The small and beautiful city of Florence is the beating heart of Italian culture. Known as the location of the birth of the Renaissance, the city is shrouded in ancient history and art, with a range of famous sculptures, masterpieces and prolific architecture at every turn.
Close to the beautiful Appennine Mountains in the stunning rural region of Tuscany, the region’s capital is a city for the senses. Enjoy delicious local cuisine, history walks and marvellous museums in this magical cityscape.
Florence Sightseeing Tips
Enjoy free Florence. Many of Florence’s top sights can be seen for free from the ground. Make sure you spend your first day in the city soaking up the sights around the station, including the Medici Chapels, San Lorenzo, and the must-see Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. Not only this, but the city’s many bustling outdoor piazzas can be accessed without a ticket and are an integral part of Florentine culture.
Get a Firenze card. The Firenze card costs around 70 euros and gives you access to most of the museums in the city, free local bus rides, and allows you to skip the queues – so you can see more in less time. The ticket is valid for 72 hours and includes one of the world’s greatest museums, the Uffizi, as well as the Pitti Palace, the Accademia, and the Bargello.
Shop locally. Florence is known for its shopping, like so many Italian cities, but some of the best shopping can be done at the local flea markets, such as San Lorenzo, delle Pulci, and the Mercato Nuovo.
Attractions in Florence
Florence is known for its rich history, which dates back as far as the Roman times. But the pinnacle of its history really came when the Medici family took the reigns which encouraged the cultural movement of the Renaissance from the 14th to the 17th century. The rebirth has remained one of the most famed cultural progressions in modern history, and its writers, painters, philosophers, and architects are still recognized in the city today. So much of its history can be felt and reimagined in its buildings, both in its world famous museums and on its streets through the incredible architecture, piazzas and sculptures that define the city and its past.
Be sure to check out these must-see sights during your time in Florence:
It may be one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florence, but you cannot visit Florence without seeing it at least once. One of the most famous museums in the world, the Uffizi Gallery has one of the best collections of Italian paintings in the world, including some pretty giant Botticellis.
Il Duomo di Firenze
Enjoy the best views of Duomo Square and the stunning cityscape that surrounds it by climbing to the top of the Duomo Dome. Designed by Brunelleschi, the dome is enormous and involves climbing a winding staircase to reach the top.
Visit the City’s Famous Tombs
So many of Florence’s greats are buried in the city itself, from Machiavelli to Michelangelo, and not to mention the Medici Chapel, which is a masterpiece in itself. Be sure to visit these impressive tombs on your way around the city.
Explore the Markets
Florence has several markets that are worth visiting, but some of the most famous are the leather markets. Take a trip to the market next to San Lorenzo Church and visit the large indoor Mercato Centrale afterwards.
Piazza della Signoria
At the heart of the city’s historic center, you will no doubt enjoy the views from the large Piazza della Signoria a number of times, just make sure you stop to appreciate impressive town hall with its majestic public and private rooms that are open to visitors while you are here.
Shopping in Florence, Italy
The city may be small and easy to walk around, but the vast array of shops and boutiques is endless. Whether you want souvenirs, fashion pieces, or antiques Florence has it.
Most of the high end luxury fashion brands and designers can be found on Via Tornabouoni. Establishing itself as early as the 14th century, here you can find Gucci, Prada and Cartier among many of others in gorgeous boutiques that are just oozing style.
Via Maggio and Via de’ Fossi
If you like to shop for antiques then head to Via Maggio, close to the Pitti Palace, and Via de’ Fossi. Look hard enough and you can find valuable art, sculptures and collectors’ items.
Florentine Leather Shopping
The markets are the place to go if you want to buy some good quality Florentine leather. San Lorenzo outdoor market is probably the most famous, and sells everything from leather jackets to leather purses. It’s also possible to bargain with some of the sellers for a better deal!
For window shopping and jewelry shopping head to the famous Ponte Vecchio. Along the bridge you will find some of the most glamorous jewelry shops in the city, perfect for finding something completely unique to take home with you or for someone special.
Street Food and Drink
Florence, like the rest of Italy, is famed for its delicious food and drink, and so many markets offer local and fresh Italian produce to take home or eat there and then. Head to Sant’ Ambrogio Market to find fresh Italian fare and local seasonal produce.
Like every Italian city, food is a vital part of the culture in Florence. From the local Tuscan wines to the aged cheeses and cured meats, Florence is a mecca for food and here’s some of the best of the bunch:
Giacosa Roberto Cavalli
This cafe may be not an obvious choice, as it’s tucked away at the back of the designer store of Roberto Cavailli, but it’s certainly a pit stop to remember. Sip on some delicious coffee and tasty pastries as you experience Florentine chic at its best.
This famous gelato place offers some of the best in the city. Unusually, there is nothing on display so you have to make your selection from the menu – we can promise that the chocolate is always a winning choice at this quaint store.
This small quirky restaurant in the market has just five tables but is well worth the wait. The food is simple, local and the best place to eat like a real Florentine.
This fun and vibrant restaurant is the ideal place for some laughter and some great food, particularly the pasta and meats. Usually filled with a younger crowd, the place is sometimes so busy that they let patrons drink outside in the piazza.
Not for the budget traveler, Enoteca Pinchiorri is for pure indulgence. With a wine cellar of more than 150,000 bottles, a three Michelin-stared chef and some incredible Tuscan and modern dishes, it will be a night to remember.
Be sure to book ahead for this one, Il Latini is an institution in Florence that offers two sittings and an incredible array of food, course after course. A Tuscan treat that isn’t overpriced but may be a little overcrowded.
Hotels in Florence, Italy
The city offers a range of hotels from small self-catering rooms to large and luxurious accommodation. Stay in the center of the city and enjoy close proximity to the city’s main attractions, including the cathedral and churches.
Close to the railway station and the motorway, the Hotel Merdiana is located in the city center with easy access to the Duomo, the Palazzo dei Congressi and the Fortezza de Basso.
Stay in the old city of Florence at Palazzo dei Ciompi. Located in the old square, the hotel is a beautiful design and offers self-catering apartments just a few minutes walk from the historic sites of the city.
Stay in your very own art gallery at the Palazzo Ruspoli. This large beautiful hotel is within walking distance from most of the city center’s main attractions, and has an array of stunning sculptures and paintings inside the hotel for some true Florentine beauty.
Enjoy private views across the River Arno, just a few minutes away from the city’s boutique shopping district, including the famous Ponte Vecchio. The interior is modern and elegant, with a touch of serenity, making it the perfect place to relax after a day of sightseeing.
Experience unrivalled luxury at the five-star Bernini Palace, close to the Piazza Della Signoria and city center. This incredible hotel dates back to the start of the 16th century and has been renovated to bring together its majestic past with decadent furnishings and features with modern amenities, such as air conditioning and a spa.
Great tips, Mark! Don’t you just love Tuscany? We could go back to Italy again and again – it never gets boring!
Thanks and yes, I could go back to Italy tomorrow and anytime. I’m planning a return in 2017.