Nestled on both sides of the Arno River, the charming Tuscan city of Florence is a must-visit for culture aficionados, food and wine connoisseurs, art lovers, and those who enjoy a spot of designer retail therapy. With exquisite museums and galleries to explore, lively piazzas to dine in and breathtaking vistas, Florence should feature highly on your Italian itinerary! Whether you’re staying for a couple of days or longer, our Florence travel guide will help you make the best of your time here.
How to Visit Florence
Two airports serve Florence. Amerigo Vespucci Airport lies a few miles from the city center and receives flights from major Italian and European cities. There’s also Pisa’s Galileo Galilei Airport, where many low-cost flights fly into. Get more details in our Florence Airport Guide. There’s a shuttle bus to Florence from the airport with a traveling time of just over one hour. You can also travel by train to Florence. The city is a railway network hub, therefore accessible from most Italian towns and European cities. Bus services operate throughout Tuscany and beyond. Or, you can explore the picture-perfect Tuscan countryside by car prior to arriving in the city.
How to Get Around Florence
Our Florence Travel Guide has you covered with the best ways to get around the city! Florence is quite compact and most historic attractions are accessible on foot. You can easily walk from Uffizi Gallery, Galleria dell ’Accademia, and Palazzo Vecchio to Ponte Vecchio and River Arno in less than 5 minutes. There are small electric buses which also provide links between key areas. However, if you plan to drive, it’s worth noting that there aren’t a lot of parking spaces in Florence. It’s wise to only use your rental vehicle when traveling to the Tuscan countryside, other towns, and wineries. Taxis are available throughout Florence from dedicated taxi stops. Or instead, opt for a fun bicycle or e-bike adventure! Guided tours are a great way to navigate the city – they help you get the lay of the land with an expert guide.
Neighborhoods of Florence
Sant’ Ambrogio is a quaint neighborhood located east of the Duomo, around 15 minutes walk from main attractions. It feels more like a village, with colorful fresh produce markets, al fresco cafes, cobbled lanes, and leafy piazzas. It’s a great area for dining too, with traditional trattorias and pizzerias peppering the neighborhood.
San Niccolo sits on the south side of the River Arno, close to Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, and the Boboli Gardens. This neighborhood is the greenest area of Florence, with verdant sculpted gardens and parks. In addition, it offers the best views of the city from the viewing platform at Piazzale Michelangelo. Speakeasy-style bars line the riverbank and some of the city’s top restaurants, artisan stores, and upscale independent shops can be discovered here.
If you want to be in the heart of Florentine action, San Lorenzo is a great choice. The neighborhood is just 3 minutes walk from the most famous square in Florence, Piazza del Duomo. It’s also a stone’s throw from Palazzo Medici Riccardi and Palazzo Pucci. The area is punctuated with architectural gems, and charming trattorias line the streets serving Tuscan dishes. As an added benefit, San Lorenzo is also near the main train station if you plan to arrive by rail.
Le Cure & Campo di Marte
The northern city districts of Le Cure and Campo di Marte are located just outside the city walls. Here is where you can experience Florentine life away from tourists. The neighborhoods are home to sports teams and stadiums, as well as a plethora of entertainment venues, flea markets, and small leafy parks.
Santo Spirito lies south of the city close to the Arno River, Palazzo Pitti, Boboli Gardens, and Torrigiani Gardens. The area has a hip vibe, with bustling piazzas, Baroque-style churches, and artisan workshops. It’s a great area to shop for handmade jewelry, enjoy a fun art class, or even have a pair of gladiator sandals made for you!
Food, Drink, & Nightlife
Florence is a food lover’s dream and the highlight of every Florence adventure is the cuisine! Neighborhoods boast lively markets with food halls, Michelin-star and boutique restaurants line the shores of the Arno, and charming osterias serve farm-to-table cuisine procuring fresh ingredients from Tuscan farms outside the city. You can even partake in a pizza-making class to learn how to cook like a local! For the less adventurous, there are takeaway pizzerias, international restaurants, and chic al fresco cafes from where you can people watch and gaze at centuries-old statues.
Bars around the historic center are elegant with outdoor terraces or fashion-driven interiors – places where skilled mixologists serve neon-colored concoctions in cocktail glasses. As Tuscany is famous for its wine, you can sample many varieties of the liquid nectar in the city’s ‘enotecas’ – old wine repositories which have been transformed into bars. Here are our favorite bars in Florence.
The Renaissance capital also boasts plenty of nightclubs, many of which can be found around the historic center and Piazza della Signoria. The clubs range from lounge bars to entertainment venues with comedy performances or dance clubs where renowned DJ’s spin the latest tunes until dawn.
There’s no better way to spend a leisurely afternoon than browsing luxury boutiques, open-air markets, and artisan workshops in Florence. You’ll find upscale fashion emporiums like Gucci, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, and Tiffany & Co aside stately palaces along Via de’Tornabuoni and Via degli Strozzi. Then follow our Florence Design Guide off the beaten path to discover hidden gems. If you prefer exploring independent treasure troves – ateliers, artisan workshops, and specialty stores can be discovered around Via del Parione and south of the river in the Santo Spirito neighborhood.
If you wish to purchase leather goods, Mercato Nuovo is a great place to visit. Tucked away beneath medieval arches, the stalls sell handbags, purses, clothing, and more. For produce, try Mercato Centrale in San Lorenzo. The 19th-century indoor market specializes in fresh, locally sourced ingredients, plus there’s a fabulous food court. Discover the market with a local chef guide with this market tour and cooking class.
Loggia dei Lanzi
There is no better way to experience the unique art and architecture of Florence than at an open-air sculpture museum. Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria allows city visitors to experience incredible sculptures beneath wide medieval archways free of charge. Constructed by Benci di Cione in the late 1300’s, the space was initially designed to hold public ceremonies. However, the area later transformed into an al fresco public gallery. On the steps, two Medici lions sit resplendent in marble, as if guarding the loggia. Although incredibly impressive, the main highlights are the bronze statue of Perseus holding up the head of Medusa, the Sabine women, and Hercules and Nessus. The best part? You can enjoy them all while sipping a cappuccino or feasting on gelato in one of the piazza’s outdoor cafes.
No trip to Florence would be complete without visiting Galleria dell’Accademia. This unique gallery houses some of the best artworks from the Renaissance era. Michelangelo’s David is the most famous sculpture, and you can also see works by Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, and Allori. In addition, there is a fascinating Museum of Musical Instruments that displays one-of-a-kind pieces by Stradivari and Bartolomeo Cristofori, who invented the first piano. If you have limited time in the city and wish to skip the queues, it’s advisable to book a tour in advance. Our Florence Accademia Gallery & Uffizi Gallery Tour guides you through two Florentine gems of art with a knowledgable expert.
Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens
One of Florence’s largest architectural structures, this incredible palace on the south side of the Arno was built in 1457 for the Pitti family by Filippo Brunelleschi of Duomo fame. Almost a century later the Medici’s purchased the palace and it became their primary residence in the city. Today, it houses some of Florence’s most important museums – the Palatine Gallery, showcasing collections by Raphael, the Gallery of Modern Art with a fine collection of Italian paintings and sculptures dating from the late 18th century, and the Silver Museum which displays Medici household treasures. Neighboring Boboli Gardens are part of the largest green area in Florence with a tranquil lake, sculptures, and grottos. Highlights include the amphitheater with an Egyptian obelisk at the center, the statue of Plenty, and the Porcelain Museum.
Piazza del Duomo
If there is only one site you visit from our Florence Travel Guide, let it be Piazza del Duomo. Venture into the Duomo Cathedral to discover the incredible Last Judgement fresco painted onto the ceiling of the cupola. Climb the stairs of Giotto’s Campanile to gain a bird’s eye view of Florence, then enter the Baptistery of Saint John and marvel at the intricate mosaic-covered octagonal dome. The Baptistery is well-known for its artistic bronze doors covered in relief sculptures which were once dubbed by Michelangelo as the Gates of Paradise. It was also the place of baptism for the Medici family and Dante Alighieri – the renowned Italian poet who wrote ‘The Divine Comedy’. Get the inside stories on all the cultural wonders of Florence on this 6-day alternative tour of the city.
One thing you’ll notice about Florence is that there are no large chain hotels. That’s because the city likes its guest dwellings independent, hidden away in historic townhouses, grand palaces, and stylish villas. There are budget, mid-range, and luxury hotels available across the different neighborhoods. You can choose to stay in a hilltop villa overlooking the city, in a charming townhouse in the historic center like Palazzo Vecchietti, or a luxury riverfront hotel like Portrait Firenze, where you can sip wine on the rooftop at sunset. Wherever you decide to stay, Florence surely has a place to suit your needs and budget. For a centrally-located Florentine luxury with interior design that will inspire you, stay at the Hotel Calimala. Learn more about our top picks in Florence with by reading our guide on where to stay in Florence.
What to See Near Florence
Once you’ve soaked up every ounce of our Florence Travel Guide it’s time to journey to nearby attractions! Visit historic Lucca, one of the best-preserved walled cities in Italy, and enjoy dinner and Tuscan wines in the wonderful osterias. Alternatively, head to Pisa with its famous leaning tower and basilica. Then there’s the picturesque Chianti region, which lies south of Florence. Take a tour of small wine towns to sample Tuscan Chianti with regional delicacies amidst rolling hills and verdant vines. Or see all the regional highlights on the San Gimignano, Chianti, Siena & Monteriggioni tour. And for the ultimate day trip, head to Cinque Terre to explore the 5 breathtaking coastal villages. Looking for something a bit more all-inclusive? Check out our offering of tour packages that make a stop in Florence, which will make your stay utterly unforgettable.