With so much to see in the great Renaissance capital, where should you even begin? The great thing about Florence is that you can see a lot just by taking a walk through the city center. Without even hopping on a bus or grabbing a taxi, you can experience a beautiful open-air museum.
Discover the beauty of Florentine architecture from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, and even peek at some masterpieces by the great artists of the time. This self guided walking tour of Florence will take you to explore so much of what the city has to offer, plus grab some delicious local food along the way.
Start at Santa Maria Novella
If you’re in Florence for just a quick day trip, it’s likely that you’ll arrive by train and start your day at the Santa Maria Novella station. If you’re already feeling a little peckish for a quick Italian caffé e cornetto, step right outside to the Mo Si Caffetteria on Via Masaccio. But save some space—we’ll be walking you past some more delicious pastry shops soon!
Dive right into Florence’s history at the Santa Maria Novella complex. A beautiful church from the outside, this historic structure also houses gardens, courtyards, ancient living quarters, and a traditional perfume shop.
If you are short on time, you can just take a peek into the church for free; otherwise, it’s definitely worth buying a ticket to explore the whole complex.
Stop at the Market
From here you can circle back to Florence’s main market, Mercato Centrale and the San Lorenzo Market. Get a taste of Florence’s local life by exploring the indoor food stands, and get your leather shopping done with a browse through the famous outdoor leather market.
And if all that shopping gets you hungry, luckily Casa del Vino—a local classic—is right there for you. Grab a delicious panino and glass of quality wine to give you the energy to keep exploring.
Head into Central Florence
Circle around the Basilica of San Lorenzo to make your way to the main attraction: the famous Duomo and Brunelleschi’s incredible dome.
After a quick turn down Borgo San Lorenzo, your jaw is sure to drop at the large open piazza which houses the Duomo and its baptistry.
Again, if you can spare the time, the church, baptistry, and bell tower are all wonderful spots to visit. The art inside is unforgettable, and the view from the top of the bell tower will give you a whole new perspective of Brunelleschi’s dome.
If you find yourself extra captivated by the work on the Duomo, you can even visit the Duomo Museum located just behind it. Here you can see more of the original works that were housed in the church, as well as historic plans used in the building’s construction.
Time for Another Snack
When in Italy, how can you resist grabbing a bite of anything and everything? We like to think the best part of travel is the food, so don’t miss any opportunity to snack!
If your sweet tooth is acting up, head down Via Roma for a stop into Caffe Gilli for a coffee and sweet pastry. But if you think you’d better eat something a little more nutritious first, take Via dei Calzaiuoli to the corner of Via dei Cimatori for authentic Florentine street food. It’s here where you’ll find the incredible I Due Fratellini, whipping up delicious panini since 1875.
Piazza della Signoria and the Uffizi
Keep heading down Via dei Calzaiuoli and you’ll soon reach the Piazza della Signoria. Here you can see a replica of Michelangelo’s David in its original location, plus a few other statues of the Uffizi collection.
This is also where the Gucci Museum and Cafe are located if you are interested in seeing this fashionable side of Florence’s history.
Before heading to the line for the Uffizi, you might want to take a walk around the block to see the fun Fontana del Porcellino, Florence’s wild boar fountain. Rubbing its snout will ensure you make it back to Florence one day!
If you’re looking for the entrance to the Uffizi, head to the corner of Palazzo Vecchio to the Piazzale degli Uffizi. You’ll find the entrance right under the porticoes.
But if you didn’t manage to get tickets to the famous museum—or don’t have time for it on this day trip—there’s still plenty more to see in Florence!
Continue your self guided walking tour of Florence with a walk across the famous Ponte Vecchio, lined with historic shops (mainly jewelry and souvenir shops these days).
The name (literally “Old Bridge”) comes from the fact this is actually where the oldest bridge connecting both sides of Florence stood. This is where Florence has been connected ever since Ancient Roman times.
To the right, you can wander deeper into the Oltrarno neighborhood, which is a great place to find amazing food. And if you need a caffeine fix, within just a few steps you’ll find Ditta Artigianale, where you can enjoy a freshly roasted specialty coffee.
But to keep sightseeing, and making the most out of your day in Florence, head down Via de’ Guicciardini to catch a glimpse of Pitti Palace.
Pitti Palace & Piazzale Michelangelo
Pitti Palace is another great museum of Florence that is worth checking out. But even if you aren’t in the mood for a museum, you may still want to buy a ticket for the view.
Behind the Pitti Palace are the Boboli Gardens, a beautiful and peaceful spot where you can lounge for the afternoon, taking in a bit of Florentine history while also getting off the busy streets. The extra great part of visiting these gardens is the wonderful view they will give you of the whole city of Florence.
If you skip out on this view, the last scenic stop we have for you will make up for it.
Head back down to walk along the river until you turn at Piazza Poggi to head up a little ways to Piazzale Michelangelo. This is the spot you’ll especially want to be at when there’s a nice sunset, but any time of day provides a great view of the whole city.
But after all this walking, it’s time to kick back and eat!
Aperitivo & Dinner
Our favorite spot for a little tradition of evening wine and snacks is definitely Le Volpi e L’Uva, you’ll find it nestled just around the corner from Ponte Vecchio. Here you can enjoy a local wine by the glass (plus other regional wines too) with a mixed plate of cheese and cured meats to get your appetite going.
When it comes to dinner, you’re quite close to the Oltrarno neighborhood, one of our favorite places in town for food. Here’s a list of the places we’d send you. But our top recommendation: Il Santo Bevitore for a modern expression of delicious Tuscan cuisine. The most delicious way to end your self guided walking tour of Florence!
An Italy local for nearly 10 years, Evelyn has traveled to nearly every region getting overly excited about cute doors and nonni cafes. She’s an archaeology and art history major who fell in love with Italian wine, getting her Sommelier and Italian Wine Scholar certifications. She’s transformed her passion for La Bel Paese into a travel planning and relocation consultancy with Colline Alle Montagne. You’ll find her on Instagram @collinemontagne, always sipping a glass of wine and sharing the authentic life in Italy.