Florence is a city that attracts and enchants visitors of all ages and tastes. From top-notch art galleries to amazing shopping, incredible food and scenic views, this is somewhere to find your inspiration. A place to breathe in a lively creative atmosphere filled with new ideas and traditional culture.
Here we explore the top Cool Things to do in Florence. We go in search of the mysterious “wine windows”. We explore Florence’s mysterious palaces. We navigate the river Arno. And we discover some seriously cool shops and unusual museums.
12 Cool Things you have to do in Florence
1. Wine Window Spotting
In recent years there has been a lot of interest in Florence’s wine windows. These peculiar features are found throughout the historic centre. But what exactly are these famed buchette del vino in Florence?
They are tiny door-shaped openings in the walls of some historical palaces around the city, always set at hand level. From here the wealthy wine merchants, who were living in these elegant palaces and had cellars on the ground floor, used to sell wine by the fiasco bottle. The trend started in the 17th century, as a way to save the middleman commission in a time of financial struggle.
The wine windows now have an association dedicated to them that has recently released a booklet showing the ones that are still active.
Today you can take a Tour to search for the Original Wine Windows, get a glass of wine and do as the ancient Florentine used to do!
2. Museo delle Illusioni – Cool Museum in Florence
There’s usually a bit of a queue outside the Museum of Illusions. Among the cool things to do in Florence, this is the most recent one, having opened its doors in 2022. It’s a vast space (six hundred square meters) where the laws of physics and optics meet pure creativity. You’ll wonder what the trick is, get confused by the mysterious riddles and take a walk in an upside down world. Educational and entertaining, for curious people of all ages.
3. Navigate the River Arno on a boat
See Florence from the water, and appreciate the magnificent palaces and architecture from a different perspective. On this Florence River Cruise you’ll float underneath the Ponte Vecchio, slide past the Uffizi Gallery and enjoy incredible views while your boatman gently navigates on the river Arno. It’s not a Venetian gondola, that’s true, but still fun.
4. Secret Passage Tour in Palazzo Vecchio
This one is for anyone who loves history. And a bit of mystery too. In this intriguing Secret Passages of Palazzo Vecchio Guided tour you’ll be shown around the hidden staircases and rooms used first by the City Priors (priori) and later by the Medici, when they were ruling Florence. Our personal favourite is the Studiolo, the tiny windowless room used by Francesco I de’ Medici for his study of alchemy. Here he kept his collection of natural objects organised by elements (air, water, fire, earth), in cabinets masked by symbolic paintings. Not to be missed.
5. Walking up the Rampe to Piazzale Michelangelo
The Rampe are a multi-tiered complex of fountains, man made grottoes and stone staircases on the side of the hill on the Oltrarno, that leads up to the panoramic terrace Piazzale Michelangelo. You reach it by from the Lungarni, after crossing over the Ponte Vecchio. It was designed by architect Poggi at the end of 19th century (inspired by the decorative ensamble in nearby Renaissance-era Boboli Gardens). As you take the steep climb to the top, you’ll be rewarded by the great views.
Insider’s tip – if you happen to be in Florence in May, make sure you take a stroll in the Rose Garden. (It’s on the way up to Piazzale Michelangelo). From here you’ll have a magnificent view of Florence framed in flowers.
6. Vespa Ride on the Florentine hills
If like us you think that the Vespa is one of the coolest ways you can travel, then this one’s for you. On this Vespa Guided Tour in Florence you’ll be riding up to Piazzale Michelangelo in a small group, where you can enjoy the thrill of these iconic machines around the Florentine hills. After that, you’ll enjoy a meal in a nearby country estate. One small thing… Drive carefully, Italians are not the most attentive drivers!
7. Visit Clet’s studio
As you walk around Florence you’ll probably notice some street signs that have been modified. A one way sign turned into a (cuore trafitto) pierced heart, the dead end sign turned cross. These are the fun artworks (stickers art!) by French artist Clet, who has became a real icon in Florence. He has a studio in via dell’Olmo (near San Niccolò) in the Oltrarno. He sells reproduction of his works in various formats, all sort of cool things Clet-style.
8. Shop for leather in San Lorenzo Market
We won’t lie to you, San Lorenzo Market is very touristy. And many stalls and shops sell the same things. But it’s true that this is one of the Florentine traditions that are still alive after centuries, from the time when the tanners used to wash the animal skins in the river Arno. Today you can browse for hours in the shops to find a cool leather jacket, a perfectly stitched leather bag or wallet, or a small key holder to take home as a 100% Florentine souvenir.
=> Find out all the best places Where to buy leather in Florence
9. Learn how to make pasta or gelato
Do as the Italians do. Learn from a local chef to make your own pasta in this Award-winning Private Pasta Workshop, a traditional sauce, or perfect the art of gelato making. After all, you are in Italy! And you can’t leave Florence without having stolen a few original recipes. All courses at the end let you savour your own creations with some good Chianti wine, a great fun experience to live the city and meet fellow wannabe chefs.
=> Check out the Best Cooking Classes in Florence, for all levels and taste!
10. Leonardo Da Vinci Museum
If you like science, you can’t miss Da Vinci’s inventions in the Leonardo Museum. The handmade machines you find here are based on working models taken from sketches made by Leonardo himself. You’ll find the museum near the Cathedral, in via del Castellaccio. For any science nerds or history lovers, it’s a pretty cool place to visit.
=> For fans of Leonardo, don’t miss to visit Vinci, his home town.
11. Aperitivo Time in Florence
The Aperitivo is of course an Italian invention, perfected over the years until becoming an art form in itself. Some bars offer crisps or peanuts with your drink (check here for the top Italian aperitivi) others do apericena, light dinners (buffet or served). For a full immersion into the Florentine aperitivo experience you can join an Aperitivo Tour to meet other and have a local expert (yes, apparently you can be an expert in this field!) guide you through this important and unmissable tradition.
12. Cool Shops in Florence
Here we suggest some special shopping experiences, two very different shops that can make your day – Mio Concept Store is a modern, fun gift and accessories shop, where you can find also some colourful, original and quirky souvenirs (Via della Spada 34red). It’s Florentine in a unique way. In a similar line, we also love the artisan shop in Piazza Pitti that sell original gifts and souvenirs with a flair done by local artisans.
On the other side of the spectrum you find the elegant Officina Santa Maria Novella, one of Europe’s oldest pharmacies today has maintained the old world charm, the traditions that come from centuries-old recipes created by the monks that used to work here. It’s a historic shop with an amazing history and a choice of perfumes, soaps, creams to die for. You find it in Via della Scala, 16, not far from the train station.