Florence has a small but beautiful city center that has a handful of neighborhoods, each worth exploring for different reasons. The city's small size means that you can walk between and within most neighborhoods. Even so, you should still consider your priorities as you decide where to stay and where to spend most of your time. Below is a list of some of the most interesting neighborhoods for tourists in Florence.
The Duomo is one of the most famous sights in Florence. It's central location halfway between Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce makes the surrounding neighborhood a convenient location with a lot to see and do. To the south of the Duomo is one of the oldest parts of the city, with charming alleys and quaint squares, cafes, and shops.
This area is one of the most touristy parts of the city. There is no shortage of hotels in this neighborhood and it is one of the most popular areas to stay. There's a range of hotel types in the area including luxury hotels and backpacker hostels, but you can expect to pay a bit more here than you would in a less convenient location.
Piazza della Signoria
This area is where you'll find the Uffizi Gallery, Bargello sculpture collection, and the famed Ponte Vecchio. There are quaint streets, popular shopping areas, and no shortage of tourists in the area, so it's best to explore this neighborhood in the early morning before the tour groups are out in full force. There are plenty of restaurants and gelato shops around, but if possible, avoid the more touristy ones as the prices are high and the quality is low.
The area can be expensive and touristy, but if you manage to visit when the crowds are at a minimum, you'll catch a truly beautiful area with impressive architecture and a rich history. During peak times however, expect intense crowds and long lines.
San Lorenzo & the Mercato Centrale
This neighborhood is located between the train station and the Duomo. At its heart you'll find the church of San Lorenzo. The neighborhood is also home to a large indoor food market and there are no shortage of food and souvenir stalls lining the streets. For budget travelers, there are plenty of budget hotels nearby as well as cheaper restaurants to choose from.
Piazza Santa Trinita
This piazza and the surrounding neighborhood are where you'll find some of Florence's best high end shopping. Gucci, Armani, and many more have all set up shop here. The neighborhood is located north of the Arno River and at the south end of Via de' Tornabuoni.
Santa Maria Novella
This neighborhood is on the western side of the centro storico. It's where you'll find the train station as well as the highest concentration of budget accommodation in the city, but the location is a bit inconvenient. In the area around the train station you can expect lots of traffic and noisy, with little of the charm and character that Florence is known for. The atmosphere improves as you head south toward the church of Santa Maria Novella and the river or east into the San Lorenzo area. There are some luxury hotels near Piazza Santa Maria Novella.
San Marco & Santissima Annunziata
This neighborhood is where you'll find Florence's university - the Accademia. The area is on the northern side of the centro storico and it has a few great hotels and several quiet streets. It's a bit outside of the tourist heart of the city, but not as far as you might think.
This neighborhood is where to go if you want to feel like a local. It's on the eastern side of the centro storico and it's managed to hold on to some of its authenticity. Head to the area around Mercato di Sant'Ambrogio and Piazza de'Ciompi in the evening to really feel the neighborhood come alive. The neighborhood also has some of the best local restaurants that bring out the locals and tourists alike.
The Oltrarno, San Niccolo & San Frediano
These neighborhoods are located across the Arno, and are filled with artisan workshops, great restaurants, and a bit of nightlife. The prices are lower and the quality is better than you typically find in centro storico. This area is also where you'll find the Pitti Palace, which was once a home of the grand dukes, but now has an impressive collection of paintings. Although there aren't many hotels in these neighborhoods, they are gaining popularity for their nightlife and restaurant scenes.