Walking Tour of Florence, Italy (with map)

Updated: September 15, 2020 | Contains affiliate links

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 art all around the city can be overwhelming. Everything you have learned in school books about the Renaissance is available right in front of your eyes just by walking through the streets of old Florence and visiting its art museums. Let’s go together on a walking tour of historic Florence, Italy.

The Center of old Florence

The center of Florence is packed with tourist attractions. Roughly, Florence’s main attractions are spread from the Santa Maria Novella 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

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

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 contains many pieces of Gothic and pre-Renaissance art.
From the Piazza Santa Maria Novella, follow the main road leading out and work your way North towards the large Basilica di San Lorenzo.

2. Basilica di San Lorenzo

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

Next stop on our walking tour of Florence is the large and imposing 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 local history, Basilica San Lorenzo is the burial place of all the principal members of the Medici family, from Cosimo il Vecchio to Cosimo III. The Medicis were one of the most powerful families in Italy and they maintained religious and political control of Florence for generations.
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

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

Sagrestia Vecchia (Old Sacristy) 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. In the same area you can find the New Sacristy based on Michelangelo’s designs; and the Medici Chapels designed by Matteo Negretti.
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. Accademia

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”

The Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, or “Gallery of the Academy of Florence”, is one of the largest art museums 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.

5. Florence Cathedral

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

Continuing our walking tour of Florence, we arrive quickly at the center of the old town. This is what 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 a visit, in spite of the crowds and the occasional line to get inside.

If you have time, you can buy a ticket and climb in the cathedral dome. The dome was designed and built by the famous architect Brunelleschi after a heated competition with another designer, Lorenzo Ghiberti, for the rights to the project. The dome took almost twenty years to construct and it is the most significant feature of Florence’s skyline.

6. Piazza Della Signoria

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

We continue our walking tour by heading south and stopping in the large Piazza della Signoria. To one side you see the imposing Palazzo Vecchio with its crested towers, and in front of you you’ll find the Loggia dei Lanzi with its open air museum.
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 great place to sit and relax if you can find an open spot.

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

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

No walking tour of Florence is complete without a visit to the world famous Ufizzi Gallery. The Ufizzi Art Gallery contains countless recognizable Italian Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque paintings and sculptures.. It is just unbelievable to visit. Our kids liked this art gallery even though it takes a while to go through and visit everything.
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

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

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

Above the shops on Ponte Vecchio is a structure known as the Corridoio Vasariano, or Vasari Corridor, which connects to the Uffizi Museum. The Uffizi building was once used as the offices of the Medici family businesses – “uffizi” means “offices” in Italian. Cosimo di Medici ordered construction of the corridor so the Medici family members could move freely between Palazzo Vecchio, the offices, and the Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the Arno River. The shops on Ponte Vecchio were once a meat market, but the Medicis replaced the meat shops with goldsmiths to get rid of the smell.

9. Santa Croce Church

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

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 famous people like Galileo Galilei.

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. Piazzale Michelangelo

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

After the Arno River and walking up a steep path, we come to Piazzale Michelangelo, or 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.

11. Pitti Palace

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

We come to the last stop on our walking tour of Florence. Palazzo Pitti is a large palace with beautiful art and the lush, manicured Boboli Gardens.
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.

Plan 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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