The 8 Best Places & Attractions to See & Visit in Florence

Written by Rem Malloy, since 1995 Rem has been guiding and designing trips to Italy and all of Western Europe and is considered an expert in his field for over 30 years.

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Welcome to Florence

Florence is one of the biggest cities in Italy and is famous for producing renowned Renaissance artists and thinkers. The whole city feels like a testament to the past, with gorgeous architecture and design around every corner. But this majestic city can be overwhelming at times and figuring out the best things to do in Florence can be quite the challenge. 

With so many churches, galleries and top attractions in Florence, it’s no wonder that so many people visit the city every year. On a trip to Florence, you are guaranteed to have an exceptional time, filled with lavish boutiques, breathtaking art and fabulous scenery. 

This guide presents the 8 best places to visit in Florence that you don’t want to miss. From the best cultural attractions to the best places for shopping, this guide highlights the things to see that are an absolute must for anyone visiting Florence. For travelers that enjoy panoramic views and photography, the places where you can get the best view of Florence are also included. 

So if you’re going to Florence anytime soon and are eager to find out which of the city’s marvelous landmarks should feature on your Italian itinerary, read on to discover the amazing places you can visit. 

The best things to see and do in Italy

The Best Places to Visit in Florence for Culture

Florence is brimming with cultural attractions that are certain to mesmerize travelers who visit. With exceptional galleries and gardens, it’s the perfect Italian city for anyone who enjoys artistic insight. If you’re eager to explore the fantastic cultural offerings of Florence, be sure to visit the following places. 

La Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze

Also known as the Gallery of the Academy, La Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze is one of Florence’s most notorious art museums. It has a stunning collection of Renaissance art and upon arrival, visitors are welcomed by the incredible model for the Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna. Alongside sculpture, the gallery includes exhibits on historic Italian art and musical instruments which were once owned by the Grand Dukes of Tuscany and Medici. 

Michelangelo’s ‘David’ is the crown jewel in the museum’s collections. The imposing statue is regarded as one of the finest works of Renaissance art and is celebrated for its immaculate detail. Alongside ‘David’, there are other sculptures by Michelangelo on display, like his unfinished ‘Prisoners’ series which provide insights into his artistic process. 

Other works in the gallery include Renaissance paintings that highlight the unique style and realism that was prominent in the period. Many of these works come from the 15th and 16th centuries, created by artists such as Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Pontormo. There are also works from the 17th and 19th centuries which convey the influence of the Counter Reformation and showcase the artistic development of Florentine art. 

Visiting La Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze is an eye-opening experience that allows visitors to admire incredible works of art from multiple angles. It is recommended that you take time for your visit to properly consume the extensive offering. It’s one of the best places to visit in Florence for anyone interested in art but be warned it can get very crowded during peak tourist months like July and August.

Bardini Museum and Gardens

For more cultural insight, be sure to visit the Bardini Museums and Gardens. Located on the southern side of the Arno River, the institution houses a magnificent array of art and antiquities that will delight visitors who enjoy history. It was originally the residence and workshop of the art dealer Stefano Bardini, but in 1996 it was converted into a public museum.

The museum features an extensive collection of works by renowned artists like Luca della Robbia and Sandro Botticelli. It’s one of the best places to visit in Florence to learn more about the city’s artistic heritage. The fabulous selection of sculptures and paintings is perfectly complemented by its setting in a 17th-century building which has been arranged in a breathtaking manner and enhances the overall experience. 
An integral part of visiting the Bardini Museum is strolling through the lush gardens. The expertly manicured landscape makes up the majority of Boboli Hill and includes sculptures, fountains and a variety of plant species. It was originally used by Bardini to entertain visitors and thanks to a massive restoration effort in 2006, it still amazes tourists today.

The Uffizi Gallery

One of the most famous art museums in the world can be found in Florence and offers a cultural treat for visitors to the impressive city. The Uffizi Gallery is a historic institution that functioned as a magistrate office in 1581 before becoming a prominent art museum. The collection at Uffizi is primarily made up of Renaissance works by iconic artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael and ranges from decorative arts to paintings.

The gallery features some of the most impressive works of Western art like the famous ‘Birth of Venus’ and ‘Annunciation’. Visitors can also find Michelangelo’s fascinating ‘Doni Tondo’, which is a circular painting that depicts the Holy Family. The exhibits are made all the more special by the intricate architecture of the gallery and visitors can take in splendid views of the Arno River from its windows.

The Uffizi Gallery is a wonder of curation and often hosts temporary exhibitions that focus on specific artists and time periods, which makes the visitor experience very dynamic. Tickets are required for entry and operating hours can vary depending on the time of year, so be sure to research thoroughly before visiting and purchase tickets in advance for the best experience.

The Best Places to Visit in Florence for Stunning Views

With majestic architecture and picturesque streets, simply wandering through Florence is an attraction in its own right. Florence is extremely beautiful which makes it the perfect backdrop for photography enthusiasts who want to capture its elegance. If getting the chance to take in the sweeping city from an excellent vantage point is a key aspect of your Florence itinerary, then be sure to visit the incredible sites below.

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

For the best view of Florence, travelers should head to the marvelous Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. Being one of the most impressive landmarks in Florence, it’s also an excellent place to visit to absorb more of the city’s Renaissance architecture. It’s the most significant cathedral in Florence and is dedicated to Saint Mary of the Flower, as the lily is considered the symbol of Florence. 

The most distinctive feature of the cathedral is Brunelleschi’s Dome, which is a marvel of engineering and was the largest of its kind at the time of construction. Visitors can climb to the top of the dome via a narrow spiral staircase. Once at the top, you can enjoy panoramic views of Florence and marvel at the breathtaking interior. 

The dome is not the only part of the cathedral which offers the best view of Florence. Just next to the cathedral is the beautiful bell tower, designed by the famous Italian painter Giotto di Bondone. It is an architectural masterpiece and can also be climbed for picturesque views of Florence. 

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is located within Piazza del Duomo, which is a Florence must-see. Locals and visitors alike gather here to take in the exceptional design as well as peruse a variety of shops and some of the best restaurants in Florence. The cathedral itself is free to enter but the dome and bell tower will require tickets.  

Piazzale Michelangiolo

Just south of Florence’s historic center lies the idyllic Piazzale Michelangelo. Perched on a hilltop, it offers some of the best views of Florence and the surrounding countryside. It’s one of the best places to visit on a spring or autumn trip to Italy and guarantees a magical experience.

Piazzale Michelangiolo was designed as a tribute to Michelangelo and features bronze copies of some of his most famous sculptures. It’s the perfect place for an afternoon stroll and is popular among residents and tourists as it provides a serene escape from the bustling city. 

The main appeal of Piazzale Michelangelo is the immaculate views that can be enjoyed from the terrace. From the square, visitors can enjoy panoramic vistas of the top attractions in Florence, like the Ponte Vecchio, Duomo and the Palazzo Vecchio. It’s a great place to visit in Florence at sunset since the atmosphere becomes truly enchanting as the city lights up in the evening.

The Best Places to Visit in Florence for Shopping

Aside from exceptional sights and cultural attractions, Florence is also a mecca for visitors who love to shop. Whether you’re seeking fine jewelry, expert leathercrafts or delicious local delicacies, there are so many places to visit in Florence that provide a shopping experience like no other. 

Mercato Centrale

Travelers who want to experience the very best of Florence’s foodie offerings should make a point of visiting the Central Market. Found in the beating heart of the city, Mercato Centrale is a paradise for food lovers and offers a delicious selection of fresh produce, local delights and culinary experiences. It was constructed in the late 19th century and is a bonafide Florence must-see. 

The market is a great place to visit in Florence for visitors who want to pick up special Italian ingredients for their stay or to take back home. There is an assortment of high-quality produce including delectable Tuscan wine and olive oil. Not only are there excellent choices, but the casual and lively atmosphere of the market is infectious and bound to bring a smile to any visitor’s face. 
There are a variety of eateries within Mercato Centrale which allow visitors to indulge in mouth-watering local favorites. Be sure to try Italian food staples like pasta and pizza as well as regional specialities like lampredotto. The market also hosts tasting events and cooking classes which are incredibly fun things to do in Florence that will give you a taste of local living.

Ponte Vecchio

For those looking to pick up unique gifts while shopping in Florence, there is no better place to go than Ponte Vecchio. This iconic Florence landmark is a medieval stone bridge that crosses the Arno River and is a stunning example of Italian architecture. The bridge features multiple shops that appear to hang off its edges which provides a unique shopping experience.

Ponte Vecchio has a long history of selling jewelry and precious stones. It was once occupied by butchers but in 1593 it was decreed that only goldsmiths and jewelers could utilize the bridge for business. It’s one of the best places to go in Florence to buy lavish jewelry and is a great spot for picking out a romantic gift while on an Italian vacation. 

Aside from jewelry, there are also shops selling artisanal goods and antiques. Wandering the eclectic establishments is a great way to spend a day in Florence and with the brilliant architecture and fabulous river views, it’s certainly worth any traveler’s time.

Piazza Santa Croce

There are many squares in Florence that are great places to visit but none are quite as darling as Piazza Santa Croce. Taking center stage in the city, it is where visitors will find some of the most notable buildings in Florence like the Basilica di Santa Croce. The square is surrounded by boutiques and restaurants making it a great place to stop for a meal or a drink as you admire the pristine architecture. 

Florence is famous for its leatherworking and Piazza Santa Croce is where you will find some of the best leather goods in the city. There is a range of stores selling all kinds of quality Italian leather goods, from wallets and purses to jackets and shoes. Some stores even provide bespoke leather-making services, allowing shoppers to find the perfect item to suit their style. 

If you’re interested in art and antiques, there are several streets around Piazza Santa Croce which are dotted with hidden gems. The business owners are highly knowledgeable and curate a fine selection of goods which will appeal to vintage hunters on the lookout for their next big find.

Summary

There are so many places to visit in Florence that will make your experience of this historic city truly exceptional. Whether you seek enlightenment from Renaissance art, want to document the picturesque skyline or shop your heart out, there is something for everyone. 

Galleries like  La Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze and Uffizi provide excellent insight into the city’s artistic heritage and the picturesque views from the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore are breathtaking. The historic Ponte Vecchio offers a luxury selection of handmade goods and foodies will delight at the culinary experiences that can be had at Mercato Centrale. 

Thinking about a fabulous Florence vacation? Browse Italy4Real’s expert Italian tours or get in touch to customize your trip.

About the Author

Rem Malloy started Italy4real back in 1995 with his mother, Deborah de Maio.

He specialises in Italian tours as well as customised tours to France, England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Greece and Spain. He was also featured in the Travel Channel show Mysteries at The Museum in 2016.

Rem has family in Italy and his mothers home town is Cava di Terrani, near the Amalfi Coast. The family has a street named after them in Sorrento, Via Luigi de Maio; a relative who was mayor of Sorrento.

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