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Galleria dell’Accademia
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The 22 best things to do in Florence

Ready to really discover the Renaissance city? Da Vinci, gelato and the most spectacular views await you.

Written by
Lisa Harvey
Nardia Plumridge
Phoebe Hunt

You’re going to fall in love with Florence. That’s a promise. This is the city of lurrve, after all, and if you’re lucky, you’ll probably fall in love with your travel companion while you’re there as well. So be warned. 

The list of things to love here is never ending, from the Uffizi’s Renaissance magic to Michelangelo’s marble at the Accademia, and tons of great restaurants and food markets to stop at in between. There’s even little windows in the wall where a hand will serve you wine by the glass. You heard us! So if you’re ready to set your heart alight, here are the best things to do in Florence right now. 

📍 A weekend in Florence: the ultimate itinerary
🛍️ The best shopping in Florence
🍴 The best restaurants in Florence
🏡 The best Airbnbs in Florence
🏨 The best hotels in Florence

This guide was recently updated by Florence-based writer Phoebe HuntAt Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines. This guide includes affiliate links, which have no influence on our editorial content. For more information, see our affiliate guidelines

What to do in Florence

  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites

What is it: An absolute must-see in Florence (and to be honest, you can't miss it). The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower (or the Duomo, as it's better known) is the centre point of the city's heart.

Why go: The Duomo was built in the 15th century and was the largest church in the world at the time (now it's the third biggest in Europe, which is still pretty big). If you can face the 463 steps, it's well worth the climb to the top of the dome, as this is the highest point in Florence. Trust us, that view over the city's cascading buildings and terracotta rooftops is worth it.

  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites

What is it: The famous building in Piazza Signoria is Florence's City Hall.

Why go: The ‘old palace’ – a name earned after the ‘new palace,’ Palazzo Pitti, was built across the river – is thronging with magnificent artwork and rooms full of frescoes. In this museum, you can see Dante's death mask and even embark on a tour that leads you through the secret passages built into the palace. Make sure you climb the tower during your visit. On the way up to the top, you'll be able to see the prison cells where the famous Savonarola was kept before he was executed down in the piazza in front of the building.

  • Art
  • Renaissance art

What is it: The most famous gallery in Florence (for good reason). 

Why go: Whether you’re an outspoken fan of Renaissance art or you’re not so fussed, the Uffizi will make you love it more than you thought possible. It’s home to fantastic works by Botticelli, including The Birth of Venus. There are hours of beautiful art to discover, but the architecture of the building is worth the trip alone, designed by Italian artist Giorgio Vasari. Our tip is to get there as early as possible before the place fills up for a good view.

4. Galleria dell’Accademia

What is it: The home of the famous Michelangelo's even more famous work of art.

Why go: Though there are more historical works of art in the Galleria dell'Accademia than you'll find in most entire cities, this museum is made specifically to show off David. Even if you aren't the artsiest person, you'll want to gaze at the man that 26-year-old Michelangelo carved out of a single block of marble over 500 years ago and detailed right down to the veins in his arm. It's one of the absolute must-sees in Florence, even if you must wait in line for a bit; it'll be well worth the selfie with the man, David, himself.


5. Cappelle Medicee

What is it: Chapels built by the famous Florentine family give you everything that the inside of the Duomo doesn't.

Why go: Because the Duomo takes up all the popularity, the second largest dome of Florence is usually overlooked, which is a dang tragedy. From floor to ceiling, this beauty is awash with marble and shimmering jewels straight out of the movies. If you can break your gaze from the gorgeous frescoes, make your way to the smaller chapel for some of the most beautiful statues carved by none other than Michelangelo. The best part? You may even get this place all to yourself (it’s not usually on top ten lists). 

6. Mercato Centrale

What is it: Two floors of foodie heaven.

Why go: Dodge the fast food places popping up around the centre of town and instead head inside the nineteenth-century Mercato Centrale. Here, you'll find vendors selling wine, fruit, meat, fish, cheese, oil and spices on the ground level, which is frequented by locals as much as tourists. The food court upstairs is a great place for groups that can never agree on what to eat. Expect fresh pasta, Florentine meat or vegetarian burgers, pizza, dumplings, a truffle bar, fried fish, cold cuts and gelato. To really enjoy your meal here, try visiting outside the usual dining times.


7. Arno River

What is it: The most renowned river in Italy after the Tiber. 

Why go: When touring on the water feels more refreshing than roasting under the Florence sun, Toscana SUP gives you the chance to try out paddleboarding on one of the most famous rivers in the world. You'll be able to pass under the renowned Ponte Vecchio and see the city from the water without interruptions by the crowds or the heat of summer. If you're bored of museums (we're judging you), this is perfect. Plus you'll have a great story and top-tier photos in tow.

8. Wine Windows

What is it: Dating back as far as the 15th Century, these tiny windows found across the city were once used by wealthy Florentine families to sell wine without spreading the plague. Now some of them serve gelato, spritz and wine once more.

Why go: Florence has more than 150 wine windows carved into its Renaissance buildings, many virtually forgotten about for centuries. During the pandemic, a few savvy restaurant and bar owners saw parallels between the wine windows’ original purpose – to serve wine without sharing germs – and decided to bring them back into use. Head to Babae on Via Santo Spirito for a glass of Chianti served to you through the window, or stop by Vivoli, one of the oldest gelateria shops in Florence, for an ice cream served through the hatch. 


9. Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella

What is it: A sixteenth-century pharmacy founded by Dominican friars.

Why go: Not content with being a European capital for art, architecture, political theory and craftsmanship, Renaissance Florence was also known across the continent for its herbalists. Many older Florentines still prefer the erboristeria to the chemist for treating minor ailments, and the more traditional establishments are wonderful to visit even if you aren’t in need of a cure. The most famous is the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, adorned with frescoes and chandeliers, chapels and a history lesson, all while selling beautiful creams, perfumes and even products for your pet.

10. Caffé Gilli

What is it: Coffee and pastries in a swanky, historic setting.

Why go: In a city where some things never change, plenty of businesses do things the old way. A great way to experience this is a stop at Caffé Gilli, which has been in business since 1733. Situated on the corner of Piazza Repubblica, you can sip your espresso at the marble counter, just like the rest of the Florentines that stop by. Make sure to order and pay at the register first, then head to the bar with the receipt and ask the barista for your coffee (un caffè for a regular espresso, un macchiato for an espresso with a bit of steamed milk). If you want table service, that’ll be an extra charge; remember that Italians typically just sip the drink quickly while standing at the bar.


11. La Pizza by Romualdo Rizzuti

What is it: Pizza made the traditional way in a very modern setting. 

Why go: You can’t come to Italy and not eat pizza, even if it’s made with Southern Italian techniques. Romualdo Rizzuti’s La Pizza has joined the ranks of the other foodie stalls upstairs in Mercato Central food court, and it’s well worth the hype. His secret is a dough that rises for 30 hours before being turned into classic pizzas – think Margherita and Napoli, but expect the toppings to change with the seasons. The traditional fried pizza and panuozzo – a southern Italian street-food sandwich toasted in the pizza oven before being served piping hot, are also worth trying.

12. Vivoli Gelato

What is it: One of the oldest (and best) gelato shops in Florence.

Why go: Did we mention that Florence might have invented gelato in the sixteenth century? Whether the stories are true, the city's leading gelaterias compete for your pleasure today, starting with Vivoli. They started producing gelato in the 1930s when ice had to be shipped down in blocks from the Apennine mountains. Today, there is refrigeration, but the flavours are still decadent. It's a good thing there are so many leather shops around because you might need a new belt after this.


13. Leather shops and markets

What is it: The go-to for finding the best leather products in Florence is local markets and shops.

Why go: In addition to art, banking and political intrigue, Renaissance Florence was famous for its leatherwork. That tradition survives today, everywhere from the San Lorenzo street stalls to the high-end shops. If you’re set on picking up a new belt or a pair of gloves, you can head to the leather school behind Santa Croce church or find Massimo Leather for jackets and La Pelletteria Artigiana Viviani for handbags.

14. Piazza Santo Spirito

What is it: A piazza of markets and aperitivo destinations in the district of the Oltrarno.

Why go: Florence has many stunning public squares, but with all the sightseers, only a few will offer you a proper taste of the city's real cosmopolitan life. For that, cross the river to the quieter Piazza Santo Spirito, home to street markets in the mornings and bars and restaurants full of locals in the evenings; it's a local favourite. Pop into the church for peace and quiet, or sit on the steps and people-watch. If you want to catch the most spectacular view, grab a drink up on the balcony of Hotel Palazzo Guadagni.


15. Procacci

What is it: Bubbles and bites at one of the oldest wine bars in Florence.

Why go: If you fancy a glass of Franciacorta from Florence's oldest winemaker with a side of truffle, Procacci is the place for you. Truffles are a particularly prized Tuscan food item and in this elegant 19th-century salon on the glamorous Via Tornabouni, you’ll find shelves filled with truffle products to take home alongside bite-sized pieces of truffle-infused snacks and finger sandwiches layered in truffle cream, the perfect accompaniment to your wine of choice from an extensive menu from the Antinori cellars.

16. Pasta making class

What is it: Prepare pasta from scratch and then dine on your cooking prowess.

Why go: Apart from becoming an art aficionado in Florence, it’s worth brushing up on your cooking skills, right? A pasta-making class is a fun way to while away a few hours, and you also get to eat all your handiwork. Pasta Class Florence is run by effervescent Michele Gualtieri, a seasoned chef born in Bologna with a background in Michelin-starred restaurants, who shares his dough secrets to learn authentic hand-made fresh pasta techniques, styles and recipes in a group kitchen in the heart of Florence with a glass of wine – or two – over three hours. Michele also hosts pasta-making classes with a wine pairing from a master Italian sommelier. 


17. Giardino Bardini

What is it: While everyone flocks to the Boboli gardens, few venture further to the Bardini, the home of the beautiful staircase you can see from the Arno. 

Why go: If you're looking for green space but want to skip the crowds, there are more gardens to wander in Florence than just the jam-packed Boboli. Once a private garden, today you can stroll the paths of Bardini, which boasts epic views of the city below. If you're lucky and visiting during April, the magnificent purple wisteria arch is in bloom. Even better, you'll find the same view over the city at the top of the baroque staircase, where you can enjoy a glass of wine at the beautiful little bar. The Bardini has two entrances, one in the San Niccolò neighbourhood just past the Ponte alle Grazie and the other up on Costa San Giorgio.

18. Piazzale Michelangelo

What is it: One of the few places where you can take in the whole of Florence in one breathtaking vista.

Why go: At Piazzale Michelangelo, you'll find carts overflowing with souvenirs and no shortage of buskers, but you're here for an unbeatable and spectacular view. Look out over the crumbling city wall in the south, then towards the Duomo, Arnolfo Tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, and the Uffizi are all in sight. There is always incredible energy at sunset when groups gather to see the day end from this great height. Gazing over the sea of terracotta rooftops is an unforgettable experience.


19. St Mark’s English Church

What is it: One of the finest places to listen to choral music and find an English-speaking community.

Why go: The choir of St Mark’s English Church, located in a part of an old Medici palace, sings an Anglican Mass every Sunday, and the church also hosts concerts and opera sessions. If you stay in Florence longer than a few days, check whether St Mark's offers any exciting events. They routinely host book signings, round-table talks and other cultural events that pull Florence's English-speaking community together.

20. Biblioteca delle Oblate

What is it: A public library within what used to be a convent.

Why go: There is a seemingly endless amount of cafés in Florence with incredible views, but sitting in the throngs of tourists, with vendors asking you every five minutes if you need an umbrella or a selfie stick, sometimes takes away from the glamour of it all. If you want to indulge in a beautiful view of the Duomo as you sip your coffee, avoid all the hot spots and walk down Via Oriuolo to the Oblate Library. Snake through the historic building to the top floor, where you'll find the café with a grand view of the beautiful dome, without the crowds or the tourist lines. If you visit in the summer, you might even find live music played on the terrace during late-night events.


21. Museo Stibbert

What is it: One of Florence’s most unique museums and collections, hidden on the city’s outskirts.

Why go: Few know about the Stibbert Museum because of its location outside the historic city centre, but it's a lesser-known jewel of Florence that deserves some recognition. After being a private collection for years, Frederick Stibbert donated his villa, gardens and his treasures to the city, and now you can tour his house and see his lavish displays of armour from the Middle East and Japan, artwork lining the walls and furniture all in a museum almost devoid of tourists. Standing in the great hall with a fully reconstructed army complete with their horses in battle armour will take your breath away, and the prized possession of the entire collection has to be the cloak that Napoleon (yes, that Napoleon) wore at his coronation. This is also an excellent tour for kids, as they boast a little space for interactive learning.

22. Fiesole Hills

What is it: A stunning slice of Tuscan country life, easily accessible by public bus.

Why go: There's no denying the beauty of Florence, but if you're looking to explore further afield on the quieter hillsides, head out to Fiesole. A short journey north of the city by public bus (number 7) will take you to the pinnacle of this hilltop town that overlooks the valley of Florence and offers a stunning view. From the main piazza, you can tour a Roman theatre, the San Francesco convent (where you can even explore the rooms of the monks) or head to the wilder side of town and the hiking trails of Monte Ceceri, where Da Vinci first tried out his flying machines.

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