Florence is filled with some of the most famous art in the world. Just by walking around the city centre you can experience much of it for free. Museums aren’t any more expensive than any other main European cities, and in many cases are quite cheap. But what if you don’t want to open your wallet at all and still enjoy the rich artistic and cultural heritage of the city? Well, here’s your answer.
Free things to do in Florence – Beautiful art, no expense.
Florence Cathedral | Free entrance
Not expecting this? Yes, you can visit the interior of the magnificent Duomo without spending a cent. The entrance for the visitors without a ticket is through the door on the left hand side of the facade. Once inside, admire Paolo Uccello’s fresco dedicated to the soldier of fortune John Hawkwood, the portrait of Dante Alighieri and if you look up, you will be able to appreciate, from a distance, the luminous Vasari frescoes inside the Dome. Having said that, if you don’t mind a small fee, you can climb up for a clear view of the frescoes and a magnificent view of Florence from the top of the Dome.
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Ognissanti Church | The resting place of Botticelli
Ok, so you don’t want to pay the entrance to the Uffizi Gallery (ticket prices: from 12 to 20 euros) but you don’t want to miss Botticelli either. We’ve got the answer. Visit the lesser-known Church of Ognissanti, located in the square of the same name, where you’ll find the fresco “Saint Augustine in his study”. Botticelli painted this in 1480, a couple of years before his “Allegory of Spring”. The artist is buried right here in this church, near the (married) woman he was in love with, Simonetta Vespucci. The same church hosts charming frescoes by Renaissance master Ghirlandaio and a wooden crucifix by Giotto.
First time in Florence? Check out our first timer’s guide to this extraordinary city.
Santo Spirito Church | Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi
The Church of Santo Spirito in the Oltrarno is considered to be the ‘purest’ of all Brunelleschi’s creations, where he was able to work from scratch and follow his revolutionary vision. He worked at it from 1444, after he finished the Cathedral’s Dome and the Pazzi Chapel in Santa Croce Church. The interior is a perfect example of Renaissance design, using clear lines, harmonic proportions, grey stone and geometrical shapes to define the space. The entrance to Santo Spirito Church is free, while you need a ticket to see the cloister and Michelangelo’s crucifix in the sacristy.
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Orsanmichele | A little gem near Piazza Signoria
As you walk along the busy Via Calzaiuoli, that links Piazza Duomo to Piazza Signoria, you’ll see a delightfully ornate building that doesn’t look like a church at all. This is the Orsanmichele Church. The entrance is in the adjacent Via dell’Arte della Lana, and once inside you discover a real treasure that you can view for free. A magnificent Gothic tabernacle sits in the centre of this unusual church that used to be Florence’s granary.
Loggia dei Lanzi | Open air sculpture museum
In Piazza Signoria you get a free lesson in the history of sculpture, from classical to 19th century. Right in front of the Palazzo Vecchio is the Loggia dei Lanzi, where you can admire the sinuous Giambologna’s “Ratto delle Sabine” and the gruesome “Perseus” by Cellini amongst others. Great art, right there in the open-air. The copy of the statue of David stands nearby. The original sits in the Accademia Gallery which costs to enter.
Piazzale Michelangelo | The best view of Florence ever
Of all the free things to do in Florence, watching the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo must be the most spectacular. The city is spread before your eyes in all its beauty, with the red terracotta roofs, the winding river Arno and the huge Duomo showing off its magnificence. Simply glorious.
Rose Garden | A garden with a vew
Not too far from Piazzale Michelangelo, on the side of the hill overlooking Florence, you find the Rose Garden. Very pleasant all-year round, the garden is spectacular in May when the roses are in bloom, and offers great views of the city. It hosts contemporary art installations, that can be enjoyed for free.
Another free park in Florence, less impressive but much bigger and pleasant for long walks or jogs is the Cascine. Situated along the river Arno, a few stops from the city centre on the bus, it has kids’ play areas, a swimming pool (entrance fee) and a lively Tuesday morning market.
Love gardens? Read more about the Best Florentine gardens.
San Miniato al Monte Church | Romanesque splendour
A few steep steps from Piazzale Michelangelo, San Miniato al Monte is one of Florence’s oldest religious sites. A luminous Romanesque facade, an interesting interior with a marble floor and some Medieval frescoes, make a visit to this church a real treat.
Porcellino fountain and market | The bronze ‘little pig’ of Florence
Of all the free things to do in Florence, this one’s luckier than most. Rub the Porcellino’s bronze snout and it’ll bring you good fortune. Maybe you’ll simply come back to Florence, say others. Give it a go and see if it works for you. You’ll find this wild-boar statue in the Porcellino Market, just behind Piazza della Repubblica on the way to the Ponte Vecchio. If you’re ready to let go of your cash this market has plenty of leather items and souvenirs that make the perfect take-home gift.
Lastly, don’t forget that florencefreetour offers tip-based walking tours of the city.