Ancient ruins draw history buffs to Rome, romantic gondola rides lure lovers to Venice, but it's art and architecture that attract culture-seeking travelers to travelers to Florence. Between the terra-cotta-tiled dome of the Duomo and the stunning marble sculptures by famed Florentine Michelangelo, it's no wonder the Tuscan capital is frequented by the scholarly inclined. However, even if you're not interested in the aforementioned attractions, there are a number of non-artistic reasons to jet-set to the metropolitan Italian city.
Whether your interest is piqued by dining at unassuming but local-frequented trattorias, enjoying aperitivo hour at a charming café at sunset, or spending the night in a restored 19th-century mansion notable aristocrats once called home, Florence is a destination that belongs on your—and every traveler's—bucket list. Convinced to book a trip to the heart of Tuscany? Consider your itinerary sorted. Keep scrolling for local-approved things to do in Florence, including where to stay, find the best gelato, and sip on Chianti.
Architectural buffs can stand in awe of landmarks like the Duomo and the San Miniato al Monte basilica while art lovers can seek out works by Renaissance masters the likes of Botticelli, Michelangelo, Titian, and Raphael.
Duomo: Although you can't miss the 13th-century church's dome designed by Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi when you examine the skyline, it's worth getting a closer look at the details of this architectural marvel. Notably, the church features Ghiberti's impressively detailed bronze doors, which Michelangelo famously referred to as the "gates of paradise."
San Miniato al Monte: Sitting atop a hill on the south side of the Arno, the river that runs through Florence, this less frequented cathedral is known for its geometric façade, but the glittering gold mosaic in the apse is not to be overlooked.
Boboli Gardens: Located in central Florence, the Boboli boasts a collection of sculptures dating from the 16th up to the 18th centuries on its lush grounds.
Uffizi Gallery: Highlights at this renowned Renaissance art museum include Botticelli's Birth of Venus and Primavera. The gallery also houses works by Renaissance titans such as Michelangelo, Titian, and Raphael.
Palazzo Pitti: To see even more Renaissance masterpieces, head to the Palazzo Pitti, an art museum housed in a palace originally designed for the Pitti family, a rival of the famed Medici family.
Gucci Museo: Dedicated to the famous Florentine fashion house, the Gucci Museum is a must-visit destination for the sartorially savvy.
Ponte Vecchio: Although it has the reputation of being a tourist hot spot, Ponte Vecchio belongs on every Italian traveler's itinerary. The medieval stone bridge was built in 1345 and spans the Arno at its narrowest point. Originally, the shops were occupied by butchers, but the current tenants are art dealers, jewelers, and souvenir sellers.
From a gorgeous former monastery complete with terraced gardens to a restored 19th-century mansion that was once home to notable aristocrats to a contemporary hotel with 360-degree views of the city, these are the accommodations to consider when planning a trip to Florence.
Belmond Villa San Michele: Just outside the city, Belmond Villa San Michele is a gorgeous former monastery on a hilltop, boasting a façade that historians have attributed to Michelangelo.
Gallery Hotel Art: If you're interested in accommodations that are a bit more modern, book a stay at the Gallery Hotel Art. Although its interiors are achingly hip, it's still located within walking distance of the Uffizi, perfect for when you want to take in Renaissance culture.
Villa Cora: The restored 19th-century mansion overlooks the Boboli Gardens and was once home to notable aristocrats including Napoleon III's widow, Eugénia, which is to say Villa Cora represents opulence at its finest.
Continentale: Located in the heart of the city, the contemporary Continentale offers 360-degree views of Florence from a rooftop bar.
Located in the heart of Tuscany, Florence's eateries serve up regional dishes brimming with local ingredients, notably ripe tomatoes, porcini mushrooms, and aromatic herbs (think oregano, basil, and rosemary). Of course, no meal is complete without a glass of Chianti, the region's famously drinkable red wine.
Mercato Centrale: The historic market is a foodie haven with artisanal meats, cheese, and wines located downstairs and (nearly) tourist-free food stalls upstairs.
Trattoria Sostanza: This unassuming restaurant near piazza Santa Maria Novella is an undeniable local haunt. The no-frills trattoria serves up traditional Tuscan dishes, such as spaghetti al sugo and bistecca alla Fiorentina, at a surprisingly affordable price.
Enoteca Pinchiorri: Boasting three Michelin stars, this fine dining establishment is one of Florence's most celebrated restaurants. Located in a grand Renaissance palazzo near Santa Croce, it features décor that nearly rivals the food.
Vivoli: A few steps away from Santa Croce, Vivoli is an ideal place to satiate your sweet tooth. Choose from its artisanal gelatos and handmade pastries or order an affogato for a decadent midday pick-me-up.
Carabe: Touted as the best gelateria by Florentines and tourists alike, Carabe scoops up flavors like pistachio, hazelnut, and almond at its conveniently located shop near the Duomo.
Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina: Specializing in traditionally produced wines from Italy, this charming bar complete with marble-topped tables and tall bookshelves is a must-visit spot for sipping on Chianti and other Tuscan wines.