Best Historic Sites in Florence

Step Back in Time, and Visit Some of Florence's Historic Locations

With so much to see in Florence, it can take a whole day just to plan which spots you might want to see. Fortunately, all the major sights are located pretty close to one another. So whether you decide to take a rain-soaked day and visit the Bargello, or you want to know the full extent of the Medici family's wealth by stopping by the Pitti Palace.

Of course, it's impossible not to talk a walk across Florence's most famous bridge: the Ponte Vecchio. Not only is Florence a city with some amazingly intact pieces of Renaissance and Medieval history, but it also has traces of the modern world in it, as well. One example of this is the Strozzi Palace, where you can find modern art exhibits and a cafe below. It's a great place to stop when you've seen all the Renaissance artwork you can muster.

Even just walking the streets of Florence can provide you an idea of what things were like at various points in time. One of the best ways to know the city is to simply take a stroll with a gelato in hand--you're sure to stumble on something worth ducking into and taking the time to view.


Palazzo Pitti
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The impressively large Pitti Palace has a little something for everyone. If you want to get a taste of what it was like to live in one of the opulent palaces during the Renaissance, you should think about booking a ticket online for this popular attraction. History buffs will enjoy the thought of walking amongst the halls that were once owned by the Medici family. Nature lovers can also check out the adjoining Boboli gardens where they remain in bloom for most of the year. The Palace has various museums, so plan on spending an entire day there if you want to get the full effect of how much power and wealth the Medici had.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: The Pitti Palace has an amazing art collection and some of the most beautiful gardens in the world.

Alexa's expert tip: It's either a perfect way to start or end the day--just be aware you might not see it all.

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Once a palace and after a prison and barracks, the Bargello now houses some of the city of Florence's extensive art collection. The oldest public building still standing in Florence since the 1200s, it served as a model for the Palazzo Vecchio just around the corner. If you are interesting in sculpture, this is the best museum in Florence to peruse--you'll find works by Michelangelo and Donatello's famous "David" cast in bronze. After you are finished, you can find some amazing little restaurants hidden behind the building. Located close to the rest of the main sites, the Bargello is the perfect before-lunch, historical activity.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: Both the architecture and the treasures inside are a great tribute to Florence and the Bargello's place in its history.

Alexa's expert tip: This is a great spot for when the Tuscan sun isn't shining--if the weather is bad, think about coming here.

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Ponte Vecchio
Photo courtesy of Lorenzo Bettoni

As one of the world's most famous bridges, the Ponte Vecchio has had an interesting history. It takes only a few minutes to walk across, but purchasing a guide to Florence and reading about its place in the city's story is highly recommended. The only bridge that was not destroyed during World War II, the Florentines are particularly proud of this monument. Originally the area where the butchers would display their cuts, it's now one of the most expensive walks in the world--you can find expensive jewelry and trinkets unlike any other. It is also a great place to get some of the best pictures of the city.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: This is one of Florence's most famous sights, and it would be a shame to miss.

Alexa's expert tip: For a great view of this bridge from above, head up to Piazzle Michelangelo.

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Palazzo Medici-Riccardi

Medieval lovers and those interested in Florence's warfare will want to take the walk to Fort Belvedere and the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi on the other side of the Arno. Not only can you gain access to the gardens, but you can also see the massive fort--a feat of engineering where the military minds of the city would meet when Florence was under attack. It's open limited hours in the winter, but during the summer you can take a tour and by a ticket that allows you access to multiple different area of the fort and where the Medici family used to occasionally live. You'll want to make sure that you take the walk up to the fort when the gardens are at their most beautiful--it's like being transported back in time.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: One of the best preserved structures in Florence, it's the best way to slip back to Medieval Florence.

Alexa's expert tip: Take your time and enjoy--there's a lot to see!

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Combining a café and some of the most unique art exhibits in Italy, the Strozzi Palace is a perfect spot for both the modern art lover and the history buff. There is enough here to make an entire day out of it, so think about stopping and grabbing a coffee in the lower level before heading to one of the newer exhibits. For those looking to understand the history behind the building, there is also an exhibit that highlights the Strozzi family and their place in Florence's culture and history through hundreds of years. It's a great meeting of past and modernity.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: The Strozzi Palace is the perfect combination of the modern and the historical.

Alexa's expert tip: Get there in the morning before the school groups show up.

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Piazza Santa Croce
Photo courtesy of Lorenzo Bettoni

One of Florence's most famous churches, Santa Croce has a lot to offer those interested in art and anyone who might want to pay tribute to some of the city's most famous residents. Michelangelo and Galileo are buried here, and you'll find breath-taking frescoes by Giotto and a design unlike any other church you will find within the Tuscan area. Take your time and enjoy the interior, but don't forget to head just outside for some more artifacts and famous works of art within the courtyard and near the Pazzi Chapel. Plenty of great restaurants are also in this area, so you should think about grabbing a quick lunch here after touring the beautiful structure.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: One of Florence's most famous churches, Santa Croce has a vibrant history and plenty to see.

Alexa's expert tip: Think about stopping here when you want a glass of wine in the afternoon.

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Historical Center

One of the most important buildings in Florentine history for years, the Palazzo Vecchio was the home and offices of the powerful Medici family. When you choose to tour this opulent palace, you're allowed a look back to times when intrigue was rampant and plans for murder were all a part of daily routine. Works by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci adorn the walls, and when you reach the top, you can almost imagine yourself as a member of this powerful family--the view of the city is a sight to behold. Tours are available, but even if you just decide to stroll through the halls yourself, you will still gain an interesting lesson in history and the Medici's family influence on Florence.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: The Palazzo Vecchio is a mind-boggling view into the inner workings of the Medici family and their politics.

Alexa's expert tip: Check out some of the student discounts available

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Airport - Flr

Placed right in front of the glorious Duomo, the baptistery harkens back to Florence's beginnings--it's rumored to have been the first religious building raised there. You'll find elaborate mosaic work on the ceiling, and the perfect symmetry of the architecture makes for incredible acoustics. Make sure to check out the floor work, as well. It's been well-preserved after hundreds of years. You'll also want to stop and admire the baptistery doors; they're a major part of Florence's art history. Buying a ticket to the Duomo and its museum also gives you access to the baptistery, so make sure you stop by after touring the larger building.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: Very little of Byzantine Florence survives, but this beautiful structure gives tourists an idea of what it would look like.

Alexa's expert tip: Look up from the center of the room to see the mosaics at their finest.

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Piazza della Signoria
Photo courtesy of Lorenzo Bettoni

Just outside the towering Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria offers a free glance into Renaissance Florence. Just by walking through the square, you are surrounded by a whole chapter of Florence's history book. Featuring works by Donatello (or reproductions) and the famous second David, Piazza della Signoria is not much different from the way it was in the past. Make sure you walk to the center of the square where a small plague signifies the burning of Savonarola--the priest who set the Renaissance world literally on fire. Think about having a café at one of the nearby restaurants. It's also easy to get to from any location in the city.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: Piazza della Signoria is a wonderful tribute to Florence in its heyday.

Alexa's expert tip: Grab a gelato here since they have some great options and it's the perfect place to sit and gae.

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What trip to Florence would be complete without a tour of the incredible Duomo? A feat of architecture, the genius is in the design. Whether you choose to walk inside the main sanctuary or to get some exercise and climb the actual dome itself, the Duomo has some of the best historical eye candy in the city. Take your time staring at the gorgeous frescoes, or even better, think about going to mass where you can enjoy the full experience. Buying a ticket also gives you access to a museum where you can learn about how the structure was built and a ticket to visit the nearby baptistery.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: Florence's most famous church is a testament to the beauty of the city.

Alexa's expert tip: Check out which times are busiest--evenings and mornings are usually quieter.

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Meet Alexa Schnee

Currently residing in Florence, Alex is a travel writer and author. She is addicted to coffee, reading, and seeing new places. She has been to near fifteen different countries in Europe, all...  More About Alexa