Julie Italy 50 Comments

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’s a gorgeous city with streets to wander, towers to climb, great places to go shopping, and lots of gelato to eat. Here is a list of our favorite experiences, a good starting point for your first visit to Florence.


#1 Visit the Duomo and Climb Brunelleschi’s Dome

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.

Florence Italy

The entire cathedral complex has multiple parts to it: the nave, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower, and the Baptistery.

Climbing the 463 steps to the top of dome is one of Florence’s best experiences. Along the way you will have marvelous views of the interior of the Duomo. These paintings are the “Last Judgement” frescoes showing heaven and hell. They are very graphic and Tyler and Kara were mesmerized by these, in particular the creepy portrayal of hell.

Duomo Dome Florence

Duomo Mural Florence

From the top of the Dome, enjoy one of the best views of Florence.

View from the Duomo Florence

Duomo View Florence

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Reservations are mandatory to climb the dome. Without a time slot you will be unable to climb the dome. These time slots tend to sell out days in advance. As soon as you know your dates of travel, I recommend booking your time slot to climb the dome. Read more about how to do this at the end of this post.

Cost: €18 (OPA Pass); included on the Firenze Card
Hours: Monday through Friday 8:30 am to 7 pm; Saturday 8:30 am to 5 pm; Sunday 1 pm to 4 pm

The OPA Pass: The OPA Pass is a ticket that includes all of the monuments of the Duomo: the dome, Baptistery, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Cathedral, the Crypt, and the Opera Duomo Museum. It costs €18 and is valid for 72 hours.

Should you get the OPA Pass or the Firenze Card? Complete details are at the end of this post.

If time slots are sold out for your dates of travel in Florence, join one of these skip-the-line tours to visit the dome.


#2 Visit the Baptistery

The Baptistery is one of the oldest buildings in Florence. It stands in Piazza del Duomo across from the Duomo. The giant bronze doors with relief sculptures are the main attraction but go inside to see the beautiful mosaics on the inside of the cupola.

Baptistery Doors Florence

Cost: €18 (OPA Pass); included on the Firenze Card
Hours: Weekdays: 8:15 am – 10:15 am, 11:15 am – 6:30 pm; Saturday 8:15 am – 6:30 pm; Sunday 8:15 am – 1:30 pm
Website: Hours can change at any time, visit www.ilgrandemuseodelduomo.it to double check the hours on the day you want to visit

#3 Climb Giotto’s Bell Tower

Giotto’s Bell Tower, also called the Campanile, is the tall tower attached to the Duomo. For an awesome view of Florence, and a chance to look down on the dome, climb the 414 steps to the top.

Duomo Florence

Best things to do in Florence

Palazzo Vecchio Florence

Cost:18 (OPA Pass); included on the Firenze Card
Hours: 8:15 am – 7:00 pm

#4 The Uffizi Museum

Journey back into the Renaissance with a visit to the Uffizi Gallery. This world famous art museum contains works of art by Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, and many more.

Uffizi Gallery Florence

Inside the Uffizi Florence

Best Photo Spot: From the upstairs windows of the Uffizi you have a great view of Ponte Vecchio.

Ponte Vecchio Florence

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Lines can be long to enter the Uffizi. Skip the line by reserving your ticket in advance or using the Firenze Card to skip the ticket line.

Cost: March 1 to October 31: €20; November 1 to February 28: €12
Hours: 8:15 am – 6:50 pm; closed Monday

If time slots are sold out for your travel dates, consider joining one of these skip the line tours.


#5 Climb the Tower of Palazzo Vecchio

The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence. Go inside to tour the museum, take a tour of the Roman Ruins, or, you can do our favorite activity, climb the tower.

This is one of my favorite views of Florence. From the top of the tower, enjoy panoramic views over the city. This is one of the best spots to get a great photo of the Duomo.

Overlooking Florence

First time in 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

Loggia dei Lanzi

Cost: Museum €12.50, Tower €12.50, combined €17.50; included on the Firenze Card
Hours for the Tower: April 1 to September 30: 9 am –11 pm; October 1 to March 31: 9 am – 7 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.

Walk across Ponte Vecchio

Kara in Florence

Arno River

#7 Boboli Gardens and the Pitti Palace

The Boboli Gardens is a beautiful park in Florence. From here, you can tour Pitti Palace (a palace built in 1457 by Brunelleschi for the Pitti family), see more sculptures, and get a surprisingly nice view over the city.

Boboli Gardens

Cost: €10 for Boboli Gardens; €16 for Pitti Palace; €18 for combined ticket; included on the Firenze Card
Hours: opens at 8:15 am; closing time varies depending upon the season
Website: Visit the official website for updated hours and pricing for Boboli Gardens and the Pitti Palace.

#8 Go Shopping at San Lorenzo Market and Mercato Centrale

San Lorenzo market is outdoor market where you can go shopping for leather goods, pottery, and souvenirs. 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. Along the way, we got an anatomy lesson we weren’t expecting!

San Lorenzo Market

Mercato Centrale

For sale in Mercato Centrale

Bull Penis

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.

There’s nothing like staring up at a naked man for Tyler and Kara’s first exposure to art in Florence (this was the first place we visited in Florence).

Michelangelos David

PRO TRAVEL TIP: This is another place with legendary long lines in Florence. Skip the ticket line with the Firenze Card or by making your reservation in advance.

Cost: €12 + €4 online reservation fee
Hours: 8:15 am – 6:50 pm; also open from 7 pm to 10 pm from June 4 to September 26; closed Mondays
Website: Get more information and the link to purchase your tickets in advance on the official website.

You can also join one of these tours of Accademia.


#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.

Piazzale Michelangelo


See Them All 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?

Recently, the price increased for the Firenze Card, climbing from 72 euros to a whopping 85 euros. If you want the added 72 hours of unlimited public transportation, you have to add on 7 euros (for a grand total of 92 euros) for the Firenze+ Card.

Worth it? Probably not.

If you visit all of the museums we have listed, it adds up to 76.50 euros. From a strictly financial point of view, there’s no savings in purchasing the Firenze Card. However, there are some added perks which might make it worth it.

There are designated lines at Accademia and the Uffizi Gallery for Firenze ticket holders, so with the Firenze Card, you can bypass the lines here and not have the hassle of making advance reservations.

Until recently, the Firenze Card also allowed you to bypass the line at Giotto’s Bell Tower, but a there is a new notification on the Firenze Card website that this priority access has been suspended.

If you want to climb the dome of the Duomo, having the Firenze Card creates a hassle. In order to climb the dome, you must make a reservation in advance (with or without the Firenze Card). With the Firenze Card, you cannot make your reservation until after you have collected your free Duomo ticket in Florence, and then you must visit the ticket office for the Duomo to schedule the climb. And the Firenze Card even has a warning on their website that access to the cupola is not guaranteed with the card. During the busy summer months, it can be almost impossible to get a time slot on the same day that you pick up your Duomo ticket.

So, is there another way to reserve your dome tickets? Yes! You can purchase your Duomo-combi ticket online in advance and schedule your dome climb before you arrive in Florence. Just make sure you do so as soon as you know your dates of travel. These time slots sell out days in advance.

The Firenze Card is worth it if you plan to visit every museum we list in the post (plus several more museums covered with the Firenze Card that we don’t have listed) and want the convenience of skipping the lines without having to make a bunch of reservations in advance.

However, you can reserve tickets online in advance for the Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery, the Palazzo Vecchio tower, and Accademia. This will allow you to skip the ticket lines at these sites. You’ll save money by not purchasing the Firenze Card but will do a little more work in advance.

If climbing the dome is high on your list, I recommend purchasing your Duomo ticket online as far in advance as possible and skip the Firenze Card (unless the procedure changes).

The rules for the Firenze Card always seem to be changing. I do my best to keep this article updated as I learn the changes, but I highly recommend reading through the FAQ on the Firenze Card website before making a decision.

Tips For Visiting Florence

If you only have the time or energy for one tower climb in Florence, I would recommend climbing the Giotto’s Bell Tower (the Campanile) over the tower of Palazzo Vecchio. I love the vantage point of being able to look down on the dome of the Duomo.

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. Tyler and Kara glaze over within a half hour of entering an art museum so we keep it 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

Luxury: Portrait Firenze – Lungarno Collection. Do you want a breathtaking view of Ponte Vecchio from your hotel room? With spacious rooms and attentive staff, this is one of the most luxurious places to stay in Florence.

Mid-Range: B&B La Terazza Sul Duomo. It’s hard to beat this location since you can have a view of the Duomo from your room. Rooms are large and comfortable and breakfast can be served in your room. As a bonus, you get to enjoy views over Florence from the terrace on top of the hotel. If we visit Florence again, I’d love to stay here!

Budget: Hotel Ungherese. We stayed at this 2-star hotel during our visit to Florence. Looking at online photos, it looks as if the rooms have been renovated since our visit. Hotel Ungherese is located 1 km from the heart of Florence. It’s a 25-minute walk or a 10-minute bus ride to get to the main sites. If you are looking for a decent hotel at a reasonable price, this is one to check out.

Are you planning a trip to Italy? Comment below if you have any questions about Florence or if you have advice for our readers.

More Information for Your Trip to Italy:

Planning a trip to Italy? Read all of our articles about Italy in our Italy Travel Guide.

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Comments 50

  1. you said there would be complete details about whether and how to get the opa pass at the end of your post but I did not find anything. could you explain about this pass

    1. Post

      Hello Jim. We have a section about whether or not you should get the Firenze pass or the OPA pass, which is at the end of this post. You can purchase the OPA pass online in advance, and the link for this is in this section. If you will be visiting Florence during a busy time of year (which is now most of the year, other than 2020, because of COVID) we recommend purchasing the Duomo combi-ticket online (which is the same as the OPA Pass) because this allows you to schedule your Duomo reservation in advance.

      Unfortunately, since the Firenze Pass went up in price, and has many new rules for reservations, purchasing tickets for the Florence museums has gotten complicated. I do my best to simplify this and keep up with the changes, but it’s always worth double checking the rules, especially this year, since COVID has temporarily changed how museums are operated.

      Cheers, Julie

  2. Hi there !
    I was wondering if you had any advice on long wait times during the spring on the weekdays. I will be in Florence on Wednesday and Thursday May 13/14. Wondering if this is a time that I may be able save money on advance purchase fees.

    1. Post

      In general, May can be busy, but you shouldn’t have enormous crowds like in the summer months of June, July, August, and even into early September. If it were me, I’d still spend the few extra euros to purchase tickets in advance, in order to avoid the lines. I would imagine that there would still be lines for most sites, it’s just hard to know how long they will be. But I would absolutely recommend booking your Duomo tickets in advance. Cheers, Julie

  3. Hi Julie….
    So I’m afraid of heights but I also don’t want to miss out on a gorgeous view….which of the dome/towers do you recommend the most…I’m not sure I’ll be brave enough to do them all. Also, are they all enclosed at the top with views through windows?
    Thanks so much for your time!
    Amanda H.

    1. Post

      Hello Amanda. My favorite viewpoint of Florence is from the Campanile. Not only do you get a bird’s eye view of the city but you get a great view of the Duomo. Check out our post on the best views in Florence for more photos and recommendations of great viewpoints. From most of these towers, it is open at the top (no windows) with nice, sturdy, relatively high stone walls. If you feel apprehensive about climbing a tower, you can get a great view of the city from the Uffizi Gallery and Piazzale Michelangelo. I hope you enjoy your time in Florence! Cheers, Julie

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