For anyone who wants to see the best of Florence this Christmas, here’s an illuminating look at all festive delights the city has to offer.

At this special time of year, Florence goes for broke. Christmas decorations light up the streets and shop windows. The Christmas Market gives Santa Croce Square a different twist. And the whole city centre is filled with a special festive atmosphere. This is the perfect time of year to savour a delicious hot chocolate or delve into some of the city’s nativity-themed artworks.  Read on and find out why we think Florence is the Italy’s capital of Christmas.

Florence gets dressed for christmas

Christmas lights

Florence city centre is covered with twinkling lights. The shopping mecca triangle of Via Tornabuoni, Piazza Repubblica and via Calzaioli is decked out with decorations. Shops cover their windows with every kind of festive display and the Rinascente building is draped in a cascade of silvery lights. You can literally feel Christmas in the air everywhere you go.

Decorations of Florence’s Duomo

In front of the Duomo stands a huge Christmas tree, and a nativity scene made from terracotta. Both are put up on the 8th December, when the Cardinal blesses the nativity figures, all created by local artisans from the terracotta mecca of Impruneta. The nativity scene will stay here until the 6th January, when they will be removed for the festival known as the Cavalcata dei Magi (the ride of the three wise men).

things to do at Christmas in Florence

This year the F-Light Festival returns to Florence’s city centre. Here ancient architecture meets contemporary visual expression during a month-long (8 December 2018 -6 January 2019) festival that every year shows Florence in a different light.

Christmas Market in Santa Croce square

The Christmas market returns this year in the gorgeous setting of Santa Croce Square. The basilica is the background for a colourful market selling food and festive gifts from all over Europe. You won’t find traditional artisans here, but it’s a beautiful setting for a market and has a lively atmosphere. And it’s the perfect place to stop off for a cup of mulled wine.

things to do in Tuscany at Christmas
Christmas Market in Piazza Santa Croce, Florence

Treat yourself, it’s Christmas!

Savour a hot chocolate in one of Florence’s historic cafes.

The historic Caffe’ Rivoire in Piazza Signoria was once famous for its hot chocolate. And it’s still a great place to savour the best of Florence this Christmas. It’s an old world café with polite table service, though if don’t want to pay extra for a seat, you can enjoy the atmosphere standing at the bar. Another option is Paszkowski in Piazza della Repubblica. The square shows off a beautifully illuminated Rinascente building in the background and the old carousel glittering in the square.

Taste a Christmas ciambella

A classic wintery merenda (or afternoon snack) for real Florentines is a doughnut at Cucciolo, an understated bar that has been in via del Corso 25red forever. Simple, tiny and friendly, it’s not about comfortable seating but serves an excellent hot ciambella sprinkled with sugar. Light and delicious.

Shop ’til you drop

You can’t go to Florence without picking up a present. A special leather bag? A bottle of Chianti wine? A pair of gloves that match your coat? You’ll find it here. Or how about a fragrance from the charming Officina di Santa Maria Novella? From lively markets like San Lorenzo to high end shops in via Tornabuoni, there’s so many things to buy you’ll also need to buy an extra bag.

See some Christmassy Art

Palazzo Medici-Riccardi – Procession of the Magi

The Magi Chapel in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi is covered in frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli. The theme is the three kings’ journey to take presents to the new born Jesus. “Journey of the Magi” shows great detail in both the landscape and the costumed figures. The religious theme was combined with a depiction of several members of the Medici family and their allies.