Although Florence definitely deserves a few days, it is entirely possible to get a good feel of the city and see some major landmarks in just a one-day stay in Florence.
Florence is the very birthplace of the Renaissance, once the home base of many of the world’s greatest painters, sculptors, architects, writers, philosophers and scientists. The list of examples is overwhelmingly long, but the most well-known Florentines include Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Donatello, Machiavelli, Dante and Brunelleschi. Works of those artists can be seen as well as visited all over Florence—for instance, the city is home to the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery, both among the best museums on planet Earth.
Unfortunately, unless you get up very, very early and skip other attractions, there won’t be enough time to explore those museums. The Uffizi Gallery alone deserves four hours or more, and seeing the world-famous statue of David in the Accademia Gallery will surely take up a couple of hours too—it’s popular!
Luckily, Florence is dotted with many other historic sites and stunning buildings. Based on my own day in Florence, I would like to suggest the following attractions, all of which can easily be done in one day in Florence.
One Day in Florence
The cathedral itself is entirely free to visit. If you’re a woman, make sure to cover your legs and shoulders, though, or they won’t let you in. Combined tickets to the bell tower, dome and baptistery cost no more than 10 euros and are a bargain for what you get. The baptistery is nothing less than spectacular and both the bell tower and dome offers spectacular 360-degree views.
Piazza della Signoria
The Piazza della Signoria dates from the 14th century and has always been the center of government in Florence. To this day, the mayor’s office is situated in the Palazzo Vecchio, easily one of the most striking buildings in the whole city. Because time is limited, don’t go inside, but spend some time wandering around the square, admiring the exact replica of the statue of David and the sculptures in the Loggia dei Lanzi.
Santa Croce Basilica
With its impressive façade, the Santa Croce Basilica is a sight to behold on the Piazza di Santa Croce. The church’s main treasures, however, lie inside. This is the place where several of Florence’s prominent historical figures are buried—people such as Galileo Galilei, Michelangelo and Dante have their final resting place in this basilica.
One of Florence’s most famous landmarks, the Ponte Vecchio is a bridge lined with buildings that now house gold, silver and jewelry shops. Although there’s not much to do on the bridge itself—the best views are from the other bridges that cross the Arno River—crossing it is without question a must-do when spending one day in Florence.
Crossing the Ponte Vecchio brings you to the part of the city south of the river. A short walk from the bridge, alongside the river and up a hill, lie the Bardini Gardens and the at-first-sight-unassuming Piazzale Michelangelo. The piazzale is nothing more than a parking lot dotted with stalls and street vendors. But the square’s main attraction—seriously one that makes visiting the square worthwhile—is the absolutely fabulous panoramic view. There is no better place in Florence to finish off the day, enjoying a sunset and a view of one of the world’s truly great cities.