3 Days in Florence: What to Do?
Considered one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, we went to visit Florence for 3 days to discover the many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture.
The heart of the city being an open-air museum (the city alone brings together 25% of the works of Italian artistic heritage), discover in this detailed blog guide what there is to see and do in Florence in 2 , 3 or 4 days.
Practical guide to visit Florence
If I can give you any advice for visiting Florence, it is to prepare and plan your visits to museums well , because in busy periods there can be a 4 to 5 hour wait to reach the ticket office if you do not have a reservation or skip-the-line ticket.
For our part, we left for 3 days in Florence for the November 1st bridge without having booked anything, the queues were quite impressive on all the must-see sites.
Fortunately (or unfortunately for her), Aurore still walks with a crutch following her sprain this summer, so we went through the disabled access each time without waiting.
Without that we wouldn’t have visited much, so don’t do like us and prepare your visit to Florence well.
If you plan to visit Florence and all its main monuments, it may be worth opting for the Florence Pass.
It brings together the entrances to Brunelleschi’s dome (in the Duomo), the Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia Gallery as well as an audio guide application on more than 70 points of interest in Florence.
What to do in Florence in 3 days: must-see sites
An emblematic monument of Florence, this cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore) will seduce you at first glance with its facade of pink, white and green marble, its gigantic cupola of red tiles and its campanile.
Its construction began in 1296 but the current neo-Gothic façade only dates from the end of the 19th century.
The cupola, famous jewel of the Renaissance and technical prowess, was built between 1420 and 1436 by Filippo Brunelleschi.
Near the entrance to the cathedral, a staircase leads to the crypt where the remains of the Chiesa di Santa Reparata which occupied the site in the 5th century can be seen.
Entrance to the Duomo is free but does not give access to the crypt or to visit the dome.
The best is to opt for the combined ticket at 18 € which allows you to visit the cathedral, the crypt, the dome, the Battistero di San Giovanni, the bell tower and the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore (ticket valid for 72 hours ) .
To access the dome the number of visitors per day is limited, during our trip to Florence there was no more space for the next 3 days.
You can also opt for the 2-hour guided tour including skip-the-line tickets which will save you the long queues.
The interior of the vast nave (155 m by 90 m) of the cathedral is quite sober, I expected something more flamboyant given the exterior aspect.
But many artistic treasures have been removed over the centuries and are displayed in the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore.
On the other hand, the 16th century frescoes that adorn the interior of the dome are magnificent.
They are signed Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari and represent the Last Judgment.
We didn’t climb the dome or the campanile (414 steps) because with Aurora’s sprain that was impossible for us, too bad the view of Florence is superb.
There are two separate queues for the cathedral and the campanile, so the wait will be doubled!
The Battistero di San Giovanni is located opposite the Duomo, it can be visited with the same combined ticket.
This famous 11th century Romanesque monument dedicated to San Giovanni is an octagonal structure in white and green striped marble.
The interior is magnificent with a series of paintings representing the history of mankind and the Redemption as well as episodes from the New Testament.
Book your skip-the-line ticket before coming, this very famous museum attracts a crowd of tourists and the queue in front of the entrance door is endless (the classic entrance ticket is 8€).
Visitors come to admire one of the greatest and most famous masterpieces of the Renaissance: Michelangelo’s David .
This 5.16 m high and 19 ton statue was carved from a single block of pearly white marble between 1501 and 1504. The statue is impressive for the finesse of the details, in particular its salient muscles.
The museum houses other sculptures by Michelangelo and Florentine paintings by various artists including Botticelli.
Occupying a U-shaped palace, the Uffizi Gallery is THE mythical museum to visit in Florence.
They bring together the masterpieces of the Renaissance with a set of rooms dedicated to Botticelli.
The visit is quite long, fortunately at the entrance we were lent a wheelchair otherwise Aurore’s ankle would not have resisted this long visit.
The entrance ticket for the Uffizi gallery is 12 € but I advise you to book a skip-the-line ticket, for a few euros more you will save a lot of time.
Located on the superb square “Piazza della Signoria”, this palace-fortress with its 94 m high tower is the traditional seat of government.
The Palazzo della Signoria (its other name) was built between 1298 and 1314 to house the city government.
Do not miss the magnificent “Salone dei Cinquecento”, a huge room whose walls are covered with battle scenes painted by Vasari and his students and the ceiling made of 34 gold leaf panels.
One of the major pieces in this room is Michelangelo’s “Genius of Victory” sculpture.
On the 1st floor are the private apartments richly decorated to the glory of the Medici.
From April to September, the Palazzo Vecchio closes at 11 p.m., which makes it possible to visit it at the end of the day when all the other museums are closed.
The entrance ticket is 10 € or 14 € with the visit of the tower.
If you are interested in history, you can choose the visit with the audioguide.
The Old Bridge is the most famous bridge over the Arno River in Florence.
This bridge would exist since 972 but the current version dates from 1345. A large number of jewelers have a shop on the Ponte Vecchio, a tradition that dates back to the 16th century, when the Grand Duke of Medici ordered this corporation to take the place of the butchers who had the bad habit of disposing of carcasses in the river.
The Ponte Vecchio is not very wide and full of people, worse than the Charles Bridge in Prague . It provides access to the district of Oltrarno and Boboli on the other side of the river.
On the other side of the bank of the Arno traditionally extends the workshops of the artisans of the city.
The district is lively and a little less touristy than the city center, ideal for escaping the crowds.
Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to visit this area of Florence.
One of the must-see sites is the Palazzo Pitti, a palace housing collections of goldsmithery, art objects, paintings and other jewels brought together by the Medici families and the Grand Dukes of Tuscany.
Behind Palazzo Pitti is the Boboli Garden, designed in the middle of the 16th century and which is the quintessential example of the Tuscan garden.
The opening hours of the garden being restricted in this season, we did not have the opportunity to visit it ( reservation of the Boboli garden on this site ).
A little further west is Piazza Santo Spirito where the Basilica di Santo Spirito stands (free entry and no photos allowed).
This market set up under a large iron and glass hall (1874) is located in the San Lorenzo district not far from the Galleria dell’Accademia.
It is the largest market in Florence, which attracts both tourists in search of delicious specialties and locals who come to do their shopping.
It is possible to eat on site.
If you want to bring back food, I strongly advise you to go through this market during your visit to Florence.
Personally, I’m a big fan of “cantucci”, crunchy almond biscuits (also available in other versions).
Practical tips for visiting Florence
How to get to Florence
If you live in the South-East of France where you plan to make a road trip in Tuscany, using your car remains the best solution and especially the cheapest, especially when traveling with others.
That’s what we did, Nice being only 5 hours drive from Florence.
In terms of cost, the one-way ticket cost us €40 in tolls and €50 in fuel.
So as not to make the trip to Florence all at once, I strongly recommend that you stop for a few days in Liguria to visit the Cinque Terre, magnificent villages built in a steep landscape by the sea.
Tuscany’s main international airport is 10 minutes south of Pisa, but some cities like Paris offer direct flights to Florence.
Transfer from / to the airport
The airport is located 5 km north of Florence, to reach the city center there are several solutions:
- Tram : this is the cheapest and fastest solution (20 min) to reach the city center from the airport.At the terminal exit, take line T2 to the Peretola Aeroporto stop.
If you want to reach the Duomo you have to stop at the Unità station.
Trams run in Florence from 05:30 in the morning until 00:00 with departures every 5 minutes during the day.
Tickets can be purchased directly at the station ( €1.50 ).
- Shuttle Vola in Bus (BusItalia) which runs every half hour from 6:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. between the airport and Santa Maria Novella central station (20 min journey).The fare is €6 one way and €10 return, the ticket can be purchased directly on board at no extra charge.
- Taxi: around €25 for the city center with a supplement of €1 per piece of luggage.
- If you like luxury you can even book a VIP transfer for €50 (up to 3 passengers).The driver will be waiting for you in the arrivals hall (you know the ones you see with the signs).
ZTL area and parking in Florence
The ZTL (Limited Traffic Zone in French) is a perimeter of the city center where it is forbidden to drive by car unless you live there, have a reservation in a hotel or park in a private car park located in the ZTL.
This restriction applies on weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. and from mid-May to mid-September also on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.
And beware of offenders, cameras photograph all license plates and you will receive a large fine directly at home in France.
The sites to see in Florence being concentrated in a small perimeter in the city center, the car is absolutely not necessary.
If like us you arrive in Florence by car, park in a private car park outside the ZTL or better, book a hotel that offers parking.
In town it is easy to use public transport (bus and tram) to get around the ZTL.
When to visit Florence
The high season for visiting Tuscany is from May to October.
This is the best time for the weather, but also the time when attendance is highest and when hotel rates are at their maximum.
But Florence is a bit different because it is a city that is visited all year round.
You can go there in summer, winter, spring or autumn, it’s up to you.
On the other hand, if you plan to leave the capital to visit the Tuscan countryside, choosing winter is not necessarily a good idea.
Because in the small villages almost everything was closed in January during our road trip (this is the period when the traders take their holidays).
So unless you like deserted villages, it is better to come between May and October.
How many days to visit Florence
It is one of the most culturally rich Italian cities.
Unless you plan to only walk in the streets, I advise you to plan at least 2 days to visit Florence.
And in just two days you won’t have time to see all the main museums and monuments.
3 days there seems to me to be a good compromise to enjoy the city setting, the cafes and the dolce vita, while not missing any of the major museums.
Accommodation in Florence
Below is a list of accommodations with excellent reviews from travelers.
Remember to book your accommodation several months in advance to visit Florence because it is a very popular destination and the best establishments are quickly full.
In most cases accommodation in Florence does not have parking.
Inside the ZTL the price of private car parks varies from 26 to 30 € per day.
Outside the ZTL it is a bit cheaper, 10 to 15 € per day, and it is even possible to find free parking spaces in the street.
- 56 €: Lucretia House, this low-cost guest house ideal for tight budgets is near the Strozzi Palace in the city center.
- €77: Hotel Davanzati, this establishment is housed in a 15th century building in the heart of the Tuscan city.
- €77: Relais La Corte di Cloris, tested and approved, this bed and breakfast has pretty rooms and a garden.
- €108: Solo Experience Hotel, housed in a 17th century building , this hotel overlooks the Basilica of San Lorenzo.
- €110: Relais Piazza Signoria, a suite located in a historic building at the corner of Place de la Signoria.
Couldn’t be more central for visiting Florence.
- €149: Corte Calzaiuoli Elegant Suites : beautiful rooms with every comfort in the heart of the city.
Where to eat in Florence
You will have no trouble finding a nice place to eat in Florence between restaurants, pizzerias, sandwich shops or ice cream parlors.
Cooking being an art in its own right for the Tuscans, the quality is generally there, which was not necessarily the case during my trip to Venice with many tourist restaurants.
Florentine cuisine has a few specialties such as bistecca alla fiorentina (a grilled rib of beef) but you can find everywhere the great classics of Italian cuisine such as ravioli and pasta in all their forms.
Tattoria Ponte Vecchio: located next to the Ponte Vecchio, this cozy little restaurant where we stumbled upon serves excellent ravioli (count about fifty euros for a meal for two with wine).
Caffé Rivoire: located in Piazza della Signoria opposite the Palazzo Vecchio, this magnificent café dating back to 1872 serves the best hot chocolate in town as well as delicious biscuits. Here we also pay for the frame.
Conad Supermarket: in the “via dei Servi” behind the Duomo, this large supermarket allows you to do your shopping if you ever want to prepare something to eat. It is also the ideal place to bring back local specialties at low prices (wines, biscuits, preserves, etc.).
What to do around Florence
The magnificent region of Tuscany with its villages and vineyards is worth spending a few days there.
But unless you stay two weeks you won’t be able to see everything.
Here are some ideas for visits among the must-see sites that you can do from Florence.
Great rival of Florence, Siena is the other emblematic city of Tuscany.
Unlike the Renaissance city, the architecture of Siena is in a Gothic style.
The historic center, which hasn’t changed since medieval times, is home to the superb oval square of Piazza del Campo where the Palio, a famous horse race, takes place every year.
Among the must-see sites, do not miss the Siena Cathedral.
I found the interior much prettier than that of Florence (this is not the case with the baptistery, however).
How to talk about Tuscany without mentioning Pisa and its famous leaning tower.
It is one of the most visited destinations in Italy.
We went there at the end of our trip to Tuscany and to give you our opinion we were a little disappointed by the city.
Apart from the Tower of Pisa, the Duomo and the baptistery, the city does not have the charm of its neighbours.
It is for me a city that can be discovered from Florence, Siena or Lucca.
The visit of these 3 monuments will only take you a few hours at most depending on the crowds.
If you want to avoid the crowds, come early in the morning or at the end of the day.
You don’t often hear about it when reading guides to Tuscany on blogs, but for me Lucca (Lucca in Italian) is one of the most underrated cities in the region.
The old town of Lucca is surrounded by walls behind which there are many historical monuments, including churches and a palace with a superb garden. Lucca is a 1h15 drive west of Florence and can easily be visited on a day trip. If you are staying on a city trip to Florence for several days, this can make a great idea for an excursion.
Thanks to its famous wine, it is one of the most famous regions of Tuscany.
It must be said that its postcard landscapes of vineyards have something to do with it.
In winter the landscapes are not as beautiful as in spring, so I put a photo of a previous trip to Tuscany that I had done in May.
Several excursions to visit Chianti and learn about wines are organized from Florence:
- Chianti Wine Tour with Food : Explore the beautiful Chianti wine region on a tour from Florence.Admire the Tuscan landscape, its green valleys, vineyards and cypresses.
Taste the excellent Chianti and the products of Tuscany.
- Chianti Wine Tour with Tasting : Discover the traditions and flavors of the Tuscan countryside on this trip to Chianti.Explore the town of Radda and visit renowned wineries for wine tasting.
If you only have to visit one of the villages of the Tuscan countryside during your stay in Florence, I advise you to opt for San Gimignano.
Even if it is the best known and the most visited, it is impossible not to fall in love with this medieval village and its 14 towers.
Inside the village, don’t miss the Piazza della Cisterna with its 13th century well , the town hall and the church of Sant’Agostino.
Several excursions departing from Florence allow you to visit San Gimignano.
The outings are coupled with the visit of other villages.
- Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano, lunch and wines
- Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni
- Day trip to Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano and Chianti with lunch
We deviate slightly from Tuscany to reach the neighboring region of Liguria.
The latter, which runs along the Mediterranean Sea, is home to 5 magnificent hilltop villages listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful places in Italy which I highly recommend you visit.
It takes a minimum of 2 days to fully enjoy the Cinque Terre, but it is possible to see the tour in one big day.
The best way to do this is to take part in an excursion.
This excursion to the Cinque Terre departing from Florence will allow you to have a good overview.
You are ready to visit Florence in 3 days and a little more if you also want to explore the region.
If you have any questions feel free to go through the blog comments.
Are you going to Florence? Read also
- 2 Days in Florence: Ultimate Itinerary for a Weekend
- Accommodation in Florence: Advice on the Best Area
- Visit Florence: Top 27 Things To Do