Our family lives just outside of Florence and my husband and I spend quite a bit of time in the city – with the kids at parks and museums, on date nights at wine bars and restaurants, for work meetings, and just living our daily Italian life.
My husband was born and raised here, and it’s been my home city since I first set foot in Italy in 2003. Our children were born here.
We may be a little partial, but we think you’ll love the city too.
Florence (Firenze in Italian) is known worldwide for its incredible art, culture, fashion, and food. In addition to visiting Florence’s museums, eating at its restaurants, and attending cultural events, we also love exploring its green areas and finding the best views of the city and its surroundings.
We’ve put together this list of our 33 recommended things to do in Florence. Unless you’re staying for a while, it will be difficult to see/do/experience all of them. If you’re planning on heading to other parts of Tuscany, check out our list of Things to Do in Tuscany.
The historic center of Florence is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (one of eight in Tuscany) and it’s easily walkable. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take any breaks though. Museum visits can be exhausting, and Florence is hot in the summer, so slow down and take time to have a glass of wine at a sidewalk café or a scoop (or two) of gelato in its birthplace.
Our recommendations are divided into the following categories:
- Eating & Drinking
We’ve also listed a few things that you may want to skip on a visit to Firenze.
Use the Table of Contents below to jump ahead if you know what you’re interested in. Or check out the entire list and pick and choose to create your perfect Florentine itinerary.
Gnamo! (Pronounced NYAH-moh, it means ‘let’s go’ or ‘come on’ in Tuscan dialect.)
Florence Quick Facts
- Location – Central Italy. It’s the capital of Tuscany.
- Population – 360,000 (as of 1/1/21, istat.it)
- Famous For – Being the birthplace of the Renaissance. Hub of art, culture, history, and fashion.
- Name In Italian – Firenze, pronounced fee-REHN-tsay
Map of Things To Do In Florence
Museums In Florence
The Uffizi Gallery is internationally known and could probably stay how it is and continue to draw visitors from around the globe. Instead, director Eike Schmidt is constantly innovating and showing new perspectives.
Even if you’ve been to the Uffizi in the past, it’s worth another visit to see how it’s changed. After a massive remodel in the winter of 2020/2021, the museum reopened with women artists being showcased, a new self-portrait room, the museum’s first street art, and more.
The museum is continuing the Terre degli Uffizi program (having works from the Uffizi on display in other parts of Tuscany and sometime in 2022, the Vasari Corridor will finally open to the public.
It’s a good year to visit the Uffizi!
Visit the official website of the Uffizi Gallery for hours and ticket info.
The Accademia is the home of Michelangelo’s David statue, and the reason most visit the museum. It’s worth a visit to see David, even if you aren’t an art lover.
While you’re there, see Michelangelo’s ‘Slaves’ and head to the small room housing the Medici family’s musical instruments. The interesting and well-maintained collection has a vertical piano, wood instruments, and unique string instruments.
The Bargello is one of Florence’s quieter museums, but that doesn’t mean you should skip it. A prison until the 18th century, it now houses some of the Renaissance’s greatest art.
Did you marvel at Michelangelo’s David statue in the Accademia? In Italy’s first national museum, you’ll see three more takes on David – two by Donatello (one in marble, one in bronze) and one by Verrocchio (in bronze).
In 2022, the Bargello is teaming up with Palazzo Strozzi on a Donatello exhibition, with works being shown in both venues. If you visit one museum, you’ll get a discounted entrance ticket to the other.
Visit the official website of the Bargello Museum for hours, ticket info, and the Donatello exhibition details.
While it’s probably not the first museum that comes to mind when you think of Florence, it’s worth looking at the exhibition calendar to see what’s going on while you’re visiting. Palazzo Strozzi has interesting contemporary art exhibits and has hosted artists like Ai Weiwei, Marina Abramović, and Jeff Koons.
In 2022, Palazzo Strozzi and The Bargello Museum are partnering on a Donatello exhibition. If you visit one museum, you’ll get a discounted entrance ticket to the other.
Visit the official website of Palazzo Strozzi for the exhibition calendar (including Donatello in 2022), hours, and ticket info.
The Medici Chapels, or Cappelle Medicee are part of the Basilica di San Lorenzo and are another of Florence’s treasures. Built for the powerful and influential Medici family, the chapels are the burial place of many of the family members.
Don’t miss the two tombs by Michelangelo in the new sacristy. Look up at the beautifully decorated inside of the dome.
New For 2022: While you’re in the chapels, know that below you are some of Michelangelo’s wall drawings. Only discovered in 1975, Michelangelo drew them while he was hiding from the Medici and the Pope. The wall drawings haven’t been available for public viewing until this year, when the ‘Secret Room of Michelangelo’ is scheduled to open.
Visit the official website of the Medici Chapels for more info on hours and tickets.
The Palazzo Vecchio houses a museum and it’s the headquarters of the Florence mayor and city council.
A former Medici residence, it has many elaborate and interesting rooms to visit. Don’t miss the Hall of Maps (currently closed but scheduled to re-open in April of 2022), the Hall of the 500 (Salone dei Cinquecento), the studiolo, and the statues by Donatello and Michelangelo.
Outside the building, see a replica of Michelangelo’s David and Michelangelo’s ‘street art’ on the Uffizi side of the building.
Visit the official website of Palazzo Vecchio (in Italian) for hours and ticket info.
Seeing some of Galileo’s fingers seems to draw a lot of people to this museum… and they end up really loving looking at all the mechanical contraptions, maps, and scientific instruments.
It’s a great museum for kids if they’ve had an introduction to Galileo (although the museum isn’t just about Galileo.
Visit the Museo Galileo’s official website for contact and ticket info.
Need a break from looking at some of the world’s most incredible Renaissance art? Step into this Gucci exhibition – it’s surprising, quirky, and odd. It will stimulate your senses in a different way than viewing Michelangelo’s David or Botticelli’s Primavera.
Hungry after? Have lunch at Gucci Osteria.
You can do a virtual tour on the official Gucci Garden website. But I wouldn’t – it will ruin the surprise.
La Specola (Part of the Natural History Museum – Closed For Restoration)
Florence’s Natural History Museum is spread throughout the city. Our favorite department is La Specola, with its more than 500 taxidermized animals, stone and mineral collection, and skeleton hall. My boys especially love looking at all of the insects. We haven’t yet visited the anatomical wax collection (it’s by appointment only).
Unfortunately, it’s closed for restoration. There’s no set reopening date, so we remain hopeful that its doors will open again sometime in 2022.
Visit the official website for La Specola for info on its reopening.
While this museum isn’t on my ‘must-see’ list for Florence, I do have friends and family visit and love it, so I feel the need to include it.
It’s extravagant, not particularly well-organized, and to me, a bit overwhelming. Unsurprisingly, there is some incredible art inside.
Go without expectations and when you’re done, wander through the Boboli Garden outside.
Visit the official website for Palazzo Pitti for more details.
Views Of Florence
Climb a Tower
For a close-up view of Brunelleschi’s dome, climb to the top of the Duomo. You’ll also be rewarded with spectacular views of Florence and the surrounding countryside.
You can also climb to the terraces.
Good To Know: Check out the Duomo’s Museum, the Opera del Duomo Museo. The often-overlooked museum is full of original artworks from the Duomo, baptistry, and bell tower – by Michelangelo, Donatello, and more. You can also see important works being restored in the Restoration Workshop on Via dello Studio, next to the Duomo.
Giotto’s Bell Tower
While we enjoy the Duomo climb, our family prefers climbing the Duomo’s bell tower. There are a few viewing platforms on the way to the top and we love the view of the Duomo’s dome and Florence.
Good To Know: The top is fenced in, which some photographers will find annoying.
Arnolfo Tower (Palazzo Vecchio)
Another big climb with big views. Combine this with a visit to Palazzo Vecchio, and when you’re done with the climb, have a coffee in Piazza Signoria.
Torre San Niccolo
On the other side of the Arno, the Oltrarno, climb the Torre di San Niccolò for views of Florence’s famous monuments. It’s shorter, so it’s an easier climb than the Duomo, its bell tower, or the Palazzo Vecchio’s tower.
Walk Up To Piazzale Michelangelo
It’s no secret that the views from Piazzale Michelangelo are spectacular. Check out the replica of Michelangelo’s David watching over Florence.
Bring snacks for a little picnic or come up to see the sun setting over the city.
Climb up a little further to San Miniato al Monte for even better views, and an aperitivo spot.
If you go earlier in the day, you can visit the Cimitero delle Porte Sante (Cemetery of the Sacred Doors), a beautiful Florentine cemetery. It’s the resting place of Pinocchio’s author (Carlo Collodi), and Pellegrino Artusi (author of Science In the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, and one of the fathers of Italian cooking).
Relax in a Piazza Cafè
It’s not a view of Florence from above, but it’s equally beautiful, and often more interesting. Choose a café on a piazza (yes, you’ll pay more, but it’s worth it), order a coffee or glass of wine, and watch the Florentine world pass by. Tourists, locals with their groceries from the market, children walking to and from school, little old men out for their morning stroll, women dressed in the latest fashions cycling by on their way to work.
Two cafès we recommend on two main squares in the center:
A nice (free) spot on a summer evening is on the steps of La Loggia in Piazza Signoria. Sometimes musicians are playing and it’s a beautiful place to pass time.
Walk Across the Ponte Vecchio
Florence’s ‘Old Bridge’ has earned its name. Built in the 1300s, it’s one of Florence’s iconic landmarks.
The Ponte Vecchio is another prime place to see sunset in Florence, looking out over the Arno River. In the summer, there are often musicians playing in the center of the bridge.
Other times during the day, visit to see the city’s gold shops in action. They’re not just tourist shops – many Florentines purchase their jewelry from a favorite store on the Ponte Vecchio.
Eating And Drinking In Florence
Shop & Eat at a Local Market
Sant’Ambrogio Market (Mercato Sant’Ambrogio)
This is my favorite market in Florence, and not just because it’s next to one of my preferred parking garages. Locals descend on the area for the open-air market, which is filled with a mix of everything from plants to fresh fruit and vegetables to jewelry and vintage clothing. You can also head inside to the permanent market for quality meats, cheeses, and more.
Practice your Italian and walk away with a full belly or a new pair of vintage Levis.
Good To Know: The Flea Market is just across the street. I wouldn’t go out of my way to shop at it, but if you’re at the Sant’Ambrogio Market already, you may want to walk across the road to check it out.
Visit the official website of the Sant’Ambrogio Market for contact info and to learn about the shops.
Practice your Italian, mingle with the locals, and buy something to fill your belly at the Mercato Centrale. It’s right in the middle of everything, next to the Basilica di San Lorenzo. The ground floor is a bustling, authentic Florentine market – you’ll find locals doing their daily shopping. Head upstairs for the Italian take on a mall food court. The stands include:
- Fresh pasta
- Wine & beer
- Fried food
- Meats & cheeses
- Vegan & vegetarian
- and more!
Participate In A Cooking Class
There are many cooking classes on offer in the city, and my favorite is with Jacopo and Anna in their Florentine apartment (they also have a class in the countryside). You can visit a market with them to gather ingredients, then use your fresh ingredients to create a delicious, authentic Tuscan meal. Buon appetito!
Visit the official website of Let’s Cook With Jacopo & Anna to organize your class.
Have A Gelato (Or Two)
I probably don’t even need to suggest this, but don’t forget to sample gelato while you’re in Florence! The consensus is that gelato was invented here by Bernardo Buontalenti in the 16th century. Five centuries later, sample buontalenti gelato or go for other classics:
- pistacchio – pistachio
- stracciatella – chocolate chip
- nocciola – hazelnut
- fragola – strawberry
- limone – lemon
Or, try less-common flavors:
- lavanda – lavender
- ricotta e fichi – ricotta and figs
- rosa – rose
- miele e sesame – honey and sesame
Try Trippa Or Lampredotto
Florentines love their animal innards. Be adventurous and stop by a food stand or kiosk (chiosco) to try one of Florence’s specialties. Trippa (tripe) is the inner lining of cow stomach, and lampredotto is made with the final (fourth) stomach of the cow. They’re slow-cooked and usually served on a bun with a special sauce. Grab a stool and hang with the locals for lunch.
L’Trippaio di San Frediano – Piazza dei Nerli (San Frediano)
Tripperia Pollini – via dei Macci, 126 (Sant’Ambrogio)
Dine In One Of Florence’s Michelin-Star Restaurants
Florence and Tuscany have more than their share of Italy’s Michelin-starred restaurants. Try one of them for lunch or dinner.
|Enoteca Pinchiorri||3||Modern Cuisine|
|Santa Elisabetta||2||Creative, Mediterranean Cuisine|
|Borgo San Jacopo||1||Modern Cuisine, Contemporary|
|Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura||1||Modern Cuisine|
|Il Palagio||1||Modern Cuisine|
|La Leggenda dei Frati||1||Creative|
See our post on Tipping In Italy – When and How Much (+ Printable Quick Guide)!
Tuck Into A Wine Bar
Florence (like most Italian cities) is full of cozy wine bars – enoteche. Take a seat and try wines by the glass. Choose on your own or ask the staff to make recommendations or take you on a wine ‘journey.’ Most enoteche serve nibbles or light meals. Salute!
A few Tuscan wines to try:
- Brunello di Montalcino
- Vino Nobile di Montalcino
- Super Tuscans
- Vernaccia di San Gimignano
Florence enoteche you should visit:
Try To Finish A Bistecca Fiorentina
You’ll need a partner – they’re that big! A bistecca fiorentina is a thick T-bone steak from Chianina cattle (of the Chiana Valley in Southern Tuscany), grilled with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and Tuscan herbs (usually rosemary and sage).
Good To Know: It’s typically eaten rare, but if you prefer it more cooked, feel free to ask for it medio (medium).
Nature In Florence
Stroll In A Garden
Florence is home to standout gardens and many are open to the public. A few of them are best visited in the spring when their flowers are blooming:
The iris is the symbol of Florence, so it only seems right to visit the Iris Garden. Time it right to see the irises blooming. The garden is only open to the public from April 25th to May 20th (but it is possible to view it by appointment outside of that period). Combine it with a visit to Piazzale Michelangelo (it’s just to the right if you’re looking at the Arno).
See the Italian Iris Society’s official website for more details (in Italian only).
Best visited in the spring, Florence’s Rose Garden has over 350 rose varieties. You can visit it on the way up to Piazzale Michelangelo (it’s just to the left if you’re looking at the Arno). A great place for a picnic too – but it can be hot in the summer.
The Boboli Garden is the most talked about green space in Florence. It’s gorgeous, especially in the spring, when the flowers are blooming. It’s not just a garden – it’s a bit of an outdoor museum, with statues, grottoes, and fountains.
If you’d like to check them out, make sure you look for:
- The Grotta Grande, once home to Michelangelo’s slaves
- The ice houses that used snow from the Apennines to keep food cold (primitive refrigerators)
- The limonaia (lemon house) is full of unique and interesting citrus fruits (the Medici were big fans).
If you have kids that need to run around, they can (not in the grass!), but a playground in the city is a better choice.
Your entrance ticket includes a visit to the Bardini Garden.
Visit the Boboli Garden official website for hours and contact info.
For a top view of Florence, make your way to the Bardini Garden, especially in the spring when the purple wisteria is blooming.
You can grab a coffee or lunch at the Loggia Belvedere terrace café.
While Boboli Garden is huge and very ‘strollable,’ Bardini Garden is steeper, smaller, and best for enjoying the views from the café or the benches scattered throughout the garden.
Entrance to the Bardini Garden is included with a Boboli Garden ticket.
Visit the Villa Bardini official website for details and contact info.
Shopping In Florence
Visit the Old Santa Maria Novella Profumery and Pharmacy (Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella)
Not only is it the oldest pharmacy in the world, it’s probably also the most beautiful. Since 1221, this pharmacy has been creating perfumes, body products, and remedies for ailments. Even if you don’t need anything, drop in to admire the gorgeous building and picture-perfect displays. You may just leave with something, like my favorite melograno (pomegranate) bar of soap.
Visit the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy’s official website for hours and contact info.
Window Shop on Via Tornabuoni
Stroll Florence’s street of high-end boutiques. You’ll find Tuscan fashion powerhouses (Gucci, Emilio Pucci, and Ferragamo), other Italian designers (Giorgio Armani, Tods, Prada, Fendi), and international luxury brands (Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Celine).
Find Traditional Paper at Il Papiro
As you wander through Florence, you’ll run across the city’s handmade, colorful marbled paper. For a closer look, stop into one of Il Papiro’s small shops. Inside you’ll find the marbled paper sold loosely and on gifts and journals. You can even get a lesson on how it’s made.
Buy some marbled paper stationery and send some snail mail home. Everyone loves getting a real letter! If someone’s sending you a letter, make sure they know the correct Italian address format.
Visit Il Papiro’s official website for more details.
Note: I’m also a huge fan of the intimate workshop of Giulio Giannini in front of the Pitti Palace.
Find Your Scent at Aquaflor
Another workshop that’s worth a visit for the building itself is Aquaflor, in the Santa Croce neighborhood. This perfumery sells perfumes, soaps, and candles, and you can even create your own custom perfume. If you can, go downstairs to see where the scents are stored, and perfumes are created.
Visit Aquaflor’s official site for details on the shop.
Look for Leather
Florence is famous for its leather. The leather tanneries in nearby Santa Croce sull’Arno provide leather for many of Italy’s luxury brands.
In Florence, you’ll find quality (and not so nice) leather goods – jackets, purses, belts, wallets, and more.
Head to the Scuola del Cuoio (Leather School) for a 1-hour visit – you’ll learn about the history of leather-making and see a demo. Then, stay in the neighborhood and shop in the area’s leather stores. Visit Sam at Il Perseo Leather (Borgo dei Greci, 24/r).
Culture In Florence
Seek Out Wine Windows – Buchette di Vino
The Medici are responsible for the creation of Florence’s little wine windows. The family gave permission to noble families to sell wine from their countryside vineyards to Florentines. The noble families sold the wine from the little windows (buchette) in their palaces (palazzi). A buyer would bring his own bottle, negotiate with the servant inside the palazzo, who would fill it up and take payment.
While buchette did make a bit of a comeback during the COVID pandemic, you’ll find most of them are closed. One to check out is at Babae in Santo Spirito.
Participate in the Passeggiata
In the evening, or on weekends post-lunch, head out into Florence’s streets for a stroll, or passeggiata. Many Italians will dress up, window shop, and chat with friends or neighbors.
Rub The Porcellino’s Nose
Like throwing a coin in Rome’s Trevi Fountain, rubbing the Porcellino’s nose ensures a return to the city (Florence, not Rome). You’ll find the Porcellino (little pig) at the Mercato Nuovo near the Ponte Vecchio.
Wander The Oltrarno
The Oltrarno – the other (oltre) Arno is opposite the historic center, on the other side of the river. Its charm isn’t exactly a secret, and it’s home to many Florentines and their favorite haunts – local artisan shops, aperitivo hotspots, and quality restaurants.
Have aperitivo or apericena (aperitivo + cena – dinner) in the San Frediano neighborhood. Even though the neighborhood has recently been called ‘Florence’s Best Secret Neighborhood’ and ‘The Coolest Neighborhood in the World’ by Lonely Planet, it hasn’t changed or been overrun with visitors.
We love Borgo San Frediano, a narrow one-way street lined with cafes, bars, and restaurants.
Attend a Florentine Festival
There’s always something going on in Florence – concerts, theatre, sports, neighborhood celebrations. Florence does have a few big events:
Scoppio del Carro
The ‘Explosion of the Cart’ takes place on Easter Sunday in the historic center. Oxen pull a 2-3 story high decorated cart full of fireworks to the square in front of the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral). The Archbishop lights a little (fake) dove that slides down a wire to the cart and sets off the fireworks.
It’s quite a sight, but very crowded.
Calcio Storico (Historic Soccer/Football)
Every June 24th, the final game of the Calcio Storico tournament is played on a sandy field in Piazza Santa Croce. A cross between rugby and street fighting, it’s passionately played by Florentines from four neighborhoods. Not for the faint of heart.
Every September 7th, the streets of Florence glow during its Paper Lantern Festival. The paper lanterns date back to when farmers (on their way to sell at the market in Florence) would cover their lanterns with thin cloth to keep the wind from blowing out the flame.
The main part of the festival is the procession from Piazza Santa Felicita, across the Arno, to Piazza SS Annunziata.
Anyone can participate, and it’s a festival that Florentine children look forward to each year.
Listen to Music With Florentines
Florence gets its share of visits from international and national musicians. The city’s larger venues include Visarno the Hippodrome (at the Cascine Park), the Fortezza da Basso (near the SMN train station), the Nelson Mandela Forum (near the Campo di Marte train station), and the Tuscany Hall (along the river).
TicketOne.it is a large and reliable ticket seller for concerts (and more) in Italy.
Head Outside of Florence
As lovely as the city is, sometimes it’s nice to leave the hustle and bustle for the day. Travel by rental car or use public transport (trains or buses).
Go on a Cycling Tour
Multiple companies run day-long cycling trips in the Tuscan countryside just outside of Florence. A typical itinerary includes a city-center pick-up, shuttle to the countryside, ride, stop for lunch and a wine tasting, ride a little more, then shuttle back to Florence.
If you enjoy cycling, it’s a great experience. Tuscany has some of the best cycling in the world!
Tuscany Bike Tours is an established company, and they even have E-bike tours if you want some help with the Tuscan hills!
Relax at the Beach
Florence is within reach of beaches on the Mediterranean Coast. You can travel by car or public transport (train or train/bus).
Some of favorites are Forte dei Marmi (sandy), Castiglioncello (rocky), and Viareggio (sandy).
Go on a Day Trip
Each of these cities can be reached from Florence within 1.5 hours (by car):
- San Gimignano – walk through the city center – Tuscany’s medieval Manhattan; climb the Torre Grossa for gorgeous views; have a unique flavor of gelato at Dondoli
- Pisa – see the Piazza dei Miracoli and its Leaning Tower
- Lucca – cycle or walk the walls; dine in a piazza
- Bologna – eat your way through one of Italy’s best food towns; explore its porticoes
- Siena – have aperitivo in the Piazza del Campo; wander the contrade neighborhoods that compete for the Palio
- San Miniato – come in the afternoon and stay for aperitivo and dinner at one of its trendy and delicious bars or restaurants
- Monteriggioni – tiny, well-preserved medieval walled town
- Montepulciano – sample its Vino Nobile di Montepulciano; walk up to the Piazza Grande
- Pienza – sample its famous pecorino cheese; participate in the passeggiata along its walls
- Volterra – visit the Etruscan necropolis; watch an alabaster artisan work
- Chianti towns (Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti, Panzano in Chianti, Radda in Chianti) – sample Chianti wines; use the towns as bases for walks
Good To Know: The Cinque Terre are 2.5 hours from Florence by car – too far for a day trip.
Read more about The 25 Best Day Trips from Florence!
What To Skip On Your Visit To Florence
Bike Tours In The City Center
Riding a bike outside the city center is an excellent activity, but inside Florence, I wouldn’t recommend it. There are too many tricky cobblestones and tourists – it’s just not safe.
Standing In Line For An Hour To Buy A Sandwich
You may have seen a certain sandwich shop on TripAdvisor. Yes, it makes delicious sandwiches, but so do plenty of other specialty sandwich shops in Florence! Your time is precious, don’t waste it waiting in line.
Going On A Boat In The Arno
Yes, it’s beautiful, but the perspective isn’t incredibly different than what you can get from the water’s edge. There are other places in Italy that are better for boat trips – Venice, and coastal areas like the Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast and islands (Aeolian Islands, Elba, Sardegna).
Da Vinci Museum
Are you a die-hard fan of Leonardo da Vinci? Skip the Da Vinci museum in the city center and instead visit the Da Vinci museum in Leonardo’s hometown of – you guessed it – Vinci.
The drive is gorgeous, the museum has models and interactive exhibits, and you can visit his birth house nearby.
Visit the official Museo Leonardiano website for events, contact info, hours, and ticket info.
We hope you enjoy your trip to Florence!
Don’t know where you’re sleeping yet? Check out our post on Where to Stay in Florence!
First trip to Italy? 10th? Either way, check out our 200+ Essential Italy Travel Tips!