Florence is one of Italy’s most popular cities to visit, especially for first timers. Not only is Florence the art capital of the world, it is a gorgeous city filled with world class art museums, towers to climb, great places to go shopping, and lots of beautiful viewpoints. Here is a list of the top 10 things to do in Florence, a good starting point for your first visit to this city.
This article lists the very best things to do in Florence and is perfect for those with a limited amount of time in the city. If you are planning a longer visit (3 or more days) or just want to see what else you can do here, take a look at our Florence Bucket List, which contains 30 things to do in Florence.
Table of Contents
Best Things to Do in Florence
#1 The Florence Cathedral aka the Duomo
The Duomo, also called Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, is the centerpiece of Florence. If you do one thing in Florence, it should be a visit to the Duomo.
The Florence Cathedral is part of the Monumental Complex of Santa Maria del Fiore, which also contains Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistery, Santa Reparata, and the Opera del Duomo Museum. All of these sites are located around the cathedral and can be visited on the same ticket.
One of the best things to do in this complex of sites is to climb the the 463 steps to the top of dome of the cathedral. Along the way you will have marvelous views of the interior of the cupola. These paintings are The Last Judgement frescoes showing heaven and hell. They are very graphic and our kids were mesmerized by these, in particular the creepy portrayal of hell.
The Last Judgement frescoes
From the top of the Dome, enjoy one of the best views of Florence.
The view from the dome | Things to Do on Your First Visit to Florence
How to Climb the Dome of the Duomo
Reservations are mandatory to climb the dome. Do this in advance, at least several days before your visit but several weeks is even better, particularly during the busier summer season. On the official website, purchase the Brunelleschi Pass and book your time slot. If tickets are sold out for your date, you can also get a ticket through GetYourGuide. There are also numerous tours of the Duomo that include the dome climb, such as this highly rated tour.
#2 Visit the Baptistery of San Giovanni
The Baptistery is one of the oldest buildings in Florence. It stands in Piazza del Duomo across from the Florence Cathedral.
The Baptistery is famous for its multiple sets of bronze doors, which were created by Lorenzo Ghiberti and Andrea Pisano.
The original Gates of Paradise doors (created by Lorenzo Ghiberti) are located inside of the Opera del Duomo Museum. What you see at the baptistery is a replica.
A visit inside of the Baptistery is relatively quick (10 to 15 minutes) and it is absolutely worth it to see the golden mosaic ceiling. Dante Alighieri and members of the Medici family were all baptized here.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: The dome climb, the baptistery, and Giotto’s Bell Tower are all part of the Duomo complex. For more information, and to learn about the other sites (such as Santa Reparata, the interior of the cathedral, and the Opera del Duomo Museum) read our Guide to the Florence Cathedral. This also covers ticket types and has lots of helpful tips.
Replica of the Gates of Paradise Doors
Inside the Baptistery
How to Visit the Baptistery
You can either walk around the outside of the Baptistery to see the bronze doors (this is free to do). But if you did the dome climb, your ticket also gets you inside of the baptistery. This is a quick visit and absolutely worth your time. It is beautiful inside.
#3 Climb Giotto’s Bell Tower
To get to the top, you will climb a long series of staircases and along the way, you can stop at several terraces for a break and a view of Florence.
This was once one of our favorite views in Florence. On our first visit here, we had an unobstructed view and could take magnificent photos. However, a black mesh has been added around the top of the bell tower, so you can no longer take photos from here without also photographing this mesh barrier.
I still think it’s worth it for the view, especially since you have a great view of the dome from this spot. A visit here typically lasts 45 minutes.
The view of the Florence Cathedral as you climb Giotto’s Bell Tower
The view of Palazzo Vecchio | Things to Do on Your First Visit to Florence
The view with the metal grate from the top of the bell tower.
It is possible to take photos with a smartphone as long as the camera is small. This is the view of the dome from the top of Giotto’s bell tower.
How to visit Giotto’s Bell Tower: This tower is included on the Brunelleschi Pass. It is open every day from morning to early evening.
#4 The Uffizi Museum
Journey back into the Renaissance with a visit to the Uffizi Gallery. This museum contains thousands of Renaissance works of art, donated to Florence by the Medici family. The Uffizi is also one of the oldest museums in the world, opening in 1865.
On display are works of art by Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Cimabue, Michelangelo, Titian, Raphael, Caravaggio, and many more.
The Uffizi Gallery | Things to Do on Your First Visit to Florence
Great photo spot: From the upstairs windows of the Uffizi Gallery you have a beautiful view of Ponte Vecchio.
How to Visit the Uffizi Gallery
Make your reservation in advance.
Cost: €20 March 1 to October 31; €12 November 1 to February 28; included on the Firenze Card
Hours: 8:15 am – 6:30 pm; closed Monday
Website: Make your reservation online in advance on the official website or through GetYourGuide. Through GetYourGuide, you can cancel your reservation up to 24 hours in advance and get a full refund.
#5 Climb the Tower of Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence and it sits on Piazza della Signoria. Things to do here include touring the museum, taking a tour of the Roman Ruins, and climbing the Arnolfo Tower for one of the best views of Florence.
This is one of our favorite views of Florence, since this is one of the best places to get a great photo of the Duomo.
The view from Arnolfo Tower | Things to Do on Your First Visit to Florence
Bonus: Palazzo Vecchio is located in Piazza della Signoria. In this square you can visit the Loggia dei Lanzi, an open-air sculpture gallery of Renaissance art.
Piazza della Signoria | Things to Do on Your First Visit to Florence
How to Visit Palazzo Vecchio
Cost: Museum €17.50, Tower €12.50; included on the Firenze Card
Hours: 9 am – 7 pm; on Thursdays closing time is 2 pm; last admission is one hour before closing
More Information: Visit the official website for full details on hours, tours, and to purchase your tickets
#6 Stroll across Historic Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio, which means “old bridge,” is a medieval stone bridge that spans the Arno River. For centuries, shops have lined the sides of the bridge. Now, most of these shops sell jewelry.
This is a pedestrian bridge. Near the center of the bridge you get views looking in both directions along the Arno River. It is free to visit and open 24 hours a day.
Ponte Vecchio | Things to Do on Your First Visit to Florence
Ponte Vecchio | Things to Do on Your First Visit to Florence
#7 Boboli Gardens and the Pitti Palace
The Pitti Palace is a palace built in 1457 by Brunelleschi for the Pitti family. In 1550, it was purchased by Cosimo I de’ Medici as the new Grand Ducal residence. Now, the palace contains five museums: the Museum of Russian Icons, the Treasury of the Grand Dukes, the Imperial and Royal Apartments, the Museum of Costume and Fashion, and the Gallery of Modern Art.
Boboli Gardens sits behind the Pitti Palace. The gardens contain numerous Renaissance statues and fountains. From these gardens, you also get a very nice view of Florence.
Boboli Gardens | Things to Do on Your First Visit to Florence
How to Visit the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens
Cost: €6 for Boboli Gardens; €10 for Pitti Palace; €14 for a combined ticket; included on the Firenze Card
Hours: Boboli Gardens opens at 8:15 am; closing time varies depending upon the season; Pitti Palace is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8:15 am to 6:30 pm
Website: Visit the official website for updated hours and pricing for Boboli Gardens and the Pitti Palace. Reservations are required on Saturdays and public holidays.
#8 Go Shopping at San Lorenzo Market and Mercato Centrale
San Lorenzo Market is made up of two markets, an outdoor market and an indoor market located inside of the Mercato Centrale building.
At the outdoor market, you can go shopping for leather goods, pottery, and souvenirs. It is open Tuesday through Saturday.
Go inside of Mercato Centrale for a culinary tour of Italy. We loved walking around the small shops and gathering food for a picnic lunch
San Lorenzo Market | Things to Do on Your First Visit to Florence
Inside Mercato Centrale
Do you know what this is? A bull penis. And no, this did not make it into our picnic lunch.
#9 Say Hi to David at the Accademia Gallery
The statue of David is a masterpiece, one of the most famous works of art in the world. Seeing the sculpture in person is an awesome experience and the amount of detail is astounding! We could clearly see the veins on David’s arms, the definition of all of his muscles, and the expression on his face.
In addition to the statue of David, there are more things to see inside of this art museum, such as other sculptures by Michelangelo and paintings from other Florentine artists.
How to Visit Galleria dell’Accademia
Cost: €16; included on the Firenze Card
Hours: 8:15 am – 6:50 pm; last entry at 6:20 pm; closed Mondays
Website: Get more information and the link to purchase your tickets in advance on the official website.
More Ticket Sellers: You can also purchase an entry ticket through GetYourGuide or take a guided tour of the gallery. The last we checked, tickets purchased on the GetYourGuide website can be canceled up to 24 hours in advance with a full refund.
#10 Watch the Sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo
Piazzale Michelangelo is the best spot to watch the sunset in Florence. As the skies grow dim, watch as the lights come on and illuminate the city in a magical glow.
The view from Piazzale Michelangelo | Things to Do on Your First Visit to Florence
Bonus! Rooftop Bars in Florence
At the end of the day, consider visiting a rooftop bar in Florence. One of our favorite experiences in this city is to have a glass of wine or a cocktail with a view of the Duomo, Arno River, or Palazzo Vecchio. Several of our favorite rooftop bars are View on Art, Divina Terrazza, and SE·STO on Arno. You can see the full list in our guide to the best rooftop bars in Florence.
The view from View on Art rooftop bar
Things to Do in Florence: On a Map
How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers. You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest. If you click the star, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
Is the Firenze Card Worth It?
The Firenze Card was once a fantastic money saving card that also got you into the top sites in Florence without a long wait in line. However, in recent years, that has changed.
On a quick visit to Florence, the Firenze Card is not worth it. It’s expensive and on this list of 10 things to do in Florence, only three are covered (Pitti Palace, Galleria Accademia, and the Palazzo Vecchio Museum).
It is best to purchase individual tickets to each site on the official website. Not only will you be able to book time slots to some of these, which saves you lots of time so you don’t have to wait in line, but it will be much cheaper than purchasing the Firenze Card.
The Firenze Card is only worth it if you will be spending at least 3 to 4 days in Florence and have plans to visit places such as the Strozzi Palace, the Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, the Medici Chapels, the Historical Figurine Museum, and several other more obscure museums.
Planning Your Time in Florence
For the best experience, we recommend spending two or more days in Florence. With two days, you can visit the main sites in Florence, plus have time to dine in a few restaurants and visit some of the best viewpoints of the city. With more time, you can explore more of Florence or take day trips into Tuscany.
Learn how to plan your time with our 2 Day Florence Itinerary.
But if you only have one day in Florence, with some advance planning, you can visit many of the top sights, including the Duomo, Accademia Gallery, the Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, and the sunset view from Piazzale Michelangelo. Get the full details in our article How to Spend One Day in Florence.
Helpful Tips For Visiting Florence
If you only have the time or energy for one tower climb in Florence, I would recommend Arnolfo Tower (Palazzo Vecchio) over Giotto’s Bell Tower (the Campanile). You get one of the best views of the Florence Cathedral from the Arnolfo Tower. And the mesh grate around the top of the bell tower takes away from the view.
I’m going to say it one more time: it is mandatory to reserve a time slot to climb the dome of the Duomo. Click here to make your reservation online in advance. If you have the Firenze Card, you will not be able to reserve your time slot until you visit the ticket office in person.
If you are traveling with kids, don’t go crazy with the art museums. When they were kids, Tyler and Kara would glaze over within a half hour of entering an art museum so we kept our visits as quick as possible.
Our final tip, eat much as gelato as possible. The more towers you climb the more you can eat! Ciao!
Where to Stay in Florence
For recommendations on where to stay, read our Best Hotels and Neighborhoods Guide for Florence. Learn where to stay for a great view of the Florence Cathedral and Ponte Vecchio and get recommendations whether you are looking for a budget hotel, luxury hotel, or if you are traveling as a family.
Tours of Florence
Joining a tour can help save you time waiting in line, get tickets to a site that may have sold out in advance, or learn more about Florence in a unique way, such as a cooking class. Here are some of the best tours in Florence.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many days do you need in Florence?
Ideally, plan on spending two or more days in Florence. This gives you enough time to visit the top sites without feeling like you are in a race. More than two days allows you to visit some off the beaten path places and to day trip into Tuscany.
Is it possible to spend one day in Florence?
With proper planning, you can visit the highlights of Florence in one very busy day. Florence is a small city and most of the top sites are located within the historic city center, which makes it quick and easy to get from place to place. You will have to book some tickets in advance but with one day, you will be able to visit the duomo, climb the dome, tour the Uffizi Gallery, see Michelangelo’s statue of David, and watch the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo.
When is the best time to visit Florence?
The best time to visit Florence is from mid-April to early June and September to mid-October, when crowds are relatively low and the weather is nice. Summer is the busiest time to visit Florence, so expect huge crowds, long lines, and more expensive prices for hotels.
Where Are You Going Next?
Here is more information for your trip to Florence and Tuscany.
FLORENCE: For a list of things to do, take a look at our Florence Bucket List. We also have information about how to visit the Florence Cathedral, about the best rooftop bars in Florence, the best viewpoints in Florence, and where to stay in Florence.
DAY TRIPS FROM FLORENCE: Here are 15 day trips to take from Florence, with practical information on how to plan your day.
TUSCANY: Get started with our guide to the Best Things to Do in Tuscany. Learn how to plan your visit with our Tuscany Itinerary, which has sample itineraries, whether you have 3 days, 5 days, or an entire week in Tuscany.
If you have any questions about the best things to do in Florence, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information about Italy
ITALY ITINERARIES: If you are just beginning to plan your Italy itinerary, take a look at our 10 Days in Italy Itinerary for five different ways to spend 10 days in Italy. We also have a detailed 10 day itinerary that includes Rome, Florence, the Cinque Terre, and Venice.
AMALFI COAST: Pick out which towns you want to visit in our article about the best towns to visit on the Amalfi Coast. If you are active and adventurous, one of the best things to do on the Amalfi Coast is hike the Path of the Gods. We also have a 3-day Sorrento Itinerary and information on how to visit the Blue Grotto in Capri.
BEST OF ITALY: In our Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Italy, we list 25 beautiful destinations to consider for your next trip to Italy.
ROME: For a list of the top experiences in Rome, read our article Best Things to Do in Rome. Learn how to put these together in our 2 Day Rome Itinerary, where to eat in our Rome Restaurant Guide, how to visit the Colosseum, and where to stay in our Rome Hotel Guide. And don’t miss our guide to the Best Rooftop Bars in Rome.
We have TONS more information about Italy in our Italy Travel Guide, including Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscany, the Dolomites, the Amalfi Coast, the Cinque Terre, and Puglia.
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