Florence has some of the most celebrated museums in the world. From the Uffizi Gallery, with its rich collection of Renaissance paintings, and the Accademia that hosts the iconic David. But being the cradle of the Renaissance, Florence has a lot more for art lovers to enjoy too. So to help you make the best of your time, here are a few insider tips on seeing the best museums in Florence.
Best museums in Florence – the Uffizi Gallery
We start with the Uffizi; an extraordinary gallery that began as a private art collection of the Medici family and today is one of the world’s greatest museums. With 45 rooms and 2 million visitors per year, the building itself is a masterpiece, with the elegant loggia designed by Vasari and views over Piazza Signoria. To truly appreciate the museum, you’ll need the better part of a day.
Highlights of the Uffizi include work by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Paolo Uccello, Raffaello, Tiziano – all the great names of the Renaissance. There’s work by Caravaggio, Gothic paintings, and some international artists such as Van Dyck and Dürer. The Uffizi is a beautiful universe of its own, a treat for all art lovers. It’s best to visit early or late in the day, advance booking is strongly advised. And remember there will be queues in high season, it’s one of Florence’s top attraction!
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Accademia Gallery – Meet the David
When the Statue of the David was moved to the Accademia Gallery in 1882 this museum became a beacon amongst Florentine museums. People from all over the world fly here to admire the gigantic nude figure of David by Michelangelo. It’s sheer size and the lifelike details are magnificent, as is the expression of the young man caught in the act of preparing to attack his enemy. This is one statue whose legendary reputation is richly deserved.
Other important works by Michelangelo Buonarroti can be seen at the Accademia: the Prisoners are extraordinary examples of ‘unfinished’ statues, typical of his style. The artist used to say he was revealing what was hidden and alive inside the stone, and here it really does seem as if these powerful male bodies are struggling into life.
Bargello Museum – A world of sculpture
Often overlooked by tourists, this fascinating museum in Florence hosts an impressive collection of sculptures, including Michelangelo’s early work, the “Drunken Bacchus”, the tender marble relief of the Madonna and Child (“Tondo Pitti”) and a powerful bust of Brutus. Here you can find Giambologna‘s famous “Mercury” that seems to be about to take flight, and Cellini‘s bust of Cosimo I and Ganimede.
On the first floor, in the vast and beautiful Sala Donatello, you find masterpieces such as the famous David by Donatello, his St. George, and the tiles created for the baptistry door competition. The setting itself is quite remarkable; the Bargello was the first town hall of Florence so it’s Medieval through and through, and has a beautiful courtyard. As far as we are concerned this is certainly one of the best museums in Florence.
Opera del Duomo – The Cathedral Museum
This museum was completely refurbished in 2016, and definitely deserves a visit. After visiting Florence’s Cathedral, a visit to this museum allows the visitor to get to know the curious secrets of one of the most impressive cathedrals ever built. The Opera del Duomo Museum hosts artworks that were originally in the Duomo.
Here you can learn all about Brunelleschi’s Dome. One room shows how the original facade was supposed to look (today’s facade is a nineteenth century addition), it hosts the Baptistry’s original bronze doors (including the Gates of Paradise) by Ghiberti, works by Della Robbia and the moving “Pietà Bandini” by Michelangelo.
Palazzo Pitti – For lovers of paintings
Pitti Palace is the artistic highlight on the other side of the Arno in Florence, a grand palace that used to be the residence of the Medici and later the Lorena and the King of Italy. Today it hosts different museums including a costume museum, Modern Art Gallery and Royal Apartments. The Galleria Palatina is the highlight of this gigantic art-filled palace.
The Galleria Palatina is a vast collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings that include Caravaggio, Raffaello and Titian, Filippo Lippi, Andrea del Sarto and Rubens.
San Marco Museum – Enlightening frescoes
Admire the works of an early Renaissance master Beato Angelico, a monk who poured his devotion into his paintings. His spiritually charged frescoes adorn each of the cells in the monastery where he lived. Atop the staircase on the first floor you can admire the famous “Annunciation” – a delightful and very human depiction of Mary and the angel. San Marco is less well-known than some other museums and has a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.
San Marco Convent with its airy cloister and inspired frescoes, is a important part of Florence’s history. Cosimo de’ Medici used to have a cell here, and there’s a collection of Savonarola‘s things on display too.
After visiting San Marco Museum, go in search of the best frescos in Florence.
Archeological Museum in Florence
The Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Florence is one of italy’s top archeological museums. Its collection spans Etruscan, Roman and Greek history, and there’s a fascinating Egyptian section with canopy vases, sarcophagi and mummies. Blissfully free of crowds, being a museum for people “in the know”, it deserves more attention than it gets.
The lighting might need some improvement, but if antiquity is your thing, you’ll be fascinated by the vast collection of statues and artefacts. The highlights include the beautiful Etruscan bronze “Chimera of Arezzo”, (5th century B.C.), the Roman-Etruscan bronze “Orator” (Arrigatore), and the famous “Idolino”, a graceful bronze Roman statue of a youth.
After you’ve seen the best museums in Florence, why not complete your culture trip with a tour of the top churches in Florence.