Michelangelo and Machiavelli, Donatello and Dante, the Renaissance and romance are felt in every corner of Florence. A showcase of art and architecture, it's one of the world's greatest artistic capitals, with statues, sculptures, historic churches and palaces adorning the streets. But this is not an austere historical city stopped in time. Alongside the art galleries and beautiful piazzas are fine boutiques, designer shops, and lively cafés.
The remarkable heritage and extraordinary art are the mains draws for its visitors, but as one of the most aesthetically-pleasing cities in Europe, it's the views from its bridges and street life that are likely to stand out in your memory when you leave.
You'll also want to return, since it's impossible to see all of its artistic treasures in just one visit. Take your time, visit the Duomo and the historical center followed by the Uffizi Gallery, and dedicate your remaining moments to exploring the back streets, seeking out your favorite restaurant, bar, or irresistible shop.
What to See and Do in Florence
Decide what you really want to see in Florence based on your interests -- whether that's art, architecture, street life or simply snapping a few photos by the main landmarks. We highlight the best attractions in different categories and, to help you plan, link you to their location on Google Maps () or to their official website or tour options ().
- The Landmarks, Icons, and Instagram Spots
- Ancient Sites
- Classic Art and Top Museums
- City Life and Main Streets
- Eating and Drinking
The Florence Duomo
Everything in Florence revolves around the Duomo, the 13th-century cathedral that's one of Italy's largest churches. It's topped by the biggest brick dome ever built, from where visitors get 360-degree views over the city. You'll be able to see Ponte Vecchio from there, a medieval bridge famous for the shops built on top of it, currently selling souvenirs, art, and jewelry.
Although the extraordinary art is Florence's main attraction, its churches are equally impressive. Santa Croce Basilica is the largest Franciscan church in the world and contains Michelangelo's tomb, while Santa Maria Novella standing by the main train station was the city's first great basilica.
San Lorenzo Church is said to be the oldest of them all and is the resting place of the Medici family.
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the world's oldest and most important museums. Naturally, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael are well represented in the extraordinary collection of paintings, but be warned that you may have to wait for hours in the high summer season before you get to see them. It is recommended that you get your tickets in advance (skip the line and get your Uffizi tickets here).
Also never missed by any visitor is the Accademia Gallery, especially for the world's most famous sculpture -- Michelangelo's David (skip the line: get your Accademia Gallery tickets here). Another major work of art is the Cappella Brancacci, a chapel inside the Santa Maria del Carmine Church, whose frescoes have led it to be called the "Sistine Chapel of the early Renaissance."
If all of that is not enough, you'll find other outstanding works inside the Palazzo Pitti. This Renaissance palace is the largest museum complex in the city, with hundreds of Renaissance paintings displayed in lavish rooms.
The monumental Piazza della Signoria is the heart and the meeting point of the city, where you'll find a replica of Michelangelo's famous David statue (which you'll admire in the Accademia Gallery -- see above). Together with the other eye-catching statues, it gives the square a feeling of an open-air museum overlooked by the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, a crenellated palace that serves as the town hall.
Those wishing to explore more of the local life should head to the Mercato Centrale, the colorful food market inside a 19th-century glass and iron structure.
You can see all of that and the entire city from Piazzale Michelangelo, a panoramic 19th-century terrace filled with tourists using the spectacular backdrop of the city for the most beautiful photos of their Florence visit.
When in Italy, you won't resist looking for the major designer fashion shops, and in Florence they're mostly found in or around Via Tornabuoni. Once you take a look at all of the big names, a walk around the surrounding streets will take you past other attractive window displays. To look for everything under one roof, check out the city's branch of the national Coin department store.
Anywhere in Florence, especially in and around Piazza della Signoria, you'll be able to enjoy some of the world's best ice cream, relax with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, and taste some of the best Tuscan cuisine. Prices vary from reasonably-priced to expensive, but you can always rely on a good and inexpensive Italian pizza...