Last month I spent 2 dreamy days exploring Florence with my boyfriend Scott. During this time we ate, drank, shopped and soaked in all the culture and history of this world-famous Italian city. Based on my experience, I have created this city guide packed full of recommendations, all of which have been tried and tested by yours truly! So if you’re planning to visit Florence, let this post be your definitive guide for everything from culture to coffee.
What to do in Florence…
If you only have time for one thing?
Cathedral di Santa Maria & Piazza del Duomo
Florence’s most iconic building is the Cathedral di Santa Maria, which is located in the Piazza del Duomo. Al fresco cafes and caricaturists surround the Cathedral enticing tourists but further adding to the European charm of the piazza. Once inside visitors can walk the whole way around the Cathedral with the paintings of the Duomo being the focal point.
Top Tip: General entry to the Cathedral is free but queue jump and access to the top of the Duomo comes at an extra cost. We did the general entry which was great and the entry queue moved very fast.
For art lovers and creatives…
Address: Via Ricasoli 58-60 – near Piazza San Marco.
The Galleria Dell’Academia is the central Florence art gallery that is famously home to Michaelangelo’s David. This towering sculpture is the art gallery’s main attraction, which is showcased in pride of place in the most central point of the museum. I would recommend allowing 1-2 hour to get round the gallery.
Top Tip: Tickets for the Galleria Dell’Academia must be bought in advance and are assigned different entry times in to control the crowds. You can buy tickets online, from the on-site ticket office or from third party tour operators and hotel concierges. We booked through our hotel concierge but ended up paying a little extra for the convenience.
For the best photo opportunities..
The Ponte Vecchio is one of my favourite places in Florence and is a must anyone visiting the city. The Ponte Vecchio is a unique medieval stone bridge that is lined on either side with historic jewelery shops that have been there since the 13th century. Traditional Italian jewelers and goldsmiths share the bridge with international brands including Cartier and Chanel. The bridge is extremely well preserved with all original structures and there are endless photo opportunities both on and of the bridge itself!
For the ultimate culture vulture Museum Day…
Address: Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6, 50122
The Uffizzi Gallery is a museum that spreads throughout various historical buildings in the centre of Florence and houses one of the most important collections of Italian Renaissance art in the World (including works from Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo). I would recommend allowing a full day to visit the entire museum or if you were more keen to visit certain galleries you could allow half a day.
For the best views of Florence…
La Torre di Palazzo Della Signoria
If you fancy getting a bit active, take on the challenge to climb the 416 steps to the top of the Palazzo Vecchio Tower. Standing at 95 meters, the tower is the highest civic symbol in the entire city and promises spectacular views over Florence and the entire valley.
Where to Shop in Florence…
For souvenirs and Italian leather…
San Lorenzo Market
I loved stumbling across San Lorenzo market, which is a long pop-up walk way lined with market stalls selling Italian leather products from handbags and jackets to belts and notebooks. It’s the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs and gifts. San Lorenzo market is located right outside Central Market, so I would recommend visiting both in one go.
For designer labels…
Via de’ Tornabuoni
The Via de’ Tornabuoni is arguably the most famous street in Florence and is lined with international and Italian designer boutiques including Gucci, Emilio Pucci, Hermes, Versace and Roberto Cavali. It’s not really a place where most people can shop til they drop, but it’s a beautiful street to stroll down and a bit of wishful window-shopping never hurt!
Where to Eat in Florence…
For a friendly, atmospheric and affordable Italian restaurant…
Osteria di Giovanni Restaurant
Address: Via del Moro, 22, 50123
This place was recommended to us from our hotel’s Head Concierge, who knew Florence like the back of his hand. Down a quiet side street, it’s not the type of restaurant tourists could stumble across. Once inside the restaurant is warm and inviting with a brilliant evening atmosphere and a great menu of meats and pastas.
The best bit about Osteria di Giovanni is that they present you with a complimentary welcome glass of prosecco and the most delicious deep-fried bread (sounds strange but utterly delicious when dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar). We were even given complimentary biscotti and aperatifs when it came to paying the bill.
For the best Gelato in town?
Festival del Gelato
Address: Via del Corso, 75, Firenze FI
This walk-in dessert parlour is a 5-minute walk from Piazza del Duomo and was just around the corner from our hotel, so it was our daily gelato stop whilst in Florence. The gelatos are piled high and have all the classic flavours as well as chocolate favourites like Nutella and Kinder Bueno. You can get a generous 2 scoops and waffle cone for only 3 Euros, and don’t even get me started on the crepes!
For a Firenze foodie experience away from the tourist crowds…
Address: Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 50123
I discovered the Central Market just after lunch and was kicking myself that I didn’t find it a few hours earlier as it’s the perfect place to go for a foodie lunch experience. On the ground floor of the building is a traditional food market where you can pick up delicious pizza slices, pastries and panninis all for a couple of Euros.
Venture upstairs and you’ll find a buzzing food hall full of different eateries with live show cooking, tasters and cookery classes. Groups of trendy locals were sat enjoying drinks and street-food style food. I would recommend turning up hungry and ordering little bites from each of the stalls for a real foodie experience until you can eat no more!
Where to Drink
Antica Sosta Degli Aldobrandini
For amazing, cheap coffee…
It’s not hard to find great coffee in Florence but this casual cafe gets everything right. It’s low key, friendly and as it’s slightly less central, it’s very very cheap. It’s a hit with students as it offers a generous student discount and great Wi-Fi. Grab a table for 2 on the street side, sip a cappuccino and watch the world go by.
For a prestigious piazza drink in the sunshine…
Location: Piazza della Signoria
Rivoire is somewhat of an institution in Florence. Sitting in prime position on the Piazza della Signoria, it’s one of the most favoured spots to sit and enjoy lunch, dinner, afternoon tea or drinks. Of course, such a prestigious location comes at a price, but with attentive service and a beautiful view overlooking the Palazzo Vecchio, you can’t expect much less. We stopped for an afternoon glass of wine and were brought complimentary crisps, olives and toasted Panini bites. Belissimo!
Where to Stay in Florence…
For a luxurious 4* hotel in the heart of Florence…
Location: Piazza Sant’Elisabetta, 3, Florence
Located in a walled piazza just 5 minutes from the Piazza del Duomo and the Cathedral di Santa Maria, the historic Hotel Brunelleschi is first and foremost in an amazing location. Along with luxurious rooms, two great restaurants and wonderful staff, it’s the perfect base for a Florence city break. Check out my full Hotel Brunelleschi hotel review.
What did you think of my Florence city guide? Are you planning to visit Florence soon or have you been to any of the places in the guide? I would love you to comment on this post and let me know! x