Florence is for people who love walking, food and art, and it’s also for people who hate walking, but would do so for the love of food and art. (The latter is me, of course.) It’s also for kuripot (in English: practical) people like me who would pounce at any chance to get around the city without burning a hole through her wallet.
Here’s the thing: You’re still going to have to spend to enter museums and palaces. Entrance fees alone can amount to 50 Euros or so, depending on where and when you go. But instead of spending 50 to 70 Euros on tours, just for the sake of a guide around the city and explanations, why not spend less than 8 Euros on a travel guide with similar explanations and a map that you can use for your Florentine adventure, and spend the rest of your money on pizza, gelato and leather goods (whose prices you can still bargain with! Most shop owners in Florence are kind). By doing this, you also get to explore at your own pace, and not worry about getting left behind by the group or not hearing about the descriptions. It’s great for people who need more time to appreciate the sights, or more than 5 minutes to get the perfect shot for Instagram!
Also, for those of you who will be lucky enough to spend the first Sunday of the Month in Florence, then you’re in for a treat since on that day, many state-run and city museums in Italy are open to everyone for FREE! Of course, that results in more people, as well, but longer lines are still better than fewer Euros in your wallet, yeah?
I only had 4-5 hours to go around the city, but I was able to soak up so many sights! So trust me: even without entering most of the museums and palaces, I was still able to get my fill of the art and history (and food!) that Florence is known for. To help future visitors of Florence make the most of their visit and spend the least possible amount of money while going around the city, here are 5 beautiful, must-see places in Florence, all within walking distance of each other!
Florence: 5 Places to Explore in 5 Hours
5. Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
It will cost you 5 Euros to enter, or 3.50 for people over 65 and children between 5-18.
Piazza Santa Maria Novella
A little back story: my friends and I initially planned on joining a free walking tour that apparently begins at the basilica around 11 AM, but we were late and couldn’t find the group haha. Anyways, this church is the first great basilica of Florence and has an understated beauty to it.
I’m glad that this place was near our apartment because it’s not one of Florence’s raved about destinations (in my opinion), but it really is beautiful! The church is a classic Gothic-Renaissance structure and from what I read about it, the inside houses many art pieces. From what I read, the front doesn’t do justice to how vast and beautiful the inside is. We didn’t go in but we did pray in one of its chapels. Since we knew that the Piazza del Duomo was a short walk from where we were, we chose that place as our next stop.
4. Piazza del Duomo
It costs 10 Euros to enter, but that already includes all 5 monuments in the plaza and you get to see a remarkable view of Florence when you go up to the cupola and the top of Giotto’s Bell Tower.
Entrance to this Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is free! Go early in the morning or be prepared for long lines.
A tip for anyone visiting Il Duomo: walk slowly as you approach it. I realized that the Cathedral would be better viewed from a distance as opposed to standing right in front of it. That way you get to see everything without any disturbances from passersby or people trying to take pictures with their phones tilted in peculiar angles (for Instagram, of course).
The cathedral is also of Gothic-Renaissance architecture. The details on the church are exquisite and of course, with equal commanding presence as the cathedral was Giotto’s Bell Tower beside the facade and right behind it, the dome. We didn’t go in because of the long line, but I am so looking forward to seeing the Gothic interiors of the cathedral and the dome’s famed fresco made by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari.This stop would be a treat to Dan Brown fans since this was one of the many settings in his latest novel, Inferno. I was unable to take a lot of photos here because, aside from the numerous tourists photobombing us, many areas of the place were being reconstructed.
3. Piazza della Signoria
To enter the museum and tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, it will cost 14 Euros. If you’re claustrophobic, afraid of heights or asthmatic, though, just purchase the museum ticket! It only costs 10 Euros. There is a separate 8 Euro entrance fee for the Uffizi gallery.
My friend and I really wanted to see David (hehe). So, while walking through one of Florence’s many inside streets, we asked a store owner, who spoke very little English, for its whereabouts. She pointed us to a place on the map and after several minutes, we reached Piazza della Signoria.
From the side, the plaza’s vast space looks roomy, but if you walk around more, you’ll find that the roomy areas of the plaza make up for the congested front of the Palazzo Vecchio, Loggia dei Lanzi and Uffizi gallery. We were greeted by the spectacular Fountain of Neptune, but the great sculpture us only the tip of the iceberg since the plaza houses more great artworks.
Read on for more photos and sights!