Tuscany offers so many beautiful villages, towns and cities to visit. With that many options, comes difficult decisions – which ones to visit. One that is not to be missed is the medieval town of Siena. This is how you can spend one perfect day discovering the best things to do in Siena.

Visiting Siena in a Day

Siena lies in the province of Siena in the Tuscany region of Italy. Its close proximity to Florence and other Tuscan towns means that Siena makes for a great day trip. Spending one full day in Siena is enough time to see the main attractions and appreciate its charm. But, it does require a little bit of planning. Siena is a large Tuscan town, with lots to see, use this guide to make the most of your day.

Siena is a medieval walled city in Tuscany Italy. The top attractions in Siena are Piazza del Campo, Siena Cathedral, historic city centre with its winding alleyways from the middle ages.

Best Things to Do in Siena Italy

Every starting point when touring a Tuscan town starts with going to the piazza first. No matter what direction you are coming from, all streets will lead you there. So, let’s start with your tour of Siena by heading there.

Piazza del Campo

The heart of Siena and what this city is known for is its 13th century Piazza del Campo.

square with building in siena italy

Piazza del Campo’s unique shell-shaped design is considered to be one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. The tiling on the floor is divided into nine different sections. This represents The Nine who governed Siena at the peak of its medieval glory. The piazza is massive at 333 m which can accommodate 30,000 people. This is where you will find the popular attraction of Palio di Siena, or the horse race takes place.

Every day Siena life happens here. Watch as locals and tourists simply hang out in this piazza. Sipping a coffee or enjoying gelato and always, people-watching. The beautiful medieval architecture and lively atmosphere of the square make it a top attraction in Siena. 

On Piazza del Campo: Palazzo Pubblico

Forming almost an entire side of Piazza del Campo is Palazzo Pubblico.

Siena large square with tower

This gothic town hall was built in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. Today it houses the Museum Civico. What makes this worth visiting? Two very large frescoes: Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Allegories of Good and Bad Government (1338–40) and Simone Martini’s celebrated Virgin Mary in Majesty (1315). A pre-booked entry ticket is required to tour here, book it here for the best price.

On Piazza del Campo: Torre del Mangia

Torre del Mangia is one of Italy’s tallest secular towers at 87 m.

tower view of siena

It was built to be the exact height of the Siena Cathedral, as a sign that church and state have equal power in Siena. The tower is adjacent to the Palazzo Pubblico, or public palace. 400 steps bring you to the top with phenomenal views of the city below. 

On Piazza del Campo: Cappella di Piazza and Fonte Gaia

The Cappella di Piazza sits at the foot of the Torre del Mangia. This beautiful marble tabernacle was built in 1352, to thank Madonna following the plague that hit the city in 1348. 

architecture in siena

Fonte Gaia, or Joyous Fountain, was inaugurated in 1346. Water was piped in from close to 24 km away. Everyone was so happy and marvelled at seeing the water flowing from the fountain for the first time. 

Now that you have spent some time in the Piazza del Campo it’s time to explore the rest of the city.

Historic Centre of Siena

The historic centre of the city has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in Italy.

Eleven streets fan out from the Piazza del Campo and create this wonderful maze. Somehow, getting lost doesn’t feel like being lost at all, but feels like an adventure. It’s as if you have stepped back in time and it is the middle ages again. It’s very atmospheric and mysterious. 

Experience | Explore its historic centre on this 2-hour guided walk that includes skip-the-line Siena Cathedral tickets. Book here to maximize your time in Siena.

Once you have explored the historic city centre it’s time to visit another amazing landmark, the city’s cathedral.

Siena Cathedral or Duomo di Siena

The Siena Cathedral was built between 1215 and 1263 and is a classic example of gothic architecture. Known as the most beautiful cathedral in Tuscany, its interior is even more impressive than the exterior. It’s filled with intricate details and artwork by Pisano, Donatello, Bernini and Michelangelo. 

Siena is a medieval walled city in Tuscany Italy. The best places to visit in Siena are Piazza del Campo, Siena Cathedral, historic city centre with its winding alleyways from the middle ages.

Inside, you will be awe-struck by the striped black and white marble pillars representing the symbolic colours of Siena. There is a lot to take in, so don’t rush your time here. Be sure to look up to the beautiful frescoed ceilings and down to the incredible mosaic tile floors. The incredible works of art are seen in sculptures, stone, wood carvings, paintings, and stained glass.

Part of the Duomo complex in Siena is the Piccolomini Library. Here you will find ancient frescoes making this place feel more like a palace than a library.  This really is one of the best things to do in Siena and not to be missed.

Travel Planning | A visit to the Siena Cathedral is a must. And, unfortunately as a popular landmark expect very long lines. However, if you get the fast-track OPA SI pass with advanced tickets here you’ll have access to multiple sites and be guaranteed availaiblity and best price. Or, just the skip-the-line access to the Siena Cathedral can be booked here.

What’s included in the fast-track OPA SI pass ticket:

  • Facciatone Viewpoint – one of the most unusual sites you might find in Siena. It’s the unfinished façade of the Cathedral’s expansion. Climb to the top giving you panoramic views of the city
  • Piccolomini Library – be amazed by the frescoes of Pinturicchio
  • Museo dell’Opera – see artifacts and artwork from the cathedral’s past
  • Baptistery of San Giovanni and the Crypt

Church of San Domenico

The Church of San Domenico, also known as Basilica Cateriniana, sits atop a hill on the west side of the historic city walls. It’s known for its Gothic architecture which is an unusual style for this 13th century building.

Siena church

What to eat in Siena

Now, for the best part of your day…it’s time to enjoy some delicious food. Try the city’s specialty, Pici Pasta, on the menu at any of the best restaurants in Siena. Pici, a thick handmade spaghetti, is claimed to have originated in Siena. It’s considered a very simple dish, a peasant way of cooking, made without eggs and originally served with only a few simple ingredients. Or, try a plate of pici cacio e pepe (pecorino cheese and pepper) or pici all’aglione (garlic and oil). 

Market day

The most important day of the week is market day. And, Siena hosts one of the largest in all of Tuscany.

fruit from siena market

Visit on a Wednesday morning and join locals in their weekly ritual. It can be found in the area of La Lizza where vendors spill out around the majestic Walls of the Medicean Fortress, on Avenue XXV Aprile. It’s a real feast for the senses. Pick up something delicious to eat as you start your tour of the city. 

That concludes the perfect 1-day itinerary of the top things to do in Siena. If you are spending more time in Siena, then continue to read on…

Best Day Trips near Siena

While in this area of Tuscany, here are my guides to other beautiful Tuscan towns worth visiting.

  • Guide to Florence – the Renaissance city full of amazing architecture and art (Florence to Siena is 1 hr)
  • Guide to Pienza – a romantic hilltop village with sweeping views of Tuscan countryside (Pienza to Siena is 1 hr)
  • Guide to Cortona – a beautiful historic small town made famous by ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ (Cortona to Siena is 1 hour
  • Touring Tuscan Towns in the Siena Region – highlights of other towns of Montalcino, Montepulciano, and Arezzo are an hour away from Siena

Most Popular Tours from Siena

Best Places to Stay in Siena

If you have decided to make Siena your home base while in Tuscany here are some of the best accommodations in Siena.

  • Life in Sepia: 2-bedroom private villa located in Casole d’Elsa surrounded by lush gardens, pool and views of the Tuscan countryside
  • Or, explore other holiday rentals using Plum Guide
Life in Sepia
  • Apartment in the historic city centre: Domus Nannini SPA Palazzo Domus offers guests a hotel experience with spa amenities with their own individual apartments. Located in the heart of Siena overlooking Palazzo Nannini
  • Luxury Hotel in the historic centerGrand Hotel Continental is set in a 17th century building in the centre of the city. Pamper yourself with 5-star accommodations and fine dining
  • B&B in the heart of SienaB&BII Corso is located in a 16th century building just steps from Piazza del Campo. Elegant rooms with traditional furnishings are treated to an Italian breakfast
  • Or, explore other hotel properties using Booking.com

As a holidaymaker…

Siena is one of those Tuscan towns that just have to find a way onto your list. From its rich history to its significant landmarks – this is a place that will not disappoint and leave long-lasting memories. For your one perfect day in Siena, I hope you enjoy this list of the best things to do. 

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45 Comments

  1. We stayed in Siena on one visit to Italy and were charmed by the city and the local area. The architecture was stunning. We would love to go back one day and experience the running of the horses. And enjoy more of the great food we found on our wanders.

  2. Siena looks beautiful! I love all the unique rechitecture. I also would love to visit the markets! The fresh produce looks great. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  3. Sienna looks incredible! Whenever we are able to make it back to Italy, I’d love to visit here. The good in the market looks delicious!

  4. I’ve always wanted to visit Siena – it looks stunning! I’d love to walk around those historical streets and learn more about its history.

  5. Siena looks so charming – what a lovely place to explore! I’d love to visit! Torre del Mangia looks magical. Thanks for the great guide!

  6. I decided last spring that I would go to Italy once the pandemic is over to help support the tourist economy seeing as it was the first country in Europe to have a true outbreak. I hadn’t really considered Tuscany but I think I need to for that trip. Both towers (the Torre del Mangia and the one on the cathedral) are very interesting and I’d love to see those in person. Pici also sounds and looks absolutely delicious!

  7. Wow, what a beautiful place! I have been to Italy numerous times but never visited Siena. However, you & your photos have convinced me to visit. And I love your comment about getting lost feeling like an adventure. You can’t beat getting lost in the small streets of a place like this.

  8. This is one itinerary I want to do. Last time I was in Sienna it was just for a couple of hours and I could visit just the Cathedral. Torre del Mangia, Cappella di Piazza, and Fonte Gaia are some of the places I want to see. Pictures are great, very well taken.

  9. This traditional and historic style town is exactly the kind of place I look for on my travels. I love the Piazza, it’s so grand! Also that fountain is just spectacular!

  10. We visited Siena on a day trip and absolutely loved it! The architecture was awesome and the food was so good. I loved the outside of the Cathedral but after reading your description, I’m so sad we didn’t go inside! Next time!

  11. Siena sounds like a fantastic ancient city to explore for a dose of medieval architecture and history. I’d love to have a look inside the Siena Cathedral, the outside alone is gorgeous. How fascinating that after all this time, the Cathedral’s extension never was completed.

    1. The inside of Siena Cathedral is even more specular than the outside. Fascinating history and so many details.

  12. I have never been to Tuscany, but this definitely has me dreaming of eating gelato and getting lost in alleyways. I would love to climb both towers and get a view of the gorgeous colors.

  13. We visited Siena back in 2014 during our road trip through Tuscany. We found it to be a very interesting city, but it was a little bit too crowded for us (especially after exploring all the tiny crowdless Tuscan villages… haha), but we loved the striped Cathedral though. Did you also get a chance to see some of the nearby Tuscan villages?

    1. I did, we spent 5 days in Tuscany. What time of year did you visit? We always travel in the shoulder season for avoid the crowds.

  14. Your post brought me back nice memories of my visit to stunning Siena. I recommend this city to anyone visiting Tuscany. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Such a beautiful city and so much history! No surprise that it has been designated a World Heritage Site. The Palazzo Pubblico alone is a magnificent building, but there is so much more. I’d love to wander through the maze of medieval streets and lose myself. That is what exploring should be.

    1. Yes Jane, you’re exactly right- this city is meant to explore and get lost in these medieval streets.

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