In our opinion, nowhere in the world will you find a city with so many cultural treasures per square kilometre. Indeed, the cultural highlights of Florence are many. If you wish to visit Florence, we think the below are the must-sees. Admittedly, it has been hard to choose because there are plenty of other beautiful places to find in Florence. So, why not discover them yourself and be enchanted by this beautiful medieval city with all its historical buildings, romantic squares and impressive churches.
Cultural highlights of Florence
We can mention many cultural highlights of Florence. These are the most important ones.
The most impressive churches in Florence
In Florence you almost stumble over really beautiful churches. The following are not to be missed:
Cathedral and Baptistry
On the busiest square in Florence, the Piazza del Duomo, stands the imposing Cathedral. Officially, the church is called Santa Maria del Fiore. The richly decorated cathedral with the imposing red dome is the symbol of the city. Both inside and outside, the church is a feast for the eyes. Entrance is free but if you want to visit the beautiful dome, you’ll have to buy a ticket. Next to the Cathedral is the Campanile, the tower. If you are up for it and want to climb the 465 steps, you can visit the tower. You will be rewarded with a beautiful view of the city. Opposite the church is the beautiful Baptistery. The chapel with its beautiful bronze doors is one of the oldest buildings in the city.
Basilica di Santa Croce
The Gothic church of Santa Croce dates back to 1294. The church is particularly special thanks to its 16 beautiful chapels. The Capella de’ Pazzi is especially impressive. This chapel is considered the masterpiece of the Renaissance style but the beautiful frescos in the Cappella Bardi are also worth seeing. In the Santa Croce, you’ll find many tombs of famous Italians, including those of Michelangelo and Macchiavelli.
Basilica San Lorenzo
The famous Medici banking family had money and influence. Not only in the city, but also with the Pope. The bankers were the founders of international banking. They also managed the Papal treasures. This family ensured Florence’s leading role in art and architecture. The San Lorenzo was the Medici’s parish church. Michelangelo was responsible for the art in the church. He also designed several chapels in the church and the tombs for the Medici family.
Santa Maria Novella
When you arrive in Florence by train, this is the first church you will see. If you like frescoes, you must see this church as here you will perhaps find the most beautiful ones in Florence. Masaccio’s Trinity, for example, is a masterpiece of portraiture. The Green Corridor and the frescoes in the Chapel of the Spaniards are also beautiful. And be sure to admire the beautiful stained-glass windows in the Santa Maria Novella.
The most beautiful palaces in Florence
The bankers, in particular, had beautiful palaces built. These are the ones that stand out:
The Palazzo Vecchio has been the city hall since it opened in 1322. High above the palace towers the beautiful bell tower. A special feature of the palace is that its appearance was never changed after its construction. The interior, however, was taken over in 1540 by order of the Medicis. This ensured that beautiful art treasures were added to the palace. Many frescoes, statues and chapels decorated the various rooms from then on. Part of the palace is open to the public.
Palazzo Medici-Riccardi is a city palace of the Medici family. They used it as a residence. The palace dates back to 1444. The two-storey palace is situated around a courtyard. The high colonnade with statues immediately catches the eye. The palace has its own chapel. Here, too, you see beautiful frescos. The Parade of the Three Kings, for example, is very beautiful. On the first floor, the Luca Giordano room is a real showpiece. Fortunately, we can all enjoy this: the palace is open to the public.
Luca Pitti was a banker in Florence. He did everything in his power to outdo his rival, the Medici family. That’s why he built the Pitti Palace; it was to be bigger and more impressive than the Medici buildings. After his death, the Pitti heirs were unable to pay the building costs. The Medicis made a move and bought the Pitti Palace for next to nothing. The heart of the palace is the Galleria Palatina. It is home to numerous Italian masterpieces so don’t forget to visit the beautiful Boboli gardens behind the palace. A wonderful place of rest in the busy city.
Special museums in Florence
With so many art treasures, it will not surprise you that Florence has leading museums.
This is one of the world’s most famous museums. You can spend a day here if you like the beautiful art from the Renaissance. This was once a palace and later it was used to exhibit the art treasures of the powerful Medici family. Therefore, it is an Eldorado for the art lover. You can see the masterpieces of all the famous Italian artists here but art by Flemish and Dutch masters also hangs here. While admiring all the masterpieces from the collection, don’t forget to look up. The ceilings have fantastic frescos.
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
Behind the cathedral is the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. Here you will discover everything about the history of the world-famous church. There is also an exhibition of the tools used in the construction of the church in the 12th century. Magnificent statues, which used to stand in the niches of the church, are now displayed in one of the halls. The original doors of the Baptistry are also in the museum. These doors were placed in the baptistery in 1401, to celebrate Florence’s liberation from the plague. On the panels are impressive biblical scenes.
Nearly everybody has heard of Michelangelo’s world-famous statue “David”. This statue is the showpiece of this museum but you will find many more beautiful works by this artist. In addition, the museum has an impressive collection of paintings by famous Florentine artists. Some artists, including Vasari, founded the Galleria dell’Accademia in 1563. They taught students to draw, paint and sculpt. This made it the first art academy in Europe. Two centuries later, the academy housed an enormous art collection. This was to serve as a source of inspiration for the students.
Other sights in Florence
However, besides these highlights Florence has many more places of interest.
This is the oldest and most impressive bridge over the Arno River. The bridge dates back to 1345. The activity on the bridge is centuries old. In the past the forges, tanners and butchers lived here. Nowadays, the numerous shops on the bridge are the domain of jewellers and goldsmiths. Above the shops runs a secret corridor, the Corridoio Vasariano. It connects Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti.
Piazza della Signoria
This square was the political centre of Florence for centuries. Nowadays, the square is a popular place for the inhabitants to stroll. On the square are numerous statues from the history of the city. Especially the Loggia dei Lanzi is very beautiful with the statues of the emperors. The already mentioned Palazzo Vecchio is also on this square.
This square is full of copies of statues by Michelangelo. But that is not the only reason why you should visit this square. From here, you have a magnificent 360-degree view of the city. You can see all the sights, against a backdrop of the Tuscan hills. The view is always beautiful, but especially at sunset.
This covered hall houses the busiest market in town. The inhabitants of Florence still do their shopping here. The market consists of two floors. On the ground floor, you can buy the most delicious local specialities such as cheeses, hams, salami and olive oil. On the upper floor are the fruit and vegetable traders and florists. You can feast on all these goodies in the eateries and wine bars.
Walking past the cultural highlights of Florence
The historic centre of Florence is compact. Therefore, it is ideal to explore the city on foot. Get a free city map at the tourist office. In addition, the VVV has various thematic walks available.
Discover Florence’s cultural highlights by bike
Cycling along all sights. Enjoying the street life along the way. And get explanations everywhere from an expert guide. With a bicycle tour of Florence you will really get to know the city. Ideal at the beginning of your city trip! Afterwards, you will know your way around the city.
Practical info for your visit to Florence
The best time to visit are May and June, or September and October. Try not to go in July and August. The city is overcrowded and the heat makes it oppressive.
Actually, one day is too little for visiting Florence. If you want to see all the highlights, you need at least two, but preferably three days. In the Uffizi Museum alone you can spend at least a day.
When visiting Florence, you don’t have to worry about this. However, the large number of options may lead to stress about the choice! With these options, you’re guaranteed a wonderful evening:
- La Beppa Fioraia. A restaurant where locals love to go. Dining in an old flower house.
- Ristorante e Vineria Gastone. You will not find any tourists here either. Fantastic food in a nice ambiance.
- Il Santo Bevitore. A little outside the centre on the other side of the river. Great food, great wines and great service.
And don’t forget to have a snack or a drink at the Mercato Central!
Florence has an incredible amount of accommodation on offer. Varying from B&B’s, flats, boutique hotels to very luxurious accommodations. With this choice, you are guaranteed a good night’s sleep:
- Residenza La Musa Amarcord. A beautiful stylish hotel with excellent service.
- B&B Lorenzo de’ Medici. Centrally located B&B with service-minded owners.
- Arte’ Boutique Hotel. A modern hotel in the middle of all sights.