Florence is an incredible city with a wealth of sights and attractions to visit and explore. There are so many things to do in Florence and so many places to visit in Florence that it’s often hard deciding where to start!
A popular starting point for any trip to the city, however, is the Piazza del Duomo. Here you will enjoy a glimpse of Brunelleschi’s dome, dominating the city landscape. For those fit enough, it’s worth climbing the 463 steps up the inside of the dome to enjoy the staggering views from the top. Braving the climb will also give you a wonderful perspective on Brunelleschi’s feat of engineering. For those who would rather view the Dome from a height, then head up the 414 steps of the Campanile next door instead, one of the highest places to visit in Florence!
The Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo is another one of the places to visit in Florence and is also close by. This includes works by Donatello, Michelangelo and others, as is the Baptistery with it’s stunning, ornate doors.
Just a couple of minutes walk from the Duomo is the Piazza della Repubblica, another of the ‘must see’ places to visit in Florence. It’s the biggest piazza in Central Florence and you’ll find prices in the cafes around it’s edges are some of the most expensive you’ll find in the city. Other piazzas also worth seeing include the Piazza della Signoria, the Piazza Santa Croce and the Piazza Santa Maria Novella. The church of Santa Croce was actually built by the Fransciscans as a rival to the Dominican’s Santa Maria Novella church. Both are stunning and well worth seeing.
The Piazza della Signoria is arguably Florence’s busiest piazza. It is always busy, not surprising considering that the Palazzo Vecchio stands on one corner behind which is the Uffizi Gallery. The former is Florence’s town hall whose tower dominates the piazza in which it stands. In front of it stands the copy of Michelangelo’s ‘David’. (The original is housed in the Accademia). Certainly no trip to Florence would be complete without a visit to the stunning Palazzo Vecchio with its interior courtyards and inner chambers, all housing stunning works of art.
Also not to be missed is the nearby Uffizi Gallery. Among the many things to do in Florence, it must rank as Italy’s best art gallery, and the staggering number of visitors each year reflects this. Visitors are keen to get a glimpse of works of art by, amongst others, Giotto, Paolo Uccello, Masolini, Piero della Francesca, Boticelli, Michelangelo, Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck and Leonardo da Vinci. The draw of these artists means that queues to get in can be long and in peak times, you need to make sure you book in advance to guarantee a chance of getting in. The best way is to book online at www.firenzemusei.it although it is possible to turn up and queue for next day tickets. Only 200 are allocated in this way each day though so prepare to be disappointed unless you turn up extremely early!
If you’re staying in the city for a while, and have the opportunity to discover a number of the things to do in Florence, it’s definitely worth checking out whether it’s worth purchasing the ‘Amici degli Uffizi’ card. It’s not cheap at 60 euros (40 euros for those under 26) but it is valid for a year and gives you unlimited access (with no queuing) not just to the Uffizi but also to the other of Florence’s state museums which include the Accademia, the Palazzo Pitti museums (including the Boboli gardens), the Medici chapels in San Lorenzo, the Archaelogical museums, the San Marco Museum and the Bargello.
The Museo Nazionale del Bargello is certainly another ‘must see’ of the places to visit in Florence during your stay, housing a wonderful sculpture collection.
Also make sure you take a trip to San Lorenzo which claims to be Florence’s oldest church. The burial place of all of the Medici family, and designed by Brunelleschi, it’s another stunning example of Renaissance architecture. Inside, make sure you see the Cappelle Medicee, the grandest part of the buiding which the Medici family were still paying for when the last member of the Medici dynasty died in 1743! While in this part of the city, you might also want to visit the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi housing the Gozzoli frescoes.
With the majority of Florence’s attractions lying to the north of the River Arno, you mustn’t forget to cross over to the Oltarno to discover the many other hidden gems that lie on that side of the water. There are plenty of things to do in Florence on the South side of the river too! Make sure you cross over at least once via the Ponte Vecchio which takes you in the direction of the Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens. The palace and gardens contain no less than eight museums housing an art collection to rival the Uffizi. Visitors can see works of art by Caravaggio, Fra Bartolomeo, Raphael and Titian.
Also on this side of the Arno is the Church of Santo Spirito, one of Brunelleschi’s last projects, described by Bernini as ‘the most beautiful church in the world,’ as well as Santa Maria del Carmine.