Places to go in Florence, Italy: an open-air museum

Known as the “cradle of the Renaissance” for its monuments, churches and palaces, Florence is the world’s capital of art, with its countless art treasures and glorious architecture.

Florence is home to several art galleries, classical Italian architecture as well as an abundance of high-end shops. Tourists and vacationers come from all over the world to see famed works of historical artists of the likes of Michelangelo and Botticelli, Medieval and Renaissance architecture and breath-taking countryside scenery.

Florence: History

Controversy continues over who actually founded the city of Florence. The most commonly accepted story tells us that Florentia was founded by Emperor Julius Caesar around 59 B.C.

During the 14th century, noble families battled for control of the city, with the Medicis taking over in the 15th century. The Medici family ruled Florence for many decades and supported the artistic activity behind some of the world’s great masterpieces. Tourism started in the 18th century during the times of the Grand Tour, when young aristocrats used to visit European cities such as Paris, Venice and Florence to complete their classical education.

Places to go in Florence

The Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy.

Places to go in Florence

Contained in medieval walls, the historic center of Florence was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1982. There are a number of notable sites to visit and most of the biggest attractions, like Ponte Vecchio and the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, iconic building whose dome was built by Filippo Brunelleschi, are within walking distance of one another in the historical center. This makes Florence a walker’s paradise.

At the very heart of the city, Piazza della Signoria provides a perfect starting point for a day of exploration. Situated on Piazza della Signoria, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, you can admire the stunning Fountain of Neptune, a masterpiece of marble sculpture by Italian architect and sculpture Bartolomeo Ammannati.

Places to go in Florence

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy.

Florence: the Duomo

Over 500 years after its completion, the red dome of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is still the largest dome in the world built in brick and mortar, and will probably be the very first thing you see as you near Florence. Located in Piazza del Duomo, the cathedral complex includes Giotto di Bondone’s Campanile and the Baptistery. You can also take the staircase to the top of the dome, where you can enjoy really breath-taking panoramic views of the city.

Places to go in Florence: artistic tour

You don’t necessarily have to go to a museum to see beautiful art here in Florence. With its Renaissance treasures, Florence can be described as a living museum and most of the city’s best-known works of art can be found in centuries-old stately buildings and churches, like Giotto di Bondone’s frescoes of the life of Christ in the church of Santa Maria Novella.

If you choose to go to a museum, the Gallery of the Academy of Florence, founded in 1784, holds priceless works, like Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of David and a collection of Renaissance paintings, while the Uffizi Gallery has a spectacular collection of Renaissance masters, with works by Botticelli, Caravaggio, Giotto di Bondone, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, Tintoretto and all the great names.