecchio looks quite impressive and unique from the outside. But its interior is even more stunning. You can see beautifully carved columns and a fountain in the courtyard, then climb the grand staircase to reach the main floor housing the incredible Salone dei Cinquecento.

Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence Italy
Salone dei Cinquecento inside Palazzo Vecchio.
Florence Duomo and city view from Arnolfo Tower at Palazzo Vecchio
View from Arnolfo Tower

Good to know: Just as for all the main sights in Florence, it’s best to book your Palazzo Vecchio tickets in advance. This allows you to skip the line and avoid the disappointment of not being able to visit (tower tickets are timed too).

The standard museum ticket doesn’t include the entrance to the tower, so be sure to select that option if you want to do it. Here you can get a ticket that includes both – entry to the palace as well as Arnolfo Tower.

TIP: If you have extra time, consider a guided ‘secret passages’ tour. This tour takes you to the areas of the building that are not accessible to the general public and helps bring the incredibly interesting history to life. Of course, there are regular tours too.

Palazzo Vecchio - best places to see in Florence, Italy
Palazzo Vecchio – the courtyard at one of the entrances to the palace.
Palazzo Vecchio entrance on Piazza della Signoria, Florence
Palazzo Vecchio entrance on Piazza della Signoria door with a copy of Michelangelo’s ‘David’.

9. Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti is another incredibly beautiful place to see in Florence. Located on the other side of the river in the Oltrarno district, this magnificent palace has had many famous residents over the years, including the Savoy, Lorraine, and Medici families, along with the Grand Dukes of Tuscany.

Once the largest residence in Florence, it is still one of its most impressive! The Galleria Palatina – filled with Italian works of art – is its most famous room, but you can also see contemporary pieces in the Galleria d’Arte Moderna and silverware in the Museo degli Argenti.

The Royal Apartments are also open to visitors, along with the Galleria del Costume. Here you can see how tastes in clothing worn at the palace changed over time. Once you have seen all the rooms and exhibits inside the palace, take time to stroll through the famous Boboli Gardens (more info below).

This palace has a reputation for closing some of the smaller museums quite regularly. If there is one you particularly want to see, then I recommend checking it is open before buying your ticket. On the other hand, there is so much to explore here that you won’t be able to see everything anyway. Some parts of the palace and the gardens were indeed closed during our visit, but we didn’t feel like we missed much. We ran out of time just trying to quickly see some of the musts.

Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens in Florence
Palazzo Pitti as seen from Boboli Gardens
Palazzo Pitti museum is one of the best in Florence
Palazzo Pitti has several museums and is huge. You could easily spend an entire day inside.
Galleria Palatina at Palazzo Pitti in Florence
One of the many rooms inside the Palatine Gallery at Palazzo Pitti.

Good to know: The cost of admission to Palazzo Pitti includes all the museums housed within. You need to buy a separate ticket to visit the Boboli Gardens. You can get your tickets for the palace and Boboli Gardens in advance, but normally, you should also be able to get them on the spot. Online tickets will save you time since you won’t have to queue. Keep in mind that Pitti Palace is open daily except on Mondays, whereas the gardens are open daily.

These combination tickets include Piti Palace, Boboli Gardens, and Bardini Gardens. While not nearly as impressive as Boboli Gardens, Bardini Gardens are very pretty too, and they offer really nice views of Florence.

TIP: You can also opt for the Palazzo Pitti tickets that also include Uffizi Gallery (+ the gardens and two other museums as well). These are valid for 5 days, so you don’t have to visit all the places on the same day either. However, as already mentioned before, I’d really consider visiting the Uffizi Gallery with a guided tour, so in that case, your ticket to this museum will already be included.

Royal Apartments at the Palatine Gallery inside Palazzo Pitti in Florence
Royal Apartments at the Palatine Gallery inside Palazzo Pitti.
The White Hall inside the Pitti Palace in Florence
The White Hall inside the Pitti Palace.

10. Boboli Gardens

Boboli Gardens are located right behind the Palazzo Pitti. Dotted with beautiful fountains, sculptures, and ancient oak trees, these spectacular gardens have become one of my personal favorite places in Florence. Somehow we completely overlooked them on previous trips, but now that we visited here recently, I can’t recommend them highly enough!

These gardens were designed by the Medici family and their layout was used as a model for many other European courts, Versailles in particular.

One of the prettiest parts is the lovely Viottolone (Cypress Lane), a sloping avenue fringed with trees and the perfect spot for a romantic stroll. It takes you all the way to Vasca dell’Isola (Island Pond), a pretty pond with a fountain and sculptures at its center.

Don’t miss the beautiful rose garden Giardino dei Cavalieri (the Knights Garden). It’s a bit uphill at the very end of the garden and you may wonder if it’s worth the effort, but it sure is. The view of the Tuscan countryside from here is so beautiful.

Cypress Lane (Viottolone) in Boboli Gardens Florence
Cypress Lane in Boboli Gardens
Tuscan landscape view from the Knights Garden in Boboli Gardens in Florence
View from the Knights Garden in Boboli Gardens

Other must-sees inside the gardens include Grotta del Buontalenti, an impressive grotto right at the start/end of the Vasari Corridor. Just nearby, there’s also a smaller Grotta di Madama, that’s really special too.

Good to know: Boboli Gardens are usually open daily and the main entrance is through the courtyard of the Pitti Palace. You can get a ticket in advance, but you should also be able to get it on the spot.

TIP: There is A LOT to see at both Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens. If you are short on time, I recommend taking a tour that includes both, so you don’t miss the highlights. Tours run all year round and take around 3 hours. This is one of the best tours that covers all the highlights here.

Grotta del Buontalenti at the Boboli Gardens in Florence
Grotta del Buontalenti.
Grotta di Madama, Boboli Gardens, Florence
Grotta di Madama.
View from Bardini Gardens in Florence
View from Bardini Gardens. The ticket to these gardens is included with the Boboli Garden ticket.

11. Vasari Corridor

Connecting Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery in the city center with the Pitti Palace on the other side of the Arno River, the Vasari Corridor (Corridoio Vasariano) is one of the most intriguing places in Florence. It was built in 1565 by the Medici family to give them easy and secure access between the two palaces.

This 1 km-long elevated passageway can best be seen from the Uffizi Gallery or from the western side of the Ponte Vecchio bridge (the corridor is actually built on top of the shops located on the bridge). It contains antique statues, 16th-century frescoes that were once on the exterior of the corridor’s walls, and memorials connected to bombings that occurred in Florence in the mid to late 20th century.

Good to know: This passage has never been really open to the general public, with few exceptions, and has always been surrounded by some mystery. However, this is about to change. The Vasari Corridor is undergoing a complete renovation. It was supposed to open to the public a few years ago, but the opening was delayed time and again. At the moment of the last update, they don’t even show the approximate date anymore.

When/if it opens, you’ll be able to walk from the ground floor of the Uffizi Gallery, over Ponte Vecchio, and all the way to Boboli Gardens. You’ll need a separate ticket for this and more information will be available here by the time when the actual opening date is in sight.

Vasari Corridor over the Ponte Vecchio in Florence
Vasari Corridor spans over the Ponte Vecchio and connects Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti.

12. Basilica di Santa Croce

Florence has many wonderful churches, but this one may just be the best! If you visit just one church in Florence inside, make it the Basilica of Santa Croce, located on the Piazza di Santa Croce in the city center. It’s worth it even more than seeing the inside of the Duomo.

This impressive Basilica has a stunning neo-Gothic facade with colored marble and white stone. Just as most other Basilicas in Florence, it also has an impressive courtyard. However, in the case of Basilica di Santa Croce, it’s the inside of the church that is worth visiting the most.

Inside, light pours onto the wide nave through the gorgeous stained glass windows and highlights the imposing marble pulpit created by the Renaissance sculptor Benedetto da Maiano. The church is also filled with Donatello sculptures, beautiful frescoes, and the tombs of some very famous people.

Don’t miss the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Rossini, and Machiavelli, to mention just a few. You’ll also see the tomb of Dante, although he’s actually buried in Ravenna and not in Florence where he was born.

Good to know: The entry fee includes admission to the entire church complex, including the museum, cloisters, etc. You can get tickets online in advance, but when we visited, they were more expensive because they charged an extra reservation fee. We found that it was easy enough to visit without advance reservation (and it’s more flexible too), but this might depend on when you visit, of course.

Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence
Basilica of Santa Croce.
Tomb of Michelangelo in Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence
Tomb of Michelangelo inside the Basilica of Santa Croce.
Inside the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence
Basilica of Santa Croce.

13. Basilica di San Lorenzo & Medici Chapels

No list of the best things to do in Florence would be complete without mentioning Basilica di San Lorenzo. Consecrated in 393 by Saint Ambrose of Milan, Basilica di San Lorenzo claims to be Florence’s oldest church. For a period of around 300 years, it was actually the city’s cathedral. But one of its main claims to fame is that it was also the parish church of the Medici family, so it remained an incredibly important building.

Located in the center of Florence’s main market district, the basilica complex has 5 different sections to explore. These include the pretty cloister, the library, the church itself, The Old Sacristy, and the Medici Chapels – the burial place of the Medici family.

While the church and the cloisters are interesting to see, I find that the Medici Chapels (Capelle Medici) are worth a visit most of all. I’d even dare say that this is one of the most remarkable places to see in Florence. In addition to the Medici tombs, you can also see some sculptures by Michelangelo, such as the statues of Dawn and Dusk at the Tomb of Lorenzo Duke of Urbino.

Basilica di San Lorenzo in Florence
Basilica di San Lorenzo.
The interior of Basilica di San Lorenzo in Florence
The interior of Basilica di San Lorenzo.

Good to know: You need separate tickets for the basilica (which give you access to the main church, crypt, and cloisters), the library, and the Medici Chapels.

The church is easy to visit and you can just get the tickets on the spot without any advance planning. I’m not sure about the library – it wasn’t open when we visited, and frankly, it didn’t look like it was an absolute must-see in Florence. But the Medici Chapels are well worth it and this is one of the places where you might want to consider booking tickets in advance.

The Medici Chapels have somewhat unusual opening times, so it requires some planning. Also, because the chapel isn’t big, they only allow a certain number of people. You may get lucky that the queue is not too long and you can just get a ticket upon arrival. However, if you absolutely want to be sure to visit inside without wasting time, it’s best to get a timed entrance ticket in advance.

Medici Chapels, Florence
Medici Chapels
Medici Chapels (Capelle Medici) in Florence Italy
Medici Chapels.

14. Basilica di Santa Maria Novella

There are so many churches in Florence that you could spend days and days trying to see all of them (and who has the time or interest, right?).

But as far as the very best ones go – and well worth a visit – there’s one more church that deserves a mention among the top places in Florence. That’s the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella.

Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is located right next to the main railway station of Florence (which is actually named after this church). Founded between 1279 and 1357 by Dominican monks, the basilica has stunning stained glass windows and a Gothic interior filled with frescoes. You can see lots of works by famous artists here, including Brunelleschi, Botticelli, and Vasari’s ‘Madonna of the Rosary’.

We found that the cloisters of this basilica are particularly impressive. As you leave the hustle and bustle of the busy city behind the thick walls, it feels like stepping inside a real oasis of calm.

Good to know: The Basilica is open daily, with hours depending on the season and day of the week. While they also offer online tickets, we just got ours on the spot and it wasn’t busy at all. See their website for more practical info. Please also note that you are not allowed to take large bags into the church and there is no cloakroom. The closest place to leave them is in the lockers at the railway station. Regular day-backpacks should be ok.

TIP: If you visit around noon, you may see how the sun shining through the stained glass window marks the time of the year on the calendar on the floor.

Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is one of the top places to see in Florence Italy
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella.
Interior of Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella.
Cloisters of Basilica of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy
The cloisters of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella are really impressive. This is probably my personal favorite church in Florence.

15. San Lorenzo Market

Mercato Centrale Firenze, aka San Lorenzo Market, is one of the most popular places to visit in Florence for tourists. If you are looking for a nice place for lunch or even dinner, it’s definitely a great choice.

This bustling market is actually made up of two markets. The Mercato Centrale is indoors and devoted to food, whilst the outdoor section lining the surrounding streets sells everything from clothing and leather to pottery and souvenirs. This is a great place to buy gifts to take home, but it’s so overwhelming that I wouldn’t even know where to start choosing… Also, nearly all the goods sold here are marked at prices higher than you should expect to pay, so be sure to haggle.

I recommend that you come to San Lorenzo Market for some local food from various regions in Italy. The indoor market has many cafes and various places selling food, including a big food court on the top floor. And since the market is located so close to most of the main tourist sights in Florence center, it’s really simple to plan a visit (or a few) here.

Places to see in Florence - Mercato San Lorenzo
San Lorenzo food market.
San Lorenzo market in Florence
San Lorenzo market – the outdoor part in the surrounding streets.

We had lunch at Mercato Centrale a few times. From Tuscan specialties at one of the wine shops (enoteca‘s) on the ground floor to fresh pasta in the food court upstairs, everything was delicious, well-priced, and served with a smile. If you are brave enough to try the traditional Florentine sandwich lampredotto (made with tripe/cow stomach), head to the ‘Da Nerbone’ restaurant upstairs.

TIP: If you want to avoid the crowds and find a good place to sit, it’s best to arrive at the market before the popular Italian dining times. So for lunch, it’s best to come a bit before noon. Most locals have lunch at around 1-2 pm and the market gets really busy at that time.

Good to know: If you want to take food from the market back home with you, chat to your vendor about which products are permitted across different borders. The vendors all speak very good English and are very knowledgeable on this subject. They will also vacuum pack items for you on request.

Italian pasta at Mercato Centrale food court in Florence
Italian pasta at the food court inside the San Lorenzo Market.
Tuscan lunch at San Lorenzo market in Florence
Lunch at the San Lorenzo market.

16. Views from Piazzale Michelangelo

Located on a hill on the Arno’s south bank, Piazzale Michelangelo is Florence’s most famous sunset spot. It offers truly jaw-dropping panoramic views across the city. And whilst it is extremely popular (and crowded) in the evenings, the views across the city skyline and Tuscan hills are spectacular whatever time of day you choose to visit.

There is plenty to see and do on the square itself, which contains lots of replicas of Michelangelo’s statues and a memorial to the artist. There is also a loggia containing a restaurant and coffee bar, lots of street vendors, live music from time to time, and a very vibrant atmosphere.

If you come here in the evening on a nice sunny summer’s day, it almost feels like you are attending some kind of festival…

Good to know: You can drive to the square (there is a car park) or take the bus or a taxi. But if you don’t mind a bit of uphill climbing, you can also easily walk here from the city center! On the way, you’ll see the Porta San Niccolò – a high watchtower that was once part of the city’s defenses – and the beautiful Giardino delle Rose (rose garden) which is free to visit.

TIP: We visited Piazzale Michelangelo with this highly-rated e-bike city tour. We opted for the 6 pm tour in summer and were at the viewpoint about an hour before the sunset. We got to enjoy some spectacular views in a beautiful light with little effort. However, please note that biking in the center of Florence is not something you should do if you haven’t biked for a while. But if you bike at home once in a while, you should be just fine.

Florence city view from Piazzale Michelangelo
Views from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Florence bike tour with views at Piazzale Michelangelo
Our e-bike tour offered an easy way to enjoy the views at Piazzale Michelangelo and nearby without having to walk uphill.

17. Piazza Santo Spirito & Basilica di Santo Spirito

One of Florence’s liveliest neighborhoods, the area around Piazza Santo Spirito is one of the nicest places to soak up a more local atmosphere in Florence!

Constantly busy, this area attracts an ever-changing crowd of local artisans, intellectuals, and students. In the morning, you can visit a local market here. But the area really comes to life at night, when the surrounding galleries and boutiques close, and the restaurants and bars begin to open.

In addition to enjoying a refreshing drink at one of the square’s many open terraces, be sure to visit the Basilica di Santo Spirito. This little church was Brunelleschi’s last masterpiece. It looks quite plain from the outside, but inside it is filled with many noteworthy pieces of art. These include The Cenacolo – a depiction of the Last Supper.

Good to know: In keeping with its hip and happening atmosphere, Piazza Santo Spirito holds regular markets and fairs. Local artisans display their wares on weekdays, whilst the weekends are set aside for vintage goods and food.

TIP: If you are looking for a nice restaurant for dinner, you’ll find plenty of great choices in this area. However, it’s best to book in advance. Or hope for some luck and use the trick of arriving at the restaurant as soon as it opens, before the locals start to arrive at 8-8.30 pm.

I indicated some of our favorite restaurants (not just in this area) on our map below.

Basilica di Santo Spirito in Florence
Basilica di Santo Spirito.
Fontana dello Sprone in Florence
Fontana dello Sprone, Santo Spirito area.
Cozy streets near Santo Spirito area in Florence
Colorful street in the Santo Spirito area.

18. Fontana del Porcellino

No list of the best things to do in Florence would be complete without mentioning the Fontana del Porcellino. And no, it can’t compare to the incredible architecture and Renaissance masterpieces you see in the city, but it’s one of those places that you really can’t miss when visiting Florence.

Fontana del Porcellino is the local nickname for the rather unique bronze boar fountain, located in the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, also known as the Leather Market. It’s just a short walk from the main tourist attractions in Florence, just one block from Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria. Well worth a quick stop.

This famous pig has appeared in the 2001 film Hannibal and two different Harry Potter films. Originally placed to provide water to merchants trading locally, it is now a popular spot for making wishes! Tradition also has it that if you rub the boar’s nose before you leave Florence (and put a coin in its mouth), you are sure to return one day in the future.

Good to know: The fountain stands at the small market where you can buy all kinds of leather goods – purses, wallets, etc. If you find the street vendors at Mercato San Lorenzo overwhelming, this market is much smaller.

Fontana del Porcellino is one of the must sees in Florence
Fontana del Porcellino is one of the must-sees in Florence!

19. Florence Rooftops

Now that we covered all the must-sees in Florence, there’s something else that I’d like to add. Something that is not a must in any way, but will make your visit to this beautiful city so much more memorable. The stunning views from the rooftop bars and restaurants in Florence.

With such incredible architecture and a stunning setting surrounded by the Tuscan hills, Florence has some of the most beautiful skylines of any European city. You’ll see some amazing views if you climb the dome of the Duomo or the towers mentioned in our guide, but this doesn’t compare to a more relaxing experience of enjoying the amazing views from the rooftop bars and restaurants.

TIP: If you want to enjoy the best views without having to plan much, visit rooftop terraces during the day. For the best light and sunset views, go about an hour before sunset, but try to reserve a table in advance if possible.

There are so many beautiful rooftop bars in Florence that I felt they deserve a separate guide with more info. So if you are looking for a nice place to enjoy some of the best views in the city without too much effort, definitely check it out via the link below. It also includes the best hotels with rooftops – something to consider for an even more memorable stay!

LEARN MORE: Florence Rooftop Guide

Best of Florence - rooftop view on the Duomo
Duomo view from one of the rooftop bars in Florence.
Florence sunset views from a rooftop restaurant
Sunset views from a rooftop restaurant next to the river.

More suggestions for things to do in Florence

As you can imagine, there is much more to see and do in Florence than covered in this guide.

While the places mentioned above will keep you busy for at least 2-3 days, here are some additional suggestions for what to see and do in Florence that are worth it if you have more time and/or want to escape the biggest crowds.

More things to do in Florence city:

  • Riccardi Medici Palace. A beautifully-preserved Renaissance palace, just near the Basilica of San Lorenzo.
  • Bargello National Museum. Located in one of the oldest buildings in Florence (1255), this is now a beautiful art museum where you can see the sculptures of Michelangelo and Donatello, among many other masterpieces.
  • Leonardo Interactive Museum. This is a very popular museum featuring life-size machines based on the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. Here, you can actually interact with the exhibits, so it’s really fun for the whole family. This is quickly becoming a very popular place to visit in Florence, beyond the traditional ‘must-sees’, so it’s best to get timed tickets in advance.
  • Cooking classes. If you are looking for something special and more local to do in Florence, check out the big selection of cooking experiences.

Of course, one of the best things to do in Florence is simply wandering around the city center, exploring its incredible architecture, cozy streets, and looking for little hidden gems that will make your trip even more special.

Santa Maria Novella
An old pharmacy at Santa Maria Novella – one of the (not so) hidden gems we stumbled upon in Florence recently.

In addition to the main attractions in Florence city center, there’s so much to see nearby. You can visit Bologna from Florence or Cinque Terre (even if just for a day), or rent a car and explore the nicest places and towns in Tuscany on your own. Or you can also opt for one of the many organized tours.

Here are some of the best day tours from Florence:

READ ALSO: What to See & Do in Siena & Best Things to Do in Montepulciano


Map of the Best Places to Visit in Florence

Florence is a very walkable city and all the main sights are located really close to each other.

But to help you orient, I created this map indicating all the best things to do in Firenze mentioned in our guide. I also included a few restaurant recommendations, based on our most recent experience in the city.

How to use this map: Use your computer mouse (or fingers) to zoom in or out. Click on the icons to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the top left corner for the index. Click the star next to the map’s title to add it to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’. If you want to print the map or see it in a bigger window, click on ‘View larger map’ in the top right corner.


So, this is our guide to some of the best experiences and things to do in Florence. I hope that this guide helps you plan your visit to this incredibly beautiful historic city and make the most of your time there.

No matter what you have learned about the Renaissance period from books or television, there is nothing quite like visiting its birthplace and seeing its marvels first-hand.

READ ALSO: How to see the best of Florence in 1 day

Where to Stay

As already mentioned, Florence’s city center is quite compact and very walkable. So you can stay pretty much anywhere within 15-20 minutes walking distance from the Duomo and it will be ok.

That being said, one of the most convenient areas – especially if you are traveling by train – is the area close to the main railway station (Firenze Santa Maria Novella), or between the station and the river. It’s just a few minutes walk from the main landmarks AND you don’t have to take a taxi or walk far with your luggage.

Here are some hotel suggestions within a short walking distance from the railway station:

Hotel Croce di Malta in Florence
Hotel Croce di Malta – the location and the rooftop terrace were the reasons we chose this hotel.

More travel inspiration for some of the nicest Italian cities:

If you found this post helpful, don’t forget to bookmark it and share it with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin these images!

Top things to do in Florence, Italy
Best places to see and things to do in Florence Italy

Some of our favorite places in Italy:

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Thursday 12th of October 2023

I'm putting together my FIRST trip/MBM to Italy (talk about overwhelming).... so glad I found your site! I would like to take a day trip via train from Florence to Siena, is that an option and if so, what is the speed train system? Thank you ~


Saturday 14th of October 2023

Hi Terri, yes, of course, you can easily visit Siena from Florence in a day. There are also tours available (but they usually visit several towns, spending little time in each - ideal if you want to see a lot in a day, but not ideal if you want to explore deeper). So if you just want to explore Siena, it's better to go on your own. Traveling in Italy by train is really simple and straightforward. You can use websites like Omio to compare all the best transportation options for any route you want to take and book your train/bus tickets. Between Florence and Siena, you can opt for a train or a bus. In this specific case, the bus is faster, but the train can be more comfortable and trains run more frequently. PS You may also want to take a look at our guide to the best places to see in Siena. Hope this helps. Have a great trip!


Tuesday 23rd of August 2022

You write the the best blogs! I enjoy reading them and they help a great deal in planning my trips. Thank you! :)


Friday 26th of August 2022

Thank you so much for your kind feedback, Rima. Happy travels!

Michael Cicchi

Monday 13th of June 2022

I will save this article for use also. I believe I would have to live here for two weeks.😀


Tuesday 14th of June 2022

:) Yes, indeed, Michael, there's so much to see in and around Florence. You could easily spend a few weeks in Tuscany and never get bored. Happy travels!

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