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How to See the Best of Florence in One Day

Just thinking about Florence makes me yearn to go back there. In Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, history and the art combine to make a beautiful city with a cozy vibe and an historic city center that is supremely easy to tour on foot. If you have the time, you can do Florence really well in about three or four days, but it’s also possible to see the best of Florence in one day if that’s all you have. If you want to know more about what to do in Florence in one day keep reading!

How to See the Best of Florence in One Day

When spending one day in Florence, if you can stay near the Duomo in the heart of the city, I highly recommend it. From there, no major site on your Florence one-day itinerary will be more than a 15- to 20-minute walk.

Galleria dell’Accademia

We’re going to start with the Accademia Gallery (at Via Ricasoli, 58) as soon as it opens in the morning so book your tickets well in advance. If even you’re not an art aficionado, you’re going to want to make this museum a priority on your one day in Florence, Italy. Michelangelo’s David is its most famous resident, and as impressive as he is in photos, they don’t really do justice to the incredible detail the artist was able to carve into the marble.

This is a small museum, so it’s easy to get in, experience the best it has to offer and then get out before the crowd is too large. And you’ll definitely want to take a few minutes to enjoy Michelangelo’s David and Prisoners with lower crowds if you can. Plan to spend about an hour here. I don’t think more is necessary at all.

After you leave the Accademia, head to San Marco for some amazing frescoes. It’s just a five-minute walk.

San Marco

The Dominican monastery of San Marco was home to monk/artist Fra Angelico. The cells he decorated with his work (while he was prior here in the mid-15th century) are preserved for you to see.

Italian fresco of an angel greeting Mary the Mother of Jesus

History buffs will also be interested to know that Savonarola—the monk famous for his pious reforms that led to bonfires of the vanities in Piazza della Signoria—also lived at this monastery (though his time there did no overlap with Fra Angelico, who died just a few years after Savonarola was born). Savonarola’s rooms are preserved for you to walk through and have some of his personal items on display.

Read More → Don’t Miss These Florence Hidden Gems

No need to buy tickets ahead of time for San Marco. Entrance is just 8 euros and it’s unlikely you’ll find a line to get in here. You will want to check ahead of time to make sure it is open, because it’s closed a few Sundays and Mondays each month.

Read More → Florence to Rome Day Trip

Lunch recommendation: Mercato Centrale

By now it’s probably getting to be close to lunch time. We’re going to walk about 10 or 12 minutes to Mercato Centrale. Mercato Centrale is a great place to eat in Florence. It occupies a large 19th century iron and glass building on Via dell’Ariento. You’ll find an incredible variety of food vendors and quick service prepared meals here.

If you’re not quite ready for lunch yet, you can purchase supplies for a picnic to eat later. Just keep in mind that Italy is starting to crack down on tourists eating (and leaving messes) at major historical sites, so be mindful of local regulations to avoid hefty fines…and be respectful of the residents of the town you’re fortunate to be able to visit.

Now we’re going to walk about 6 minutes to Piazza del Duomo.

The Duomo cathedral and dome is an important stop as you see Florence in one day.
If you only have one day in Florence, a visit to the Duomo is a must.

The Duomo

The red tile dome of the great Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) dominates the Florence skyline. It’s the cultural, historical and geographical heart of this great city.

Visitors can climb up into the dome of the cathedral, but you are required to have a reservation, so make sure you book this ahead of time. If you don’t relish the climb of 463 steps without an elevator, you might book a ticket for the Duomo terraces instead (only 150 stairs to climb).

Entrance to the cathedral itself is always free, so you cannot make a reservation to get in there. The line is usually rather lengthy, and while the interior of the Duomo is nice, it’s the exterior that is far more impressive.

If time is getting away from you (and you have a reservation go up into the dome), I’d prioritize the dome then stop in at the museum. I think it’s one of the most underrated sites in Florence. This museum preserves and protects the sculptures and artwork that were made for the Duomo and the other buildings including the famous baptistery doors designed by Ghiberti.

Gelato recommendation: Gelateria Edoardo

If you’re ready for some Florentine gelato, stop in at Edoardo. It will be to your left as you exit the museum. Edoardo is my favorite gelateria in Florence. Their flavors taste amazingly authentic and their sorbettos are some of the best I’ve ever tried.

From Piazza del Duomo it’s only a 5-minute walk to our next step, the Piazza della Signoria.

Piazza della Signoria

The Piazza della Signoria was once the center of Florentine politics and power. Here you will find the large Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) city hall, once the domain of the powerful Medici family. Entrance to the Palazzo courtyard is free, so take a few minutes to take a spin.

In this square you’ll also find a bronze plaque that marks the spot where Savonarola was burned at the stake after his brief rule over Florence collapsed in 1498.

At the end of the Piazza near the Palazzo Vecchio you’ll find the Uffizi courtyard, which is lined with statues of important historical figures from Tuscany including Galileo, Dante, Machiavelli and more.

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How to spend one day in Florence, Italy

The Uffizi Gallery

Here you’ll find one of the most important collections of Italian painting in the world. The Uffizi is home to two Leonardos, one of which is unfinished and was just recently displayed for public viewing after six years of restoration, and Michelangelo’s only known surviving easel painting. You also don’t want to miss Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera.

Definitely get your timed-entry tickets well ahead of time for this important museum. Seriously. I’d buy my tickets at least 30 days in advance if possible.

Plan on spending about two hours here to tour the museum well, but you can see the best the gallery has to offer in quite a bit less if you’re pressed for time or are just tired and can’t take any more sightseeing. You can also take a break at the Uffizi terrace café if you need it. It’s pricey, but sometimes the chance to take a breather on a long day of walking is totally worth it.

After you exit the Uffizi you’re just a few minutes’ walk from the Ponte Vecchio.

Ponte Vecchio

This is the last stop on our one-day tour of Florence. The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) was built in 1345, and it was the only bridge in Florence to survive the Nazi retreat through Italy in World War II. The bridge was once lined with butcher shops and tanneries, but now it’s home to watch and jewelry shops that cater mainly to tourists.

Dinner recommendation: Coquinarius

My favorite restaurant in Florence is Coquinarius at Via delle Oche, 11R. I’d recommend making a reservation if you want to eat here, otherwise you can probably get a table if you arrive very close to when it opens for dinner at 6:30 p.m. I recommend the gnocchi and the pear and cheese ravioli.

Gluten-free dinner recommendation: Ciro and Sons

The most extensive gluten-free menu I’ve seen in Florence is a Ciro and Sons at Via del Giglio, 28. My husband, who has celiac disease, has declared this his favorite restaurant in Florence. I recommend the eggplant parmesan here.

And that’s Florence in a day.

Florence is truly a wonderful city. I hope you have the chance to visit soon.

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Florence Duomo at dusk with text overlay

19 Comments

  1. What a great post! Bookmarking this for when I finally get to Florence. It looks so pretty and there’s so much to do!

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      Thank you so much! I hope you get to see Florence someday soon. It’s a beautiful city. And the gelato is amazing too!

  2. I have the luck to visit Florence several times and I love it. It is totally doable in one day and your post proves it! Thanks for the great guide!

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      Thanks so much, Andi!

  3. Florence looks gorgeous. I love it’s history and think it’s great you can do it in one day! We hope to travel Italy next year so excited to try some of your suggestions. Thanks for the information!

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      I’m so glad you found this post helpful! And I really hope you get to make it to Florence. It’s a wonderful city.

  4. I’d love to make it back to Italy one day to see Florence! It looks like such a pretty place. Thank you for the one day itinerary for Florence since we so often try to see places and keep moving with our limited time to see all the world has to offer (plus, I can’t stay in Italy for long with all the good food!).

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      Thanks so much for reading! Oh yes, the Italian food. Mmmmmm…..

  5. Wow! I didn’t even know you could do so much in Florence in just one day! Thank you! I might have to adjust my Italian roadtrip now!

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      Thanks for reading! You could easily spend more time there because it’s such an amazing city, but if you only have one day it’s fairly easy to hit the best of the best.

  6. The Duamo at sunrise is so incredibly magical! There is no one around and you can walk right up to it – the photos we got were so amazing!

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      Yes, the late day and early morning sun on the Duomo–just gorgeous!

  7. What a great post! I love Florence and reading it took me back! It is truly a wonderful city for the art, culture and of course the food. 🙂

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      Thank you so much! Writing this REALLY made me want to go back.

  8. I went to Florence earlier this year – the Duomo is fabulous isn’t it… those tiles!

    Great post.

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      Oh yes, I love the Duomo! Thanks for reading.

  9. Florence looks so pretty, I’d love to visit in the spring. There are some great tips in this post, thanks for sharing.

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      Thank you! Yes, Florence is great in spring. The weather is beautiful but the crowds are still manageable.

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