10 best things to in Florence: discover Tuscany’s capital
Florence is one of the most amazing cities in the world. Those looking for something to do in the city always have many options.
First of all, the capital of Tuscany is known for being the birthplace of the Renaissance. Therefore, art, culture and beauty are not lacking here. In addition to museums, the city has stunning architectural works, elegant squares and incredible restaurants – from the most typical to Michelin-starred. Not to mention that it is an excellent place for shopping, whether for luxury items, famous fashion brands or exquisite handicrafts.
Another interesting thing about Florence is that the city’s main attractions are locate in a compact historic center. Thus, you can explore most of the points of interest on foot.
If you are planning a tour of Italy and want to know the best things to do in Florence, this article is for you.
What are the best things to do in Florence? See 10 tips for your first trip
First of all, you need to know that Florence is rich in attractions for all tastes. Therefore, a list of the must-see things in the city varies greatly depending on the interests of the person traveling, as well as the time available.
In other words, the list we present includes only a small part of the best attractions in Florence. It can help those traveling to the city for the first time. But there is so much more to explore in this wonderful Italian city.
In any case, here are our initial suggestions for anyone looking for things to do in Florence. Let’s go?
1. Admiring the majestic Duomo (and climbing the bell tower, if you’re brave and breathless!)
We couldn’t start this list any differently. After all, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiori (also called “Duomo”) is the most iconic symbol of the city. Its construction began in the 13th century, but it was only consecrated as a cathedral in 1436 and the current façade is from the 19th century. Today, it is impossible not to lose your breath in front of its monumental beauty.
The first thing that stands out is its size and the façade, a masterful mosaic of white, pink and green marbles. Then, the eye soon finds the immense and magnificent dome of Brunelleschi. Covered by red bricks, the dome is a Renaissance gem and an ingenious architectural work. Its construction logic has intrigued scholars for six centuries!
The cathedral’s interior contrasts with the sumptuousness of the exterior, but it’s also worth the visit. This is where the Opera del Duomo Musem is located, which tells the story of the construction of the cathedral.
In addition to the cathedral, the Duomo complex also comprises the ancient Baptistry of St. John, with its carved bronze doors and the bell tower, designed by Giotto. If you have a good breath and don’t mind being in closed and tight places, you can enjoy a unique view of the city. Just climb the approximately 400 steps of the Dome or the bell tower,
Definitely, visiting these artistic and architectural wonders is a must for anyone looking for things to do in Florence.
2. Visiting Galleria degli Ufizzi and marveling at Renaissance treasures
Uffizi Gallery is one of the most important museums in Italy and the world. So, it couldn’t be missing from our list of things to do in Florence. Here you will find priceless works of art, including the largest and most valuable collection of Renaissance art in the world. Think of names like Botticelli, Raffaello, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Giotto, Piero della Francesca. They are all here!
The Gallery occupies two floors of the immense U-shaped building designed by Giorgio Vasari in 1560. Its construction was commissioned by the powerful Duke Cosimo I of Medice, to house the offices (“uffizi”) of the magistrates of Florence. Today, it is a mandatory stop for any visitor who wants to discover things to do in Florence.
Our suggestion is to visit the museum without haste, dedicating at least 3 hours to the visit. To rest during the tour of the paintings and sculptures, you can stop at the café located on the rooftop. So, have a coffee or aperitif while admiring the view. Unmissable.
3. Watching the sunset from Ponte Vecchio
Crossing Ponte Vecchio (which literally means “old bridge”) is undoubtedly one of the things you should include on your list of things to do in Florence. Built in 1345, it is one of the symbols of the city and one of the most famous bridges in the world.
It is the only bridge in Florence that was not destroyed during World War II. Ponte Vecchio crosses the Arno River and is full of jewelry shops and goldsmiths. Furthermore, on top of the bridge passes the famous and exclusive Corridoio Vasariano, built in the 16th century so that nobles could travel from the Uffizi to Palazzo Pitti.
A curiosity: jewelry stores have been on the bridge since the 16th century, often passed down from generation to generation. Before them, the bridge was occupied by butchers, until Fernando di Medici, bothered by the smell of meat, had them replaced by jewelry stores.
In the center of Ponte Vecchio is the statue of Renaissance artist Benvenuto Cellini, around which visitors stop to enjoy the view of the bridge. Beautiful, especially at sunset, when the golden light makes the landscape even more beautiful.
4. Exploring Oltarno to discover the “other” Florence
Oltrarno literally means “the other side of the Arno”. If you cross the Arno River via Ponte Santa Trinità or Ponte Vecchio, you will arrive in what is the coolest neighborhood in Florence.
First of all, the Oltrarno is traditionally Florence’s artisans and artists’ quarter. For this reason alone, it is worth visiting and being enchanted by the artisan botteghe (workshops). However, here you will also find a younger and more relaxed Florence. There is no shortage of independent designer boutiques, contemporary art galleries, grocery stores, all with a lot of charm.
Finally, the gastronomy is also a high point. Oltrarno has many great restaurants (both traditional and modern) and bars perfect for an aperitif. In short: if you want to know things to do in Florence, discovering a more authentic side of the city, don’t miss the Oltrarno.
5. Strolling along Via de’ Tornabuoni
Definitely, elegance is a word that goes with Florence. And few places in the city have these characteristics as much as Via de’ Tornabuoni, our fifth tip for those looking for things to do in Florence.
Via de’ Tornabuoni is the luxury street in the city. Here, Renaissance palaces share space with famous designer stores, elegant businesses and historic sites. It’s a delight to take a leisurely stroll along this street, enjoying the shop windows (and maybe going in to buy), the architecture and its luxurious air.
Finally, a tip: explore Via de’ Tornabuoni to the end, without missing Piazza di Santa Trinità, where the wonderful Museo Salvatore Ferragamo is located. The street ends at Ponte Santa Trinità, which is close to the gelateria of the same name (one of the best in Florence) and from where you have a beautiful view of Ponte Vecchio.
6. Breathing art in the imposing Palazzo Strozzi
It’s hard not to lose your breath in front of Palazzo Strozzi. After all, This imposing 15th century building is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. It was built by Filippo Strozzi to be the largest palace ever seen in Florence. The aim was to demonstrate power, as the Strozzi were the greatest rivals of the powerful Medici.
Today, the Strozzi is one of the most loved places by Florentines and everyone looking for things to do in Florence. Strozzi hosts incredible arts events, with contemporary art exhibitions, installations and performances icing on the cake.
It is a meeting place for many Florentines from the art and fashion scenes, who are going to appreciate art or simply have a coffee. In other words, it’s a must-have place on your trip to Florence, especially if you love art.
7. Falling in love with Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’Accademia
No trip to Florence is complete without a ticket to the Galleria dell’Accademia. Founded in the 1700s as an arts school that housed other existing schools, the Galleria dell’Accademia is today one of the main museums in Florence.
First of all, the big star of the place is the original statue of David by Michelangelo. It leaves any visitor stunned, such is its perfection. No wonder this statue is an icon of the Renaissance and Italy.
At the same time, the museum also houses important sculptures and paintings, not only by Michelangelo, but by other great Italian masters. In addition, there is an area dedicated to the Museum of Musical Instruments. Without a doubt, the Galleria dell’ Accademia should be on any list for anyone wanting to discover things to do in Florence.
8. Enjoying an aperitif overlooking the Arno river
Fare l’aperitivo (taking an aperitif) is one of the habits that are characteristic of Italy, and in Florence it is also quite common. At the end of the afternoon, people gather in bars and restaurants to enjoy a drink accompanied by various snacks, usually arranged on the counter, to be enjoyed at will. A delight!
If this is already a really cool program, it could be even better with an amazing view. So, if you go to one of the restaurants or bars overlooking the Arno River, you can make it unforgettable, with the colors of the sunset over the city. Without a doubt, one of our best tips if you’re looking for things to do in Florence.
9. Diving into the world of fashion: Gucci Garden and the Ferragamo Museum
Florence is a city historically linked to artisanal tradition and aesthetic refinement. For this reason, it is one of the Italian cities most linked to the luxury fashion tradition. Here were born historic brands such as Gucci, Cavalli, Pucci and Ferragamo. Incidentally, did you know that Florence already borne the title of “Italian fashion capital” before Milan?
In any case, if you want to know the best things to do in Florence, you cannot miss a tour of the city’s fashion history. In this sense, two places are not to be missed: the Gucci Garden and the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum.
First, the Gucci Garden is housed in an elegant 14th-century building, Palazzo della Mercanzia. Here, you’ll immerse yourself in the wonderful Gucci world, as the palazzo houses an incredible concept store, a gallery telling the story of the brand and Osteria Gucci, a Michelin-starred restaurant run by the famous chef Massimo Bottura. In short: pure luxury!
Equally wonderful is the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum, which is also located in a historic palazzo, the 13th-century Spini Feroni.
Here you can learn about the incredible history of this Florentine brand that is a fashion icon around the world. A must-see for fashionistas, shoe lovers (Feragamo’s historic specialty!) or those who appreciate design and history.
10. Discovering Piazza della Repubblica, the elegant heart of the city
Piazza della Repubblica is one of the main squares in Florence. But before being what it is, this large and charming piazza was once a Roman Forum, a market and a Jewish ghetto. It later became the elegant heart of the city, thanks to a major restoration in the 1800s, when Florence became the capital of Italy, before Rome.
Today, Piazza della Repubblica should be on any list for anyone wanting to discover things do in Florence. It is surrounded by beautiful buildings (such as the arch that leads to Via de’ Tornabuoni), cafes – including the historic 1733 Caffè Gilli – and adorned by a graceful carousel. It is one of the favorite places for street artists, such as musicians and painters, who give a light atmosphere to the elegance of the square.
How to explore the things to do in Florence?
First of all, we hope our tips of things to do in Florence helped. As you may have noticed in the article, Florence is indeed a spectacular city, full of attractions and history!
However, there is much more to do in Tuscany’s capital than the list above. And if you want to get to know the city and Tuscany in depth, there’s nothing like counting on the help of experts to prepare your trip. A personalized itinerary, made to measure for you, is the best way to discover all the beauties of Italy. So, you can enjoy the country according to your tastes and available time.
In short: if you feel like taking a trip to Italy, get in touch with us. We are passionate about Italy and Florence (where our office is located) and we are on hand to help create your unforgettable personalized trip.