Florence is a fascinating city. Ruled for centuries by one all-powerful family, this once independent city-state is regarded as the birthplace of the Renaissance. This influential period for the city led to it becoming a hub for artists, creatives, and thinkers of the day.
What remains of this opulent cultural and historical center for Italy, and for the world, can be seen in the city’s plethora of museums and art galleries. Ranging from the iconic to the lesser trodden, these museums showcase art, science, and religion on a backdrop of luxurious palaces and architectural gems.
If you can’t decide which museum to visit during your trip to Florence, I understand. There are so many that it’s hard to prioritize which one to see. Since I have been to the city more times than I can remember, I thought I’d select the best museums in Florence so you can make up your mind.
The Best Museums In Florence
Galleria degli Uffizi
A list of the best museums in Florence can only but start with the Uffizi Gallery.
This iconic art museum can be found on the Piazza della Signoria in the very heart of Florence. It’s not just one of the most important museums in the city, but in the whole of Italy, being home to a rich collection of masterpieces. It’s particularly renowned for its collection of Italian Renaissance art.
It all began when the powerful Medici family lost their hold on Florence. The art collection that the wealthy family had accrued over the years passed onto the ownership of Florence. It (privately) opened its doors in 1581 but it wouldn’t be until 1765 that the general public would be able to visit.
On the backdrop of this opulent palazzo you’ll find works by Italian greats including Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Raphael, Cimabue, and Michelangelo. Most of the collection spans the 12th to the 17th centuries, making it a must visit among the roster of Florence’s museums.
You can get your Uffizi tickets on GetYourGuide here.
To get your Uffizi tickets on Tiqets click here.
Head over to my post How to Get Tickets To The Uffizi Gallery.
Also known by its English name, the Gallery of the Academy of Florence, this storied art museum is another hotspot for Renaissance wonders. Founded in 1784 by Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany (also the Holy Roman Emperor), Galleria dell’Accademia displays an enormous collection of works by Florentine artists. This collection reflects a period of sparkling creativity from the 14th to the 17th centuries.
More compact than Galleria degli Uffizi, the Galleria dell’Accademia is also more specialized in its selection of art. For example, the crowning glory of this museum — the one that draws crowds in from across the globe — is Michelangelo’s iconic David. The museum also hosts several other paintings by the Renaissance master.
Get your Accademia Gallery tickets on GetYourGuide here.
Get your tickets on Tiqets here. For last minute tickets, click here.
Check out my post How to Get Galleria Dell’Accademia Tickets.
This museum is named after Stefano Bardini, an art dealer who lived from 1836 to 1922, amassing this collection throughout his life. The aficionado of Italian art spent his days collecting paintings and sculptures, having them restored and also trading in art from the Renaissance to pieces from antiquity.
Bardini left much of his collection to the city of Florence, which led to the opening of the Bardini Museum in 1923. The building itself, a Baroque palace, was renovated under the collector himself before being donated to the city after his death. The collection comprises an interesting array of not just paintings and sculptures, but also tapestries and ceramics as well as Roman sarcophagi. You’ll also find pieces that Bardini salvaged from ruined churches and old buildings in Florence, too.
To get your tickets to Bardini Museum, click here.
Bargello National Museum
Known simply as “Bargello” — meaning barracks or fort in Italian — this museum features a collection of works from prominent artists through the centuries. The name of the museum is taken from the fact that the building itself is a bargello, complete with turrets and crenellations, which was built in 1255. It was initially constructed to house the captain of the people, a sort of medieval civil leader, and because of this, it is considered the oldest public building in Florence.
Over the years the Bargello itself has also been a prison, among other things, before being transformed into a museum in 1865. While visiting simply to see the storied medieval building itself, the collection is equally worth your time and is one of the more underrated museums in Florence. As well as Michelangelo statuary, including Bacchus and Apollo, there are also many ceramics, tapestries, coins, and armor to admire.
For tickets to Bargello Museum, click here.
Opera del Duomo
Founded in 1891, this museum, whose name literally means “Works of the Cathedral”, is one of the most important and best museums in Florence. Located close to Florence’s iconic cathedral itself, the museum houses a collection of pieces that have been removed from the cathedral over the centuries and is a place to conserve these majestic monuments.
Construction of the cathedral itself started in 1296, so there have been a host of artworks and sculptures created for this hallowed space over the years — many of which have found their way to this museum.
Across its 25 rooms, the Opera del Duomo boasts what is often cited as one of the most important museums for sculpture in the world. Among other things, here you’ll find Michelangelo’s Peter, Donatello’s Penitent Magdalene — an astounding wood carving — and The Gates of Paradise by Ghiberti, which were taken from the baptistry.
Visits to the Opera del Duomo Museum are included in the Giotto’s or in the Brunelleschi Pass. For more information, click here or here.
Don’t forget to read my post How To Get Florence Duomo Tickets.
Literally meaning “Old Palace”, this imposing building overlooks the Piazza della Signoria. It was built in 1299 and functioned as a governmental palace of the Republic of Florence, ruled for many years by the Medici family. And even though part of it is a museum (and indeed one of the best museums in Florence), the building still houses the office of the mayor of Florence and the city’s municipal council.
The Medici family left their mark on the Palazzo Vecchio in the form of opulent interiors and an impressive array of artwork. Of particular note is the Salone dei Cinquecento, which alongside a series of frescoes created by Giorgio Vasari, stands the Spirit of Victory by Michelangelo.
One of the most striking things about this fortified palace is its tower (Arnolfo Tower), which you can actually climb. Standing at 94 meters (308.4 feet) tall, there are 233 steps to tackle before you reach the top, but the view is certainly worth it.
For last minute tickets to Palazzo Vecchio, click here or here.
You can get your Palazzo Vecchio and Arnolfo Tower combined ticket on Tiqets here.
For more information, read my post How To Get Palazzo Vecchio Tickets.
This enormous palace (one of the largest in Florence) was originally built in 1457 for the Pitti family. It’s home to not only one but several museums across its floors, including the Treasury of the Grand Dukes, the Museum of Russian Icons, the Gallery of Modern Art and Imperial, and Royal Apartments.
A visit to this palace affords visitors a wealth of art and history — and that’s without speaking about the collections themselves. The interiors of the palace are incredibly ornate and built on a grand scale. But it’s not just impressive inside. Pitti Palace is also home to lush, landscaped gardens to explore, complete with views out across Florence. In short, you’ll need many hours, maybe even multiple visits, to truly appreciate what Pitti Palace has to offer.
To get your Pitti Palace tickets on GetYourGuide, click here.
To get your tickets on Tiqets, click here.
Make sure to also read my post How To Get Tickets To Pitti Palace.
Known in English as the Palatine Gallery, this Florentine museum is one of many that make up the museums situated in the vast Pitti Palace. This gallery, along with the Royal and Imperial Apartments take up the palace’s entire first floor. As the name suggests, this particular part of the palace has been home to a number of different powerful families over the centuries including the Medici, the Habsburg-Lorraine and the House of Savoy; it also hosted the King of Italy.
The gallery itself started life in the late 18th century, originally under the custodianship of the Habsburg-Lorraine family, who hung hundreds of masterpieces in the grand rooms and halls of this first floor. The Galleria Palatina is particularly notable for its large collection of artwork by Raphael — the largest concentration of his works anywhere in the world, in fact. There are also landmark pieces by Rubens, Caravaggio and Titian.
To get your tickets to Palazzo Pitti and the Palatine Gallery, click here.
Ospedale degli Innocenti
Translating to “Hospital of the Innocents”, this architecturally beautiful structure was created by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1419 for the Arte della Seta, the silk guild of Florence, which was one of the wealthiest guilds in the city. Because of their wealth, the Arte della Seta often took on philanthropic projects, which included this hospital. The role of the hospital was to care for children in Florence who had been abandoned or otherwise orphaned.
While the former function of the building is notable, the structure itself is notable for its early Renaissance design, particularly the nine-bay loggia. No longer a hospital, the Ospedale degli Innocenti now plays host to several Renaissance artworks, including pieces by Botticelli, Cosimo and Ghirlandaio, and deserves to be mentioned among the best museums in Florence.
Also read my post 20 Best Florence Hidden Gems.
National Archaeological Museum of Florence
Florence has a long history spanning millennia — not just centuries — including Etruscans – ancient Greeks, and the Romans – so it’s only natural that the city would be home to its own archaeological museum. Here, you’ll find a collection of artifacts that feels worlds away from the fine art of the Renaissance, offering up a more concrete understanding of the actual history of the city.
Called the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Firenze in Italian, the museum first opened its doors back in 1870. From that point, the collection has grown from Etruscan and Roman finds to encompass Greek and Egyptian objects. Like many museums in Italy, this one began life based on the collection of several powerful families including the Medici and Lorraine.
Among the Etruscan artifacts visitors can see the famous Chimera of Arezzo, a bronze statue depicting the mythological chimera — a beast that resembles a lion except with a goat’s head on its back and a snake for a tail. Though uncovered in 1533, it dates back to 400 BC — just one example of this incredible collection.
You can get your tickets to the National Archeological Museum here.
As the name suggests, this museum is housed in the building that Michelangelo once lived in, which is also called Casa Buonarroti. The great artist himself lived here between 1516 and 1525, a period of time when he was working on the facade of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence. Upon his death, the house passed to Michelangelo’s nephew, and later, it was converted into a museum to celebrate the memory of the artist and display his collection.
Today, the house is where visitors come from around the world to see where the sculptor himself lived and worked. Spread out across two floors, the collection includes fascinating drawings and sketches by the artist, and also includes an extensive library. The building has been largely unchanged architecturally since Michelangelo’s nephew inherited it, which also provides an interesting insight into how people lived during the Renaissance.
While Michelangelo’s house remains intact, the Dante House sadly is not the house in which Dante lived. This instead is a building that occupies the site where Dante Alighieri was born in 1265 — but this doesn’t make the museum any less interesting (it’s actually one of the best museums in Florence for Dante’s readers).
The building itself was commissioned by the city of Florence to celebrate the poet himself and mark his birthplace for literary pilgrims and curious visitors. The museum is spread across three floors, the first of which displays documents about life in 13th-century Florence and details of Dante’s youth.
There’s also the second floor, which exhibits items that tell the tale of Dante’s exile in 1301. The third floor is a collection of media and documents related to Dante over the centuries, spanning his life to the modern day.
If you’re interested in battles of long ago, or even fantasy novels and games, then the Stibbert Museum should be on your itinerary. The museum is situated in Villa di Montughi, which was built (initially as a house) by Frederick Stibbert — an English businessman and serial collector of historical artifacts in the 19th century. His particular passion was weaponry through the ages, so you can expect to find here a whole range of swords, armor, and other antique arms numbering 36,000 items in total.
It’s not just Italian, however. There are several different pieces from around the world, including Japanese swords and samurai armor, Islamic weaponry, and arms and armor made for European knights of the 14th to 16th centuries. Overall, it’s a surprisingly sprawling and fascinating space where you can see items that you’d often never see in one place together. Plus, it’s a quieter museum than other big-hitter cultural spaces in Florence.
To get your tickets to Stibbert Museum, click here.
Officially titled the Institute and Museum of the History of Science, this museum is dedicated to the scientist and astronomer Galilei Galileo. The setting is appropriately palatial, being situated inside an 11th-century palazzo, but even it doesn’t overshadow the fascinating collection of scientific instruments of the Renaissance. Amassed by the Medici family, like many collections in Florence, and added to by the Lorraine family, the museum’s collection showcases the history of discovery and science in Florence and across Italy.
Exhibits include a telescope lens through which Galileo discovered the moons of Jupiter, a huge collection of globes and other navigation technology, and barometers. There’s even something more macabre — Galileo’s preserved fingers and teeth. Either way, this is one of the best museums in Florence for those interested in space exploration and science, or the age of discovery more specifically.
To get Galileo Museum tickets, click here.
Museo Salvatore Ferragamo
The Museo Salvatore Ferragamo is a must-visit for shoe lovers and fashionistas who find themselves in Florence. Located in Palazzo Spini Feroni, the museum was founded in 1995 to celebrate the work of Salvatore Ferragamo himself, as well as his eponymous fashion label. Here, you’ll find creations by the designer spanning the 20th century from the 1920s all the way to Ferragamo’s death in the 1960s.
The museum contains 10,000 shoes, all beautifully laid out in stylish surroundings in order to properly showcase the beauty of the footwear and their fabrics. Of course, it’s not just shoes. There are clothing accessories to marvel at, eye-catching old advertisements to admire and films depicting the development process.
For Salvatore Ferragamo Museum tickets, click here.