Here are my must know tips and tricks for visiting Florence, a stunning UNESCO-listed city and Cradle of the Renaissance.
These tips will help you have the best and most efficient visit to Florence, which is a popular tourist-fly city in Italy.
the Ponte Vecchio in Florence
I’m not going to tell you what others have — how to take the bus or order coffee or avoid pickpockets.
Everyone has written about that. Even me. I have a more general article with tips for visiting Italy.
With these substantive tips and some advance planning, you can make the most of your visit to Florence. You can skip lines, avoid mistakes, and not waste precious time or miss something important.
Michelangelo’s David in the Accademia Gallery
Key Tips For Visiting Florence
Here are my 25+ useful tips and tricks for visiting Florence.
1. Book in Advance
The most important tip for Florence is to book tickets for the attractions you want to see well in advance. In peak season, notoriously long queues plague many of Florence’s must see sights — especially the Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Accademia. In fact, as in Rome, you’ll find long lines all year long, not just in high season.
If you plan ahead, you can save hours of lining up. For Florence, you have to be organized; you can’t just casually turn up. To avoid disappointment or angst, book in advance.
You can book many tickets online in advance: the Uffizi, the Accademia, Brunelleschi’s Dome, the Bargello Museum, the Pitti Palace, the Palazzo Vecchio, and the Medici Chapel. That way, you enter via the pre-paid fast-track queue at a time of your choosing.
Neptune Fountain in the Boboli Gardens
Florence is small for a grand European city. You can easily walk everywhere. The major sites are clustered in the center. Everything is within 20 minutes, 30 minutes at most.
If you want to stretch your legs, you can hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo or San Miniato al Monte for views.
Or cross the Arno River. You may fall in love with the Santo Spirito and San Niccolo areas. There, you can visit the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Gardens, the Basilica of Santo Spirito, Piazzale Michelangelo, and the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte.
If walking isn’t your thing, you can use Florence’s fairly efficient ATAF buses. Be sure to validate your ticket once you’re on the bus. There’s no metro in Florence.
the Pitti Palace, home to some of the best art in Florence
4. Learn Some Medici History
The Medici were the most celebrated family of the Renaissance. Florence is synonymous with the Medici and the Medici is synonymous with Florence.
The Medici family commissioned virtually all of Florence’s breathtaking art and architecture– works by Brunelleschi, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Donatello, and Fra Angelico. Some of the Medici even became popes.
The Medici were one of the longest lasting dynasties in history. They weren’t just great patrons of the arts, but also key players in geopolitics.
So another tip for visiting Florence is to acquaint yourself with the Medici family history. It will give you a deeper understanding and appreciation of Florence. Here’s my nutshell history of the Medici.
Or sign up for a Medici-themed tour in Florence. For example, you can book:
- a Medici mysteries walking tour
- a Medici family walking tour
- a footsteps of the Medici tour
- a 2 hour tour of Medici series filming locations
- a 2.5 hour evening walking tour about the Medici
Brunelleschi’s dome on the Duomo
5. Tickets & Tour For The Duomo Complex
You’ll also need tips for visiting the Duomo complex in Florence. You have to be organized to visit the Duomo and climb the dome. It’s an exceedingly popular activity.
Florence used to have a combination ticket for all the Duomo sites. But it longer does. You’ll have to pre-book individual tickets and tours on the website (if you read Italian).
The Duomo is free to enter, but you have to queue up. If you book a Duomo tour, you can skip the line.
So, you may want to book a guided tour of the Duomo. You can also book a guided tour of the Duomo that includes access to the dome and secret terraces that you wouldn’t see on a regular visit.
It’s absolutely essential to pre-book a ticket to climb Brunelleschi’s dome.
You can also book a combination guided tour for the Baptistery, Duomo Museum, and a dome climb. This 3 hour combination guided tour covers the four attractions I’ve just mentioned, plus Giotto’s bell tower. You can also book a combined tour to the Duomo + the Accademia Gallery.
6. Climbing The Duomo Dome
As I mentioned, the dome climb is ONLY possible with an advance reservation. You can book a time slot when you purchase your ticket online.
Dome climb time slots can fill up days in advance, so reserve well ahead. Know in advance that it’s 463 steps to the top and there’s no elevator.
Once you’ve made the reservation, you can’t change it. Show up 20-30 minutes early.
The entrance for the dome climb is on the north side of the Duomo. Little blue signs in the Duomo piazza will point you to the entry for the different sites.
view of Florence from Brunelleschi’s dome
7. How Best To Visit The Duomo Complex
To help plan your visit to the Duomo complex, here are the time schedules of the Duomo sites. They all open and close at different times. Check the individual websites because sometime the hours change.
- Duomo: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
- Brunelleschi’s Dome: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
- Giotto Bell Tower | Campanile: 8:15 am to 10:15 am & 11:15 am to 7:30 pm
- Crypt:10:00 am to 4:30 pm
- Duomo Museum: 9:00 am to 7:00 pm (but closed Sunday afternoon)
- Baptistery: 8:15 am to 6:30 pm
I would start with the Baptistery of St. John at 8:15 am, move on to the Duomo Museum, and then have a bell tower climb scheduled for 11:00 am or so.
Don’t rush through the wonderful museum, which has an outstanding collection of Medieval and Renaissance sculpture and a reconstructed Duomo facade.
Honestly, you don’t HAVE to visit the interior of the Duomo. It’s rather bare inside.
You might almost think it was unfinished. This is a line you can eliminate without guilt. But if you have booked a tour that includes the Duomo, you can skip the line that way.
You don’t want to climb both the Duomo dome and the Giotto bell tower on the same day. Also, because there are religious sites, you must dress conservatively. No sleeveless tops or short/skirts above the knee.
the Tower of Arnolfo at Palazzo Vecchio
8. Duomo Dome vs. Giotto Bell Tower vs. Tower of Arnolfo
Which climb offers the best view in Florence? They all have their perks and downsides. On the whole, I think Giotto’s bell tower offers the best experience.
With a Duomo climb, you have great views of Florence and can see Vasari’s frescos in the cupola.
But you have to make an advance timed entry reservation, as I mentioned above. And the last bit of the climb is arduous.
On a Giotto bell tower climb, you have the best views in Florence 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.
You can visit the Tower of Arnolfo at Palazzo Vecchio with a ticket for the palace for a small additional small fee.
This is a great alternative if there are long queues at the Giotto Bell Tower. But no more than 35 people can enter at once. In bad weather, it’s closed.
Sandro Botticelli’s famed With of Venus in the Uffizi Gallery
9. Visiting The 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 site 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 official website for the Uffizi (and several other city museums) is polomuseale.firenze.it When booking advance tickets online, note that available time slots for full price tickets are marked “Intero/Full.”
Once you’ve selected a slot, you’ll receive an email with a voucher. You take that to the Uffizi ticket desk a few minutes before your visit to swap for an actual ticket. Be sure to get in the right line to avoid wasting precious time.
If the website is too complicated or sold out, you can click here to book a timed entry skip the line ticket. Be aware that the Firenze Card gives you entry to the Uffizi, but no longer lets you skip the line.
The Uffizi is also a popular place to take a guided tour, because of its history and the sheer number of masterpieces.
Booking a tour will also give you skip the access. You have several options:
- a 1.5 hour small group guided tour
- a 2 hour small group guided tour
- a 2 hour private tour
- a 2 hour early entry guided tour (8:30 am)
- a combined tour of the Uffizi + Brunelleschi’s dome
- a 5 hour tour of both the Uffizi and the Accademia
If there are no available slots on the museum website or on the links above, you can try to buy from ticket vendors such as Florence.net or Tickitaly.com. They charge approximately € 5 more per ticket. But they may have more time slots available, if you want or need flexibility.
aerial view of Siena’s Il Campo square and the Palazzo Pubblico
10. Florence As A Base For Day Trips
Florence’s central location makes it an excellent base for day trips around central Italy.
That way, you can escape Florence’s adoring (and sometimes maddening) crowds during the day and you don’t have to switch accommodations every night to see a new place in Tuscany.
Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station is located smack in the city center, behind the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella.
It quickly connects you to other charming Tuscan towns and villages just crammed with beautiful art, architecture, palazzos, and piazzas. Not to mention some of the best pasta and chianti in Italy.
- full day guided tour to Cinque Terre
- day trip to Assisi and Cortona
- 8 hour day trip to Siena and San Gimignano
- a full day wine tasting tour in Tuscany
- a full day tour to Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni
- a full day tour to Pisa, Lucca, and Vinci
- a full day tour to Venice
- a full day tour to Rome
view of Florence from the Bardini Gardens
11. Try Some Hidden Gems
Most tourists in Florence are visiting the Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. They do that and they think they’ve “done Florence.” But Florence is so much more than these three must see sites.
If you’re a repeat visitor, you may want to avoid the seemingly ever-present tourist siege and seek out some hidden gems in Florence.
Florence’s less visited destinations boast beautiful Renaissance art without the crowds and lines. You can admire a groundbreaking painting, sculpture, or fresco without elbowing your neighbor or having your view obstructed.
courtyard of the Palazzo Vecchio
12. Florence’s Palace Museums
If you’re a first time visitor, you likely won’t have Florence’s palaces on your Florence itinerary. There’s just so many things to do in Florence, if you’re only there for a short time.
But if you’re a repeat visitor looking for some potentially less crowded destinations in Florence, the palace museums are your ticket to nirvana.
Florence has quite a few elegant palazzos that hold astonishing art collections. These less visited Florentine palaces house some of Florence’s unmissable masterpieces, amid dazzling rooms designed and decorated by Florence’s rich and famous.
Here are my Florence palace guides:
- Guide To the Medici Palaces
- Guide To Palazzo Vecchio
- Guide To the Pitti Palace
- Leonardo vs Michelangelo at the Palazzo Vecchio
Neptune Fountain in the Piazza della Signoria
13. Free Things To Do In Florence
Are you visiting Florence on a budget? No problem. In Florence, you can see priceless art for no price at all.
Most significantly, some of Florence’s churches open their ornate doors for free. Inside, you’ll find stellar Renaissance art from such luminaries as Michelangelo, Botticelli, Brunelleschi, and Donatello. Florence’s Piazza della Signoria is also an outdoor sculpture gallery.
Here’s my complete guide to free things to do and see in Florence.
copy of Michelangelo’s David in Piazzale Michelangelo
14. Three Versions of David By Michelangelo
If you didn’t score a ticket for the Accademia Gallery, no worries.
There are three versions of Michelangelo’s David in Florence. The original is in the museum of course.
But there exact replicas of the world’s most famous sculpture in Piazzale Michelangelo and in front of the entrance to Palazzo Vecchio.
view of Florence from San Miniato al Monte
15. Sunset Views In Florence
When people visiting Florence want a panoramic view, they usually head to Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence’s famous lookout square. To be sure, Piazzale Michelangelo is nice. But it’s also filled with bus loads of tourists and vendors hawking trinkets.
If you want to escape the crowds, head to the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte instead. San Miniato is just 5-10 minutes further up the hill.
The ancient church is a unique and harmonious blend of medieval architectural styles, pre-dating Florence’s Renaissance treasures. It’s completely free to visit.
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.
While you’re there, visit the beautiful Sacred Door Cemetery. right behind the basilica. Built in the 19th century, the cemetery is an open air museum, stuffed with beautiful funeral art, mausoleums, and memorials of illustrious Florentine Catholics.
Michelangelo’s Tomb for Giuliano de Medici
16. Themed Artist Trails
Are you an art lover who likes to travel with a theme? Florence is fantastic place for that, especially if you love the Renaissance era. Here are my guide to Florence’s artists trails:
- Michelangelo Trail in Florence
- Piero della Francesco Trail in Tuscany
- Andrea del Verrocchio’s Art in Florence
- Botticelli Trail in Florence
- Florence art bucket list
- Masterpieces of Donatello
Piazza Santo Spirito
17. Vist Florence’s Churches
There is more to Florence than the Duomo, however magnificent it is. Florence has so many interesting churches, some of which are under the radar hidden gems.
If you’re an early bird, many churches open very early at 7:00 am or so. If you’re looking to maximize your sightseeing, you can head to a church or two of your choice before the major attractions open at 9:00 am.
Tomb of Michelangelo in the Basilica of Santa Croce
Santa Croce is just stuffed with artistic treasures. The basilica has one of the greatest assemblages of paintings, sculptures, and funereal tombs in existence.
You can admire frescos by Giotto and sculptures by Donatello. You can also pay your respects to Michelangelo, who is buried there.
Some other churches that you should consider putting on your Florence itinerary are: the Basilica of Santo Spirito, the Basilica of Santa Croce, the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, San Marco Monastery, and the Basilica of San Lorenzo.
Michelangelo’s sculpture of Night in the Medici Chapel
18. Visiting The Medici Chapel
The Medici Chapel is a very popular attraction in Florence. It’s part of the Basilica of San Lorenzo complex. So you need some tips for visiting.
The Medici Chapel has the most Michelangelo sculptures in Florence. There are 6 tomb sculptures, including one of Michelangelo’s best sculptures, Night.
But entrance to the Medici Chapel is completely separate from the basilica. You can’t buy a combination ticket that includes the Medici Chapel, which is an independent state museum.
A ticket for the Medici Chapel also gives you access to the Chapel of the Princes and the Medici Crypt. It does not give you access to the basilica itself. You need to book a separate ticket to visit the San Lorenzo complex.
view of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo
19. When To Visit Florence
Florence’s sites are beautiful any time of year. But the best time to visit is shoulder season in the spring or fall.
April-June and September-October are generally mild and sunny. Unfortunately, however, Florence still can be busy then.
You could come in the winter season, November-March. It can be cool and rainy. But if you dress appropriately, you’ll be fine and can enjoy Florence without the crowds. If you’re a museum hound, this is the best time to visit.
20. Where To Eat Gelato
Eating gelato is an integral part of any trip to Florence.
Here are the best places to grab gelato in Florence:
- Gelateria Santa Trinita: Southern edge of the Ponte Vecchio
- Gelateria La Carraia: Just across the Arno near Ponte La Carraia
- La Strega Nocciola: Just across the Ponte Vecchio in the Oltrarno District
- Il Procopio: On Via Pietra Piana
- Gelateria de Neri: Near the Ufizzi Gallery. There’s always a line, but the gelato is worth the wait.
the Uffizi Gallery on the Arno River
21. Firenze Card
Another Florence tip is that I don’t think it’s worth to purchase the Firenze Card, unless you plan to visit every single museum in the city on a mega busy sightseeing blitz. It’s pricey at 85 euros.
From a strictly financial point of view, there may be little real savings from purchasing the Firenze Card. Right now, the Firenze Card also doesn’t include the Duomo complex and monuments, though that may change.
However, one added perk of the Firenze Card is that you can usually skip the lines at most attractions with the card. So card holders won’t have the hassle of making advance reservations and getting separate tickets.
This is not true, however, at the all important Uffizi Gallery anymore. Card holders can no longer skip they line. They will have to queue up.
22. How Long To Stay in Florence?
So much to see, so little time. For a small city, there’s an astonishing amount to see in Florence. You may be overwhelmed with our options.
How long you decide to stay will depend on your interest in Renaissance art and architecture. And whether you want to allot time for aimless wandering, wine tasting, and leisurely meals.
Florence deserves at least one well-organized day. But art lovers could easily stay a week.
If you only have one day, it’s essential to set up your itinerary in advance and pre-book tickets to the major attractions.
Be aware that Sundays and Mondays aren’t ideal for sightseeing in Florence. Many places are either closed or have shorter hours.
23. How To Get To Florence
Many travelers will fly into Rome and Milan and take the high speed train to get to Florence. You can also fly directly into Florence Airport or Pisa Airport.
24. How To Get Around Florence
Florence isn’t a big city. You can traverse the entire city in 30 minutes. So plan to spend your time walking for the most part. It’s pedestrianized, so there’s no traffic.
But there are lots of other fun ways to get around Florence and see the sites. You can:
- rent a vespa
- take the hop on hop off bus
- take a daytime Segway tour
- take a nighttime Segway tour
- take a electric bike tour
- take a nighttime walking tour with an art historian
25. What To Do In Florence At Night
There are plenty of things to do in Florence at night. And sometimes it’s less crowded when the day trippers leave.
You can enjoy at sunset from Florence’s many viewpoints. Or stroll through the streets on an evening walking tour.
The Palazzo Vecchio is open at night. You can do your other sightseeing during the day and visit the mighty edifice in the evening. Click here to pre-book a ticket.
You can take a nighttime Segway tour. This tour takes you to the major attractions and lets you glide around Piazza della Signoria and Piazza della Repubblica.
26. Where To Stay In Florence
There are plenty of amazing hotels in Florence. You’re really spoiled or choice.
If you want something central, book at the Hotel Brunelleschi or Portrait Firenze. Portrait Firenze is one of the most sought after hotels in Italy and is just steps away from the Ponte Vecchio. Of course, the Four Seasons is always beautiful and in a quiet location.
In the Oltrarno, I really like Villa Cora with its stunning views and Renaissance style suites.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my tips for visiting Florence Italy. You may enjoy these other Italy guides:
- 5 day itinerary for Rome
- 2 day itinerary for Venice
- 10 day itinerary for Italy’s classic cites
- 7 ways to spend 1 week in Italy
- 10 day itinerary from Milan to Rome
- 1 week itinerary from Venice to Milan
- 30 beautiful towns in Italy
- 100+ Italy bucket list experiences
- Historic landmarks in Italy
- 20 beautiful churches in Italy
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