Like many people, I, too, had a pre-conceived notion about Florence; that it’s all about art and architecture. The motherland of the Italian Renaissance, Florence undoubtedly has the best of museums, churches and art galleries. But like the locals, here, say- Florence is much more beyond the Uffizi, the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio.
Florentine food is one to die for. From decrepit drinking dens to ravishing gelateria, Florence boasts an exotic wine list for the true booze lovers.
So those who are planning a vacation to Florence, here is a list of things to not miss here. I am listing the conventional touristy places first, before I head on to the unconventional side of the city.
10 Most Famous Florence Attractions
1. Breathe Art at the Uffizi Gallery
Galleria degli Uffizi is a name known to all art lovers. Originally not intended to be a museum, it now stands as Europe’s first contemporary museum. Uffizi’s vast history can be checked out here.
The tickets may leave a hole in your pocket. But for the truly self-respecting art-lovers, the investment is worth every penny. The museum showcases some of the most prominent masterpieces like the ones by Raphael, Titian, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Gitto and Cimbue.
2. Take a Morning Walk along Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio looks like a skimpy version of the London Bridge. Dating back to the 13th century, this ‘old bridge’, along with 5 other bridges, crosses the Arno river. But none other is as famous as this one. With typical buildings right on the bridge, it looks absolutely magnificent in the morning.
Stroll along the river in the morning; watch the boats passing and local Florentines jogging.
3. Visit the spectacular Duomo
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is the most eminent religious center of Florence. Erected in 14th century, this dome lies in the heart of the city. The exterior of the Duomo flashes a really fancy and baroque designing while the interior is routine plain. It’s a common joke here that the dome was built inside out.
You can book online tickets and checkout the timetables here.
4. Get a Bird’s Eye View from Piazzale Michelangelo
Here you can get a spectacular view of the Cathedral along with the entire city. The more energetic ones can set this journey on foot; the others have options of public and private transport.
Sunset is a treat to watch from the square, when you are perched at one of the outdoor cafes here. Don’t mistake the replica of Michelangelo’s David built here, with the original one. Plan an early morning trip here to view the two flower gardens. There are thousands of flowers to explore in these places.
5. Check out the Prudently sculpted David at the Galleria dell’Accademia
The Academy unarguably showcases the world’s most famous human sculpture by Michelangelo- David. That and the others like the unfinished Slaves and Prisoners, Inferno by Dante, The Million by Marco Polo and Arnina by Lorenzo Bartolini.
Good thing about this gallery- it can be toured by the fully handicapped. Besides gawking at the David, Check out the spectacular musical instruments from the Conservatory of Luigi Cherubini.
Lesser in area from the Uffizi, the gallery is less crowded at the early and late hours of the day. Non-flash photography not allowed. One of the room floors has a huge mirror slice. So the short skirts may watch out.
6. Palazzo Pitti could leave you slackjawed
The beautiful Pitti Palace is the largest museum complex in Florence. It houses all in all six museums, all having a distinctive governing bodies as well as entry fees.
The famous Gallery Palatina seconds the Uffizi Gallery in its grandeur. It displays the exquisite collection of works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Murillo, Titian and Rubens. Except for a few areas, almost everything her is handicapped accessible.
7. Visit the tomb of Florence’s Favorite son, Michelangelo
Vasari, the biography writer of Michelangelo, erected his tomb, on the wall opposite to Galileo’s. The three females in the front are allegories to his work as a Sculptor, Painter and a Poet. That’s right! Michelangelo wrote as beautifully as he sculpted.
8. Time to Ignite some Romance at the Boboli Gardens
The Intalian Renaissance mothered not only grnadiose architecture but also the most picturesque gardens. The gorgeous fountains, caverns festooned with thousands of flowers at the Boboli Gardens are a must-go. Keep your eyes open for the many sculptures lining the sidewalk. It may take your a few hours to tour the garden alone.
Boboli Gardens is a walk ‘n’ walk place. Lots of steps and uphill slopes. Don’t forget to wear your running shoes. It is haven to escape the busy afternoons at the art galleries. Fragrance, art and the whole city at your step; a perfect picnic spot for locals and outsiders.
9. Don’t miss out the Fountain of Neptune
Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) is located on the Piazza Della Signoria and signifies the Florentines’s dominance over the seas. After bearing a lot of wreckage and repair, the sculpture of the Roman Lord of the Sea stands dignified in one of the most beautiful courtyards of Tuscany.
Behind the statue is a free water refill system; so you can save some bucks.
10. Take a Day-trip to Fiesole
Fiesole is a mere 20-minute ride from Florence. This old and offbeat place reminds you of a charming Tuscan town. This neighborhood is all about walking. So set your gear right!
Vibrant houses, flowery balconies, views of the ruins down the hills and bizzare trees- Fiesole can be an unequaled day-trip to get a whiff of Florence while being away from the place.
Well. That was some list. But these were only the most popular tourist attractions. Every city has some hidden jewels and so does Florence. Let’s check these out!
Pin this image on Pinterest 🙂
What To Do In Florence If You Want To Get Away From The Main Tourist Attractions
1. Enroll your kids in a Day Camp
Camps as Arte al Sole Day Camp are bliss for the family tourists. These art and culture camps prove to be a really fun time for the kids. Plus it’s a benefit for the parents as they get some ‘grown ups’ time away from the kids.
The kids get to make new friends and learn more about the natural wonders here. They are made to learn about the artistic magic of this Renaissance city through nature walks, painting and sketching, collage and sculpture making, etc.. Then there are cooking classes to prepare regional dishes and various field trips to museums and galleries.
2. Climb Up the Giotto’s Campanile (Bell Tower)
Most people are familiar with the Dome at Duomo to perch on the top of the city. But I’d say the Bell Tower is a better pick. This place is less crowded, more economical and gives a better view of the Dome.
3. Peck at the Marceto Centrale
For foodies, this is it! This grand European style food market is a great place to taste local Florentine food, go snacking or buy gifts. Couch-surfers can locate their food supplies here. You can find a wide variety of meat and cheese here. All mouthwatering!
Red Wine and olive oil- two of Tuscany’s priced possessions, are found in abundance here. There are so many varieties of olives.
4. Go Gelato!
It’s impossible to visit Italy and not enjoy Ice-cream! Florence floors some fantastic gelaterias like Grom, Perche No!, Vivoli and Festival.
Check out their monthly flavors as well as the year-round specialties. They may cost you a fortune, but they are worth every penny!
5. Take a Learning Lesson from a Local Artisan
The Oltrarno Quarters houses many artisan workshops that are totally worth your time. One such excellent example is Bruscoli- a fourth generation workshop owned by Paolo Bruscoli. He specializes in making leather products which are engraved with gold leaf and traditional Florentine paper.
For the iPhone uses, there’s good news. The Arttour iPhone app gives you a tour of Florence and Tuscany’s popular artist workshops.
6. Time to Grab a Pizza!
Italy is incomplete without a Pizza. Although Florence is not quite the favorite one, with Naples and Rome in competition, it still is simply exotic!
Try ‘Florens’ in the San Marco area. It’s delicious and pretty inexpensive.
7. Try out some Venchi’s Chocolate
Piazza della Signoria dwells a classy chocolate boutique by the name Venchi. Everything is mouthwatering here, from chocolate bars to fruit candies!
8. Explore the Oltrarno
This neighborhood lies across the Arno river. For the ones intrigues about the local Florentine life, this place is it! Besides the famous Boboli Gardens, this place is home to many amazing artisans.
The Santa Spirito Market is a nice shopping place in the morning (except Sundays). In the evening, this place fills in the locals snacking and drinking with their friends. There are some really cool bars and pubs here, mostly featured on the outdoor terrace.
9. The Pazzi Chapel is a must
This beautiful example of the Renaissance architecture is known to few. The Pazzi Chapel was built by the same architect who built Florence’s Dome. Geometrical shapes and spatial harmony is impeccable.
It is located adjacent to Santa Croce.
10. Try out some Grape-Wine
Vivanda, an outlet exhibiting organic wines, opened up in 2010 and already has a huge local fan following. There are approx 120 organic labels from across the globe.
The place also has a kitchen offering pasta and other vegetable choices. Wine is self-serve here.
11. A Place for all the Brand Freaks
Brand outlets on the outskirts of Florence are a half-an-hour drive from the city. The place is home to many designer names such as Fendi, Gucci, Valentino, Armani, etc., all offering roughly 30-70% discounts!
12. Indulge in the Aperitivo
Aperitivo in Florence is what we commonly call Happy Hours. 7-9 pm, the locals get all dolled up to jam the city’s most happening bars.
Drinks and Buffet are served for 8-10 euros.
13. Check out a Free Jazz Show
Between mid June and September, Florence showcases Jazz concerts at Piazza della SS Annunziata. The concert is indulgently eclectic, ranging from Cuban Tango Jazz to Afro-Brazilian Pop.
14. A lot can happen over Coffee
The hills of Piazzale Michelangelo and Fiesole are dotted with cafes and bars. Places like La Terrazza offer a great view of the city with some fine coffee.
15. Florence’s outdoor pools are a great escape
If the weather is too hot to handle, spend a day at the outdoor municipal pools. Fetch yourself a half-day ticket after 2 pm, for about 4 euros.
Swim at Paolo Costoli for free every Thursday of July and August.
16. Florence on Christmas
If you are visiting Florence for the second time, you can plan a Christmas vacation here. Although many shops and restaurants close during the festive time, the city still looks magnificent in the festive decorations and Christmas zeal. The grandeur of the Duomo under the sparkling lights may leave you speechless.
The artisanal crafts displayed around Christmas time beats all brands and stores. The two famous Christmas markets- the Florence Noel and the Weihnachtsmarkt run from mid November until Christmas eve. You can find some really amazing gift items and local treats.
Finally, view the spectacle of fireworks from the Arno or Piazzale Michelangelo when the bell hits New Year.
Florence is a paradise for the art buffs. Besides the Italian Renaissance, modern art is equally alive and jazzed up. So if you are ready for an artistic expedition full of party and booze, Florence calls you!
I hope you enjoyed this article. Make sure to share it on social media if you did!