Everyone comes to visit or backpack Florence. It’s one of the most famous cities in Italy and a hotspot on the tourist trail here. Few people miss it, especially if they are visiting Italy for the first time.
With renaissance architecture, white buildings capped with red roofs, and winding, ancient streets, it is one of my favorite spots in Italy.
If you love art, the number of galleries here will keep you busy for weeks on end.
There are beautiful Renaissance churches, buildings, and streets to be explored. You can easily spend hours on foot wandering the manicured pathways at the Boboli Gardens.
The city is also a great jumping-off point for Tuscan winery and food tours. Moreover, Florence is a popular study abroad location so the city also boasts a great nightlife.
In short, when you travel to Florence, you’ll find something for you – no matter your budget or how long you’ll be here.
The city lives up to all the hype.
This Florence travel guide includes all the practical tips and tricks you need to make the most of your trip.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Florence
1. Spend a day in the Galleria de Uffizi
2. Climb Il Duomo
3. Walk along Ponte Vecchio
4. See The David
5. Wander the Giardino di Boboli
Other Things to See and Do in Florence
1. Visit the baptistery
The baptistery of John the Baptist is one of Florence’s oldest buildings. The baptistery you see today was rebuilt from an earlier building dating back to the 4th or 5th century AD. The current baptistery was consecrated in 1059. Admission is €15 ($16.75 USD) but includes entry to the cupola, the bell tower, baptistery, the crypt below the cathedral, and the Opera del Duomo Museum. It’s open daily from 8:30am-7pm with abbreviated hours on the weekends.
2. 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 ($9 USD) and is open daily from 9:30am-5:30pm with abbreviated hours on Sundays.
3. 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.
4. Lounge in Liberia Café la Cité
This is a combination bookstore, café, and cultural center. Founded by intellectuals, this is a great spot for some in-depth conversation with locals and a prime atmosphere for getting some work done. They host a lot of weekly events too.
5. Visit Palazzo Pitti
Palazzo Pitti was built in 1457 for the Pitti family, and later sold to the Medici family in 1549. As major patrons of the arts, this palace serves as a beautiful ode to the Medici family’s contribution to the cultural advancement of Florence. It hosts an impressive collection of paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries. The highlights are several works by Filippo Lippi and Botticelli. It’s open daily (except Mondays) from 8:15am-6:50pm. Admission is €10-16 EUR ($11.15-17.85 USD).
6. Explore the National Museum of Bargello
Here you can see original pieces by Bandinelli, Donatello, Antonio Rossellino, and other Renaissance masters. It’s 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.
7. Take an in-depth walking tour
Walking tours are a wonderful way to learn about Florence, and there are a handful of excellent free tours in the city. I recommend Florence Free Tour or Florence Free Walking Tours. If you’re looking for a high-quality tour focusing on the city’s art, food, and history, try Take Walks. They’re my favorite walking tour company because their tours offer behind the scenes access and are led by informative guides.
If a bike tour is more your cup of tea, check out Fat Tire Tours. You can cover a lot of ground on their tours and see all the city’s highlights in just a few hours.
8. Visit the Sant’Ambrogio Market
Sant’Ambrogio is one of the oldest districts in the city, and although it’s just a 10-minute walk from the Duomo, the market here is completely underrated. It’s not as famous as the Central Market, and so its atmosphere is much more laidback and local. While you’re here, try some traditional foods like lampredotto (made from cow’s stomach), cured meats like finocchiona (fennel salami), pecorino sheep’s cheese, and (of course) local wines. You’ll find some excellent Tuscan food at the Trattoria Da Rocco restaurant. The market is open 7am-2pm (Mon-Sat).
9. Hang out in Piazza Santo Spirito
Piazza Santo Spirito is a public square located in the quiet district of the Oltrarno. In the mornings, the place is bustling with street markets. Once the sun goes down, locals flock to the bars and restaurants. There’s a nice church here too at the center of it all.
10. Visit the Stibbert Museum
This is one of Florence’s most interesting and unique museums, but it doesn’t get the same attention as the city’s other museums since it’s a bit tucked away on the outskirts of town. This is the private collection of Frederick Stibbert, who also donated his villa and gardens to the city. There’s some fascinating stuff here, including armor from the Middle East and a completely reconstructed army of knights sitting on their horses in the great hall. The main attraction: Napoleon’s cloak from when he was coronated. Yes, seriously! Admission is €8 ($9 USD).
11. SUP on the Arno River
If you want a unique way to see the Arno River, head out for a paddleboarding session with Toscana SUP. You will paddle your way underneath the Ponte Vecchio and then pause for a glass of Chianti. You’re in Italy, after all. Tours start from €50 ($56 USD).
12. Check out the Biblioteca delle Oblate
This public library is housed in the former Convent of the Oblate and is a popular study spot for students. It’s an important cultural center too, with an entire section of Conservation and Local History on the first floor. When you’re done browsing, go to the rooftop terrace for a coffee at the Caffetteria delle Oblate. There’s a great view of the Duomo from here and it’s never crowded with tourists.
For more information on specific destinations in Italy, check out these guides:
Florence Travel Costs
Hostel prices – You will pay around €16 ($17.85 USD) a night for a 4-6 bed dorm room. For larger dorms (12+ beds), you’ll pay around €12 ($13.40 USD). Most hostel private rooms cost between €40-50 ($45-56 USD) for a room that sleeps two. Expect higher prices in the summer season. My favorites are listed in the accommodation section.
Budget hotel prices – A night in a 2-star budget hotel in a room that sleeps two starts around €40 ($45 USD), but 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. A 3-star hotel room isn’t much more expensive, with some places costing around €50 ($56 USD).
On Airbnb, you can find shared rooms starting at €20 ($22.30 USD) per night, or private rooms from €30 ($33.50 USD). You can rent entire homes (usually studio apartments) starting at €45 ($50 USD) per night, although you will find a lot more options starting at €75 ($84 USD) 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. Florence is no exception. You can find cheap sandwich shops all over the city for around €6 ($6.70 USD) for a Panini. Fast food costs around the same. Gelato will be around €1 ($1.10 USD) and you can find a cappuccino for less than €2 ($2.25 USD). You can get two slices of pizza and bottled water for about €10 ($11.15 USD) at any casual restaurant.
For a nice dinner with a glass of wine at a sit-down restaurant, expect to spend around €25 ($28 USD). At most restaurants, add €3 ($3.35 USD) for the coperto (sit-down fee) that covers service and the bread at the table.
If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, consider cooking your own food to lower your costs. Expect to pay €60 ($67 USD) per week for groceries that will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foods.
Backpacking Florence Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking around Florence, my suggested budget is €53 ($59 USD) per day. This budget will cover a hostel dorm and cooking most of your meals at your accommodations as well as cheap eats like pizza and paninis. On this budget, you’ll need to stick to public transportation, one or two museums, and the free walking tours.
On a mid-range budget of about €125 ($140 USD), you can stay in a two-star budget hotel or an Airbnb. You’ll also need to cook a lot of your meals or eat cheap but you can eat out at nicer sit-down restaurants a few times too. This budget also cover public transportation, visit to one or two museums per day and maybe a guided tour.
If you want luxury, expect to spend at least €295 ($330 USD) per day. On this budget, you can stay in a beautiful 4-star hotel, eat out for all your meals, take all the tours you want, get around via Uber or taxi, and do more guided tours. For anything more, the sky is your limit and Florence is your oyster.
You can use the chart below to get an idea of how much you need per day. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day, who knows!). We just want to give you a general idea of how to budget your money. Prices are in USD.
Florence Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Thanks to its popularity, Florence is one of the most expensive cities in Italy. It can really set you back, especially due to all the museum tickets you need to buy as well as all the delicious food you’ll want to eat. However, there are some ways to save money in Florence and not break the bank. Here are my top tips on how to do so:
- Eat cheap – Eating at a bar near Piazza della Signoria or in the square can be very expensive. If you move further away from the busy tourist hubs, you will find cheaper places to eat.
- Travel on foot – Public transportation in Florence isn’t quite as necessary as other European cities because most things are within walking distance. It’s much better to save a couple of dollars and take in the scene as you walk through the city.
- Get the 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 ($80 USD) 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. So, skip the bread to save money.
- 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.
- Buy lots of wine – You can buy a great bottle of wine for €4 ($4.45 USD). 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 here.
- Take a free walking tour – This is a great way to learn the history of the city, see the main attractions, and fill in your day without spending a lot of money. Florence Free Tour has two tours a day. I highly recommend them.
Where To Stay in Florence
There are plenty of great hostels and hotels in Florence. You are going to find a ton of options here. My favourite places to stay in the city are the following:
How to Get Around Florence
Florence, especially the city center, is very walkable. You can get between all the top sights (like the Duomo and the Uffizi) in just a 5-10 minute walk. The furthest you will walk to see just about any attraction is 30 minutes.
Bus – If you need public transportation to get around, Florence’s ATAF bus system is efficient and reliable. A bus ticket that’s valid for 90 minutes costs €1.20/$1.35 USD (or €2/$2.25 USD if purchased on the bus). You can get tickets at just about any newsstand or tobacconist. A 24-hour pass costs €5 ($5.60 USD), a 3-day pass costs €12 ($13.40 USD), and a 7-day pass is €18 ($20 USD).
If you want to visit some places outside the city center, you can take the #7 to Fiesole and #12 and #13 to Piazzale Michelangiolo.
Bicycle – Florence is mostly flat and really ideal for bicycling around. Rentals start around €2.50 ($2.80 USD) per hour or €12 ($13.40 USD) per day. Here are some great bicycle shops:
- Florence by Bike
Taxi – Taxis aren’t cheap here, so I don’t recommend taking them. If you have luggage, there is a surcharge of €1 ($1.10 USD) per bag. Uber, the taxi alternative, is available in Florence and often cheaper too. You can save $15 off your first Uber ride with this code: jlx6v.
When to Go to Florence
Florence is a year-round destination. The warmest months are July and August, which is also peak season. The average high throughout July and August is 88°F (31°C). Temperatures are slightly cooler in June and September, but these months are also very busy.
December and January are the coolest months, with an average high of 50°F (10°C) and an average low of 34°F (1°C). Make sure you have a few layers with you. There are fewer tourist during this time too, which means lower prices and less congestion in general.
The rest of the year has pleasant temperatures, although you should expect rain, especially in November.
My favourite months to visit are during the spring and fall when the weather is still nice and the crowds fewer.
How to Stay Safe in Florence
Florence is a very safe place to backpack and travel – even if you’re traveling solo or even as a solo female traveler. In Florence, scams and pick-pocketing are common dangers you’ll face, especially at the major tourist sites. Be vigilant around Piazza del Duomo and Ponte Vecchio.
Don’t buy “skip-the-line” tickets from people on the street as they are usually scamming you and selling you fake tickets. (To learn more about scams, you can read my post on the 14 travel scams to avoid right here.)
It’s also a good idea to avoid wandering around the city alone at night, especially in Santa Maria Novella. Stick to the main roads.
Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
Remember, if you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in Florence!
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Florence Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Florence. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- ItaliaRail – A great resource to use when planning your trip via train around Italy is ItaliaRail. You can compare prices, routes, and schedules and save up to 60% on your tickets.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Europe, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- FlixBus – German based Flixbus has routes between 20 European countries with prices starting as low €5 EUR ($6 USD)! Their buses include WiFi, electrical outlets, and up to three 3 free bags.
- Bla Bla Car – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers by pitching in for gas. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go! It’s a cheaper and more interesting way travel than by bus or train!
- Take Walks – A day tour company in Italy (as well as other destinations). What makes them so good is they get you inside access to attractions and places you can’t get elsewhere. Their guides rock too!
- Fat Tire Tours – For bike tours (as well as food tours and cooking classes), check out Fat Tire Tours. They offer fun, intereactive tours led by expert local guides.
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Florence Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Florence Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Inferno, by Dante Alighieri
Inferno is the first part of Italian writer Dante’s 14th-century epic poem, The Divine Comedy. It tells the story of Dante’s journey through Hell, guided by the ancient poet Virgil. Here, Hell is depicted as nine circles of torment located within Earth – it’s a dense read, but it’s pretty incredible. The book mentioned here is the beautifully translated version of Dante’s masterpiece. You can also get your hands on the full volume with all three epic poems. It’s been inspiring people for 700 years!
City Of Fortune: How Venice Ruled The Seas, by Roger Crowley
Roger Crowley explores Venice’s fascinating 500-year-old advance to the pinnacle of power to become a city unrivalled for drama and majesty. City of Fortune traces the Venetian imperial saga, from the Fourth Crusade to the fall of Constantinople, to the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1499-1503, which eventually led the Ottoman Turks to becoming the preeminent naval power in the Mediterranean. You’ll also learn about how a small city of “lagoon dwellers” became the richest place on the planet. This isn’t a boring history book – it’s a vivid, beautifully written account of Venice and its people through the ages.
Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown
Robert Langdon is summoned to an assignment at a Swiss research facility to analyze a symbol seared into the chest of a murdered physicist – and discovers the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati. Then the brotherhood announces they’ve left a time bomb inside Vatican City, and Langdon must take off to Rome to find it. Even if Dan Brown isn’t your thing, this book will get you pumped to go sightseeing in Rome.
Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes
Have you ever dreamt of buying up a crumbling villa in Italy and restoring it to its former glory? That’s exactly what Frances Mayes did 20 years ago with an abandoned property named Bramsole in the Tuscan countryside. This story recounts her restoration journey, along with what it’s like adjusting to live in rural Tuscany. Mayes is a poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer – you will literally be drooling over her prose and evocative language. Mayes paints the dreamiest picture of life in Italy. You have to read this book.
La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind, by Beppe Severgnini
Written about Italians by an Italian, Beppe Severgnini wants you to forget all the romantic notions of Italy and its people. This laugh-out-loud book takes you beyond the historical attractions and scenic areas, and into places where Italians are at their best and worst: including the highway, the airport, and the small town. Severgnini describes the chaos of the roads and the “theatrical spirit of the hypermarkets” in a way that will give you some deep insight into the Italian psyche.
A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster
Well-bred Lucy Honeychurch sets out on an adventure touring Italy with her overbearing cousin, and soon falls in love with the handsome (but entirely unsuitable) George Emerson, and yet somehow becomes engaged to Mr. Cecil Vyse. Lucy is easily lured away from the upper-middle-class Edwardian society by her longing for the man she left behind. This is a funny, satirical read that takes the English notion of respectability and turns it on its head. This is Forster’s most beloved book!
Florence Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Italy and continue planning your trip: