It should come as no surprise that Florence is one of the most popular travel destinations in Italy. One of the wealthiest cities during the Italian Renaissance, Florence is home to classical works of art, historic architecture and of course, natural beauty. And then there's the food.
To say this capital city of the Tuscan region has many impressive sights and attractions is an understatement. Florence has some of Italy's best museums, most beautiful cathedrals and churches, and interesting streets and squares with elegant buildings and shops.
Here are the top attractions tourists want to see. Most lie in Florence's compact Centro Storico. For convenient hotels see Top Rated Central Florence Hotels or compare Florence hotels on TripAdvisor.
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Florence's most popular site is its Duomo (cathedral), the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. Construction on the Duomo began in 1296, consecrated in 1436, and holds 20,000 people. Its exterior, made of green, pink and white marble, has several elaborate doors and interesting statues.
Inside the cattedrale, there are dozens of paintings and sculptures of tremendous historical and cultural significance that will take hours to explore and appreciate, so give yourself some time to take it all in. Count the 44 stained-glass windows designed by notable Renaissance artists such as Donatello, which depicts Jesus, Mary and some of the saints.
And of course, the main attraction of this massive structure is Brunelleschi's Dome, a masterpiece of architecture and construction. You'll definitely want to buy a ticket to climb the 463 steps to its top.
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Florence's most famous square is Piazza della Signoria, the heart of the historic center and a free open-air sculpture exhibit. The Loggia della Signoria holds some important statues including a replica of Michelangelo's David.
The piazza has been Florence's political center since the middle ages and is the site of both Florence's town hall and the medieval Palazzo Vecchio. Inside the Palazzo are elaborately decorated public rooms and private apartments that are open to tourists.
Surrounding the piazza are cafes and restaurants like Mangia Pizza Firenze and Cantinetta delle Terme, which feature the Florentine style of flat bread pizza and local dishes like bistecca alla fiorentina.
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The Baptistery of John the Baptist, from the 11th century, is one of Florence's oldest buildings. Its exterior is made of green and white marble and has three sets of amazing bronze doors (the originals are in the Duomo Museum, also worth a visit).
You can buy one ticket that will allow you to visit all the attractions within the Duomo complex, including the Baptistery. However, the massive exterior doors with their scenes from the Bible, plus the mosaics showing more Bible scenes on the dome in the interior make the Baptistery worth a visit all on its own.
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The Campanile, (Italian for "bell tower"), is also in the Piazza del Duomo. Principal architect Giotto di Bondone began work on the structure in 1334, and the lower level is commonly called Giotto's Campanile, even though he died before the structure was completed.
Inside the Campanile are intricately detailed relief carvings and sculptures, as well as replicas of the 16 original life-sized statues created by artists such as Andrea Pisano and Donatello (the originals are in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo).
If you climb the 414 stairs (there's no elevator in this Gothic tower), you'll be rewarded not only with great views of the Cathedral and its dome but of Florence and the surrounding area.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), built in 1345, was Florence's first bridge across the Arno River and is the only surviving bridge from Florence's medieval days (others were destroyed in World War II).
The Ponte Vecchio is still lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry. From the bridge, you'll have a great view of the Arno River and beyond.
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Galleria degli Uffizi
The Galleria degli Uffizi holds the world's most important collection of Renaissance art. It's also Italy's most crowded museum so it's a good idea to buy tickets ahead to avoid long ticket lines.
The Uffizi holds thousands of paintings from medieval to modern times and many antique sculptures, illuminations, and tapestries.
Artists whose works you'll see include Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Perugino, and Raphael. Having all these artists in one place means you'll want to allow plenty of time to fully appreciate all of them.
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Florence's Galleria dell' Accademia holds important paintings and sculptures from the 13th to 16th centuries. Michelangelo's David, probably the most famous sculpture in the world, is here, as well as several other Michaelangelo sculptures. There are works by other important Renaissance artists as well, including Uccello, Ghirlandaio, Botticelli and del Sarto.
You'll also find an interesting collection of musical instruments here, which was started by the Medici family. Buy Academia tickets from Viator in advance.
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Boboli Garden and Pitti Palace
Cross the Ponte Vecchio to the Giardino di Boboli, a huge park on a hillside in the middle of Florence behind the Pitti Palace and you'll find beautiful gardens and fountains and a great view of Florence from the Forte Belvedere.
The Palazzo Pitti, Florence's largest palace, was once the seat of the Medici family. Originally the home of a banker named Luca Pitti, this massive building houses eight different galleries, full of art, period costumes and jewelry, as well as the living quarters of its past inhabitants.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Santa Croce, in Piazza Santa Croce, is the largest Franciscan church in Italy and holds the tombs of several important Florentines including Michelangelo and Dante.
The vast interior contains some exceptional stained glass windows and frescoes, including one of Brunelleschi's most important works, the Cappella dei Pazzi.
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Florence has some of the finest shopping in Europe, offering everything from leather goods and fine food to jewelry, souvenirs and fine art.
There are numerous open air markets selling food, clothing and antiques, including famed Piazza San Lorenzo area. The Mercato Nuovo (Porcellino) on Via Porta Rossa and the Mercato Centrale also are great places to find local fashions and delicacies.
Join a guided half- or full-day walking tour in Florence, try a cooking class, taste wine or foods, or take an excursion by bike or scooter in the Tuscan countryside with these suggested tours and activities.