Is Florence Worth Visiting?

by Sarah de Winne
Published: Last Updated on 0 comment

Florence has something different than other cities in Italy. Some say Florence is more romantic than Venice, others say Florence is like an outdoor museum with art and statues everywhere. In my opinion, Florence will certainly leave an impression on you and everything you need to see is within walking distance.

Yes, Florence is worth visiting. The city is known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and world-famous museums and attractions. Florence also offers excellent Tuscan cuisine and wine, and its vibrant culture offers something for everyone, whether you’re a history buff, art lover or foodie.

To help you decide Is Florence Worth Visiting, below are my list of 21 reasons to visit Florence. Use them to discover the many things to do and see in Florence and to help you plan your visit.

david michelangelo
david michelangelo

Is Florence Worth Visiting? 21 Reasons to Visit Florence

1. Admire the Free Sculpture Exhibition on the Piazza della Signoria

The Piazza della Signoria is totally unique in the world! Nowhere else will you find sculptures from masters like Michelangelo in a public place.  The great thing is that you don’t need to queue or to pay to see them!  Just open your eyes and enjoy this special place.

Loggia-dei-Lanzi
Loggia-dei-Lanzi

There are three different areas on the piazza:

  1. Main Piazza – First, there is the square where you will find David (the original is in the Galleria dell’Accademia), along with Hercules and Cacus by Bandinelli and the Fountain of Neptune (Fontana del Nettuno) by Ammannati.
  2. Loggia dei Lanzi – The second area is the Loggia dei Lanzi which is an arched open-air sculpture gallery. The loggia is impressive with its four arches and decorations but below it are magnificent sculptures including the Perseus holding Medusa’s head. It’s hard to believe that all of this is outside and free to view!
  3. Palazzo Vecchio – The third part is the Palazzo Vecchio which is a museum and the Town Hall of Florence. The building was built to impress and as a display of power.  When you are standing in front of it, you can’t fail to notice this. If you have time, the museum is not the most well-known, but it is one of the most interesting in Florence with its secret routes and is definitely worth a visit.
Fountain-of-Neptune
Fountain-of-Neptune

2. Climb the Dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Visiting the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is a must as all the facades are made of marble.  At this time, the architect had no problem with money!  The Cathedral and the Baptistery were designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.

From the outside, it is certainly one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen.  The façade is extremely detailed, and I recommend you take your time to look at this closely.

Cathedral-of-Santa-Maria-del-Fiore-Tower-Bell
Cathedral-of-Santa-Maria-del-Fiore-Tower-Bell

The entrance to the cathedral is free but you need to arrive early, if you don’t want to spend too much time queuing.  Since the queues can be very long, our advice is to wake up early and start your day with the cathedral. To be honest, the inside of the cathedral was disappointing as it is rather plain and empty compared to the magnificent exterior.

Cathedral-of-Santa-Maria-del-Fiore
Cathedral-of-Santa-Maria-del-Fiore

You can also buy a ticket to climb the Dome and to enter the other buildings in the complex. The combined ticket option below also gives you access to the crypt, the magnificent Baptistery of St John (one of the oldest buildings in Florence) and the bell tower (where there are also some stairs to climb!).

3. Eat Authentic Food at the Central Market San Lorenzo

The San Lorenzo market is a good place to see the variety of food available in Florence.  Locals come here to shop. If you happen to be staying in accommodation with a kitchen, it’s a good idea to shop here for provisions and ingredients.

The-Central-Market-San-Lorenzo
The-Central-Market-San-Lorenzo

This market is also a great place to have lunch and taste local food.  The focaccia with a variety of toppings like sausage, artichoke and potato with pork were delicious! This is an ideal place to experience local life.

4. Visit the World-Famous Uffizi Gallery (Galleria degli Uffizi)

The Uffizi Gallery is a museum situated next to the Piazza della Signoria in the heart of Florence.  The building is a masterpiece in itself, but inside you will find la crème de la crème in art. They display the art of some of the best artists like Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Giotto, Da Vinci … the list is long!

gallery-galleria-degli-uffizi
gallery-galleria-degli-uffizi

The Uffizi Gallery is one of the best places to go and visit in Florence.  Unfortunately, the Uffizi Gallery isn’t a secret which means you will need to wait and queue if you don’t have a pre-booked ticket.

Booking skip the line entrance to the Uffizi Gallery with a guide is a good option because the museum is so big. Local guides will explain all you need to know, avoid you getting lost in the museum and will share secret areas which most visitors miss.

5. Walk Across the Ponte Vecchio

Built in 1345, the Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge in the city of Florence.  This bridge is unusual as there are shops and houses on it.  Long ago, the shops were Butchers and Fishmongers because they could throw the leftovers from the windows directly into the River Arno.  Today, most of the shops are Jewellers and they don’t throw any leftover gold out of the windows! 

Ponte-Vecchio
Ponte-Vecchio

On top of the bridge, you may spot a hidden passage called the Vasari Corridor which is one kilometre long.  It starts in the Palazza Vecchio and then passes through the Uffizi Gallery over the Ponte Vecchio, finishing at the Palazzo Pitti.

6. Relax in the Bardini Gardens (Giardino Bardini)

In Florence, everything is art even the gardens!  The Bardini Gardens will reconnect you with nature and natural beauty.  If you want to escape the crowds of the city, this garden will bring you peace and silence.

If you have time, it is a good idea to visit the Bardini Gardens.  There is no queue and it is free. You can enjoy an hour walking around this beautiful garden.  At the same time, you will enjoy some of the best views of Florence!

7. Enjoy the Views from the Piazzale Michelangelo

High above Florence, a bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David looks down on the River Arno. Surrounding this statue is the Piazzale Michelangelo which is simply one of the best places to gain breath-taking panoramic views of Florence.  Look out for a small terrace just below the main viewing area, as we think this offers the best views of the city.

Piazzale-Michelangelo
Piazzale-Michelangelo

To reach the Piazzale Michelangelo, you can either drive (there is a car park), take a bus (Number 12 or 13) or you can enjoy the pleasant walk.

The walk takes about 20 minutes from the Ponte Vecchio along the river and then up the hill. Be warned that there are some steps to climb! Whilst you are here, make sure you also visit the ancient Abbey of Santa Miniato al Monte (see number 13).

8. Explore the Basilica di Santa Croce

How to describe the Basilica de Santa Croce? It is an impressive Basilica with Gothic architecture and beautiful frescoes. It is also the largest Franciscan church in the world and is the final resting place of some of the finest artists, sculptors, poets, writers and composers.  Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Dante, Rossini and Gallileo all have graves or memorials here.

Basilica-di-Santa-Croce
Basilica-di-Santa-Croce

The Basilica is also a museum.  Inside, there are works of art by Donatello, Giotto, Brunelleschi, Vasari and plenty of others. With so much history inside and outside, the Basilica is another must see place to visit in Florence.

Although you have to pay to visit, there is much renovation work taking place on the ancient frescoes and your ticket price includes visiting the Franciscan monk’s refectory with the recently renovated ‘Last Supper’ panels by Vasari and outside cloisters.

9. Discover the Treasures of the Pitti Palace (Palazzo Pitti) & Boboli Gardens

The Palazzo Pitti or Pitti Palace is the largest architectural monument in Florence and was bought by the Medici family in 1549. You can visit some of the magnificently ornate rooms of the Pitti Palace. The Pitti Palace is also home to several other galleries and museums.

Palazzo-Pitti
Palazzo-Pitti

You can buy a combined ticket for the Pitti Palace that also enables you to visit the Boboli Gardens. The Boboli Gardens are also well worth visiting. Don’t forget to find the fascinating Buontalenti Grotto (Grotta del Buontalenti) that was commissioned by Franceso I de Medici.

10. Roam the Oltrarno Quarter of Florence

Oltrarno means beyond the Arno River and is a quarter of Florence on the left side of the river. It is full of restaurants, bars and things to do in Florence. In fact, Oltrarno was proclaimed the coolest neighbourhood in Florence by Lonely Planet.

Oltrarno is one of our favourite places to stay and eat as it reminds us of the Travestere area in Rome.  For more information about Rome, you can check our article Is Rome worth visiting?

Tourists usually stay on just one side of the river, but we love to explore and find hidden gems. So just cross any bridge in Florence and you will find yourself in Oltrarno. Oltrarno is divided into three areas: Santo Spirito, San Niccolo and San Frediano.

11. Escape the Crowds in San Frediano

The San Frediano area of Oltrarno is a good place to wander and get lost. Enjoy discovering artisan shops, bars and restaurants on its narrow streets. If you don’t know where to go in San Frediano, you can start by visiting the Basilica of Santa Maria del Camine.

12. Unwind in Santo Spirito

 In the Santo Spirito area of Oltrarno, you will find laid-back places to have a relaxing aperitif on a terrace. This area is well known by the locals.  They come here to have a relaxing evening with friends.

Immerse yourself in this charming and relaxed place. During the day, you will find lively markets where Florentines or Fiorentino (people of Florence) enjoy shopping.

13. Find Peace in the Abbey of St Minias on the Mountain (Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte)

There are three good reasons to visit the Abbey of St Minias on the Mountain:

  • Firstly, the exterior of the Abbey is beautiful and is made of the same marble as the Basilica di Santa Croce.
  • Secondly, the interior is atmospheric with an unusual mezzanine, intricate marble mosaics and ancient frescoes.
  • Thirdly, the Abbey offers an impressive view of Florence and its cathedral.

The Abbey is also surrounded by a peaceful cemetery which includes the grave of the famous Italian direction, Franco Zeffirelli.

St-Minias-on-the-Mountain
St-Minias-on-the-Mountain

After the short climb from the Piazzale Michelangelo, we enjoyed sitting on a bench overlooking the beautiful city of Florence. Some consider it to be better than the view from the Piazzale Michelangelo. We will let you decide for yourself when you visit!

Abbey-of-St-Minias-cemetery
Abbey-of-St-Minias-cemetery

14. Eat Delicious Food in Florence

Food in Florence is amazing!  If you taste just one thing, it must be Gelato (ice cream). Gelato in Florence is the best but avoid ice cream shops with fussy displays and lurid colours.

Choose a simple shop where the ice cream speaks for itself.  We found that the prices of ice cream in Oltrarno were cheaper, so head over to the left bank of the river and perhaps find the Gelateria La Carraia or the Gelateria Santa Trinita.

Gelato-with-Ponte-Vecchio
Gelato-with-Ponte-Vecchio

Pasta is also a must in Florence.  If you want to try an authentic recipe, go for the Tagliatelle Funghi Porcini e Tartufo.  This is pasta in a truffle and Porcini mushroom sauce which is simple but delicious!

You should also try the antipasto Crostini as an appetiser. It is different types of Bruschetta topped with different sauces including tomato and olive tapenade.

15. Walk Along the Arno River

Whilst you are in Florence, make sure you wander along the Arno River and take time to enjoy the weather and views of the Ponte Vecchio. Don’t forget to stop and have a glass of wine or coffee or eat ice cream!

Arno-River
Arno-River

16. Stand Beneath David at the Accademia Gallery (Galleria dell’Accademia)

Visiting the Accademia Gallery is another of the things you must do whilst in Florence as you will have the once in a lifetime experience of seeing Michelangelo’s masterpiece of David sculpted from marble. Seeing the intricate details of the veins and muscles up close is truly awe-inspiring!

Galleria-dell’Accademia-David
Galleria-dell’Accademia-David

However, the Accademia Gallery is quite different from the Uffizzi Gallery. Here, you can enjoy a small collection of works of arts, plaster sculptures and a museum of musical instruments. It was interesting to learn how the sculptors made plaster models first and then scaled their creations onto marble.

Obviously, many visitors come to Florence to see Michelangelo’s sculpture of David. As a result, the Accademia can be one of the busiest museums in Florence.  It can be very frustrating to wait hours outside the museum in a queue before being able to enter.

So, we advise you to book beforehand to avoid queuing and a local expert guide can show and explain everything to you.  Seeing David is a once in a lifetime experience for most people, so make it count. For more details about guided tours and skip the line entry to the Academia Museum, click on the banner below.

No visit to Florence would be complete without seeing Michelangelo’s David, but we suggest that you perhaps visit this museum first and then head to the Uffizi Gallery afterwards to see its comprehensive collection of art.

17. Have a Drink and Enjoy the View From a Roof Top Bar in Florence

If you want to relax after your busy day, why not to try a rooftop bar? It is a great way to relax and to carry on enjoying the city with a glass of wine and a bird’s eye view. Below are some of the best rooftop bars in Florence:

La Terrazza at Hotel Continentale: Go to the top floor to have amazing views of the Arno River.

Empireo at Plaza Hotel Lucchesi: You will find an elegant rooftop with swimming pool and a stunning view. Before 19:30, the terrace is reserved for hotel guests but afterwards it is open to all visitors.

Divina Terrazza at Grand Hotel Cavour: Modern style rooftop but with close-up views of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Palazzo Vecchio. Open every evening.

18. Take a Day Trip from Florence

Day Trip to Chianti from Florence

As I mentioned at the start of this post, Florence is in Tuscany and from this city you can enjoy plenty of interesting day trips around the region.

If you love wine, you can visit some of the best vineyards in Italy. Chianti is less than one hour’s drive from Florence. Don’t miss the Chianti Classico wine which has been produced in this area of Italy for over 2,000 years.

You can recognize a Chianti Classico by the seal. The seal changed in 2013 and is now a black rooster with a Bordeaux coloured frame.

If you want peace of mind and don’t want to worry about making your own arrangements, you can book a tour to visit the Chianti area.  What’s more, everybody can taste the wine because you will travel by bus.  No driving required!

Day Trip to San Gimignano, Siena from Florence

Alternatively, you could visit San Gimignano in Siena which is one of the most beautiful places in Tuscany. This medieval town will transport you back in time.

Day Trip to Cinque Terre from Florence

Cinque Terre is a coastal area composed of five towns and villages on the Italian Riviera. These towns and villages are just sublime because they are perched on the cliff and the colourful houses contrast with the blue of the sea.

19. Enjoy Florence with Kids

Il-Porcellino
Il-Porcellino

You don’t need to avoid museums when you are visiting Florence with kids.  For example, if you want to visit the Uffizi Gallery, there is a special guided tour for families where your kids can learn about art through interactive activities and games. Book your family tour in advance, to avoid long waiting times at the museum with your kids!

If the weather is good, you could consider having a picnic in one of Florence’s park. These parks are very nice, and all the family will find joy and peace in outdoor green spaces.

The Leonardo da Vinci Museum is also a great choice if your kids are interested in engineering and inventions. This interactive museum is extremely interesting and will inspire and interest older kids.

20. Taste an Authentic Italian Coffee

In the corner of the Piazza Republica, you will find the Caffe Gilli.  This coffee shop has been in business since 1733 and offers you the chance to immerse yourself in Italian style coffee.  Order your coffee and pay at the register first, then ask the Barista for your coffee. We can also recommend the cakes!

Florentines drink their coffee at the counter.  If you want table service, it will cost you a little more. However, the marble counter is the best place to drink your coffee like Italians. 

In case you don’t know much about different types of coffee, a caffe is an expresso and in Italy it is very small and strong whereas a Macchiato is an expresso with milk.

21. Enjoy the Best Places to Shop in Florence

The best places to shop in Florence are local markets, artisan shops and small boutiques. Florence is famous for its leather and you will find everything you need from a pair of gloves to a belt or jacket.

The best area to shop is around San Lorenzo street where there are plenty of stalls and a mixture of smaller independent boutiques and high-end shops.

Where is Florence?

Florence is located in Italy in the region of Tuscany.  In fact, it is the biggest city in Tuscany with a population of approximately 380,000.

florence map
florence map

Florence is easy to reach; it has an international airport “Amerigo Vespucci” and a railway station with connections to other major Italian cities.

Alternatively, you can fly to the nearby city of Pisa. Once you arrive, look for the signs for the PisaMover which is a fully automated ecological shuttle which links the airport to Pisa Central Station. The transfer to the station costs 5 Euros and the journey lasts around 5 minutes.

From Pisa Central Station, there are various trains which connect to Florence. We took the Trenitalia high speed train which reached Florence in 49 minutes at a cost of about 8 Euros. When you buy your ticket, the first train is not always the quickest, so look carefully at the journey time.

Is Florence Worth Visiting?

For me, Florence is definitely worth visiting.  It is a very interesting city with vibrant areas, delicious food and is a treasure trove for art lovers. Florence is also a perfect destination for a relaxing and romantic getaway.  The city also has a laid back feel as there is not much traffic in the centre and everything is in walking distance.

You will always remember your experience at the Accademia Gallery in front of David. It is a one-off experience like the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. So, book your tour in advance to have the best experience possible.

For more information about Florence, check Florence Tourist information

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