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Best things to do in Florence

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Where in the world: Europe  /  Italy  /  Tuscany  /  Province of Florence  /  Florence
When you visit Florence, you'll have a chance to admire some of the most prominent masterpieces produced during the Italian Renaissance. Not just art lovers, but every visitor to the city should make sure their list of things to do in Florence includes a visit to famous art galleries and museums like Uffizi Gallery and Galleria dell'Accademia. In a city that's a kind of open-air museum, you can simply amble about its charming streets, stopping to sip espresso at Piazza della Signoria and dropping by Piazza del Duomo to appreciate the architectural magnificence of Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Florence is best known for its Art Museums, Historic Walking Areas, and Landmarks.

Top 15 things to do in Florence

1. Piazzale Michelangelo

Piazzale Michelangelo is decorated with bronze replicas of some of Michelangelo's best-known sculptures. This famous square offers panoramic city views. Designed by architect Giuseppe Poggi and built in 1869, this plaza stands on a hill just south of the historic town center. Poggi designed this public space as a terraced observation deck, which today houses a popular restaurant. The view encompasses the heart of Florence, numerous bridges crossing the river Arno, and the hills beyond the city's skyline.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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2. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

The symbol of the city and its main church, Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is renowned for its huge dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi, one of the foremost architects of the Italian Renaissance. This Gothic structure, begun in 1296 following the design of architect Arnolfo di Cambio, was completed in 1436. The elaborate facade is a 19th-century addition that represents the Gothic Revival style prevalent across Europe at the time. The cathedral complex, which includes a baptistery and a bell tower, is part of a World Heritage site covering the historic center of the city. In the piazza in front of the cathedral, a statue of Brunelleschi looks upwards towards his dome. You can climb the 464 steps to the dome through the entrance on the side of the church, but be prepared for a long line.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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3. Florence Academy of Fine Arts

Pay tribute to one of Italy's most renowned artists at Florence Academy of Fine Arts. Founded in the late 18th century as an art school, the museum features an extensive collection of Renaissance paintings and sculptures, most notably Michelangelo's "David" statue. Wander to the end of the main hall to admire the 6 m (20 ft) tall marble statue, as well as several other works by Michelangelo, or admire the beautiful Madonna and Child painting by Botticelli. The museum also features a collection of antique musical instruments.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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4. Ponte Vecchio

Walk across one of Florence's oldest and most iconic landmarks, Ponte Vecchio. Spanning the Arno river in the heart of the city, the 14th-century bridge features a wide, three-arch design supporting a series of historic shop fronts. Stroll the bridge's thoroughfare to peruse shops or see street performances. Visit the secret Vasari Corridor that stretches across the bridge to connect two Renaissance palaces. Antique jewelry enthusiasts may want to keep an eye out for the area's gold and silversmith shops.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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5. The Baptistery of St. John

The Baptistery of St. John is one of the oldest buildings in the city, constructed between 1059 and 1128. It's renowned for the three sets of bronze doors. Observe how the eight lower panels of the south doors depict the virtues of hope, faith, charity, humility, fortitude, temperance, justice, and prudence. The most famous set, the east doors, are a copy; the originals are being preserved in the Duomo's museum. You still get a sense of their importance and you can admire the depiction of "The Story of Joseph." Inside the baptistery, be sure to look up at the domed, mosaic ceiling.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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6. Basilica of Santa Croce

The burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, Basilica of Santa Croce holds the tombs of such luminaries as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Rossini. The city's principal and the world's largest Franciscan church, the building was completed in 1385. The site's most notable features are its 16 chapels, many decorated with frescoes painted by Giotto and his pupils. The building's design reflects the austere approach favored by the Franciscans, with the floor plan following the figure of the Tau cross (the shape of the letter T), which was the symbol of St. Francis. The church's main cloister houses a simple, unadorned chapel designed by architect Filippo Brunelleschi. Choose from several guided tour options; advance reservations are required. General admission tickets can be purchased at the onsite ticket office, by phone, or online.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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7. Piazza del Duomo

To experience the city's atmosphere of culture, art, and history, drop by Piazza del Duomo, a lively square in the historic town center. One of Europe's most visited sites, this area is world-famous for offering stellar views from the main cathedral's dome, a creation of the Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi. A huge statue of the architect sits in the square, his figure looking up toward his greatest achievement. The plaza also includes a Gothic bell tower designed by the city's other celebrated architect, Giotto di Bondone. Visit the octagonal baptistery built in honor of St. John, one of the oldest structures in the city. While strolling around this public space, drop by the square's popular museum of fine art, which features masterpieces by Michelangelo and Donatello, among others.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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8. Campanile di Giotto

Climb more than 400 steps to the top of Campanile di Giotto to enjoy views of Florence. At a height of almost 90 m (280 ft), the 14th-century tower features seven antique bells and is considered a masterpiece of Florentine Gothic architecture. Admire the ornate detail of the tower's exterior styling, which includes several reliefs, statues, and carved panels. Wear good walking shoes for the hike to the top, because the stairs are narrow and steep. Your admission ticket also provides entry to the adjoining cathedral, baptistery, and museum.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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9. Pitti Palace

A 15th-century palace, Pitti Palace now houses several important museums of fine art and historical objects. The castle was previously a private residence of the grand dukes of Tuscany and later the king of Italy. Tour the extensive costume gallery for a look at fashion of the 18th and 19th centuries. Visit the palace apartments to imagine what the life of Florence's upper class was like. You can stroll through the Boboli Gardens, which border the palace.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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10. The Boboli Gardens

Behind Florence's Pritti Palace sits The Boboli Gardens, an outdoor sculpture museum. Designed for the Medici grand dukes in the 16th century, this is one of the earliest examples of the Italian Garden style that later inspired the green spaces of many European courts. Choose one of the garden's many trails and discover grottoes, fountains, and statues. The sculptures date from the 16th to the 18th century, with some Roman antiquities. Walk to the top of the hill at the back of the garden for views of Florence. Guided tours are available.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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11. Palazzo Vecchio

Admire Romanesque architecture in the heart of Tuscany at Palazzo Vecchio. Built at the turn of the 14th century, the palace now serves as the city's town hall and boasts a collection of art and interior decor from the last six centuries. Tour the Salone dei Cinquecento, with its gold-paneled ceiling and colorful murals, or head outside to see the antique, decorative facade and the original site of Michelangelo's "David" statue. You can visit the palace's three courtyards and outdoor areas free of charge, or pay for a complete tour of the building's interior.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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12. Piazza della Signoria

The beating heart of the city's political life since the 14th century, photogenic Piazza della Signoria is lined by modern cafes and packed with Renaissance sculptures. This lively L-shaped square is named after the massive Romanesque fortress-palace that overlooks it. A favorite meeting place of Florentines, the square is like an open-air museum of art with its numerous statues, including a copy of Michelangelo's sculpture of David. An ornate fountain features a large figure of Neptune, the Roman god of the sea. The square serves as a gateway to the Uffizi Gallery, which displays more of the city's art.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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13. Food Tours

Pamper your taste buds and tickle your palate with some mouthwatering regional treats on a guided tour from Florence. Choosing to stay within the city limits allows you to admire its perfectly preserved Renaissance architecture while nibbling your way around local markets and delis on a walking or cycling tour. A full-day trip out of Florence gives you a chance to experience lovely Tuscan scenery and Chianti wine region, go hunting for truffles, or hop over to neighboring Province of Bologna. Whatever you choose, you'll get to sample mouthwatering regional specialties, ranging from finest prosciutto and parmesan cheese, to Italian gelato. Though flexible, most of these tours last from a couple of hours to a full day.
Suggested duration: 8 hours
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14. Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

The first great basilica in Florence, Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is a treasure house of sacred ornaments and artifacts built on top of an earlier place of worship that dates back to the ninth century. The most famous are the Gothic and Renaissance frescoes commissioned by the city's most prominent families. The interior of the basilica is a labyrinth of chapels, all decorated with Renaissance artwork commissioned by families such as the Medicis. One of these family members, Cosimo I, held chariot races in the large square at the front entrance. This tradition lasted until the 19th century. Look at the sacristy for one of Giotto's early works, "John the Evangelist."
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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15. Walking tours

Suggested duration: 4 hours
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