Florence is a magnificent city in the heart of Tuscany that was the birthplace of the Renaissance. Art lovers head to Florence to visit the Uffizi Gallery and see the famous statue of David by Michelangelo but the stunning monuments and attractions in the historic center make Florence a living museum.
- Take a Florence Small Group Walking Tour for a good introduction to the historic center and visit to the Accademia to see David. Use promo code ITALYMARTHA for a 5% discount when you book this tour.
5 Magnificent Monuments to See in Florence
- Florence’s most well-known monument is its beautiful Gothic Duomo or Cathedral, Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, topped with Brunelleschi’s Dome. The Dome, completed in 1436. was the largest in the world until the construction of Saint Peter’s in Vatican City. The marble panels on the exterior were only added in the 19th century. While it’s currently free to enter the cathedral, climbing the 463 steps up to the Dome or going down into the crypt to see remains of the 4th century church each require purchasing a ticket.
- Next to the cathedral is the 14th century campanile or bell tower. The tower rises to a height of 84.7 meters or 277.9 feet. Although Giotto only completed the first level, the tower is often referred to as Giotto’s Bell Tower. Beautiful art work and statues are found in the lower levels and there are seven bells, the oldest and biggest (with a diameter of 2 meters) dating from 1705. Buy a ticket to climb the 414 steps to the terrace at the top for fabulous views of the city.
- Also near the Duomo is the 11th century, octagonal Baptistery of Saint John with a white and green marble exterior. Its most famous bronze doors, the Gates of Paradise created by Ghiberti in the 15th century, can be seen in the Cathedral Museum while the doors on the Baptistery are replicas. Gold mosaics, also with Biblical scenes, decorate the interior of the cupola and on the floor is an inlaid marble zodiac rose. Many famous Florentines were baptized here. Find out what else there is to see on Piazza del Duomo in Florence.
- In nearby Piazza della Signoria, one of Florence’s top squares and the political center of the city, sits the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s medieval town hall. Outside the entrance you see a replica of the statue of David as well as several other statues. Many of the rooms have been turned into a museum and it’s well worth going inside. One of the most famous rooms is the Salone dei Cinquecento, or Room of the 500, where the council of 500 met. Another interesting room is the studiolo completely covered with paintings.
- Visit hidden rooms and the attic in the very interesting Palazzo Vecchio Secret Itineraries Tour.
- Ponte Vecchio, the Old Bridge, spans the Arno River between the historic center and the Pitti Palace. A bridge was built in this place by the Romans and later a medieval wooden bridge was destroyed by a flood. The current bridge dates from 1345 when it was home to butchers, tanners,and blacksmiths. In the late 16th century, a law was passed permitting only shops selling gold and jewelry on the bridge and the tradition continues today. There are a couple of places to stop along the bridge for views of Florence but to get a good photo of Ponte Vecchio, take the neighboring bridge, Ponte Santa Trinita.
Tips for Sight-seeing in Florence
- Buy advance tickets for these Florence museums to avoid having to waste time in long ticket lines.
- See train schedules and book train tickets on Rail Europe.
Where to Stay:
- Asso’s Place is a beautiful vacation apartment with great view of the Duomo Dome, a couple of blocks away.
- Hotel Duomo, Florence is a 3-star hotel right on Piazza del Duomo.
- Hotel Goldoni is a comfortable and quiet old-style hotel in the historic center.
- See more hotels and places to stay in Florence.
The best way to see the sights in Florence is on foot as much of the historic center is pedestrian-only or a limited traffic zone. See this Florence Map and Guide for the location of the top sights.
You’re unlikely to be a victim of violent crime in Florence, but you should be careful of pickpockets, as is true in many big cities around the world. They are most common in crowded tourist areas. Never carry your passport or valuables where they can be stolen. See How to Safeguard or Replace Your Passport.
- Rick Steves Pocket Florence
- The Cognoscenti’s Guide to Florence: Shop and Eat Like a Florentine
- An Art Lovers Guide to Florence