What to do in Florence -
Top 12 things to see in Florence
in one day, Part 1

"What to do in Florence - Luckily, Florence is not as big and spread out like other Italian cruise port cities"

One of the most common concerns of Florence cruise guests is What to do in Florence in a Day?

They are aware that a certain time of the day will be lost on traveling to and from the port of Livorno, either :

So can one enjoy Florence sightseeing in the 4-5 hours that you’ll have to spend there? The good news is… yes!

Luckily, Florence is not as big and spread out as a city like Rome or Naples. On the contrary… Florence city is relatively small, intimate, and easy to walk through as most of the historical centre of Florence is a pedestrian area.

Heaven for those who walk around with a camera glued to their face not paying attention to where they’re walking… no cars to hit you, maybe just an occasional cyclist.

LivornoFlorence Viator

So, the following list of what to do in Florence is for those who are…

  • visiting Florence for the first time
  • want to get a nice quick overview of the city
  • don’t want to spend all day inside the museums (we definitely don’t recommend spending the day inside the museums to the first time visitors, maybe just a quick skip the line tour).

Just like Venice or Rome, Florence is a museum in the open too, but it is also a living city… you will see:

  • students rushing to classes on their bikes
  • street performers
  • shops full of goods you would be crazy not to take home with you
  • sunny cafe patios full of people
  • street musicians
  • there are Chianti wines and olive oils to be tasted
  • shop windows packed with the latest fashion… take time and let all of your senses enjoy Florence.

So, let’s start with our suggestions on what to do in Florence in a day.

Note that the list doesn’t necessarily number the most important Florence attractions but tries to find a nice balance between important sights with those easy to see in the limited amount of time and leaving you enough time to shop and dine!

1) What to do in Florence: ADMIRE PIAZZA SANTA CROCE


Piazza Santa Croce or the Square of the Holy Cross is one of the main and biggest squares in Florence. It took its name from the historically important Basilica di Santa Croce or Santa Croce Church that dominates the square with its multi-coloured marble façade.

If you are arriving to Florence with one of the Florence shore excursions, this is where you will be dropped off by your tour guides (if on one of a “Florence On Your Own Tours” for example) and it is a great place to start your day.

This square is also where you will first be introduced to the world of 18kt gold that Florence is so famous for, even more famous Florentine leather as well as wine and delicatessen shops - there are many shops in the square and around it!

If you want to explore this square and its famous basilica part of your day in Florence, check the skip-the-line and guided tours I have hand-picked for you:

2) What to do in Florence: WALK ALONG ARNO RIVER

arno river photo, arno river florence

Arno river is one of the symbols of Florence and an unavoidable image on almost all the postcards… with Ponte Vecchio bridge in the distance, of course.

Make sure you walk Arno river’s waterfront to admire the beautiful earthy and ochre facades along its banks.

Seeing this peaceful river, it is almost impossible to imagine the horrific floods it caused in Florence in 1966 when the embankments collapsed, lives were taken and literally millions of works of art and rare books were destroyed or seriously damaged.

3) What to do in Florence: CROSS THE PONTE VECCHIO BRIDGE


Ponte Vecchio, or the Old Bridge of Florence, is a medieval bridge and one of the oldest ones of this type in Europe. It spans Arno at its narrowest point.

It makes a really picturesque sight when viewed from the banks of Arno river, that’s why we always like to stress to walk along the river and not just enter the bridge from the street that extends to it.

As the bridge has a row of houses on each one of its sides, when walking on it, it almost seems you’re just walking one of the more narrow streets of Florence.

Although once in the past full of butcher shops, it is now famous for its windows full of gold jewellery in all shapes and sizes.

Read more about this bridge in our article on Ponte Vecchio bridge and pick to take part in one of these tours/shore excursions that will surely take you over this bridge:

4) What to do in Florence: CHECK OUT PIAZZA PITTI


Piazza Pitti or the Pitti Square, just 3-4 minutes walk across the Ponte Vecchio bridge, was named after the rich 15th century family that first ordered the building of the palace that still stands at the top of the square - Palazzo Pitti.

In the 16th ct this palace was purchased by the Medici family, and today it houses 5 different museums/collections!

Behind the stern and rugged façade built out of massive blocks of stone is also one of the most charming spots in Florence, the famous Boboli gardens

This palace and the gardens are a great hideaway from the summer heat if you are visiting in July and August, so taking a quick skip-the line tour is not a bad idea:

5) What to do in Florence: VISIT UFFIZZI GALLERY


This gallery is one of the oldest (since 1765!) and most famous museums of the Western World. The crown jewel of Italy’s museums.

The list of the artists whose work is displayed here sounds like a Who’s Who of Renaissance art.

Even if you are not a big art aficionado you would have heard of these guys: Michelangelo, Botticelli, Da Vinci, Raphael, Titian…

With 7,000 visitors a day (!) this place gets pretty crowded and you don’t want to spend half the day standing in line: that is why the only option to visit is to buy the tickets way ahead, online, and do a quick tour. I have done some research for the best options:


palazzo vecchio david, piazza della signoria david

This piazza is easy to find, as it is right in front of the Uffizi Gallery!

Piazza della Signoria is a monument to the political power of Florence, the very centre of its civic life. Take time to admire the Palazzo Vecchio and the display of statues in front of it.

Here’s a little secret… there is Michelangelo’s David standing right there, in the open, for you to take a picture with it! Of course, it is a copy but an identical copy, and no one back home will know the difference! ;)

Piazza della Signoria is also a great place to do the touristy stuff… watch the entertainers, listen to the buskers, see the artists painting, or chill in one of its elegant cafes! Tip: keep an eye on your belongings when surrounded by crowds here. Read more in our article on Piazza della Signoria.

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