For some, the ideal city break involves unearthing art and culture at galleries, museums, and historical sites. However, others might prefer wandering unfamiliar streets, going with the flow, and absorbing the unique atmosphere.

Whatever kind of urban getaway you’re dreaming of, Florence is sure to tick many (if not all) boxes.

As the birthplace of the Renaissance, there’s plenty of astounding art and architecture – and it’s so rich in history that the entire city centre is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Plus, for those seeking gastronomic adventure, there’s no better place to taste regional Tuscan cuisine than its capital.

But with so much going on in this spellbinding city, you might be wondering how to narrow it down. Below, we’ve put together 10 of the best things to do in Florence.

1. Take a stroll along the Ponte Vecchio

Take a stroll along the Ponte Vecchio

As well as being Florence’s oldest bridge, the Ponte Vecchio is one of the most unique in the world. Lined with jewellers and goldsmiths selling artisan treasures, it can feel more like an enchanting city street than a bridge.

Passing over it is the famous Vasari Corridor, a 1-kilometre-long aerial walkway stretching from the Uffizi Galleries to the Palazzo Pitti. This architectural feat was built for the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo I de’ Medici and his family in 1564, so they could move undisturbed between their home and offices.

Originally, the shops on the Ponte Vecchio were used by butchers and tanners, who threw their waste directly into the Arno. However, the Grand Duke didn’t like the idea of his family being subjected to the sights and smells of such businesses, so he ordered they be replaced with jewellers. Today, the Ponte Vecchio is one of Florence’s most iconic sights.

2. Browse unmissable art in the Uffizi Galleries

Browse unmissable art in the Uffizi Galleries

As the birthplace of the Renaissance movement – where masters like Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci lived and worked – there’s no better place to immerse yourself in art than Florence. And, of all the museums and galleries in the city, the Uffizi is the most celebrated.

The striking U-shaped building was originally constructed to house State offices (uffizi literally translates to ‘offices’). However, it was later used by the Medici family as a private gallery for their vast art collection, which grew exponentially over the three centuries they ruled Florence.

Before Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici (the final member of the dynasty) died in 1743, she signed a famous pact to ensure the collection stayed in Florence for the public to enjoy – much of which is still in the Uffizi today.

While it may be well-known for its Renaissance paintings and sculptures (including Botticelli’s revered The Birth of Venus), there’s plenty of other art to see in the Uffizi too. So whether you’re a fan of Dutch masters like Rembrandt or something a little more modern, there’ll hopefully be something of interest.

3. Taste Tuscan delights at Mercato Centrale

Taste Tuscan delights at Mercato Centrale

A visit to Mercato Centrale is a must for foodies in Florence. Housed in a striking building in the San Lorenzo district, this two-floored food market is the beating heart of the city’s gastronomical scene.

On the first floor, you’ll find traditional vendors selling meat, fish, and fresh produce. But head to the upper level for a buzzing food hall where you can sample all the delectable delights of Tuscany – and more!

Florence is famous for its sandwiches made with schiacciata – a bread similar to focaccia, only thinner and lighter. Fillings run the gamut, but meats (like salami, prosciutto, and beef carpaccio) and cheeses (such as mozzarella and pecorino) are popular. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try a traditional sandwich with lampredotto – i.e. cow’s intestine?

But sandwiches aren’t all that’s on offer. Whether you’re in the mood for fresh pasta, famous Florentine T-bone steak, or creamy gelato (which was invented in this city), there’s sure to be something to satisfy you here.

4. Watch the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo

Watch the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo

With its narrow, cobblestone alleyways and vaulted walkways, it can be tricky to get an idea of Florence as a whole while wandering around the town centre. So, to take in the cityscape in all its magnificence, head up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for an unrivalled panorama.

Perched on a hill in the south-east of the city, this neoclassical piazza is fringed with stalls selling knick-knacks and home to one of the city’s two copies of Michelangelo’s David. But the view is certainly the main draw. Up here, you can see many of the region’s famous attractions – from Brunelleschi’s dome and the Palazzo Vecchio to the rolling topography of wider Tuscany.

The Piazzale Michelangelo is worth visiting any time of day, but it’s particularly special in the evening when throngs of visitors gather on the northwest side to watch the sunset. Why not take a bottle of chianti with you to enjoy as the last golden rays of the day glint on the Arno?

5. Admire the greenery at the Boboli and Bardini Gardens

Admire the greenery at the Boboli and Bardini Gardens

In 1549, the Medici family purchased the Palazzo Pitti – a huge Renaissance palace just south of the river – to be their new home. They also bought a large swathe of the land behind it, where they commissioned a great garden worthy of their noble house.

The Boboli Gardens are beautifully arranged. Today, visitors can spend hours wandering along the wide avenues of towering oaks and immaculately manicured hedgerows. However, in typical Renaissance fashion, it’s more than just an oasis of greenery, it’s also an open-air museum, with intricate fountains, sculptures, and other curiosities scattered throughout.

Highlights include the sweeping stone amphitheatre, with its ancient Egyptian obelisk, and the Buontalenti Grotto, which is embellished with shells, stalagmites, stalactites, and statues of ancient gods.

For a slightly different experience, why not head to the nearby garden of the Villa Bardini? As well as traditional Italian elements, it includes an English wood area complete with exotic flora. There’s an agricultural park section too, which boasts a fruit orchard and iconic wisteria pergola.

6. Enjoy the atmosphere at the Piazza della Signoria

Enjoy the atmosphere at the Piazza della Signoria

As Florence’s main square, the Piazza della Signoria is worth visiting for its lively atmosphere alone. The many cafes and restaurants lining its perimeter make it perfect for people-watching while sipping a spritz or negroni. However, as with every corner of this fascinating metropolis, there’s plenty more to discover.

For starters, the square is dripping with history. It was here that the infamously fanatical friar, Girolamo Savonarola, organised the ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’. This event involved rounding up thousands of the city’s ‘sinful’ objects (such as mirrors, wigs, and suggestive paintings) and setting them on fire. A year later, Savonarola was executed on this same spot after being accused of heresy.

The Piazza della Signoria is the city’s political centre too. The Palazzo Vecchio, which looms over the square, still serves as the town hall and was also the seat of the signoria (rotating government) in Renaissance times. Although, it later became the Medici’s private residence once they established their dominion over Florence.

There’s also plenty of astonishing art scattered throughout the square. The famous copy of the David and Hercules and Cacus by Bandinelli stand guard outside the palace, while the Loggia dei Lanzi, a small, open-air gallery, features works from masters like Cellini and Giambologna.

7. Marvel at the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore

Marvel at the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore

Florence is jam-packed with jaw-dropping buildings, but the undisputed king is the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore.

Construction began in 1296, though it wasn’t finished until well into the 1400s. Over the centuries, various architects oversaw the project, but the most famous is probably Filippo Brunelleschi, who’s responsible for its most recognisable feature: the dome, which dominates the city skyline.

Visitors can spend hours wandering around the outside, admiring the impossibly intricate facade of green, red, and white marble. But you can also step inside and explore the main cathedral floor for free, where you’ll be greeted with stunning frescos and stained glass windows.

However, beyond the main floor, different ticket types allow you to explore other areas of this vast complex – including Giotto’s bell tower and the dome itself, each offering panoramic views of the city.

Other areas worth checking out include the Baptistery (with its famous golden mosaic ceiling) and the museum, featuring some artwork from the cathedral. Or why not venture underground to discover the remains of the church that originally stood on this spot?

8. Wander off the tourist track at the Piazza Santo Spirito

Wander off the tourist track at the Piazza Santo Spirito

To truly get a flavour of Florence, it’s worth exploring a little bit beyond the city centre. So why not head south of the Arno and investigate the trendy district of Oltrano? Full of artisan boutiques, hip restaurants, and dinky art galleries, it’s no wonder Time Out describes Oltrano as “Florence’s coolest neighbourhood”.

While exploring Oltrano, you’ll probably come across the Piazza Santo Spirito – a calming contrast to some of the city’s busier squares. Yet, on every second Sunday of the month, the space becomes a hub of commerce when the Santo Spirito Vintage Market pitches up. Here, you can browse a cornucopia of pre-loved items, ranging from clothes to books to furniture.

But the evenings are when the Piazza Santo Spirito really flourishes. The trattorias and bars around its edges burst to life, and live music can be enjoyed by the fountain. It’s an ideal place to sink your teeth into some rustic Florentine grub or whittle the night away over a few glasses of cold beer.

As always, opportunities to immerse yourself in art and culture are never too far away. The Renaissance-era church, Basilica di Santo Spirito, stands guard over the square. While it doesn’t sport a detailed exterior, like many of the city’s churches, you can have a peek inside at the impressive frescos and vaulted architecture.

9. Experience Michelangelo’s David at La Galleria dell’Accademia

Experience Michelangelo’s David at La Galleria dell’Accademia

As we’ve mentioned, there are a couple of replicas of Michelangelo’s David around the city – at the Piazza della Signoria and Piazzale Michelangelo. However, if you want to see the original (which we strongly recommend), you need to head to La Galleria dell’Accademia.

Crafted between 1501 and 1504, this statue was originally commissioned to stand on one of the cathedral’s buttresses. Yet, when completed, the Florentine government was so astounded by its mastery, that they placed it outside the Palazzo Vecchio for all to see before moving it here in 1873.

As Michelangelo’s contemporary, Giorgio Vasari, writes, “When all was finished, it cannot be denied that this work has carried off the palm from all other statues, modern or ancient, Greek or Latin; no other artwork is equal to it in any respect”.

But there’s plenty more at the La Galleria dell’Accademia to justify the price of entry. As well as other Renaissance works, the museum houses an impressive collection of Gothic paintings and musical instruments. Those with an interest in musical history won’t want to miss the famous viola built by Antonio Stradivari for the Medicis in 1690.

10. Lose yourself in the surrounding Tuscan countryside

Lose yourself in the surrounding Tuscan countryside

While there are plenty of unique experiences to fill your itinerary within the city itself, one of the region’s main attractions lies all around: the rolling Tuscan countryside.

For wine lovers, the verdant hills surrounding the city are a paradise – especially the Chianti Classico region to the south. Here, thousands of Sangiovese grape fields form a delightful patchwork across the undulating terrain.

Visitors can book a designated tasting tour from the city, and spend the day admiring views from a bus window (when they aren’t sipping on delicious reds, of course).

Although, wine isn’t all that makes this region so enticing. The many villages and towns dotted around are well worth a visit, such as San Gimignano, famous for its iconic towers, and medieval Collodi, the birthplace of Pinocchio.

Final thoughts…

From taking an evening stroll along the Ponte Vecchio to tasting Tuscany’s delicious delights at Mercato Centrale, there are so many great things to do in Florence that it’s impossible to squeeze them all into one trip (or article).

But whether you’re seeking unmissable scenery, mouthwatering cuisine, or unrivalled art and architecture, this unforgettable city has something for everyone.

For more Italian travel inspiration, why not check out our article; 9 beautiful places to visit in Italy? You can also use the button below to browse our travel deals.

Have you been to Florence? If so, what did you enjoy most? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.