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Best Things to Do in Florence

Posted on 6 Jul 2024

Ah, Florence. Firenze. A hub of vibrant Italian culture, of Renaissance architecture, where a sense of romance pulses in everything from the buildings to the gourmet food. It’s a popular destination with travellers, photographers, food lovers, history buffs, you name it. Whether you thrive on a city bursting with life, or are just looking for a change from the stunning Italian countryside, we’re certain this charming yet powerful city will steal your heart. 

And with endless things to see and do within Florence, you might be wondering what the must-dos and must-sees are. Let us guide you with a few top things to do in The Cradle of the Renaissance to make for the most memorable experience.  

Coming up in this article: 

Why Florence Is the Ideal City Break 

Florence is an exceptional city. If you’re looking for a European city with a little bit of everything, we suggest you start here. Historical, beautiful, passionate, vibrant... pick a positive adjective and it will apply to Florence. Trust us, you don't want to miss out on Florence’s vibrancy as you explore Europe. Not only is it an incredibly cultural and artistic city, the architecture will make any photographer swoon and the food is quiet simply... authentic, delicious Italian.

They say gelato began in Florence back in the 16th century. If that's true, we know who to thank (and thank and thank). But if delicious icy goodness isn't your thing, you could indulge in a Bistecca Fiorentina - the Florentine steak. And if you're feeling ambitious (or are just a massive foodie), try a lampredotto sandwich - a local street food of Florence that is prepared from the fourth stomach of a cow.

5 Things to Do While in Florence 

  • Visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore 
  • Explore the Ponte Vecchio 
  • Discover the Uffizi Gallery 
  • Take in Sunset at the Piazzale Michelangelo 
  • Stroll Among Beauty in the Bardini Gardens 

So, you’ve arrived in Florence and there’s no denying it – it's a big city. A little overwhelming perhaps, if you don’t know what should be at the top of your list. There are endless things to keep you entertained in this city, but here are a few of our top recommendations. And, as you lose yourself in the fervour of your love for all things Italian, don't forget to stop for a moment and take it all in.

Visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore 

She’s hard to miss. This iconic duomo dominates Florence’s skyline. Its facade is a stunning example of neo-Gothic architecture and this 19th-century masterpiece is one of the largest churches in the world. It’s not just the cathedral you might be interested in. There’s the dome, the bell tower, the museum, the baptistery, the terraces... it’s a world in itself.

Construction first began on 8th September 1296 and has been worked on over the years by many great Tuscan artists. The dome itself is the largest masonry dome in the world and there's something in the way it looms over the city, both domineering and comforting, as if it's watching out for the locals and visitors alike. A quiet piece of history keeping an eye out for us. 

It’s a feat worth seeing, believe us.  

But why the name Santa Maria del Fiore, you ask? It means ‘Lady of the flower’, a name which alludes to the city’s name Florentia (the ‘city of flowers’) and the city’s emblem (the Florentine lily).  

Florence Duomo

Explore the Ponte Vecchio  

With enviable views of the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio has become a symbol of Florence. Its name literally means ‘Old Bridge’ and up until 1218, it was the only bridge across the Arno into Florence. Bejeweled with an array of stunning jewelry shops, this famous landmark is a top destination for anyone visiting Florence. 

The beautiful archways make a striking frame in which to stand in for that iconic Florence photograph, but make sure you wander along the riverbank for a shot of the bridge as a whole.  

And no good bridge is without a myth or two. Legend states that if you or a loved one attach a padlock to the bridge and then throw the key into the Arno River, you will be blessed with eternal love. Needless to say, many came to test this legend. Did it work? That's for them to know.

Sadly, today anyone attaching a padlock to the bridge will receive a hefty fine. And they say true love is dead...

But that's alright, you can simply have a life-long love affair with Florence instead.

Florence Ponte Vecchio

Discover the Uffizi Gallery 

Art lovers love Florence. Beauty lovers love Florence. Why? Because Florence truly is a striking city. More than that, she’s home to one of the most impressive collections of Renaissance art at the Uffizi Gallery. Famous for its collection of ancient sculptures and paintings that range from the Middle Ages right up until modern times, the gallery hosts masterpieces from many iconic names including Correggio, Leonardo, Raffaello, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Botticelli - including his incredibly popular artwork the "Birth of Venus", in which the goddess of love and beauty poses within a clam shell. You'll probably recognise it and, if you don't, you'll be glad to have seen it in the flesh. 

And for those with a little more knowledge of Italian history, the gallery also houses an invaluable collection of ancient statues and busts from the Medici family. This famous and prominent banking family from the 15th century were passionate supporters of the arts, and they were responsible for a large number of the major Florentine works of art created at the time.

And not to sound cheesy, but the gallery itself is a work of art - housed with the Palazzo degli Uffizi which was designed by Giorgio Vasari in the 16th century. 

Florence Uffizi Gallery

Take in Sunset at the Piazzale Michelangelo 

Whether you’re in Florence long enough to experience one of its striking sunsets or not, you should head up to the Piazzale Michelangelo. Situated on a hill overlooking the south bank of the Arno River, this piazza offers a stunning view over Florence and is worth a visit at any time of day. 

Perhaps you’ll pop in at La Loggia – originally intended as a museum to house copies of Michelangelo’s masterpieces, but instead you’ll find a coffee house and restaurant. Grab a snack, a drink, enjoy the view. Sounds like an ideal way to spend a few hours, doesn’t it? 

And if you do manage to head there for sunset, well... there’s no better way to take in Florence’s breathtaking skyline than under the shimmering burnt orange of an Italian sunset. 

Florence Piazzale Michelangelo

Stroll Among Beauty in the Bardini Gardens 

The beauty continues at the Bardini Gardens. Of course, you may have heard of the Boboli Gardens, but they can get a touch crowded at times. So, if you’re looking for a change of pace and something peaceful to add to your to-do list, it's time to lose yourself in the Bardini Gardens. 

With or without the iconic and striking wisteria in bloom, this garden is a beauty all year round. Your peaceful stroll may just be the key to discovering why Florence is such a beloved place. And as you wander this 4-hectare haven, you'll be treated to striking views of Florence.

florence bardini gardens

Travelling to Florence FAQs 

What Currency Is Used in Florence? 

Florence and the rest of Italy use the Euro (EU) as its currency. While you can take bank and prepaid travel cards, cash is always good to have on hand. Look to exchange prior to your trip to ensure you can book all the best things Florence has to offer.  

What’s the Best Time of Year to Visit Florence? 

Italy in summer is popular for a reason, and Florence is no exception to that rule. But it can get quite hot, even in the shoulder months (March – May, for instance). So, best to take the weather into account with your travel plans, as the shoulder seasons (March - May or Sept - Oct) might be better suited to your preferred travel methods. With temperatures more manageable, touring in spring or autumn is still a delight. 

Hot tip: no matter the time of year you visit, book any tickets as early as possible. This is a good general rule when travelling, as many of the iconic attractions can fill up fast!

What Language is Spoken in Florence? 

Italian is the primary language spoken throughout Florence and across Italy, but you’ll find that English is also widely accepted in major cities and tourist hotspots. But why not learn yourself a few favourite Italian phrases to help you order a coffee, say thank you to the wait staff, and to simply embrace the true Italian way. 

Let Florence Greet You with Open Arms  

Now you’re set to explore all the best things to do while in Florence. Whether you have 24 hours, or a week-long stay, Florence can provide a wealth of activities to excite its guests. And don’t forget we can help you there – with our small-group tours you can do more than explore amazing cities like Florence, you can roam the landscapes, bathe in the tales, and not have to worry about driving throughout your whole visit. 

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