Discover the top things to do in Florence. The ultimate bucket list for people who are pressed for time in the great Renaissance city.
1. Top things to do in Florence – See the view from Piazzale Michelangelo
A clear favourite among the top things to do in Florence. The view from Piazzale Michelangelo offers visitors a wonderful panorama of the city. From here you get a clear view of the Cathedral standing out from an expanse of red roofs and churches. The Arno snakes its way through the middle of the city and you can even make out the Old Bridge “Ponte Vecchio” right in the middle. Seeing the sun set from here is something you won’t forget in a hurry.
2. Visit the real Statue of David at the Accademia Gallery
An iconic masterpiece and one of the best-known symbols of Florence, it’s worthwhile seeing the original work by Michelangelo, not just the copy in Piazza Signoria. The detail and expressiveness of this statue made it a sensation when it was unveiled in 1504, and it still manages to leave visitors speechless.
3. See a Botticelli at the Uffizi Gallery
The Renaissance was effectively born in Florence. It left behind artistic masterpieces that have been acclaimed for centuries, many of which are today housed in the Uffizi Gallery. Among them are two of Botticelli’s most remarkable creations; “La Primavera” (Allegory of Spring) and “Birth of Venus“. Seeing these paintings is a moving experience, and well worth the queues to get in. If it’s not on your list of top things to do in Florence, it should be.
4. Climb the Cathedral Dome
The Cathedral complex is without doubt one of the most iconic sights in Florence. And it’s a great point from which to marvel at the city itself. Climb to the Dome or the bell tower for some unbeatable views over the city centre. Exactly how Brunelleschi created this architectural masterpiece has had people scratching their heads for centuries. If you want to know more, pay a visit the Museo Opera del Duomo.
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5. Take in the view of the Ponte Vecchio from Ponte Santa Trinita
For that perfect picture of the Ponte Vecchio, head to Ponte Santa Trinita or Ponte alla Carraia. It’s an inspiring and romantic view, the distant hills seeming to embrace Florence and its famous Old Bridge at the centre.
6. Visit the Santa Croce Church
Santa Croce church is a must-see, both for its remarkable frescoes and for its tombs. Galileo and Michelangelo were both buried here along with the other famous Florentines. In the first cloister you’ll find the Pazzi Chapel, a masterwork of the Renaissance, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect that gave the city its Cathedral Dome..
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7. Fill up on frescoes at the Church of Santa Maria Novella
Before you go in, take a close look at the façade of this extraordinary church. It’s a perfect example of the Renaissance’s love for geometry and proportion. Once inside, take your time to explore the complex that’s filled to the rafters with frescoes spanning different ages, from the Medieval to High Renaissance. Make sure to leave time to visit the cloisters and the Spanish Chapel.
8. See the surprises of San Marco Convent
A less well-known sight, but still on the list of top things to do in Florence, San Marco always surprises. It was here that a very sensitive artist, the monk Brother Angelico, decorated the rooms of the convent with emotional and moving scenes like the famous “Annunciation”.
9. Shop in San Lorenzo Market
For shoppers this is definitely the place to go. Lively and colorful, the outside stalls are filled with leather products and souvenirs that can keep you busy for hours. The San Lorenzo Central Food Market, recently redone, offers all sort of fresh food. Downstairs you can shop for fruit and vegetables or pick up something from the many traditional delicatessens. Upstairs you can grab a slice of pizza, taste some wine, or sit down for a meal at one of the open plan restaurants and bars. It’s a good option to eat here if you’re on a budget.
10. Wander in the Oltrarno
Literally “beyond the river Arno”, this is the less touristy side of Florence. Despite that it still retains some authenticity. Once the artisan heart of the city, Oltrarno does have some great botteghe (artisan workshops) still active today. Its squares are often filled with students and as such it’s the place to go for nightlife. This might be at the bottom of the list but it still ranks as one of the top things to do in Florence.
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