Back in the 14th century Florence was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. Bringing Europe out of the clutches of the Black Death and the Dark Ages, the Renaissance signaled a time of light, beauty and discovery and Florence still very much represents that today. This magical city is the capital of the Italian region of Tuscany, and it attracts millions of tourists every year. Filled with Renaissance art and architecture, monuments, and culture, Florence has enough to keep you busy for weeks. If you’re itching to see the best of the city though, we’ve put together our recommendations for the top 10 things to do in Florence.
10. Piazza della Signoria
Probably the most important square in Florence, Piazza del Signoria has status as the political focus of the city, but for tourists it’s home to some of the best-known landmarks. Sitting in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, the square features numerous statues, including a copy of Michelangelo’s David, the Fountain of Neptune, the Medici Lions, Perseus with the Head of Medusa, and more. Piazza della Signoria is also a great place to sit and watch the world go by, sipping a cold drink in one of the restaurants that front the square. Even if you don’t spend a lot of time enjoying this Florence attraction, you’re going to walk across it many times during your stay!
9. Ponte Vecchio
You could say that Ponte Vecchio (meaning Old Bridge) is a little touristy these days, but this is still a landmark that should be on your list of what to do in Florence. This medieval bridge was built in 1345 and was home to many shops, as was common in those days. Back then they were occupied by butchers but today you will find stores selling souvenirs, and there are jewelers and art dealers lining the bridge. Be sure to stop half way along the bridge where arches open out to reveal views of the river.
8. Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
The Museum of the Works of the Cathedral may not sound exciting, but this is in fact one of the top things to do in Florence. The museum is home to many of the original works of art that were created for the city’s Duomo. Originally opened in 1891, and recently renovated, the museum has one of the world’s most important sculpture collections and should be seen in conjunction with a visit to the cathedral itself.
7. Museo Nazionale di San Marco
This museum is great to visit if you enjoy art, but it’s also a significant historical landmark. The building was designed by Michelozzo in the 15th century as a Dominican friary dedicated to St Mark. In 1869 it was declared a national historical monument and reopened as a museum which it has been ever since. The library, with over 10,000 books, is very interesting while the main museum houses a major collection of works by Fra Angelico. If you have any interest in art, this is a must-visit Florence attraction.
6. Accademia Gallery
In English, it is the Gallery of the Academy of Florence and it’s best known for being the home of Michelangelo’s sculpture of David. Many other original sculptures are also on display here, and for anyone interested in musical instruments, the Accademia is also home to a museum of musical instruments with originals made by the likes of Stradivarius. There are also more general pieces of art including Florentine paintings from the 13th and 16th centuries.
5. Piazzale Michelangelo
There are countless squares in Florence, but if you want to visit one that offers something a little different to the rest, be sure to come to Piazzale Michelangelo. The best thing about this square is the view – it’s a panoramic viewpoint over Florence and it’s quite spectacular! The square is about a 20 to 30-minute walk from the city center and there is a fairly steep climb involved, but these views cannot be beaten. Come for sunset and watch the city change color.
4. Cupola del Brunelleschi
Although it’s part of the Duomo, the Cupola de Brunelleschi deserves an entry all of its own because it’s such a popular thing to do in Florence! Be sure to visit the cathedral but if you have the time and the energy, you should definitely climb the 463 stone steps to see the inside of the dome up close and to visit the cupola. The whole thing is an impressive work of engineering that was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. The Cupola was built between 1420 and 1436. As well as seeing the details on the way up, you’ll get to enjoy a 360-degree view of Florence from the top!
Commonly known as simply Duomo, Florence’s cathedral is officially named Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fore. One of the most prominent of all landmarks in the city, characterized by its large dome when viewed from a distance, yet up close there is far more to this beautiful building. Begun in 1296 and completed in 1436 in a mixture of Italian Gothic, Renaissance, and Gothic Revival styles, the detail on the façade is stunning. Admission into the cathedral is free, although you will have to queue, but you’ll need to buy tickets to see the Cupola and to go down to the crypts.
2. Palazzo Vecchio
Along with the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio is one of the most prominent landmarks in the city, largely due to its tower. Meaning “Old Palace”, this is the town hall of Florence although it’s more than just a town hall (although it is still the seat of the city government), it’s a castle, and a look at what great wealth can bring. Built between 1298 and 1314, the detailing inside is exquisite, although what many visitors remember about this top Florence attraction is the tower. Standing 94-meters high, the tower is open to the public and provides wonderful views after climbing 418 steps.
1.Galleria degli Uffizi
Known as one of the greatest art museums in the world, this amazing attraction is certainly worthy of topping our list of the top things to do in Florence. You don’t have to be an art lover to be able to appreciate the jaw-dropping pieces on display here, including works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Botticelli, to name just a few. Even the building is impressive; begun in 1560 and completed in 1581. If you visit only one museum in Florence, make it this one!