Florence is home to some of the most popular icons of Italy. It would take days to fully explore this city of art and culture. The entire city showcases the theme of Italian Renaissance. With its many museums, churches, and landmarks, Florence has been rated the best city in Europe in 2015 Reader’s Choice Awards. You always want to go back to this city where time seems to be frozen and history resonating. To save you the hassle of planning your trip, here is a list of Top 19 Things to Do in Florence you definitely should not miss!
#1 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Get to the Top of Piazza Duomo and Bell Tower
Piazza Duomo is one of the oldest buildings in Florence. It is surrounded by some magnificent buildings that form the cathedral complex. This complex contains greatest treasures of Italy’s architecture in a relatively small area. As you walk through the bell tower, cathedral, and its museum, you’ll see some of the most prominent art pieces and architectural wonders from the greatest Italian artists – Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Giotto and Michelangelo. You can begin by walking around the square and look at the sinuous marble exteriors. Then step inside each building and admire the medieval interior. The glass work in the interior of the buildings is astounding and takes you back in time.
You’ll have to climb a total of 476 stairs to get to the top of the dome where you can examine the dome’s interior. From here you can see the entire city but you should climb the adjacent bell tower. Duomo presents itself at the best angle from the top of the tower. If you don’t want to stand in the queues, skip the line tickets are available for some extra money.
#2 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Visit the Baptistery of St. John
This 12th-century octagonal baptistery is a work of art. Its interior is done with mosaics. Its marble façade and all the artwork makes it stand out from all other baptisteries. The famous artist Ghiberti created bronze panels for the doors facing the cathedral have no match amongst all the pieces of art at this place. These gates have been dubbed as the Gates of Paradise. It’s gold painted ceiling gives angelic vibes to the entire place. Visitors can’t help but be mesmerized by the aura of this extraordinary place. You should visit the cathedral’s museum to see some of the artistic treasures made for the baptistery.
#3 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Discover the Uffizi Palace and Gallery
Uffizi has its place among the world’s top art museums. It displays a diverse collection of art from various parts of the world but the main theme is Italian Renaissance. You should visit this art gallery just to observe the quality and highlights of paintings even if you are not interested in art. In 1743, a huge collection was bequeathed to the gallery by the Medici family on the terms that it will never leave Florence. This collection contains some of Italy’s most famous paintings including masterpieces by Sandro Botticelli and Piero Della Francesco’s portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino.
Do not push your visit beyond a maximum of four hours. You can also head to the rooftop café for some fresh air and coffee/tea.
#4 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Admire the bridge of Ponte Vecchio
With its graceful arches and popularity, Ponte Vecchio is among the city’s most recognizable and prettiest spots. Traditionally Ponte Vecchio has been housing shops of Florence’s goldsmiths. You can witness the dazzling jewels while walking over the bridge. Most tourists don’t know that Ponte Vecchio is home to another treasure from history. Medici family needed to cross the river Arno frequently between their offices and apartments. So they hired the architect Vasari to built a personalized passageway, officially declared as the Passage of the Prince, but now known as the Vasari Corridor. Above the shops, you’ll see the matching windows of this pathway. On the inside, the walls are lined with portraits of famous artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, and Velasquez.
#5 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Visit the Piazza Della Signoria & the Loggia de Sanzi
Located in the center of Florence, Piazza Della Signoria is a fortress-like palace where time seems to be frozen and history echoing. The Medici family used to rule from this very place. They commissioned the greatest architects of their time to design and decorate this place. Medici family also had some secret passages to move around this place. You have to register in advance for a tour to see these secret passages. The best part is that you’ll get to climb to the roof in the evening and view this spectacular city as the sun sets in its dazzling lights!
#6 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Visit the Church of Santa Maria Novella
It is one of the most historically important churches in Florence. Architecturally it is among the prime representatives of Gothic churches in Tuscany. The exterior is done by the famous Fra Jacopo Talenti and Leon Battista Alberti. The interior displays extraordinary works of art by Masaccio, Ghirlandaioand Giotto, among many others. On the inside, the church looks even longer than it actually is. This façade is owed to the clever coloring and brilliant architecture. It is one of the must-go places among other things to do in Florence.
#7 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Explore the Di San Marco museum
This museum is also known as the Convent of San Marco. Just when you enter the museum, the peace and quiet of the courtyard inspire a welcoming allure. The museum has Fra Angelico’s masterpieces among other works of art. The museum is dubbed as The Home of Fra Beato Angelico because of the amount of his work displayed. Among the most famous paintings are the Crucifixion, Annunciation, Three Maries at the Tomb, and Noli me Tangere. Some valuable relics from the nineteenth-century destruction of the city are contained in the underground rooms.
#8 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Galleria dell’Academia
This famous gallery contains the most important artwork by Michelangelo – David. The subtle details of this sculpture are surprising – the prominent veins running through its arms, the leg muscles, the change in expression as you view it from a different angle. The sculpture was attacked and now it is contained in a glass chamber. But this is not the only important sculpture you’ll see here. Michelangelo’s unfinished St. Matthew and Four Prisoners are also on display here. Other artists whose work is displayed include Andrea Orcagna, Taddeo Gaddi, Dominico Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi, and Sandro Botticelli.
#9 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Visit the Santa Croce
Santa Croce is the burial place for some of the greatest men in Florence. Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli, and Galileo Galilei are buried here. There is also a memorial to Dante but his coffin is empty.
The exterior of the church is covered by polychrome marble façade which was added in 1863 and paid for by an English sponsor, Sir Francis Sloane. On the opposite side of the church is the Piazza Santa Croce, where a soccer game in medieval costumes is held every year.
#10 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens
This humongous palace is believed to be one of Florence’s largest architectural wonders. The native palazzo was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi for the Pitti family in 1457. In 1549, the Medici’s bought this property and expanded it to its present day grandeur except for the two projecting wings which were installed by the House of Lorraine. Behind the palace, you can spot the famous Boboli Gardens. The gardens are still kept in a well-manicured shape. Climbing in terraces, the gardens offer breathtaking views of the city.
Today, the Pitti Palace is home to some of the greatest museums in the city:
- Palatine Gallery
- Royal Apartments
- Silver Museum
- Gallery of Modern Art
- Porcelain Museum
- Costume Gallery
#11 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Stop at the Piazzale Michelangiolo
Piazzale Michelangiolo is often misspelled as Piazzale Michelangelo. Even city tourism materials don’t seem to notice the difference. It is a terrace located above the city and has become a mandatory stop for tourist buses. A perfect spot for taking postcard pictures of the cathedral. If you want to get some alone time at this peaceful spot, try visiting in the late afternoon or early evening. The sunsets at this place are to die for! The dominance of Brunelleschi’s dome over other architectural buildings is quite evident from this place. The sweeping view from this place encompasses Ponte Vecchio, Santa Croce, and other landmarks. You can reach here on foot or save your energy and take a bus.
#12 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Spend some time at the Irene bistro
Irene is a retro chic bistro in the Hotel Savoy overlooking the iconic Piazza del Repubblica. The celebrity chef Fulvio Pierangelini cooks the most playful, amazing dishes in his Tuscan kitchen. Shiny Sicilian tomatoes are served at the start of every meal. Coffee is accompanied by sugared walnuts and cinnamon biscuits. Some of the highlights of this place are Think Tuscan bean soup with sage ravioli and caramelized celery, wild boar with polenta and red cabbage, liquorice crème brulee with pear gelato, and pumpkin ravioli with persimmon-spiced ice cream. Irene also offers some of its own drinks having playful names like Serendipity, India Summer, Old Chet, and South Punch.
#13 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Step into the famous Perfumery
The Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is in business since 1612. The interior of the shop is from 1848. The products of this perfumery-pharmacy include fragrances, skincare products, and ancient herbal remedies. The shop also provides other services such as treatment of heavy legs, improving skin elasticity, memory, and mental energy. You can also get teas, herbal infusions, and scented candles from here. With time, the shop has been updated by the owners. It now has touch-screen catalogs and state-of-the-art payment system.
#14 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Grab your food from the Essenziale
This 19th-century loft style restaurant is the perfect place to go for modern Tuscan cuisine. Its dazzling young chef Simone Cipriani is successfully promoting his agenda of giving Tuscan cuisine a modern twist at this very place. You can order one of his tasting menus to get an idea of his capabilities as a modern Tuscan chef. One of the highlights of this place is Fior d’Evo dessert prepared by the chef himself. Reserve your table in advance to win a chance of getting a table at this place.
#15 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Spend some time at Mad Souls & Spirits
Not a restaurant but it is a new cocktail bar very popular among the locals. The highlight of the bar is craft cocktails thoroughly enjoyed by the locals and the visitors. Fun snacks are offered with the cocktails including triangle sandwich tramezzino with peanut butter or peated whiskey jelly filling. The bar is lined with aqua-green and red-bricks giving an overall Spartan theme to the place. The menu is scribbled on a ‘Daily Madness’ blackboard. A potted cactus is placed on the scrubbed wooden tables as part of the wild n wacky theme.
Other restaurants and bars in Florence: Burro & Acciughe, Gurdulu, Ditta Artigianale, Koto Ramen, Santarpia, Vivo.
#16 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Visit San Lorenzo’s Market
San Lorenzo’s Market is the place to get everything Tuscan and Florentine from! Whether it be a Tuscan Meal, a day with the entire family, souvenirs or local Florentine ingredients, San Lorenzo has everything in stock for you. There are two separate markets contained in San Lorenzo: Outdoor Market and Indoor Market (Central Market).
You can start your visit by exploring the outdoor market which has hundreds of stalls selling pottery, notebooks, clothing, souvenirs and various leather goods. There are so many things to choose from. Just make sure you don’t spend all your money in this section of the market.
The Central Market is a food market consisting of two levels. You’ll find butchers, fishmongers, fruit and vegetable vendors and specialty shops selling olive oil, cheeses and much more on the ground floor. A popular spot among the locals is Parini selling cured meats, sauces and cheeses.
#17 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Explore Florence with a Guided Tour
Guided tours are always helpful when visiting a city for the first time. But be careful of the tourist scams. Some of the best tours of Florence are listed below:
- Florence Super Saver: Best of Florence walking tour, Academia Gallery, Uffizi Gallery and Florence Duomo
- Small Group Discovery Tour of Florence
- Afternoon Small Group Uffizi Gallery Tour
- Cooking Class and Lunch at a Tuscan Farmhouse with Local Market Tour from Florence.
- Tuscany in One Day Sightseeing Tour
- Taste of Chianti: Tuscan, Wine, and Lunch from Florence
- Skip the line: Uffizi Gallery Tour
#18 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Visit a cultural, art or history exhibition
Florence is home to some of the most amazing artworks from around the world. It has produced great architectures and artists like Michelangelo. To remember and highlight the work of these artists various exhibitions are held throughout the year. You should schedule your visit to match with the dates of the exhibitions to get an insight on Florence’s culture and history. Some of the famous exhibitions include:
- Giovanni Dal Ponte at the Academia Gallery
- La Bellezza Salvata at the Palazzo Medici Riccardi
- Klimt Experience at the Santo Stefano al Ponte
- Across Art and Fashion at the Museum Salvatore Ferragamo
- Restauro del Trittico at the Uffizi Gallery
- Plautilla Nelly at the Uffizi Gallery
#19 of 19 Things to Do in Florence, Italy – Shop for Souvenirs
Florence might just prove to be your ultimate shopping destination. There are so many places and things to buy. It would be wise of you to come prepared. Know your price range and what you exactly want to buy. Do not be swayed by the charisma of colorful art pieces and paintings. Go easy on your pocket. The popular souvenirs you can get from Florence include:
- Gold jewelry from Ponte Vecchio
- Ceramics from Ceramica Ricceri
- Perfumes and fragrances
- Leather jackets and bags
Popular places in Florence to shop at: Benheart, San Lorenzo Market, Barberino Designer Outlet, The Cascine Market, and Via Tornabuoni.
Check out some other destinations in Italy: Things to Do in Venice