If you only have time to see Florence in a day, you don’t want to waste it leafing through a guidebook wondering where to go. So we’ve created a list of essential sights and put them together into a walking friendly guide. This way you can see a little of everything that matters.
It takes in the city’s highlights from the Ponte Vecchio to the Duomo, gives you sightseeing tips, great view points, and best spot for a romantic dinner. And if you’ve got more time there’s a three day itinerary too. Let’s get to it.
Florence in a day. What to see and where to see it
If you want to see Florence in a day, it’s best to get start your tour early in the morning to beat the heat (in case you’re visiting in the summer!), and of course the crowds. Head straight for the Cathedral in Piazza del Duomo and admire its jaw dropping architecture from the outside.
The view from the riverside is sublime in the early morning and will give you a chance to see the bridge in peace. We recommend having breakfast (Cappucino and a brioche of course) at one of the bars near the Ponte Vecchio while the city comes to life.
TIP: Look up at the top of the bridge. That discreet series of windows right at the top give on to a secret corridor that used to be used by the Medici, linking Palazzo Pitti with the Palazzo Vecchio.
The Uffizi and the real Statue of David
Now head to towards the Uffizi Gallery and Piazza Signoria, one of the most handsome squares in Florence. Admire the open air sculpture gallery that is the Loggia dei Lanzi, and visit the Uffizi Gallery. If you’re going to see one museum in Florence it should be this one, after all it’s one of the greatest museums in the world. Or opt for the Accademia where you’ll find the real Michelangelo’s Statue of David.
If you haven’t booked to see either of these museums (we recommend you do), or your time in Florence is limited, we suggest going to the Bargello Museum instead. This is a wonderful medieval building filled with sculptures, some by Michelangelo. Alternatively you could pay a visit to Santa Maria Novella Church with its magnificent frescoed chapels.
TIP: If you go to the Uffizi, sit down for a coffee in the bar to enjoy a great view of the Piazza from above.
Lunch and shopping in San Lorenzo
After all that culture you’ll be ready for a little shopping, and eating. And both of these urges are easily satisfied in San Lorenzo Market. Outdoor are rows of vendors selling all manner of leather bags and accessories, and inside the Mercato Centrale you’ll be able to stop for a quick bite or a sit down meal in the city’s original, and still very authentic, food market. Amongst other things, there is a branch of Eataly for serious foodies and opportunity to indulge in a little wine tasting too.
After lunch take a stroll towards the Cathedral. If you’re not bothered by heights we recommend a trip to the top of the dome (It’s mandatory to book) where you can see the magnificent frescoed ceiling. You can also climb Giotto bell tower for a wonderful view of the city. The Baptistery next door to the Duomo is a real treat with its mosaic covered dome.
TIP: Take a moment to admire the bronze doors of the Baptistery. The eastern doors designed by Ghiberti were called “The Gates of Paradise” by Michelangelo. The doors are copies, and if you have time you can see the real ones in Museo Opera Duomo.
Piazzale Michelangelo. That breathtaking view of Florence
From here we recommend a walk in the Oltrarno on the other side of the Arno. This part of Florence has for centuries been inhabited by the town’s artisans and you’ll still find their shops in some of the narrow alleyways. In the late afternoon walk along the river towards Ponte alle Grazie, and up to Piazzale Michelangelo. It’s a bit of a walk, but it affords a breathtaking view of Florence. (It’ll take you around an hour. You can also take bus 12 or 13 from the city centre, it takes about 40 minutes).
TIP: While you’re at the Piazzale Michelangelo, pop into San Miniato Church next door. This is one of our favourite churches in Florence. Beautiful inside, though largely overlooked by tourists. (Open until 7pm)
Aperitivo with the locals and a romantic dinner
Once you’ve seen the sun go down over Florence head back to the Oltrarno for an aperitivo. There is a square called Santo Spirito where you can sit outside with a negroni and watch the world go by. It also has its fair share of good restaurants here for when your stomach starts rumbling. For dinner head for Quattro Leoni Restaurant in a little romantic square nearby called Piazza della Passera.
After dinner make sure you take a passeggiata along the river Arno to have another look at the Ponte Vecchio which is illuminated at night. If you’ve got to the end of this and seen Florence in a day, congratulations. But to really get a feel for the city we recommend staying for three days at least.
Check out the best spots for an aperitivo in Florence.
⇒ For more information about visiting the Duomo and belltower, take a look at the official website.