20 Things To Do In Florence

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The capital of Tuscany in central Italy is steeped in history, beautiful architecture, amazing museums and art galleries, and great food and wine. Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance, but its history goes back to ancient Rome. It was originally set up as a Roman camp by Julius Caesar and was then called Florentia. However, between the 14th and 16th centuries, Florence became one of the most important cities in the world, both politically and economically.

Many famous artists lived during this period and created magnificent works. Early Renaissance artists include Fra Angelico, Donatello and Massachio, followed by Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci, and later, by artists such as Bronzino and Pontormo. You will find art galleries and museums dedicated to their works throughout the city and can even visit their tombs in the Basilica di San Lorenzo. The famous Medici family ruled Florence and later all of Tuscany from 1434 to 1737, and you will see their legacy in the museums and architecture.

Today, tourism is a significant part of the economy of Florence, and around 13 million people visit the city each year. You won’t be disappointed if you are looking for culture and history. And Florence also has excellent shopping, colourful markets and some of the best restaurants in Italy.

The city is credited as being the place where the Italian ice cream, gelato, was created, so be sure to try some during your visit. It can be confusing to decide where to start your exploration of Florence, as there is so much to see. So here’s our pick of the best things to do in Florence to get you started. 

Florence, Italy

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Self Portrait Of Young Tourist Woman In Courtyard Of Historic Uffizi Gallery Art Museum

20 Things To Do In Florence

1- Visit Duomo Cathedral and Climb Giotto’s Campanile

Florence Duomo And Campanile - Bell Tower
Admiring the Duomo And Campanile is one of the top things to do in Florence, Italy.

Duomo Cathedral is in the old part of the city and is one of the most renowned cathedrals in the world.

It was originally constructed in 1436 but the breathtaking front facade wasn’t completed until the 19th century.

The cathedral has an imposing dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, which can be seen from miles away.

Buy a ticket to climb the Dome for magnificent views of the rooftops of Florence, the river Arno and the hills of Tuscany.

The climb also allows you to see the dome’s interior in detail.

Giorgio Vasari and Frederico Zuccari painted frescoes here, depicting scenes from Dante’s Divine Comedy.

The exterior of the Duomo is covered with white marble with red, green and pink designs.

It is spectacular, and it is well worth taking a photo.

Inside the cathedral are 44 stained glass windows designed by such Renaissance artists as Donatello and Nicholas de Bonaventuris.

The interior emits a feeling of grandeur and style.

Close to the Duomo Cathedral is the Campanile, a tall bell tower 84.7 metres (278 feet) and offers spectacular views over Florence if you are prepared to climb the 414 steps.

It was designed in the 14th century by Giotto and finished by Talenti after Giotto’s death.

The Campanile is a perfect example of Gothic architecture, with its exterior covered in white marble as is the Duomo and green and pink designs.

There are also sculptures and other artwork on the outside of the tower. 

Duomo Cathedral and Giotto’s Campanile are at Piazza del Duomo 50122. Skip the line and book your Santa Maria del Fiore Tickets with dome climb here or join a guided tour of Duomo Cathedral

2- Go Shopping on Ponte Vecchio

Jewelry Store Clerk And Tourists On The Ponte Vecchio Bridge
Checking out the jewellery stores on Ponte Vecchio Bridge is one of the iconic things to do in Florence.

The Ponte Vecchio is a Mediaeval stone closed bridge and one of Italy’s most famous bridges.

It spans the river Arno and was the only bridge in the city that the Germans didn’t destroy during World War II.

It is famous for the shops built into the sides of the bridge, once a common practice throughout Europe.

In the 13th century, these shops included butchers and fishmongers, but now you will find high-end jewellers, art dealers and souvenir shops.

Halfway along the bridge, it opens up, and you can see along the river Arno.

The views are fantastic, and it is a lovely place to stop and take in the atmosphere.

A great way to view the bridge in its full glory is to take a boat ride along the river Arno.

Recommended tours: Arno River Sightseeing Cruise with Commentary

3- Visit the Basilica of Santa Croce

Basilica Of Santa Croce In Florence
Visiting Basilica Of Santa Croce is one of the top 10 things to do in Florence.

The Basilica of Santa Croce is a beautiful Franciscan church that takes centre stage in the Piazza di Santa Croce.

Why not have a coffee in one of the cafes and first admire the building from the outside?

Like Duomo Cathedral, the facade is white marble with red, green, and pink polychrome panels.

There are beautiful stained-glass windows and frescos, including ones by Giotto and Taddeo Gaddi.

In one corner is the Cappella dei Pazzi, a chapel designed by Brunelleschi and regarded as a masterpiece of Renaissance art.

The Basilica of Santa Croce also houses tombs of famous Florentine Renaissance artists and scholars, including Rossini, Gentile, Foscola, Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Galileo.

The Basilica of Santa Croce is at Piazza di Santa Croce 16 50122.

Recommended tour: Florence Santa Croce Church Tour.

The Statue Of David By Michelangelo
Seeing the Statue of David by Michelangelo Buonarroti is one of the things to do in Florence not to be missed. It was completed in 1504 and is one of the most famous statues in the world.

The Accademia Gallery houses the famous Statue of David by Michelangelo, one of the most iconic statues in the world.

It stands five metres (16.4 feet) tall, is made from marble, and is a masterpiece of Renaissance art.

It took Michelangelo four years to complete and was placed outside the Palazzo Vecchio in 1504.

In 1893, it was moved to the Accademia Gallery for safety reasons.

There are many other artworks in the gallery, so you need to reserve a couple of hours for your visit.

Look out for Michelangelo’s unfinished ‘Slaves’ and Giambologna’s original plaster cast for ‘The Rape of the Sabine Women, which is in the Piazza Della Signoria as well as paintings by Uccello, Ghirlandaio, and Botticelli.

The gallery also houses the Museum of Musical Instruments, a collection from the Medici family.

The Accademia Gallery is at Via Ricasoli 58/60 50129 Firenze. Skip the line and reserve your tickets here

5- Take A Pizza And Gelato Class

What can be more Italian than pizza and gelato? If you are a fan of both, this class will suit you down to the ground, and you can bring the kids as well.

There aren’t many children that don’t like pizza and ice cream.

The class starts with the chef telling you about the history of pizza and guiding you through the process of making a paper-thin dough Italian style. 

Then you will be taught how to make the perfect tomato sauce to go on top of the pizza.

There is a little break for the adults to have a short wine and olive oil tasting, accompanied by chunks of Tuscan bread.

Then it’s gelato time, and you will be told how it is made, and you can have a go yourself.

What is even better is that you can have tastings of different flavours.

The class ends with a glass of Chianti while enjoying your food.

Recommended tour: Pizza Gelato Preparation Class In Florence

Uffizi Palace In Florence
Exploring Uffizi Palace is one of the top things to do in Florence Italy for art fans.

Just off the Piazza Della Signoria is the Uffizi Palace & Gallery, which should be up high on your list of things to do in Florence.

It houses the most outstanding collection of Renaissance artworks, which will delight any art lover.

Before you even go inside, take some time to admire the outside of the Palace built in the classic Doric style.

In the inner courtyard, there are many intricate columns and arches as well as marble statues.

Inside, the collection of artworks is outstanding and the museum is set across three floors, so you will need some time to explore it.

There is a hall dedicated to Botticelli where you can see paintings such as ‘The Adoration of the Magi’, ‘Pallas and the Centaur,’ and ‘Birth of Venus’.

The two paintings by Leonardo da Vinci in the museum are ‘Annunciation’, and ‘The Baptism of Christ’.

Three of Caravaggio’s paintings, ‘The Sacrifice of Isaac’, ‘Bacchus’, and ‘Medusa’ can also be seen.

There are many other paintings by both Italian and European painters.

The Uffizi Palace and Gallery also houses sculptures, many from ancient Greco-Roman times but also from Renaissance sculptors such as Bandinelli and Benvenuto Cellini.

A spectacular sculpture by Cellini is Perseus with the Head of Medusa.

The Uffizi Palace & Gallery is at Piazzale degli Uffizi 6 50122 Firenze. Skip the line and prebook your VIP priority entry ticket here

7- Visit The Basilica Di San Lorenzo And Medici Chapels

Basilica Di San Lorenzo
Visiting Basilica Di San Lorenzo is one of the typical things to do in Florence.

The Basilica di San Lorenzo is close to Duomo Cathedral, an impressive building with a large dome and terracotta tiled roof.

When you walk inside, you will see a statue of Anna Maria Luisa de Medici, the last member of this influential family.

The Medici family commissioned this Basilica to be built, and 49 family members are buried here in the two Medici Chapels.

The tombs are lavish, and the mausoleum is well worth visiting because Michelangelo designed it, his first effort at architecture.

Three of his statues adorn three of the tombs.

The interior of the main church is decorated with artwork created by Renaissance artists such as Donatello, Verrocchio, and Bronzino.

Bronzino painted a huge fresco called ‘The Martyrdom of St Lawrence’, while Donatello created friezes, reliefs, and bronze doors.

Another feature of the Basilica is the Laurentian Library which houses around 11,000 manuscripts and 4,500 books belonging to the Medici family.

The Basilica di San Lorenzo is at Piazza di San Lorenzo 9 50123 Firenze.

Recommended tour: Private Hour Tour Medici Chapel Michelangelo Sculpture

8- Stroll Around the Boboli Gardens And Visit The Palazzo Pitti

Fountain Of Neptune And Palazzo Pitti In Boboli Gardens
Discovering Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens is one of the outdoor things to do in Florence with kids.

The Boboli Gardens and the Pitti Palace should be visited together, and you can easily spend the whole day here.

The Boboli Gardens are just behind the Pitti Palace and cover 45,000 square metres (484,376 square feet).

It was one of the first Renaissance gardens to be created and is beautifully landscaped with geometric paths and pruned gardens.

There are plenty of sculptures to admire in the gardens, including ‘Neptune’s Fountain of the Oceanus’ by Giambologna, the ‘Large Grotto’ by Buontalenti, with its fantastic combination of sculpture, architecture, and paintings.

An Egyptian Obelisk from the 13th century dominates the Amphitheatre.

The fountain is surrounded by three sculptures representing the Nile, the Euphrates, and the Ganges.

Pitti Palace is the only royal palace in Florence, covering a massive 32,000 square metres (344,445 square feet) it’s the largest museum complex in Florence.

It houses works by Rubens, Titan and Raphael in the Palatine Gallery. There is also a Gallery of Modern Art and a Costume Gallery.

The Royal Apartments will give you a glimpse into the lives of the powerful rulers and aristocrats that lived centuries ago.

They were first occupied by the Medici family, then by the Grand Dukes of Habsburg-Lorraine, and finally by the Royal House of Savoy.

The 14 rooms are decorated with frescos, portraits of various members of the Medici family, and many sculptures.

The Boboli Gardens and the Pitti Palace are at Piazza de Pitti 1 50125 Firenze. Skip the line and book your tickets here. 

Recommended tours: Pitti Palace Boboli Gardens And Palatina Gallery Tour

9- Admire The Statues In The Piazza Della Signoria

If you want to see some fantastic architecture and statues from Renaissance times, head to the Piazza Della Signoria.

The most impressive building here is the Palazzo Vecchio which has a massive clock tower and statues around the outside created by Michelangelo, Donatello, and Giorgio Vasari.

The main entrance has a copy of the Statue of David by Michelangelo, the original of which is found in the Accademia Gallery.

To the left of the Palazzo Vecchio is the magnificent ‘Fountain of Neptune’, designed by Baccio Bandinelli and sculpted by Bartolomeo Ammannati and other artists.

There are more statues in the Loggia dei Lanzi to the fright of the Palazzo Vecchio, including five female statues dating back to Ancient Rome.

The highlight of the square is the equestrian statue of Cosimo Medici, standing near the ‘Fountain of Neptune’.

There are high-end shops in the square and cafes where you can relax and admire the statues.

10- Discover Amazing Art At The Bargello Museum

The Bargello Museum is a hidden gem, not often being top of the list of places to visit in Florence, but this is a mistake.

Not only will you escape the queues at the Uffizi Museum and Accademia Gallery, but you will be able to view a fascinating array of Gothic and Renaissance sculptures.

There is a room solely dedicated to Michelangelo, including his spectacular Bacchus statue.

In the 14th-century hall, you will find Donatello’s early marble masterpieces and his bronze statue of David.

The museum also has Cellini, Verrocchio, and Lucca Della Robbia sculptures.

The museum has a fascinating history to explore while admiring the artwork.

The building was once a prison and execution site where the executed prisoners were hung on the parapets for all to see.

It is also thought that Leonardo da Vinci went there at night to steal the dead bodies for his experiments.

The Bargello Museum is at Via del Proconsolo 4 50122 Firenze. Skip the line and get your reserved entry ticket here

11- Enjoy A Chianti Wineries Tour

Vineyards In Tuscany
Visiting the vineyards in Tuscany is one of the iconic things to do from Florence.

Perhaps you enjoy a glass or two of wine? If so, why not join a wine tour of the region?

Florence is in the heart of Chianti country, and you will find many tours on offer, taking you to different vineyards and wineries.

One of the tours first starts at an organic winery where you will have a tasting of their biodynamic wine.

You will then go to another winery to taste Chianti wines and sometimes a white or rose wine.

The second tasting will be accompanied by a Tuscan lunch, a plate of meats and cheeses, with Tuscan bread and locally produced olive oil.

You can talk to the winemakers and learn about the wines and how they are made.

Recommended tour: Chianti Wineries Tour With Food And Wine Tasting 

12- Learn About The Life Of St Peter At Brancacci Chapel

The Brancacci Chapel is within the 13th-century Church of Santa Maria.

However, it wasn’t until the 15th century that the chapel was decorated with frescoes about the life of St Peter.

They are truly spectacular.

Two famous Renaissance artists, Masolino and Masaccio, started the work, which Fillipino Lippi later finished.

It took almost a century to complete, and you will see the different styles of the three artists.

Although most of the frescoes in the chapel are about St Peter, the most famous ones are of Adam and Eve.

There are two, ‘The Temptation’, by Masolino and ‘Expulsion from the Garden of Eden’ by Masaccio, and you will be able to see the differences in style between them.

Masolino’s fresco has a Gothic prettiness to it, while Masaccio’s is representative of the new realism that was appearing in paintings at that time.

You will need to make a reservation to go to the Brancacci Chapel because it is small, and only 30 people are allowed in at any one time.

The Brancacci Chapel is at Piazza del Carmi9ne 14 50124 Firenze. Skip the line and gain access to the Brancacci Chapel Restoration Site here

13- Get Involved At The Leonardo Interactive Museum

Leonardo Da Vinci was a great artist and an inventor who was ahead of his time, as you will see when you visit this interactive museum.

It is a great place to take older children who may be bored with art galleries and churches.

In the museum, you will see prototypes such as water skis, bicycles, helicopters, excavators, and machine guns.

There are working models of his flying machines, underwater breathing equipment, a robot, a suspension bridge, and a submarine.

You can try out some of his inventions and attempt to build some of his projects, such as the suspension bridge.

The room with mirrors will show you how Leonardo’s studies on light-inspired photography centuries later.

The Leonardo Interactive Museum is at Via Dei Servi 66/R 50122 Firenze. Skip the line and book your private guided ticket here. 

14- Shop, Eat, And Drink In The Piazza Santo Spirito

You can go to the Piazza Santo Spirito at any time of day and, depending on what time you are there, you will have different experiences.

Come early for a coffee or a delicious breakfast with pastries.

Then the food market opens, and the locals congregate to buy fresh produce.

It is interesting to wander the market to see what the Tuscan farmers grow.

Alternatively, visit the Church of Santo Spirito, designed by Brunelleschi.

It follows a strict geometrical plan and is a prime example of Renaissance architecture.

It has an amazing number of chapels, 38 decorated with Renaissance art.

A highlight is the painting, ‘Madonna and Child, With Saints’, by Fillippino Lippi, in the fifth chapel.

The walls of the church are decorated with frescoes and lined with tombs.

In the Refectory, you can see the spectacular fresco, ‘Last Supper’ by Bernardino Pocceti and in the sacristy, there is the beautiful wooden crucifix created by Michelangelo.

By lunchtime, the market has packed up, and the restaurants start to open, serving Tuscan delights with carafes of local wine.

The square quietens down in the afternoon but in the early evening, why not join the Italian tradition of having an aperitivo before dinner? A popular drink to have is Aperol Spritz.

After dinner, the bars spill out onto the square and stay open until early. You may like these tours:

15- Take A Trip To The Past In The National Archaeological Museum

Although Florence is famous for being the birthplace of the Renaissance, its history goes back to ancient times.

In The National Archaeological Museum, you will find artefacts dating back to the Etruscan civilization that existed between the 8th century and 3rd centuries BC.

Many of the artefacts were found in Florence and have been put in the garden to enhance your walk in the fresh air.

The museum has artefacts from both Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece, as well as a dedicated Egyptian Museum.

The Egyptian Museum houses over 14,000 pieces, including vases, amulets and bronze statues.

It is the second-largest collection of Egyptian artefacts in Italy.

The National Archaeological Museum is at Piazza Della Santissima Annunziata 9B 50121 Firenze. Skip the line and prebook a guided tour here

16- Visit Museo Di San Marco

The Museo di San Marco, a religious complex, celebrates the work of the early Renaissance painter, Fra’ Angelico.

He was known as ‘Il Beato’, which means ‘The Blessed’ because of his piety.

In 1984, Pope John Paul II named him a saint.

Many of Fra’ Angelico’s paintings, including the ‘Deposition of Christ’, are displayed here.

You can also see some of his frescos, such as the ‘Crucifixion and Saints’ and his most famous work ‘Annunciation’.

It is possible to visit the monks’ cells, where you will see more frescoes by Fra’ Angelico.

They represent the mature phase of his painting and are more sophisticated than what had been painted in monasteries up to this time.

There is work by other artists in the museum, including ‘The Miraculous Supper of St Dominic’ by Giovanni Sogliani and ‘The Madonna and Child’ by Paolo Uccello.

You can also visit the library, where there are manuscripts belonging to the famous Medici family.

The Museo di San Marco is at Piazza San Marco 3 50121 Firenze. Skip the line and prebook a timed entrance ticket now

17- Learn About Literature At The Museo Casa De Dante

Dante was a famous Florentine writer who lived from 1265 to 1321.

He is best known for his epic poem, ‘The Divine Comedy’.

Dante was born in Florence and the museum is situated on the site of his birthplace.

It is on three floors and not only depicts the life of Dante but gives insights into Mediaeval life in the city.

On the first floor, you will see documents relating to life in Florence in the 13th century when Dante was a young man.

The highlight of this floor is a recreation of the Battle of Campaldino in which Dante fought.

Dante was later accused of corruption and financial corruption and was exiled.

The second floor of the museum houses documents relating to his exile.

You will also learn about internal divisions in the city during this time.

The third floor is the highlight of the museum as here you will find both originals and high-quality copies of Dante’s work.

In addition, there is a model describing how Florence was divided into districts in the 13th century.

You can view life-size models of the nobility wearing jewels and furs.

The Museo Casa de Dante is at Via Santa Margherita 1 50122 Firenze. Buy the museum card.

18- Have A Cultural Experience At The Palazzo Strozzi

The Strozzi family commissioned the Palazzo Strozzi in the 16th century in direct competition with the Palazzo Medici.

They ensured that it was bigger than the Palazzo Medici, but the family didn’t reach the heights of power that the Medici family held.

The Palazzo was built around a courtyard that is now a public square and hosts concerts and other events throughout the year.

Check online to see if anything is on during your visit.

Inside the Palazzo, there is an exhibition featuring its history.

In addition, three temporary exhibitions each year showcase Renaissance heritage, art, and culture.

There is a cafe in the courtyard called the Strozzi Cafe Beneto where you can relax over a coffee, wine or even a meal.

Recommended: Reaching for the Stars Exhibition Open-Date Ticket

19- Enjoy Contemporary Art At The Selfie Museum Firenze

This museum is close to the Accademia Gallery but is a world away.

Its focus is on fun and creativity and is interactive.

It is suitable for all ages, and it makes a change from the conventional museums.

The museum is on two floors and houses works from more than 400 contemporary artists.

Optical illusions, kinetic sculptures, digital storytelling and immersive art are showcased here.

You are encouraged to take selfies with backgrounds of the different artworks.

The Selfie Museum Firenze is at Via Ricasoli 44 50122 Firenze. Skip the line and buy your museum entrance ticket here

20- Indulge In A Guided Street Food Tour

If you want to experience Tuscan food which the locals enjoy, take a guided street food tour.

You will be able to try food that you won’t get at a typical tourist restaurant.

Your guide will tell you about the history of Florence and how the food culture developed.

You will be taken to a food market to see the fresh Tuscan food the locals buy.

You will make stops at different food stalls to try street food.

This can vary, but you may sample schiacciata (a Tuscan flatbread) with balsamic vinegar, fresh homemade pasta, pappa al pomodoro (a tomato and bread soup), and, for dessert, cantucci (small almond-flavoured biscuits made without yeast and fat and baked twice).

You may even get to try a traditional Tuscan speciality, lampredotto, a sandwich made with the fourth stomach of the cow and rucci, a galette made with chestnut flour. 

Recommended tour: Street Food Tour with Local Expert Guide

Medici Chapels Interior - Cappelle Medicee
Exploring the grand Medici Chapel is one of the iconic things to do in Florence.

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Irena Nieslony was born in Windsor, England but now lives on the island of Crete, Greece, in a small village called Modi near the city of Chania. She has visited 32 countries in Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Africa. Her favourite country is Tanzania as she loves wildlife and was lucky enough to see ‘The Big Five”. She also loves Egypt, as ancient history intrigues her, the southern states of the US and the cities of Memphis, Nashville, and New Orleans for music. She has a B.A. Honours degree in English and Drama from Westfield College, University of London. She has been writing for over 13 years and has 13 novels, 7 short stories and thousands of articles published.