With amazing food, rich culture, incredible artwork, and a beautiful countryside setting, Florence must be the most beautiful city in Europe! As soon as you arrive, you’ll fall in love with this amazing city. It’s somewhere you’ll keep coming back to time and time again! There is so much to see and do here, and you could easily spend a week exploring the city and nearby countryside. This guide will take you through all of the best things to do, where to stay and where to eat in Florence.
Where to Stay in Florence
If you are a solo backpacker or traveling with friends, I’d highly recommend staying in Ostello Bello. What sets Ostello Bello apart from other accommodations is its staff. You’ll feel right at home here, with a free drink on arrival, fresh fruit each morning, and a range of activities and entertainment to help you meet new people!
The hostel is as good as, if not better than, any hotel you can find in Florence. They have a range of private and shared accommodation, perfect for every budget! Ostello Bello is located in the city center, just five minutes from the Santa Maria Novella train station. Prices start at €38 per person per night, which is extremely affordable for a room in Florence!
If you’re looking for somewhere a little more romantic, Palazzo D’Oltrarno – Residenza D’Epoca is a great option. Rooms are very affordable, are beautifully decorated and the hotel is within walking distance of the city center.
How to get to Florence
There are two main airports in Tuscany, Galileo Galilei International Airport in Pisa and Amerigo Vespucci Airport in Florence. Pisa is the larger of the two airports, so your best bet is probably to fly to Pisa. From here, you can get a shuttle bus to the city. This runs every hour and costs €13.90 and takes about one hour. Alternatively, you can take the train which costs between €6 – €14, and takes just under two hours.
Tips to Save Money in Florence
- Visit Museums, Gardens, and other sites on the first Sunday of each month. These days, there are no admissions fees and you can enter for free!
- Don’t buy a ticket for public transport, you can easily walk to all of the best sites in the city.
- If you are a student, bring your student card! You can get into most museums and attractions at a discounted price. For example, in the Uffizi gallery, a standard ticket is €20, and a reduced ticket for students is free! If you are under 25, you will also get some amazing discounts so be sure to bring a form of ID!
- Download the Too Good to Go app, where you can get huge discounts on food! The idea is that you receive a “magic bag” from a restaurant, which is basically food that would otherwise go to waste! You can get full dinners for as little as €5, and you’re helping reduce food waste! Win-win! You can download the app for Google Play here and IOS here.
What to do in Florence
We’re going to start with the largest and most popular monument in Florence, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore! Entering the church is free, but to see the duomo, belltower, museum, and baptistry you’ll have to pay. The cost of the pass ranges from €15 to €30, with each pass giving a different level of access. I recommend going for the Brunelleschi pass, as this is the only one that includes the duomo! You can purchase tickets here.
The only attraction that you need to book in advance is the duomo. For the others, you can join a queue when you arrive. The queues get very busy, so I recommend arriving early to beat the crowds! I recommend buying the pass before you arrive in Florence. It is active for 3 days from when you have booked the duomo, giving you loads of time to see the sights at your own pace!
My favorite attraction is the Bell Tower, as that gives you a view of the duomo! It’s a tough climb, but absolutely worth it.
Bardini and Boboli Gardens
For only €10 you can get entrance tickets for both the Boboli and Bardini Gardens. These gardens were created by the Medici family in the 1500s. The gardens are spectacular, featuring a rose garden, amazing views of the city, fountains, and renaissance statues. Like most things in Florence, this is essentially a large outdoor museum! You can spend anywhere from 2 hours to a full day exploring and relaxing in the gardens.
Visit the Museums
There are two famous museums in Florence, The Ufizzi Gallery, and the Accademia Gallery. Both feature some incredible renaissance art, and I would recommend visiting both if you have the time! If you’re visiting during the summer months, the museums are also a great way to escape the heat for a few hours!
The Uffizi Gallery
Cost: €20 adult fare, free for students, €2 for under 25’s
Duration: 3-4 Hours
Find tickets here.
The Uffizi Gallery is the largest and most impressive museum in Florence. It is home to many of the statues and busts from the Medici family, as well as some of Botticelli’s greatest works. My personal favourite painting was the birth of Venus. If you want to learn more about must see’s in Uffizi, check out this site.
The Accademia Gallery
Cost: €8 adult fare, €2 for under 25’s
Duration: 1-2 hours
Find tickets here.
This gallery is a lot smaller than the Uffizi gallery, but is equally as impressive. If you are short on time, or not that interested in museums, this will give you a good taste of renaissance art. This gallery is probably most famous for the large statue of David. Be sure to arrive early, or around closing time, to get the best view of this masterpiece!
Loggia dei Lanzi
This is a free outdoor museum near the Uffizi Gallery. You can find Loggia dei Lanzi on a corner of the Piazza della Signoria. It’s unbelievable to me that these incredible statues can be left outside, for free, for anyone to enjoy! The antique, renaissance art dates back to the 14th century. The nearby square is also a great place to stop and people watch!
Catch the Sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo
One of the most popular things to do for both tourists and locals is to catch the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo. Here you will find a replica of Michelangelo’s David, as well as an array of souvenir stalls. If you want to walk there, it will take about 35 minutes uphill. An alternative is to get the number 12 bus (from Boboli Gardens) or 13 (from Ponte Niccolò).
This is one of the most beautiful places in Florence, with an incredible view of the city. For this reason, expect it to be pretty busy! If you’re looking to escape the crowds, take a walk to the Abbey of San Miniato al Monte. This offers an even higher viewpoint of the city and is less busy than the famous Piazzale Michelangelo.
If you are really looking for a more authentic, less touristy experience, head to Fiesole. To get here, take ATAF number 7 bus from either the SMN train station or San Marco Square in Florence. You can spend some time wandering around the small town of Fiesole and soaking in the amazing view of Florence it offers!
The Ponte Vecchio, or “Old Bridge“, is a medieval-style bridge recognised by its large arches. Along the bridge you will find lots of specialty shops, selling everything from jewelry to leather bags. This bridge is the only one in Florence which wasn’t destroyed during the Second World War. Many say that this is because it was too beautiful to knock down!
This is also a beautiful place to watch the sunset over the Arno river. When I visited, I found a lot of art students sitting by the bridge and sketching! It really fits the whole vibe of artsy Florence, and I loved it!
Visit the Markets
My favourites are San Lorenzo and Porcellino. At Porcellino, you can visit the pig statue, which brings good luck! Here you’ll find souvenirs, fresh fruit and vegetables, and Italian leather goods!
If you’re looking for some amazing food, check out the Mercato Centrale. This is a great place to eat for groups, as the food hall has a really wide range of options to suit everyone! You can also take part in a pasta-making class here which looks so fun!
Day Trip to Tuscany
If Tuscany is famous for one thing, it’s their incredible wine. If you have the time, I strongly recommend taking a day tour to the Tuscan countryside for some wine tasting. This is a great way to visit some of the other towns in Tuscany, in particular San Gemangiano and Siena. I went with Fun in Tuscany, and had the best day! This activity is perfect for all kinds of tarvellers, and on our tour, we had couples, solo travelers, and families!
The day starts with a quick stop off at Piazzale Michelangelo, followed by a trip to a family-run winery overlooking San Gemagiano. We spent a few hours exploring the medieval city and sampling gelato from the famous Gelateria Dondoli. We ended the trip with a group dinner, some of the best lasagne I’ve had in my life, and a sing-along car journey back to Florence!
Where to Eat in Florence
All’Antico Vinaio – This panini shop is super famous, and you’ll always find a queue. But don’t worry, it moves fast and is definitely worth the hype! The staff are really friendly and the food is super fresh, if you visit one place on my list make it this one!
Pinos – Another great spot for traditional Italian sandwiches. Again, super friendly staff, great prices, and fresh ingredients. I’d recommend getting your sandwich to go and enjoying the view along the river Arno.
Melaleuca – This is the most gorgeous brunch spot! It’s right along the Arno River and has the best cinnamon rolls in Florence. They have a range of breakfast options, lunch, and pastries. No matter what you try, you won’t go wrong here! The coffee is also 10/10.
Trattoria di Mario – A cosy, traditional restaurant with home-style cooking. This place is really popular with both locals and tourists, so be sure to make a reservation. This is the perfect spot to try a traditional Florentine steak or ribollita soup. Great quality food and really reasonable prices!
Gusta Pizza – The best pizzeria in Florence! They don’t take reservations, so be prepared to wait (for about 20 minutes) or get it to go. My recommendation would be to try the Napoletana pizza.
Trattoria Sabatino – This is a family-run trattoria serving Florentine steaks and traditional Tuscan pasta. Super fresh food, really traditional meals, and great prices. The menu changes daily, so this is the perfect place to keep coming back to!
You can’t come to Florence and not sample some of their world famous gelato! Here’s a quick tip to find the best gelateria. If it is hidden away in a metal tin, you know it’ll be good. This means that it will be stored at the perfect temperature. While gelato’s that are fluffy and piled high look appealing, they’re probably not the best that you can get.
La Sorbetteria – Super gelateria in the heart of Florence. They have a wide range of flavours, and I loved them so much that I came back twice during my short stay!
Perché No! – This gelateria has been around since 1939, and they’ve had plenty of practice to perfect their gelato! The name translates to “Why not?”, and they have a wide range of vegan options!
Bars and Nightlife
Rex Café – Good vibes, great drinks and reasonable prices. The bartenders are super friendly and they have a wide range of cocktails.
Babylon – If you’re looking for a night out, this it he best club that you’ll find in Florence. The club is divided in to two rooms, with a third sometimes being used on the weekends. As this place is pretty popular, the queues can get pretty long!
The Box – Cocktails on a budget! This place is TINY. If you want to get in, you’ll need to arrive pretty early. But at €3 for an aperol spritz, this is definitely worth it. The perfect place to start your night before hitting one of the clubs in the Santa Croce area.
And there you have it! I absolutely loved my time in Florence, and it’s a city I’ll keep coming back to. Hopefully I’ve shown you that you can see everything this amazing city has to offer without breaking the bank! I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog and found it helpful, thanks so much for reading!