The capital of the Tuscany region in Italy, Florence is bursting at the seams with magnificent architecture and iconic art from the Renaissance period. With countless enigmatic art galleries, bustling piazzas, sprawling vineyards, and some of the most delicious food in the world, you’ll never want to go back home!
Around 16 million people visit the captivating city each year for the chance to see the original Statue of David, get lost in Raphael’s masterpieces, and be amazed by Filippo Brunelleschi’s architectural marvels, including the famed dome of the Florence Cathedral. Florence is considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance, but it’s not all about art galleries and architecture.
The city’s medieval streets are also home to lively food markets, high-end fashion boutiques, beautifully manicured parks, gorgeous viewpoints, and quirky museums. You’ll even find the world’s oldest-operating pharmacy here!
At the end of a long day of sightseeing, take a seat at a local restaurant, where you can take part in Florence’s iconic (and delicious) aperitivo tradition. Simply order an Aperol spritz or glass of fine Tuscan wine and enjoy a complimentary buffet of traditional Florentine appetizers!
With such a great choice of things to see, do, and eat, it can be difficult to know where to begin. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the absolute best things to do in Florence. Add these fun activities and attractions to your Florence bucket list, and you’re sure to have a fantastic time exploring one of the most culturally-rich corners of the world.
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The 15 Best Things to Do In Florence
1. Stroll across the Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge, is one of the most famous Florence attractions, so you’ve got to take a stroll over it during your visit. The bridge crosses the Arno River, and although the exact date it was completed is unclear, many people believe it dates back to 996.
The bridge is best known for the stores that are built into it. While having stores inside a bridge is a bit unusual today, it was normal centuries ago when Ponte Vecchio was constructed.
Butchers and farmers owned most of the stores to begin with, but they’re now the property of art dealers, jewelers, and souvenir sellers. The bridge is a great place to admire precious gems and pick up some gifts for friends and family back home.
To see Ponte Vecchio from a different angle and snap a picture, head to Corridoio Vasariano. This corridor has a clear view of the bridge and all the stores that are built into it.
2. Soak up the local spirit at Florence’s Carnival celebration
If you’re planning your trip for February or March, you’ve got to check out the city’s Carnival festivities. One of the best Florence activities of the year, Carnival boasts a huge program packed full of exciting activities the whole family will enjoy.
The highlight of Carnival is the grand parade. During this extravaganza, floats move throughout the streets of the city, including one topped with a giant dragon. The mythical creature is as big as they’re depicted on TV. Seriously, the sheer size of the thing will blow you away!
As well as the parade, Florence’s Carnival also includes music concerts, ballroom dances, and horse riding displays. It’s a great representation of local tradition, with many people going all out and dressing up in full Renaissance costumes.
The dates change every year, depending on when Easter falls. Because of this, it’s best to check online in advance and confirm the dates, so you don’t miss out.
3. Be amazed by the grandeur of the Duomo
The Florence Cathedral is easily one of the most instantly recognizable in the world. Also known as the Duomo, this religious building is the city’s sparkling gem and an absolute must on any Florence bucket list.
Construction on the Duomo began in 1296 and the building was structurally completed in 1436. But it wasn’t until the 19th century that the cathedral’s complex façade was actually finished. The exterior of the Duomo is blanketed in sparkling white marble with delicate green, pink, and red polychrome designs. The result is remarkable and makes the cathedral unlike any other in the world.
The Duomo is topped with a stunning domed roof, designed by famed Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi. The magnificent structure can be seen from all over the city. For some of the best views in Florence, step inside the church and climb the steps to the top. From up here, you can see all across the city for miles!
The view isn’t the only reason to go inside the Duomo. The detailed marble floor and the spectacular artwork covering the inside of the domed roof will leave you in awe.
4. Marvel at masterpieces inside the Uffizi Gallery
A visit to the Uffizi Gallery should definitely be on your list of things to do in Florence. This world-famous art gallery is home to some emblematic masterpieces you’ve definitely heard of, as well as plenty of other intriguing pieces you won’t see anywhere else.
One of the most important Italian museums in the world, the Uffizi Gallery houses a staggeringly large collection of Renaissance art from masters such as Raphael, Titian, da Vinci, and Botticelli. Some of the most famous pieces include the Sacrifice of Isaac by Caravaggio, The Baptism of Christ by del Verrocchio and da Vinci, and The Adoration of the Magi by Botticelli.
With its frescoed ceilings, Renaissance-era staircases, and labyrinth-esque corridors, the Uffizi Gallery building is a work of art itself. The inside wows with shining marble floors and contemporary ways of displaying ancient paintings, while the outside impresses with its hand-carved statues and beautiful inner courtyard.
5. Indulge in bistecca alla fiorentina
If you love a good steak, one of the best Florence activities is ordering a bistecca alla fiorentina (Florentine-style beefsteak). One of the most popular and famous dishes in the city, bistecca alla fiorentina is a giant T-bone steak that weighs anywhere between 2 to 8 pounds.
The traditional way to cook it is over roasted chestnuts resulting in a unique smoky flavor. Once it’s lightly charred on the outside but still tender and pink on the inside, it’s seasoned with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice before being served.
The price you see on the menu is usually per kilo, and we definitely recommend you split one between two people. You’ll never be able to eat it all on your own!
We had our best-ever bistecca alla fiorentina at Osteria di Giovanni. This fantastic restaurant is a little off-the-beaten-track, so it’s never packed with tourists. Their steak is absolutely huge and served with delicious roasted potatoes.
6. Check out the views from the top of Giotto’s Campanile
If you’ve got a head for heights, visit Giotto’s Campanile and climb to the very top. This soaring bell tower is an astonishing 287 feet tall and 50 feet wide. It’s one of the most spectacular examples of 14th-century Gothic architecture in the city, combining staggering height with strong solidity.
The magnificent bell tower was designed in 1334 by architect Giotto and is decorated in dazzling white marble with pink, green, and red accents like the adjacent Duomo. When he died in 1337, only the first section had been completed. Construction continued following his designs, with some famed artists – such as Alberto Arnaldi – carving the intricate designs.
The outside of Giotto’s Campanile is blanketed in decorated panels, impressive artwork, and complex sculptures. But for an even better view, step inside the tower and climb the 414 steps to the top. From here, you’ll be treated to unique views of the Duomo, as well as stellar views across the city.
7. Indulge your gourmet side at the Mercato Centrale
One of the most fun things to do in Florence for foodies is to go on a shopping trip inside the Mercato Centrale. The city’s 19th-century central market is spread over two floors laden with almost every type of Italian food and delicacy you could ever imagine!
The ground floor is the place to go if you’re shopping for ingredients. Here you’ll find stalls overflowing with fruit, vegetables, wine, cheese, fish, meat, oil, and spices. It’s a great spot if you want to mingle with locals and shop where they shop.
The upper level is a dedicated food court. Go up to any bar, restaurant, or cafe you want, order your favorite item off the menu, and then enjoy it at any of the tables in the food court.
With everything from veggie burgers, pizza, ribs, and salad to pasta, fried fish, charcuterie, and truffles to choose from, the Mercato Centrale is the best place to go if you and your travel buddies are craving different types of dishes.
8. Take in the artwork at Piazza della Signoria
Visit the Piazza della Signoria for one of the best Florence sightseeing opportunities. One of the most popular and important squares in the city, the Piazza della Signoria is bursting with extraordinary buildings and classical art.
The Palazzo Vecchio overlooks the Piazza della Signoria. This huge building is the town hall of Florence and is best known for its giant soaring clock tower. It looks more like the type of tower you’d see on a castle or fortification than one on a government building!
Look to the left of Palazzo Vecchio, and you’ll see the captivating Fountain of Neptune. It was built in 1559 in celebration of the marriage between Francesco de’ Medici I to Grand Duchess Joanna of Austria.
To the right, you’ll find the Loggia dei Lanzi. This outside corridor is connected to the Uffizi Gallery. Its wide arches and domed roof protect a handful of amazing Renaissance replica sculptures, including those of David, Hercules, Perseus, and Menelaus.
9. Pay your respects at the Basilica of Santa Croce
The Basilica of Santa Croce is one of the best things to see in Florence. This eye-catching basilica was built around the same time as the Duomo, and because of that, it features a similar façade of glistening white marble decorated with red, green, and pink polychrome panels.
Some of the most famous people from Florence are buried inside the basilica. The bodies of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Rossini were all laid to rest here. There’s also a memorial to Dante, although his sarcophagus is empty. His body was buried in Ravenna after he was exiled from Florence.
The inside of the Basilica of Santa Croce is just as elegant as the outside. Tall stone columns, gently curving arches, and detailed wooden beams on a dramatically tall ceiling all give the inside of the basilica a one-of-a-kind look.
Behind the altar, you’ll see long, thin stained-glass windows. When the sun is shining, they bathe the basilica in gorgeous hues of multi-colored light.
10. Snack on schiacciata
When you’re in the mood for a snack, one of the must-do things in Florence is to find the nearest bakery and order some schiacciata. A unique snack you hardly ever see outside the city, schiacciata is similar to focaccia, but it has a crunchier exterior and softer interior.
It’s made using similar ingredients to focaccia, but with extra salt and olive oil. This creates the quintessential texture and gives it an incredibly addictive and delicious flavor.
Schiacciata is often used instead of sandwich bread, but you’ll also find it on restaurant menus as an appetizer and available from bakeries as a filling snack. Some places serve it plain, while others top it with cheese, olives, or herbs. We even saw a dessert version topped with grapes that used to be popular in medieval times!
We had some of the most incredible schiacciata at Pasticceria Giorgio. This wonderful bakery makes an amazing dessert version. It’s got the lightest, fluffiest texture you can imagine and is filled with rich Chantilly cream.
11. See the original Statue of David at the Galleria dell’Accademia
One of the coolest things to do in Florence is visit the Galleria dell’Accademia and see the genuine Statue of David. The gallery is pretty nondescript from the outside. So much so that you could easily walk past it without knowing about the Renaissance masterpieces kept within.
The iconic Statue of David is the most popular piece on display inside the gallery. Made between 1501 and 1504 and carved out of marble by the astoundingly talented Michelangelo, the statue is 14 feet tall and will undoubtedly have a real impact on you – even if you think you’re not really into art!
The world-famous statue isn’t the only thing worth seeing inside the Galleria dell’Accademia. You’ll find plenty of other incredible works of art from Michelangelo, such as his four unfinished Prisoners and his unfinished statue of St. Matthew.
Other fantastic pieces on display in the museum include Florentine paintings from the 13th and 16th centuries. There’s also a section dedicated to the history of 14th– and 15th-century Florence, plus a museum of musical instruments that’s home to an impressive collection of ancient pieces.
12. Discover the best views in Florence at Piazzale Michelangelo
There are many places throughout Florence that boast exceptional views of the city. But our absolute favorite is Piazzale Michelangelo. From this vantage point, you can see both sides of the Arno River, the Duomo, Giotto’s Campanile, and more centuries-old buildings than you could ever count.
Piazzale Michelangelo enjoys a prestigious location on the south bank of the River Arno. It’s perched high up on a hill, close to the Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens. From this high up, the square allows you to truly see Florence in all its captivating glory.
For incredible views you’ll remember forever and stunning photos you’ll want to show everyone, plan your visit for sunset. At this time of day, the buildings are lit up by a gentle golden hue, and the sky changes color from blue to purple and then pink as the sun dips into the horizon.
Hang around a little longer, and you’ll get to watch the twinkling lights of Florence come on as night falls on the city.
13. Celebrate New Year’s in March
Celebrating the New Year in March is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Florence. Every year on March 25, locals celebrate the Florentine New Year with parades, medieval costumes, music concerts, and so much more.
The unusual date goes all the way back to the Middle Ages. Centuries ago, the holiday was created to honor the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Locals agreed this marked the beginning of the civil year of the city – and it’s stuck ever since!
Celebrations kick off in Palazzo Vecchio with an elaborate parade accompanied by lots of music and people wearing extravagant medieval costumes. The crowds then move onto Piazza SS Annunziata, where outdoor food markets are set up brimming with all kinds of delicious Italian delicacies.
As night falls, the marketplace is transformed into a music hall where several concerts are held. People are also invited inside the local church to admire the frescoes of the Annunciation, which are tied to the festival.
14. Get away from it all in the Boboli Gardens
When you need to take a break from sightseeing, spend some time relaxing in the Boboli Gardens. This gorgeous green space is connected to Palazzo Pitti and is a unique location where nature, science, art, and alchemy come together in harmony.
The gardens were designed by the Medici family in the 16th century and cover more than 11 acres, making them some of the largest in Florence. There are multiple sections to explore, some of which guard hidden statues and pieces of artwork. This makes taking a stroll through the Boboli Gardens more like a visit to a museum than a walk in a park!
From perfectly green lawns, bubbling fountains, and exotic trees to colorful flowerbeds, Renaissance statues, and peaceful grottos, you can easily spend hours wandering around the Boboli Gardens.
Make an effort to find the Lemon House, which was created between 1777 and 1778 by Zanobi del Rosso. The 18th-century Kaffeehaus pavilion is also worth a look. It’s one of the few examples of Rococo architecture in Florence and is simply stunning.
15. Cheers with a glass of Tuscan wine
If you enjoy a glass of wine, one of the top things to do in Florence is to sample the incredible wines produced in the Tuscany region. Florence is the gateway to Tuscany’s wine country, where you’ll discover some of the finest award-winning wines in the world.
The red wines are particularly exceptional here. If you’re not really a red wine drinker, start off with a glass of chianti. This variety of wine is deep-red in color and has a wonderfully rich, full flavor.
Brunello di Montalcino is also worth a try. But as this variety of wine is consistently expensive, we only recommend you order it if you’re already a fan of red wine.
The reason it’s so pricey is because it’s made with Brunello grapes and has a long, complex aging process. If you’re in the mood to go all out, it really does taste divine and goes wonderfully with Florentine red meats, like bistecca alla fiorentina!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Florence. What’s your favorite thing to do in Florence?
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