Florence is a beautiful city and the center of the renaissance art movement.
There are some wonderful things to see and just walking around the city is a treat. (one of my favorite places). There are any number of Walking Tours available. However, much like Rome it takes planning and money. Just about everything you want to see is in a 2 mile radius, but there is no block system, so having a map is key. Also, nearly every activity needs to be planned: pre-purchased tickets for a specific date and TIME.
Some of the best sites to see in Florence are:
The Duomo (cathedral) which dominates the skyline. Also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. There is a no fee to get in to the church but to see anything else (the Crypts, Baptistry, and walk up the Bell Tower: 414 stairs-NO LIFT) for incredible views over the city, those will all require cash. The hike up to the bell tower is not for the claustrophobic or those with a fear of heights.
The Baptistry of San Giovanni outside the Duomo is the oldest building in Florence (1059) and has the famous 3 bronze paneled doors depicting scenes from the bible.
Free to View from the outside, but to see the inside costs 18€ and should be pre-booked for June, July and August months (high tourist season)
The best museum some would argue in the world is the Uffizi Gallery of Paintings, Art and Statues. It is 2 stories and has 50 rooms and spans art from the 12th - 18th century. If you’ve ever wanted to see the orignal masterpieces, this if where you will find them: Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Raphael’s Pope Leo X portrait, Bandinelli’s statues and works by Leonardo da Vinci.
You WILL need to pre-purchase tickets for this and give yourself 6 hours or so.
The cost is about 20€, entrance. Tours cost more.
The Ponte Vecchio
The Golden Bridge. The stone arched bridge over the Arno river which is renowned for having gold shops along it, now hosts leather shops and many other overpriced souvenir shops, but I enjoy it in the evening when there are buskers playing and local bands. It is still a beautiful place and the best way to walk from the Uffizi to the Pitti Palace and Bobli Gardens.
Bobli Gardens & Pitti Palace: The Pitti Palace was the home of the Medici family. The gardens use to be free, but they now charge 18€ for an entrance and include the Porcelain gallery of the Pitti Palace. Not worth it anymore in my opinion, but it’s beautiful none the less and has fountains and brilliantly designed water works to water all the plants and terraces down to the fountains.
Michaelangelo’s Masterpiece David
The original David can only be seen at the Accademia Gallery Museum. Tickets must be pre-purchased, and you cannot take any pictures inside.
The cost is 22.50€ and dates and times must be chosen, like all the other places to visit in Florence.
There is a bronze copy of David in the Piazza della Signoria along with several other wonderful statues.
Enjoy the art, cafe’s and people watching in Piazza della Signoria. Walk up the steps to see copies of famous statues (including David at the base of the Palazzo Vecchio) and enjoy the artistry of Neptune’s Fountain. The Plaza is centrally located and a favorite meeting place. Florence is an exceedingly easy and fun city to walk. Take a map from your hotel and explore. Find the chococlate wall fountain!