Florence is probably one of the cities I visit the most in Italy. It is the cradle of Italian culture, the cradle of the Italian language, the birthplace of the Renaissance that changed art history, the birthplace of classical banking that brought Europe to a new chapter in history,… Speaking Florence tourism, it can not say all. At the beginning of this series of articles about Florence I was more confused than the series about Amsterdam – the place that destroyed me and made me a new person. So, is Florence worth visiting, how to visit Florence, what to do in Florence for the first-time? Let’s check out our quick guide to Florence (Florence Italy travel guide, locals guide to Florence) with the top Florence travel tips (tips for visiting Florence, Florence tips, Florence Italy travel tips) as well as Florence insider tips, Florence tips by locals and top things to do in Florence to help you plan a perfect trip to the cradle city of Renaissance of Italy.
- Florence travel blog — The fullest Florence travel guide for a great budget trip for first-timers
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- Florence itinerary 1 day — How to spend a day in Florence perfectly?
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- Assisi travel blog — The fullest Assisi travel guide & things to do in Assisi for first-timers
I hope that people who intend to visit this city will also fall in love with this city with all their heart like me. So, I will try my best to share everything I know so that everyone can have a “true Italian” trip rather than “watching flowers while riding on horseback” like a tourist who come from afar.
Before starting this series, I strongly recommend that you read the article “What you need to know before coming to Italy” first to understand a little bit of Italian culture.
Guide to Florence: How to get to Florence?
Because it is a famous destination, it is easy to get to Florence, because it has an international airport. Almost from all major European cities have flights to Florence airport. However, due to a hot destination means that in the tourist season it will be very expensive and very crowded. You should book tickets a few months in advance.
Therefore, I recommend you to choose some airports near Florence, no need to direct flying to the Florence airport. For example, Pisa International Airport is smaller and offers much cheaper flights. From Pisa airport, there is a direct bus to Florence that takes almost 1 hour. Ticket is around 9 euros. Besides, Pisa is also very small. You can absolutely fly there first, visiting for half a day and then take a train/bus to Florence. The details on how to get to Florence you can find here.
Taking the train to Florence from within Italy is also easy. Basically, Florence, Rome, Milan, Naples are transit points connecting all cities together, so no matter where you want to go, you will definitely find a way. There are international trains to Florence. But long distance trains/buses are very tiring, so if you don’t have the strength, I advise you not to choose this way.
If you want to design a private tour, you can contact me, I will guide you specifically.
Florence travel tips: Where to stay in Florence?
Florence is the tourist center, of course, there are many hotels, hostels and airbnb of all kinds. As always, I recommend booking, airbnb or hostelworld. However, recently Agoda also has very good deals if booking a few months in advance. You should check it out.
Like taking train or bus to Florence, I suggest that you can rent a room in the suburbs of Florence if the rental price is very low. Usually, if you book a month or more early, all hotels and hostels in Italy are very reasonably priced. Finding a room or bed ranging from 20-30 euros is regular. But if the places to stay you are looking for are overpriced – especially around July to September, then look for an accommodation in the suburbs. Spending more a little train fee and a little time, but sometimes the price will be half cheaper.
Below we recommend more best cheap, budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Hotel Pendini, a top rated 3-star hotel with room rates from $141/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Hotel David, a top rated 3-star hotel with room rates from $191/night (Check rates on Booking.com).
- The Westin Excelsior Florence, a top rated 5-star hotel with room rates from $350/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Hotel Lungarno, a top rated 5-star hotel with room rates from $425/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Hotel Spadai, a top rated 4-star hotel with room rates from $148/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Hotel Spadai, a top rated 4-star hotel with room rates from $355/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Tips for visiting Florence: What to note before going to Florence?
This is the most important section! Pocket tips when planning to visit Florence in particular and Tuscany in general.
1. Florence is more than just a city. It takes a lot of time!
Visiting Florence, basically you just spend 3 days 2 nights is enough. This is in case ticking off the list of things to do in Florence. I would also like to warn you that this list only shows the best of Florence, not the most “leisure” list. Because in my opinion, the Uffizi museum alone must take up half a day. Which I visited twice. Each time visit a part of the museum thoroughly.
But why do I say it takes time? When my friends are planning to visit Italy, I always repeat again and again that “For Tuscany only, you needs at least a week. And the most central point is Florence.” Why? Because from Florence you can visit the ancient town of San Gimignano, Pitigliano “in the clouds”, the beautiful Siena, the old Volterra. The most important is make a roadtrip to visit the picturesque Tuscan countrysides such as – Val’Orcia. (Click on each link to see the complete guide to visiting these places).
Why don’t I add Pisa as well? Because Pisa only needs half a day, if you only come to check in. Do you still really want to know about Pisa? I can’t promise this. The more I read the document, the greater the amount of historical and cultural information about Pisa and Florence.
Thus, if you aim to only go to Tuscany, then Florence is a good base, because the places I mentioned can all be day trips. Oh, but the caveat is that if you intend to visit Tuscany in general, you should… go straight to countryside of Tuscany to stay. No need to linger long in Florence.
2. Visiting Florence? Don’t ride! Visiting Tuscany? Car is inevitable!
Because the Florence series can be said to be part of the Tuscany region series. Many of the tips in this article refer to Tuscany.
Florence is very crowded, you should not take any rides. If you rent a car in advance, you should leave the car in the suburbs, or go to a few deserted small cities around to park. There is no parking space in Florence.
But if you intend to explore Tuscan countryside, I highly recommend renting a car. Because the Tuscan countryside does not have a special tour (or only rush tours, if any). There is no public transport. Self-drive is the most active.
3. Choose the right time… unless it’s forced
Florence’s peak tourist time is from July to September. In addition, the Easter period, which is April, is also very crowded. Traveling in these two times, you only see the huge flows of people…
I strongly recommend you to visit Florence in the spring or autumn – which is around March and October, November. These two times, tourists flocking here is less and more comfortable. Also December is also a good choice. That month is also crowded but it is Christmas month, there will be many wonderful Christmas markets. So this month’s crowding is acceptable.
4. It is highly recommended to book the museum/palace tickets in advance
Especially if you visit Florence in the peak tourist season. At times like these, extremely crowded. Buying tickets online in advance is a great solution. However, you still have to remember that even if you already booked have tickets, the risk of having to queue is also very high! You should prepare mentally to queue or choose the time when tourists go to eat to visit. As I said in the article of things to know before coming to Italy, tourists often eat at an earlier time frame than locals. You can absolutely choose these time frames to visit to avoid crowds.
5. Authentic Florence cuisine
Florence is most famous for its steaks, wines, and fresh vegetables and cheeses. That is, if you have come here, don’t order seafood, just order meat. Try as many wines as you can, especially “table wine” (vino al tavolo). Eat as “authentic” ingredients as possible. And it’s best to visit the list of must-eat foods in Florence for ideas.
6. Shopping in Florence
If you want to shop in Florence, know what to buy. Florence which is famous for beef, leads to leather products. Going to Florence is best to forget about mass-produced clothing brands. Go straight to the leather market and shop.
7. Always check the opening hours of the places you want to visit first
In Italy, museums, churches or castles often have opening hours and opening days quite impromptu. If you plan to visit these places, it is best to check the opening hours before coming. In the series what to do in Florence and museums worth going in Florence, I will detail the operating times at the places I recommend to you. However, be careful is still better.
8. Talking about Florence means talking about art!
And if possible, you should know the history of art and some art movements before visiting museums, statues, squares, churches, and castles in Florence. Florence has a great art scene, many of the greatest artisans/artists in the world.
You don’t need to go into the details of art and history, but it’s highly recommended to learn a little about Renaissance art, Baroque, the style movement, and so on. So when going to museums, castles… is not surprised. Because art reflects culture and historical thinking. And I guarantee that the more you know about a place, the more you will love it.
9. Love art? Don’t get Stendhal Syndrom
This is a real symptom. In short, looking at too many works of art makes you dizzy and have a headache. This syndrome is also known as Florence syndrome. Why? The whole of Florence is an art museum. Works of art are literally everywhere.
So what is my advice? If you intend to visit the museum, do not go to two or three in the same day. Relax, one a day is enough. Even so, with the huge number of works here, visitors are still easily “bored” by seeing too much beauty.
However, I still advise you if you love art, don’t give up. I have the opportunity to go around Europe for a bit, but looking back, only Italy, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria have the best art museums.
10. Very very very good to know about the history of Florence before visiting Florence
Not only should you know about art, it is highly recommended to learn a bit of Florence’s history before coming here. I guarantee you will see this city with completely different eyes, not just its pure beauty. I recommend learning about the 14th to 16th centuries, when the Medici were at their most prosperous, when the Renaissance was at its peak.
Guide to Florence: Where to go, what to do in Florence and things to do in Florence
Now, the matter with Florence is this: It’s a purely artistic city. Coming here is to admire the art, photography is main purposes, but “things to do” in the sense of local uniqueness is a bit difficult. In other words, almost Italy has turned into a living museum. In tourist-centric cities like Florence, it’s very difficult to find “unique” and unusual things to do. But I still hope you have the best memories in Florence. Don’t forget to read the article What you need to know before coming to Italy to know the essential things.
By the way, I will include churches in this list as well. About the museums, I will have its own article.
Watch the sunrise on Michelangelo’s hill (Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square)
Michelangelo hill at night. It’s because I’ve tried both sunset and late night that I strongly recommend you should come here in early morning.
To get to Michelangelo hill, you have to go to the legendary Ponte Vecchio bridge, cross the Arno river, go towards Pitti palace and then climb up the hill. This hike is not easy. But the result is well worth it – the view over the entire city of Florence is breathtaking.
I emphasize “watching the sunrise” for two main reasons. The first is that Michelangelo Hill is a famous place in Florence, so at any time of the day it will be more crowded than in the morning. Especially at sunset. At that time, when you go up, you can only see people and people. If you want the best experience on Michelangelo Hill, it’s best to go early in the morning. Bring your breakfast there, have a little picnic, watch the sun slowly shine over a city that once stood at the top of Europe in the heyday of art and a boom in commerce.
What is the second reason? Italy in general and Florence in particular, during the day it is very rare to find the “soul” of the city. Nowadays, local people live in the suburbs. Center is only for tourism business. There are only certain times you can feel that spirit. In Florence it is early morning. Like Venice, it must be late at night. Sicily is at Aperitivo time… Why does Florence have to be early morning? You can say that I am a slightly emotional person, but in my opinion, with the epic, monumental architecture of Florence, it is never better to feel the “giant” spirit waking up more accurately than at dawn.
P/s: In addition to breakfast, you should bring water, comfortable sports shoes and a scarf to prevent cold.
Watch the sunset on St.Trinity Bridge or Carraia Bridge
Why didn’t I mention the view on Florence’s most famous bridge, the Ponte Vecchio? This is a great place to visit. But that bridge is very small, tourists will definitely squeeze together on it. You will not be able to slowly take pictures to enjoy the brilliance of the Florence sunset if you have to immediately make room for someone else to take pictures in a hustle and jostle atmosphere.
Therefore, I suggest you visit the Ponte Vecchio bridge before sunset when the “golden street” (street selling jewelry and precious metals) has just turned on the lights is the most beautiful. Then slowly go back out of the center to two open bridges, St.Trinity closer, and watch the sunset.
Fascinated by the magnificence of the great cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Piazza del Duomo
This church is one hundred percent sure to be on every “must do” list of anyone coming to Florence. It is overwhelmingly huge and breathtakingly beautiful.
If you want to climb to the top of the church tower to enjoy the view, I suggest you buy tickets online first. Because you probably won’t be able to wait patiently in the queue. Best time to climb the tower? Around 4, 5 pm, the sun is less intense, the light is ideal.
Next to Santa Maria is the chapel of Saint John. It’s a whole giant building block.
Shop for leather goods in front of the church of San Lorenzo
Referring to shopping in Florence must mention leather goods. In front of the church of San Lorenzo is an endless long leather market. Italian leather goods, I have to say, they are beautiful, and they look vintage.
In general, the leather stalls on the streets are mainly not of Italians, the owners are all foreigners. But their leather goods are also beautiful. If you’re not sure, just go to the stores. But if you buy from outside, remember to bargain.
Christmas Market (or not) in front of Santa Croce Church
A prominent feature of Italy is church is everywhere. Every city has a few dozen. So churches will always be on the must-see list. I suggest that if you go to France, Italy, Spain, Hungary, you should take the time to visit their churches. The architecture and decoration of churches in these countries far exceeds that of anywhere else.
However, if it comes to Christmas, from the beginning of December onwards, there will be an international Christmas market in front of Santa Croce church. Absolutely love it. The first time I went to Florence was just in time for Christmas. In the market, there are many savory dishes, and many interesting things. That’s also the first place I bought clotted cream!
Signoria Square (Piazza della Signoria)
This square is the second most important square of Florence, after the Piazza del Duomo where the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is located.
Here a gallery statues in Greek legends, the statue of David, the statue of Poseidon in front of the Palazzo Vecchio (this palace translates to the Old Palace), formerly the palace of the Medici.
Along the road right next to this square is a high-end shopping street with many high-end stores. A shoppers’ paradise!
Continuing this series, in the next post I will introduce the most worth visit museums in Florence!
For food lovers is what to eat in Florence? In this, I will introduce specifically the places that I have checked and the quality is guaranteed.
In addition, to discover unique activities during your visit to Florence, you can visit this website!
Florence travel blog: Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Florence you can refer to
- Duomo Monumental Complex Direct Access Ticket in Florence with Guided Visit
- Florence Duomo, Baptistery, and Museum Tour
- Small Guided Tour with Fast Track Entry to Duomo and the Secret Terraces
- Florence Duomo Skip-the-Line Tour with Balcony & Dome Access
- Uffizi Gallery Guided Tour with Fast Track Entry
- Accademia Gallery Skip-the-Line Ticket in Florence
- Val d’Orcia Tour from Florence
- Pisa Half Day Tour from Florence
- Florence Bike Tour with Food Tasting Experience
- Florence City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off Tour (Open Top) and Leonardo da Vinci Museum Skip-the-Line Ticket
- Tuscany Day Tour with Lunch and Wine Tasting from Florence
- Rome to Florence Day Tour
- Chianti Afternoon Tour from Florence
- Excursion to Pisa through the Tuscan Countryside from Florence
- Florence Dome Tour with Skip-the-Line Ticket + Free Souvenir Old Polaroid Photo
- Florence Accademia Gallery Skip-the-Line Ticket with Tour