Florence, Italy. The Tuscan Renaissance city full of amazing art, architecture and must-see landmarks.

First Timers to Florence – Top Things to Do

Florence offers a little something for everyone. You’re bound to be enamoured by all the top things to do in Florence.

This small walkable Italian city has some of the best art and architecture in Europe. Art lovers will be in awe of the classic masterpieces that can be found here.

Lovers of architecture will marvel at the historic churches, palaces, and soaring buildings shadowing the winding alleyways. The entire city centre has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its architecture.

Sunset lovers will be treated to the most beautiful golden hour casting an incredible glow over the entire city. 

Colpo di fulmine. That’s what Italians call love at first sight, and that’s exactly what happened to me. I immediately fell in love with Florence Italy.

For those travelling to this Tuscan city for the first time, or maybe it’s a repeat visit, here are the top things to do in Florence.  (Updated: November 2022)

Must See Florence Attractions – The Cathedrals

Santa Maria del Fiore

cathedral dome in florence is a must visit
The building of the Florence Cathedral began at the end of the 13th century and finished in the 15th century. It is the 4th largest in the world and a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. The exterior is covered in a decorative mix of pink, white and green marble.

Experience | Skip-the-Line with priority tickets to Santa Maria del Fiore with Dome Climb, click here to book.

Campanile di Giotto

The Duomo in Florence with it's white marble and tower
Although visiting the Cathedral is free, the tower is not. Climbing Giotto’s bell tower is one of the best things to do in Florence, all 414 steps. But the view is worth it!

The Basilica of Santa Croce

church in florence with marble and pink and green trim
Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in the world. This 13th century church is the burial place for the greats in Florence. Michelangelo is buried in Santa Croce, as are Rossini, Machiavelli, to name a few. Notably, there are 16 chapels as well as beautiful cloisters.

Must See Florence Attractions – The Piazzas

Piazza della Repubblica

Just off of the main Piazza del Duomo (each main cathedral in Italy is called the duomo) is Piazza della Repubblica where you can find a grand arch, a colourful old carousel and great restaurants with their terraces. This is a great square for people-watching and having a drink. It’s bustling with activity all day long and is a popular hang-out spot in the evening.

Piazza della Signoria

stone statue of man in fountain in florence
This grand piazza is home to Palazzo Vecchio, the loggia of outdoor statues and sculptures, the Fountain of Neptune. The Gucci Museum is surrounded by restaurants with outdoor seating spilling out onto the square. It’s filled with the music of local street musicians. Such a great atmosphere that this is not to be missed.

Piazza della SS Annunziata

pink and white stone building in florence
This is the most beautiful square in the city. Its elegant, graceful design and architecture feature the Renaissance style in the loveliest shades of ochre-hued buildings. This is a peaceful square to visit. It’s quiet and almost tucked away from the main tourist sites, making it a gem to visit.

Must See Florence Attractions – The Bridges

Ponte Vecchio

river with bridge in florence
This famous landmark is hard to miss. It was the first of three main bridges built over the Arno river in 1218. What makes it unique is the bridge itself is lined with jewellery stores from one side of the river to the other. It also draws many people, making it almost unbearable to visit. But you simply must.

Ponte Santa Trinita

river with bridge in florence
This Renaissance bridge with its three elegant arches was rebuilt in the 1500s after the original wooden bridge was damaged during a flooding of the Arno river. The views from this bridge are incredible. Not only of Pont Vecchio, but also it’s one of the best places for people and sunset watching.

Ponte alla Carraia

sunset over water and bridge in florence
This Renaissance bridge features five elegant arches was also rebuilt in the 1500s after the original wooden bridge suffered the same fate as the bridge to the east, Pont Santa Trinita.

Must See Florence Attractions – The Palaces

Palazzo Vecchio

archway in florence
This 14th century Romanesque style building was the city’s town hall. It sits on the Piazza della Signoria. Leading up to the entryway are statues and fountains. Of most significance is the copy of Michelangelo’s David, as well as, Medici lions, Hercules, and Perseus with the head of Medusa.

Palazzo Strozzi

archways in florence square
This 15th century Renaissance palace was once home to the richest family in Florence, the Strozzi family. It is the inner courtyard, with the second-story balcony that is incredible. Today, the palace houses rotating art displays.

Palazzo Pitti & Boboli Garden

When visiting the Palazzo Pitti, it’s the garden that is the main attraction. Boboli Garden offers over 11 acres of green space, full of statues, sculptures, art, hidden pathways and fountains. It offers a peaceful escape from the busy city and is one of my favourite things to do in Florence.

Best Things to Do in Florence

Stroll Florence’s Winding Streets

alleyway in florence
Get lost in the city’s maze of medieval streets. In Florence, the tall buildings soar and create these lovely narrow alleyways, almost always fully shaded. Eavesdrop on busy families, smell the delicious aroma of a meal being prepared and watch children play football (or soccer) in the laneways.

Renaissance Masterpieces to See in Florence that Aren’t David

building in florence to see art
Take in some art. Constructed in 1580, the Uffizi Gallery houses some of the most amazing collections of ancient sculptures and paintings from the Middle Ages to the Modern period. One of those highlights is the Venus de’ Medici, as the epitome of beauty, Venus is a Roman copy of a 2,000-year-old Greek statue making this a great. For this reason, this is one of the popular attractions in Florence. Click here for the skip-the-line timed entrance.

Experience | Skip-The-Line Uffizi Gallery Timed Entrance Ticket, click here. Also,enjoy priority entry to Accademia Gallery, for best-guaranteed price, click here.

Wandering the Historic Centre of Florence

golden statue of bull in florence
Go shopping at Mercato del Porcellino! Find some Tuscan leather goods at this lively outdoor daily market. Although most of the leather in this market is real, not all leather is treated equally. Be a savvy market shopper, and maybe you’ll score a bargain. Don’t forget to rub the nose of the boar fountain for good luck -put a coin in its mouth as your rub its nose and drop the coin down with a wish!

See Florence from the Arno

river with rowers and bridge in florence
Take a romantic stroll along the Arno river. The Arno flows east-west and divides Florence into the Centro Storico, or historic center to the north and the hillier, less crowded Oltrarno to the south. This treelined spacious walk offers the best views of the city. Be sure to do this river walk in the early morning, before the crowds, and again in the evening.

Travel to other Places in Italy with these

If you are looking to either take a day trip or want to travel to other places in Italy from Florence. Here are some popular attractions you might be interested in. Perhaps Florence is a stop along a longer itinerary in Italy. Here are some popular destination points from Florence.

Here are some of the best day tours from Florence

Cinque Terre. Visit all five villages of the colourful Cinque Terre National Park on this guided tour from Florence. Choose to add lunch on a scenic terrace, and/or a rewarding hike through coastal vineyards. Click here for more information, and to book.

Related reading | Check out my guide to Cinque Terre to make the most of your day trip

Pisa, Siena & San Grimignano. Discover Tuscany and visit its medieval sites on a guided excursion from Florence. You’ll explore the World Heritage Site of San Gimignano, Pisa, and Siena. Enjoy lunch in a typical Tuscan winery. Click here for more information and to book.

Siena, San Gimignano, & Monteriggioni. Enjoy a full-day tour of Tuscany’s villages and wine regions in the heart of the Tuscan countryside. Visit San Gimignano and the medieval town of Siena. Click here to book.

Related reading | Check out my guide to Siena to make the most of your day there

Wine Tasting Tour. Taste the wines and olive oils of Tuscany on a small group tour where you will drive through the rolling hills and admire the olive groves and cypress trees of the countryside. This half-day tour brings you to 2 wineries to sample wine paired with local produce. Click here to book.

Pizza and Gelato Cooking Class. Enjoy making pizza and gelato in the authentic Italian style with a chef who will introduce you to the history of these glorious Italian creations. Click here to book.

Where to Stay in Florence

With so many things to do in Florence, I recommend staying at least 2 nights, if not longer. This romantic city offers a great selection of accommodations.

This is where we stayed, Mostarda, a large 1 bedroom with a private terrace in a 17th century palazzo.

Or, you can do your own search here.

If you prefer to stay in a hotel, here are a couple of options for the best accommodations in Florence.

  • Hotel in a great location: Grand Hotel Baglioni is located close to the Santa Maria Novella Train Station making it convenient for day-tripping. Elegant rooms furnished in Florentine style with views of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore and Giotto’s Bell Tower
  • B&B in the centre of Florence: Corte Calzaiuoli is steps from Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio and Strozzi Palace. Rooms offer a city view and a traditional Italian breakfast 
  • Or, explore other properties using Booking.com

As a holidaymaker…

Have you fallen in love with Florence yet? Whether you are visiting Italy for the first time or the twentieth time, the Florence attractions are endless. This beautiful city is really a must-see on your Tuscan itinerary. Beyond these must see sights, Florence is also known for its food. Especially the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, or Florentina steak. The recipe has not changed since 1915 and can be found on almost every menu in Florence. 

Colpo di fulmine. Is there any doubt why I haven’t fallen in love with this Renaissance city? 

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