The Florence Cathedral, also called the Duomo di Firenze and Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, is one of the most recognizable cathedrals in the world. A visit to this cathedral is more than just walking through the cathedral and seeing the dome. You can also climb Giotto’s bell tower, walk the stairs to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome, and visit the Baptistery. In this guide, we cover what you need to know about how to visit the Florence Cathedral.
With multiple ticket options, multiple places to visit in the duomo complex, and the requirement to make your reservation in advance to climb the dome, planning a visit here may sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.
In this guide, we cover all of the places you have the option to visit at the Florence Cathedral. We’ll let you know what’s worth it, what ticket you should purchase, how to make those very important dome reservations, and whether or not it is worth it to take a tour.
With proper planning, you can have a great experience visiting the Florence Cathedral. Here’s how to do it.
Table of Contents
Interesting Facts about the Florence Cathedral
Construction began on the cathedral in 1296. It was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio and it took well over 100 years for the main structure to be built. The dome, which was designed by Brunelleschi, was constructed between 1420 to 1436. The Florence Cathedral was consecrated on March 25, 1436, by Pope Eugene IV.
The ceiling of the dome was painted with scenes from The Last Judgement. The work began in 1572 by Giorgio Vasari and it took 7 years to finish the frescoes. Vasari died during this time and the dome paintings were completed by Frederico Zuccari, Bartolomeo Carducci, Domenico Passignano, and Stefano Pieri.
From 1965 through 1974, the ground below the cathedral was excavated, revealing the remains of Roman houses and parts of the original church that stood here, the former cathedral of Santa Reparata. The tomb of Brunelleschi is also located here.
The Florence Cathedral and its dome are considered to be one of the most important projects during the Renaissance. Michelangelo, who designed the dome at St. Peter’s Basilica, got his inspiration from Brunelleschi’s dome. The Florence duomo is one of Italy’s most important landmarks and people travel from around the world to see this masterpiece.
Things to Do at the Florence Cathedral
The Florence Cathedral is part of the monumental complex of Santa Maria del Fiore. This “complex” includes not only the cathedral, but also a museum, the bell tower, the dome, the baptistery, and Santa Reparata.
There are several ticket types, which we will get into a bit later, but first, here are the things to do at the monumental complex of Santa Maria del Fiore.
1. Main Floor of the Florence Cathedral
Ticket Type: None required; you can visit the inside of the Florence Cathedral for free without a ticket
Hours: Monday to Saturday 10:15 am to 3:45 pm; closed on Sundays and for religious celebrations (find out when these occur and double check hours for your visit on the official website)
Visiting the main floor of the Florence Cathedral is one of the best free things to do in Florence. You do not need a ticket or reservation to do this. Simply join the line out front of the cathedral.
The line to enter the cathedral is a security line, similar to going through security at an airport. This line tends to be long but it moves fast, so don’t be discouraged. I got in line midday, getting in line near Porta della Mandorla (which is the entrance for the dome climb) and waited about 20 minutes to enter the cathedral.
Since the cathedral opens so late (10:15 am) I don’t think it’s worth it to get in line early. On our recent visit to Florence, there was a line all day long, but at opening time it looked the longest. The later in the day you go, the better chance that the line will be shorter. To visit the inside of the cathedral, there is a very good chance that you are going to have to wait in some kind of line.
Once inside, the cathedral looks rather barren, at least compared to places like St. Mark’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Basilica. Some of the stained-glass windows were designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti, as well as paintings and frescoes within the cathedral. Of course, make sure you gaze up at the dome.
The view of the dome from the main floor of the Cathedral
2. The Dome
Ticket: Brunelleschi Pass
Hours: Monday to Friday: 8:15 am to 6:45 pm with closing time at 8 pm; Saturday: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm with closing at 5:30 pm; Sundays and public holidays: 12:45 pm to 4:30 pm with closing at 5 pm
The most important thing to know about the dome is that you MUST HAVE a reservation in advance. If you don’t have a ticket, you can go online to book one at the last minute or walk across the street to the official ticket office to see if they have any left for the day.
The Brunelleschi Ticket is the only ticket type that allows you to climb the dome. When you purchase this ticket, you will also reserve a time slot for the dome climb.
In September, we had no problems booking our dome climb two days in advance. In the summer, when Florence is a little busier, I recommend booking your dome climb earlier than this, maybe 5 to 7 days in advance. Keep an eye on the weather because the dome will close during thunderstorms.
The entrance for the dome climb is at Porta della Mandorla, which is on the north side of the cathedral.
At your time slot, you will enter the cathedral, go through security, show your ticket, and immediately begin climbing the steps. You will get a quick glimpse of the main floor of the cathedral before starting the climb.
To climb to the top of the dome, you will walk up 463 steps. These can be steep, narrow, and spiraling at times. There is no elevator. People under the age of 18 are not permitted to climb the dome without an adult.
Spiral stairs to the top of the dome
On the way up, you will walk on a walkway around the base of the dome, which gives you an up-close look at the gruesome frescoes of The Last Judgement.
The Last Judgement frescoes
After you see the frescoes, it is still quite a few staircases to the very top, and these can be very narrow.
Once on top of the dome, you get 360° views of Florence, making this one of the best viewpoints of this city.
View from the dome
A visit to the dome typically lasts 45 to 60 minutes.
3. Baptistery of San Giovanni
Ticket Type: Brunelleschi Pass, Giotto Pass & Ghiberti Pass
Hours: Every day from 8:30 am to 7:30 pm with closing at 8:00 pm
The Baptistery is older than the cathedral. Built between 1059 and 1128, it was constructed in a Florentine Romanesque style.
The Baptistery is famous for its three sets of bronze doors. Ghiberti created the east doors (the Gates of Paradise), Andrea Pisano created the south doors, and Lorenzo Ghiberti also created the north doors.
The original Gates of Paradise doors are located in the Opera del Duomo Museum. What you see at the Baptistery is a replica.
Replica of the Gates of Paradise doors
Dante Aligheri and members of the Medici family were all baptized here. Within the Baptistery is the tomb of Antipope John XXIII, created by Donatello and Michelozzo Michelozzi.
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.
Mosaic ceiling of the baptistery
Baptistery of San Giovanni
4. Giotto’s Bell Tower
Ticket Types: Brunelleschi Pass and Giotto Pass
Hours: Every day from 8:15 am to 6:45 pm
For another breathtaking view of Florence, climb the 414 steps to the top of Giotto’s Bell Tower (also called the Campanile).
This tower sits right next to the front of the cathedral. 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.
There is no elevator…it’s just one long stair climb to the top.
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 of Florence. 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 (it is possible to stick the camera of a smart phone through these openings, but a larger camera will still capture the mesh in the photo).
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 from the top of Giotto’s Bell Tower before the metal grates were added.
This is the view through the metal grate.
5. Santa Reparata
Ticket Types: Brunelleschi Pass, Giotto Pass, and Ghiberti Pass
Hours: Monday to Saturday 10:15 am to 4:00 pm; Sundays and religious celebrations 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm
Santa Reparata was the first church that stood at this site. When the duomo was constructed, it was built right on top of this church.
Between 1965 and 1974, the area under the duomo was excavated, revealing the remains of this church as well as the remains of a villa and ancient city streets.
There are two entrances into Santa Reparata. If you are on the main floor of the cathedral, you can walk down the steps from the inside and enter the crypt/underground excavations. From outside of the cathedral, there is an entrance next to the Bell Tower.
A visit here lasts 15 to 30 minutes.
6. Opera del Duomo Museum
Ticket Types: Brunelleschi Pass, Giotto Pass, and Ghiberti Pass
Hours: Every day 8:30 am to 7:00 pm
Inside of this museum you will see some of the original Renaissance masterpieces that once adorned the Baptistery, the Bell Tower, and the cathedral.
On display are Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise doors created for the Baptistery, an exhibit on the construction of the dome, and a replica of cathedral façade.
Gates of Paradise doors
This museum is located inside of the building that was used for planning and executing the construction of the Florence Cathedral. It was also here that Michelangelo carved the statue of David.
On the top level of the museum is an outdoor terrace with a nice view of the cathedral.
View of the Florence Cathedral from the terrace of the Opera del Duomo Museum.
7. The Duomo Terraces
Ticket Type: Exclusive guided tour
Running along the side of the cathedral are two terraces. From these terraces, you get great views of Florence, plus a unique view of the inside of the cathedral, as you walk from one terrace to the other. This can only be done on a guided tour and these are reserved well in advance. For more information, click here.
Florence Cathedral Ticket Types
There are three ticket types for visiting the Florence Cathedral and related sites. To enter the main floor of the duomo, it is free and you do not need a ticket.
Validity: 3 days
Includes: Baptistery, Opera del Duomo Museum, and Santa Reparata
Validity: 3 days
Includes: Baptistery, Opera del Duomo Museum, Santa Reparata, and Giotto’s Bell Tower
Validity: 3 days
Includes: Everything: Brunelleschi’s dome, the Baptistery, Opera del Duomo Museum, Giotto’s Bell Tower, and Santa Reparata
For updated pricing and to purchase your ticket in advance, visit the official website.
If you plan to climb the dome, purchase the Brunelleschi Pass, and you also get access to everything within the monumental complex.
For each of these passes, you have three days to visit all of the sites, so you don’t have to cram them all in on one day. If you were to see all of them, it will take about 4 to 5 hours.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: Print a copy of your ticket or screenshot your ticket with the bar code once you make your reservation, just in case you don’t have cellular service when you arrive at the Duomo.
Tickets can be purchased at the Ticket Office on Piazza del Duomo, but it’s best to purchase them online in advance so you can reserve your time slot for the dome climb.
The Firenze Card is a money saving card that includes access to many of the Florence’s museums and sites. Currently, the Duomo complex is not included on the Firenze Card.
How to Get to the Florence Cathedral
The Florence Cathedral and the associated sites are all located in and around Piazza del Duomo, which sits in the historic heart of Florence. From most of the main sites in town, it is a quick walk to get here.
The area around Piazza del Duomo is pedestrian only so you cannot take a taxi or bus. There is no metro in Florence.
Best Time of Day to Visit the Florence Cathedral
Climbing the steps to the top of the dome is the most popular thing to do at the duomo, but since you must book a time slot in advance, you no longer have to wait in line.
Throughout the day, there will be lines to enter the Duomo, the museum, and the Baptistery. For the sites that open relatively early, such as Giotto’s Bell Tower, the museum, and the Baptistery, it is worthwhile to get here at opening time, in order to visit at least one without a line.
The end of the day tends to be a little less crowded, so to avoid the lines, plan your visit for the late afternoon, just be aware of closing times for each site, since they all have different hours.
View from Giotto’s Bell Tower
Skip the Line Tours of the Florence Cathedral
If you aren’t able to get a ticket to climb the dome during your visit (for example, if tickets are sold out), then you can book a tour.
This one-hour tour includes your dome ticket and reservation, so it’s a good option if tickets are sold out when you are planning to visit Florence.
This is another short tour that includes the dome climb.
This highly rated tour includes the Baptistery, the museum, and the dome climb.
Helpful Tips for Visiting the Florence Cathedral
Shoulders and legs must be covered in order to enter the Baptistery and the Duomo. This dress code is not enforced for the bell tower and the museum.
What to Do after Your Visit
After your visit, walk over to Piazza della Repubblica. For a view of the duomo, visit View on Art or Tosca & Nino Rooftop Bar, which are two rooftop bars located in this area. Read our Florence Rooftop Bar Guide for more information.
Have Lunch. Near the duomo, Ristorante Boutique Vetreria La Vetreria and Osteria Nuvoli get good reviews.
Walk to Piazza della Signoria and climb the tower of Palazzo Vecchio for more amazing views of Florence.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need a ticket to enter the cathedral in Florence?
No, you do not need a ticket to enter the Florence Cathedral. It is free to enter the cathedral and no reservation is required. However, if you also want to visit one of the other sites within the duomo complex, such as Brunelleschi’s dome or Giotto’s bell tower, you will need a ticket.
How much does it cost to visit the Florence Cathedral?
It is free to enter the cathedral but the other sites around the duomo have a fee. The Brunelleschi Pass includes the dome climb and all of the monuments of the duomo complex and costs €30.
Is the Florence Cathedral worth it?
The Florence Cathedral and its dome are considered to be one of the most important Renaissance projects. Climbing the steps to the top of the dome, not only for the amazing views you get of Florence, but also to see The Last Judgement frescoes on the inside of the dome, are one of the best things to do on a visit to Florence, so it is not to be missed.
If you have any questions about how to visit the Florence Cathedral or climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to Italy
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