Everybody loves Italy, Italian food, and the Italian lifestyle. And the same can be said about the city of Florence, one of the most beautiful and iconic places in Tuscany.
When thinking of Florence, the first thing that comes to mind is Renaissance. You get to experience, to travel back in time to the Renaissance, admiring the best the human mind and heart were able to create: an incredibly beautiful, romantic, cultural place, the city of Florence!
What does Florence have to offer to a first-time visitor? Great architecture, cuisine, and art with a touch of Dante, Michelangelo, Galileo, the Medici Family, Raphael, and so many other great personalities!
Now that we’ve established that you do not want to miss this city, let’s see where to start your cultural journey and discover Florence – Top 30 places to see in Florence this year, selected by Framey:
1. Duomo – Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
This imposing and beautiful masterpiece of architecture sits rightfully at the heart of the old town of Florence, reigning over all other buildings for a reason.
But just saying that doesn’t even begin to cover how breathtaking it really is. The exterior facade, the exquisite bronze doors, the colors, and the design will forever be embedded in your memory. And, it is to this day the largest macon dome in the world. I can give you most of the historic information but what you really need to do is go and admire this for yourself.
2. Basilica di San Lorenzo
Emerging into yet another Renaissance masterpiece we have to take a look at the Medici family parish, the Basilica of San Lorenzo.
Imagine the powerful Medici Family, patrons of art, bringing together the true masters of the ages to create a timeless family worship mausoleums that will endure the test of time and attest to their true power. And now imagine that the masters brought in are none other than Donatello, Brunelleschi, and Michelangelo and they all had a hand in creating and decorating the Basilica of San Lorenzo.
3. Bargello National Museum
Art comes in all forms in Florence and this time it is in the form of a former prison and barrack that is now the home of the Bargello National Museum.
True that Florence has no shortage of art collections and the Bargello houses sculpture works by Donatello, Michelangelo, and Lombardo.
4. Pitti Palace & Square
Overshadowed by the imposing figure of Pitti Palace, the piazza, nowadays a square is a testament to Renaissance style. The Palace itself is one of the places you must not miss, and the most famous of its rooms is the Galleria Palatina.
Masterpieces of Botticelli, Titian, Caravaggio, and Rafael fill the 11 rooms of the Galleria, a collection created by the Medici family and continued afterward by the Lorraine family.
5. Palazzo Vecchio
When you think of a town hall you don’t get normally excited or impressed. But the case of Florence’s old town hall is altogether another story.
Located in an old Palace. Nowadays most of the Palace is a museum, but it is still a powerful symbol of government.
6. Vasari Corridor
If you have two great palaces and want to get very fast from the one that serves as the office to the home one, what do you do?
Well, Giorgio Vasari decided in 1564 that the solution is to build an enclosed passage to link the Palazzo Vecchio to the Pitti Palace. After being closed for renovations since 2016, the Corridor is set to open in 2022 so get ready to be amazed once more.
7. Piazza Santa Croce
Piazza Santa Croce houses and frames the beautiful Franciscan Basilica di Santa Croce.
Built at the same time as the more famous Dome, the Basilica features a beautifully colored front facade on the outside, while the interior is the resting place of some of the most prolific personalities the Renaissance gave us: Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli.
8. The Accademia Gallery
The Galleria dell’Accademia or The Accademia Gallery is one of the most visited places in Florence. And it is no wonder why as it houses Michelangelo’s David statue, possibly the most famous statue of all time.
And yes that is the original statue, but there are also two copies, one located in the Duomo Square and the other in the Michelangelo Piazzale.
9. The Great Synagogue of Florence
The Great Synagogue of Florence is a testament in itself. A testament to the growing community of Jews in Florence and to a very European style of architecture. Considered one of the most beautiful buildings of the 19th century it features proudly a combination of Moorish, Byzantine, and Romanesque style elements.
10. Brunelleschi Dome
Standing proud amidst, the Brunelleschi Dome, also known as Cupola del Brunelleschi was a real breakthrough in Renainsanssance architecture. Innovation was in the new ways they used to reduce weight. Although building it began in medieval times, in 1296, the dome is considered to be predominantly gothic in style.
11. Piazzale Michelangelo
Where is the best place to take a panoramic view of the Duomo and upload it to your Framey profile?
Head down to Piazzale Michelangelo. Located on the banks of the Arno River, it stands tall and proud on the hill between the Pitti Palazzo and Boboli Gardens.
And don’t forget that a bronze copy of Michelangelo’s David is adding the finishing touches to this memorable picture.
12. Basilica San Miniato al Monte
Florence is packed with hidden little hidden gems and Basilica Miniato al Monte is definitely one of the precious ones. A little hike uphill will reward you with breathtaking views of the city and the site of one of the most beautiful churches in all of Tuscany. The steps will lead you to the Romanesque marble-facade church, white and green geometric shapes are but a preview of what its interior has to offer. Marble mosaic, frescos, zodiac floor, mythical creatures, I grant you it is an intriguing mix to be found in a church, but even more worth admiring, I think.
13. Ponte Vecchio
Amongst the most iconic and recognizable places in Florence, Ponte Vecchio holds its spot. This bridge is a testament to medieval engineering as it is the first segmental arch bridge, the first of its kind in this part of the world.
A walk on it will get you to take in views of the Arno River and a chance to browse through souvenir shops, jewelry shops, etc.
14. Giotto’s Bell Tower
Now that you have seen the majestic Duomo up close, how would you like to see it from above?
Located next to the Saint Mary of Flowers Cathedral, it is a site on its own. If you take the 414 steps you get to admire this Gothic masterpiece of the Renaissance and the views.
15. Stibbert Museum
A spin from the usual type of museum we are used to in Florence is the Stibbert Museum. Some might call it a hidden gem with all the eclectic collections of armor, weapons, and artifacts. It is truly not what you would expect to find in a Florence museum. And it is quite incredible to see how much can a family collect. Bonus points also for the exquisite decorations.
16. Cappelle Medicee
If the Duomo is the outside grandeur that reigns Florence, then the Medici Chapel (located next to the Basilica of San Lorenzo) is the inside marvel than will astonish your senses. The beauty of the ceiling, the marble, the frescoes, and the Michelangelo-carved statues are a treasure for the sight and soul.
I would say that although the Medici Chapel usually isn’t in the top 10 most visited places in Florence, you should add it to your list.
17. Bardini Garden
Another hidden gem lies in Florence and this time is a charming and restful zen spot. You walk the paths and up the stairs and wander through the stunning architecture and fountains. Bardini Gardens might not be as famous or big as the Boboli Gardens but it is just as spectacular and worth it. And if by any chance you get to visit Florence in late April, when Wisteria is in bloom, a photo shoot of the pergola is in order as this spot is a spectacle!
18. Uffizi Palace and Gallery
The Uffizi Palace and Gallery are the museums to see. And I am not saying this lightly just because it contains one of the most extensive and impressive collections of Renaissance works of art, but because the museum itself and the inner courtyard are a work of art as well.
Whether an art lover or not, you can not but admire Botticelli, Da Vinci, Titian, Caravaggio, and Raphael. No words can do justice to this experience!
19. Boboli Gardens
How would one describe Boboli Gardens? Firstly – immense! Next – Incredibly beautiful!
Even if you came to Florence for the art and cultural experience you will be amazed and delighted to retreat for a few hours and just enjoy this garden’s sense of peace and tranquility and its lavish landscapes, statues, and fountains. A real pleasure!
20. Giardino dell’Iris
Another remissive gem in Florence is the Iris Garden. This particular garden is only open for 20 days a year, ending from April – to the beginning of May when the Iris are in bloom. Why did they choose a botanical garden dedicated to the Iris flower you wonder? Well, the iris has been the symbol of Florence ever since the year 1251.
21. Villa Bardini
If you are trying to escape a bit from the city and retreat a bit from the hustle, there is that one place where you can do that, the Bardini Garden and Villa. While the Garden will enchant your senses the Villa enriches your mind, as it is now a museum. The restoration of the villa is exquisite and for sure that the old antiquarian would love the results, packed with collections of art, stucco, and terracotta sculptures.
22. Arno River
A witness and a protagonist to Florence’s flow through history, the Arno river, is to this day a vivid presence that extends its charming waves even further. And there is a lot you can visit, see and admire on the banks of the river. I am not talking just about Ponto Vecchio but you can also take a cruise down the river on old restored boats or just simply enjoy a get bit of exercising on a Stand-Up Paddle. Your choice!
23. Torre di Arnolfo
How would you like a view from above? One of the most spectacular ones that you can get is the view from the Tower of Pallazzo Vecchio – Torre di Arnolfo. Mind you that you have 233 steps to get to the top of the 95 m tower but it will be worth it to get to the top of the bell tower and enjoy the views of the old historic center.
24. Strozzi Palace
Strozzi Palace is considered to be a cultural hub in the life of Florence. The various art exhibitions are set in an original Renaissance building, built around the courtyard. In the old days when the rivalry between families was a thing, the Strozzi family was up against the Medici and this place was home to one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in Florence.
Nowadays it is home to some of the most beautiful works of art and it houses several exhibitions each year.
25. Badia Fiorentina
The oldest monastery in Florence, Badia Fiorentina is nowadays both a church and a monastery and home of a congregation of monks called Monastic Communities of Jerusalem. And it is said that attending their mass might just be one of the most enlightening experiences one can get in Florence.
Want to know more intriguing facts about this monastery? It is said that Dante saw his Beatrice in this church for the very first time.
26. Ponte Santa Trinita
A bit less famous than its counterpart Ponte Vecchio, the Ponte Santa Trinita (The Holy Trinity Bridge) is showing off its elliptic arches over the Arno River. In addition to the arches, the bridge also showcases 4 beautiful statues of the 4 seasons.
27. Artemio Franchi Stadium
I would reason that the thing Italians love most is football. And Florence makes no separate note in this matter. If this is your passion as well, the place to see is Artemio Franchi Stadium where the ACF Fiorentina football team plays.
In any case, even if you are not so much into sports the stadium is also a concert venue, and you might want to check that too.
28. Loggia dei Lanzi
The Loggia dei Lanzi or the Loggia della Signoria was designed in the Gothic style as an assembly place for the citizens of Florence. Later on, as it was used by the German mercenary guards got its name, Lanzi.
What is the most beautiful thing about it? For sure that it is the statues that frame the Loggia. They tell the story of Greek myths and legends and are a truly magnific site to admire.
29. Baptistery of Saint John
Another Renaissance spot to see is the Baptistery of Saint John.
The octagonal baptistery was in the old day the only place to get baptized. Its location, with one foot in Piazza del Duomo and the other in Piazza San Giovanni, across from Florence Cathedral and the Campanile di Giotto makes it very easy to spot and put the tour.
30. Piazza della Repubblica
One of the main squares in Florence, Piazza della Republica, has been a central one dating to Roman times (being the city’s forum location). But as all Florence does, the Piazza has a central Renaissance piece, the column of Plenty, which marks the exact heart of the city. On the Column, you can find a replica of Donatello’s Lady with the Cornucopia.
For sure there are many more sights and experiences I did not manage to share with you in this article but I am hoping that you enjoyed Framey’s selection of Florence – The best 30 places to see in the city of Renaissance.
And just in case you need some more ideas I might suggest taking a sneak peek at three Italy-related articles Framey has: Rome: History, Culture, Tourism & More Interesting Facts, 20 Must-have experiences in Venice by boat + 5 hidden gems, and 20 Best things to see in Milan + Bonus 5 hidden gems. You might get even more inspired!