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Bucket list destination:

Last updated: 19 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Nicky Swallow

Recognised as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence harbours an estimated one million works of art, some 70 museums and more than 60 churches crammed into a compact plain surrounded by on three sides by hills.

The city’s small size (pop. 365,000) makes it simple to navigate, while its 11 million annual visitors guarantee a constant buzz, although during peak season, the sheer volume of tourists can seem overwhelming.

This being Tuscany, food and wine are of primary importance, and there are restaurants galore, from authentic, family-run trattorias to outposts of gourmet, new-wave Tuscan cuisine. Florence is also famed for its fashion brands: Pucci, Gucci and Ferragamo all started here. With so much to see, this capital of culture merits multiple visits.

Orientation

The L-shaped Piazza della Signoria was the tradition centre of civic power in Florence, and today remains the city’s central focal point; it’s home to the 14th-century town hall (Palazzo Vecchio) and the world-famous Uffizi Gallery. Ponte Vecchio and the cathedral (the Duomo), are close by.

Most of the main sites and boutiques – including the prime shopping strip, Via Tornabuoni – are within 15 minutes’ walk of one another.

The River Arno runs on an east-west trajectory through the city centre. Many of the markets and major sites are found in the historic zones north of the river, but there is also plenty to see in the arguably more ‘authentic’ Oltrarno neighbourhood south of the Arno.

Tours, tickets & transfers

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

The Best tour in Florence: Renaissance and Medici Tales

Florence

The Best tour in Florence: Renaissance and Medici Tales
This tour is the best walking tour that you can ever have in Florence. It is a great introduction to the city for both first-timers as well as returners. It covers the main attractions of the city and also the hidden gems that are well and truly "off the beaten track" and gives you facts you wouldn't know or notice walking around by yourself. While you'll be led through the city you will be even accompanied through three centuries full of thrilling stories about the Medici family who influenced Florence’s history; little by little the Renaissance will become alive in front of you. You will not be involved in a boring, neutral lecture, but in a pleasant stroll through the center of Florence, in a friendly and easy-going atmosphere.

Price: €0

Min age: 0

Rating 4.95 / 5 [4623 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Skip the line: Uffizi and Accademia Small Group Hidden Highlights Walking Tour

Florence

Skip the line: Uffizi and Accademia Small Group Hidden Highlights Walking Tour
• Skip the line Unforgettable experience with genuine tour • 4-hour small group (max 10-15 people) tour of the Accademia and the Uffizi • Discover the incredible masterpieces of Renaissance art • Priority entrance to the most important museums of Florence • Walking tour through Duomo Square and Piazza della Signoria The “Florence & Global ” Touch.  See Florence the right way with us Want to see Florence with a guide but are not keen on being herded around in a large, impersonal group or spending a fortune for a private tour? Look no further. “Florence & Global ” tours are designed for the selective traveller, providing all the benefits of a private tour with the group tour value.

Price: €124

Min age: 0

Rating 4.66 / 5 [1891 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo

Florence Walking Tour with Skip-the-Line to Accademia & Michelangelo’s ‘David’

Florence

Florence Walking Tour with Skip-the-Line to Accademia & Michelangelo’s ‘David’
Take a small group tour of the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo's famous statue of David and afterwards enjoy your walking tour of Florence. Numbers are limited to a maximum of 17 people ensuring you'll receive personalized attention and audio headsets guarantee that you'll hear the guide clearly. And by booking ahead, you won't waste any time waiting in line at the Accademia Gallery!

Price: €59

Min age: 0

Rating 4.51 / 5 [1305 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo

Electric Cart Tour of Florence

Florence

Electric Cart Tour of Florence
Welcome to a fantastic way of visiting the historical city of Florence! We are really happy to provide a unique way of exploring the city’s artistic centre in the most relaxing way in our electric vehicles. Whether you are feeling energetic and full of fun or looking for an easier way to visit the city, don’t miss out this experience! The tours will enable you to uncover the beauty of this city in the shortest possible time. So let's go, leave your old-fashioned ways and jump onto the most revolutionary way of travelling through Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance! Explanations of points of interest are provided with audio guide!

Price: €49

Min age: 0

Rating 4.63 / 5 [1232 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo

Best of Florence: Small Group Tour Skip-the-Line David & Accademia with Duomo

Florence

Best of Florence: Small Group Tour Skip-the-Line David & Accademia with Duomo
Skip the long lines to both the Accademia and the Catherdral on this Best of Florence guided tour. Begin with skip-the-line access to get up close to Michelangelo's 'David' in the Accademia Gallery. Then see the Duomo, the city's iconic, Gothic-style cathedral with your skip-the-line access and guided tour inside the Cathedral & Duomo. Afterwards, your guide will take you to Piazza della Signoria, an open-air art gallery where Michelangelo's David was originally supposed to stand. Then explore the streets of Florence, taking in landmarks like the Ponte Vecchio bridge, Palazzo della Signoria e Piazza della Repubblica and learn about the influence of the famous Medici family on Florence.

Price: €67

Min age: 0

Rating 4.75 / 5 [737 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo

Travel advice

When to go

Florence is almost always crowded with visitors. If you can, avoid summer (June-August) when temperatures can be unbearably hot and the streets unbearably crowded. Unless you’re in town to participate, also avoid the Pitti menswear fashion shows (January and June), when 30,000 industry folk swarm into town. Visit during spring or autumn for the best combination of warm weather and manageable crowds. If you want to avoid queues altogether, visit in the winter (avoiding Christmas, New Year and Carnival).

Getting there and away

Florence’s Amerigo Vespucci airport is at Peretola, 5km outside the city centre. There is a frequent tram service from just outside the Arrivals Hall to Santa Maria Novella train station; the journey time is 20 minutes.  Alternatively, take a taxi (approximately 30 minutes).

Many  flights land at Pisa’s Galileo Galilei Airport, a one-hour train ride or 70-minute bus journey west of Florence. There is a shuttle train (The People Mover) from Pisa Centrale train station to the airport. Alternatively, you can catch a taxi, but be prepared for a hefty bill.

Getting around

Florence’s plentiful, efficient but expensive taxis can be picked up at taxi ranks or contacted by telephone (they can’t be hailed on the street). A network of minibuses links up key points in the historic centre and two new tramlines connect the station to the city’s northern and western suburbs.

Given its compact and car-free centre, the best way to get around Florence is to walk or cycle, and there is an increasing number of cycle lanes.  Download the Mobike app to use the fleet of bright orange bikes.

Where to stay

If you want to stay in the thick of things (and don’t mind battling with the tourist hordes), book accommodation around the Duomo-Piazza della Signoria drag. The Oltrarno neighbourhood south of the river is quieter and more ‘Florentine’ and is home to some lovely small hotels.

But Florence is so small that wherever you stay, the main sites will rarely be more than a 30-minute walk away. If you opt to stay out of the centre, check that the hotel provides a shuttle service into town.

Where to eat or drink

As a rule of thumb (although there are some notable exceptions), steer clear of the most touristy areas when you are searching for somewhere to eat in Florence. There are few good restaurants near the Duomo, for example, while neighbourhoods such as Santa Croce, the Sant’Ambrogio market area and San Niccolò are far more interesting gastronomically speaking, and this is where the Florentines go to eat.

The Oltrarno neighbourhood, south of the river, has a particularly buzzy and eclectic dining and drinking scene.

Where to shop

Florence’s designer drag is Via Tornabuoni, in the historic centre north of the river, but the surrounding streets are home to equally glamorous shops. For low-priced leather goods, try the market in San Lorenzo or the shops around Piazza Santa Croce. For classier, handcrafted artisanal products – from gloves to handmade shirts – head to bohemian Oltrarno. Florence’s out-of-town discount fashion malls are increasingly becoming an essential shopping stop.

What to buy

Since Renaissance times, Florence has been renowned for its world-class craftmanship. Centuries-old techniques have survived in Florence, and the Oltrarno area – the city’s artsy south bank – is today crammed with artisans’ ateliers selling hand-made, high-quality wares.

Also look out for fashion and accessories by local designers, leather goods, herbal beauty products, handcrafted shoes, ceramics and household linens, gold jewellery, olive oil, Tuscan food and wine.

Destination guides

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Other guides relevant to this destination

Tuscany

Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany

The astonishingly beautiful region of Tuscany has it all: art cities and ancient hill towns, high mountains and long sandy beaches, alongside luxurious hotels and some of Italy’s best food and wine.