One of the most cultural and historical cities in the world, the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, Florence, is packed full of amazing architecture and masterpieces of Renaissance art. Known as the birthplace of the Renaissance movement, Florence was a thriving medieval city whose rich history can be explored by visiting some of the magnificent sites in and around the city, such as the Duomo cathedral, the Galleria dell'Accademia which is home to Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and the Uffizi Gallery here world-renowned masterpieces like Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and da Vinci’s Annunciation can be seen. Here are some of the top things to see and do when visiting The City of Lilies.
1.Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore - Duomo di Firenze (Florence Cathedral)
Hailed as the ‘jewel of Florence,’ the Florence Cathedral, formally known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore and now better known as the Duomo di Firenze is a beautiful domed cathedral and the striking centerpiece of the city. Designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in the Gothic style, construction on the cathedral began in 1296 and was completed 140 years later in 1436 with the massive dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. Standing out for miles and surrounded by other incredible buildings, the Duomo creates an impressive sight that can be seen for miles. Visitors can climb up to the lantern at the top of the dome via 463 steps and head up the adjacent Giotto’s Campanile (bell tower) for spectacular views over the city.
Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
2.Il Battistero di San Giovanni (Florence Baptistery)
Located in the Piazza del Duomo, the Battistero di San Giovanni (Florence Baptistery), also known as the Baptistery of Saint John, is an exquisite octagonal basilica of green and white marble that forms part of the Duomo Complex and is the oldest building in Florence. Boasting awe-inspiring interiors of golden Byzantine mosaics, which is home to the tomb of Antipope John XXIII whose sepulchre was designed by Donatello. The Baptistery is renowned for its three sets of striking bronze doors made up of 10 bas-relief bronze panels representing several scenes of the Old Testament known as the Gates of Paradise, which were sculpted by Lorenzo Ghiberti and took 26 years to complete.
Piazza San Giovanni, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
3.Campanile di Giotto
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Located in the Piazza del Duomo, the Campanile di Giotto, also known as the Florence Cathedral bell tower, is the magnificent bell tower of the Florence Cathedral. Built in the 14th century by Giotto and completed by Andrea Pisano, the tower is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and is renowned for its harmonious coloring of white, green, and red marble, striking sculptural decorations, and awe-inspiring spire. Split into five distinct levels, the lower section of the tower is decorated with 54 bas-reliefs, and the belfry has many alcoves adorned with statues of saints and prophets, while the highest point of the structure can be reached by 414 steps and boasts one of the most beautiful panoramic views of Florence.
Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy, Phone: +39-05-52-30-28-85
The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval multi-arched bridge over the Arno River and the oldest stone bridge in Europe. One of the most famous bridges in the world, the Ponte Vecchio is Florence’s most legendary symbol with its hanging houses and shops, as was once common in past centuries. Built in 1345, the stone bridge was once home to a variety of butcher shops during the 15th and 16th centuries, which were closed due to the bad smell, and taken over by goldsmiths and jewelers, which are still present today. The ‘Old Bridge’ also houses the Vasari Corridor, a passageway that connects the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti and is famous for its numerous padlocks left by lovers that cover the sides of the bridge.
Ponte Vecchio, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
5.Piazza della Repubblica
The Piazza della Repubblica is one of the main squares in Florence and is home to the Colonna dell'Abbondanza, or Column of Abundance, which marks the exact geographical center of the city and the ancient point where the Roman forum stood. The column also marks border between three of Florence’s four historic neighborhoods, namely San Giovanni Verdi, Santa Croce Azzurri, and Santa Maria Novella Rossi. During medieval times, the Piazza della Repubblica was densely populated with markets, tabernacles and churches and was the location of the city’s main market and the Jewish Ghetto, who were forced to live here by Cosimo I. Legend has it that the column once held a bell, which was rung when pickpockets were found to be roaming in the busy market.
Piazza della Repubblica, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
6.The Uffizi Gallery
Located next to the Piazza della Signoria, the Uffizi Palace and Gallery is a world-renowned art museum and one of the most important Italian museums in the world. Housed in a building that is an artwork in itself with an inner courtyard lined with intricate columns and arches adorned with marble statues, the museum houses an immense and wonderous collection of Renaissance art from artists such as Da Vinci, Botticelli, Raphael, and Titian. The U-shaped Renaissance building features an interminable labyrinth of rooms with incredible works of art displayed in chronological order with famous works like Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and the Allegory of Spring, Leonardo da Vinci's The Annunciation, and the unmistakable Portraits of the Dukes of Urbino by Piero della Francesca. The Uffizi has a new reservation system, which allows visitors to take timed tickets and come back and explore without having to wait in line.
Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
7.Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria (Signoria Square) is Florence’s main square and one of the liveliest areas of the city. Located between the Arno River and the Piazza del Duomo, the L-shaped square lies in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, also known as the Palazzo della Signoria, and is the main point of the origin, history and political focus of the Florentine Republic. The piazza is home to several famous monuments, including the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) with its two sculptures of Adam and Eve, and a copy of the statue of Michelangelo’s David; the small open-air museum of the Logia dei Lanzi or the Loggia della Signoria; the Fountain of Neptune; and the Equestrian Monument of Cosimo I, which was sculpted in 1594 by Giambologna. The Piazza della Signoria is the city’s liveliest square with bustling restaurants, café, and bars packed with people watching street artists, who use the square as a stage.
Piazza della Signoria, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Overlooking the Piazza della Signoria, the Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence and the most important administrative building in the city. Built as the palace of the Signoria of the Republic of Florence in 1299 and later transformed into a town hall, the square castle-like building features a bell tower, several crenulations, and a series of coast of arms relating to the history of the city on the front façade. The interior of the palace boasts beautifully decorated rooms with magnificent pieces of artwork and frescoes like The Hercules Room and The Room of Cybele. A must-see attraction in the palace includes Dante’s death mask and the prison cells where the famous Savonarola was kept before he was executed in the piazza in front of the building.
Piazza della Signoria, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
9.Piazza Santa Croce
Named after the beautiful Basilica of Santa Croce that overlooks the square, the Piazza Santa Croce is bordered by important buildings that are characterized by protruding planes supported by supports called sporti. Taking center stage and framing the square perfectly, the Basilica Santa Croce is one of the biggest Franciscan churches in Italy and is famous for housing frescoes by Giotto, sculptures of Benedetto da Maiano, and being the burial place of Michelangelo and Galilei. Other notable buildings around the piazza include the 14th century Pazzi Chapel; the Palazzo Cocchi-Serristori; the Palazzo dell’Antella, with its lively façade embellished with allegorical figures, cherubs, foliage, flowers and arabesques; and a monument dedicated to Dante Alighieri by Enrico Pazzi, dating back to 1865.
Piazza di Santa Croce, 16, Piazza Santa Croce, 50122, Florence, Italy
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Located just above the San Niccolò neighborhood on the South banks of the River Arno, the Piazzale Michelangelo offers some of the most spectacular panoramic views of the city. The enormous piazza features a bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David and is bordered by many cafés, restaurants, and coffee shops where visitors can relax and soak up the incredible views. The bustling square is packed with souvenir-touting carts, buskers, and sightseers, but is one of the best places in the city to soak up the Duomo, the Arnolfo Tower of the Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi across the river.
Piazzale Michelangelo, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
The Boboli Gardens is a magnificent historical park that boasts one of the finest examples of an Italian Garden. Initially designed for the Medici family in 1550 and opened to the public in 1766, the gardens span 45, 000 square meters and feature different sections including a vast main lawn with a fountain and an obelisk, a small lake and several large ponds complete with water features, hundreds of white marble statues, and an ancient amphitheater with an Egyptian obelisk that was taken from the Medici Villa in Rome. Connected to the Palazzo Pitti, the Boboli Gardens are some of the largest in Florence and offer a welcome escape from the touristy hustle and bustle of the city.
Piazza de' Pitti, 1, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
Located on the Southern Banks of the River Arno, the Palazzo Pitti (sometimes called the Pitti Palace) is an impressive palace dating back to the 1400s and an excellent example of Renaissance architecture. One of Florence's most significant architectural monuments, the enormous palace was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and built for the Pitti family in 1457 and later sold to the Medicis and became their primary residence. Today, the Palazzo Pitti houses some of the most important museums in Florence, including the Treasury of the Grand Dukes on the ground floor, the Palatine Gallery, and the Royal Apartments on the first floor, and the Gallery of Modern Art on the top floor. The palace is fronted by a grand square which frames the symmetrical front façade perfectly.
Piazza de' Pitti, 1, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
13.Mercato del Porcellino
Based in the Piazza del Mercato Nuovo, between Ponte Vecchio and Piazza della Repubblica, Mercato del Porcellino is a 16th-century loggia and open-air souvenir market. Named after the famous little brass statue of a wild boar, Mercato del Porcellino features several sculptures and a renowned fountain and is alive with tradition and superstition. It is said that rubbing the Porcellino’s snout brings good fortune and inserting a coin in its mouth grants a wish. Built in the 16th century as a shelter for silk, linen, and luxury goods merchants, the loggia still stands today, but the Porcellino Fountain is the main attraction, which provided water for the busy market. The market itself sells cheap souvenirs, scarfs, T-shirts, and some leather goods.
Piazza del Mercato Nuovo, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
Tucked between via dell'Ariento, via Sant'Antonino, via Panicale and Piazza del Mercato Centrale, the 19th century Mercato Centrale (Central Market) is a double-story market that sells all types of food, fresh produce, and gourmet items. Located in a massive cast-iron building dating back to 1874, the market is a foodie heaven packed with vendors dedicated to selling the primary ingredients of Tuscan cuisine ranging from giant, milky-white sheets of tripe and pig's feet to wild boar, cheeses, cured meats, and olives. The northern corner is dedicated to fresh seafood and boasts stalls of fish and shellfish wild-caught in Italy and imported from the rest of the world, while other vendors sell delicatessen fare such as bread, handmade pasta, and Italian wines. Mercato Centrale is open Monday through Saturday.
Piazza del Mercato Centrale, Via dell'Ariento, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy, Phone: +39-05-52-39-97-98
15.Basilica di Santa Maria Novella
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Located in front of the central railway station, Basilica di Santa Maria Novella is a magnificent church with a similar design to both the Duomo and the Basilica of Santa Croce featuring polychrome and white marble and a breathtaking façade. Another excellent example of Renaissance architecture, it was the magnificent basilica in Florence and is the headquarters of the Dominicans in Florence with an interior decorated with intricate frescoes showcasing the life of Florentians during the Middle Ages. The church houses two significant works of art- a fresco by Masaccio known as The Holy Trinity, and a wooden Crucifix by Brunelleschi. Another impressive feature of the church is the Green Cloister (Chiostro Verde), which was built and decorated in 1332 by Paolo Ucello and houses the Spanish Chapel and a striking fresco by Andrea di Bonaiuto da Firenze.
Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, 18, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
16.Piazza della Santissima Annunziata
Located in the heart of Florence’s historical center, Piazza della Santissima Annunziata is Renaissance jewel named after the Basilica Santissima Annunziata (Church of the Santissima Annunziata) that rests at the head of the square and houses da Vinci’s famous painting, The Annunciation. Renowned for its elegance, tranquility and harmonizing colors, the piazza is a treasure trove of beautiful buildings and sculptures, including the Spedale degli Innocenti, designed by Brunelleschi in 1419 and Europe’s first orphanage; the Confraternity of the Servants of Maria, created in 1525 by Baccio d’Agnolo and Antonio Sangallo the Elder; the equestrian statue of Grand Duke Ferdinando I by Giambologna; and two Baroque bronze fountains by Pietro Tacca.
Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy, Phone: +39-055-63-56-57-85
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17.Piazza Santo Spirito
Named after the Basilica di Santo Spirito, or Santo Spirito, that overlooks the square, the Piazza Santo Spirito is one of the most popular piazzas in Florence's Oltrarno area. The square is renowned for being the buzzing heart of the district where both locals and visitors flock to enjoy shopping, eating and drinking and socializing, a tradition that has lasted centuries. The square is home to street markets and vendors selling their wares in the mornings and comes alive at night with artisan workshops and artist’s studios showcasing their works and restaurants and bars filled with people enjoying a night out. In the summer months the piazza is transformed into a makeshift theatre, hosting a variety of open-air concerts and shows.
Piazza Santo Spirito, 30, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
18.See Michelangelo’s David
Housed in the Galleria dell’Accademia, Michelangelo’s David sculpture is possibly the most renowned and well-known sculpture in the world. Created by the legendary artist Michelangelo, this magnificent piece of renaissance art depicts the biblical hero David, the first King of Israel, and is world-renowned for its intricate attention to detail and unparalleled depiction of the human form. In addition to housing this magnificent sculpture, the Galleria dell’Accademia (Gallery of the Academy of Florence) is home to an array of Renaissance masterpieces, including other sculptures and works from Michelangelo, and a museum of musical instruments boasting a myriad of ancient musical inventions.
60, Via Ricasoli, 58, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy, Phone: +39-055-29-48-83
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19.Florence Gelato Making Class
Learn how to make real Italian gelato on a gelato-making class. The hands-on family-friendly experience takes visitors to an authentic Italian Gelato Academy in the heart of Florence where they will learn all the ins and outs of Italian gelato-making from local experts, get to make their very own unique gelato flavor from scratch, and spend time with local artisans who are passionate about gelato. The tour explores how gelato is made, the ingredients that are used to make it, the unique process that makes it so creamy and the difference between gelato and ice cream. The tours are conducted in small groups at the authentic family-run Gelato Academy called Perché no! which is renowned for its exceptional artisanal gelato.
Via dei Tavolini, 19r, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy, Phone: +39-05-52-39-89-69
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© Fuoco Matto
Fuoco Matto is a bustling, family-friendly Italian eatery with a charming, rustic ambiance in the heart of Florence that is renowned for its excellent pizza. The warm and welcoming restaurant features a spacious dining area with comfortable décor and soft lighting and a special area where children can play while waiting for their food. The restaurant serves both classic and contemporary Italian cuisine with starters of antipasti, bruschetta, fresh Caprese salads, and focaccia, followed by entrées of handmade, wood-fired pizza with gourmet toppings, housemade pasta with sauces, a variety of fresh seafood and prime meats, organic salads and vegetarian plates and desserts of tiramisu, pannacotta and homemade gelato. The cuisine is paired with a range of casual wines from Italy and other wine-growing regions, along with craft beers by the bottle, and made-to-order classic cocktails. Fuoco Matto is open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Sunday, and dinner only on Saturdays.
Via Ventisette Aprile, 16, 50129 Firenze FI, Italy, Phone: +39-055-49-51-40
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21.Nedo L’ Officina Dei Golosi
© Nedo L’ Officina Dei Golosi
Resting on the banks of the River Arno just off the city center, Nedo L’ Officina Dei Golosi is a quaint little restaurant that specializes in traditional Tuscan fare with a few modern interpretations. Locally owned and operated by two brothers, the restaurant has friendly, knowledgeable and English-speaking staff and serves heaving plates of authentic Tuscan cuisine such as beef tartare, huge tortelloni stuffed with meat or cheese and smothered in fresh tomatoes, and heaving platters of hard and soft cheese, house-cured charcuterie and grilled vegetables. The cuisine is paired with a variety of casual wines from Italy and other wine-growing regions, along with craft beers by the bottle, and made-to-order classic cocktails. Nedo L’ Officina Dei Golosi is open for lunch Monday through Friday and dinner Wednesday through Saturday.
Piazza Paolo Uccello, 12, 50142 Firenze FI, Italy, Phone: +39-055-71-52-46
22.La Buchetta Cafe
© La Buchetta Café
La Buchetta Café is a small charming bistro in the Santa Croce area with a warm romantic atmosphere and delicious Italian food. Always packed with locals, the quaint eatery is renowned for its signature dishes of prosciutto e melone starters, plates of antipasti, handmade gnocchi, and ravioli topped with succulent meats or homemade pesto and the mouthwatering panna cotta. A curated selection of casual wines from Italy is available to enjoy with the food, as well as classic cocktails and craft beers, and the owner and staff are friendly, welcoming, and speak excellent English. La Buchetta Café is open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Sunday.
Via dei Benci, 3, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy, Phone: +39-055-21-78-33
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23.Mangia Pizza Firenze
© Mangia Pizza Firenze
Mangia Pizza Firenze is a small, inviting eatery that specializes in ciabatta Fiorentina, a Tuscan version of pizza. The tiny little restaurant doesn’t serve much else except for these mouthwatering thin, and crusty pizzas with fresh ingredients, which are different from the traditional pizza in that square flatbreads are used instead of pizza dough. A curated selection of casual wines from Italy is available to enjoy with the pizza, as well as classic cocktails and craft beers, and the owner and staff are friendly, welcoming, and speak excellent English. Mangia Pizza Firenze is open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Sunday.
Via Lambertesca, 24/26/R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy, Phone: +39-055-28-75-95
24.Osteria Vecchio Cancello
© Osteria Vecchio Cancello
Located within walking distance of the central train station, Osteria Vecchio Cancello serves a tantalizing mix of Italian and refined European cuisine. The restaurant boasts beautiful décor with shelves of Tuscan wines lining the walls, impressive paintings, ceramic mosaics, and bookshelves filled with vintage books. The menu features an array of made-from-scratch dishes using fresh seafood, prime beef, veal and chicken, handmade pasta and fresh sauces, wood-fired pizzas, and mouth-watering desserts. The cuisine is paired with a variety of casual wines from Italy and other wine-growing regions, along with craft beers by the bottle, and made-to-order classic cocktails. Osteria Vecchio Cancello is open for dinner only, Monday through Saturday.
Via Guelfa, 138/R, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy, Phone: +39-055-49-42-34
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24 Best Things to Do in Florence, Italy
- Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore - Duomo di Firenze (Florence Cathedral), Photo: Yasonya/stock.adobe.com
- Il Battistero di San Giovanni (Florence Baptistery), Photo: rh2010/stock.adobe.com
- Campanile di Giotto, Photo: Nico Tondini and Danita Delimont/stock.adobe.com
- Ponte Vecchio, Photo: Aliaksandr/stock.adobe.com
- Piazza della Repubblica, Photo: Neonyn/stock.adobe.com
- The Uffizi Gallery, Photo: vvoe/stock.adobe.com
- Piazza della Signoria, Photo: GeniusMinus/stock.adobe.com
- Palazzo Vecchio, Photo: BestPhotoStudio/stock.adobe.com
- Piazza Santa Croce, Photo: ArTo/stock.adobe.com
- Piazzale Michelangelo, Photo: filippoph/stock.adobe.com
- Boboli Garden, Photo: Kisa_Markiza/stock.adobe.com
- Palazzo Pitti, Photo: marako85/stock.adobe.com
- Mercato del Porcellino, Photo: gurb101088/stock.adobe.com
- Mercato Centrale, Photo: Iuliia/stock.adobe.com
- Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, Photo: Bill Perry/stock.adobe.com
- Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, Photo: ArTo/stock.adobe.com
- Piazza Santo Spirito, Photo: vvoe/stock.adobe.com
- See Michelangelo’s David, Photo: dbeatriz/stock.adobe.com
- Florence Gelato Making Class, Photo: rh2010/stock.adobe.com
- Fuoco Matto, Photo: Fuoco Matto
- Nedo L’ Officina Dei Golosi, Photo: Nedo L’ Officina Dei Golosi
- La Buchetta Cafe, Photo: La Buchetta Café
- Mangia Pizza Firenze, Photo: Mangia Pizza Firenze
- Osteria Vecchio Cancello, Photo: Osteria Vecchio Cancello
- Cover Photo: emperorcosar/stock.adobe.com