Visit Florence: unmissable museums and activities

After having shared with you all my good places to eat and drink in Florence, here is my complete guide to visiting Florence on a long weekend and a bit more and art and architecture of the city. I will take you through all the museums and unmissable activities in this emblematic city of the Italian Renaissance, whose historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

VISIT FLORENCE IN PRACTICE

I have rarely seen a city with so much to see per square meter as Florence! The city is filled with masterpieces of art and architecture, and to visit it entirely, a week is not even enough yet. But rest assured, by planning your time well, it is still possible to see the most famous places of the city in just one weekend.

In some cities, buying a city card is not always very useful, but in Florence it is almost essential given the number of museums that the city has (going to Florence without visiting any museum is like going to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower!) and the individual price of each museum: it pays for itself quickly. To visit Florence, I therefore recommend the city’s city card, the Firenze Card (85 €) which gives you access to more than 75 museums for 72 hours (from the activation of the card). 

As far as I’m concerned, I stayed 1 week in Florence but I therefore made sure to group the visits included in the Firenze Card during the 3 days of validity of my card, and to make the free visits (and take more time to walk around town) on other days.”Fast track” (priority line) for a lot of museums. Thanks to this card, you do not have to book for any visit (which saves a lot of time) apart from the Uffizi Museum, the Galleria dell’Accademia and access to the dome of the Duomo.

Below, I have therefore also divided the visits to do in Florence into two categories: first the museum visits included in the Firenze Card, and then the free visits. I will still include the links to book each activity separately if you only want to do a few or if you are in Florence for less than 3 days (because then the Firenze Card is less easily profitable). If you do not have the Firenze Card, it is essential to book the “big” tours in advance.

WHAT TO SEE IN FLORENCE WITH THE FIRENZE CARD? THE MAIN MUSEUMS TO VISIT

As you will notice below, all major paid tours to do in Florence are included in the Firenze Card. I tried to classify these visits: first the unmissable ones, then those which are more secondary, to visit if you have time.

PALAZZO VECCHIO AND PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA

In the heart of Florence is Piazza della Signoria and on it one of the most emblematic buildings of the city, Palazzo Vecchio, historic seat of the Florentine government and former Ducal Palace of the Medici. The Palazzo Vecchio Museum, which allows you to visit the interior of this palace with opulent rooms (the most beautiful in Florence?), Is splendid. There are also works by Donatello and Michelangelo, and a magnificent Room of Geographical Maps which should please travelers! In the basement of the palace it is also possible to see the remains of the ancient Roman theater of Florentia

Do not forget to climb the Tower of Palazzo Vecchio to enjoy a panoramic view of the city, a great reward after climbing the 223 steps! Be careful though, the tower is closed when it rains.

I also recommend that you come to Piazza della Signoria in the early morning to fully enjoy it without tourists. In the square is also the Fountain of Neptune (16th century), a copy of Michelangelo’s David and the Loggia dei Lanzi, an open-air sculpture gallery, dating from the 14th century (free access), and whose he best-known work is Cellini’s Perseus.

THE UFFIZI MUSEUM (GALLERIA DEGLI UFFIZI)

Right next to Piazza Della Signoria is the Uffizi Museum, one of the most famous art museums in the world (which must be booked well in advance). It was one of the buildings of the Medici government, where they already exhibited part of their art collection: the corridors are still filled with their collection of statues from antiquity. It’s a huge museum, filled with masterpieces, so you have to spend a few hours at least there. There are world-famous works there, including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Leonardo da Vinci’s Annunciation, Caravaggio’s Medusa, Titian’s Venus of Urbino, and the Triumph of Chastity by Piero Della Francesca.

GRANDE MUSEO DEL DUOMO: THE CAMPANILE AND THE DOME OF THE CATTEDRALE DI SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE (DUOMO), THE BAPTISTERY AND THE MUSEO DEL DUOMO

Another unmissable place in Florence is Piazza del Duomo, where there is a complex of buildings dating from the Renaissance grouped together under the denomination of “Grande Museo del Duomo”, and for which there is also a separate combined ticket (which you can purchase here if you don’t have the Firenze Card) which includes the following visits:

  • the Battistero di San Giovanni, an octagonal baptistery in white marble and bronze doors, dating from the 12th century – splendid!
  • Giotto’s Campanile, 84 meters high, dating from the 14th century and considered one of the most beautiful in Italy – I didn’t have the courage to go up there!
  • the crypt of Santa Reparata (which was closed during my visit)
  • the famous Cupola (Cupola) of the Dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, masterpiece of Brunelleschi – very difficult to have a time slot for the visit, I was not there either
  • the dell’Opera del Duomo Museum, where you can find some original works, including Michelangelo’s Pietà del Duomo

These different places also house works by the great artists of the Italian Renaissance (Michelangelo, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Giotto…).

Access to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is free, but you will generally have to face a line of several hours (yes yes!) To enter … I did not have the courage to do so. The only option to avoid the line is apparently to book a guided tour 

MUSEO NAZIONALE DEL BARGELLO

Occupying the old Palazzo del Podestà, the National Museum of Bargello is a museum known mainly for its Renaissance sculptures, including important works by Donatello, Michelangelo, Verrocchio, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Cellini, and Luca Della Robbia. The chapel of the old palace is also the oldest representation of Dante.

THE PALAZZO PITTI AND THE BOBOLI GARDENS

You will have to cross the Arno and Ponte Vecchio for the next visit, that of Palazzo Pitti. This huge Medici palace, subsequently the residence of the Grand Dukes of Lorraine and then of the Kings of Italy, houses a series of museums, and is endowed with splendid gardens (beware, things go up well!), The Boboli gardens. This visit, to which you should spend at least half a day if you want to have an overview of each part, can be combined with that of the villa Bardini next door (see the next point).

Here are the different spaces to visit inside Palazzo Pitti:

  • the Palatine Gallery and the Royal Apartments, the most interesting part in my opinion, with its sumptuous rooms adorned with paintings by Rubens, Raphael, Tintoretto, Caravaggio and Titian.
  • the Treasury of the Grand Dukes, or Silver Museum, located in the former summer apartment of the Medici
  • the Modern Art Gallery and its large collection of Italian paintings and sculptures from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century
  • the Porcelain Museum
  • the Fashion and Costume Museum (closed during my visit)

WHERE TO SLEEP IN FLORENCE?

I stayed in Florence at The Student Hotel  The hotel is huge and the concept (half student accommodation, half classic hotel) is super cool! The common areas are very designer, and the best part is their gym and their pool/rooftop bar, both of which have one of the best views of the city!