Florence (in my opinion) is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The renaissance architecture, white buildings capped with red roofs, and winding streets make this one of my favorite spots in Italy (I know, so cliche, right?). If you love art, the amount of galleries here will keep you busy for weeks on end, with the most popular works being the David and the Uffizi. More than art, there are beautiful Renaissance churches, buildings, and streets to be had. The city is also a great jumping-off point for Tuscany wineries, food tours, and it also boasts a great nightlife (it’s a popular study abroad location!). Florence has it all and, while it is very touristy, don’t miss it!
Hostel prices – You’ll pay around 16 EUR a night for a 4-6 bed dorm room and around 40-50 EUR for a private room that sleeps two. The price usually includes free WiFi and linens. Expect higher prices in the summer season. One of the biggest hostels is called Plus Florence Hostel (which has an indoor pool, outdoor pools, sauna, Turkish bath, fitness center, bar, a great buffet breakfast, drinks, live music, and parties) but my favorite in the city is Ostello Archi Rossi! Definitely stay here if you can.
Budget hotel prices – A night in a 2-star budget hotel in a room that sleeps two starts around 35 EUR (expect to pay nearly double in the high season). Included in this price are basic hotel amenities, like a private bathroom, free WiFi, and television. On Airbnb, you can find shared rooms starting at 10 EUR per night. You can rent entire homes (usually studio apartments) starting at 25 EUR per night, although you’ll find a lot more inventory starting at 40 EUR and up.
Average cost of food – While eating out in the city is expensive, the good thing about Italy is that you can get pizza and pasta for reasonable prices – and this city is no exception. You can get two slices of pizza and a bottled water for about 10 EUR. For dinner with wine, expect to spend around 25 EUR. At most restaurants, add 3 EUR for the coperto (sit-down fee) that covers service and the bread at the table. You can find cheap sandwich shops all over the city for around 6 EUR a panini, and fast food costs around the same. Gelato will be around 1 EUR and you can find cappuccino for less than 2 EUR. If you’re feeling ambitious and staying somewhere with a kitchen, consider cooking your own food. Expect to pay 60 EUR per week for groceries that will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foods.
Public transportation costs – Florence, especially the city center, is very walkable. A bus ticket that’s valid for 90 minutes costs 1.20 EUR (or 2 EUR if purchased on the bus). For a 10-minute taxi ride, expect to pay between 10-20 EUR. Uber, the taxi alternative, is available in Florence.
Suggested daily budget – 50-60 EUR / $61-71 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
- Eat cheap – Eating at a bar near Piazza della Signoria or in the square can be very expensive. Remember – the further you are off of the beaten path, the cheaper it will be.
- Watch for free – Florence is a great town for people watching. Grab a drink on a patio, and take in the fashionista flare walking through town. Avoid the costly museums and experience the city’s culture instead.
- Travel on foot – Public transportation in Florence isn’t quite the same (or as necessary) as other European cities because most things are within walking distance. It’s much better to save a couple dollars and take in the scene as you walk through the city.
- Firenze Pass – If you are going to do lots of sightseeing, this card will give you free entry to the top museums, tours, and attractions. It costs 72 EUR and is good for 3 days.
- Pass on the bread – Some restaurants will charge you extra for bread or breadsticks on the table but not tell you about it until the check comes, and you’ve polished it off.
- Drink the tap water – Ask for tap water or you will automatically get expensive bottled water included on your bill. Moreover, you can refill your bottles of water at any of the drinking fountains throughout Italy. The water is fine to drink, and you’ll feel like a local as you drink from their ancient Roman city monuments.
- Buy lots of wine – You can buy a great bottle of wine for 4 EUR. It’s a lot cheaper than drinking at the bar.
- Couchsurf – Accommodation is quite expensive in the city. Use Couchsurfing to stay with locals who have extra beds and couches and make a local friend. I use the service a lot and find it not only saves me money, but I meet great people too. You’ll find lots of hosts in the city
- Go on a free walking tour – This is a great way to learn the history behind the places you are seeing and to avoid missing any must-see stops. Florence Free Tour has two tours a day that can show you what the city has to offer.
Top Things to See and Do in Florence
- See The David – The David is one of the most impressive sculptures in the world. It is a lot bigger and more detailed than you think it would be and is the one piece of art in the city that is a must see. I’ve seen it twice. You can see it at the Galleria dell’Accademia. Admission ranges between 8-13 EUR. It’s open daily (except Mondays) from 8:15am-6:50pm.
- Check out Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio – This is Florence’s most famous square in the heart of the historic center with an open-air sculpture exhibit. It’s right near the Uffizi, so is a good spot to stop after a morning of art.
- Climb Il Duomo – One of Florence’s most popular sites is the Duomo (or cathedral). This huge Gothic construction project was begun in 1296. It’s one of the most popular churches in Italy because of it’s massive presence and ornate styling. However, the real highlight is walking up to the roof (463 steps to the top). From the top, you get the most panoramic view of Florence and the iconic red roofs that cover the buildings. Admission is 15 EUR but includes entry to the baptistery, the cupola, the baptistery, the crypt below cathedral, and the Opera del Duomo Museum as well. It’s open daily from 8:30am-7pm with abbreviated hours on the weekends.
- Visit the baptistery – The baptistery of John the Baptist is one of Florence’s oldest buildings. It’s a real treat for those who love architecture and religious history. Admission is 15 EUR but includes entry to the cupola, the bell tower, baptistery, the crypt below cathedral, and the Opera del Duomo Museum as well. It’s open daily from 8:30am-7pm with abbreviated hours on the weekends.
- Walk along Ponte Vecchio – The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge) was built in 1345 as the city’s first bridge across the Arno River, and today, is the only surviving bridge. The Ponte Vecchio is still lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry.
- Enter Santa Croce – Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in Italy and holds the tombs of Michelangelo and Dante. It’s an interesting thing to see if you have already covered the highlights and have extra time in town. Admission is 8 EUR and is open daily from 9:30am-5:30pm with abbreviated hours on Sundays.
- Spend a day in the Galleria de Uffizi – The Uffizi holds the world’s most important collection of Renaissance art. The most famous painting here is the Birth of Venus. Most of the art here is early Renaissance religious, but towards the end of the gallery, there are some portraits and Dutch work. Buy tickets ahead of time to avoid long lines. Admission ranges between 8-13 EUR. It’s open daily (except Mondays) from 8:15am-6:50pm.
- Visit the Piazzale Michelangelo – Head to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a great view of the city. It’s a good hike up a hill, but it’s a great way to see the stunning view of the city without paying to climb the steps of the Duomo.
- Wander the Giardino di Boboli – Known commonly as the Boboli Gardens, thousands of tourists flock here every year. The landscaping and architecture have clearly been influenced by the Tuscan Renaissance style. Sitting near the pond in the summer is like being in a dream. There are ancient marble statues everywhere and the scent from the citrus trees completely floods your senses. It costs 7 EUR but includes admission to Museo degli Argenti, Museo delle Porcellane and Galleria del Costume. It’s open daily from 8:15am-7:30pm with abbreviated hours in the winter.
- Lounge in Liberia Café la Cité – This is a combination bookstore, café, and cultural center. There is free WiFi here and rotating weekly events. Founded by intellectuals, this is a great spot for some in-depth conversation with locals and a prime atmosphere for getting some work done.
- Visit Palazzo Pitti – Until the Medici name blew up, the Pitti family was all the rage in Florence. As major patrons of the arts, this palace serves as a beautiful ode to the family’s contribution to the cultural advancement of Florence at the time. The highlights are several works by Filippo Lippi and Botticelli. It’s open daily (except Mondays) from 8:15am-6:50pm.
- Explore the National Museum of Bargello – There are several great works housed here by the various Renaissance masters. For only 4 EUR, you can see original pieces by Bandinelli, Donatello, Antonio Rossellino, and more. It’s just a short walk from the Piazza della Signoria. It’s open daily from 8:15am-4:50pm with abbreviated hours in the winter. It’s also closed some Sundays and Mondays.
- Get some Context – If you’re looking for a high-quality tour, try Context Tours or Walks of Italy. They have specific tours in the city that focus on art, food, and history, all of which are of the best quality. They are not cheap, but if you’re into getting beneath the surface of a city than this is for you. Expect to pay around 90 EUR per person.