Things to do in Florence

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Things to do in Florence blog by LoveHardTravelOften.com

Florence is the capitol of the Tuscany region of Italy and is filled with gorgeous Renaissance architecture and art. It’s one of those places we could go back to over and over again and, well, we do! There’s something about this city that’s truly intoxicating due to the romance, the history, and the FOOD.

There are so many things to do in Florence that this guide could go on forever. However, since we know you don’t have all day, here’s our take on the best things to do as you plan your trip to Florence!

Here’s what you’re gonna get with this blog:

  • Top things to DO in Florence
  • Best restaurants in Florence
  • Where to STAY in Florence
  • Tips for visiting Florence

Best things to do in Florence

Girl standing on the edge of Piazzale Michelangelo looking out over the city, one of the best things to do in Florence.
  • Climb the duomo
  • Visit Florence Cathedral
  • Go up Giotto’s Bell Tower
  • See the Baptistry
  • Catch a sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo
  • Walk along the Arno River
  • Walk across Ponte Vecchio
  • Eat at Mercato Centrale
  • Shop at the Leather Market
  • See the Statue of David
  • Ride the carousel at Piazza della Republica
  • People watch at Piazza Santo Spirito
  • Feel nostalgia with film photo booths
  • Take a day trip to Rome, Pisa, Bologna or Tuscany
  • Eat A LOT of the best pizza, pasta & gelato in the world!

Florence Duomo

View of the large brick Florence Duomo at eye level from Giotto's Bell Tower.

Because it’s the city’s most iconic landmark, climbing the Duomo is the quintessential experience everyone should have in Florence. While there are a hefty 463 steps to the top, the 360 degree views over Florence make it absolutely worth the effort!

Girl looking out over the brick-topped city of Florence from the top of the Duomo

The Duomo, Florence Cathedral, Giotto’s Bell Tower & Baptistry are all UNESCO World Heritage sites, and are all located in the historic center of Florence – Piazza del Duomo. The Duomo, or dome, is actually part of the Florence Cathedral and at the time it was built it was the largest dome in the world!

Tips for visiting the Duomo:

  • Tickets cost 18 euro and the ticket gives you access to all of the sites in Piazza del Duomo. You can buy tickets here!
  • Due to the popularity, you must book a time slot in advance to climb the Duomo and we’d highly recommend grabbing a morning slot!
  • Since there is no lift be sure you wear shoes you can comfortably climb stairs in!

Florence Cathedral

Couple running in front of Florence Cathedral, one of the top things to do in Florence.

The Florence Cathedral, or Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore, is the cathedral attached to the Duomo. While it is one of Italy’s largest churches and is certainly rich in history, it’s also one of the most gorgeous pieces of architecture in Florence.

Looking up at the murals in the inside of the Florence Duomo.

Underneath the cathedral is a great museum, too, about how the church has evolved over centuries while still being the epicenter of life in Florence.

Tips for visiting Florence Catheral:

  • Entrance to the cathedral is FREE, however for entrance to the museum under the cathedral you must purchase the Cumulative Ticket (same ticket as when you climb the Duomo)
  • You must cover your shoulders to enter, therefore be prepared for security to check your attire while you’re in line
  • There are security checkpoints before you enter any of the Piazza del Duomo buildings, so don’t bring large bags

Giotto’s Bell Tower

View from the Duomo of Giotto's Bell Tower amidst the brick-topped city of Florence.

Another part of the Piazza del Duomo UNESCO site is Giotto’s Bell Tower which, similar to the Duomo, you can climb to the top of. It’s 414 steps to the top and gives a unique view of both the city and the Duomo.

Entrance to the bell tower is part of the Cumulative Ticket when you climb the Duomo, so while you’re in the area you should try to do both! A couple pros of the Bell Tower are that it doesn’t require booking online in advance and is less crowded than the Duomo. That said, the downside is that it isn’t as good for photos at the top as there is a wire cage.

Florence Baptistry

Golden mosaic interior of the Florence Baptistry.

The last part of Piazza del Duomo we’ll mention is the Baptistry. It’s a unique octagon-shaped building across from the front of the Florence Cathedral and is a total work of art. The outside is gorgeous ornate marble and the inside has a golden mosaic ceiling that is just breathtaking.

It doesn’t take long to visit as it’s pretty small and it’s included in the Cumulative Ticket for the Piazza del Duomo, so definitely pop in while you’re in the historic center of the city!

Piazzale Michelangelo

Beautiful sunrise colors over the skyline of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo.

For panoramic views of Florence and one of the best sunsets in the world, definitely head to Piazzale Michelangelo. While it takes a little effort to walk up the hill, the views and atmosphere you’re rewarded with are totally worth it!

Couple laughing sitting on the edge of Piazzale Michelangelo with a view of Florence from above.

One of our favorite things to do in the city is grab a pizza and a bottle of wine to-go, then head up to Piazzale Michelangelo and watch the sun go down.

Walk along the Arno River

The gorgeous Arno river as the sun is going down and the street lights start to reflect on the water.

The Arno River runs through the middle of Florence, and walking along the river banks and over the bridges that connect the two sides is a must.

Grabbing a gelato at Gelataria Santa Trinita and then go for stroll alongside the river is the perfect way to spend an evening!

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio bridge enclosed with many shops over the Arno river in Florence.

Ponte Vecchio is one of the historic bridges that cross over the Arno River, and is super unique. This bridge feels like an extension of the city blocks since there are shops built along the entirety of it. These days you can go to the bridge to shop for jewelry and souvenirs, or just window shop if you’re like us!

Mercato Centrale

The orange Mercato Centrale welcome sign in Florence.

Mercato Centrale is home to the best food stalls in Florence! From insanely fresh pasta and pizza to vegan burgers and new-fusion foods, Mercato Centrale is a total culinary experience. While you’re there you can also try tons of craft beers or take a cooking class yourself!

Leather Market

Many colorful leather goods from the Leather Market in Florence.

There’s no denying that Italy is known for some of the best leather goods in the world. If you’re looking to shop, look no further than the Florence Leather Market. Rows and rows of vendors line the streets with gorgeous leather products including handbags, shoes, jackets and more!

Statue of David

The replica of the famous statue of David
Replica of the Statue of David in Piazza della Signoria

Michelangelo’s famous 16th century renaissance sculpture “David” resides in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. The sculpture is thought to be one of the best in the world, and while it was originally in Piazza della Signoria, in the late 19th century was moved into the museum for safe keeping. Since then a replica has been put in its place in Piazza della Signoria which you can see as you’re strolling through the city.

Replica of the Statue of David by Michelangelo in Piazza della Signoria in Florence.

If you want to see the original, you’ll need to purchase tickets in advance. Tickets cost 20 euros and can be purchased online here.

Piazza della Repubblica

Beautiful Piazza della Repubblica in Florence with arched entrance, antique carousel and many people walking around.

This piazza, or “square”, in Florence has been the center of the city since Roman times and is full of vendors, street artists and shows at all times of day. Most noteworthy is the gorgeous carousel in the square that is destined to bring out everyone’s inner child!

Piazza Santo Spirito

Known as a local favorite, Piazza Santo Spirito is across the river from the historic city center and is a great place to escape the tourist crowds. It’s home to the gorgeous Santo Spirito church and every second-Sunday of the month they hold a giant flea market here.

With its consistent liveliness, it’s also a great place for people watching. We loved grabbing a pizza to-go from Gusta Pizza and observing everything going on in the square while we ate!

Photo Booths

Hands holding out black and white film strip of couple in front of a vintage photo booth.

If you’re looking for a dose of nostalgia, check out the old fashioned photo booths around the streets of Florence! The booths still use real film processing and provide such a fun souvenir from the city.

While there are a few of these photo booths around Florence and you can type “Fotoautomatica” into Google Maps to find them all, this one is was our favorite!

Tip: it costs 2 euro per photo strip and they take 5 minutes to develop, therefore don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t print right away.

Florence Day Trips

Man holding woman in beige dress embracing in front of the leaning tower of Pisa.

With its central location and easy access to trains, Florence is a great place to do day trips from! Some of our favorite day trips were:

  • Pisa – 45-75 minutes away by train and costs 9 euro each way
  • Rome – 90 minutes away by train and costs 19 euro each way
  • Cinque Terre – 2 hours away by train and costs 14 euro each way. Also check out our full guide to Cinque Terre!
  • Bologna – 35 minutes by train and costs 10 euro each way
  • Tuscany – there are tons of places you can reach in Tuscany from Florence with a car relatively quickly. There’s Siena, the Chianti region and Asciano, just to name a few. Our favorite part of our road trip through Tuscany was always the scenery along the way more than the destination!
  • Saturnia Hot Springs – 3 hour drive from Florence or 2.5 hour drive from Rome. Due to the distance, this is definitely the furthest we’d travel for a “day trip.” However it’s definitely worth noting as Saturnia is the most unique and enchanting place we’ve ever been!
Best day trips from Florence, blog by LoveHardTravelOften.com

For all of the details on the Best Day Trips From Florence, as well as all of our tips for renting a car in Florence and driving in Italy, check out our Day Trips from Florence Guide!

Best Restaurants in Florence

Heart shaped pizza from Gusta Pizza, one of the best restaurants in Florence
Heart shaped Gusta Pizza

Florence is overflowing with some of the best food in the world and nearly every place we ate blew our minds! These are a few of our favorites to help you plan your culinary experience through Florence:

  • Gusta Pizza – the best pizza in town (pictured above)
  • Osteria Santo Spirito – truffle gnocchi that’s to die for
  • Mercato Centrale – the best food stalls
  • 4 Leoni – incredible pear ravioli
  • Pizzeria Itaco – amazing vegetarian lasagna
  • All’antico Vinaio – delicoius panini sandwiches
  • Pino’s sandwiches – authentic Italian sandwiches
  • La Carraia gelato – incredible Nutella gelato
  • Gelataria Santa Trinita – their Santa Trinita flavor is the best gelato in town

Where to stay in Florence

Map of Florence
General area of where we recommend staying in Florence

Location is key when it comes to where to stay in Florence since getting around on foot is the best way to see the city. In order to be centrally located to all the things we listed above we’d recommend staying on the north side of the river (or along the river on either side) between the bridges Ponte Alla Carraia and Ponte alle Grazie, and south of Piazza Della Libertà.

Florence Airbnb

Sunset over the Arno river

Because we love the feeling of living like a local, meeting the host, having our own kitchen, etc., our favorite way to travel through Europe is staying in an Airbnb.

We stayed in the perfect apartment in Florence right off of Piazza del Duomo and had the perfect stay!

If you haven’t tried Airbnb yet, check it out! You can rent anywhere from a room in someone’s home, to an apartment to a multi-bedroom house, therefore it’s a great resource for travel! Get $40 off your first booking here!

Tips for visiting Florence

  • Be prepared to walk A LOT as it’s the best way to see the city and Uber is not accessible yet.
  • Eat take away when you can because most restaurants have a “sit down fee” that can cost you 3 euros or more per person!
  • The train station is very central while the airport is a little ways outside of the city, but you can easily take a tram from the airport to the city center!
Best photo spots in Florence, blog by LoveHardTravelOften.com

Also check out our guide to the Best Photo Spots in Florence!

Happy Traveling!

Kylie & Scott

(Want to know more? Comment below! And make sure to follow along on Instagram @LoveHardTravelOften)

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