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39 Best things to see & do in Florence

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Nicky Swallow
  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

World-class art in Florence

Bucket List Experience

World-class art in Florence

With around a million paintings, frescoes and sculptures, Florence harbours the world’s densest concentration of Renaissance art (and not only), remarkable for both the sheer volume of work contained within its walls, but also for the quality; expect to see masterpieces by the likes of Giotto, Masaccio, the Lippis, Leonardo and Michelangelo.

Exactly why this ‘rebirth’ occurred in Florence is a matter for debate, but wealthy patrons such as the ruling Medicis, along with the presence of outstanding artistic talents and the 15th-century thirst for knowledge, certainly helped.

Adult price: £-

Good for age: 18+

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Exterior of the entrance to the museum

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Accademia Gallery, Florence

Florence’s other big-name art museum (with the Uffizi) has a world-class collection of 14th- and 15th-century art, but those endless queues of people are really here to see one thing: Michelangelo’s 1504 4m-high statue of David.

Moved here in 1873 from Piazza della Signoria, the iconic sculpture appears quite different in the flesh: the head and hands are larger than expected (a trick of perspective; originally the statue was placed higher up).

Walk around the back to see David’s sling, a tree stump – and those famous buttocks.

Adult price: £10

Good for age: 18+

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Uffizi Gallery

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Uffizi Gallery

Containing some 5,400 works, the Uffizi’s collection spans art history from ancient Greece through to 18th-century Venetian painting. But most of all, it is known as the world’s largest and most important collection of Renaissance and Mannerist art.

You could spend all day wandering the galleries, but the best bet is to pick out the works you want to see beforehand and head straight for those. The website has helpfully selected 14 must-see masterpieces and provided some useful background information on each – worth reading before you go.

Adult price: £10

Good for age: 18+

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Florence is known as the cradle of the Renaissance and is home to a wealth of buildings belonging to that era. Lavish Romanesque and Gothic styles were fashionable in the 11th – 13th centuries, before an early Renaissance style emerged in the early 15th century.

The centre of Florence is filled with palaces, churches and monuments defining this movement which was characterised by a classical sensibility with pilasters, columns, arches and pediments and strictly mathematical proportions.

The three architects who dominated the period were Brunelleschi, Michelozzo and Alberti while Michelangelo became one of the most important architects of the High Renaissance.

Good for age: 18+

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Completed in 1436, this multi-colored marble megalith is crowned with one of the marvels of the Renaissance world; Brunelleschi’s vast double-shelled dome – built without scaffolding – was a breathtaking feat of engineering.

If time is short, skip the cathedral’s barn-like interior and visit the dome (463 steps) and Giotto’s magnificent bell tower (414 steps).

Adult price: £16

Good for age: 18+

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Many of Florence’s religious buildings were constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries, but few have remained untainted by later additions. During Renaissance times, wealthy families such as the ruling Medicis commissioned the finest artists to fresco family chapels, carve tombs for loved ones, update architectural structures and create bespoke works of art.

Step into any Florentine church today and you’ll find an extraordinary legacy of art treasures by masters such as Giotto, Masaccio, the Lippis and Michelangelo.

Good for age: 18+

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Pitti Palace

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Pitti Palace

Florence’s most imposing building was once home to the Medici court and later to the Savoy kings. Now this vast former palace houses multiple museums, the largest – and most important – of which is the Palatina Gallery.

The Palatina is laid out in a series of grand rooms on the first floor with fabulous frescoed ceilings under which hang masterworks by the likes of Raphael, Rubens, Botticelli and Van Dyck in elaborate gilded frames.

The other museums include the Treasury of the Grand Dukes, the Gallery of Modern Art and the Museum of Costume and Fashion. A new ground-floor gallery opened in late 2021 housing the oldest collection of Russian icons in Western Europe.

Adult price: £9

Good for age: 18+

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Florence’s best food & drink

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Florence’s best food & drink

The Florentines are quite traditional in what they eat and justly proud of their local cuisine which is hearty, rustic, and based on simple ingredients such as bread, pulses, meat and poultry, fresh veg and olive oil, all prepared with the minimum of fuss. Typical seasonal ingredients include artichokes and porcini mushrooms, wild boar, rabbit, pork, game and excellent beef.

Wash it down with one of the robust local red wines; Tuscany is Italy’s premier wine-growing region producing from Chianti Classico in the hills between Florence and Siena to the highly-rated (and highly-priced) Super Tuscans from the Bolgheri zone on the coast.

Meals are traditionally divided into antipasti (starters), primi (soup, pasta), secondi (meat, fish) and dolce (dessert).

Good for age: 18+

Duration: -

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Gucci Museum

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Gucci Museum

Opened in October 2011 to celebrate the 90th birthday of this famous Florentine brand, the Gucci Museo has eight sleek, spot-lit rooms showcasing pivotal pieces from the company archives.

Admire gowns worn to the Oscars by the likes of Hilary Swank, along with oddities such as Gucci bicycles, sledges and scuba-diving fins.

Adult price: £6

Good for age: 8+

  • Florence, Tuscany, Italy

A ride down the river Arno in a traditional wooden boat or ‘barchetto’ is one of the more unusual ways to see the city.

The 50-odd minute tour takes in landmarks such as the Ponte Vecchio and Santa Trinita bridges, vast Palazzo Corsini and the Uffizi gallery; it’s particularly romantic at sunset when an aperitivo is included, but early morning is another evocative time to go.

Adult price: £45

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 1 hour