Florence is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world with its overflow of palaces, churches and museums: the skyline is still dominated by the gobsmacking fifteenth-century dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, the best hotels are former villas, the museums are packed with world-famous Renaissance art produced virtually around the corner.
If you are looking for a dose of culture and want to see fantastic buildings during your Tuscany tour, Florence will not disappoint. One day in Florence may not be enough time to master the city, but it is enough time to fall in love with it! Florence’s historical centre is small and perfect for discovering on foot.
Half the fun of Florence is simply being there: wandering the streets, admiring the buildings, hearing the music from the buskers echoing across the squares, strolling around with a scoop of gelato in hand. Trying to decide what to do in Florence for your upcoming Tuscany tour?
Here is a list of THE 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN FLORENCE, a good starting point for your visit to this gorgeous city.
Galleria dell’Accademia-Michelangelo’s David
The Galleria dell’Accademia is the home of Michelangelo’s most famous work of art. Standing in front of Michelangelo’s famous David sculpture is an unforgettable experience. Visitors slowly circle to observe every angle of this masterpiece in marble, which is found at the Galleria Dell’Accademia and is 5.17 metres tall. The massive marble slab that was used to create David remained untouched for 25 years before the statue was commissioned in 1501, when the artist was just 26 years of age.
Michelangelo’s David is depicted before his battle with Goliath, at the instance between choice and consequence. The biblical hero’s eyes exude an expression of warning, and the sculpture is placed facing Rome to represent the defence of the Florentine republic’s civil liberty.
There’s something utterly impressive about this piece of history and it’s one of the absolute must-sees in Florence during your Tuscany tour, even if it requires you to wait in line for a bit. Only recently, have visitors were allowed to take pictures inside, which means that selfies with David are absolutely necessary!
Visit the iconic Piazza del Duomo
Piazza del Duomo is one of the best places to visit in Florence that you just can’t miss. Probably one of the most iconic piazzas of your Tuscany tour where in just one glimpse you can instantly admire the main monuments of the historic centre.
Overlooking the square is the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore, crowned in 1436 by Filippo Brunelleschi’s masterpiece: the Dome. This symbol of Florence is an arduous and majestic structure, from where you can enjoy a fantastic panorama of the city and the cathedral’s interior.
Another giant stands out alongside the façade, Giotto’s Bell Tower, soaring in its chromatism, while the ancient Baptistery of San Giovanni Battista is located opposite the cathedral, a Romanesque jewel adorned with bronze doors by Ghiberti and Pisano.
The Basilica itself is free to enter, but the surrounding museums (including the bell tower, Cupola, Baptistery, and the underground ruins below the Duomo) all require a ticket.
One of the most breathtaking experiences you can have in the centre of Florence is climbing the Duomo (463 steps), with the huge cupola by Filippo Brunelleschi. From there you can dominate the whole city and have a unique view.
If you’re not yet out of breath, head to the adjacent Giotto’s Campanile (bell tower) for another spectacular view of the city and the Duomo itself. On the same ticket, you cannot miss the Opera Duomo Museum, which has recently undergone an impressive update and is now home to the “Doors of Paradise” that were originally on the Baptistery.
Also expect to admire incredible masterpieces from the likes of Donatello, Verrocchio, Michelangelo and more.
After climbing Florence, take a coffee at the Caffetteria delle Oblate, with the great view of the Cupola. The caffetteria is located on the roof terrace of one of Florence’s public libraries: the Biblioteca delle Oblate.
Piazza della Signoria – an outdoor art museum
Piazza della Signoria(8 minutes walk from Brunelleschi’s Cupola)is top among Florence’s most important squares. In the heart of the city, dominated by city hall — the Palazzo Vecchio — and skimmed by one wing of the Uffizi Gallery, Piazza della Signoria is Florence’s primary meeting place for locals.
Piazza Della Signoria is also something of an outdoor art museum and the sculptures here are not to be missed. Best of all, it’s totally free for you to wander around, explore and see at your leisure.
The square hosts many astonishing statues, such as a David replica and the Fountain of Neptune. The Loggia dei Lanzi (an amazing outdoor sculpture gallery) cherishes the statue of Perseus with the head of Medusa by “Benvenuto Cellini”, the Rape of the Sabine women by Giambologna and many others.
Don’t miss, during your Tuscany tour, a visit to Palazzo Vecchio, the famous building in Piazza Signoria that has been the city hall of Florence and even residence of the Medici family.
Palazzo Vecchio is thronging with magnificent pieces of artwork and rooms full of frescoes. In this museum, you can see Dante’s death mask and even embark on a tour that leads you through the secret passages built into the palace that make this place seem like it came out of a storybook. Make sure you climb the tower during your visit.
On the way up to the top, you’ll be able to see the prison cells where the famous Savonarola was kept before he was executed down in the piazza in front of the building.
The Uffizi Gallery, Italy’s Top Visited Museum
What is the best art gallery in the world? According to The Times the first-place prize goes to the Uffizi Gallery (Piazzale degli Uffizi, right next to Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio) Florence’s most popular and important museum.
The Renaissance masterpieces that you will find are quite unique and one of a kind. During your Tuscany tour, you should not miss the chance to view some of the most precious and amazing pieces of art done by Giotto, Filippo Lippi, Raphael, and Caravaggio. Let the alluring beauty of The Birth of Venus overwhelming you, the Uffizi’s most famous work.
If you want to avoid the long lines, we suggest you to visit the Uffizi during the lunch time and you will likely need to purchase or reserve your tickets ahead of time.
We’d recommend setting aside at least two hours to navigate the horseshoe-shaped gallery and glimpse at all the unmissables.
Tickets from € 20 per person. Every first Sunday of the month, entrance is free for everyone but You cannot pre-book tickets for this day.
Sitting down in a restaurant in Florence, while delicious, will take up a lot of precious for people with only one day in Florence. Instead, stop at one of the city’s famous lampredotto trucks. Lampredotto is a tripe sandwich that is Florence’s original street food.
These succulent, sauce-drenched sandwiches are one of the favourite foods in the city, and you should at least try one when you’re here. Another alternative is to head to the San Lorenzo Market for a quick and delicious lunch in a veritable Florentine institution.
The San Lorenzo Market is actually comprised of two markets: an outdoor market selling souvenirs, clothing and leather products (one of the most favourite areas for shopping in Florence), and the indoor market known as the Mercato Centrale filled with butchers, fishmongers and fruit and vegetable vendors.
The entire upstairs is now a gourmet food market, filled with stalls where you can take your pick of delicious lunch options.
Wander across Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio (3 minutes walk from Uffizi) is one of Florence’s landmarks and certainly the most photographed bridge in the city. The most famous bridge was built at the narrowest point of the Arno and is the only remaining one with houses and shops on it. There have been shops on Ponte Vecchio since the 13th century.
Initially, there were all types of shops, including butchers and fishmongers and, later, tanners, whose “industrial waste” caused a pretty rank stench in the area. In 1593, Ferdinand I decreed that only goldsmiths and jewellers be allowed to have their shops on the bridge in order to improve the wellbeing of all, including their own as they walked over the bridge.
Ponte Vecchio is not only a stunning piece of history, but it’s still one you can use to this day and it has some stunning views over the Arno River.
That being said, once you’re on the bridge, there are literally loads of ways to part with your hard-earned cash, especially with the jewellery stores. For a great view of Ponte Vecchio, head along the banks of the River Arno and see it from a distance. It’s stunning!
Explore Pitti Palace
The Palazzo Pitti, or the Pitti Palace, is a vast and mainly Renaissance-architecture palace on the south side of the River Arno. It’s the perfect place to head to after crossing the Ponte Vecchio.
The Pitti Palace is not quite as famous among foreigners as the Palazzo Vecchio because of its location tucked away in Oltrarno, but it is probably the more impressive of the two on the inside. Another Medici Palace, (Where they lived after leaving the Palazzo Vecchio) the Pitti is actually 5 museums in one of Florence’s most impressive buildings.
It’s home to a Renaissance art museum, a silver museum, a gallery of modern art, a porcelain museum, and Italy’s only museum dedicated to the history of clothing and fashion.
Of the five we recommend the Renaissance art museum because it’s housed in the former royal quarters and the rooms are as extraordinary as the paintings. However, the fashion museum and silver museum are also fantastic Florence attractions in their own right.
Boboli Gardens – The Garden of Wonders
The Boboli Gardens, which are attached to Pitti palace, are among the finest gardens in Europe, so you cannot miss them during your Tuscany tour. Any gardeners or outdoor lovers should make a point of seeing them. If you want to spend a full afternoon at the Pitti Palace, try seeing one of the indoor museums, then going to the gardens.
Across the neat levelled gardens, you can relax and wander along pretty pathways. The views over Florence and the surrounding Tuscan hills from the Boboli Gardens are unmissable, and spring is a particularly beautiful time to visit, when the flowers are in full bloom, as is autumn, when the leaves start to change colour.
Just make sure to visit here on the first Sunday of every month, this is when the gardens open for free entry.
Explore the coolest neighbourhood in the Oltrarno
While the north side of the Arno, the river that runs through the city, is home to some of Florence’s most recognisable landmarks, such as the Uffizi, the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio, in recent years one neighbourhood south of the river has been vying for some attention of its own.
Oltrarno is definitely worth a visit during your Tuscany tour. Crossing the river Arno, you will find the coolest district in Florence: San Frediano, an artisans neighbourhood with its turbulent past and creative atmosphere. Less touristy, inhabited largely by students, and wannabe artists, it’s an inviting place where you can discover all sorts of little artisan shops, small squares and locales.
Sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo
Piazzale Michelangelo, is an unmissable destination for landscape lovers! To finish off your day of incredible sightseeing and walks through the convoluted history of power, architecture and art in Florence, I recommend stopping to enjoy the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo.
From here you can enjoy stunning vistas over the town and admire the most important buildings of Florence, such as the Duomo, Palazzo della Signoria and Ponte Vecchio.
Sit on the stairs of Piazzale Michelangelo and you’ll see Florence spread out below you, embraced by the light and the surrounding hills.
The presence of musicians playing live songs on the staircase will make the atmosphere simply perfect.
Florence travel tips: Things to know before you go!
- Florence is quite small and you likely won’t need anything other than your own feet to get around during your one day in Florence.
- The biggest key to making the most of one day in Florence is getting an early start: the Galleria dell’Accademia opens at 8:15am, and we recommend being there right as the doors open to get a great jump on exploring the city.
- Plan ahead to avoid waiting in line if you have only one day in Florence: we strongly recommend purchasing tickets for both the Galleria dell’Accademia and the Duomo before arriving in Florence–your whole day will go so much smoother for it!
- Would you like a coffee or tea with a view? Head into the Rinascente department store at Piazza della Repubblica and take the elevator up to the top floor for an amazing view.
- Wander through Florence’s famous markets, these are great for shopping! Find small souvenirs to take home with you or simply take photos of the colourful and bustling spaces of the markets.
- If you want to see some of the best of the local produce in Florence then make your way to San Lorenzo Market: the food stalls are just incredible and it’s a really good place for an inexpensive but local bite to eat.
- If you have more than one day in Florence, be sure to climb to the small church of San Miniato al Monte for amazing views over the city, to visit the Santa Croce Church where Galileo and many others are interred, and to visit the incredible Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy.
- If you’re spending the night during your one day Florence visit, your main priority should be the location: choose a hotel that is centrally located, within easy reach of some of Florence’s top attractions.
Best time to visit Florence
We consider the best time to visit Florence is between May and September when warm weather ushers in art and music festivals, open-air dining and the kind of Italian lifestyle you dream of experiencing. The warmest months are generally July and August.
Low Season in Florence is during the winter months of December to February, although many travellers love visiting during the Christmas celebrations. November is the month with the most precipitation on average, but October, December, March and April also generally have a good amount of rain. Make sure to dress in layers!