23 Aug What To Do In Florence Besides Museums
Many people head to Florence for the famous museums and art galleries but what if you aren’t all that interested? Is Florence worth visiting if you don’t go to museums? We think there is more to the city and have photos to prove it! Here is our list of what to do in Florence besides museums.
Florence was part of our full two week Italy itinerary.
Self-guided walking tour of Florence
As a city full of history and wonderful architecture, Florence is great for exploring on foot. We think walking is the best way to see a place. Many Florence attractions are within walking distance and we were able to see a number of them while enjoying the charming streets along the way. You can still learn a lot about Florence and view pieces from its history without entering a single museum. This is our favourite of what to do in Florence besides museums.
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
Commonly known as Florence Cathedral, it is the third-largest church in the world. With construction beginning in 1296 and the front exterior not finalised until 1884, the building is an absolute masterpiece. There are so many little details so take your time to look all around. Admission to the cathedral is free, arrive early to avoid long queues.
Giotto’s Bell Tower
Located next to Florence Cathedral, Giotto’s Campanile is a beautiful example of 14th-century gothic architecture. Started in 1334 by Giotto, it was finished by other architects and artists. A 414 step climb will take you to the top. If you wish to enter, admission is included in the Grande Museo del Duomo €18.
Church and Museum of Orsanmichele
Piazza Della Signoria
A Florence square that is full of history. Here you will find a replica of Michelangelo’s David (the original is in the Galleria dell’Accademia) standing outside Palazzo Vecchio. There is also an open-air gallery of sculptures and The Fountain of Neptune.
Piazzale degli Uffizi
Ponte Vecchio means ‘old bridge’ and it is a big part of Florence’s history. The only bridge to cross the Arno River in Florence until 1218. After a flood, it was rebuilt in 1345. Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge not destroyed by Germans in World War II instead, they demolished the medieval buildings either side to block access. The bridge was spared again during a flood 1966 and still stands today. Walk over the bridge to view the shops and then head further along the river to get a view of the bridge itself.
St Trinity Bridge
A large palace originally built for the Pitti family in 1457. It was further enlarged after being sold to the Medici’s in 1549. The Pitti Palace now houses various museums and galleries, behind it lies the Boboli Gardens. If aren’t interested in visiting the museums, a single ticket is available for entry to the gardens.
A hilltop square providing a wonderful view out over Florence. As well as the city view, you will also find a bronze David replica statue, Cafes and restaurants and many street vendors are set up across the square.
San Niccolò Tower
Florence National Central Library
Visit Mercato Centrale Firenze
A place to visit in Florence other than museums and galleries is the central market. A food market selling fresh foods to take home and meals to eat on the spot. The market also houses a cooking school. After wandering around the market looking at all the amazing produce on offer, we purchased some fresh pasta and sauce to cook back at our Airbnb for a great budget dinner that night.
Enjoy an Aperol Spritz
A great way to enjoy your time in Florence is to head out for an Aperol Spritz. We had walked by a couple of restaurants promoting a spritz happy hour so, went back later in the afternoon to enjoy an Italian cocktail.
Day trip from Florence
Florence makes a great base for exploring other areas. Many beautiful Tuscan towns can be easily reached from Florence. If you want to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, it is a simple train ride away, we stopped on our way from Cinque Terre.
We chose to do a day trip from Florence to Siena, an Italian city with medieval buildings. Getting a bus to Siena was easy, we bought return tickets at the bus terminal near Firenze S.M.N Station. We did have some trouble finding the right bus back as they only changed the destination name at the last minute. If in doubt just ask which bus is going to Florence.
Siena was really busy and they were setting up for a horse race, this was outside of the normal dates of The Palio di Siena. It was hard to get a good look at the medieval streets but we were still able to enter Piazza del Campo and view the Duomo di Siena from the outside.
Best location to stay in Florence
I think staying near Firenze S.M.N Station is the best option. Not only will you be walking distance from the station but most attractions are also within walking distance of this area. We chose to stay in an Airbnb (this one) and walked to and from the station as well as starting our self-guided walking tour from there. Nearby we also went to a supermarket, got takeaway pizza and washed our clothes at a laundry.
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If you prefer to stay in a hotel, there are a number of options in the area too.
Florence in October
Our stay in Florence was in mid-October and we enjoyed great weather. It was cloudy but not cold, perfect for walking around the city. Crowds at sights were bearable, although we still recommend getting out early as they definitely grew as the day went on.
How long to stay in Florence
We stayed in Florence for 3 nights and as we weren’t visiting any museums or galleries it was too long. The city is clean and tidy and the buildings are beautiful but after a while, it felt a bit too same-same. You could add in some more day trips though as like I said there are many wonderful towns nearby.
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