Discover the top sights in Florence, the attractions that should be on every traveller’s list. From the unforgettable Duomo to the Statue of David, and the Renaissance treasure trove that is the Uffizi Gallery. These sights are the finest Florence has to offer.
1. Florence top sights – The Cathedral Complex
The ‘Duomo’ is the heart and soul of Florence. It’s fondly called “il cupolone” (the big dome) by the Florentines, and stands proudly in the square which bears its name, Piazza Duomo. It’s a crowded space, where the Cathedral, the Baptistry, and Giotto’s elegant bell tower all crave your attention. But it’s when you enter these places that they reveal their real charms. The entrance to the Cathedral is free, but you need a ticket to visit the mosaic-topped Baptistry, climb Brunelleschi’s dome and the bell tower, which is the best way to enjoy fantastic views over the city centre. With a joint ticket you can also visit the newly refurbished Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo that gives a detailed insight into the history of this iconic church.
The Cathedral is not the only church that you can visit for free. Find out more about free things to do in Florence.
2. The Uffizi Gallery – See the world’s most famous paintings
The Uffizi is one of the greatest museums in the world. When you’re in Florence, you’ll want to get your fill of Renaissance art, and there’s no better place than the Uffizi to do it. Inside this remarkable building, there’s a whole parade of Italian Medieval, Renaissance, Mannerist paintings, from masters like Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raffaello, Caravaggio and Tiziano. The only surviving canvas from Michelangelo can be seen here, and the world famous “Primavera” and “The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli are also here.
3. Piazza Signoria – Florence’s most handsome square and Loggia dei Lanzi
Next to the Uffizi is the most handsome square in Florence: Piazza Signoria. It’s dominated by the city’s town hall, the Medieval Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace), and on one side it hosts a open-air sculpture museum, the elegant Loggia dei Lanzi. There’s so much history in this square it’ll make your head spin. If that happens, sit down at one of the outside table for an overpriced (but worthwhile) cappuccino and soak up the splendid atmosphere.
4. Ponte Vecchio – The most picturesque bridge in the world
The Medieval ‘Old Bridge‘ is one of those unique sights that makes Florence truly special. It has jewellery shops crammed along both sides that have been selling gold since 1500. From afar, the bridge looks quaintly ramshackle, and somehow makes the perfect adornment for an already idyllic cityscape. It puts on its best face at sunset, and has to be one of the most romantic sights in the world.
5. Accademia Gallery – See Michelangelo’s Statue of David
This is where you can admire the original statue of Michelangelo’s David. A visit here is an absolute must for art lovers. It’s a moving experience being in the same room with the real David; human and godlike at once. In the same museum you’ll find another one of Michelangelo’s creations: the ‘Slaves‘. There’s also an important collection of 15th – 16th century paintings.
6. Santa Croce Church and Square
This charming square is the setting of the Calcio in Costume (football in costume) – an historical football game still played according to medieval rules – and Santa Croce Church church which guards the tombs of Galileo and Michelangelo. Do you need more reason to visit it? There are frescoes by Giotto and the elegant Pazzi Chapel, designed by Brunelleschi, the very same architect behind the Cathedral’s Dome. Around this square there are plenty of leather shops, and the famous Scuola del Cuoio annexed to the Church is a great place to buy, and learn about, leather.
7. Church of Santa Maria Novella – Unforgettable frescoes
This is one of the true gems of Florence. The large complex includes the church, splendidly decorated with frescoes, an atmospheric cloister and a small museum. You can easily spend a couple of hours admiring the elaborately frescoed chapels and all the details of Santa Maria Novella. You’ll find Medieval and Renaissance art, and some of the most beautiful frescoes in Florence. Highlights include Masaccio’s fresco “Trinity” and the Tornabuoni Chapel decorated by Ghirlandaio. Highly recommended.
8. Pitti Palace & Boboli Gardens
The vast Renaissance Pitti Palace used to be the home of the rulers of Florence: the Medici family. Today it hosts a variety of museums. The highlight is the Galleria Palatina with a superb collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings, including works by Raffaello, Tiziano, Caravaggio, Rubens. You can also visit the Royal Apartments.
The attached Boboli Gardens is a vast park (45.000 square metres) with long avenues, plenty of statues, fountains and a nostalgic air of splendour. It’s a perfect place to take a respite from the crowded streets of the city centre, especially in Spring when the gardens are at their best.
9. Church of San Lorenzo – Discover the church of the Medici
The San Lorenzo area is more popular for the open-air leather and souvenir market and the Food Market, but the Church of San Lorenzo has some surprises for art fans. Brunelleschi designed the Old Sacristy and Donatello sculpted the pulpit.
Highlight: Medici Chapel
Michelangelo worked on the tombs of some members of the Medici family. The statues on the funeral monuments of Giuliano de’ Medici and Lorenzo Duke of Urbino are up there among his greatest accomplishments. You need a separate ticket to visit the Medici Chapels.
10. Bargello National Museum – Best for sculpture
The Bargello its another Florence top sight and the place to go for sculpture fans. The Romanesque-Gothic building is itself worth a trip here, particularly the inner courtyard. The collection of statuary clearly reflects Florence’s artistic heritage. Michelangelo, Donatello, Cellini, Giambologna are just a few of the artists represented. A visit here will give you a good idea of how sculptural technique and style developed throughout the Renaissance.
11. San Marco Museum – The inspiring frescoes by Beato Angelico
This museum is one of the hidden jewels of Florence. It’s usually not too busy and this adds to the pleasure of visiting the decorated rooms of this former convent. One of the friars, the skilled artist Fra’ Beato Angelico frescoed the cells of the monks and the main rooms with religious themed scenes to inspire his brother monks. Charming and atmospheric, San Marco is a lesser known but infinitely worthwhile destination in Florence.
12. San Miniato al Monte Church and Piazzale Michelangelo – See stunning views of Florence
Just outside the city centre, immersed in greenery, stands one of the oldest and most beautiful churches of Florence, San Miniato al Monte. It’s a few steps up from Piazzale Michelangelo, from where you can enjoy an impressive view of the city. The Romanesque church’s stunning façade is just a taste of what awaits you inside – a rich interior, filled with intriguing details, marble floors and a famous fresco cycle by Aretino. Definitely on of Florence top sights.
San Miniato al Monte is one of the free attractions in Florence. Discover all the best Florentine attractions at zero cost!