Looking forward to a trip to Florence? Planning the best things to do in the city? Well and done. We got you covered! Here are 15 fun things to do in Florence to get you busy. Plus get the best useful insider tips to guide you.
The Duomo, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistry, pasta, pizza, cheese, and wine – too much to do and too little time! Being a tourist in Florence, Italy can definitely be overwhelming at first.
But with these local tips, I hope you can have an amazing trip by experiencing the best of what Florence has to offer.
Surprising as it may seem, there are many sites to see, places to eat, and streets to explore that have not been overrun by the typical tourist crowd.
I recommend that you go straight to the Piazzale Della Duomo and find the booth where you can purchase a bundle package to get into the Duomo, Giotto’s Bell Tower, and the Baptistry all in one day.
My favorite of these attractions is Giotto’s Bell Tower. The tower tends to attract fewer people due to the intense stair climb that is necessary to make it to the top.
Once that is over, you are rewarded with a beautiful view of the city and the Duomo, so needless to say it is definitely worth the workout.
Tip: You can also spread out your time among the three sites. Tackle the Duomo and the Baptistery first. Then, later in the day, come back to climb the Bell Tower when the weather cools down to enjoy the sunset.
Do you live for art, culture, and history? Then the Uffizi is for you.
This is quite possibly one of the BIGGEST museums on the planet. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but this museum is huge and can be quite overwhelming or even boring if you’re just not that into art and history.
If you actually want to know what you are looking at, I would opt for a local guide to take you through it. But be warned, this will take up around half of your day to accomplish! So, if you are traveling with a group of people, some might be very irritable afterward.
Totally understandable – traveling is hard work, too!
Tip: Although you’ll really want a beer and gelato in the Piazza del Duomo, I would try to walk a couple of streets away into the more authentic part of town where the food, drinks, and service are of higher quality and prices are far more affordable.
If you are eager to see the statue of David, head over to the Galleria dell’Accademia OR go right outside of the museum to view a duplicate of the real thing.
The Piazzale de Michelangelo is stunningly beautiful and my all-time favorite activity when I am in Florence.
Just a 25-minute walk from the city center to reach, Piazzale de Michelangelo is filled with locals and tourists alike, all there to sit on the steps and enjoy the breathtaking view of the city below.
This spot gets very hot during the day and cools off perfectly at night, so I would advise you to come for the sunset.
Tip: Bring your drinks and maybe some bread and cheese as a pre-dinner snack – your very own Apertivo. Wine-lovers be warned! There are a few vendors at the top of the steps selling beer and chips, but you will have to BYOW (bring your own wine).
3. The top places to get work done
Biblioteca Della Oblate: One of my favorite spots to hang out, grab a cappuccino, and look out at the Duomo. Formerly a women’s convent and hospital built around the year 1290, this great find is full of history, provides a secret Apertivo, and has an exceptional view.
This is an awesome place to get work done or to simply enjoy the finer things in life. Although it is located right next door to the always busy Piazza del Duomo, not many foreigners know about this spot. Head upstairs for a cappuccino, espresso, or Aperol spritz and share a table with some local University students.
Cafe Letterario Le Murate: Formerly the prison of Florence, Le Murata has been turned
into a hip cafe and bistro. This is the perfect place to get some work done outside or to
meet people for a beer and a bite to eat in the evening.
4. Eat & drink like a local
The BEST part of the day is pre-dinner drinks and appetizers known to Italians as Apertivo. Many locals will attend an Apertivo most nights of the week.
Imagine seeing a sign that says “Apertivo: receive a full plate of goodies or an all-you-can-eat buffet full of tasty appetizers for the price of ONE DRINK.” Wait. WHAT?! That’s right, you heard it here first.
Apertivo should take priority every night you are in Italy because, after a tough day of exploring the most beautiful city in the world, you deserve it.
Tip: Nervous for Apertivo? Don’t be! Drink like a local and order an Aperol spritz, negroni, Campari, or a glass of the house wine. All three drinks are very refreshing and pair well with the delicious Apertivo food.
Located right on the Piazza di Santo Spirito, Volume (pronounced vol-uuu-meh) is a hip cafe and bar. The cappuccinos are amazing, but the best part is the Apertivo in the evening when they bring you a full plate of delicious snacks to enjoy with your drink of choice.
The Volume offers outdoor seating with a wonderful view of the Piazza di Santo Spirito and the Santo Spirito Church. This is a wonderful people-watching spot to get the local Florence feels.
Tip: They always play the best music at Volume, but come on a weekend night to enjoy some awesome live music! Protip, the Piazza di Santo Spirito offers a small clothing market on weekday mornings for cheap clothing and other goods.
5. Nightlife in Florence
Although Florentines start their day at sunrise, they also go out on the town most nights of the week – no wonder they drink so much espresso! One of my favorite streets to go to after dark is Borgo Pinti.
This gorgeous street offers lots of bars with live music, karaoke, special deals, and a fun mix of Italians and foreigners. My go-to place to start the night is Rex Cafe. This awesome bar owned by two local Italian brothers offers great music and awesome vibes.
If you’re in search of a more typical college pub scene, head over to The Lion’s Fountain. University flags from around the world decorate the walls of this quaint bar, making it a hub for students studying abroad in Florence.
Tip: The Lion’s Fountain has great weekly deals. Stop in during happy hour or make new friends during one of their many game nights.
Need to catch a glimpse of that sports game you just can’t miss? The Red Garter is Florence’s #1 sports bar. Go there to watch sports during the day and be sure to stay for the jam-packed karaoke sessions that stretch late into the evening.
If you want more of a dance party scene, Florence offers a variety of clubs or Discotecas. A few of my favorite places to go dancing are Space Club, Bamboo Lounge and Club, and Flo Lounge Bar.
Tip: If you are out late enough in the evening or wake up early enough in the morning, you might catch the smell of freshly baked pastries. Follow the scent and knock on one of the bakeries back doors to get the first pastry of the day before the doors officially open to the public!
Pro tip: There are only one or two bakeries that offer this service and they are known around Borgo Pinti street. Ask someone to help point you in the right direction of the “secret bakery” and enjoy your delectable late-night treat.
6. A guide to coffee breaks in Florence, Italy
Need to recharge? Pop into any coffee-shop or convenient store and take a standing spot at the bar or a table on the sidewalk to enjoy some people watching.
If you want to drink like a local, order an espresso, cappuccino, or macchiato – fair game at any time of day! One of my favorite places to grab an espresso is Caffe Ricchi. Here they also offer gelato and even a take-home lasagna – YUM.
Another one of my go-to cafes is Caffe Maioli. At Caffe Maioli, you’ll get a wonderful view of the Ponte Vecchio. This is a great spot to see Florence in the early morning while enjoying a fresh croissant and cappuccino.
Tip: If you order a latte you are going to receive milk in a cup and if you order a hot chocolate you are going to get very thick melted chocolate inside a mug – why can’t they combine the two?!
7. The WINE
My favorite way to choose a wine while in Florence is to search for the ones with the DOCG label (top-rated wine) and choose one which originated straight from Tuscany.
Another option is to find a local winemaker in a small wine shop to fill a bottle right in front of you from one of their many wine barrels.
If you can find one while exploring a random alleyway, it is worth checking out. The world’s best wine is made and sold right in Florence, so be sure to take advantage!
Tip: Order the table or house wine from any restaurant by the glass or bottle, it is usually the cheapest and best option!
My go-to Tuscan wine is the Brunello which is made in the beautiful vineyards of Montalcino. This picturesque town offers a variety of wineries and I encourage you to go there for a wine tasting and tour.
Tip: Planning to visit a winery? Check out this link or scroll down to 14. Beyond Florence to learn more about vineyard visits, wine tastings, and excursions in Tuscany.
8. Have no fear, they have beers!
The beer scene in Florence is up-and-coming. So, if you need to grab an IPA or Microbrew while on vacation, it can be easily be done.
My favorite brewery in Florence is BrewDog Firenze. It is located on the touristy side of town, but it is tucked away in a small alleyway just far enough from all of the chaos.
At BrewDog Firenze, you will enjoy great beer, music, snacks, and vibes. BrewDog attracts many student foreigners in search of that taste of home, but it is still worth checking out if you are in desperate need of a beer-fix.
Just not that into the BrewDog ambiance? Give Archea Brewery a try. Located across the river, near the Piazza di Santo Spirito, Archea Brewery offers a more intimate setting to enjoy a fresh cold beer.
This bar has a nice balance between foreigners and locals and the menu is full of tasty craft-brews and inexpensive cocktails. My favorite Italian beer is the Birra Moretti, but be warned, it is 7% alcohol, so a couple of these can get you goin’. If you prefer a lighter beer try a Peroni or Stella Artois.
You can grab any of these beers out at local restaurants and supermarkets.
9. Wait, the Duomo isn’t the only historical site in town?!
The Basilica di Santa Croce is only 10 euros to enter and totally worth it! This is one of my favorite churches in the city due to its beautiful architecture on the inside and out.
And how cool that we get to see the tomb of Michelangelo?! This is a must-visit. Just outside the church, the Piazzale di Santa Croce is a great spot to hang out and check out local shops.
Tip: Come here in December for the beautiful Christmas Market!
10. Welcome to food heaven
If you go to any restaurant in Italy, the food will most likely be spectacular. But, if you want to hit some of the best places in town, check out this list!
Where to find the best…
Panino: The most famous place to grab a quick panini is All’antico Vinaio. This raving panini shop will have a line out the door, but since they have panini making down to Science, the wait won’t be too long. This is one of my go-to’s due to the large portion size, cheap prices, and authentic Italian experience.
Another amazing Panino can be found at a tiny shop in the Piazza di Santo Spirito. Ristorante Borgo Antico offers delicious panini’s on some of the best ciabatta bread I have ever tasted. Head there to eat lunch with the locals.
Pizza: This is the real reason we all travel to Italy, right? The most famous pizza place in Florence is Gusta Pizza.
Watch as your pizza is made right in front of you, put into the woodfired oven, and cooked to perfection in 3-5 minutes – soooo good! Around lunch and dinner time, Gusta Pizza will probably be very crowded but again, since Italians are all masters at their craft, the wait time will not be too long.
There is very limited seating inside the restaurant, so I recommend taking the pizza to-go and bringing it outside to the steps of the Santo Spirito church. On the steps, you’ll likely see an equal amount of tourists and locals eating Gusta Pizza and drinking wine.
Fancy Meal: La Giostra. Located on the quiet side of Borgo Pinti street, La Giostra has a beautiful ambiance and offers very delicious food. This restaurant is really something
special, so take a look if you have the chance.
Tip: There is a nice wine bar located directly across the street from La Giostra, check it out after your meal!
Gelato: To be honest, I don’t have a favorite – I like to try them all! If a place looks good, go for it.
Tip: Try to steer clear of the gelato places that stack the gelato really high especially close to the Duomo. These places are made to attract tourists and are usually very overpriced and not as high of quality!
11. More food!
Quattro Leoni: A nice restaurant with great food and service in an amazing little neighborhood. The food is affordable and delicious!
Tip: Try the pumpkin ravioli and grab a gelato from the Gelateria Della Passera, located just across the street, after your meal.
Trattoria dell’ Orto: Amazing freshly baked pizza with a more local feel. You can also take a pizza-making class here and learn how it’s done!
Osteria Santo Spirito: My go-to restaurant that never disappoints! Be sure to try the
risotto and the cheese board – you won’t regret it!
Mamma’s Bakery: Craving something from back home? Then this is your place! Mamma’s Bakery is the cure for homesickness. This cute cafe has wonderful food and a perfect ambiance to get work done or just relax.
Tip: After dinner enjoy a digestive shot of limoncello, grappa, or amero.
12. Missing Mother Nature?
Parco Delle Cascine: Need to see a tree, lay in the grass, or stretch your legs? Look no further! There is a huge park located in central Florence.
If you are an active person or dedicated runner like me, then this might be very exciting news. The Parco Delle Cascine can easily be explored on a run or walk.
But, if you are feeling ambitious, there is also a rental shop that offers bikes, scooters, and even rollerblades for a day full of adventure and fun. This park is a green oasis right outside the chaos of the city, and it is a great option for anyone with a free afternoon.
Boboli Gardens: This is a great place to clear your head and experience some wonderful sculptures and landscapes. There is a fee to enter, but it is a nice place to visit if you are in the area.
13. The Markets
Central Market: The Central Market has the best of it all. They offer gelato, cannoli’s, pizza, pasta, lasagna, and more. Everything here is made from scratch and your stomach is bound to ramble the moment you start to smell freshly baked garlic, basil, tomato, and bread.
At the Central Market, the first floor is full of fresh food for shopping and tasting while the second floor offers long tables with a variety of different restaurants serving their own specialty dishes.
Watch the chefs create everything first-hand and enjoy an abundance of the world’s greatest cuisine!
Tip: Come hungry and try to split a few dishes so you can taste a bit of everything. All of the food is worth trying! Some of my favorite foods offered are gazpacho, ravioli, and cannoli.
The famous Leather Market: Located right outside of the Central Market, get lost in a sea of vintage clothing and authentic leather. This is a great place to buy gifts to bring back for your friends and family!
Tip: Bargain, bargain, bargain! The vendors will start at an absurdly high price when you try to buy something. Don’t be afraid to practice your negotiation skills and try to talk them down, enjoy the Italian banter!
Sant’Ambrogio Market: Located close to Santa Croce, this smaller and much more local market should definitely be on your list.
Since there are fewer tourists here, the prices are much more affordable in comparison to the Central Market and you do not need to worry about being lost in the crowd. I recommend going to Sant’Ambrogio around lunchtime and eating at the intimate restaurant located in the middle of the market. Their ravioli is the best in town!
Tip: Make sure to go for an early lunch, the market closes!