My Italy travels were the highlights of 2018. I have never enjoyed a country more than I do Italy. It’s so easy to fall in love with the food, architecture and people here. I especially enjoyed my time in Florence because it’s a small, compact city and it’s easy to get around.
When I was here my hotel was nice enough to give me a map and circle the highlights! The main highlights are a great way to fill a day in Florence, and you won’t have to pay for transportation once!
Let’s get on with this tour! I found this great map from MAPaPLAN.com, and I added the order of where I walked to help you visualize where you’ll be in the city.
1. Galleria dell’Accademia
Begin your day by jumping into history with medieval art, most famously featuring works by Michelangelo. His most famous work in this museum is ‘David’. Did you know this statue is 17 feet tall? I didn’t and it blew me away!
You can buy tickets online ahead of time online, but you will pay an extra €4 if you do. Just make sure to watch the dates & times you are purchasing! If you want to wait and just buy your tickets at the museum you can do that too, but you’ll want to go early in the morning. We went at 8 a.m. and only waited about 10 minutes to enter. However, if you wait until noon you’ll be in line for a lot longer!
Travel Tip: There are some great cafes right next to the entrance so if you arrive early you can pop in and have a cappuccino!
2. San Lorenzo Basilica
This church is one of the largest in Florence (but it’s not the most-famous domed cathedral). While the building itself it not too impressive, it’s situated in the middle of the market district!
This is the best place to shop around the street markets and see all of the Italian leather stalls and souvenirs. If you make it inside there is a food market too, which was one of my favorite moments! You can sample olive oils and balsamic vinegars, as well as buy packages of pasta, biscottis and other things to bring home!
3. Santa Maria Novella Church
Isn’t this church gorgeous? I was in awe of it! I absolutely love the stripes along the building. This church is the heart of the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella. For a small fee (€5 adult) you can go inside, or if it’s a warm, sunny day you can admire it from the outside like I did.
The church stretches behind quite a ways and you can see the gardens and outer walls as you approach the piazza.
In the piazza there is an excellent gelato place which I enjoyed while listening to street performers! The live music and light crowds of people made this a nice square to relax and souvenir shop.
4. Florence Cathedral & Baptistry
The Florence Cathedral, Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, and Baptistery of Saint John is the most iconic landmark in this city. It was built in the 14th century and still looks beautiful. Pictures can never truly capture how large this church is! I was in awe as I walked around it. From the famous dome to the tower and the baptistry, it seemed as if this cathedral would never end.
All around the cathedral are wonderful shops and restaurants. I enjoyed an amazing meal (pasta & sparkling moscato) here where I could admire the church the entire time!
Read More: My Favorite Food in Florence
This is an active cathedral so don’t be surprised to see services going on while you’re there. If you want to enter the church you do have to pay a fee. You can even climb to the top of the dome! It’s 463 steps and you’ll want to book this ahead of time.
You can also climb to the top of the bell tower. This also needs to be booked in advance! I think this would be more fun because then you could see the dome as you looked out over the city.
5. Palazzo Vecchio
This is another perfect spot for lunch! This gorgeous medieval square is called Piazza della Signoria and is bordered by shops and restaurants and dominated by an old clock tower (Palazzo Vecchio). It’s a great place to sit back and relax and people watch.
The tower is actually city hall and has been for hundreds of years. At the base is a gallery of statues, including a copy of Michelangelo’s ‘David.’ The original statue was here until the late 1800s when it was moved to the art gallery.
Inside you’ll find a stone court yard featuring Putto with Dolphin in the center. Take a look around and enjoy all of the art and history.
6. Uffizi Gallery
If you love art (which is probably one of the main reasons you travelled to Florence) then you can’t pass up the Uffizi Gallery. Unfortunately I didn’t make it here on my trip, but it’s at the top of my list for the next time I’m in Florence!
This museum is very popular because of its famous works like The Birth of Venus and Primavera by Sandro Botticelli. You can also find paintings by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci here so you won’t want to skip this.
7. Ponte Vecchio
Up next on the walking tour is one of my favorite spots in Florence! The Ponte Vecchio Bridge crosses the Arno River and has shops lining both sides of the street. You wouldn’t know you were on a bridge just by looking at the street!
This will be crowded by totally worth it. And don’t forget to walk away from the bridge so you can get an epic shot of the outside!
At the end of the bridge is one of the best gelaterias in all of Florence (it was highly recommended by my hotel owner) so don’t skip over it!
I overheard a tour guide talking about this bridge. Apparently the royal family a few hundred years ago did not want to cross the bridge on the same level as the peasants, so a second floor was established. That’s how this bridge came about and has sense evolved into a high-end shopping street!
8. Piazzo Michelangelo
If you’re looking for the best view of Florence (even on a rainy/cloudy day) head over to the Piazza Michelangelo. It’s a bit of a hike and quite a few stairs, but totally worth it once you reach the top. You can look out over the city and see everything you walked through today.
Spot the Florence Cathedral, Palazzo Vecchio and Ponte Vecchio easily from atop the terrace. This view will take your breath away which is why it’s the best way to end the afternoon in Florence. You can’t miss this!