The Ultimate Florence Travel Guide

Things to Do, What to See, and Where to Stay

For art, history, and architecture lovers, Florence can offer an endless supply of things to see and do. The whole city really is a museum, and you can spend days wandering the neighborhoods, exploring the galleries, and enjoying the cuisine. Florence is also one of Italy's most popular cities to visit, so it's best to plan ahead and make reservations when necessary if you're hoping to make the most of your time and money.

Florence Accommodation

As a popular tourist destination for all types of travelers, you'll find no shortage of accommodation styles in Florence. Most of the accommodation is located in the historic city center near the most popular sights and attractions. Florence has everything including bed and breakfasts, luxury hotels, backpacker hostels, and local guesthouses. As many of the buildings are older, you can expect smaller rooms with small bathrooms, even in higher end hotels. Still, the quality and character of these luxury hotels can be very high and well worth the additional cost.

Budget Hotels and Backpacker Hostels: Florence is a popular destination for study abroad students and young travelers, so there is a good variety of budget accommodation to choose from. Even with it's popularity with younger visitors, Florence is not a "party hard" city, so you likely won't find a high number of party hostels like you would in other cities like Rome or elsewhere in Europe. Still, hostels offer a great social environment where it's easy to meet other travelers and a make a few new friends.

A handful of hostels can be found near the train station, and others are spread throughout the city center. You'll also find more hostels and budget bed and breakfasts just outside of the main part of town. There is a decent mix of European chain hostels like PLUS Florence, alongside more local hostels such as Archi Rossi Hostel.

Many hostels have a kitchen for guests to use, a common area where guests can hang out, and on site travel information. Breakfast may or may not be included in the price of the room. Many hostels also have a mix room types and styles. It's not uncommon for hostels to have private rooms available as well as dorms, and dorm rooms may range in size from smaller three and four bed rooms to much larger dorms with 15 or more beds. Beds are priced accordingly.

Florence is popular tourist destination and particularly during the peak seasons, it is best to make reservations well in advance. This is particularly true if you want to stay at one of the most popular options.

Hotels, Guesthouses and Bed and Breakfasts: Most travelers will choose to stay at a boutique hotel or guesthouse in Florence. The city has no shortage of options and most offer comfortable furnishings and amenities. Within the historic city center you'll find a wide variety of charming locally owned accommodation options. Many are housed in older buildings with smaller rooms and bathrooms, but the charm, personality, and convenient location make them an ideal option for many visitors.

Florence also has a good number of chain hotels. These name brand hotels are usually found a bit outside of the city center, but they typically have larger rooms, modern furnishings, and a reliable quality. If you're looking for predictability and assured comfort then these might be more your style.

NH Firenze is located near the Arno River about a 20 minute walk from the city center near Leopoldo Station. It has large, modern rooms and nice furnishings.

AC Hotel Firenze, operated by the Marriott, is found near Porta al Prato Station and Leopolda Station Exhibition Centre. It's about a ten minute walk from the historic center of Florence and is modern and comfortable.

The Hilton Florence Metropole also has large rooms and free parking. It's located well outside of the city center, but it has a shuttle service that runs to and from the city center for an additional cost.

Apartments, Villas, and Farmhouses: If you're planning to stay in town for more than just a few days, you might enjoy the freedom that an apartment or villa would offer. These are great options for visitors who are traveling in small groups, with their own car, or who want to stay a bit outside of town. If you have your own car and want to soak up the Tuscan countryside, then renting a villa may be more your style. If you want to be closer in town but still want a bit more space and the freedom to prepare your own meals, then an apartment might be more your style.

There are a variety of websites that help you find the right villa or apartment, and more options are coming available regularly. Some of the most popular options include AirBnB and VRBO. When reserving a place, make sure you understand all or the amenities, as many places may not have air conditioning or other comforts that you're used to at home.

Florence Neighborhoods

Florence can be divided into several different neighborhoods. Around the Duomo you'll find the most central neighborhood. The Duomo is about halfway between the churches of Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce. It is also about halfway between the Uffizi Gallery and the Ponte Vecchio in the south and San Marco and the Accademia (where you'll find Michelangelo's "David") in the north. This area is also where you'll find the most hotels, all of which range in quality and price.

Piazza della Signoria is where you'll find many museums including the Uffizi Gallery and the Bargello sculpture collection. San Lorenzo and the Mercato Centrale is the area between the train station and the Duomo and Piazza Santa Trinita is the main shopping area in Florence. Other notable neighborhoods include Santa Maria Novella, San Marco & Santissima Annunsiata, Santa Croce, and the Oltrarno, San Niccolo & San Frediano. See our guide to Florence's best neighborhoods for more detailed information on Florence's neighborhoods.

Florence Transportation

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Transportation in Florence is relatively easy and straightforward. Most people arrive in Florence by train and it's easy to hop on a train in Rome and be in Florence in a couple of hours. Do ensure that you're on an express train, as local trains tend to stop frequently and be painfully slow. They do, however, allow you glimpses of the small towns that are spread throughout Tuscany.

Once you're in the city it's easy, and quite enjoyable to walk everywhere. In fact, the best way to soak up Florence is on foot, because the city's treasures are in the details. There is a descent bus system for when your legs get tired. One tram line also runs through the city. It runs about 7.5 kilometers and connects Santa Maria Novella train station to the southwestern suburb of Scandicci stopping about 14 times along the way.

Sights and Attractions

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The sights in Florence are endless and creating a full list is virtually impossible, but if you want additional information on sights and tickets see our guide to activities and things to do in Florence.

You can walk around the city and see art and architecture at every corner. The city's most famous museum is the Uffizi, and one of its most well known landmarks is the Ponte Vecchio bridge. Along the bridge, which crosses the Arno River, you'll find shops selling everything. You can spend an afternoon in the Boboli Gardens, which has sculptures and extensive landscaping. Before you leave the city, you must climb to the top of the Duomo, and then finish the evening with a nice cup of delicious gelato.

But don't simply check the main sights off of a list. Find the smaller museums, the simple galleries, or the unassuming architecture and appreciate Florence for everything that it has to offer. Even if you're short on time, spend an afternoon getting lost in the city. The hidden surprises that you stumble into along the way may become the highlights of your trip.

Because Florence is a popular tourist destination with a heavy focus on art and museums, you may find yourself frustrated with the long lines and heavy crowds in certain places. Ticket prices can be surprisingly high, so this is a city where research, and even the occasional tour is the best way to spend your time and money. Many tours and attractions let you skip the line by purchasing ahead. So, if you know you're going to be visiting during a peak time, consider booking a tour for this benefit alone. Also look into making reservations for museums such as the Uffizi, as this will cut down on waiting times as well.

For many visitors who plan to see as much as possible in a short time, it's worth purchasing a Firenzecard, which lasts for 72 hours and allows entrance into 72 museums (for 72 euros). The card also includes public transportation and sometimes offers priority entrance into many attractions.

Florence is very much a city about sights and museums, but there are also some interesting activities worth enjoying while you're in town. Stop off and see the street performers near the Uffizi or take time to wander through the Boboli Gardens. Enjoy biking through the city's neighborhoods or simply relax at a cafe and soak up the atmosphere.

Day Trips

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Florence offers a great base for exploring Tuscany and other nearby areas. Several popular day trips include in the area include:

A Visit to Pisa - Check out the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. It's easy to catch a train from the Florence train statio. Or, if you have your own car, driving there is very easy, too.

A Trip to Lucca - Enjoy the scenic countryside during your trip to Lucca. You can take a train or drive yourself.

Siena for the Day - You can take a bus from Florence to Siena and enjoy the beautiful drive en route.

Sample Wines in Chianti - This is a popular activity that offers beautiful countryside, delicious wine, and a fun adventure. Buses are available but it's better to drive yourself or take a tour.

For a full list of day trips, see our guide to day trips from Florence.

Food and Dining

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Food in Florence lives up to its reputation. You'll find excellent options for every budget, but you'll be most impressed if you head outside of the main toursity areas and explore where the Italians eat. In particular, avoid eating in Mercato di San Lorenzo and head instead to the Santa Croce district. Also take note that prices are different for dining in versus take away. There is a fee to sit down, so don't buy your food at the to go booth and expect to grab a table. It's best to confirm this price in advance.

If you've arrived in Florence with some jetlag, it is important to realize that most restaurants do not open for dinner until late in the evening. You may find yourself quite hungry if you don't grab a bite to eat in a shop or market. Plan ahead so you don't find yourself frustrated, although, rest assured, the food is well worth the wait.

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