Top things to do in Florence: 15 beautiful sights to see [+ map]
Majestic buildings, countless masterpieces of art, and a good dash of Italian romance to boot: Benvenuti a Firenze! Welcome to Florence! The capital of Tuscany is considered the cradle of the Renaissance and one of the most beautiful places to see in all of Italy. No wonder, UNESCO declared the historic old town a World Heritage Site in 1982.
Together we will follow the footsteps of Michelangelo, Galileo, and the Medici. Not only fans of the series "The Medici" will be thrilled. On our tour, I will not only show you the best places of the city and the top sights but also give you a few insider tips, so that your Florence trip literally becomes an unforgettably enjoyable experience.
Hi! We are Biggi & Flo
We are two adventurous travelers who are drawn to faraway places. On our travel blog, written with a lot of heart and soul, you will find exciting tips and reports on the topics of travel, outdoor and photography.Advertising notice: All links marked with * are affiliate links. If you order something through this link, we receive a small commission - nothing changes in the price.
The top 15 sights in Florence at a glance
Florence, the beautiful capital of Tuscany, is full of beautiful sites that tell of the city’s former wealth. We show you the top attractions and the most beautiful places to go at a glance:
- Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
- Basilica di Santa Croce
- Palazzo Vecchio
- Ponte Vecchio
- Piazzale Michelangelo
- Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana
- Cappelle Medicee
- Mercato Centrale
- Galleria dell’Accademia
- Piazza della Signoria
- Galleria degli Uffizi
- Museo Galileo
- Palazzo Pitti
- San Miniato al Monte
Map: All sights in Florence
In our interactive map, you can find all sights in Florence at a glance. Have fun discovering the most beautiful places in the city of the Medici in Italy in Tuscany. You can do these attractions and activities in 3 days in Florence.
Video: The most beautiful sights in Florence
1. Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
The most famous thing to do in Florence is located in the heart of the city, majestically and unmistakably enthroned in Piazza del Duomo. We are talking about the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (website). It’s the fourth largest church in Europe, bearing the important title of “Basilica minor”.
Construction began at the end of the 13th century and was completed around 1367. However, the imposing dome was not completed until 1436. With a height of 114 meters and a diameter of 45 meters, Filippo Brunelleschi, who was actually a trained goldsmith and sculptor, created a unique masterpiece of the early Renaissance.
The magnificent interior painting of the dome covers a gigantic area of 4000 square meters and is considered the largest fresco cycle on a Christian theme. Also, worth seeing is the beautiful stained glass windows and the outstanding works of art in the interior. Up to 30,000 people can be seated in the church.
Another must-do in Florence is the Campanile di Giotto, an 85-meter high bell tower next to the cathedral, built in the 14th century and named after its architect. A visit to the cathedral, which reflects the former power and wealth of the Tuscan capital, is an amazing thing to do in Florence.
Tip: The entrance to the cathedral is free, but you have to expect a long queue. With the Brunelleschi Pass combo ticket for 30 euros per person (book here*), you can climb the magnificent dome and enjoy the spectacular panoramic view of Florence from the observation deck. The price also includes the Baptistery, the Bell Tower, the Crypt, and the Cathedral Museum.
Piazza del Duomo (Google Maps)
Cattedrale at 8 a.m., tower at 8:15 a.m., Baptistery at 8:15 a.m.
Book combo ticket for the tower, dome, and baptistery here*
It’s worth being at the tower right at 8:15 am to have the platform at the top to yourself
Right next to the Cattedrale is the eye-catching baptistery, the Battistero di San Giovanni. It’s designed with the same striking facade as the Cattedrale of Florence. The 8-cornered building with its imposing marble facade is very impressive, and not only on the inside. Especially the huge bronze doors with gold cladding and the filigree figures are just freaky.
The Baptistery is the baptistery of the Florence Cathedral. The huge dome inside measures 26 meters in diameter and was designed by the most famous Italian artists. For example, Giotto or Cimabue participated in one of the largest mosaic cycles in the world.
2. Basilica di Santa Croce
The second most important church after the Duomo is the Basilica di Santa Croce (website), the largest and one of the most important Franciscan churches in Italy. According to historians, the foundation stone was laid in 1294, and according to legend, it was laid by St. Francis of Assisi himself.
This sight not only delights from the outside with its impressive architecture and marble neo-Gothic facade but also houses the tombs of famous Italian personalities inside. Here lie Machiavelli, Michelangelo, and Galileo Galilei.
Moreover, you can admire the monumental cenotaph – an empty tomb – of Dante. Because of these memorials, the church is also called the “Pantheon of Florence“.
The interior, although quite simple – in the style of typical Franciscan buildings – is decorated by masterpieces such as the crucifix by Cimabue or the frescoes by Giotto and Taddeo Gaddi.
Besides the tombs and chapels, where you can also find important medieval paintings, you can visit the church museum and the beautiful courtyard of the former monastery.
3. Palazzo Vecchio
One of the most famous things to do in Florence is Palazzo Vecchio. As the seat of the city parliament, it symbolized the secular power of the city in the 14th century. Today, the medieval building functions as the city hall and is one of Florence’s landmarks.
In 1299 – under the direction of architect Arnolfo di Cambio – construction of the palazzo began. After its completion in 1314, it housed the Parliament of the Republic of Florence and served not only as a workplace but also as a place for the deputies to sleep. This is also the reason for the palace’s fortified architecture.
Starting in 1540, Cosimo I de’ Medici had the building remodeled to make it his residence – the Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace). He later moved his residence to Palazzo Pitti, giving the palace its current name and making it the seat of government offices and treasury.
Together with its 94-meter-high Arnolfo Tower (Torre di Arnolfo), so named in honor of its builder, the Palazzo Vecchio dominates the cityscape of Florence.
There is also a lot to discover inside: In addition to the frescoed courtyard, the pompous Sala dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred) is a particular highlight. Scenes from the thriller “Inferno” were also filmed here.
This huge hall was used in the Republic as a meeting room for the Council, which consisted of 500 members, and houses an unfinished painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Also, worth seeing is the Studiolo, the scholars’ room of the princes, decorated with works of art.
One more piece of information: The well-known computer game Assasin’s Creed shows Florence as the hometown of the protagonist Ezio and his family. There is also an extra4erew43 city tour on this topic.
Recommended travel guide for Florence
With this guidebook at your side, nothing stands in the way of exciting explorations away from the tourist hotspots. In addition, it provides you with many useful insider tips for your stay in Florence. First of all we recommend to you Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Florence: Insider Secrets To The Renaissance City (get it here*). What you should also get is Rick Steves Florence & Tuscany (get it now*).
4. Ponte Vecchio
Another famous thing to do in Florence is waiting for you at the river: the Ponte Vecchio. It lives up to its name because it is the oldest bridge over the Arno and one of the oldest segmental arch bridges in the world. Of course, this sight cannot be missed on your Florence trip.
It was built of stone between 1335 and 1345 and is characterized by the fact that, except for the three arcade arches in the middle, it is built with small stores lined up next to each other. Originally, butchers and tanners worked on the bridge, throwing their waste into the Arno.
In 1565, however, Cosimo I de’ Medici decided that only goldsmiths were allowed to reside on the bridge, as the ducal family, who lived in the nearby Palazzo Pitti, was bothered by the stench of the scraps.
To this day, there are many jewelry stores on the Ponte Vecchio. However, during a walk, you should not only admire the glittering shop windows and the view of the Arno but also take a look upwards. Above the row of stores runs the Vasari Corridor, which connects the bridge with Palazzo Vecchio.
This secret passage was built by Giorgio Vasari at the request of Cosimo I so that the Grand Duke could safely get from one palazzo to another without having to use public roads and bridges. Quite ingenious, isn’t it?
Finally, here’s an insider tip and secret place: two bridges away, directly on the Arno, is Gelateria La Carraia (Google Maps), where you can get the best ice cream in Florence. One of the house specialties is the Delizia Carraia variety (white chocolate with pistachio): After just the first spoonful, you’ll end up in an ice cream paradise and easily become a repeater.
5. Piazzale Michelangelo
Probably the most beautiful panoramic view of the city you have from Piazzale Michelangelo. The square was created in 1865, when Florence was briefly the capital of Italy and is adorned by bronze copies of some of Michelangelo’s statues, such as David.
Just walking down Viale Giuseppe Poggi, which winds idyllically up the hill, is more than recommended. Especially the detour to the beautiful Giardino delle Rose is worth it. Here you can not only admire roses in different colors but also take a short break with a view. We liked the rose garden even better because it is idyllically quiet here, you can rest and watch lots of lizards.
Our tip: On the way to the viewing terrace you have to pass a sandwich store. It’s called Come Dio Comanda (Google Maps) and prepares all the paninis fresh. There’s a top selection for vegetarians and the beer is low-priced, too.
At the top, a breathtaking view of the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Vecchio, and the Duomo awaits. Enjoy the sunset with a glass of wine on the panoramic terrace above the rooftops of the city – it doesn’t get more romantic than this.
We sat here listening to a musician with a guitar and let the evening fade away. It’s really great here. However, you’re never alone at this spot. By the way, there is also a public toilet on the hill, right by the resident bar. It costs 1 euro.
6. Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana
The next cool thing to do in Florence is the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana. What to see here? One of the most important manuscript collections in the world is kept in the library. It’s located in the monastery of San Lorenzo, the former house church of the Medici, and inspires with its history and architecture.
Giulio de’ Medici, later Pope Clement VII, commissioned Michelangelo in 1523 to build a library for the Medici collection. However, Michelangelo died before the library was opened in 1571.
The monumental vestibule, complete with staircase and ricetto columns, and the reading room are particularly worth seeing. The reading benches are reminiscent of church pews. They still have the original narrow boards on the sides, on which the respective holdings, which were in the compartment under the reading desks, were noted in handwriting.
Nowadays the library is used as a museum and is open to the public. Besides the architecture of the High Renaissance, you can admire up to 150,000 books, including incunabula (cradle prints) from the 15th century, 11,000 manuscripts, and about 2,500 papyri. The Book of Hours of Lorenzo I from 1485 is one of the oldest and most valuable works in the library.
Book lovers are not the only ones who will fall under the spell of the letters in this special place. The ambiance on-site will leave you amazed.
7. Cappelle Medicee
The building complex of the Basilica di San Lorenzo also includes the next thing to do in Florence: the Cappelle Medicee. These are the two funerary chapels of the Medici family, which can be reached through a separate entrance in Piazza Madonna degli Aldobrandini.
The Sagrestia Nuova (New Sacristy) is considered one of the most important works of Michelangelo, who designed the architecture and sculpture of the room. In the monumental mausoleum, he designed the tombs of Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici (Duke of Urbino) and Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici (Duke of Nemours) with outstanding figures. They symbolize the times of the day.
The Cappella dei Prinicipi (Chapel of the Princes) was built by the house architect Bernado Buontalenti in 1605 and impresses with its large vaulted hall complete with a dome. It houses the burial place of the Medici, for whom there was no more room in the New Sacristy. A total of around 50 family members found their final resting place here.
A visit to the imposing Medici chapels shows anew what a unique position of power the Tuscan dynasty enjoyed in Florence for centuries.
Piazza di Madonna degli Aldobrandini, 6 (Google Maps)
Closed Tuesday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from 8:15 a.m. to 1:50 p.m., Wednesday through Friday from 1:15 p.m. to 6:50 p.m.
Adults pay 9 euros, book tickets without queuing here*
Firenze Card costs 85 euros, valid for 72 hours
8. Mercato Centrale
After so much culture and architecture, a culinary break is now on the agenda. And where better to enjoy Italian delicacies than at the Mercato Centrale? The market hall was built in the late 19th century according to plans by architect Giuseppe Mengoni, who also designed the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, and impresses even from the outside with its iron and glass construction.
Inside this extremely worthwhile Florence sight, not only tourists but also locals, who like to meet in the restaurants on the upper floor, bustle about. At the many small stalls on the first floor, you can get everything your heart, or rather your stomach, desires – and at relatively reasonable prices: regional fruit and vegetables, fresh meat and fish, cheese, pasta, wine, and countless other delicious specialties from Tuscany.
If you live in a vacation apartment with your own kitchen, you can stock up on fresh local products here. But the market hall also offers a wide selection of delicious snacks in between and culinary souvenirs for all those who stayed at home. Well, is your mouth watering now too?
9. Galleria dell’ Accademia
Strengthened, we now make our way to the next artistic highlight and unusual thing to do: the Galleria dell’ Accademia. Along with the Galleria degli Uffizi, it is one of the most important art collections in Florence and attracts about 1.5 million visitors a year.
In 1784, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Leopold II, decreed that all of Florence’s drawing schools be consolidated into a single academy. This was to be equipped with a gallery to help the young artists in their studies.
To this day, the seat of this gallery is an old building that once belonged to a hospital. The museum houses the world’s largest exhibition of Michelangelo’s sculptures. His most famous work is the “David“, created between 1501 and 1504 and considered the first monumental statue of the High Renaissance. The marble statue is 5.17 meters high and symbolizes the power and dignity of the Republic of Florence.
Other masterpieces by Michelangelo include the four “Prigioni” (Prisoners), originally intended for the tomb of Pope Julius II. You can also admire a collection of gold-ground paintings from the 13th to the 15th centuries, as well as outstanding paintings from the Renaissance and Gothic periods.
10. Piazza della Signoria
Continue to one of the most beautiful and famous squares in Italy, Piazza della Signoria. The central square has been the political center of the city since the 14th century, with Palazzo Vecchio as the most important building and one of the top things to do in Florence.
But there is more to Piazza della Signoria. Next to the Palazzo Vecchio sits the Loggia dei Lanzi, an imposing 14th-century arcaded structure used as an open-air museum that houses copies of famous Roman and Greek statues. You can find the originals in art museums like the Galleria dell’ Accademia or the Uffizi.
Incidentally, the Loggia dei Lanzi served as the model for the Feldherrnhalle in Munich. The similarity cannot be overlooked.
The piazza is also home to other monuments such as the bronze equestrian statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici and the impressive Neptune Fountain by Bartolomeo Ammanati, the first public fountain in Florence.
In the Middle Ages, however, the square hosted not only major events such as military parades with jousting and Medici celebrations but also public executions. The most famous occurred in 1498 when the Dominican friar, penitential preacher, and church reformer Girolamo Savonarola was hanged and burned for heresy.
Nowadays, you can safely go exploring here or watch the hustle and bustle from one of the adjacent cafes and let the many impressions take effect on you.
Tip: There are many good places to eat in the side streets off the piazza. La Fettunta is a small quaint restaurant with typical Italian cuisine. The specialty of the house is bistecca alla fiorentina, steak Florentine style. For a snack in between, I recommend Gustarium, where you can get creative pizza variations to go. Buon appetito!
11. Galleria degli Uffizi
The following sight is not to be missed! The Galleria degli Uffizi is one of the most famous art museums in the world and attracts over two million visitors every year. It’s a fun thing to do in Florence if you’re an art fan!
The imposing building complex was erected from 1560 to 1580 by order of Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici and originally served to house the most important offices and ministries – the uffizi – in one building. On the upper floor, guests of the Medici were presented with the collection of valuable works of art owned by the family, until the official opening of the museum in 1769.
What’s in the Galleria degli Uffizi to do? Nowadays, you can admire here masterpieces of painting and sculpture from antiquity to the late Baroque. The main focus of the exhibitions is on the Italian Renaissance, with strokes of genius by famous artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael, and Michelangelo awaiting you. Among the most famous paintings in the Uffizi is Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus“.
You can also look forward to numerous works by Flemish, Dutch, French, and German artists from the 13th to the 18th centuries. But a visit to the Uffizi is worth it just for the impressive architecture of the buildings and the special charm of the gallery.
Tip: Since the queue on site is usually very long, it is advisable to buy tickets online in advance*. In addition, there is also a combination ticket for the Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti, and Boboli Gardens.
12. Museo Galileo
Right next to the Uffizi Gallery on the Arno River, in a historic building from the 11th century, is the Museo Galileo, another awesome thing to do that you should not miss. This exciting museum focuses on the history of science and offers a welcome change from the many art exhibitions worth seeing in Florence.
The maps and scientific equipment in the Medici collection are dedicated to science between the 15th and 18th centuries, while the Lorraine collection retells the advances in mathematics, physics, and electricity from the 18th century onward.
Of course, the groundbreaking inventions of Galileo Galilei are also a highlight. Apart from planetary models and globes, you’ll find two telescopes and its objective lens with the help of which the polymath discovered the four largest moons of Jupiter.
Immerse yourself in the world of science and discover five centuries of scientific instruments. At the latest in the Museo Galileo, it becomes clear that Florence can do much more than art and culture.
13. Palazzo Pitti
From the Ponte Vecchio, it’s just a stone’s throw to Palazzo Pitti – even without using the Vasari Corridor. The impressive Renaissance palace was built starting in 1458 for the merchant Luca Pitti, after whom the building is named.
From the 16th century until 1859, the palace served as the residence of the Dukes of Tuscany, which is why it was expanded and rebuilt several times. In the 17th century, the monumental facade of the palazzo received its current appearance.
What to see in the museum? Inside the palace, you will find seven different museums or exhibitions, including the Galleria Palatina with paintings of the Medici and the royal apartments.
Also, worth a visit is the adjacent Giardino di Boboli (Boboli Garden), considered one of the most famous Italian gardens of the 16th century and enchanting with its garden temples, grottoes, statues, and fountains. From the highest point of the garden, you have a beautiful view of the palace and the entire city.
14. San Miniato al Monte
Above Piazzale Michelangelo, one of the highest points of the city is the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte – a wonderful thing to do in Florence!
It belongs to the Olivetan abbey of the same name and is considered one of the most beautiful churches in Italy. It is not for nothing that it bears the honorary title of “Basilica minor“.
A particularly beautiful eye-catcher is the facade of the church, which was built in the incrustation style and is covered with white Carrara marble and dark green serpentine.
The interior of the three-nave basilica is also unusual, as the choir is located on a raised platform above the crypt, where the bones of Saint Minias, the church’s namesake, supposedly rest. According to legend, the church was built on the spot where Minias, the first martyr of Florence, died.
By the way, from the terrace in front of the basilica, you have a view at least as spectacular as from the Piazzale. The climb is definitely worth it.
Our last sight and top thing to do in Florence is also an excursion tip for you if you want to escape the city hustle and bustle for a short time. Then you shouldn’t miss Fiesole. The noble suburb of Florence is idyllically situated on a hill full of cypresses and olive trees and is not as overrun by tourists as the neighboring metropolis.
You can reach the pretty town in about 20 minutes by bus line 7 and take a leisurely tour through the alleys of the former Etruscan city. Top attractions include the Cattedrale di San Romolo, with its striking campanile, and the archaeological site, where opera performances and concerts are held in summer.
The short climb to the Franciscan monastery Convento di San Francesco is rewarded with a fantastic view of Florence as well as the picturesque surroundings.
If you want to treat your stomach after so much sightseeing, I recommend the nearby Ristorante La Reggia Degli Etruschi. Here you can not only indulge yourself with Italian dishes but also enjoy the unique view of Tuscany. This is pure Dolce Vita!
Insider tip Florence: Giardino Bardini
It has reopened only recently: the Giardino Bardini. This large park belongs to a villa from the 17th century. Inside you’ll find an art exhibition as well as a museum.
The garden has become an influencer spot. No wonder, because this park is really beautifully designed and there are always flowers blooming at different times of the year. When we were there, the wisteria, or blue vine, was in bloom. They form a long-overgrown passage of purple flowers that smell very beguiling. It looked like something out of a fairy tale.
The garden also promises the most beautiful view of Florence. In our eyes, the view was already very beautiful, but we thought the view from Piazzale Michelangelo was more beautiful.
However, compared to the Giardino Boboli, the old established and very well-known city park in Florence, this park is very well maintained. The Giardino Boboli, however, seems to be getting on in years. So, in our eyes, it is more worthwhile to go to the newly opened Giardino Bardini garden and enjoy the atmosphere there.
Eating in Florence – Restaurant Tips
Of course, we’ll also show you some cool restaurants that you should definitely visit in Florence. We did the ultimate test for you and can now tell you some great addresses where you should go out to eat in Florence.
By chance, we stumbled into Enoteca Strozzi Firenze (Google Maps), which has only been open for a few weeks. And what can we say? Here you can not only try really good wine from the region but also eat delicious appetizers to go with it. In the store, you can also find great souvenirs from your vacation in the region.
The Trattoria Gargani (Google Maps) has a very special ambiance. As soon as you enter the restaurant you feel like in another world. The walls are painted in beautiful colors and look really great. This restaurant is very whacky and a great spot to dine and take photos.
If you want to make a quick stop while sightseeing, we can recommend the Bar Antica Sosta degli Aldobrandini (Google Maps). It’s right across from the Medici Chapel and has super tasty snacks and food to go with good wine. We were really impressed.
Right on the Ponte Vecchio is the famous Golden View Firenze (Google Maps). Here you dine with a view of the gorgeous bridge. Of course, you also pay a little for the view.
Right next to Palazzo Pitti we found a small restaurant. Here in this area, you have to be careful not to end up in a typical tourist place. Anyway, at the Trattoria de’ Pitti (Google Maps) we found what we were looking for and our meal was very tasty.
Hotel Tip: Where to Stay in Florence?
Florence is generally not a cheap city. But if you’re looking for a place to stay that’s within walking distance of the old town and also not very expensive – even if you book on short notice – then we can highly recommend the design hotel UNAHOTELS Vittoria Firenze (check prices here*).
Not only is this a very stylish hotel, designed with many art elements. It’s also equipped with a parking lot with underground parking. It costs only 20 euros per day.
We recommend not to book breakfast, but instead to go to the bakery directly opposite. It’s called Bar Pasticceria Pegaso (Google Maps). Here you get really great treats, a great coffee or espresso, and are also in the midst of locals in an original Italian delicatessen bakery. That’s an experience in itself.
Right on the famous Ponte Vecchio is the Hotel Pitti Palace al Ponte Vecchio (check prices here*). The breakfast buffet on the roof terrace of the 4-star hotel with a view of the Arno River and the bridge is particularly worthwhile. By the way, the hotel reservation here allows you to drive your car as far into the old town as you like. Hotel guests are exempt from the no-driving zones. Of course, you must be able to prove that you have booked a hotel.
Exciting facts about Florence
- Florence has about 372,000 inhabitants
- The city’s origins date back to 59 B.C. when Caesar’s legion established a settlement in the fertile Arno Valley called Florentia – after Flora, the Roman goddess of blossom
- Florence was the first European city to introduce paved streets in 1339
- The city is considered the origin of the modern Italian language
- Florence is the birthplace of the piano – the instrument was developed by Bartolomeo Cristofori at the end of the 17th century at the Medici court
- The Florentine writer Carlo Collodi wrote the world-famous stories about Pinocchio here.
- Between 1865 and 1870 Florence was the capital of the Kingdom of Italy
- Florence was the birthplace of famous personalities such as Amerigo Vespucci, Florence Nightingale, and Guccio Gucci.
Well, are you as big a fan of Florence as I am? Have you ever been to Florence and do you know other beautiful places and sights that you should not miss? I hope I could show you now in this article what you must have done in Florence. If you are still wondering “what’s so special about Florence?”, then I can only say: Go there yourself and see for yourself how beautiful the city is.