Florence is one of my all time favourite cities in Italy and perhaps all of Europe. The very first time I came here I felt as if I was on cloud nine – incredible architecture, history, art, gelato gelato gelato, and so much more to discover! So here are the top 20:
Must See Florence Attractions
1. Florence Cathedral
You can’t come to Florence and not see this – the Florence Cathedral – not in the way that suggests you really should make the effort, but because you actually cannot be in Florence and not see this gigantic structure, standing at 114m tall and took 140 years to build!
2. Ponte Vecchio
If there’s one thing we all love about Florence, its the gorgeous bridges that cross the Arno River. But there is no bridge more renowned (and more crossed by travellers – expect chaos!!!) than the shop-lined bridge of Ponte Vecchio. Be sure to wander over the bridge and window shop your way through the crowds, as on the other side of the bridge there is still much of Florence to be explored beyond the historic centre!
3. Palazzo Vecchio
The Florence town hall – Palazzo Vecchio – overlooks the Piazza della Signoria, a large common square, so it is likely that somewhere on your meanderings you will cross through here (or more likely the case that you will wind up here a handful of times)! The Palazzo Vecchio is built like a fortress and thus a distinct architectural work in Florence, from both the inside and out.
4. Basilica of Santa Croce
The Basilica of Santa Croce is another one of those “hard to miss” sights in Florence, mainly due to its’ grandeur and size. This is the principal Franciscan church in Florence and as such is a very important landmark in the city. It is also the burial place of some of Italy’s most famous nationals including Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile and Rossini.
5. Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the world’s most celebrated museums. Fittingly there are many highly celebrated art works on display by some of the world’s greatest artists, including (but certainly not limited to): The Ognissanti Madonna (by Giotto); Annunciation (by Simone Martini and Lippo Memmi); Adoration of the Magi (by Gentille da fabriano); The Birth of Venus (by Botticelli); Doni Tondo (by Michelangelo); and Madonna of the Goldfinch (by Raphael).
6. Statue of David
The Statue of David is one of Florence’s most visited attractions, putting one of Michelangelo’s most famous works on display to the public. The statue was once on display in the piazza, however has since been replaced by a replica to protect the real statue of David inside the walls of the Accademia Gallery.
7. The View from Piazzale Michelangelo
When visitors come to Florence they are often astounded by the winding and narrowly constructed cobblestone streets that they are absolutely determined to see the city from above. Well I’ve got good news for you! The best views over Florence are to be had at Piazzale Michelangelo and are entirely FREE! Make your way there on foot by crossing one of the many bridges to the ‘other side’ of Florence. Beware of the many steps to the top that feel as if you’ve run a marathon in the summer heat!
The Bargello Museum is another one of the most important museums in Florence and a must see for lovers of fine sculptures, including the bronze David by Donatello.
9. Boboli Gardens
While there are many great reasons to be indoors in Florence (the museums and the simple act to escape the Italian sun), there are also many great reasons to find yourself outdoors. A visit to the Boboli Gardens is a pleasant break from the stuffiness of museums, and will leave you in awe of the 16th-18th century sculptures in their outdoor habitat. Bring a packed picnic to really top it off!
10. Palazzo Pitti
For something a little different to all the other mentions in this compiled list of the best things to do in Florence, head for the Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace in English) to observe a Renaissance palace in all its former glory. The Palazzo is located a short walk from the Ponte Vecchio on the south side of the Arno river.
11. Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
Unusually located across from the main railway station is another of Florence’ famous churches, Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. This is the city’s principal Dominican Church and certainly worth a visit for those interested in religion and religious history.
12. Piazza del Duomo
The Duomo of Florence is hard to miss. It is located in the heart of Florence and is not only one of the most visited places in Italy, but in all of Europe. You’ll be hard-pressed to miss it!
13. Medici Chapel
Prepare to be amazed as you walk inside the Medici Chapel (actually two structures and commonly referred to as the “Medici Chapels”. The Medici Chapel dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries and were built as an extension to Brunelleschi’s 15th-century church. The interior is beyond words – be sure to take a look!
14. San Miniato al Monte
This stunning little Basilica stands atop one of the highest points in the city and has often been dubbed one of the region’s finest Romanesque structures. If you’re interested in seeing architecture beyond the Renaissance period, this is a great opportunity to do so.
15. Giardino Bardini
For something more secretive and less-touristy, head to the Giardino Bardini – a Renaissance garden which has only recently been opened to the public.
16. San Marco
Another interesting sight if you have more time on your hands is to make your way to the once convent and now museum, San Marco.
17. Palazzo Medici Riccardi
This is another Renaissance palace that was built in the mid-late 15th century for the head of the affluent Medici banking family. You can tour the palace and wander its many halls, see the well-preserved interior decor and appreciate what life must have been like for this aristocratic family. (Image: Wikicommons)
18. Wandering the Historic Centre of Florence
One of the most underrated activities in Florence is that which you do daily often without realising it – wandering through the Historic Centre. When you think back to your time in Florence, it is likely this you will remember more so than the gallery paintings, sculptures, and how ill you felt after stuffing yourself with carbonara on that Thursday afternoon. So don’t forget to take the time to take it all in!
19. A Wine Tour through Tuscany
Interested in escaping the city and seeing more of the Tuscan countryside? I’m delighted to say you will be spoiled for choice! There are many tours running daily from Florence to outlying areas of Tuscany with a high focus on wine from the region. When in Rome!
20. Giotto’s Bell Tower
This free-standing campanile is part of the Florence Cathedral, but distinguishes itself as its’ own entity as it is incredibly overwhelming when viewed both from afar and up close! If you dare, climb the 414 stairs to the top!