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Florence holidays: Escape to the heart of Tuscany

Widely considered to be one of Italy's most beautiful cities, Florence is also the capital of the Tuscany region - a region that's renowned for its scenery and hilltop villages. This city deserves all the fanfare it gets, and this is especially true of its status as an art lover's dream destination.

Once considered to be at the heart of the Renaissance period, you'll encounter the greatest artworks by Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli and more in Florence's numerous museums and galleries. Once outside, you'll be able to explore Florence's perfectly preserved historical centre, which is home to domed landmarks, countless churches and unique bridges.

No matter which type of trip you're after - whether you're visiting as a couple or on a family holiday - Florence provides the ultimate setting for a memorable holiday.

Florence holiday tips

If Florence is on your radar for your next holiday but you're not quite sure when to visit, we've got these details (and much more) below. We've rounded up everything you need to know before visiting the Tuscan capital, from what it's like in each season to the best way to get around.

When is the best time to visit Florence?

Not quite sure which season would be the best for your Florence city break? Here's what you can expect in Florence throughout the year.

🌸 Spring: With warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours, this is one of the best times to be in Florence. It's technically part of the city's shoulder season; not only will you have better prices, but the city's green spaces will look gorgeous.

☀️ Summer: Florence's summer months are filled with events and festivals. Prices are at their highest and the attractions are busy. Keep in mind that it'll be very hot.

🍁 Autumn: Even though the weather is cooler, it's still pleasant, with September and October being popular months to visit Florence. Plus, the Tuscan region is busy with olive and grape harvests, allowing you to see a different side of Italy.

❄️ Winter: Snow is rare in Florence and, despite the cold, holidaymakers flock to the city for its Christmas markets, New Year's Eve and other festivities.

Florence at a glance

Flight duration (from London): 2 hours

Main airport: Aeroporto di Firenze-Peretola

Population: Almost 400,000

Languages: Italian

Currency: Euro (€)

Socket type: Type C and F (adapter required)

Time zone: Central European Time (CET); 1 hour ahead of the UK

Getting to Florence

With a flight time of just over two hours, Florence is a top destination for UK holidaymakers. London airports are currently the only ones that fly direct to Florence, with indirect flights available from Edinburgh, Birmingham, Belfast, Southampton and Manchester. British Airways, Iberia and Vueling are some of the airlines serving this route.

Getting around Florence

Unlike larger cities found elsewhere in Italy, including Rome and Milan, Florence is small and easily navigated on foot. Most of the city's attractions are clustered within walking distance of each other in the historic centre. To give you an idea: a walk from Ponte Vecchio to Florence Cathedral (with its famous dome) takes less than 10 minutes. And to get from one side of the historical centre to the other only takes 20 minutes. If you'd like to explore further, you'll be happy to hear that there are buses and taxis available; for something a little different, hire a bike instead.

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Where should you stay in Florence?

While Florence may not be the largest Italian city, it certainly packs in a whole lot of attractions and accommodation options. At first, it may feel like staying in the historic centre is the only real option, but the city is filled with many charming areas beyond the Centro Storico.

On a solo trip to Florence? Or are you visiting as part of a group getaway? Discover the best areas to stay in Florence below.

Best areas to stay in Florence

For first-time visitors, you can't really get better than staying within the heart of Florence: Centro Storico. This means that you won't have to venture too far to get to the city's biggest attractions, but you will have to contend with the fact that it gets busy, especially in peak tourist season (which is almost all year round!).

You may want to consider staying near the Duomo, Piazza della Signoria or Ponte Vecchio. These are popular spots due to their proximity to other attractions, as well as restaurants, clothing boutiques and other shops. If this sounds like a good fit, try to book well in advance.

The Santa Maria Novella area is another good choice, especially for those on a budget. You'll be close to the train station (a must for day trips) and, if you base yourself near Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, you'll be very close to Mercato Centrale.

Staying central is also a good idea for those travelling with kids. This means that minimal walking will be involved and, even when you're out and about sightseeing, you'll never be too far from your accommodation.

For something a little different, why not book a stay in the Oltrarno area? Just south of the Arno river, this neighbourhood is becoming increasingly popular thanks to its antique shops, trendy eateries and artisan offerings. This area is perfect for romantic holidays or hanging out with friends. And, if you do only one thing in this area, make sure to take a seat and enjoy the view from the panoramic terrace of Piazzale Michelangelo.

If your stay is all about luxury, then head up into the hills surrounding Florence, where you'll find fancy hotels or - even better - you can hire out a whole Italian villa for you and your fellow holidaymakers. Buses and taxis are available here, so the historic centre and its multitude of attractions wouldn't feel out of reach if you decide to stay in the hills.

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Things to do in Florence

For such a small city, there is a staggering amount of things to do in Florence. Yes, the city may be especially known for its art galleries and cultural attractions, but there is a surprising variety on offer, catering to different tastes and interests.

Here are some of our personal favourite things to do in Florence.

Top things to do in Florence

  1. Climb the 400+ steps to the top of the Duomo (it's so worth it!)

  2. Marvel at world-famous artworks at the Uffizi

  3. Visit Galleria dell'Accademia to see Michelangelo's David sculpture up close

  4. Arrive hungry at Mercato Centrale

  5. Try Gelateria La Carraia or Gelateria dei Neri for divine gelato

  6. Take a pasta-making class

  7. Admire Ponte Vecchio, Florence's most beautiful bridge

  8. Pay a visit to Palazzo Vecchio to see opulence at its finest

  9. Enjoy a peaceful stroll through Giardino Bardini

Food and drink in Florence

Around Piazza della Repubblica you will find a selection of cafes, restaurants and gelato shops. For those who prefer something more authentic, take a walk across the Santa Trinita Bridge to the other side of the river. The Oltrarno district is home to traditional osterias and trattorias, especially along Via dello Sprone.

🏴‍☠️ Pirate tip: The aperitivo is an Italian institution; this simply refers to the cocktail, glass of wine or beer you start with at around 6pm. Many bars in Florence will also offer some affordable appetisers to accompany your drink of choice. If you're looking for a wider variety of appetisers, check out Moyo near Ponte Vecchio.

Best day trips from Florence

For most holidaymakers, Pisa is the first day trip that springs to mind. With a short train journey of under an hour, it really is a no-brainer. By all means, head straight to the Leaning Tower of Pisa for your photo opportunity, but linger to see other attractions like the Baptisterium and Cattedrale di Pisa.

Other options include the extensive beaches at Viarregio, which are only an hour and a half away by train or car. Or pay a visit to the medieval town of Siena, which is also an hour and a half away by train.

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