Is Florence Worth The Trip? 16 Reasons to Visit Florence, Italy

Steve Cummings

Golden Sunset over Ponte Vecchio Bridge with Traditional Boat on the Arno River, Florence, Italy

Are you looking for the best things to do in Florence but don’t know where to start? Don’t worry; we have compiled a list of some of the things you have probably heard of and some that perhaps don’t get the attention they deserve.

When you arrive in Florence, you will feel like you have returned in time. It's a place that's on most people's bucket lists of places to visit in Italy.

Florence is not cheap, and some museums' prices add up, but we have also included a few free and frugal activities for you to check out.

1. Duomo – Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

Piazza del Duomo
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If you did a search on Google for Florence, an image of the Duomo would likely be the first thing that comes up as it is the most iconic building in Florence.

Our tip is not to go inside it. Controversial? Maybe. I preferred going up the Bell Tower just across from it when I visited myself. This way, you can get great views of the Duomo from a taller building.

Another good idea is to sit and have a beer in the square opposite the Duomo. It won’t be cheap, but if the sun is out, it's a great place to sip a cold beer and admire the architecture. 

2. Campanile di Giotto

Campanile di Giotto
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Following the Duomo mentioned above, we felt we had to talk about the Campanile di Giotto, also known as the Bell Tower. We preferred to walk up this tower as it is taller and gives better views from the top.

When we walked to the top, it was mid-afternoon and about 35 degrees. It was the only ticket available, and let me tell you, it was one very sweaty walk up to the top (414 steps). We had to head back to the hotel for a shower and a change of clothes before continuing the rest of our day. We still look back and laugh at it now.

If you can, prebook in advance and book one for early in the morning. That way, you avoid the crowds, and it's also likely to be cooler, making your trip less sweaty.

One thing to watch out for is the narrow stairway. If you are not a fan of small spaces, watch a quick video of it on YouTube to see if it's for you.

3. Mercato Centrale

Mercato Centrale
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We recently wrote an article about some of the best food markets and featured Mercato Centrale (opportunity to internal link here).

The market can become bustling during peak times, but some stalls have seats in front of the restaurants. I had one of the best carbonaras I have ever tasted here.

There's not just Italian food here; you will find food from around the world. There's also a big bar in the middle serving craft ales, cocktails, and whatever else you fancy.

Even if you don’t eat here, it's still worth walking through and looking at all the shops and food stalls.

4. Galleria dell'Accademia

Galleria dell'Accademia
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It is always high on everyone's list of things to do in Florence. Our opinion? Yes, it would help if you went, but don’t waste a whole day on it queuing up outside. Buy the skip queue tickets if you can, or get there early. We didn’t do either when we visited due to poor planning and had to wait quite a while outside in the heat.

The main reason everyone visits here is David. While he is magnificent, another statue of him outside (a replica) is also a good alternative if you don’t want to pay to enter the Galleria dell'Accademia.

Remember to visit the upstairs, which many people miss, and the room full of sculptured heads. You will have these rooms almost to yourself while people are admiring David.

5. Piazzale Michelangelo

Piazzale Michelangelo
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Piazzale Michelangelo, built in the 19th century by Giuseppe Poggi, offers the city's best views. Getting to the Pizzale involves walking up a steep hill, but the views are worth it. If you are not that good on your feet, then you could always get an Uber or a local taxi to the top.

Our tip would be to wake up early, buy a coffee on your way, and start your day overlooking the fantastic Florence skyline.

After that, head down back into the town and cross the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge.

The best thing about Piazzale Michelangelo is that it's free!

6. Gallerie Degli Uffizi

If you love Renaissance art, the Uffizi Gallery has to be on your list of Florence's best places to visit. Botticelli's Primavera and Birth of Venus, Titian's Venus of Urbino, Gentileschi's Judith Slaying Holofernes, Caravaggio's Bacchus, and numerous works by Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael are all here.

As with most places in Florence, booking your tickets online is recommended. However, as it is the second most popular attraction, there will still be a queue when you arrive.

An audio guide is available, which is recommended. Don’t skip the portrait exhibition, as some nice art is in there.

7. Piazza della Signoria

Piazza della Signoria
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If you want a more frugal alternative to the Galleria dell'Accademia, head to Piazza della Signoria. This outdoor square is home to a replica of David, which is almost as good.

This is an excellent option if you didn't book a museum ticket in advance, don't want to spend hours in line, or simply don't have the time, money, or energy to visit museums.

On the square, you will find the beautiful Fountain of Neptune, which looks particularly impressive when lit at night.

8. Basilica of Santa Croce

The Basilica of Santa Croce
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The Basilica of Santa Croce is a fantastic old historic church in the center of Florence that offers a nice break from the busy city as it is usually quieter around this area. It’s where you will find the burial sites of famous figures like Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Rossini, and Galileo. The church is fantastic, with colorful wood roof beams and a frescoed altar area.

You have to book and pick a time slot to visit, which means it will never be too busy.

It's nice and cool, a welcome break from the Florence sun.  

Entrance is a nice frugal €8 for adults and is well worth it.

9. Palazzo Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio
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Another famous historical site is Palazzo Vecchio, which is as beautiful inside as outside. Inside, you will find paintings and tapestries, and you can head up to the clock tower, from which you can get excellent views of the Florence skyline, including the Duomo.

If you are a real history fan, we recommend you take one of the guided tours. They last about 1.5 hours and will tell you about the Medici family, the palace, and its history. The tour even includes some hidden rooms that are not open to the general public.

Buying tickets in advance is recommended as you can skip some of the queues. It's one of the more peaceful attractions in the city and a nice place to escape for a few hours.

10. Ponte Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio
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Ponte Vecchio is one of the most iconic bridges in Florence and the world. It was built in 1345 and took ten years to complete. It crosses the Arnor River.

It's best to walk here in the evening when the sun sets or early in the morning when heading to Piazzale Michelangelo. 

The bridge is lined with shops, almost like a mini shopping mall. Most of the shops are high-end jewelry shops or tourist shops.

On the far side of the bridge, you will find some excellent little restaurants worth visiting.

11. Basilica San Miniato al Monte

The Basilica San Miniato al Monte is located just a few minutes' walk from the Piazzale Michelangelo. It’s amazingthat it's been around for 1000 years, having been built between the 11th and 13th centuries.

Every day at 6:30 pm, the monks who live there chant, which sounds fantastic. If you can time your visit, you should. 

This is probably one of the highest viewpoints in the city, and the views are impressive.

We like that the entrance is free, which makes it an excellent, frugal activity.

12. Trattoria Alfredo

When we visited, we were looking for somewhere to get some excellent Italian food. We ate at a few places that didn’t quite hit the mark, and one place used cream in its carbonara, which is a big “no-no” in Italian food culture.

After researching Trip Advisor, I found that this place was highly recommended and had good reviews. There was a big queue outside, and we were lucky enough that they had one table for two left.

I ordered the gorgonzola and truffle gnocchi, and my wife ordered the spaghetti carbonara. We shared a bottle of wine. For dessert, we shared some Tiramisu, which I wouldn’t usually go for, but while in Italy, it felt like I had to order it, and it didn’t disappoint. 

I highly recommend this place. Its food was the best we had during our three days in Florence.

13. Museum of Fashion and Costume

The Museum of Fashion and Costume is slightly different from the other attractions on our list, and while it might not appeal to everyone, we feel it deserves more attention.

Inside, there are 14 decorating rooms, all with ornate frescoed ceilings. The primary focus is Italian fashion, from Armani and Versace to Baroque formal wear.

They also have temporary exhibitions that change with the seasons, so it's worth checking the website to see what's on.

Overall it's a nice small museum with a cafe to grab a coffee. You can easily walk around all 14 rooms in an hour.

14. Museo Galileo

Most things to do in Florence are quite adult-themed, and children might get bored at some of the attractions. However, the Museo Galileo might be one of the best things to do with kids in Florence, especially if they are interested in Space.

It is also a great museum to visit if you are not a fan of queuing because this place is not usually on most people's radars when they see Florence.

Download the app that will guide you through the museum, enjoy the AC, and allow about an hour to get through the museum.

15. Boboli Gardens

If you can stand the heat and love gardens, head to Boboli Gardens behind Pitti Planace. 

The gardens are like an outside museum filled with Renaissance statues, grottos, and significant fountains, including the Fountain of Neptune and the Fountain of the Ocean.

Something to note is that the gardens are only open on the first and last Monday of every month.

A single ticket to the Boboli Gardens costs €10 and grants free admission to the Garden of Villa Bardini.

16. Visit Pisa On the Way Back

The Leaning Tower of Pisa
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When you travel to Florence, you will probably fly to Pisa airport. If you have an evening flight home, we recommend getting an early train out of Florence and spending a few hours in Pisa. 

It's the perfect place for an Instagram picture of yourself pretending to hold up the tower of Pisa or just watching the other 1000 people doing the same pose!

A few hours is all you need as there's not as much to do here as Florence, and it's not as pretty. Take your picture, grab some lunch, and head to the airport.

Final Thoughts

Is Florence a victim of its beauty? We certainly think it is. Should you still visit? Absolutely!

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