Wondering what to do in Florence? Discover 26 fun, insightful things to do and see in Florence offer a pure taste of Italy’s Renaissance city. They are not to be skipped if you want to enjoy a trip that covers the history, art, soul and flavors of one of Italy’s most important and influential cities. Great heights, great art and a great city are waiting for you!
Florence is Italy’s bustling, historic Tuscan jewel. Florence is a fashion capital, a muse for artists, a treasure chest for the faithful and a culinary powerhouse. This is a place where the Christian world grazes the skin of ancient myths and deities.
You’ll see red-tiled roofs, tiered gardens and cathedrals that look like direct lines to heaven sprinkled all throughout the interesting, open streets of the City of Lilies. This is the birthplace of the Renaissance.
The fingerprints of the Medici family can be seen all throughout Florence. Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Donatello have also etched their signatures into all of the city’s sacred and beautiful places.
Are you planning a visit to Florence? The Tuscan region’s capital is full of amazing landmarks and attractions that must be seen and experienced. Take a look at the essential things see and do in Florence!
What to do in Florence: 26 best things to do and see in Florence
1. Visit the Duomo
The Duomo is the most recognizable landmark in Florence. It also happens to be a place that lives up the hype. This is precisely why you cannot skip a visit if you find yourself with some time to spend in Florence!
The Duomo is far from being the only stunning cathedral in the city. However, you’ll see that its radiant posture, red-tiled cupola, massive size and position in the heart of Florence make it a place that represents everything about the history and culture of the city.
Make your way to Piazza del Duomo to admire this amazing house of worship. In addition, you may choose to climb to the top of what is possibly the most famous dome in the world. You should be warned that getting to the top requires some steep stairs and narrow walkways without any elevator in sight!
You are free to explore the church on your own or join a guided tour during your visit. It is important to know that access to the famed Duomo of Florence changes from season to season. In addition, restoration work can often impact access for visitors.
Be sure to reserve tickets in advance online if you intend to visit the interior of the cathedral or climb to the dome. Keep in mind that a climb to the top is one of the most memorable things to do in Florence during a vacation!
Location: Piazza del Duomo
2. See the Uffizi Palace and Gallery
The bejeweled, history-filled Uffizi Palace and Gallery is a world-class art museum that shows off the treasures of Italy. Put this on your list of essential things to see in Florence! This institution was created by the Medici family toward the finish of the 16th century.
An outdoor courtyard full of columns, arches and marble statues shows off the magnitude of this museum. The interior boasts amazing Renaissance pieces from masters like Raphael, Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci.
In fact, the Renaissance collection contained within Uffizi is second to none! Block off an entire afternoon for a visit to this sprawling, awe-inspiring gallery. There are more than 45 halls full of rare, important pieces to visit in total!
Location: Piazzale degli Uffizi
3. Boboli Gardens
A tour of the Boboli Gardens is a great companion to a tour of the Uffizi Palace and Gallery. Put this on your list of things to see in Florence if you have a weakness for flowers! The layout of the gardens was actually dictated by the Medici family. This layout would go on to become the model for courts throughout Europe.
Grottos, green spaces, lemon trees, fountains and statues pepper the world-class Boboli Gardens today. The collection of plants and flowers contained within the gardens is extensive.
4. Shop for Some Italian Leather Goods
Florence is the capital of Italian leather! In fact, shopping for some leather goods and gifts is one of the top things to do in Florence for those who love fashion. Hit the shops in search of handmade jackets, gloves, belts, wallets and purses when you need a break from sightseeing.
The leather goods you’ll find here are nothing like the items you’ll find at department stores back home. There are plenty of leather shops to visit in Florence. However, a spot called Misuri in Piazza Santa Croce is considered to be the oldest and best leather store in the city. In addition, this shop is the hub for the rest of Florence’s leather district.
Location: Piazza Santa Croce
5. Take a Vespa Tour Through the Tuscan Hills
Florence is the perfect launching point for a little excursion into hilly, sun-soaked Tuscany on a bike. You’ll zip through long stretches of road lined with sunflower fields and olive groves once you leave city limits in search of the breathtaking Tuscan countryside. Choose a small Italian town to stop in for dinner in search of a true farm-to-table feast!
6. Tour the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo is one of Florence’s newer museums. It is home to what is considered to be the largest collection of sculptures dating back to Renaissance-era Florence.
What makes this museum particularly interesting is that it contains many of the works of art that were originally created for the Cathedral of Florence. The museum notably contains Ghiberti’s original doors.
Location: 9 Piazza del Duomo
7. Ride the Carousel at Piazza della Repubblica
The beautiful, twinkling carousel at Piazza della Repubblica is a jewel within Tuscany’s jewel. In fact, coming across the carousel when it is all lit up at night is something of a surreal, dreamlike experience. Add this to your list of things to see in Florence if you love childlike wonderment.
The beautiful carousel isn’t the only reason to come to this bustling square. The square also features designer shops and fantastic restaurants. It fills up with juggling, fire-breathing street performers that delight crowds at night.
In addition, the square is home to the famed Caffè Giubbe Rosse. The cafè served as a meeting place for intellectuals and artists during the 20th century.
8. Have Dinner Near Piazza Santo Spirito
There’s no doubt that you’ll be spending time relaxing and enjoying the Italian way at the many beautiful squares that are sprinkled throughout Florence. However, Piazza Santo Spirito is a space that’s particularly magical.
The nice thing about Piazza Santo Spirito is that it’s tucked away on the opposite side of the Arno River from the Duomo. This means that you won’t bump into a ton of tourists when you hang out here.
It is especially nice to come here in the evening because you can have a meal on a terrace or patio in the shadow of the Basilica di Santo Spirito while live music pours in from a nearby sidewalk.
Daytime visitors can enjoy small markets and quaint shops near the square. You’re going to get a glimpse of real life in Florence when you spend time in the neighborhood around Piazza Santo Spirito.
Read also: Where to stay in Florence
9. Get a Taste of True Tuscan Food and Culture at Mercato Centrale Firenze
You could say that a visit to Mercato Centrale Firenze is a way to tap into the heart and soul of Florence. Vendors at this market situated inside an iron-and-glass structure sell the freshest meats, cheeses, fish and produce.
There are also stalls peddling some of the best selections of olive oil and vinegar you’ll ever taste! In addition, the market boasts a central hall where artisans sell unique pottery, artwork, leather goods, jewelry and clothing!
Famous Mercato Centrale Firenze is located near Florence’s San Lorenzo neighborhood and the Santa Maria Novella train station.
Location: Piazza del Mercato Centrale on Via dell’Ariento
10. Be Dazzled by Palazzo Pitti
Palazzo Pitti is a splendid Italian palace perched on the bank of the Arno River. The palace has been the home to powerful dynasties like the Medici family since the 1400s. It stands today as Florence’s largest museum complex.
Visitors can make their way through mazes of galleries that contain brilliant works of Renaissance art. Pieces from greats like Raphael, Rubens, Caravaggi and Titian are included in the museum’s unmatched collection.
11. Pay a Visit to Michelangelo’s “David”
What is the top thing to see in Florence? Almost everyone will tell you not to miss your opportunity to see Michelangelo’s marble masterpiece! Michelangelo’s “David” is housed inside Florence’s Accademia Gallery. This stunning rendition of the biblical David is easily the most famous sculpture in the world.
It has stood inside the Accademia Gallery since 1873. Michelangelo’s masterpiece was stationed outside of Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio prior to its placement in the museum. This statue is so beloved that it was entombed in brick during World War II to prevent damage.
“David” is seen by the people of Florence as an embodiment of the republic’s defense of civil liberties.
Location: Via Ricasoli
12. Enjoy a Rebirth of Sorts at the Baptistery of John the Baptist
The Baptistery of John the Baptist in Piazza San Giovanni is the oldest building in Florence. The building is believed to have been a temple dedicated to the Roman god of war before being converted into a Christian baptistery. Tourists today know this magnificent spot as the home of the famed “Gates of Paradise” by Lorenzo Ghiberti.
Location: Piazza San Giovanni
13. See the Belvedere Fort
This large fort positioned on the southern bank of the Arno River has been standing since the 1500s. It was constructed to demonstrate the power and wealth of Florence and its people. However, it is enjoyed today as an architectural powerhouse that has withstood time, the elements and huge cultural shifts.
The nice thing about coming here is that you can essentially see a panoramic view across the city. Don’t skip this spot if you have photography on your mind! The fort is a top place to see in Florence among professional and amateur photographers.
Location: Via di San Leonardo
14. Climb Whenever You Can
Far too many people only admire Florence from street level. This is a big mistake! The most beautiful way to see Florence is from a few stories up. The famous red roofs and needle-sharp spires of Florence offer a stunning contrast against a clear Tuscan sky.
There are many places to see in Florence that will take you into the clouds. Climbing the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo is definitely one of the best ways to get some amazing views of Florence.
The bell tower at Giotto’s Campanile, the tower at Palazzo Vecchio and the elevator-accessible top floor at the Rinascente department store at Piazza della Repubblica are all great places for taking in some once-in-a-lifetime views!
15. Buy a Pair of Shoes
Nobody makes shoes like the shoemakers of Florence. You should really consider shopping for a new pair of shoes in Florence. Shoe makers have been running artisan shoe shops in the city for generations.
You’ll find everything from dress shoes to sandals when you enter some of the local shoe shops here. In fact, you may even be able to talk with the person who made your new shoes! Reserving a few hours for shoe shopping is a great thing to do in Florence.
16. Take in Sweet Views and Smells at the Rose Garden of Florence
Florence’s fragrant rose garden is located near Ponte Vecchio on the opposite side of the Arno River from most of the city’s big attractions. The first thing to know about this place is that it’s a popular smooching spot for couples!
Of course, all travelers can get caught up in the romance of the stunning fragrances, lush stems and breathtaking sunset views offered at this park. The more than 400 different species of roses contained within Florence’s rose park blush with hues of pink and red.
In addition, more than 1,200 botanical varieties exist in this garden. Rows of lemons trees and a Japanese garden add layers of beauty to this terraced, lush jewel of Florence.
Location: Viale Giuseppe Poggi
17. Take Steps Across Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio is the famous bridge that connects the two sides of Florence. This stunning bridge was actually the first bridge to ever be built across the Arno River when it was constructed all the way back in 1345.
What makes this bridge even more impressive is that it is the only one from its era to survive World War II.
Ponte Vecchio is lined with shops that sell gold and silver trinkets. However, what’s truly golden is the amazing view you’re going to see when you step foot on the bridge!
18. Shop for Pinocchio Memorabilia at What Could Be Geppetto Workshop
Do you remember the classic Italian tale about a boy named Pinocchio? This Tuscan tale was set in a small village just outside of Florence. The writer of this beloved tale was actually from Florence.
You’ll quickly discover that the character of Pinocchio is celebrated all throughout the city when you spend time in Florence. You’ll see wooden Pinocchio dolls sitting in shop windows in many of Florence’s neighborhoods.
A spot called Bartolucci Florence is considered to be the unofficial Pinocchio store. In fact, you will feel like you could be walking right into Geppetto’s workshop as you tour this attraction!
Location: 12 Via della Condotta
19. Get Your Gucci Fix
Do you want to experience a place where ancient and modern Florence tangle together in a beautiful dance of art, food and style? Gucci Garden is a mixed-use space that features a museum and shops.
The complex’s museum is dedicated to the iconic Gucci fashion house. Many iconic pieces of clothing and handbags are on display here. The Gucci Garden space itself is contained inside the historic Palazzo della Mercanzia.
Location: 10 Piazza della Signoria
20. Attend the Festival of the Lanterns
Florence’s Festival of the Lanterns is considered by many to be the biggest celebration of the year in the city. It takes place every Sept. 7 in honor of the birth of the Virgin Mary. The day includes a huge fair, a parade of lanterns and a boat parade.
A huge procession that goes from Piazza Santa Felicita to Piazza della Santissima Annunziata begins at around 8 p.m. on the evening of the festival.
The origin of the Festival of Lanterns is believed to be tied to farmers in the 17th century. It is said that farmers would pour into the center of Florence to honor the Virgin Mary at the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata on the date that the Catholic Church celebrates her birth.
21. Eat as Much Gelato as You Can
This might be one of the only opportunities you get in your life to eat as much gelato as you want with reckless abandon. Creamy, sweet Italian gelato is basically a national treasure in Italy. Florence’s streets are filled with gelato shops that offer generous scoops for just a few euros!
It’s not uncommon for tourists in Florence to have gelato twice a day. Be sure to look for popular flavors like stracciatella, pistachio, hazelnut and lemon.
You’ll definitely burn off those gelato calories as you walk the streets of Florence in search of landmarks, art and shopping!
22. Visit the Fountain of Neptune
The Fountain of Neptune is a purely Florentine sensation! The creation of this stunning fountain made of marble and bronze was commissioned by the Duke of Florence all the way back in 1565. The fountain has endured damage and vandalism throughout the centuries. However, it stands triumphantly today as a favorite spot among Florentines and tourists.
Location: Piazza della Signoria
23. Explore the Famed Christmas Markets of Florence
There are so many amazing things to do in Florence during Christmastime. Anyone coming to Florence during November or December will experience a city that has been transformed into an Italian-style Christmas wonderland. Many of the city’s major cathedrals and churches are draped in twinkling lights.
In addition, beautiful crèches seem to pepper nearly every public square and shop window during the holiday season. Don’t miss the towering tree and huge manger scene at Piazza Duomo if you’re coming for the holidays!
Florence’s Christmas markets elevate the merriment in the city to an entirely new level. Piazza Santa Croce is the site of Florence’s largest Christmas market. The square is lined with stalls that sell unique and handmade Christmas treasures during the holiday season.
Tree decorations, Italian sweets and gifts are displayed for as far as the eye can see. It can be especially enjoyable to grab a cup of mulled wine to sip while you shop the stalls at Florence’s holiday markets.
24. Discover Collezione Roberto Casamonti
Have you ever dreamed of stepping inside a personal estate in Florence? Most of the city’s posh addresses can seem private, elite and closed off from everyday people. However, the estate of collector Roberto Casamonti puts a dazzling display of contemporary art on view for the public.
Casamonti’s personal collection includes pieces from greats like Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso. There are close to 5,000 pieces to view in total. The nice thing about visiting Casamonti’s personal collection is that this is very much a yet-to-be-discovered gem of Florence.
A trip to see Casamonti’s collection is one of the more low-key things to do in Florence. That means that you really will feel like you’re touring the home alone!
Location: Piazza di Santa Trinita
25. Step Foot Inside the Basilica di San Lorenzo
The Basilica di San Lorenzo is famed for being the burial place of many members of the Medici family. The church is easy to access and visit due to its position right in the center of Florence’s main market area.
The Basilica di San Lorenzo was actually the city’s primary cathedral for 300 years before the bishop’s seat was transferred. Records show that it was consecrated by Saint Ambrose of Milan in the 4th century.
Some highlights to look forward to when visiting the grounds of San Lorenzo today include Cannon’s Cloister, a stunning two-story loggia and the crypt that serves as the final resting place of Donatello.
Location: 9 Piazza di San Lorenzo
26. Go Truffle Hunting
Did you know that Florence is located in one of the world’s best regions for truffle hunting? People from around the world come to Tuscany to find its famous white truffles.
It is possible to sign up for a guided truffle-finding excursion that will take you to specific woodland areas just outside of Florence where rare and valuable truffles can be found! An adventure like this offers a nice way to explore the Tuscan wilderness.
Location: Tuscan forests