Italy

10 EPIC THINGS YOU MUST DO IN FLORENCE

Florence Cathedral and bell tower tops

Florence is a firm favourite with visitors to Italy and honestly, it’s easy to see why. Whatever you’re looking for in an Italian holiday destination, Florence has it. (Except for beaches; Florence is a little low on the ground on those…)

Art? Florence is home to some of the most incredible Renaissance artworks in the world. Botticelli, Da Vinci, Giotto, Michelangelo… pretty sure all of the Ninja Turtles are represented in Florences’ galleries. 

Food? Friend, the food in Florence will blow your mind. Every meal I ate in Florence was superb, and it was in Florence that I had the best gelato and pizza of my 3-week Italy trip. 

Architecture? Um, yes. Beautiful gardens? Tick! Landscapes? Wait ‘til you see the Tuscan countryside. It. Is. Stunning.

I love Florence. Everyone loves Florence. I could probs talk about Florence all day, but I promise I’ll keep it to 1500 words or so. Ok you get it by now, right? Dive straight into this guide to discover 10 epic things you must do in Florence!

Florence Cathedral

1. Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi Gallery is the most important art gallery in Florence. It was established back in Da Vinci’s day and today houses an incredible collection of 14th century and Renaissance artworks. 

One of my favourites was Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, an impressive painting that lives up to the hype (unlike, ahem, the rather tiny Mona Lisa). You should also plan on seeing Leonardo Da Vinci’s Annunciation, Caravaggio’s Medusa and the Venus of Urbino by Titian.

The Uffizi Gallery opens at 8:15am and tickets cost €20. We got there at 10:00am and the queues weren’t too long, although it was getting busy by the time we left. To save time you can buy a Skip the Line ticket here from €20.

Uffizi Gallery painting
Statue of David Florence

2. David & Galleria dell’Accademia

If you thought the Uffizi Gallery was cool, wait until you see Michelangelo’s David. (You can really see my high school Art History nerd coming out, can’t you?)

The Galleria dell’Accademia is most famous for housing Michelangelo’s sculpture David, though it also has a collection of Florentine paintings from the 14th-17th centuries. If you’re not an art nerd and the thought of visiting another gallery isn’t as exciting to you as it was to me, don’t worry; this gallery is a lot smaller than the Uffizi. It’s doable in an hour or two and you’ll likely spend most of your visit transfixed in front of Michelangelo’s masterpiece, anyway. 

Galleria dell’Accademia opens at 8:15am. Tickets start at €12 but we opted to buy a Skip the Line ticket for €25. You can pre book your tickets ahead of time here.

3. Boboli Gardens

Craving a little green space in the city? Grab a cannoli (or two) and head to Boboli Gardens.

The gardens are located directly behind the Pitti Palace, the main residence of the Medici family from 1549. Today the Gardens are a sprawling expanse of green filled with ancient and Renaissance sculptures, and it’s a lovely place to spend an hour or two wandering.

Tickets to Boboli Gardens are €10. 

Boboli Gardens Florence

4. Grape Escape Winery Tour

I knew I wanted to visit the Tuscan countryside. It’s one of the appeals of Florence, right? But we didn’t have a rental car and with only 3 days in Florence our time was limited. The solution? Joining a Grape Escape Winery Tour with Italy on a Budget. 

For €65 each we were picked up from Florence and taken to two vineyards. We got to sample eight different wines and a selection of truffle oil, balsamic vinegar and olive oil produced by the vineyards. 

From there, deliciously tipsy and enjoying the warm Tuscan sun, we were dropped in San Gimignano. The medieval town is famous for once having 72 towers, though only 13 are standing today. San Gimignano is also home to the ‘world’s best gelato’. 

Purple grapes Florence wine tour
Towers of San Gimignano

5. Cathedral of Santa Maria & Giotto’s Bell Tower

If there’s one thing you must do in Florence it’s visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. This incredible cathedral is the third largest in the world and construction on it started in 1296. The exterior of the cathedral is striking, covered in marble panels in shades of green and pink bordered by white, but the basilica is most famous for its iconic Duomo. 

To access the Renaissance dome you’ll need to book several days in advance. If you don’t manage to book ahead a trip up a trip up Giotto’s Bell Tower offers equally spectacular views of the city and across to the Cathedral. 

The Cathedral is free to enter but you do have to pay to enter the Duomo and Giotto’s Bell Tower.

Florence Duomo

6. Eat Pizza at Mangia Pizza Firenze

Italy is famous as the birthplace of pizza, but I’ll be honest; before we got to Florence we hadn’t found a great one. Throughout our travels we’d had mouth-wateringly-good pasta and gelato so smooth it could make you cry. But the pizza? It was a little disappointing. Thankfully, Mangia Pizza Firenze changed the game for us. 

The pizza at Mangia Pizza Firenze was the best we had of the entire 3-week trip, and you should make sure to eat there while in Florence. It was so good, in fact, that we ate there twice. The restaurant is quite small but the service is fast and the prices affordable. Get the blue cheese and pear pizza; trust me, you won’t regret it. 

7. Wander Florence’s streets 

Once you’ve explored the Duomo, drunk your fill of wine in the Tuscan countryside and been amazed by the display of Renaissance art then you may think you’ve seen it all. But aside from seeing the top tourist attractions, one of the best things you can do in Florence is simply get lost with your camera. 

Wander along the Ponte Vecchio, a medieval stone bridge lined with jewellery stores. People watch in Piazza della Repubblica, a picturesque square complete with carousel. Quit Google Maps and discover what Florence has to offer and you’ll be richly rewarded. Because friend, this city is crazy beautiful. 

Florence bicycle leaning against brown wall

8. Sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo

I love a good sunset spot. There’s nothing more peaceful than watching the sun go down over some incredible city, jungle, or ocean, and it’s a lot easier than getting up for sunrise, am I right? 

For an amazing sunset view in Florence head south of the historic centre up to the Piazzale Michelangelo. It’s hardly a hidden gem but the views of the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, and bridges crisscrossing the River Arno are stunning.

Florence sunset view from plaza

9. Visit Mercato Centrale Firenze for lunch

One of my favourite travel things to do is visit a food market. There’s something about the cheap and delicious food, the vibrant colours and smells that I find really exciting. While the title of Best Food Market I’ve Ever Been To belongs to the Nan Walking Street Market in Thailand, Florence’s Mercato Centrale puts up a pretty good fight.

Mercato Centrale is a two-level food market housed in a beautiful 19th century building. The ground floor hosts traditional produce vendors while upstairs you’ll find a food court with a vast selection of food stalls. We feasted on wild boar gnocchi and vegetarian lasagna before heading for round two at the food stalls.

10. Get a gelato at Gelateria della Passera

By the time I got to Florence I was a bit of a gelato expert. Expert gelato taster… is that a real job? If so, sign me up.

I’d learnt that you should stay away from the fluffy gelato, that alluring confection piled into towers and topped with fruit, nuts and biscuits, as additives have been added to give the gelato its shape. 

Instead you should look for gelato in flat metal tins, sometimes hidden by lids (lids are always a good sign). You should also look for seasonal fruits, and any quality gelateria will serve fior di panna/latte and pistachio flavoured gelato. 

I knew I had found a winner when I stumbled across (*extensively researched the best gelato in Florence) Gelateria della Passera. The shop is small and tucked away down an unassuming alleyway, but friend, that gelato is the best I’ve ever tasted. I got the dark chocolate and pistachio (three nights in a row), and it’s cheap at only €1 a scoop! 

Florence city view

Sure, check out the Duomo, visit David and relax in Boboli Gardens, but the main thing you must do in Florence is have a gelato at Gelateria della Passera.

Read More: The Ultimate 3-Week Northern Italy Itinerary

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10 Epic Things You Must do in Florence

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