Walking Tour of Florence, Italy

Updated: December 7, 2019

Panorama of Florence seen from Piazza Michelangelo
Florence is the the quintessential artistic and cultural symbol of the Renaissance period. Historical buildings filled with amazing art abound in Florence’s medieval old town. So put on your walking shoes and let’s go together on a walking tour of Florence, Italy.

Florence (or Firenze in Italian) is the center of Renaissance art. The quantity and quality of old art can be overwhelming. Everything you have learned in school books about the Renaissance is available right in front of your eyes just by simply walking through the streets of old Florence and visiting its art museums. Let’s go together on a walking tour of old Florence, Italy.

The Center of old Florence

Everyone starts visiting Florence in the center as it is packed with tourist attractions. Roughly, Florence’s main attractions are spread from the Santa Maria Novelle train station to the church of Santa Croce.

Walking tour map of Florence, north of the Arno River
Walking tour map of Florence, north of the Arno River
Red-see, Blue-walk

Since driving inside the old city center is prohibited it is best to start our Florence walking tour at the train station.

1. Santa Maria Novella Church

The easiest place to start our walking tour of Florence is at the train station.  Many local hotel shuttles will drop you off there, as cars are not allowed in old town Florence. Located right next to the train station with the same name, the church of Santa Maria Novella is a beautiful attraction. While smaller and less imposing, this 15th century Dominican church will show you many Gothic and pre-Renaissance art.

Santa Maria Novella church is a great starting point for your walking tour of Florence
Santa Maria Novella church is a great starting point for your walking tour of Florence
See my photos from Florence, Italy

From the Santa Maria Novella piazza, follow the main road leading out and work your way North towards the large Basilica San Lorenzo.

2. Basilica San Lorenzo

Next stop on our walking tour of Florence is the large and imposing The Basilica di San Lorenzo(Basilica of St Lawrence). This is one of the largest churches of Florence, Italy, situated at the center of the city’s main market district. Loaded with history, Basilica San Lorenzo is closely tied to the Medici family as it is the burial place of all the principal members of the Medici family from Cosimo il Vecchio to Cosimo III.

View of Basilica San Lorenzo
Basilica San Lorenzo is one of the oldest churches in Florence
Photo by Sailko
See my photos from Florence, Italy

This is a large church building complex made up of several other buildings. So, walk around a little bit and take your time.

3. Sagrestia Vecchia

Sagrestia Vecchia (Old Scristy) comes next on our walking tour of Florence. The Old Sacristy was designed by Brunelleschi, with interior decoration and sculpture by Donatello and the Laurentian Library by Michelangelo. Also in the same area you can find the New Sacristy based on Michelangelo’s designs; and the Medici Chapels designed by Matteo Nigetti.

Interior of Sagrestia Vecchia
Interior of Sagrestia Vecchia
Photo by Sailko
See my photos from Florence, Italy

The large building complex around San Lorenzo church takes some time to visit but it’s well worth your effort. Now it’s time to head south to the place most people visit when in Florence.

4. Academy Gallery

The Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, or “Gallery of the Academy of Florence”, is one of the large art museum in Florence, Italy. It is best known as the home of Michelangelo’s sculpture David. It was founded by Pietro Leopoldo, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, in 1784 as a teaching facility for the Academy of Fine Arts students nearby.

David de Miquel Àngel, Galeria de l'Acadèmia de Florència
Michelangelo’s David on display at the Academy Gallery
CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons”

5. Florence Cathedral

Continuing our walking tour of Florence, we arrive quickly at the center of the old town. This is where everyone gravitates towards: the imposing Florence Cathedral, or as the locals call it…Il Duomo di Firenze.
This is a beautiful and impressive building that is well worth your time walking around.

The imposing building of the Dome has a facade made of white, green, pink and red marble.
The imposing building of the Dome has a facade made of white, green, pink and red marble.
See my photos from Florence, Italy

If you have time, you can buy a ticket and climb in the cathedral dome. The Dome of Florence was designed and built by the famous Brunelleschi and it still is the largest brick dome.

6. Piazza Della Signoria

We are continuing our walking tour by going south a bit more and stopping in the large Piazza della Signoria. To one side you see the imposing Palazzo Vecchio with its typical crested towers while in front you can find Loggia dei Lanzi with its open air museum.

Piazza della Signoria is filled with tourists in the summer.
Piazza della Signoria is filled with tourists in the summer.
See my photos from Florence, Italy

Loggia dei Lanzi is a remarkable display of beautiful old sculptures as an open air museum. While very crowded in the summer, it can provide some shade a good place to sit, relax and enjoy a sandwich and a gelato icecream.

An open air gallery of sculptures at the Loggia dei Lanzi inside Piazza della Signoria
An open air gallery of sculptures at the Loggia dei Lanzi inside Piazza della Signoria
See my photos from Florence, Italy

Piazza Della Signoria is a great place to simply sit, relax and look at the hustle and bustle of tourists and locals mingling.

7. Ufizzi Gallery

No walking tour of Florence is complete without a visit to the world famous Ufizzi Gallery. The Ufizzi Art Gallery contains most of the Renaissance paintings that you have seen in every art school book. It is just unbelievable to visit. Even our kids liked this art gallery even though it takes a while to go through and visit everything.

Uffizi Gallery hallway. Florence, Italy.
Uffizi Gallery hallway. Florence, Italy.
Petar Milošević • CC BY-SA 4.0
See my photos from Florence, Italy

Buying tickets from the Ufizzi Gallery ticket office, while cheaper, will force you to wait a long time in line. In the summer, Ufizzi is very crowded and it took us 2 hours to be able to get inside. I highly recommend buying tickets in advance and avoid most of the lines. Even when you buy a ticket in advance, you still have to wait in a separate line, but this line is much shorter.

8. Ponte Vecchio

From the Uffizi Gallery we continue our Florence walking tour by finally getting to the Arno River to the south. Ponte Vechio means the Old Bridge and it is the only old Florentine bridge which survived allied bombing during World War 2. Ponte Vecchio, being lined with shops on both sides has served as a model for several other bridges in Europe. A quick example is Plutney Bridge in Bath, England.

Ponte Vecchio seen from the upper floor of the Uffizi Gallery.
Ponte Vecchio seen from the upper floor of the Uffizi Gallery.
See my photos from Florence, Italy

Taking a stroll on Ponte Vecchio takes you back to an old world with more time for detailed embroideries and jewelry.

Florence, Italy - Walking on Pente Vecchio and admiring the old jewlery shops.
People walking and window shopping on Ponte Vecchio.
See my photos from Florence, Italy

9. Santa Croce Church

The Church of Santa Croce (Holy Cross) is our last stop north of the Arno River. While beautiful on the outside, the church of Santa Croce is most famous for its inside. Once you step inside, you will see the tombs of most famous people like Galileo Galilei.

The church of Santa Croce has the same marble facade as the Dome.
The church of Santa Croce has the same marble facade as the Dome.
See my photos from Florence, Italy

Across the Arno River

Florence is a large city with lots of attraction across the Arno River to the south of the old Florence center.

Walking tour map of Florence, south of Arno River
Walking tour map of Florence, south of Arno River
Red-see, Blue-walk

You could also stay in the Oltrarno to the south of the Arno river to be among the artisan workshops, antique furniture galleries and to the Pitti Palace and Boboli gardens.

10. Michelangelo Square

Crossing the Arno River and walking up the steep path we come to Michelangelo Square. When it comes to beautiful views of Florence, no other spot comes close to Michelangelo Square. Come here at sunset and take in the views.

Another replica of Michelangelo's David in Piazzale Michelangelo.
Another replica of Michelangelo’s David in Piazzale Michelangelo.
See my photos from Florence, Italy

11. Pitti Palace

We come to the last stop on our walking tour of Florence. Palazzo Pitti is a large place with beautiful art and the well groomed Boboli Gardens.

Beautiful view of Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens.
Beautiful view of Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens.
See my photos from Florence, Italy

From Pitti Palace, if you walk to the top of the hilly gardens you can get some pretty views of Florence.

Beautiful panorama of Florence seen from Palazzo Pitti.
Beautiful panorama of Florence seen from Palazzo Pitti.
See my photos from Florence, Italy

Is it worth visiting Florence, Italy?

Absolutely yes! Florence is the essential destination in Italy. With so many things to see, it is impossible to cover it all in one single day. I recommend you plan on spending at least two full days visiting this beautiful city.

My best resources for planning your trip to Florence, Italy

When planning a trip to Europe I always focus on maximizing my resources. So, I spend time researching my destination and pick things carefully so I can maximize my time and budget while traveling. Florence takes some planning in order to make it work with your expectations.
Find budget hotels in Florence. We stayed outside of the city center since we had a rental car and needed free parking. Plus, dealing with Florence traffic and finding parking in the old city center is really, really difficult. We stayed at the very reasonable Novotel Florence North. This hotel has a free shuttle that takes you straight to the Florence train station where you can start exploring.

Get a cheap rental car for Italy. Save up to 30% by comparing the best companies to rent from in Europe.

Find parking near the Florence center. This is not an easy proposition and I strongly recommend not bringing a car. However, if you have to drive into Florence I recommend parking near the train station.

Check out the Uffizi Gallery official site for schedule and current events.

Check out the Academy of Florence official site for current schedule and events.

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