The Italian city of Florence is Tuscany’s most famous and most visited city. Every year, millions of visitors flock to Florence to get lost in its streets, admire its incredible churches and marvel at its museums and palazzos.
Florence is the world’s art capital and whether or not you’re an art fanatic, you can’t help but gasp at the beauty of this “outdoor museum”. I first visited Florence as a teenager and even then, I knew this city was something special. Back then, my photography skills were fairly average; well actually, to be honest, they were pretty terrible! Ever since then, I’d been longing to return to Florence, if only to have some better photos of it!
More than that though, I wanted to enjoy this city as an adult. So, when we finished our four days in Rome, we hopped on a train and just an hour and a half later we arrived at the Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence. Before heading off on our road trip through Tuscany, we spent two days wandering around Florence. Even the second time around, I was still in love with it.
Florence has so much to offer and two days will give you just enough time to get a taste of this incredible city. What you see in Florence is up to you. With only two days, you obviously can’t explore every single museum but you can see the main sights, especially if you are super organised. But if you love museums or if you’re a huge art fan, then you really should allow yourself more than two days.
Here’s how to spend your two days getting acquainted with one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Piazza del Duomo
There is no better place than the Piazza del Duomo to start your visit to Florence! It’s right in the heart of Florence and within it, you’ll find Florence’s most beautiful building, the majestic Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly referred to as the Duomo. The Duomo and its famous dome (Cupola), designed by Brunelleschi, are simply breathtaking. Even as a teenager I couldn’t help but be awed by it.
You can enter the cathedral for free but to visit the dome, the Baptistery, the crypt, the museum or the bell tower you will need to buy a combined ticket. While you could just admire the Duomo from the outside, I recommend buying the combined ticket and exploring it properly. It’s worth the money. The combined ticket is valid for 72 hours, so you don’t have to tackle everything on the same day.
You will, however, need to make a booking to climb the dome and you’ll be given a time at which you must present yourself. It’s done to restrict the number of people climbing the dome at any one time because it’s a bit claustrophobic inside. Plus, it’s probably safer in case they have to evacuate everyone quickly.
Tips for your visit to the Duomo
- Book your ticket online a few days before arrival to ensure you get a suitable time, especially during peak season when you may even want to book a few weeks ahead. When we visited in April, there was a two-day wait to climb the Duomo. So we were very glad that we had booked online, a week in advance.
- There are 463 steps to tackle when climbing the dome and 414 steps to conquer the bell tower. I wouldn’t recommend doing them one after the other; we did and it was a real killer. You should definitely do them both but maybe on separate days to give your legs time to recover! They both give you spectacular views from the top.
- If you want to learn more about the Duomo, we suggest taking a tour. It will let you skip the lines and gain a better insight into the building and its history.
- Start your visit as early as possible. When visiting the interior of the cathedral, start queuing at least ten minutes before it opens because the queues can get pretty insane. In the middle of the day, they stretched all the way around the Duomo! Otherwise, visit towards the end of the day.
- Bear in mind that the museum is closed on the first Tuesday of every month. That just happened to be the day we visited!
What is the Entrance fee for the Duomo and where can you book ahead?
The combined ticket costs €20.00 per adult and €5.00 per child. You can book your ticket in advance here.
Piazza Della Signoria
After your visit to the Duomo, take a short walk down Via dei Calzaiuoli, towards the Piazza della Signoria. This piazza is one of the prettiest in Florence. It’s home to the Fountain of Neptune, as well as the Palazzo Vecchio (the city’s headquarters) and a city museum. In front of the Palazzo Vecchio is a replica of the statue of David, in case you don’t have the time (or desire) to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia to see the original.
The Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is located next to the Palazzo Vecchio. It is one of the most important museums in Italy, if not the world. The Uffizi houses one of the largest collection of Renaissance masterpieces, with works by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael.
If you plan to the Uffizi Gallery while in Florence, buy your tickets online ahead of time to avoid the long queues outside or take a guided tour so that you don’t miss any important pieces.
Entrance fee: The entrance fee to the Uffizi Gallery alone is €20 per person. But if you also plan on visiting the Boboli Gardens and the Palazzo Pitti during your trip, buy the combined ticket for €38. Bear in mind that the Uffizi Gallery is closed Mondays.
The Ponte Vecchio
When you finish your visit to the Uffizi, take a short, five-minute walk to the Ponte Vecchio bridge. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture and so iconic to Florence. Take a quick stroll across, while admiring the sparkling jewellery sold in the shops that line it. From either side of the bridge, you can also enjoy views out over the Arno river.
Sunset at the Piazzale Michelangelo
One of the best places in Florence to see the skyline is from the Piazzale Michelangelo. Once you’ve crossed the river via the Ponte Vecchio, it’s a bit of an uphill hike (about 15 minutes) to get there, but it’s worth it. The views are fabulous. If you don’t feel like the hike up, you can always take a taxi there.
Try to arrive around dusk to enjoy the views as the sun sets.
Start your second day with a visit to the famous David statue at the Galleria dell’Accademia. This gallery is pretty small and, of course, the David steals all the limelight. There’s also a display of musical instruments and some of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures. Just like the Duomo and the Uffizi Gallery, it’s best to book your ticket online ahead of time to avoid the long queues, especially if you’re short on time.
Entrance fee: €20 – The Galleria dell’Accademia is also closed on Mondays.
Piazza Santa Croce and the Basilica of Santa Croce
The Basilica of Santa Croce is the final resting place of both Michelangelo and Galileo. Its interior is more ornate than the Duomo’s but if you are short on time, you can simply admire its impressive facade and the statue of Dante on its front left corner.
Boboli Gardens and Palazzo Pitti
The Boboli Gardens are beautiful and ever so representative of Tuscany. They are the perfect place to wander around and escape the city’s crowds. Set up on top of a hill, the garden’s Porcelaine Museum also provides some stunning views over Florence and the surrounding countryside.
If you are keen on visiting another museum, the Palazzo Pitti is right next door to the gardens. Bear in mind that the Palazzo Pitti is also closed on Mondays.
Basilica di Santo Spirito
If you have time, on your way back from the gardens, head to the Basilica Santo Spirito. This basilica was also designed by Brunelleschi; in fact, it was his last masterpiece. It’s nothing special from the outside but its elaborate interior makes it a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture.
The Piazza della Repubblica
A few steps away from the busy Piazza Di Duomo, the Piazza della Repubblica is a large square which is usually a bit quieter. It has lots of cafes and some interesting shops. The odd street entertainer makes an appearance there to try and make a few Euros. It’s also home to a small carousel that is great for the little ones (or the not so little, each to their own!). There’s also the Colonna dell’Abbondanza, which dates back to the 19th century. The Piazza della Repubblica is a nice square to plonk yourself down in, order up an Aperol Spritz and do some people watching.
The Florence Card is another option
If you are planning on visiting a few sights around Florence, you also have the option to buy the Firenzecard (€85). This card is valid for 72 hours and provides free entry to all sights and temporary exhibitions, without prior reservation (apart from the Cupola where a booking is still compulsory). For an extra $7, there’s also the Firenzecard+, that gives you free public transport.
The Firenzecard is not cheap but it might be worthwhile if you plan on visiting lots of different sights or taking public transport rather than walking. Make a note of everything you want to see and sum the individual ticket costs in order to make a comparison. As an added benefit, the Firenzecard also gives you priority entrance, so there’s no need to queue anywhere.
If you have more time to spare in Florence
Florence is amazing but there is so much more to see outside of the city itself. If you have more time, we suggest booking some day tours to explore more of Tuscany. There are many tours you can take from Florence to the nearby Chianti area, Siena, San Gimignano and even Lucca (our favourite Tuscan city). You can even take a day trip to the Cinque Terre, although we recommend allowing longer for that beautiful part of Italy.
How to get around Florence?
Florence is a small and very compact city. If you are staying close to the city centre, it is easy enough to get to everything on foot. We did not use any public transport or taxis while in Florence, because we stayed only 10 minutes walk from the Piazza del Duomo.
If you are staying further away then you can use Florence’s buses and taxis to get around.
Where to eat in Florence?
Le Capelle Medicee: Head there for their lovely homemade pasta and typical Florentine steaks.
Trattoria Sergio Gozzi: Only open for lunch, this trattoria serves typical Florentine foods made simply. It’s tasty and the place is usually packed, so it might be worthwhile booking ahead.
Simbiosi Organic Pizza: They have amazing organic pizzas made from fresh ingredients and they also have yummy Tiramisu. That’s all washed down with some delicious wine. A perfect dinner!
Gelateria La Carraia: Head to this gelateria for the best gelato in town. They now have two locations, one right off the Ponte alla Carraia, and one near the Piazza Santa Croce.
Where to stay in Florence?
There’s no lack of accommodation in Florence, with options for all price ranges, from the budget through to the crazily luxurious.
- Guest House Zeffiro: This is where we stayed. It’s no thrills but it’s clean, friendly, and quite quiet. It also has a great location, not far from most of the city’s main sights and only about 10 minutes walk from the train station.
- B&B Giorni Dipinti: Best value on booking.com
- Assaporarte: Best rated on booking.com
Alternative accommodation in Florence
If none of the above takes your fancy, you can use HotelsCombined to search across all the top travel sites using the search box below. We use it all the time.