So you have one day in Florence, one of the most artistically historical cities in the world. What do you do? Where do you start? Luckily, Florence is the kind of city that is conducive to tight schedules and many of the must see sites are relatively close together. So don’t panic, unless you are really into art (like this girl) and want to see absolutely everything there is to see, for that you’ll need a few more days.
The train station, Firenze Santa Maria Novella, is close to a majority of the tourist attractions of Florence and is located just outside the boulevard that surrounds the historical city center. There are many budget friendly hotels and hostels in central locations around the city. Drop your bags at your hotel and hike on over to the main square.
How to Spend One Day in Florence
Orient yourself to the historical city center.
I am all about starting off a visit to a new city by a brief orientation of the city and sites whether by walking or by hop on off buses. The Piazza della Signoria is a good starting place for getting your bearings of this medieval Medici city. Take in the gorgeous sights. This square is home to the Pallazzo Vecchio (the town hall) which boasts a copy of Michelangelo’s David outside as well as many other intricately designed renaissance sculptures.
Take a short walk to the Arno River to get a good view of the Ponte Vecchio before taking on the medieval closed-arched bridge. The bridge is home to many shops including jewelers and art dealers.
Fun fact: the Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in Florence not destroyed in WWII. Rumor has it that Hitler himself gave a direct order to spare the bridge because of its beauty.
Grab lunch at one of the many cafes in the area, preferably one a few streets off the main square. They tend to be better quality and have better prices.
- Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori: located just off the Piazza della Signoria, this is a good spot for classic Tuscan dishes made with quality ingredients. Reservations might be needed if going at peak times.
- All’Antico Vinaio: located near the Uffizi and has literally one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had in my life and the workers were remarkably friendly. This is a good option for budget travelers.
See the must sees.
Head to the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, the Duomo. The facade of the cathedral is marvelous. Admission to the interior is free so go ahead and admire the architectural beauty that is Brunelleschi’s dome.
Get in line to see Michelangelo’s perfection that is David at the Galleria dell’ Accademia. If the line is long, which more than likely it is, grab some gelato around the corner to bide your time. Always a good idea.
After David, head over to the Uffizi museum and go back in time with da Vinci, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and other Renaissance greats. Book tickets in advance to skip the lines.
Depending on time, you may have to choose whether to meet David or stroll through the Uffizi. If you’re efficient, you can definitely do both.
Inside scoop: admission to the city’s museums are free on the first Sunday of the month. This could be good or bad depending on your mindset. If your visit falls on this day, get out there early and beat the crowds and the heat of the sun while standing in line. Also, a lot of popular museums, including Uffizi, are closed on Mondays. Plan ahead!
Find the best view.
Take a cab (or trek) up to the Piazzale Michelangelo to get the most impressive view of Florence’s old town. If you time it right you can get there around sunset which is ideal. It is beautiful. There are some art vendors selling their goods in the area so take a look. There is an outside cafe right next to the overlook, good for drinks, but go somewhere else for food.
There aren’t a lot of good options for dinner up by the square so take a leisurely walk down the hill and find a restaurant that sounds good and has good vibes. I found a random one that I have no clue what the name was (bad travel blogger, I know) but it was delicious. Carbonara is always a good idea. So is pizza. So is cacio e pepe. Really, you can’t go wrong in Italy.
Grab some post-dinner gelato and walk over to the Basillica di Santa Croce and snag a good bench for people watching. The cathedral is beautiful at night and there are entertaining people to watch so it’s a good spot to just relax.
A night out.
For some late night fun you can head to Flo Lounge Bar, an outside dance club in Piazzale Michelangelo. If you didn’t get a chance to catch the view from Florence from here earlier, now’s your chance, the skyline is beautiful at night.
For a true European club experience you can visit Tenax located outside the city center and dance the night away.
There you go, one (super packed) day in Florence to see all of the major highlights. If you’re looking for less touristy locales, I’ll do a future post that’s focused more towards that so stay tuned!
What’s your favorite thing to do in Florence??