Looking for some unmissable things to do while you’re in Florence? We suggest an adventurous climb of the Duomo, a taste of some authentic dishes, leather shopping, and a visit to an art-filled museum. And then indulge in an aperitivo tour to round off your day. Here’s how..
12 things to do in Florence you just can’t miss
1. Climb the Cathedral’s Dome
Get ready to climb 430 steps to get to the top of the world! See Florence from the top of Brunelleschi’s Dome and explore this architectural wonder in every detail. It’s one of the biggest domes in the world, and the largest masonry dome ever built. It’s 35 meters tall (113 meters from the ground) and its interior has 3600 square meters of frescoes. Impressive, unique and iconic. Book a Tour of the Cathedral & Dome to skip the line.
2. Sunset on the Ponte Vecchio
With its pastel colours and romantic air, the Ponte Vecchio is one of Florence’s symbols. As its name suggests, this truly is an ‘old bridge’, standing on this spot on the river Arno since the Middle Ages. Seen from the neighbouring Ponte Santa Trinita, with the verdant hills as background, it’s an unforgettable sight, and a perfect place to be at sunset. If your wallet can take it, try a little shopping at one of the silver and goldsmiths that have stood on this bridge for centuries. Or have dinner with a view of the Ponte Vecchio at the Restaurant Signorvino.
3. Explore the Uffizi Gallery
If you love art, you’re in for a treat in Florence. The Uffizi has the world’s greatest collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, including world-famous works by Botticelli, Da Vinci, Titian amongst others. There are more than 40 rooms to explore, with innumerable masterpieces, from the 14th to 18th century. The best way to see the Uffizi? We recommend joining a Guided Tour of the Uffizi and having an art expert explain the background to you and bring the paintings to life.
=> Discover the Unmissable Uffizi’s masterpieces !
4. Meet Michelangelo’s David
The second unmissable thing to do in Florence is getting up close to the Statue of David in the Accademia Gallery. At 4 meters tall, this statue seems to capture the emotion of its subject and left the Florentines stunned when it was unveiled in 1504. Michelangelo was already recognised as a genius by his contemporaries when he created this statue, and one look at it will show you why.
5. Take a walking tour
Join a Florence Walking Tour and see Florence’s history come alive. From the Medici Tour, that introduces you to this famous family of cunning politicians, bankers and art patrons, to the Fascinating Florence that shows the highlights of the city, there’s something for every taste. A guided tour is a great way to experience the city and get a feel for its history, and what makes it tick.
=> Learn some Curios facts about the Medici family.
6. Enjoy the view from Piazzale Michelangelo
A favourite spot for locals and tourists, Piazzale Michelangelo is a panoramic terrace from which you can admire the whole of Florence stretching out in front of you. Romantic, unique, it’s a popular spot to take a photo of the city with the Duomo rising grandly above over the terracotta rooftops. You can get here by bus, or take your time about it and walk up from the Oltrarno.
7. Buy food at one of the markets
Italian markets are the soul of many Italian cities and Florence is no different. The king of them all is San Lorenzo Food market. A few years ago it went through a total renovation that has made it into a beautifully designed space. Some say it’s less authentic than it used to be (and they might be right) but it’s still a popular place where you can buy and taste traditional food or have a sit-down meal. For a more truly Florentine experience, buy some groceries at the Sant’Ambrogio Market, which is less manicured; an everyday ordinary open-air market.
8. Admire some Florentine frescoes
Frescoes are one of Florence’s artistic highlights. From the famous Brancacci Chapel, where Masaccio surpassed his master Masolino with his revolutionary technique, to the beautiful array of frescoes inside Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella Church, and the moving religious-themed frescoes by Fra’ Angelico in the San Marco Convent, you’re spoilt for choice.
=> Discover the Most Beautiful Frescoes in Florence.
=> How to enjoy Florence in 3 Days: a complete itinerary.
9. Find the perfect leather accessory
In Florence there’s no end of leather goods for sale. You can find high quality artisan objects, exclusive designs and plenty of cheap stuff (not necessarily made in Italy). The quality of leather and craftwork varies and this is reflected in the price. In San Lorenzo Market you find hundreds of stalls and shops. But for a more upmarket experience try Michelangelo shop on via Zannoni, Bemporad in via Calzaiolui, Misuri and Scuola del Cuoio in Santa Croce for traditional style goods. Or Ben Heart for something more trendy.
10. See the burial place of the Medici family members
The Medici family ruled florence for 300 years, and the city was shaped by them as they lavished their money as patrons of the art. It all started with the Medici ‘godfather’ Giovanni di Bicci who commissioned Brunelleschi to design his burial place inside San Lorenzo Church in 1421. From that moment onwards, San Lorenzo became the “Medici family’s church”. A century later Michelangelo was given the job of designing the New Sacristy in the Medici Chapels, new addition to the church where Lorenzo the Magnificent and buried.
11. Try a favourite local dish
When in Florence, avoid the touristy-looking restaurants and go for the old, and good, trattorie. Here you can try some local meat-based dishes like the famous bistecca alla fiorentina (the Florentine T-bone steak), but also peposo, polpette and trippa alla fiorentina. Or try the infamous lampredotto sandwich at one of the stalls. Vegetarians… don’t despair. Look for one of Florentine soups like ribollita, pappa al pomodoro or crespelle alla fiorentina (savoury crepes with ricotta and spinach). Coco Lezzone, Trattoria Enzo e Piero, I Fratellini are among our favourites.
12. Palazzo Vecchio Secret Passages
We absolutely loved this Tour of the secret rooms and passages of the Palazzo Vecchio. You delve into the city’s history, and learn about how the local Medieval government worked. You’ll hear some secrets about the impressive Hall of 500 and visit hidden rooms where the Medici family used to keep their private collections. Worthwhile and completely fascinating.
13. Enjoy Florence’s gardens
The most famous of Florence’s gardens is Boboli, an Italianate park built by Cosimo I when he took residence in Palazzo Pitti. It’s a vast green space where ancient statues poke through the greenery, and the atmosphere tells the story of a time when nobility and kings would walk these avenues. Boboli has an air of faded glory and romance.
If you’re visiting in Spring walk to the Rose Garden and Bardini Garden for a flower feast and magnificent views.
=> See the Best gardens in Florence
14. Rub the nose of the Porcellino
We can’t leave the famous Florentine wild boar out of this list. The ‘little piglet’ is a bronze fountain which is believed to bring luck to those who rub his bronze nose (its faded colour prove how popular this belief is!). Andersen even wrote a story about it. It’s next to the Mercato Nuovo Market, that originally used to sell straw hats.
15. Aperitivo Florence-style
Negroni, one of Italy’s signature drinks, was born right here in Florence, so what better place to have a real Aperitivo experience than one of the city’s bars? Locals hang around Piazza Santo Spirito, Sant’Ambrogio area and San Frediano. The Aperitivo culture is so advanced here that you have the chance to join an Aperitivo Tour, no less.
=> See the Best spots for an aperitivo in Florence