2013/09/04

visit florence in one day | what to see, what to do and where to eat

Florence © Birgitte Brøndsted

I often receive mails from readers asking me all kinds of advice for a stay in Florence, Rome or Copenhagen. One of the questions I get is what to see or do, if you only have a limited amount of time in one of the cities.

Since Florence is the perfect city to visit for one day or maybe a weekend, I thought I wanted to put together a post (maybe two) telling you what I would choose to do with a precious and limited amount of time in Florence. 

My choices are not traditional choices, and I know some people may want to go with the classical way of visiting Florence, including museums etc. One tends to hurry when visiting a city in a short time in order to do it all in less time. I suggest you do the contrary: Accept that you can't possibly do it all, take it easy and enjoy to the fullest the things that you CAN do.

Florence © Birgitte Brøndsted

The good thing about visiting Florence in just one day is that you save money for accommodation. Another good thing is that Florence is such small a city, so you can easily see the most important parts of it in one day. 

If you visit Florence for one day I suggest arriving by train. The train station is right in the middle of the city, so once you get off you can walk around for the rest of the day without having to worry about bus lines and bus tickets. Remember comfortable shoes, as you will be walking a lot!

Note that my suggestions below do not take location into consideration. I strongly suggest that you have a look before going on where the different neighborhoods, shops, restaurants and parks are located in order to plan your day well. When you only have one day in a city, you don't want to waste too much time on getting from one part of town to another.

I assume you arrive early in the morning, and maybe after the train ride you need some (extra) breakfast. You can of course choose to do this at the train station Santa Maria Novella, but if you can manage to wait 10-15 minutes, I suggest you walk down to the middle of everything, to Piazza della Repubblica, where one of the historic and very old cafes of Florence is located: Gilli. If you don't care about spending a little extra, take a table and watch the life in the piazza, while you enjoy your coffee and cornetto. Don't forget to try a brioche with pistachio. They are delicious!

Coffee © Birgitte Brøndsted

After breakfast you are ready to explore the city. You have probably already catched a glimpse of the Dome when arriving from the station. This is definitely a must see in Florence, so go back now and have a closer look.

Since this is Florence in one day I suggest you avoid anything with a line. It is such a waste of time standing in line and sometimes you may end up thinking it wasn't worth it. Today you should concentrate on seeing Florence from the outside!

I suggest you spend all morning exploring the street life and seeing the major sites from the outside; Ponte Vecchio, Gli Uffizi, Piazza della Signoria, Piazza Santa Croce, Piazza Santo Spirito, Piazza Santa Maria Novella.

If you are into some shopping pay a visit to Dixie for quite cheap, but really nice clothes, Cup of milk for cool and Scandinavian children's clothes, Boutique Nadine for a great mix of vintage and the coolest emerging designers.

Boutique Nadine Florence © Birgitte Brøndsted

Fabriano Boutique for paper ware, Otto d'ame for more cool clothes, Città del sole for quality toys for children, the department stores Coin and La Rinascente if you are looking for everything in the same place. (Don't forget to pay a visit to the roof top terrace at La Rinascente, but remember that ordering something here is quite expensive).

Florence © Birgitte Brøndsted

Go to Luisa Via Roma because it's super famous and you can find all the best designers here. You find all these places in this post about shopping in Florence.

You should also make sure to check out my list of markets in Florence to see if there is a market on the day you are in Florence. They are all really great and easy to visit. 

For lunch I would go with something local. Depending on the season and the weather, I would choose one of the following places for outdoor lunch: Osteria Santo Spirito in the beautiful Piazza Santo Spirito or Enoteca Fuori Porta in the really charming area San Niccolò. You find them all in this blog post I did about great restaurants in Florence.

For indoor lunch try Vivanda, which is an organic enoteca with great vegetarian and vegan but also meat dishes. Another organic and very vegetarian place is the little 5 e Cinque in the charming Piazza della Passera also near the Santo Spirito area, and if you want modern Tuscan cuisine in beautiful surroundings you must go to Il Santo Bevitore.

5 e Cinque Florence © Birgitte Brøndsted

After lunch you still have all afternoon available. You will probably need some more time to visit shops and some of the above mentioned areas, but if you feel like you have already seen what you want to see, here are some suggestions for great ways to spend your afternoon after lunch:

Visit the Boboli Gardens. Although I said you shouldn't spend time on entering buildings etc. in Florence, I think it's very much worth it to go for a walk in Giardino di Boboli, which is an enormous and very beautiful park. From the park you can enter the Forte di Belvedere, which just recently reopened, and here you get a lovely view over Florence and the Tuscan landscapes.

Giardino di Boboli Florence © Birgitte Brøndsted

Another possibility of seeing Florence from above is to walk to the charming San Niccolò area, walk towards the rose garden and continue up to Piazzale Michelangelo. This is where you get the best view over the city.

Florence © Birgitte Brøndsted

You will want to have an ice cream in the afternoon, because Florence is one of the absolute best cities in Italy, when it comes to gelato. So many great ice cream places to choose from. This is my Top 3 list:

1) Gelateria dei Neri
2) Badiani
3) Perché no

You find them all on my general list of ice cream places in Florence.

Mordilatte Florence © Birgitte Brøndsted

I am sure you will need a coffee break or two during the afternoon. If you happen to be around Piazza Santo Spirito when the need for coffee arrives I suggest you try one of the cafes in the piazza. They are great because you can sit outside and look at life, but they are not so touristic as the ones in the big squares in the center.

Gucci actually has its own museum in Florence where you also find a lovely museum cafe. I haven't been to the museum, but I can very much recommend the Gucci museum cafe.

Gucci cafe Florence © Birgitte Brøndsted

I mentioned Piazza della Passera for lunch, but this is also a great place for a coffee break. Visit Caffé degli Artigiani for a cosy interior and outdoor serving in the little street.

I think that's it. If you stay for dinner, then all you have to do is pick a place from the list above, and if not: Have a safe trip back home where you came from and hope to see you soon again in Florence!

You can read my complete guide to Florence HERE.

8 comments:

  1. Wonderful bits of information! We leave for Italy in three weeks. We'll have about a day and a half in Florence before we take off for the countryside. This sounds like a wonderful leisurely way to spend the time. Lovely, thank you. And, as always, your photos are little dreams frozen in time. Delicious.

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    1. Thank you, I'm always glad when my blog posts are useful to people. Have a wonderful stay in Florence!

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  2. Great infos and especially great photos.. I was in Florence for Christmas and tried to tell on my new blog. www.mornings-evenings.com

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  3. I loved Florence when I visited over Easter. I had the best ever latte at Gilli and it's the perfect place to people watch!

    Kam @ A Married Couple And Their Travels

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    1. Thank you for commenting, Kam! I adore Gilli too. I always have my cappuccino here when I go to the center.

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  4. Many thanks for the helpful info, Birgitte. I have been to Florence many times and will be there again in 10 days time. Always good to have a local perspective on what to see and do. I believe too many people spend too much time queueing for major attractions and forget to stop and smell the roses.

    MargaretB; Melbourne, Australia

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    1. Yes, I agree with you. I believe you should only visit a tourist attraction if you would have visited it even if it wasn't a famous place. So many people run around to see things they feel they have to see without having a minimum of interest in it.

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