Discover the Top 10 attractions in Florence. This is a must-see list for first timers who want to make sure they don’t miss a thing in the city of the Renaissance.
Top 10 Tourist attractions in Florence
1. Florence Cathedral & Baptistry
This one is easy. Anyone visiting Florence needs to start at the heart and soul of the city, the Duomo. Its red tiled Dome is famous all over the world for being a daring architectural experiment. Climbing to the top is one of those experiences you won’t easily forget.
The view from atop Brunelleschi’s dome is well worth the steep (and narrow) climb. There are 430 steps to get to one of Florence’s finest panoramas. Alternatively you can climb Giotto’s bell tower, from where you can take pictures of the dome. Either way, don’t miss the view from up there.
While a visit to the interior of the Cathedral is free, you need a ticket for the climb. This combined ticket also gives you access to the magnificent Baptistry with its amazing mosaics and marble floor, and the Opera del Duomo Museum, where the original Gates of Paradise are kept.
INSIDER’S TIP: Remember booking is mandatory. Join this Skip-the-Line Tour that includes the climb and close-up views of Brunelleschi’s Dome. Your professional guide will explain the history and secrets of the Duomo and lead you to a balcony that is only accessible with a group.
2. Piazza Signoria & Palazzo Vecchio
The second stop is Piazza Signoria, the centre of Florence’s political life and its most handsome square. Here you’ll find the town hall, Palazzo Vecchio, with a Medieval fortress-like exterior and a splendid Renaissance interior. The Medici resided there in the 16th century and totally restored it to suit their taste. Right in front of the entrance, a copy of the statue of David welcomes visitors.
The Loggia dei Lanzi is a 14th century addition to the square, originally used for public ceremonies. Today a collection of statues is hosted under the loggia, from Roman sculptures to 19th century. The impressive “Perseus” holding the head of the Medusa is a masterpiece by Renaissance sculptor Cellini.
INSIDER’S TIP – Would you like to discover the mysterious secrets and hidden rooms of this ancient building? Join a Tour of the Secret Passages of the Palazzo Vecchio, and see exclusive sections only accessible with a tour.
3. The Uffizi Gallery
Just off Piazza Signoria you find one of the most illustrious museums in the world, the Uffizi. It consists of over 60 rooms filled with Renaissance art, the most famous works being Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raffaello, Caravaggio, and many Italian and international masters. See our quick Guide to the highlights of the Uffizi.
Any art lover could spend days browsing around the Uffizi’s rooms filled with masterpieces. And if you visit Florence it really is worth going to see what all the fuss is about. Our advice? Book yourself on this 2-hour tour of the gallery that will give you an introduction to the most important works, so you don’t get lost in the ocean of art.
4. Ponte Vecchio
One of the symbols of Florence, the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) has been standing in its spot for seven centuries, and it only gets more beautiful with age. A picture-perfect landmark, the bridge has many goldsmith and silversmith shops that still ply their trade as they did in the Renaissance.
Browse in the shop windows. Buy a golden fiorino as souvenir. Take pictures from every angle. Or simply walk across this ancient bridge and feel the centuries of history all around, while the Arno river rolls peacefully by underneath you.
INSIDER’S TIP: At sunset, stand on nearby Ponte Santa Trinita for the best shot of the Ponte Vecchio.
5. Santa Croce Square & Church
Santa Croce Square is where games and tournaments used to be played, and today it is still the stage for the historic game of “Calcio in Costume”, that happens every 24th June. The rest of the year it is a spacious and lively piazza flanked by beautiful buildings.
The Queen of the square is the Santa Croce Church. This is a vast place with Medieval frescoes that guard the tombs of the VIPS. Michelangelo, Galileo are buried here, no less.
INSIDER’S TIPS – The adjacent Pazzi Chapel is a remarkable example of Renaissance architecture.
6. Piazzale Michelangelo
Up on the hill, in the ‘southbank’ of Florence, is a vast panoramic terrace where tour buses make their stop and a few stalls offer souvenirs to the tourists that venture up here to take the best photo of the city. As far as tourist attractions in Florence go, this is the daddy.
In a town full of spectacular views, this one beats them all. It’s close enough to the city centre to offer a great view of the monuments, with the massive Duomo dominating everything.
INSIDER’S TIP: you can easily reach Piazzale Michelangelo by bus (12 or 13) from the train station. Alternatively you can go up on foot. The walk will take you roughly 40 minutes.
7. Pitti Palace & Boboli Garden
Pitti Palace is a vast, and forbidding looking, palace that hosts various galleries. You find it on the Oltrarno, a few steps from the Ponte Vecchio. Here you can admire a great collection of Renaissance paintings in the Palatine Gallery, visit the 14 rooms of the grand Royal Apartments, or browse in the Costume or Silverware gallery.
The Boboli Gardens are a vast park with Renaissance fountains, avenues and statues, e great place to relax in the green space.
INSIDER’S TIP: Boboli is a huge green space right in Florence’s historic centre. Best avoided in mid-august, when it’s too hot to enjoy, but at any other time a walk along its tree-lined avenue gives you a welcome respite from the city. Check out the Best gardens in Florence.
8. Santa Maria Novella Church
Santa Maria Novella is our favourite church in Florence, without any doubt. It has everything, from stunning frescoes to a courtyard filled with atmosphere, a facade that’s pure poetry and Masaccio’s famous “Trinity”, where the young artist tried to use perspective, leaving his contemporaries speechless.
It’s very close to the main train station, and the Santa Maria Novella square needs a bit of love and care. But you can easily spend a couple of hours in this church and really feel that you’ve got inside Florence’s soul.
9. Accademia. The statue of David
At the Accademia Gallery you find one of the world’s most famous statues, the David. The 4 meter tall masterpiece by Michelangelo, that astonished the Florentine when it was revealed to the public in 1504, is the star of the show.
The gallery hosts other works by Michelangelo, his unfinished – and particularly moving – statues of the “Prigioni’ (Slaves), and some Gothic and mannerist paintings.
10. Medici Chapels
Fans of Michelangelo and the Medici family surely won’t miss the Medici Chapels. Financed by the Medici and designed by grand names such as Michelangelo and Bernardo Buontalenti, the chapels are a celebration of the Medici family, patrons of the art and ruler of Florence.
The New Sacristy is an outstanding example of Michelangelo‘s ingenuity, and contains the tomb of Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Giuliano. The lavishly decorated octagonal Chapel of the Princes, with its profusion of inlaid marble and semiprecious stone, will astonish you.
INSIDER’S TIP: if you love Michelangelo and sculpture, visit the Bargello Museum, a lesser-known but delightful museum hosted in a Medieval building.
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