15 COOLEST Things to Do in Florence [2018 Bargain Guide]

One of Italy’s finest cultural cities, Florence boasts splendid art and architecture as well as delicious cuisine made using the freshest ingredients from the Tuscan countryside. The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is a gorgeous Northern Italian gem.

With so many stunning sights to admire, however, working out what to do in Florence can be overwhelming!

That’s why we’ve put together this handy no-stress list of the absolute best things to do in Florence. Make planning your trip a breeze and enjoy authentic experiences, famous sights, and local spots that few people ever talk about.

Some of the best things to do in Florence are sure to surprise you! Let’s jump right into it!

Additional reading – the 17 Best Hotels in Florence and the Florence Neighbourhood Guide

Things to do in Florence

Quick Answer – Best things to do in Florence

 

Fun Things to do in Florence

Everyone wants to enjoy themselves on holiday, and Florence’s diverse attractions and activities will appeal to a wide range of interests.

Tour Florence by Vespa

Tour-Florence-by-Vespa

  • Exciting
  • Exploring
  • Biking

Discovering Florence is a given, but whizzing around exploring by vesper is a whole different matter! You’ll be given safety and operation instructions before you set off—nobody wants any mishaps on the roads. Helmets are provided too. Don’t worry if you’re not confident enough to ride the moped yourself (or if anyone in your group is under the age of 18) as a driver can be provided.

Delight in the freedom of the open road and travel like a stylish local on the iconic classic Italian scooter. As well as navigating city streets you’ll also get to test the motor on a ride through the nearby Tuscan hills.

In the city, feast your eyes on the skyline views, complete with towering spires, majestic domes, and a riot of colours. Continue to one of Florence’s highest points to San Miniato Convent, a dazzling Romanesque church that is often said to be one of the most beautiful religious buildings in all of Italy.

You’ll also ride out to Fiesole, a scenic town just outside of Florence, where you can leap back to the times of the Roman Empire and be wowed by splendid views. Florence by Vespa definitely promises fun galore!

Admire Art at the Renowned Accademia and Uffizi Galleries

Admire-Art-at-the-Renowned-Accademia-and-Uffizi-Galleries

  • Art
  • Iconic Attractions
  • History

If there are two museums that you definitely don’t want to miss when you’re in Florence they are the world-famous Galleria degli Uffizi and the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze.

The Uffizi is home to celebrated works by Renaissance masters like Michelangelo, da Vinci, Raffaello, and Botticelli, with many works from the former private collection of the mighty Medici family. The collection is housed within a striking building that dates back to the 16th century, itself a visual treat.

The Accademia is within a former convent and friary, set up for art students but now open to the public. With a specialist collection of historical Renaissance and Gothic artwork, the gallery is particularly famous for being home to the statue of David by Michelangelo.

These two fabulous art galleries are sure to blow your mind!

Marvel at Florence Cathedral

Marvel-at-Florence-Cathedral

  • Architecture
  • Art
  • History

The UNESCO-listed Florence Cathedral, previously called Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, is one of Florence’s most iconic landmarks and one of the biggest cathedrals in Italy.

Take plenty of time to admire the awe-inspiring building from the outside, gazing upon the majestic dome, the pink and green marble facades, and the intricate details. Then, step inside to be dazzled by even more beauty.

Climb the bell tower of Giotto’s Campanile and the dome for unbeatable sweeping views across Florence. Appreciate the pieces within the Museum of the Works of the Cathedral, home to precious artwork from the cathedral including masterpieces by Donatello, Michaelangelo, and Ghiberti. Visit the Romanesque Baptistery of St. John, which is one of the city’s oldest structures.

Romantic Things to do in Florence

With its glorious architecture and artwork, not to mention the abundance of local restaurants that serve tasty local fare, couples can find romance around almost every turn in Florence.

Go Wine Tasting in the Picturesque Tuscan Countryside

Go-Wine-Tasting-in-the-Picturesque-Tuscan-Countryside

 

  • Countryside
  • Wine
  • Views

Couples can enjoy the scenic beauty of the Chianti Classico and Tuscan countryside, seeing the vineyards that grow some of Italy’s finest grapes to produce delicious world-famous wines. You’ll certainly get plenty of lovely holiday photos of each other and there will be many opportunities for selfies together with picturesque backdrops.

The romance keeps growing as you visit gorgeous wine estates, where you can learn more about the local wine-making industry. Of course, you’ll also have the chance to taste a variety of locally produced wines and savour tasty treats produced in the Tuscany region. Why not also pick up a bottle of two of wine to enjoy in your room later?

 Zip around Florence by Segway

 Zip-around-Florence-by-Segway

  • Segway
  • Sightseeing
  • Fun

Adventurous couples can explore Florence differently—by riding around on a Segway! Ride next to each other and have plenty of giggles as you see many of the city’s most glorious squares and buildings.

As well as famous spots, like the Duomo, Santa Croce Basilica, Piazza della Repubblica, and celebrated art galleries, you and your love will also ride alongside the pretty Arno River for splendid views of Florence. Spanned by charming bridges, the riverside is in itself one of Florence’s top places for romance.

Don’t worry if Segway-ing is new to you – you’ll be given a full safety briefing and will have time to practice before hitting the streets.

Stroll Hand-in-Hand through a Picturesque Garden

Stroll-Hand-in-Hand-through-a-Picturesque-Garden

photo credits:discovertuscany.com

  • Outdoors
  • Gardens
  • Nature

Although Florence is famous for its art and architecture, many visitors are pleasantly surprised to find that there are plenty of green and flower-filled spaces around the city. Step into one of the beautiful parks and gardens for a stroll in nature and find a secluded spot to sit and share tender moments together.

The three-section Villa Bardini Gardens are peaceful and something of an under-visited gem, meaning you and your partner can get away from the crowds and explore a striking Renaissance garden.

The free-to-enter Garden of Cascine is another picturesque place, filled with colourful flower gardens and walking trails. The sprawling Boboli Garden, which previously belonged to the Medici Family, has manicured lawns, well-tended flower beds, trees, sculptures, fountains, outbuildings, museums, and more.

Other delightfully enchanting gardens around Florence include the local favourites of Il Boschetto and Giardino dell’Orticoltura, Europe’s biggest private garden (Torrigiani Gardens), and the serene Giardino delle Rose.

Things to do in Florence with Kids

If you’re worried about younger kids tiring easily in Florence you’ll be relieved (and maybe surprised!) to find that there are plenty of child-friendly things to do in Florence and its surroundings. Your little ones might even be dazzled by the stunning artwork and older kids are sure to enjoy a bird’s eye view across Florence the top of the Duomo.

Spend a Day at the Seaside

Spend-a-Day-at-the-Seaside

  • Excursion
  • Seaside
  • Train Ride

With something for both kids and the adults to enjoy, Cinque Terre makes for a great family-friendly trip from Florence. Admire the sparkling sea and slope-hugging homes that look like they’re about to tumble down into the waters below.

You’ll travel to La Spezia first before taking a train ride to the medieval gem of Riomaggiore. What kids don’t love train rides?! Lap up the gorgeous sea and mountain views from the Path of Love in Manarola, and then cool off in the heat with a dip in the inviting sea at Monterosso. You can play on the sand, relax, and bask in the sunshine.

Finish your lovely day with a boat ride to Vernazza, yet another picturesque village in Cinque Terre.

Learn How to Make Pizza and Gelato

Learn-How-to-Make-Pizza-and-Gelato

  • Cooking
  • Interactive
  • Culture

What’s better than eating pizza and creamy Italian gelato? Making it yourself, of course!

As well as being heaps of fun, this cooking class is a fantastic way for kids to learn more about Italian culture and really immerse themselves into the Italian way of life.

Under the watchful eye of a skilled chef, prepare the dough, spread the base, and sprinkle on your toppings before waiting eagerly for your pizza to bake. Try not to drool as you wait for it to cool and then slice it. And then … it’s time to relish your very own homemade pizza! Bella Bella!

You’ll learn more about Italian gelato traditions too and, most excitingly, be able to sample a variety of yummy flavours.

Be Amazed at the Leonardo da Vinci Museum

Be-Amazed-at-the-Leonardo-da-Vinci-Museum

  • History
  • Science
  • Art

You’ve likely already admired art by Leonardo da Vinci around Florence, so now it’s time to learn more about the man as a phenomenal creator, inventor, engineer, designer, and general genius!

You’ll see working replicas of various awesome machines, built based on da Vinci’s detailed notes and sketches from some five centuries ago. It’s mind-boggling to think about how such machines were even imagined all that time ago!

The flight machines are truly amazing, the war machines are ominous, and there are more practical day-to-day inventions too, such as water pumps and cranes.

Understand the workings of some of the equipment, with levers, handles, buttons, and other ways of making them operate. The museum is certainly a place that appeals to curious minds of all ages.

Free Things to do in Florence

Paying to enter all of Florence’s top sights can make a sizeable dent in your wallet. Keep your bank manager happy by visiting a few brilliant free attractions too.

Watch the Sun Set from Piazzale Michelangelo

Watch-the-Sun-Set-from-Piazzale-Michelangelo

photo credits:Craigs Travels (Flckr.com)

  • Views
  • Sunset
  • Romantic

Great for couples but also equally as captivating for friends, families, and solo explorers, watching the sunset over Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo is really quite magical. Watch as the sky changes through hues of red, orange, pink, and yellow before inky darkness envelops the city to reveal lights twinkling seductively all around.

It doesn’t cost a single Euro to head up to the hilltop vantage point, and you’ll have some of the finest city views that stretch to the Arno River and to the nearby hills and countryside.

Experience Florence’s Vibrant Markets

Experience-Florence’s-Vibrant-Markets

photo credits:Maarten Takens(Flickr.com)

  • Local Life
  • People-Watching
  • Browsing

Experience local life and see a range of products at Florence’s fabulous markets. Browsing is free, though we can’t guarantee that you won’t be tempted to buy something!

The two markets of San Lorenzo attract locals as well as tourists. The prices are often low and you’ll find everything from clothing and souvenirs to handicrafts and fresh produce. Mercato Delle Pulci is a great place for bargain hunters to dig through antiques, art and other second-hand goods. Fierucolina Market, at Santo Spirito Square, has plenty of local vibes.

If you’ve completely fallen under Florence’s spell, be sure to call by Mercato Nuovo and find the bull statue—rubbing his nose is said to ensure you’ll return to the city in the future.

Tour the Medici Villas

Tour-the-Medici-Villas

photo credits:pratoturismo.it

  • Architecture
  • History
  • Photography

The powerful Medici Family had a number of handsome villas around Florence and in the wider Tuscany area. Many are now protected by UNESCO and open to the public for free. You could spend several days ticking off these attractive former homes with their lovely gardens and historic backgrounds.

See how the affluent spent their leisure time in the past at places like Villa di Castello, Villa La Petraia, Villa Poggio a Caiano, and Villa di Fiesole. The villas of Trebbio and Cafaggiolo, in the Mugello area, are among the oldest rural estates. The neoclassical Villa del Poggio Imperiale is now home to a private girl’s school, though you can visit a handful of rooms on request.

With 16 major villas and a further 11 minor estates, you’ll find it difficult to exhaust the splendid former homes of the Medicis. Do note that you’ll need to arrange a visit in advance for some of the estates.

Best things to Do in Florence at Night

Why let the fun end when the sun goes down? There are many ways to enjoy Florence after dark, from hopping between quaint bars and feasting on local cuisine to taking part in more quirky nocturnal activities.

Step Back to the Medieval Era

Step-Back-to-the-Medieval-Era

  • History
  • Cuisine
  • Luxury

Don your fancy evening clothes and enjoy dinner in a spectacular medieval tower!

Travel a short way out of Florence to San Gimignano, a beautiful town with lots of history, and see elegant architectural delights such as Podestà Palace, the cathedral, and the Town Hall. Enter the soaring 13th-century Useppi Tower to the sound of sweet singing and harp music, and take a seat in the sophisticated lounge.

Let your imagination run wild as you soak up your surroundings and feast on an array of Tuscan delicacies, Italian delights, and international dishes, all accompanied by some of Italy’s best wines. Great food and wine in an atmospheric setting … what’s not to love?!

Have an Evening of Opera

Have-an-Evening-of-Opera

  • Dining
  • Music
  • Culture

Savour delicious local cuisine and listen to the haunting sounds of opera for an authentic Italian night out.

Admire the streets of the historic Oltrarno area as you make your way to a traditional local tavern housed in a former wine cellar. Going underground certainly isn’t gloomy here! The ambience couldn’t be more enticing, with vaults and arches built in the 13th century, soft music, top-notch service, and dim lighting. Sip on Chianti wine as you savour every bite of a Tuscan gastronomic delight and fall in love with Florence over and over again.

When you’re sated and satisfied, relax in an old church as you watch a wonderful live opera performance. The powerful voices and stirring sounds fill the air, with celebrated works by renowned Italian composers like Rossini, Puccini, and Verdi.

Experience the Local Night Scene at Santa Maria Novella

Experience-the-Local-Night-Scene-at-Santa-Maria-Novella

photo credits:themostperfectview.com

  • Bars
  • Clubs
  • Restaurants

The streets around the beautiful church of Santa Maria Novella are home to some of Florence’s most diverse and happening nightlife. Whether you’re looking for a place to chill or a place to party, you’re sure to find somewhere that grabs your attention here. There’s a reason why so many locals, expats, and tourists from all walks of life flock here after dark. Mingle with students, business people, travellers, parents, professionals, socialities, and others in a variety of cool establishments.

There are many restaurants serving Italian and international dishes to start your night out on the right note. Check out a swanky wine bar next to the river for posh vibes and terrific views. The area’s terrace bars provide fantastic views of some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, made even more attractive when illuminated at nighttime. Take it easy in a cute little café or kick back in a local pub. You can even enjoy the craic in a lively Irish bar!

If your feet want to dance and your hips want to shake, you’ll also find a good selection of discos and nightclubs where you can keep the party going until the wee small hours.

Final Thoughts on the COOLEST things to do in Florence

With things to suit foodies, art enthusiasts, culture vultures, couples, and families, there’s definitely something for everything in Florence. Hand-picked by our travel experts, tick off these best things to do in Florence for the ultimate holiday in Northern Italy.

What do you think? Have we skipped any of the coolest or best things to do in Florence? Let us know below!

About the Author Aaron Radcliffe

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