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15 Best Things to do in Florence For First-Timers

Florence is the epicenter of one of the most important art movements in history: the Renaissance. This city was at the top of my bucket list of places to visit in Europe for the first time, and it surpassed all of my expectations. It’s a city that I will always come back to again and will always discover something new.

If you’re only in Florence for two days, this list will help you cover all the basics to ease your FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Despite how small the city is, it is the most culturally rich city I’ve ever been to! From taking pictures of the sunset at Piazzale Michaelangelo to having the best Tuscan meals, this guide will help you find all the best things to do in Florence at the tip of your fingers.

Why was Florence at the top of your bucket list?

Florence is a city that always drew my attention through pictures and history. When I took world history classes in high school, I was fascinated by the Renaissance period and how this small city changed the way we see art, artists, and architecture forever.

Florence is the birthplace of many world-famous artists of the time such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, and Dante Alighieri. It also houses some of the best galleries in the whole world (named #3 and #4 on the list). This city feels like it’s stuck in the Renaissance era but with modern twists here and there. In essence, it’s a charming small city, that truly packs a punch!

Best Things to do In Florence: Fotoautomaticas

Here are the 15 best things to do in Florence for first-timers:

1. Visit the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore

This Cathedral is the 4th largest church in the world and it would be nearly impossible to miss it while you’re visiting it. Located in the heart of Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore was designed as early as 1296 and was completed in 1436 with Brunschelli’s iconic dome known as Cupola di Bruneschelli (see #13 below). You can stare at the marble façade for hours, especially the statues that are sculpted at the entrance of the Cathedral.

If the lines are not too long, I highly recommend going inside; it’s free. If you’re visiting during the summer, make sure you follow the Cathedral’s dress code, and witness the Renaissance beauty this church holds. Guided tours are an additional fee and so worth it if you want to skip the line.

Visiting Hours: Monday through Thursday 8:15 am – 7:30 pm and Saturday 8:15 am – 5:30 pm

For guided tours: Click Here

2. Watch the sunset at Piazzale Michaelangelo

Watching the sunset at Piazza Michaelangelo is one of my favorite memories of Florence. Although the hike can be somewhat steep, nothing beats the view once you reach the top and see the landmarks from above. It is ideal to wear comfortable shoes if you’re planning to hike to the Piazza Michaelangelo! Whenever you need to catch a breath, you can enjoy the view midway.

And if you feel like you need to reward yourself after the hike to the Piazzale, there’s a restaurant once you reach the top. After all, who doesn’t deserve an Aperol Spritz after walking up the hills to watch the Tuscan sunset?

When to visit the Piazzale? Sunset is the best hour, however, expect larger crowds at this time of day. If you want to enjoy the views with little to no crowd, I suggest watching the sunrise instead!

3. Explore the Renaissance art in Uffizi Gallery

If you took Art History classes in college and loved it, wait until you witness masterpieces of Renaissance Art at Uffizi Gallery. Artists worldwide travel to this museum to see the most compelling art pieces from Botticelli, Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc. You can easily spend more than 2 hours in this gallery staring at the countless Renaissance statues.

This is one of the top attractions in Florence, so you need to book tickets in advance and highly advise you to buy skip-the-line tickets to Uffizi and Galleria Dell’Accademia. I went during the wintertime and I was fortunate to buy tickets at the entrance with no line.

Uffizi Gallery is one of those places that you want to visit again and will leave you feeling culturally enriched. One of my favorite artworks I saw: Boticelli’s Primavera, The Sleeping Hermaphroditus, and Boticelli’s 7 Virtues.

Visiting Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 8:15 am – 6:50 pm; Closed on Mondays

Where to Buy Tickets: Viator or through Uffizi’s website

4. Buy tickets in advance for Galleria dell’Accademia

Want to savor even more the Renaissance Art? Then you shouldn’t miss this museum where you’ll find the iconic Statue of David sculpted by Michaelangelo. Unfortunately, I couldn’t visit this museum due to its high demand and frequent ticket sales. My biggest tip is to schedule your visit weeks prior, especially if you plan to go during the Summer. Book your tickets in advance here or schedule a skip-the-line tour just like Uffizi Gallery.

The statue of David was sculpted between 1501 to 1504 with white marble. It’s absolutely colossal (17ft tall!) and depicts the perfect youthful beauty image of the time, symbolizing strength and independence from Florence.

Visiting Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 8:15 am – 6:50 pm; Closed on Mondays

Where to Buy Tickets: Viator or through the museum’s website

5. Walk through Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio is one of the oldest bridges where you can cross the Arno River; hence its name translates as Old Bridge. Built in the Medieval Ages, in 1345, this bridge was home to many butcher shops (imagine the smell). However, in the 16th century, goldsmiths and jewelry shops dominated the area (phew!). Walking through Ponte Vecchio, you’ll see old preserved paintings on the wall and medieval stones on the ground. It’s like walking back in time.

My best advice is to buy a sandwich at All’Antico Vinaio, walk through the bridge, and do some people-watch. If you want to take a nice picture with Ponte Vecchio in the background, head to Ponte Alle Grazie. At night it’s one of the most romantic sights to witness.

Ponte Alle Grazie with a view of Ponte Vecchio

6. Take pictures at the Fotoautomatica Booths

@alanis.colina Fotoautomatica can be found in different parts of Florence. This one is located after crossing the Ponte Santa Trinita, in Via Santa Monaca. You get four photos for 2€ and the entire experience of taking pictures is super fun and nostalgic. The photos are developed within 4 minutes, 1 minute for each picture. Why does it take so long? Because inside the photobooth there’s a mini dark room where the machine develops your images using liquids like toners and fixers. That’s why when you pick it up when it’s freshly printed, you can feel the photo strip a bit damp. These photos don’t have negatives so this, really, is the original photo; you and only you have those beautiful photos. #firenze #fotoautomatica #florenceitaly #couplesaesthetic #italianaesthetic ♬ Somethin’ Stupid – Frank Sinatra & Nancy Sinatra

Fotoautomatica can be found in different parts of Florence. This one is located after crossing the Ponte Santa Trinita in Via Santa Monaca. This Fotoaumatica is by far the most photogenic we’ve seen, and this one, in particular, is built into the wall. You get four photos for 2€, and the entire experience of taking pictures is super fun and nostalgic. It was one of my favorite experiences I’ve ever had in Florence.

Fotoautomatica in Via Santa Monaca in Florence Italy - Best Things to do in Florence

7. Treat yourself to La Giostra

One thing I encourage people to do, no matter the budget, is to have a nice dinner at a high-rated restaurant. Why? Because it enhances your culinary experience, you get to savor the emblematic dishes of the city. La Giostra is a small restaurant under 16th-century brick vaults in Borgo Pinti. The ambiance is intimate and cozy, with an extensive list of regional wines and iconic Tuscan dishes. I tried gnocchis with gorgonzola, pears, and pistachio nuts… And this dish was so delectable and harmonized all the elements together. It was one of the best restaurants I’ve been to in Florence!

8. Eat in Mercato Centrale

Can’t decide what to eat? Consider Mercato Centrale as your top choice. This place has numerous vendors where you’ll most likely find every possible food item that’ll satisfy any cravings. From Italian specialties like truffle pasta to dumplings, this place will always hit the spot. You can’t leave this place without trying the Tiramisu gelato! I highly recommend you try this flavor; it’s Italy’s dessert heaven: gelato and the classic Tiramisu flavor.

9. Hungry on a Budget? Eat at All’Antico Vinaio

@alanis.colina All’antico Vinaio: where you can eat delicious sandwiches under 10€. I ordered La Paradiso which has – mortadella, pistachio spread, stracciatella + granella di pistacchio. And, holy smokes, this was addicting!!! WHAT’S THE MOST POPULAR: La Favolosa. This one has sbriciolona (a type of salami) pecorino cream from us, artichoke cream and spicy aubergines. THIS ONE IS THE BEST I’VE EVER TRIED! If you’re in Florence, this place is a must stop if you’re looking for budget friendly meals that will make you feel full all day. #florenceitaly #allanticovinaio #florencefoods #whattoeatinitaly #firenzefood ♬ Sabor a Mi – El Trío Los Panchos

If you search for Florence foods in the Tiktok search, you’ll most likely find All’Antico Vinaio mentioned across all videos. Due to its popularity, the lines can become long; however, there’s no waiting time in the winter.

Why is this place so popular? You’re getting a big panino that can feed two for 10 Euros. Make sure to order La Favolosa, as it’s their famous one (and tastes like pizza), and if you’re a Mortadella lover, choose La Paradiso. My mouth is watering just by thinking of it!

La Paradiso (left) and La Favolosa (right)

10. Have an Aperol Spritz

When in Italy, you HAVE to try an Aperol Spritz or an Aperitif. If you want to experience the life of a local Italian, Aperol Spritz is a pre-dinner drink that consists of digestive bitters, prosecco, and soda water typically ordered after-work hours. However, you can drink Aperol at any time of the day because it’s so refreshing!

11. Spot the Neptune Statue in Piazza Della Signoria

This colossal statue is not one to be missed at Piazza Della Signoria. Located right next to Palazzo Vecchio and a few steps from Uffizi Gallery, the Statue of Neptune was sculpted between 1563-1565 by Bartolomeo Ammannati and Giambologna. Cosimo I de Medici commissioned it after the city’s new aqueduct was created. Although this statue symbolizes the power of the Tuscan Dynasty all over the Mediterranean Sea. The statue is also called “II Biancone,” or the white giant; because it was made out of marble.

Fun fact:  According to legend, Neptune resembles Cosimo himself. Look for portraits of Cosimo online and compare them to the statue; they are almost alike.

12. Shop for Quality Leather Goods

You can’t leave Florence without doing some window shopping, especially for leather. Florence is also home to leather goods or cuoio. There are a few streets where you can shop for leather bags, jackets, belts, etc. However, the hub you’ll most likely find leather is in Mercato del Porcellino.

Mercato del Porcellino is a 16th-century loggia that is covered with luxury goods. And the smell of leather is incredible in this area!

13. Walk to the top of the Cupola Bruneschelli

This dome has painted the Renaissance skyline of Florence and it’s one of the most important architectural pieces to be constructed. Built between 1420 to 1436, this Cupola pushed the limits of what architecture can achieve by using different techniques that would help build a dome without a supporting structure. To this day, we get to witness Florence’s most important masterpiece. It makes you wonder how society did colossal works like this centuries ago!

If you have time to visit the Santa Maria di Fiore Cathedral, book a skip-the-line ticket to go to the top of the dome to enjoy the panoramic views of the city. It is a steep climb up, consisting of 463 stone steps. It sounds intimidating, but I assure you the views are worth the workout.

Visiting Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 8:15 am – 6:50 pm; Closed on Mondays

14. Get lunch with the best view of Ponte Vecchio

Picture yourself eating a charcuterie board filled with delectable assorted meats and cheeses while you overlook the iconic bridge of Florence. Welcome to Signorvino! It’s a winery shop/restaurant where you can select your wine of choice and sit outside, overlooking the Ponte Vecchio. It’s one of the few spots where you can dine and have the view of Ponte Vecchio close. At night, this place becomes very cozy and romantic.

15. Extra Day? Visit a Winery and Savor Chianti

If you have an extra day, I highly recommend booking a tour on the outskirts of Florence. There’s a province in Tuscany called Chianti. Chianti Classico wines are known for their elegance and complexity and pair best with richer meat pasta dishes like bolognese or stewed meats.

There are a few tours in Chianti where you can do wine tastings or join a cooking class. The next time I visit Florence, I will add a day trip and book a wine-tasting tour.


Ready to discover the best things to do in Florence?

As you can see, there’s a lot to do in Florence that will ease your FOMO (fear of missing out) if you only have a day or two to explore the city. This was one of the most magical cities I’ve ever been and I would definitely extend my stay in Florence to experience the local life. Until we meet again, Florence!

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