Christmas in Florence is festive treat, thanks to a spectacular light festival, and plenty of festive decorations and events. From the huge Christmas tree and nativity scene in Piazza Duomo, the Christmas Market in Piazza Santa Croce and plenty of shopping opportunities… Here’s a list of our favourite things to do at this sparkling and special time of year.

Christmas is approaching, the temperatures have dropped and the shop windows start filling with all sorts of inviting treats and glittery ornaments. The 8th December is the ‘official’ start of the Christmas season in Florence, where the historic centre gets dressed up with festive decorations  and a myriad of traditional sweet treats make an appearance in the pasticcerie – a feast for the eyes and the stomach… Enjoy!

Christmas holidays in Florence – 6 Things to do

Christmas tree and nativity scene in Piazza Duomo

The Cathedral Square, the religious heart of Florence, welcomes the festivities with the two symbols of Natale, a traditional presepe – or nativity scene – in terracotta and the huge Christmas tree that is switched on on the 8th of December.

The nativity scene is an ancient Italian tradition that commemorates the birth of Christ – Saint Francis is credited with creating the very first one in 1223. Presepi appear in every church and many Italian homes. The one in Piazza Duomo in Florence is handmade by a local potter, using the famous terracotta from Impruneta.

=> Check out this popular Small Group Walking Tour with Skip-the-Line to Accademia, David & Uffizi Gallery, a great way to enjoy the highlights of Florence with an expert guide. Excellent value for money!

things to do at Christmas in Florence
Christmas tree outside Florence Cathedral – photo @lovefromtuscany

See the Ponte Vecchio in a different light

In Florence, the Christmas holidays bring the dazzling Green Line Firenze Festivals that literally illuminate the city => this year it lasts from 8th December 2023 to 7th January 2024 -> see official site). This is a video mapping show made of multicoloured light projected on famous landmarks like the Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Vecchio and Santo Spirito Church. In this way, the famous ancient monuments are given a contemporary new look, as the city fills with the festive feel of Christmas. Let there be light!

Get into the spirit with Benozzo Gozzoli and Santa Trinita Church

Why not get into the spirit of Christmas, by going to see some beautiful examples of sacred art in Florence? Florentine sacred art can surely help to get into the spirit of Christmas time. If you visit the splendid Magi Chapel in Palazzo Medici-Riccardi you’ll be immersed in a world of devotion, elegance and vivid colours. The scene depicts the journeys of the three Magi, or Wise Men, travelling to Bethlehem to pay homage to the newborn Jesus.

Medici Riccardi Palace
The Magi Chapel – photo Wikimedia PD

This famous fresco series was also an excuse to celebrate the Medici family, who commissioned Benozzo Gozzoli to decorate the private chapel of their residence.

For a more intimate nativity scene visit the Sassetti Chapel in the Church of Santa Trinita. Here the “Adoration of the Shepherds” by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1485) shows an exquisite ‘Renaissance nativity scene’. The entrance to this church is free.

⇒ Discover the Most beautiful churches to visit in Florence.

santa trinita church
Santa Trinita Church
By LivornoDPOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Shop ’til you drop around the dazzling Florentine streets

Moving from the sacred to the worldly, Florence is always a great opportunity for a bit of retail therapy, and Christmas is a great occasion to buy all sorts of gifts. From the luxurious Via Tornabuoni to the lively Borgo degli Albizi and Via del Corso, from the big Rinascente store in Piazza della Repubblica to the area around San Lorenzo Market where you can have fun trying on all sorts of leather jackets and accessories, everyone will find something to suit their taste, and their pockets.

Special tip for shoppers! Don’t miss the Officina Farmaceutica di Santa maria Novella. This historic pharmacy looks stunning all year round, but the Christmas decorations add even more charm to its rooms filled with the scent of their artisanal soaps and perfumes.

=> December in Tuscany: best events & trip ideas!

=> Best Christmas Markets around Tuscany.

Explore the Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce

Italy isn’t known for the Christmas Markets, and Florence has ‘imported’ its version from northern Europe. The annual Weihnachtsmarkt (18th November – 17th December 2023) brings to town 50 wooden stalls selling decorations, candles and some food specialities from Germany. You won’t find traditional Tuscan artefacts, but the setting itself is spectacular: Piazza Santa Croce, with the background of the beautiful Santa Croce church.

things to do in Tuscany at Christmas
Christmas Market at Santa Croce Church, Florence – photo @lovefromtuscany

Making Christmas sweeter than ever in Florence

During your stay in Florence you can take your sweet tooth on a journey, starting at Rivoire in Piazza Signoria, where you can enjoy a luscious hot chocolate in one of Florence’s historic cafés. Other hot spots for chocolate lovers are: the Cioccolateria Hemingway in Piazza Piattellina in the heart of the San Frediano neighbourhood, or L’Arte del Cioccolato near the Duomo in Piazza Santa Elisabetta.

Then it’s time to go in search of the traditional Christmas treats like panettone or the Sienese panforte and delicious ricciarelli, a great way to celebrate Natale Italian style. Try Robiglio in via de’ Servi or Caffé Gilli in via Roma, both iconic Florentine pasticcerie.

=> What is the Weather like in Winter in Tuscany?

tuscan sweets and cakes

⇒ Discover the traditional Christmas menu in Tuscany!

⇒ Planning a visit to Tuscany at Christmas? Check out about the Best Christmas Markets and traditions around the region and 5 Magical Places to visit in Tuscany during the Christmas holidays!

7 Unique Things about Florence you need to try for yourself!

More Amazing Christmas Experiences in Florence this year

FLORENCE EYE! => This year the Panoramic Wheel in Florence is located at Piazzale Vittorio Veneto, at the Cascine, the Park along the Arno – from 10th December 2023 to 10th June 2024. It promises incredible views, an unforgettable way to experience the city!

SKATING RINK => At Florence Christmas Village, in the area of the Panoramic Wheel at Cascine Park, you’ll find the largest skating rink in Italy – over 1300 square meters! – open from 10th December 2023 to 15th January 2024. It’s about 30 minute walk from the Ponte Vecchio, and close to the Tram stops: Cascine or Paolo Uccello stops.

Practical tips: most museums are closed on Christmas Day and on 1st January, but they are normally open on 24th December and 26th which is a bank holiday (Saint Stephen’s Day) – Churches are open for Mass on 25th, including the Duomo, so don’t plan a visit on Christmas Day.

=> Check out the Best Events and Traditions in the Chianti region during Christmas holidays, and why January might be the ideal time to visit Florence!

Last update: November 2023