How To Make The Most Of One Day In Florence

Do you only have one day in Florence? Well, this is not ideal: Florence is packed with fabulous attractions and things to do and you would ideally need at least three full days to visit the main site. Yet, if you only have a day to spare as a day trip from another city, and don’t want to miss the chance to go, you definitely should. You surely can’t see all of it, but I will give you all the guidance you need to make the most of Florence in one day.

Make sure to read my posts The Best Day Trips From Rome and The Best Day Trips From Milan.

There are many world-class cities to visit in Italy, but the capital of Tuscany is certainly one of the most popular among tourists. Often referred to as the birthplace of the Renaissance and most widely known for being the art capital of the world with numerous works on display in the city’s many art galleries, this is a city that will keep you entertained for days on end. As you explore this beautiful, historic city, you’ll also find stunning architecture and many museums, monuments, scenic viewpoints, traditional restaurants, and piazzas.

The city center, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an amazing place to explore. And that’s where you should start your exploration if you only have one day in Florence. If one day in Florence is all you have, you will need to plan everything carefully – start as early as possible; book all attractions in advance; know where to eat and even what to wear.

This guide is meant to help you get the most out Florence in a day, so you see all the top attractions and get a good feel for the city – until you go again!

Make sure to also read my posts How Many Days In Florence Are Enough?, The Perfect 3 Days In Florence Itinerary and The Best Things To Do In Florence, Italy.

things to do in Florence one day in Florence

Top Attractions To Visit If You Have One Day In Florence

If you have one day in Florence but don’t have an itinerary planned, you may find yourself running in circles all over the city looking for things. The below itinerary is meant to help you optimize your day and see as much as possible without wasting time searching for things and getting lost. I’ve used the Santa Maria Novella Station as your starting point as there’s a high chance this will be your arrival point. The following attractions are best seen in this order from this starting point.

You can view the itinerary on Google Maps here.

Basilica di Santa Maria Novella

From the Santa Maria Novella Station, the best place to head to for your first taste of Florence is the Basilica di Santa Novella and luckily, it only takes a few minutes on foot to get there! There’s no doubt that this is one of the most stunning buildings in the whole city, but it’s also one of the most important buildings, too.

The basilica was completed in the mid-1300s and has amazing features both inside and out. The striking exterior is constructed of green and white marble and the interior is full of lavish Gothic detailing, stained-glass windows completed as far back as the 1300s, and incredible works of art by renowned artists of the Renaissance period.

From April to September, the Basilica opens at 9:00 am except for Friday when it opens at 11:00 am and Sunday when it opens at 1:00 pm. It closes at 5:30 pm every day between these months and at 5:00 pm the rest of the year. Here you can find more up-to-date information about the opening hours. There’s a fee to enter. For Santa Maria Novella tickets with audioguide, click here.

Head over to my posts A Guide To The Basilica Di Santa Maria Novella and The Best Churches In Florence.

things to do in Florence

Accademia Gallery

It only takes a little over ten minutes of walking to reach the next attraction on this one day in Florence itinerary, which is the iconic Accademia Gallery. Inside this world-renowned museum are some of the world’s most famous Renaissance sculptures, including Michelangelo’s David and many other artworks by some of the most well-known Florentine artists of that time. The Musical Instrument Museum is also located on site and is home to instruments and related musical artifacts from various eras.

Opening hours are 8:15 am to 6:50 pm Tuesday to Sunday. You need to reserve your visit well in advance. It’s possible to take a guided tour of this museum, but if you wish to participate in this tour, you’ll need to start your day at the gallery and backtrack to Santa Maria Novella afterward because the tour is at 9:00 am.

For skip-the-line tickets to the Accademia Gallery, click here or here.

Admission is also included in the Florence Pass which you can get here.

For a guided tour of the Accademia Gallery, click here.

For a walking tour of Florence that also goes to the Accademia, click here. For a tour that goes to the Accademia and Uffizi Gallery click here.

Make sure to also read my posts How To Get Tickets To The Galleria Dell’Accademia and The Best Museums In Florence.

Piazza del Duomo – Cathedral and Battistero

About a five-minute walk from Accademia Gallery, you’ll find the Piazza del Duomo where four of the city’s most famous monuments can be found – Florence Cathedral, Brunelleschi Dome, St. John’s Baptistery and Giotto’s Bell Tower. If you have just one day in Florence, you won’t have time to visit them all – you’ll have to pick and chose. I recommend checking out the Cathedral and the Baptistery.

Although both are free to explore on your own, you can purchase a skip-the-line ticket that combines a guided tour. The one we did also included the Brunelleschi Dome (more about it below) and the terraces of the church, from where we enjoyed a great view of the city, as well as the Accademia. You can book it here.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore took a long time to complete. It was started in 1296 but wasn’t finished until 1436. One of the most striking features of the cathedral is its dome which is the biggest brick dome ever built.

Should you also want to walk up the Dome, you will have to either join a guided tour like the one we did, get a Brunelleschi Pass which is currently on sale for €30 and allows access to various affiliated attractions, or get a ticket. You can do that here.

Opening times of Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral vary seasonally so you are better off checking on the official website here.

Check out my posts How To Get Florence Duomo Tickets and How To Visit Giotto’s Bell Tower.

Attached to the cathedral is the Battistero di San Giovanni. This is one of the oldest buildings in the city dating back to the 11th century. Notable features inside this building include a beautiful mosaic ceiling and the monumental tomb of Antipope John XXIII.

Open from 9:00 am to 7:45 pm daily (though you’ll have to double check the official website of the Duomo di Firenze here for accurate information as the schedule may change), admission to the Baptistery is included in the Brunelleschi Pass and in the Giotto Pass, which you can get here.

Admission is also included in the Florence Pass which you can get here.

Piazza della Signoria

Next up is the Piazza della Signoria which is the most important square in the city. This is where you’ll see incredible buildings surrounding a large open space that has been serving as the center of both politics and everyday life since the 1300s. The square is a lively mix of old-world charm with ancient statues and traditional eateries.

Locals and visitors alike come here to enjoy the social atmosphere which is at its peak after the sun goes down. Although you’ll likely be exploring the square during the day, there are still some fascinating things to check out including the 14th-century Loggia dei Lanzi open-air gallery that features a collection of beautiful Renaissance artworks. Make sure to also spot the beautiful Neptune’s Fountain.

Uffizi Gallery

Get ready for some more incredible Renaissance art at the Uffizi Gallery which is only a one-minute walk away from Piazza della Signoria. The collection housed inside this venue was donated by the Medici family in 1743 and also features a variety of artworks from different periods and cultures. Featured in the vast Renaissance collection are famed artists that you’ll likely recognize such as Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Botticelli.

The Uffizi Gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:15 am to 6:30 pm; it is closed on Mondays. In order to visit, you have to book a time slot well in advance. The best time to visit is in the afternoon (better after 4:00 pm) – when we visited we realized that most visitors leave the gallery at 5:30 pm or so, and then, right before closing time, you’ll have the gallery to yourself!

For tickets to the Uffizi Gallery click here or here.

For an Uffizi Gallery tour click here or here.

Admission is also included in the Florence Pass which you can get here.

For further information, you can read my post How To Get Tickets To The Uffizi Gallery.

Ponte Vecchio a day in Florence

Ponte Vecchio

Upon leaving the Uffizi Gallery, you’ll need to walk along the banks of the River Arno for a short distance to reach your next destination, Ponte Vecchio. This iconic arched stone bridge has Roman origins and dates back to around 1345 making it the oldest in the city. The bridge is incredibly solid, having survived WWII bombing. Today, visitors come to admire its beauty and to check out the shops and jewelers that are situated along the bridge.

Piazzale Michelangelo

Florence is a stunning city from many angles, but one of the best places to get a spectacular view of the city is at Piazzale Michelangelo. From Ponte Vecchio, walk south along the banks of the Arno River and climb to the top of the hill where this incredible viewpoint is located. There’s no better way to end your tour of Florence in a day than with a stop here because it’s not only the best place to admire the city in all its glory, but it’s also the best place to witness an amazing sunset.

However, Piazzale Michelangelo is quite a distance from the historic center of Florence so you may want to get there by bus. Or, even better, another great way to experience this attraction is to take one of the e-bike tours that are available. There are several departures throughout the day including one at 6:00 pm so you can catch one of those epic sunsets. It’s what we did when we visited and we truly enjoyed it!

To book your electric bike tour of Florence that goes to Piazzale Michelangelo, click here.

sesto on arno

Planning Your One Day In Florence

How to get to Florence

Train travel is one of the best ways to get around Italy and many routes travel from various cities to Florence. Most of these high-speed trains start their route very early in the morning and run until late at night and if you’re looking for a great deal, it’s best to book your trip in advance rather than purchase the ticket on the spot.

Trenitalia is the main train operator in Italy and you can find routes, prices, and other information on the Trenitalia website or you can go to the Omio App here, where you can also purchase a mobile ticket for your journey.

If you’re arriving in Florence by airplane, the best way to get to the city center is to take the T2 shuttle tram that runs every five to ten minutes – it’s the most conveniently priced. You can also take the Volainbus which leaves the airport every 30 minutes which is also quite budget friendly.

Ponte Santa Trinità

Take a guided day trip to Florence

If exploring Florence on your own sounds daunting and you’d like to join a guided tour, there are plenty available! Whether you want an all-inclusive tour that departs from another Italian city or you want to simply join a tour once you arrive in the city independently, there are a variety to choose from several vendors.

These tours usually include a local guide, often lunch (I actually find that the lunch included in these guided tours is always a bit of a disappointment, so you may prefer not to have lunch included and pick where to eat), and transportation and cost anywhere from €120 depending on whether you’re joining a group tour or private tour and what attractions are included. The best part about joining a guided tour is that you get to just sit back and enjoy the sights while someone else does all the planning!

You can book your day trip to Florence from Rome here. For a day trip by high speed train, click here.

Want To See The Best Florence In One Day? Follow These Tips

Start early

There’s nothing worse than having to rush through a visit to a new city. You’ll want to take your time and absorb all the beauty around you and immerse in the culture. The best way to ensure you’ll be able to do this and see all the things you want to see in one day in Florence is to start early!

Catch the earliest train from wherever you’re traveling, book a flight that’ll get you to the city at the earliest hour possible, or set your smartphone clock to wake you up at the crack of dawn if you’ll be waking up in the city the morning of your tour.

You should also read my post How To Get From Bologna To Florence.

things to do in Florence Italy

Take a guided tour

Whether you follow this itinerary or join a guided tour is your choice, but if you’re pressed for time or just don’t like the idea of trying to find things on your own, a guided tour is a great way to see the city without having to worry about the details.

You can book your full day tour of Florence here.

Buy tickets to attractions in advance

If you’re exploring the city on your own and know what attractions you’ll be visiting, it’s best to book any tickets that are required in advance to avoid lineups that’ll only cut into your time. In this post I have pointed out all attractions that require pre-bookings.

things to do in Florence Italy

Dress for comfort

You’ll be doing a lot of walking while exploring Florence in a day, so the most important thing to wear is a comfortable pair of shoes! Be sure to dress for the season as it gets very hot in summer and chilly in winter. Be aware that you’ll need to dress modestly to gain admission to any church or religious site so make sure to take long pants or a long skirt and a top that doesn’t expose the shoulders.

Stay hydrated

It doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold or how much walking you’ll be doing, you can still get dehydrated! Make sure to drink lots of water throughout the day, especially in the summer when it gets very hot. Many shops sell bottled water but you can also refill your bottle at the fountains that are located in Piazza della Signoria. Don’t worry; the tap water in Florence is perfectly safe to drink!

Don’t forget lunch

There are many street food vendors around Florence so you can explore the city and indulge in local cuisine simultaneously. A popular street food to try during your visit is lampredotto which is a traditional Florentine favorite made with tripe from the stomach of a cow.

The Mercato di San Lorenzo is a great place to have lunch if you want many options in one place and a place to sit down and enjoy your meal. On the bottom floor, you’ll find some great options including Vinoteca Lombardo which features salads and charcuterie boards. The top floor is where you’ll find a food hall with even more options including a delicious pasta place and a wine bar.

Don’t forget to read my post A Guide To The Mercato Centrale.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

End your day in Florence with dinner

Florence is known the world over for its delicious cuisine and world-class restaurants, so naturally the best way to end your day in the city is with dinner at one of these fabulous eateries. May I suggest you try the bistecca alla Fiorentina? This generous tender steak dish is served at all the best restaurants in Florence including the popular Trattoria dall’Oste, which has several locations around town including one conveniently located close to Santa Maria Novella train station.

Further Readings

Are you looking for more helpful posts to plan your trip to Italy? Make sure to read these:

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