Often described as the world’s biggest open-air museum, Florence is an alluring mixture of the traditional and trendy. In order to help you make the most of this beautiful city, we asked international travellers what their favourite things to do are when visiting The City of Lilies. *
The L-shaped Piazza della Signoria
By far the most popular activity among visitors to Florence is checking out the city’s many, many, many museums. Whether you’re an amateur archeology, an aspirant astrologer, a student of sculpture or a greenhorn historian, you’ll find your dream museum in Florence.
Travellers looking for something a bit different are recommended to start their exploration at the Gucci Garden on Piazza della Signoria. Here you’ll find an in-depth history of the evolution of the Gucci brand, along with standout pieces from every decade.
Keep the museum theme going and check into Hotel Brunelleschi, a luxury hotel that is part museum and based inside a restored Byzantine tower.
Come for the Renaissance art, stay for the contemporary showcases
Thanks to artistic giants like Michelangelo, Botticelli and Caravaggio, Florence has a reputation for excellence when it comes to Renaissance art. And the city’s cultural institutions reflect that; places like the Uffizi Gallery often sit at the top of most travellers itineraries.
Florence’s contemporary art scene is also very active, with showcases dedicated to big names like Damien Hirst, Suzanne Lacy and Emilio Isgrò. Popular contemporary art galleries include the student-led SACI Galleries, Centro Pecci, Gallerie D’Arte Moderna and the Air Art Gallery which regularly hosts modern art fairs.
This love of art also extends to the hotels, with places like the family-run Gallery Hotel Art - Lungarno Collection hosting their own art shows and exhibitions.
Basilica di Santa Croce is popular among filmmakers
Generations of artists and writers have drawn inspiration from Florence’s romantic architecture and cultural institutions, so much so that first-time visitors often find the city centre oddly familiar. Landmarks like the Basilica di Santa Croce and the Piazza della Signoria have been used in films as varied as A Room with a View, Inferno and The Dark Knight Rises.
Cinema buffs will love the Ladyship Apartment which overlooks both the Piazza and the Ponte Vecchio. Florence also hosts a number of high-profile film festivals, including the documentary festival Festival dei Popoli and the Florence Short Film Festival.
The Duomo took over 140 years to build
Florence is full of churches, cathedrals and palaces, many of which feature the Renaissance art the city is so well known for. Start your sightseeing at The Duomo, the breathtaking cathedral that took 140 years to build.
Then head over to the Palazzo Pitti; originally a private residence, today it holds multiple art galleries, followed by a tour of the austere-yet-beautiful Basilica of Santa Spirito. Drop by the Central Market for lunch (and to admire the wrought ironwork) and spend an afternoon exploring the Vasari Corridor (a walkway that links the Palazzo Pitti and the Palazzo Vecchio).
It’s not quite the Palazzo Pitti, but if you’re looking to stay somewhere with unique architectural features, look no further than the Riva Lofts. High ceilings, domed windows and floating staircases have won these apartments multiple design awards.
** The data scientists at Booking.com looked at the activities most endorsed in Florence by international travellers.