Top 5 Things To Do in Florence, Italy

Florence Italy Duomo Facade

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Florence is one of my favorite cities in the world! There’s something magical about the way Florence’s streets have held on to their medieval charm. So if you are planning an Italian vacation, here are our top 5 things to do in Florence, Italy.

We’ll get into detail for all of these, but here’s a quick run-down:

  1. Visit the Duomo
  2. Walk the Ponte Vecchio
  3. See the city from the Piazzale Michelangelo
  4. Visit the Museums (like the Uffizi!)
  5. Visit the Palzzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens

One thing I love about Florence is that it’s such a manageable city to tour. There isn’t an overwhelming amount of sights, which means you can see pretty much everything important in a few days and still feel like you have time to soak in the city. (Check out our 2 day Florence Itinerary here!)

Top 5 Things To Do in Florence, Italy

Visit the Duomo

Front of the Duomo

Seeing the Duomo (officially the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore) is probably the top thing to do in Florence. But here’s the secret about the Duomo people might not tell you: this inside isn’t that impressive. The outside of the Duomo is where you find all of its beauty (minus the interior of the actual Dome…that is impressive), so if there is a long line to get inside and you don’t want to wait, don’t sweat it.

Instead, just spend time in the Piazza del Duomo. The size of the building itself is incredible and you will want to see it from every angle. The pink and green coloring of the exterior is beautiful, so don’t be surprised if you take way too many pictures. And the plaza itself is a lovely place to pass some time and soak in the feel of the city.

If you’re interested in seeing more though, you can buy an OPA Pass, which includes admission to the following:

  • Climbing to the top of the Brunelleschi’s Dome inside the cathedral
  • Climbing Giotto’s Bell Tower (right next to the Duomo), which provides an excellent view of Florence
  • The Baptistry of St. John (right in front of the Duomo)
  • The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo — A museum behind the Duomo housing works of art that have been removed from the cathedral over the years
  • Santa Reparata — A crypt beneath the cathedral

As always with religious sites in Italy, dress appropriately according to the dress code with covered knees and shoulders.

Walk the Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio means “Old Bridge” in Italian and it is one of the most famous bridges in the world. It is especially notable for the shops that are built onto it where today you can buy art and souvenirs.

The Ponte Vecchio is must-see in Florence, but it won’t take much of your time. Just take a nice stroll along it on your way to the Piazzale Michelangelo. And don’t forget to turn around and take in the architecture of it once you are off the bridge!

We also recommend going across the bridge at least once at night. The shops close up like little boxes, giving the bridge a fairytale feel.

Cinque Terre

Plan your trip to Italy with this 10 day Italy itinerary!

View the City from Piazzale Michelangelo

View from Piazzale Michelangelo

For the best views of Florence, head up to Piazzale Michelangelo on the south side of the Arno River. Here you can see a panorama view of the city including the dominating Duomo, the Arno River, the old city wall of Florence, and a taste of Tuscany beyond the city.

Piazzale Michelangelo is a popular spot, so expect to be sharing the space with your fellow tourists. But there is plenty of space to spread out and there are multiple viewpoints, so you won’t have a problem taking in the city views.

You can access Pizzale Michelangelo by car (there is parking), but I think it’s easier (when you are already exploring on foot) to follow the footpath and stairs up to the top from Piazza Guiseppe Poggi. It is a bit of an uphill climb, but really only moderately difficult.

Visit the Museums (and See David!)

Florence has a good handful of museums to choose from, but it is mostly known for two: The Accademia Gallery and the Uffizi Gallery.

Accademia Gallery (Galleria dell’Accademia)

We know, we know. Everyone wants to see David, and the Accademia Gallery is where you can do it. Be sure to buy tickets and reserve a time-slot in advance.

And while some popular tourist sights may be overrated, this is NOT that. David is magnificent. I was prepared to be underwhelmed, but when I turned the corner and saw David I was blown away.

The rest of the art in the Accademia Gallery is not quite as exciting, but they do have some amazing sculptures. I especially found Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures lining the hallway on the way to David completely fascinating.

Uffizi Galley

The Uffizi Gallery is Renaissance Art central. This is one of the most popular museums in all of Italy and with good reason. There is so much to see here! Some of the most famous paintings include Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi, and Botticelli’s Primavera.

Make sure to buy your tickets to the Uffizi ahead of time. And because the museum so full of masterpieces, have a plan of what you want to see before you go and maybe download a guide before you go.

Visit the Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens

The Palazzo Pitti was once home the Medici family, which, you know, was only like Florence’s most powerful families for several centuries.

Today, the Palazzo Pitti has been turned into one of Florence’s most famous museums. There’s all kinds of things to see here, including more Renaissance art, the Royal Apartments, the Carriage Museum, and all kinds of other galleries that give you a sense of Medici family life during the Renaissance.

Directly behind the Plazzo Pitti, you can visit the Boboli Gardens. This is a beautiful Italian Renaissance Garden also built by the Medici family. There is tons to explore here, including terraced gardens, fountains, sculptures, and of course all kinds of plants.

More Things To Do in Florence, Italy

Statues in Piazza della Signoria

Just because we can’t contain our love for Florence to *just* 5 things, here are a few more of our favorite things to do!

  • Stroll through streets and Plazas of Florence — Wondering the streets of Florence is magical, and there are lots of great plazas. Be sure to check out the Piazza della Signora for replicas of famous sculptures, including David.
  • Visit Santo Spirito — Across the Arno, check out Santo Spirito. This area has an even more relaxed feel than the rest of Florence, some great restaurants, and is a great place to go for nightlife.
  • Shop and Eat at the Mercato Centrale — Located in the historic San Lorenzo market, the Mercato Centrale has become a central spot for artisan food. Definitely a must-do if you are a foodie!
  • Visit Santa Croce — This is a quieter area of Florence with another beautiful plaza, and it’s own basilica that is reminiscent of a smaller version of the Duomo (at least from the front).
  • Take a Day Trip to Fiesole — Up in the mountains beyond Florence, you can take the bus up to Fiesole. This is a small town with some quiet ruins, and you can walk up the streets for some incredible views of Florence.

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