Duomo or the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence Italy
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What to See in Florence – Things to Do in One Day

Discover the wonders of Florence, Italy – a city filled with art, history, and culture. Let me tell you what to see in Florence, such as iconic sights like the Duomo, Uffizi Gallery, and Palazzo Vecchio. The evenings are a perfect time to grab some gelato and take a stroll along the Arno River with the iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge in the background.  Let me share with you  what to see in florence in one day and even an exciting day trips from florence to add to your list!

Discover the wonders of Florence, Italy - a city filled with art, history, and culture. Let me tell you what to see in Florence, such as iconic sights like the Duomo, Uffizi Gallery, and Palazzo Vecchio. The evenings are a perfect time to grab some gelato and take a stroll along the Arno River with the iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge in the background.  Let me share with you  what to see in florence in one day and even an exciting day trips from florence to add to your list!

what to see in florence

Florence, Italy is a treasure trove of art, history, and culture just waiting to be explored. When visiting this breathtaking city, there are a few must-see attractions that you simply can’t miss.

The Duomo in Florence is a famous sight. It includes a cathedral with a terracotta dome designed by Brunelleschi. The cathedral is stunning. Climb to the top for panoramic views of the city and marvel at the intricate marble facade.

Don’t miss the Uffizi Gallery if you love art. It has amazing works by Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci. Make sure to book your tickets in advance to avoid long lines and soak in the beauty of these world-renowned works of art.

Come and marvel at the beauty of Renaissance architecture at the Palazzo Vecchio. This grand palace is rich in history and features breathtaking frescoes that will leave you in awe. Don’t forget to visit the stunning Piazza della Signoria outside. You can see sculptures by famous artists such as Cellini and Michelangelo there.

And of course, no visit to Florence would be complete without a stroll across the Ponte Vecchio, a historic bridge lined with charming shops selling jewelry, art, and souvenirs. Take in the stunning views of the Arno River and capture the romantic atmosphere of this enchanting city.

florence tourist map

Arriving in Florence

We visited Florence as part of our family trip to Italy. We started our Italy vaation in Rome and then took an afternoon high speed train to Florence after touring the Vatican City. The train ride is only 1.5 hours long and costs around $20, depending on the time and how early you book.

Most major cities in Italy have multiple train stations, so make sure you know which station your train will depart from. Look for signs or ask station staff for help if you’re unsure.

Be sure to purchase your tickets in advance. We used Omio to pre-book our tickets, there are plenty of times to choose from all throughout the day. Then you can pull up your ticket on the ap to scan through the turnstile to get onto the appropriate track.

You can also purcahse tickets at the ticket counters in the train stations, or at ticket machines. Make sure to validate your ticket before boarding the train to avoid any fines.

Be sure to arrive at the station with plenty of time to spare. Italian trains run on a tight schedule, so it’s best not to cut it too close. Look for the departure boards to find your train platform, and keep an eye out for any delays or changes. Buon viaggio!

You can reach Florence by flying into the airport or taking a regional bus. However, I suggest taking the train. The train is affordable, convenient, and easy to navigate.

Where to Stay in Florence

There are lots of hotel options in Florence. I highly recommend booking as far out as possible for the best price and availability. I suggest you pick a hotel near the Florence Santa Maria Novella (SMN) train station. We stayed at the Lillium Hotel which worked well enough.

Then you can easily walk to your hotel with your luggage, drop it off, and continue walking to see Florence. Florence is an easy city to visit walking!

Accademia Gallery

what to do in florence italy

We started exploring Florence when we got there in the late afternoon. I suggest you pre-book a timed entrance to the Academia.

We visitied around 5pm. Heading there at the end of the day will result in fewer crowds, but there will still be a line for entrance based on your ticket.

While there are some iconic, not-to-be-missed sculptures you should see here, the rest is nice, but not essentials. Your visit should only last about 1 hour.

family standing in front of michaelangelo david statue in florence italy museum

What to see at the academia in florence

If you’re visiting Florence, Italy, one place you definitely don’t want to miss is the Accademia Gallery. This renowned museum is home to one of the most iconic sculptures in history – Michelangelo’s David. This Renaissance sculpture masterpiece, created between 1501 and 1504, stands at an impressive height of 17 feet. It depicts the biblical hero David, poised and ready to take on the giant Goliath.

michaelangelo david statue from various angles

michaelangelo david statue

What truly sets Michaelangelo’s David apart is his stunningly detailed and lifelike form. Art lovers and experts still admire how carefully Michaelangelo carved each muscle and vein in David’s body.” Not to mention, the statue’s sheer size and scale command attention and leave viewers in awe of the artist’s skill.

The David statue also holds significant cultural and historical value. It represents the triumph of good over evil, the power of human will and courage, and the strength of conviction. It has come to symbolize beauty, strength, and perfection in art.

michaelangelo prisoners sculpture in the academia in florence italy
michelangelo prisoners

But the Accademia has much more to offer than just David. As you walk around the museum, you will see many sculptures by Michelangelo. Some of these sculptures are called the “Prisoners” and were left unfinished by the artist.

Michaelangelo’s unfinished sculptures are called the “non-finiti” prisoners. They are important in art history and are part of the legacy of one of the greatest artists. These sculptures show forms that look like they are stuck in the marble, giving a feeling of movement and tension. They capture the essence of human struggle and passion.

Michaelangelo’s prisoners are important because they demonstrate the artist’s incredible talent in turning stone into lifelike works of art. The incomplete sculptures make viewers curious about how they were made and what the artist wanted to express.

In the sculpture above do you see the holes? They may seem like imperfections in the statues. However, this recreation of a statue has holes intentionaly to serve as a guide for artists to recreate the sculptures. By using these holes as reference points, artists are able to accurately replicate famous masterpieces with precision and detail.

In addition to Michelangelo’s works, the Accademia also houses a collection of paintings by artists such as Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Pontormo. These works provide a glimpse into the vibrant art scene of Florence during the Renaissance.

In the sculpture above do you see the holes? They may seem like imperfections in the statues. This statue recreation intentionally has holes to guide artists in recreating the sculptures. By using these holes as reference points, artists are able to accurately replicate famous masterpieces with precision and detail.

gelato from a gelataria in florence italy

What is Gelato

Once you’ve seen the museum, it’s time to get some famous gelato from one of the many shops. Personally, I think the gelato ice cream is the best in Florence – so eat up! The regional favorite in florence is the Stracciatella – vanilla with chocolate chips.

Gelato is a delicious frozen dessert that originated in Italy. Many people compare it to ice cream, but some key differences make gelato unique.

They make gelato with a higher proportion of milk to cream than ice cream, which gives it a denser and creamier texture. It also churns at a slower rate, incorporating less air and resulting in a smoother consistency. Also, gelato is served a little warmer than ice cream, which makes the flavors stronger and easier to taste.”

In Italy, gelato is more than just a sweet treat – it is a symbol of tradition and quality. Italians are proud of their gelato making skills. They use the best and freshest ingredients to make many different flavors. There is a gelato flavor for everyone to enjoy. You can choose from classic flavors like vanilla and chocolate. Or you can try more exotic options like pistachio and fruity sorbets.

Fountain Neptune in Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy. Florence famous fountain. Famous architecture of the Renaissance in Florence center.

what to see in florence italy

I suggest you take a stroll to make the most of the beautiful evening. Not only is it cooler, but when the sun starts going down it makes everything look more beautiful! Most Italians and tourists alike flock to the squares and fountains chat, eat, and relax.

I suggest you start walking towards the Piazza della signoria with the iconic Neptune Fountain. Don’t miss the arnolfo tower nearby.

kids rubbing Fontana del Porcellino (pig statue) snout in florence italy

Walk past the Fontana del Porcellino (pig statue), people rub his nose for good luck. It sits in a bustling marketplace during the daytime hours.

Make the most of your time in Florence with a one-day itinerary including must-see attractions like the Duomo, Uffizi Gallery, and Palazzo Vecchio, and don't forget to indulge in some gelato!

what to see in florence in one day

Okay, it’s time to start your first real day in Florence, last night was just a bonus! I suggest you start with the Cappelle Medicee – Medici Chapel because it opens nice and early – 8:15.  We used this free guide to the medici chapels and it only took us a little under 1 hour.

What is the Medici Chapel

The Medici Chapel in Florence is a true marvel of Italian art and architecture. The Basilica of San Lorenzo is a sacred space. It is the final resting place for members of the powerful Medici family. The Medicis were prominent figures in Florentine history.

The chapel, designed by Michelangelo, is a masterpiece of Renaissance design. It features intricate marble work and elaborate tombs. Visitors can marvel at Michelangelo’s renowned sculptures, including the Medici Tombs, showcasing his extraordinary talent.

The Medici Chapel is a must-see for art and history enthusiasts alike, offering a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle and significant influence of one of Italy’s most influential families. Seriously, you will be wowed!

Duomo or the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence Italy

Next up is the famous Duomo.  You will need to get in line around 9:30 to get in when it opens at 10:15; the line gets LONG so that is why we are doing this early. You will only spend about 1 hour inside.

Duomo Cathedral Florence

The Duomo in Florence, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, is famous for many reasons, but perhaps its most iconic feature is the magnificent dome designed by architect Filippo Brunelleschi. This dome is the largest brick dome ever constructed and is a masterpiece of Renaissance engineering and architecture.

The construction of the Duomo started in the 13th century and took over 140 years to complete. Many architects were unsure if they could build the dome without using old wooden support structures.

The dome was very large. It was time to start building it. The architects were uncertain about how to proceed. Brunelleschi had a new idea for a dome design that didn’t need support. This made it possible to build the dome without it falling down.

The dome of the Duomo not only showcases Brunelleschi’s genius and innovation but also stands as a symbol of Florence’s artistic and architectural heritage. The Duomo and its dome are famous symbols of the city. They attract visitors from all over the world. People come to admire their beauty and history.

Florence Baptistry Doors

Make sure you take time to look at the stunning baptisty doors in the building next door. The bronze doors were made by famous artists such as Ghiberti and Pisano. They are intricate masterpieces that showcase the incredible talent of Renaissance artists.

Every panel shows a different story from the Bible. They are not only beautiful to look at but also have a lot of historical and religious importance.” The doors are considered one of the most important works of art in Florence and are definitely a must-see for any art lover.

There are many other things to see by this cathedral in pajamas and if you have time a guided tour would be great to learn more about it. You can see the baptistry, church, and even go up in brunelleschi’s dome. We didn’t feel like we could make any of the times work so we read about it, looked at it, and moved on.

Have you ever wondered why the Duomo in Florence is often referred to as the “Cathedral in Pajamas”? This nickname actually stems from the unique facade of the building, which is made of white marble with pink-tinged spires. The contrast between the colors gives it the appearance of a striped pattern, similar to that of pajamas!

what to do in florence italy in one day

There is still lots to see so I suggest you keep moving and grab someting quick to eat as you walk towards the Uffizi Gallery. We had hoped to do the combination Uffizi and Palatine tour, but the time didn’t work out. So we booked 2 seperate tours.

what to see in uffizi gallery

One of the highlights of the Uffizi Gallery is the iconic Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, a masterpiece that captures the essence of the Renaissance perfectly. You can also admire works by other renowned artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. The gallery houses an impressive collection of sculptures, tapestries, and decorative arts as well. Take a peak out the windows a stunning panoramic views of Florence and the Arno River!

We went on a semiprivate tour of the Uffizi Gallery. It helped us maximize our limited time.

It also helped us understand the artwork better. In Florence, there is a lot of great art. If you only have a day or two, focus on the best pieces. It was 1 hour 45 minutes which was just right to see all the important things before zipping off to the next tour.

what to see in Palatine Gallery

We dashed to the nearby Palatine Gallery Tour. The gallery is in the Palazzo Pitti.

The Palazzo Pitti is a magnificent Renaissance palace. It used to be the home of the influential Medici family. The Palatine Gallery houses a stunning collection of artworks spanning from the Renaissance to the 18th century. Visitors can admire masterpieces by renowned artists such as Raphael, Titian, and Rubens. The gallery is arranged in a series of rooms adorned with intricate frescoes and lavish decorations, creating a truly immersive experience for art enthusiasts.

One of the highlights of the Palatine Gallery is the famous portrait of Eleonora of Toledo by Bronzino, which is considered one of the greatest portraits of the Italian Renaissance. Other must-see works include Titian’s Madonna of the Rosary and Raphael’s Madonna of the Grand Duke. This tour lasted 2 hours.

family picture of kids in front of The Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio

You’ve already seen and walked over the lovely The Ponte Vecchio. But I wanted to take a moment to talk about this beautiful, iconic bridge in Florence.

People know the Ponte Vecchio for its unique architecture and rich history. This medieval stone bridge spans the Arno River and is lined with shops that offer a variety of goods, from jewelry to art to souvenirs. The Ponte Vecchio still has many small businesses, just like it did during the Renaissance period. This is one of the most intriguing things about the bridge.

The Ponte Vecchio was first constructed during Roman times and has been rebuilt multiple times throughout history. The current bridge dates back to the 14th century. Its distinctive construction features three segmented arches and rows of small shops built directly onto the bridge itself.

The bridge provides stunning views of the Arno River and the cityscape, attracting both locals and tourists. The Ponte Vecchio in Florence is a must-see sight. You can walk across the bridge to buy special gifts or simply admire its beauty from a distance.

delicious italian dinner in florence at outdoor seating down a side street

florence what to see

Head back towards your hotel via the Duomo to gaze at this beautiful building once again, plus this is where you will find lots of restaurants to choose from for dinner.

Day Trips from Florence

I suggest staying in Florence one more night to do a florence day trip the following day. Then after that it’s on to our last stop, Venice!

Don’t miss the rest of our 7 day Family Trip to Italy here! Including:

Plan an amazing family vacation to beautiful florence Italy! Discover things to see and do with just one day like the Duomo, Uffizi Gallery, and Palazzo Vecchio, and don't forget some gelato!

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