Do you love a beautiful vista? If so, here’s my guide to the best viewpoints in Florence Italy.
It’s always exciting to discover a city from above. With a distinctive cityscape and gorgeous architecture, Florence is an incredibly beautiful city.
Happily, there are many iconic viewpoints in Florence where you can enjoy magical views over the city. Once you’ve seen the cityscape from on high, you may feel like you “own” Florence.
In this Florence travel guide, I give you a list of where to find the best viewpoints in Florence. They include some of Florence’s famous landmarks. But you can also find great views from Florence’s rooftop bars and parks.
Best Panoramic Viewpoints in Florence
Here’s are the best spots to see Florence from above:
1. Brunelleschi’s Dome
Filippo Brunelleschi’s magnificent terra cotta colored dome, built from 1420-36, is the highlight of Florence Cathedral. It’s a true Renaissance masterpiece.
If you need to burn off some pasta carbs, climb the 463 steps to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome. When you make the climb, you’re between the two domes Brunelleschi designed.
About 2/3 of the way up is a viewing ledge at the base of the drum. From here, you have a splendid view of Giorgio Vasari’s dome fresco of The Last Judgment, painted from 1572-79. Covering some 3,6000 square meters, the fresco is the largest one in the world.
Back inside the dome, the climb gets progressively more challenging. The magnificent panoramic view from the top is worth the discomfort though. You can see all of Florence and some of the Tuscan countryside.
But be forewarned, it’s very tight. The narrow twisting corridor gets clogged. It can be hot, stuffy, and potentially claustrophobic. And there’s no elevator. If you’re doing the dome climb in the summer, it will be stifling.
2. Giotto Bell Tower
On a Giotto Campanile climb, you have Florence’s best views of the Duomo and Brunelleschi’s dome. There are no elevators though, and it’s 414 steps to the top. The lines can sometimes be quite long.
The tower also has three middle floors with views. On the second floor, you can see the statues in the niches. (The originals are in the Duomo museum.)
Be forewarned, though, your views will be slightly impeded by a grill that stretches around the terrace to prevent people from falling down.
3. Tower of Arnolfo
Want a great view of Florence without the queues and crowds? Instead of climbing Brunelleschi’s dome or Giotto’s Bell Tower, head to Palazzo Vecchio and climb the Tower of Arnolfo.
If you’re up for a climb of 418 steps, the Tower of Arnolfo offers panoramic 360 views of the Duomo and Florence. You enter via the Museum of the Palazzo Vecchio, with a combined ticket for Palazzo Vecchio or for an additional small fee.
On your hike up, you’ll pass a prison cell known as the “Little Hotel.” This is where Cosimo the Elder and Savonarola were briefly imprisoned. No more than 35 people can enter at once. On busy days, you’ll be limited to 30 minutes. In bad weather, the tower is closed.
4. Piazzale Michelangleo
Piazzale Michelangelo is one of Florence’s best viewing points. You can see a postcard worthy view of the entire cityscape of Florence. Like Piazza della Signoria, the square has a monumental copy of Michelangelo’s David, delivered by nine pairs of oxen in 1873.
Piazzale Michelangelo isn’t ancient. In fact, it’s a fairly recent addition, designed by Giuseppe Poggi. It was built in 1869 as part of the redevelopment of Florence. In addition to the David, there are bronze copies of the four allegories from the Medici Chapel in the Basilica of San Lorenzo.
How do you get to the Piazza Michelangelo? Take bus #12 (from Boboli Gardens), bus #13 (from Ponte Niccolo), or the HopOn/Hop Off Bus. More effortlessly, you can just take a taxi. There’s also a parking lot, if you have a car.
If you want to make the hike from downtown Florence, wear comfortable shoes. You can start after crossing the Ponte Vecchio. There’s a serpentine path from Piazza Poggi. Or you can follow the 2 kilometer Via Michelangelo from Piazzo Ferruccio.
5. San Miniato al Monte
If you’re at the Piazzale Michelangelo, you should walk 5 more minutes uphill and visit the spectacular and well preserved Church of San Miniato al Monte. It’s Florence’s crowning glory, perched even higher and with a better view. Building began in 1018. Like the Baptistry, the church is over 1000 years old.
It’s worth the arduous climb, I promise. San Miniato is an oasis of calm away from the hurly burly of Florence with amazing Gothic art and unsurpassed views. The perspective over the city is absolutely extraordinary.
You have incredible views of Florence and its storied architecture — the Palazzo Vecchio, the Duomo, the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Basilica of Santa Croce — are all before you.
This is a better view of the Duomo than that at Piazzale Michelangelo. And you can take photos with the cemetery in the foreground. Go at sunset for extra gorgeousness.
6. Delle Porte Sante Cemetery | Sacred Doors Cemetery
If you’re looking for some crowd free views of Florence, head uphill to the Sacred Doors Cemetery. It’s right behind the Church of San Miniato al Monte.
This ancient graveyard is an open air museum, stuffed with beautiful funeral art and memorials. The private temples and tombs are in varying architectural styles, from Renaissance to Art Deco.
Many of them are inspired by Florence’s churches. The most famous effigy (show above) depicts the Mazzone siblings dancing together, fully united in the after life.
7. Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most famous museums in the Western world. It’s Florence’s #1 attraction and the third most visited landmark in Italy. The Uffizi is overflowing with amazing art works from the International Gothic period and the early, high, and late Renaissance. You have to book early.
The most well known viewpoint in the Uffizi is from the cafeteria terrace. But the Grand Gallery loggia, designed by Giorgio Vasari, also offers enchanting views out over Florence’s famous bridges.
In fact, there are many windows in the hallways of the Uffizi that offer a room with views. So, if you can drag your eyes away from the Renaissance art, peer out the window and admire the Renaissance cityscape too. There are great views of the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio.
8. Boboli Gardens
The Boboli Gardens are the backyard playground of the Pitti Palace. It’s the largest green space in Florence. The Boboli Gardens sprawls over 11 acres.
The gardens are effectively an open air museum, with hundreds of nooks to explore. They’re laid out in the Italian style, with beautifully worn Renaissance statues and fountains.
The gardens were designed to rise above the Florentine hills. Therefore, they offer some of the best views of Florence, as well as serene panoramas of the Tuscan countryside behind.
Fort Belvedere is the highest point. It’s been called “the most beautiful terrace in Florence.”
9. Bardini Gardens
The Bardini Gardens are situated between Costa San Giorgio and Borgo San Niccolo. The gardens are close to the more famous Boboli Gardens. But they’re virtually unknown and hence much less crowded if you have tourist phobia.
The gardens are open from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm daily. The gardens’ most famous spot is the whimsical Wisteria Tunnel, a fantasia of purple flowers.
The Bardini Gardens also boast another one of the best viewing spots in Florence. For a panoramic view of the Florentine cityscape, take the Baroque stairway up to the Belvedere Terrace. Click here to take a Google Street View tour of the Bardini Gardens.
10. Rooftop Bars and Cafes
You’ll also have some great views from Florence’s cafes and bars.
Set with in the historical center, the Hotel Cavour has a 6th floor rooftop bar dubbed “Divina Terrazza.” It offers stunning up close views of the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio.
Other options to see Florence from above include the rooftop bars of hotels like Hotel Grand Minerva, Hotel Continentale, and Westin Excelsior. La Terraza at the Hotel Continentale is probably the best of the best, set right above Ponte Vecchio.
Located near Piazza della Repubblica, Rinascente department store also has a cafe terrace with views. Take the escalators up, and then a quick climb of the stairs. You’ll have great views of the Duomo, if you sit down for a coffee.
11. Ponte Santa Trinita
This lovely bridge is named for the nearby Church of Santa Trinita. Which you should pop into just to see Ghirlandaio’s frescos of the life of St. Francis of Assisi.
Rebuilt many times, the bridge has three elegant arches, protruding pylons, and grimacing goats at the top of each arch. The four statues at both ends of the bridge represent the four seasons.
Ponte Santa Trinita is where you have the best views of Ponte Vecchio and the Arno River.
12. Ponte Vecchio
Dating from 1345, the Ponte Vecchio, or “old bridge,” is Florence’s only bridge to survive WWII.
The beautiful Ponte Vecchio looks like houses suspended over the Arno River. It has three arches topped with a jumble of charming shops.
For a wonderful vista looking out over the river Arno and all the way to Ponte alle Grazie, stand in the center of Ponte Vecchio and look east.
13. San Niccolo Tower
Dating from 1324, San Niccolo was part of Florence’s old city walls built by Arnolfo di Cambio. It was one of the entrance gates and watch stations of Florence. At 200 feet, San Niccolo is the tallest of Florence’s ancient city towers still standing.
The tower is located in Piazza Poggi across the river in Florence’s Oltrarno neighborhood. From the crenelated terrace at the top, you have nice 360 panoramic views of Florence.
Located high above Florence in the Tuscan countryside, Fiesole is the quickest and easiest day trip from Florence. You can actually walk there in an hour. If you don’t want to hoof it, there’s a bus that leaves from San Marco Square as well.
If you’re a ruin luster or history buff, Fiesole is perfect. Fiesole pre-dates Florence, with Etruscan roots from the 8th to 9th century B.C. Be sure to visit the Etruscan-Roman Archaeological site, including a Roman aphitheater, Roman baths, and remains of Etruscan walls.
More importantly, the Renaissance style village also offers up a spectacular and sweeping view of the area below: lush rolling hills, red roofs atop white washed buildings, rows and rows of cypress trees and finally, the beautiful Florence herself.
Wonderful views can be found throughout the town. For the best vista, head up to the panoramic terrace at the top of the village. There are also splendid views from the Monastery of San Francesco, just a bit higher up.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to the best viewpoints in Florence. You may enjoy these other Florence travel guides and resources:
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