With a rich history of art and culture, Florence needs little introduction. Yet it’s perhaps the most draw droppingly beautiful city in the whole of Europe. I myself have sadly only visited once, spending just one day in Florence exploring the city and falling in love with its Tuscan charm. However, I found this enough time to do a lot of the top things to do in Florence. Thus, here’s what to do in Florence in a day:
1) Visit the Duomo (Florence’s Cathedral) –
Florence’s cathedral (affectionately referred to as the Duomo) is without a doubt the most magnificent building in the city. Thus, it should be your first stop when touring Florence in a day.
Luckily it’s very easy to find as every road in Florence seems to lead to the Cathedral, what’s more, its colossal dome can be spotted from miles away. I was amazed by the Duomo when I saw it with my own eyes. I think it’s impossible to grasp its true scale and beauty until you’re stood right beside it, photos simply do not do it justice!
Of course, viewing the Duomo from the outside is spectacular but getting an inside perspective of this great cathedral is also a must. In fact, one of the top things to do in Florence is to climb Brunelleschi’s dome, the views from which are said to be breath-taking.
Unfortunately, on my own visit to Florence, I was unable to do this as I miss judged how popular the Cathedral is… For one, the queue into the main cathedral (which is free to visit) was several hours long. What’s more, You MUST pre-book tickets to climb up the dome.
I was told that tickets sell out up to three weeks in advance during the summer months! Therefore I’d highly suggest pre-booking your tickets to the Duomo online. (you can purchase a combination ticket that also provides entry to Giotto’s Campanile and the Baptistery, which are both adjacent to the cathedral, for €18).
2) Visit the Uffizi Gallery or the Galleria dell’Accademia –
Known by many as the Cradle of the Renaissance, Florence has maintained it’s reputation as Italy’s artistic capital over the years. In this way, two of the most famous Florence attractions are the Uffizi Gallery (that contains one of the oldest and most famous art collections in the world) and the Galleria Dell’Accademia (which is home to Michelangelo’s David).
If you want a chance to tour these galleries then I’d highly suggest pre-booking tickets as entrance is restricted, so they sell out fast… On my own visit to to Florence both sites where actually fully booked for the entire day, which meant we again sadly missed out on visiting.
Even so, If the Ufizzi gallery is high on your list of ‘What to see in Florence’, then you might want to spend more than one day in the city as visiting will take up quite a lot of your day! Comparively, the Galleria dell’Accademia is fairly small and thus much quicker to tour.
However, I discovered that the stunning Piazza della Signoria offers an even quicker taste of Florence’s art scene for free… Perhaps the most famous square in the city, it’s found halfway between the Duomo and the river, and has been turned into somewhat of an open air museum; featuring famous works such as the 500-year-old Fountain of Neptune, Perseus with the head of Medusa, and a replica of Michelangelo’s David (placed where the orgional once stood). Couple this with amazing architecture, and the Piazza della Signoria is a must visit during any one day in Florence!
3) (Florence in a day) Tour Palazzo Vecchio –
Expanding on the above, the heart of the Piazza della Signoria (and definitely a Florence must see) is the Palazzo Vecchio. Most people wouldn’t automatically tour the “People’s Palace” when only exploring Florence in a day, However I discovered that this is a mistake… As tickets to the city’s famous galleries were sold out, I instead decided to enter the palace and was amazed by it’s rich history, spectacular art work, and spellbinding views!
The historic building has acted as the city’s main ‘power house’ since the early 14th century. Originally designed as a fortress, it hosted the city council before the famous Medici family decided to turn it into their official residence in 1540. Today the building still acts as the city’s town hall.
The palace is full of beautifully decorated rooms with elaborately painted ceilings, the most impressive of which is the Hall of the Five Hundred. Built in 1494 during Florence’s time as a republic, large frescos by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo adore the walls. To think that these two great artists completed the work simultaneously is quite remarkable!
This said, what makes the Palazzo Vecchio one of the best places to visit in Florence is its tower. Standing at 95 meters, the top of the tower provides the most breath-taking views of Florence, including a great perspective over the Duomo. You have to climb 416 steps to be rewarded with these views, but trust me it’s more than worth it.
Want to see more of Northern Italy? Why not take a road trip through the Italian Lake District…
4) Stroll around Boboli Gardens (or Giardini di Boboli) –
After touring the Palazzo Vecchio, you can continue Florence sightseeing by visiting the Boboli Gardens… Located in the grounds of the Pitti Palace, another former residence of the Medici family, these gardens provide the perfect place to get away from the crowds and enjoy some downtime, which I found was definitely needed after a busy morning exploring Florence in a day.
Winding paths, framed by manicured hedges, create the perfect green haven. Meanwhile, grand sculptures and fountains remind you of the gardens royal past. Further the views from its hilltop position are amazing! For example, you can enjoy a beautiful outlook over the city, whilst admiring the beautiful rolling Tuscan hills in the background. In truth, these reminded me that Florence is in fact only one of the must-see towns in Tuscany….
TOP TIP: entrance to the gardens costs €10 (or €5 for EU citizens).
5) (One day in Florence) Cross Ponte Vecchio bridge –
When you google ‘What to do in Florence Italy’ one of the top suggestions is a visit to Ponte Vecchio bridge, the oldest bridge in the city. This famous attraction is just a short walk from the Duomo and I actually crossed it several times during my 1 day in Florence.
Filled with little shops and stalls, its uniqueness makes Ponte Vecchio possibly the most recognisable bridge in Italy! For the best view, you can walk along the river to St Trinity bridge. From here you can look back at the medieval structure and marvel at its unique character. I found that it’s especially beautiful at Sunset!
6) Admire the city from the Piazzale Michelangelo viewpoint –
Speaking of breath-taking Tuscan sunsets, most people head to Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sun go down over the city. This meant a visit to the viewpoint was the last stop on my own one day in Florence itinerary.
The Piazzale is a little bit of a walk away from the main Florence attractions, but this provides the opportunity to walk through the cities more local neighbourhoods. The viewpoint is then located at the top of a hill that looks down onto central Florence. From this prime location, you can see all of the cities famous monuments and buildings.
I miss-judged just how late the sunsets in Florence in summer are and left the viewpoint for some dinner before the sun went down, but the views are magnificent whatever time of day you decide to visit! Therefore, a visit to Piazzale Michelangelo is definitely one of the best things to do in Florence.
7) Explore the winding backstreets –
Getting lost in Venice is a famous must do! However I think this true for exploring any old Italian city. Thus the final of my top things to do in Florence in a day is to simply explore it’s many charming backstreets, as there’s many narrow streets that criss-cross the city, linking together its main squares! Each is a picturesque as the next and filled with beautiful shops, cafes and restaurants which are just waiting to be discovered.
Overall I loved how relaxed Florence felt compared to other Italian hotspots. I also fell in love with the Duomo and the cities historic buildings (which are just as impressive as any of the attractions in Rome). From this, whist it is possible to explore Florence in a day, I do think two days in Florence would be more appropriate (especially if you’re organised and managed to get tickets to get into the Duomo and Galleries).
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