Florence has been on my travel bucket list for ages, so I was thrilled when I could spend a week and a half exploring it last month.

The city is just as charming and old school as you’d imagine, with tons of wonderful food, wine, history, art, and shopping available around every corner.

Honestly, what’s not to love? 

Every day I was there I fell more and more in love with the energy and people of Firenze.

My only complaint was that my time fell in the middle of one of the hottest heatwaves of the summer.

If you’re ever planning a trip to Europe during July or August, learn from my mistake and make sure that where ever you’re staying offers air conditioning.

As an American, who grew up with aircon being a normal convenience, it always slips my mind that most places in Europe don’t offer the luxury.

The great news is that in most European spots, there’s always a gelato shop right around the corner to help you cool off in even the most dire of heat waves.

I’m so thankful that I got so much time in town exploring and curating this list of the best things to do in Florence, even if it was in the middle of a massive heatwave. 

1. Check Out the Duomo

Also called the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence’s famous Duomo is a must-see attraction.

They began building it in 1296, and didn’t finish until 1486.

Both its Gothic style and iconic dome are so iconic that you’ve surely seen them featured on any postcard from Florence. 

I skipped climbing it when I was in town, since it was over 100 degrees most days, but it’s something that’s on my bucket list for when I return.

It’s roughly 145 steps to the top of the tower, and see miles if it’s a clear day. 

Local’s Tip: If you want the exterior of the Duomo to yourself for photos, you need to arrive literally as the sun is rising.

By the time 7:30am hit, the entire square was packed, and stayed that way until well after midnight.

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2. See the Statue of David

Has anyone here not heard of the iconic sculpture of a hot nude guy named David by the Italian artist Michelangelo?

It’s absolutely worth the inevitable wait that it will take to get into Galleria dell’Accademia if you don’t book a timed entry ahead of time. 

It was maybe an hour and a half wait sinceI went within an hour of opening to get a suitable spot in line.

Supposedly in the afternoon, the line gets so long that it takes hours to get to the front, so either buy tickets early, or arrive early.

But, whatever you do, don’t skip seeing the Statue of David. I was absolutely sure he was going to be a letdown, and he blew me away!

Once you get inside, he’s to the left and back a bit, and honestly the best part about the museum unless you’re into seeing a ton of religious art. 

Do yourself a favor and book tickets way ahead of time to avoid waiting in line.

3. Stroll Down Ponte Vecchio

This medieval stone bridge is the oldest and most beautiful bridge in the city. 

I highly suggest strolling over the bridge late at night. You’ll see the lights of the city and hear live music being performed. 

Oh, and don’t forget checking out sunrise and sunset. This bridge has beautiful views of both!

In fact, walking over this bridge every day was one of my favorite things about living in the Airbnb that I picked.

4. Wander Around Boboli Gardens

Just behind Pitti Palace, you’ll find the stunning Boboli Gardens.

You’ll pay an entrance fee, but it’s so worth it, especially if you bring the materials for a picnic (just don’t bring any glass).

Fun Fact: The Medici family came up with the design for the gardens, which later became the standard Italian garden style.

Don’t risk waiting in line on a hot summer day, schedule your entry early!

5. Watch the Sunset at Piazza Michelangelo

This is the most famous lookout spot, especially for sunset lovers. 

Here you’ll see the entire skyline, including the famous Duomo dome, and though it’s nice during the day, it’s next level at sunset. 

Get there extra early to score seats on the steps and bring some prosecco and snacks with you!

6. Check Out the View at Belvedere Fort

This is easily one of the best places in Florence to see the sunset without the crazy crowds.

Fair warning, it’s a bit of a climb to the top, and you have to pay a couple Euros to get into the place, but it’s totally worth it.

And the best part is that its less crowded than the more popular Piazza Michelangelo.

Oh, and if you want to check out the gallery that comes with admission, get there early.

7. Take a Food Tour

Sampling all the local delicacies is one of my favorite things to do when visiting a new city, especially if it involves joining a food tour. 

When I was in Firenze, Devour Food Tours set me up with one of my favorite experiences to date.

If you want the same experiance I went on, sign up for their “Dine Around Florence” tour.

The tour guide, Laura, is absolutely one of the best tour guides I’ve ever had.

She’ll make sure everyone is having fun, while walking you through tasting delicious food and wine, and teaching you some of the history and more unique aspects of living in Italy as an expat (she’s American). 

Seriously, just do yourself a favor and sign up now, since this tour sells out.

And don’t be afraid to join if you’re solo. I went alone and ended up making so many wonderful new friends. 

I even ended up out to dinner the next night with a fellow solo traveler to try the famous Florentine Steak (which I highly suggest you try!).

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8. Explore the Galileo Museum

If you’re into science, or just want to learn more about Galileo’s contributions to the field, head to the Galileo Museum.

They have an amazing collection of super old science items from the 14th to 19th century.

They also have the lens that Galileo used to discover the moons of Jupiter, and they even have his middle finger on display!

This is a great museum to bring kids to since they have an entire area that’s hands on for kids to learn the science behind some of Galileo’s concepts.

Skip the line by booking your tickets early!

9. Palazzo Vecchio

This is the town hall of Florence, which features beautiful architecture, Renaissance art and frescos. 

You’ll also see some old Medici family apartments, and even some hidden passageways. 

Plus, the square is also home to one of the replicas of Michelangelo’s David statue (you should still go see the original).

Don’t forget to check out the views from Cosimo’s office. They’re beautiful!

Fun Fact: Palazzo Vecchio means “old palace” in Italian. 

Book your entry tickets early to learn all the secrets of the Medici family!

10. Shop the Markets

Florence has tons of shopping markets, including an iconic one for leather.

I highly suggest leaving some room in your suitcase for a bit of shopping, especially if you’re into scoring beautiful and cheap leather bags.

Every time I come through Tuscany, I end up with at least one new purse and a million other leather bags that I’m dying to go back and buy.

Here’s a list of the most popular markets to shop while you’re in town:

11. Check Out the View at San Miniato al Monte

Standing at one of the highest points in the city, the basilica of San Miniato al Monte is absolutely worth checking out.

The architecture is beautiful; the cemeteries are interesting to wander around, and the views are just spectacular.

Fair warning though, because it’s at one of the highest points in the city, expect a fair bit of uphill walking.

12. Indulge in a Glass of Vino at a Wine Window

One of my favorite things in Florence are the adorable little wine windows you see around the old town.

Basically, it was like the medieval drive through for wine refills back in the days of the plague.

Most of them are closed up, with just a small plaque labeling the old window, but if you get lucky, you may still find a window that’s in operation.

In fact, the re-opening of some of these spots was thanks to the need for social distancing during COVID. 

If you want to hit up the one I found, head to Babae. You’ll see the wine window just to the left of the door. 

Just ring the bell when you’re ready to order. Then enjoy your wine on the sidewalk.

Local’s Tip: Babae has fantastic truffle risotto. If you’re hungry, its absolutely worth stopping here to eat.

13. Indulge in Some Gelato

I’m a total gelato aficionado at this point in my European travels.

Florence has some delicious contenders that you should take the opportunity to sample.

Grab a gelato at one of these spots and walk along the river around sunset for a beautiful view and delicious treat.

Learn how to make your own gelato in one of these popular classes!

14. Wander Around the Bargello Museum

The Bargello Museum is in an old prison, and home to an art and sculpture museum. 

There’s also plenty of beautiful architecture to keep you occupied when the artwork runs out.

Though you could easily spend three to four hours wandering around the museum admiring all the art.

People in Firenze told me this is probably the most underrated museum in town, and it’s easy to see why when you get to enjoy the museum without crowds of tourists around, even during the busy summer months.

15. Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti is a Renaissance palace that is absolutely worth checking out while in Florence. 

It’s a former residence of the Medici family, and home to some beautiful rooms and paintings. 

The museum is next to the Boboli Gardens, making it the perfect way to see both places quickly. 

Buy your tickets early to avoid waiting in line!

16. Visit the Basilica of Santa Croce

If you’re really into seeing churches, then the Basilica of Santa Croce is worth swinging by.

Plus Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli are both buried here.

There’s also plenty of stained-glass and beautiful architecture to keep you occupied.

17. Book a Day Trip

Firenze is so close to some of the cutest Tuscan villages and iconic Italian cities, so if you’re in town for more than just a couple days then I highly suggest booking a day trip.

I went on one with MyTour in Italy that hit up Pisa, San Gimignano, Siena, and even a vineyard in Chianti. 

Sign up for their guided walking tour addition in Siena to hear all about the history of the town.

It was the easiest way to check off seeing a bunch of iconic spots, and I got all the social media photos that most tourists crave when hitting up these spots. 

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18. Have Dinner in a Vineyard

Another adventure that I went on with MyTour in Italy, was an evening trip to have dinner in a vineyard in Tuscany.

All you have to do is hop on the train to the last stop outside the city to meet the transfer van. 

From there it was a quick trip from Florence, and a delicious dinner that was easily one of the unique experiences that I’ve had this year.

Don’t stress about signing up solo, I went alone and ended up making a ton of new friends by the time the evening was over. 

19. See the Baptistery of St. John

Did you know that the Baptistery of St. John is one of the oldest religious sites in Florence?

In fact, until the end of the 19th century, they baptized here all catholics in Firenze.

You’ll see baptisteries outside most duomos in Italy because back in the day, being baptized was a requirement in order to enter the main church. 

Take some time to walk around the interior to take in all the beautiful architecture and sculptures. 

20.  Check Out the Uffizi Palace and Gallery

The Uffizi Palace and Gallery is a must-see while in Florence. 

Here you’ll see sculptures from the first and second centuries, tons of artwork from the Renaissance, and the famous Birth of Venus.

You’ll want to plan on spending at least 2-3 hours wandering around the museum.

Local’s Tip: Grab a drink on the terrace to enjoy beautiful views of the Duomo. 

Book your tickets early to guarantee entry!

21. See the Basilica di San Lorenzo

If you’re into Italian history, you’ll want to swing by the Basilica di San Lorenzo to check out the burial place of key members of the famous Medici family. 

There are also tons of beautiful artwork inside, so even if you aren’t into churches, it’s worth swinging by, especially to see Michelangelo’s artwork. 

Final Thoughts

best things to do in florence 2

I could’ve easily spent an entire month living in Florence, exploring every little corner of it.

There’s still so much that I have to explore and experience in the city.

Let me know in the comments below if there’s a place or activity that you loved while in Florence that I should add to the list!

Book tickets early to one of these popular experiences in Florence!


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