Florence Travel Guide

City skyline with red rooftops and the Duomo in Florence, Italy

Florence is one of the most famous cities in Italy and a hotspot on the country’s tourist trail. Few people miss it, especially if they are visiting Italy for the first time.

With stunning Renaissance architecture, winding streets, and picturesque white buildings capped with red roofs, Florence is one of my favorite spots in Italy.

If you love art, the number of galleries here will keep you busy for weeks. There are also beautiful Renaissance churches to be explored and you could 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 incredible nightlife.

This Florence travel guide can help you plan your trip, save money, and make the most of your time in this classic Italian city.

Top 5 Things to See and Do in Florence

Bright yellow Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge in Florence, Italy.

1. Spend a day in the Galleria de Uffizi

The Uffizi holds the world’s most important collection of Renaissance art (including the The Birth of Venus and La Primavera by Botticelli, Bacchus by Caravaggio, and Doni Tondo by Michelangelo). Towards the end of the gallery, there’s also some portraits and Dutch landscape works that are beautiful too. It’s a must-see museum. Be sure to buy tickets in advance to avoid long lines. If you go later in the day, there are fewer crowds. Tickets start at 23 EUR (plus a 4 EUR online booking fee).

2. Climb Il Duomo

One of Florence’s most popular sites is the Duomo (the cathedral). This huge Gothic building was started in 1296 and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that covers Florence’s historic center. Filippo Brunelleschi, known as the father of Renaissance architecture, engineered the famous dome, which is still the largest brick dome ever constructed. The real highlight is the view from the top where you get a panoramic look at Florence and its iconic red roofs. It’s absolutely beautiful. You’ll need to reserve a time in advance if you want to go on the roof. The cathedral itself is free to visit, but if you want to visit anything else in the complex (such as the dome, bell tower, or museum), you’ll need to purchase one of three passes, with prices ranging from 15-30 EUR. You can also get a skip-the-line ticket with exclusive access.

3. Walk along Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval bridge built in 1345 as the city’s first bridge across the Arno River. Today, it’s the only surviving historic bridge in Florence, as all the others were destroyed in World War II. The bridge is lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry. The shops are all small and close together. The red-tiled roofs and yellow stucco mixed with old stonework gives the whole bridge a very medieval feel. It’s closed to vehicular traffic, making it a fun place to stroll around and window shop.

4. See David

Housed in the Galleria dell’Accademia, Michelangelo’s 16th-century David is one of the most impressive sculptures in the world. At 5.17 meters (17 feet) tall, it’s a lot bigger and more detailed than you think it would be. I was completely blown away by it. It truly is a masterful piece of art that is a must-see. Try to go early to avoid the lines. Admission is 16 EUR and skip-the-line tickets (with a guide) cost 77 EUR.

5. Wander the Giardino di Boboli

Commonly known as the Boboli Gardens, the Medicis (an Italian banking family and powerful dynasty; four popes were Medici family members) designed the landscape and architecture here in the Tuscan Renaissance style that later influenced aristocratic and royal gardens throughout Europe. The gardens are absolutely gorgeous, with ancient marble statues and large fountains everywhere, and the scent from the citrus trees completely flooding your senses. It costs 10 EUR to visit (there’s also a combined ticket for the gardens and Pitti Palace for 22 EUR).

Other Things to See and Do in Florence

1. Take a walking tour

Walking tours are a wonderful way to learn about Florence and there are a handful of excellent free tours in the city. They cover all the highlights and are the perfect introduction to the city. It only lasts a few hours. Florence Free Walking Tours runs daily free tours in English. Just be sure to tip!

If you’re looking for a high-quality and detailed tour focusing on the city’s art or history, try Walks of Italy. They’re my favorite walking tour company because their tours offer behind-the-scenes access and are led by informative guides. Tours start at 77 EUR.

2. Visit the baptistery

Consecrated in 1059, the baptistery of John the Baptist is one of Florence’s oldest buildings. The octagonal baptistery that you see today was rebuilt from an earlier building dating back to the 4th-5th century CE. It was here where famous Renaissance figures, including poet Dante Alighieri and members of the Medici family, were baptized. Standout features include the three sets of huge bronze doors and the interior of the dome, which is covered in golden mosaics. Admission is part of one of the Duomo passes, which range from 15-30 EUR depending on which group of monuments you want to see.

3. Visit the Piazzale Michelangelo

Head to the Piazzale Michelangelo on the south side of the Arno River for a great cityscape view. It’s one of my favorite viewpoints in the entire city! You can see the red-tiled dome of the Duomo and the towers rising over the city. It requires a good hike up a hill but it’s worth it and it’s a great way to see the stunning view of the city without paying to climb the Duomo. Florentine architect Giuseppe Poggi designed the space in 1869 specifically to showcase Michaelangelo’s works. There’s a bronze cast of David here, along with bronze casts of some of the artist’s other works. If you aren’t able to or can’t walk up the hill, you can take city buses 12 or 13 to reach the top.

4. Lounge in Liberia Café la Cité

This is a combination bookstore, café, and cultural center. It’s 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, such as readings and writing workshops. It’s open late (until midnight most days), when the atmosphere changes into a trendy, book-filled bar with great cocktails. It’s really cool and something more unique to experience than just more museums and old buildings.

5. Admire Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti was built in 1457 for the Pitti family and was 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. The exterior is impressive with the decorative arches and stonework columns on the façade. You really get a sense of how impressive this building was during the time period. It hosts an impressive collection of paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries, including works by Filippo Lippi and Botticelli. Admission is 16 EUR (combined admission for Pitti and the Boboli Gardens is 22 EUR).

6. Explore the National Museum of Bargello

The museum, which originally dates to the 13th century, is home to original works by Bandinelli, Donatello, Antonio Rossellino, and other Renaissance masters. It has the largest Italian collection of Renaissance and Gothic sculptures in the country and is just a short walk from the Piazza della Signoria. The exterior is all traditional stonework with delicate arches and a 54-foot clock tower. The crenelated tops give it that medieval feel. The interior courtyard is made from the same red stone and tall archways let in all the natural light. Admission to the museum is 11 EUR. There’s a 4 EUR online booking fee if you book in advance.

7. Visit the Sant’Ambrogio Market

Sant’Ambrogio is one of the oldest districts in the city, and in fact is the oldest market in Florence, having been around since 1873. Although it’s just a 10-minute walk from the Duomo, the market here is completely off the radar. Most tourist just don’t go to it – which is why I like it. It’s not as famous as the Central Market and its atmosphere is much more laidback. 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 local wines. You’ll also find some excellent Tuscan food at the Trattoria Da Rocco restaurant. The market is open 7am-2pm from Monday-Saturday.

8. 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 market stalls. Once the sun goes down, locals flock to the bars and restaurants. There’s a nice church to admire at the center of it all as well. It’s a real local place to just hang out and chill with some gelato and people watch.

9. Visit the Stibbert Museum

This is one of Florence’s most interesting and unique museums, though it doesn’t get the same attention as the city’s other museums since it’s 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 amongst the collection of 36,000 artifacts, including historic armor from the Middle East and a completely reconstructed army of medieval knights sitting on their horses in the great hall. The main attraction: Napoleon Bonaparte’s cloak from when he was coronated. Admission is 10 EUR.

10. SUP on the Arno River

If you want a unique way to see the Arno River, head out for a stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) session with Toscana SUP. You’ll paddle your way underneath the Ponte Vecchio and then take a break for a glass of Chianti (you’re in Italy, after all!). Tours start from 70 EUR per person for two people and last two hours. If you have a group of three or more, it’s 65 EUR per person. If you want to go solo, it’s 100 EUR.

11. 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 dedicated to local history on the first floor. There’s a lovely courtyard with a towering tree and green shrubs dotted around. There are benches so you can sit in the shade on a nice day. 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.

12. Admire Santa Croce

Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in Italy and holds the tomb of Michelangelo (there are also funerary monuments to Dante and Leonardo da Vinci here too). The exterior is covered in green and white marble, along with decorative arches and mosaics around the entrance. The interior is stunning with stained glass windows, massive columns, and high ceilings. Surrounding the altar is a rich display of frescos and other impressive artistic pieces. It’s an interesting place to explore if you have already covered the highlights and have extra time in town. There are usually rotating exhibitions here as well. Admission is 8 EUR. Note: The Bardi Chapel is currently under restoration and not open to visitors.

13. Take a vineyard tour

Florence is surrounded by vineyards, many of which can be accessed via day tours. Most tours visit a couple of vineyards and include some samples. Expect to pay at least 50 EUR per person for a half-day trip. If you have your own vehicle, you can arrange your own tour (but you won’t be able to drink). Many vineyards also operate B&Bs or Airbnbs, which makes for a nice getaway if you want to splash out for a night. You can’t come to Tuscany without seeing the vineyards so make this a priority. There are a number of great tours likethis one from that will take you through medieval villages and let you experience the wine country for yourself. For 90 EUR, it’s well worth it. If you don’t have a whole day to spend on visiting the wineries, there are options in the city that combine tasting local wines with walking through the gorgeous streets of Florence.

14. Take a food tour

To learn more about the history and culture behind Florence’s cuisine, take a food tour. It’s the best way to eat your way around the city sampling the best eats Florence has to offer while learning what makes the cuisine unique. Devour Tours runs in-depth food tours led by expert local guides that will introduce you to the food culture and its history. If you’re a foodie like me who wants to learn more about the history and culture behind each dish, these tours is for you! Tours from 80 EUR.

Florence Travel Costs

Piazza del Duomo filled with tourists in Florence, Italy.

Hostel prices – In peak season, a bed in a hostel dorm with 4-6 beds start at 50-60 EUR per night, while a bed in a dorm with 8-10 beds start around 50 27-40 EUR. Private rooms cost 125-185 EUR per night during peak season.

In off-peak season, 4-6-bed dorms start around 38 EUR while 8-10-bed dorms start at 35 EUR. Prices for private rooms don’t change much in off-peak season.

Free Wi-Fi is standard and a couple of hostels also have self-catering facilities and offer free breakfast.

Budget hotel prices – The majority of hotels are located within a short walking distance of the city’s main attractions. Many hotels in Europe do not have elevators, so plan on climbing stairs if you’re not staying on the main floor. During peak season, budget two-star hotels start at 110 EUR per night for a single room. Double rooms start around 170 EUR. During off-peak season, single rooms start around 90 EUR and double rooms are around 140 EUR. Free Wi-Fi and free breakfast are usually included.

On Airbnb, you can find private rooms for as little as 55-80 EUR per night (though prices are usually double that). You can rent entire homes (usually studio apartments) for closer to 100-125 EUR per night if you book early.

Average cost of food – Italian cuisine is beloved around the world, though every region in Italy offers its own distinct flavor. Tomatoes, pasta, and olives and olive oil form the backbone of most meals, with meat and fish and various cheeses rounding out the menu. In Florence, popular dishes include bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak), lampredotto (tripe sandwich), tagliatelle funghi porcini e tartufo (pasta with mushrooms and truffles), and of course gelato.

While eating out in the city is expensive, the good thing about Italy is that you can get pizza and pasta for reasonable prices. For breakfast, there are plenty of cafes around the city where you can get coffee and pastries for less than 10 EUR. If you want something heartier, plan on spending 10-15 EUR. You can find a filling meal at a casual Italian restaurant for 15 EUR. You can get a small personal pizza for about 10 EUR or less.

A mid-range meal with drinks and an appetizer costs around 40 EUR per person at higher end place (think white tablecloths and fancier décor).

You can find cheap sandwich shops all over the city for 5-7 EUR. A fast-food combo (think McDonald’s) costs around 10 EUR. Chinese takeout is around 6-10 EUR for a noodle or rice dish while a meal at a Thai restaurant is around 11-16 EUR. Both are popular cheap eats in the city.

Beer is around 5-6 EUR while a latte/cappuccino costs 1.50 EUR. Bottled water is around 1.50 EUR.

If you plan on cooking your own food, a week’s worth of groceries costs around 45-55 EUR. This gets you basic staples like pasta, seasonal produce, rice, and some meat.

Backpacking Florence Suggested Budgets

If you’re backpacking Florence, my suggested budget is 85 EUR per day. This assumes you’re staying in a hostel, cooking all of your meals, limiting your drinking, taking public transportation to get around, and doing mostly free activities like walking tours and enjoying the parks and plazas. If you plan on drinking, add 5-10 EUR to your daily budget.

On a mid-range budget of 150 EUR per day, you can stay in a private Airbnb, eat out for a few meals, enjoy a couple of drinks, take the occasional taxi to get around, and do more paid activities like visiting the museums and doing a vineyard tour.

On a “luxury” budget of 320 EUR or more per day, you can stay in a hotel, eat out for all your meals, drink as much as you want, rent a car or take more taxis, and do whatever tours and activities you want. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!

Florence Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips

Florence is one of the most expensive cities in Italy. A visit here can really set you back, mainly due to all the museum tickets you’ll buy (as well as all the delicious food you’ll eat). Fortunately, there are some ways to save money in Florence. Here are my top tips for cutting your expenses:

  1. Eat cheap – Eating near Piazza della Signoria or in the square can be very expensive. If you move further away from the busy tourist hubs, you’ll find cheaper places to eat.
  2. Travel on foot – Public transportation in Florence isn’t quite as necessary as in other European cities because most attractions are within walking distance. Skip the bus and walk if you can. You’ll save a few euros.
  3. Get the Firenze Card – If you are going to do lots of sightseeing, this card provides free entry to the top museums, tours, and attractions. It costs 85 EUR and is good for three days. Just make sure you add up the cost of the attractions you want to see to make sure the pass is cheaper.
  4. Get a Duomo Pass – If you don’t want to get a Firenze Card but still want to visit the monuments of Piazza del Duomo, you’ll want to get one of the three passes: Brunelleschi, Giotto, or Ghiberti. These range in price from 15-30 EUR depending on which monuments you want to see and are valid for 3 days.
  5. Get the Uffizi PassportWith the Uffizi Passport you get one admission to the Uffizi, Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens, and the National Archeological Museum over a five-day period. The pass is 38 EUR which saves more than 10 EUR over paying for each entrance separately.
  6. Redeem hotel points – Make sure you sign up for hotel credit cards so you can use those points when you travel. Most cards come with at least 1-2 nights free via their welcome bonuses. This can save you a lot of money on your trip. Here’s an article to help you get started with the basics so you can start earning points today and have plenty for your trip.
  7. Pass on the bread – Some restaurants charge extra for bread or breadsticks set on the table — but they won’t tell you until the bill comes. Decline the bread to save money.
  8. Buy wine at the store – You can buy a great bottle of wine at the store for just a few euros. It’s a lot cheaper than drinking at the bar.
  9. Stay with a local – Accommodation is expensive in Florence so use Couchsurfing to find free accommodation. It’s the best way to save money and connect with a local who can share their insider tips and advice.
  10. 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. Just be sure to tip your guide at the end!
  11. Bring a water bottle – The tap water here is safe to drink so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw is my go-to brand as their bottles have built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe.

Where to Stay in Florence

There are several budget-friendly hostels in Florence. You can use this article to see the best neighborhoods to stay during your visit. Some of my favorite places to stay in the city are:

How to Get Around Florence

Many bicycles parked in foreground of Piazza Santa Croce in Florence, Italy

Public transportation – 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.

That said, if you need public transportation to get around, Florence’s Autolinee Toscane bus system is efficient and reliable. A bus ticket that’s valid for 90 minutes costs 1.70 EUR (or 3 EUR if purchased on the bus, though drivers often run out of tickets). You can get tickets at just about any newsstand or kiosk. You can also buy ten 90-minute tickets for 15.50 EUR.

Bicycle – Florence is mostly flat and ideal for cycling. Rentals start around 15 EUR per day. E-bikes cost 30-45 EUR per day.

Taxi – Taxis aren’t cheap here, so I don’t recommend taking them. The base rate is 3.30 EUR, and then it’s an additional 0.10 EUR per kilometer with a minimum fare of 5 EUR. Skip the taxis if you’re on a budget!

Car rental – You definitely don’t need a car to get around the city, however, it might be helpful for day trips around the region. Car rentals can be found here for around 20 EUR per day for a multi-day rental (mini car) in the off-season (during peak season, prices can be double and even triple that). For the best rental car deals, use Discover Cars.

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 31°C (88°F). Temperatures are slightly cooler in June and September, but these months are also very busy. Be sure to book your accommodations and activities in advance if you’ll be visiting during this time of year. You can also catch the Florence Dance Festival through most of July.

Winter is the coolest time of year, with an average high of 11°C (52°F). This is when you’ll encounter fewer crowds and prices will be at their lowest. If you’re there on January 6th, you can experience the celebration of Epiphany with the locals. It’s a celebration of the three kings arriving in Bethlehem and is the traditional gift giving day for Florence. There’s a parade and people dress up in costumes to reenact the nativity. During February, the city celebrates Carnival with parades, floats, costumes, and a huge puppet dragon.

My favorite months to visit are during the spring and fall when the weather is still nice but the crowds have thinned out. Prices will still be much cheaper than summer as well. From March-May and October-November, temperatures average 7-13°C (46-55°F). It gets a bit rainy during this time, especially in November. Make sure you have a few layers with you.

During the spring, the city celebrates Florentine New Year which falls on the feast of the Annunciation. The city also hosts a major celebration for Easter Sunday. The Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, a celebration of classical music and dance, happens in May.

The fall has plenty of events to enjoy as well. The Festival of Paper Lanterns happens in September and has been happening since the Renaissance. There’s a parade and crowds walk through the streets with their paper lanterns illuminated in the evening.

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. While violent crime is rare, scams and pick-pocketing are common, especially at major tourist sites. Be vigilant around Piazza del Duomo and Ponte Vecchio and always keep your valuables secure and out of sight.

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 common travel scams to avoid here.

It’s also a good idea to avoid wandering around the city alone at night, especially in Santa Maria Novella.

Solo female travelers should generally feel safe, however, the standard precautions apply (when out at the bar, always keep an eye on your drink, avoid walking home alone at night if you’ve been drinking, etc.). There are many incredible solo female travel blogs on the web that can give you specific information about a place. They’ll give you tips and advice that I can’t.

If you experience an emergency, dial 113 for assistance.

Always trust your gut instinct. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.

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. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.

  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
  • HostelPass – This new card gives you up to 20% off hostels throughout Europe. It’s a great way to save money. They’re constantly adding new hostels too. I’ve always wanted something like this and glad it finallt exists.
  • Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
  • 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.
  • Trainline – When you’re ready to book your train tickets, use this site. It streamlines the process of booking trains around Europe.
  • Rome2Rio – 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 – Flixbus has routes between 20 European countries with prices starting as low 5 EUR! Their buses include WiFi, electrical outlets, a free checked bag.
  • SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
  • LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
  • Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
  • Top Travel Credit Cards – Points are the best way to cut down travel expenses. Here’s my favorite point earning credit cards so you can get free travel!
  • Take Walks – This walking tour company provides inside access to attractions and places you can’t get elsewhere. Their guides rock and they have some of the best and most insightful tours in all of Italy.
  • BlaBlaCar – 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 to travel than by bus or train!