Feb 16th, 2016, 01:11 PM

Florence: Beyond Botticelli

By Alice Preat
Image Credit: Flickr/Steve Hersey
It's hard to balance between cultural and fun activities when travelling Florence, but this guide can help.

Florence is one of the main cultural epicenters of Europe, with no less than 72 main museums and major sights. Home to the artistic Renaissance, it is a must-visit destination for many tourists from around the world. However, the city has much more to offer than its tourist attractions. After traveling to Florence for three days, I've realized that it can be difficult to balance the right amount of cultural activities with fun places and adventures. Here's a guide to help you balance your trip.

If you intend to see more than one museum, definitely get the Firenze Card. The 72 € price-tag might scare you away, but it means priority, no queue access to all 72 museums on the circuit. You'll be thankful once you see the lines...

Although Florence is more crowded during the summer, it is still very busy with tourists year-round. So if you want to enjoy a visit without having to elbow your way through a museum, make sure to go either early in the morning or during lunch time. 

In my opinion there are truly only a handful of museums that are really worth visiting — especially if you're only staying for a few days — before it all starts to melt into one and you don't even enjoy what you see anymore.

Must-See Museums

The Duomo: You simply can't go to Florence and not see the Duomo. Dating back to the 1200s, it is a perfect and beautiful icon of Florence's infamous neo-gothic architecture and pink-and-green color scheme. Most beautiful at sunrise or sunset.

Image Credit: Alice Preat

Palazzo Vecchio: The Palazzo is host to a museum, which is a great chance to see and imagine the lives of Italian aristocracy that called it home. You'll be treated to reconstituted rooms and ancient furniture, but also amazing pieces of art. Be sure look up as they're all on the ceilings.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Galleria dell'Accademia: This museum is one of the main reasons why you need the Firenze card. The line — even with a reservation — is at least an hour long, no matter what time of day. The Galleria is the home to the Statue of David by Michelangelo, a must-see.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Boboli Gardens: On the other side of the river, these gardens are linked to the Palazzo Pitti. They're known to be the most beautiful of the city. On a sunny day, walk around the diverse and beautiful gardens for several hours.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Basilica di Santa Maria Novella: This beautiful church is truly a work of art. Even if you're not religious, Florence's churches are a must-see, especially Santa Maria Novella. Again, look up — and don't be scared to get up close.

Image Credit: Alice Preat

Once you have gotten your dose of cultural activities, don't stress over seeing more: you have traveled to this city to have fun and enjoy yourself, and that means diversifying your activities. Plus, there are many things to do in Florence that have nothing to do with art. Walk around and get lost in its beautiful little streets, eat great and cheap antipasti and bistecca, and go have a few drinks.

Fun Activities

Walk up to San Miniato Al Monte: although the walk is quite a workout, the view once you're there will blow your mind, especially if you manage to get there at sunset. Sit down on the stairs and enjoy a drink or an ice cream.

Get Grom ice cream: An renowned chain of Italian ice cream, that lives up to the hype.

Go to the Ponte Trinita to see the Ponte Vecchio: You can of course also go to the Ponte Vecchio, but that area is almost always extremely crowded, and the Ponte Trinita offers some tranquility and space to take your pictures of the famous bridge.

Image Credit: Alice Preat

Have a few drinks at Piazza Santo di Spirito: Supposedly "the place to be", the bar Volume will be your favorite place on earth for a night: delicious cocktails and often live music playing throughout the whole night will make this a memorable experience.

Eat an amazing meal at Zà Zà: Great decor and atmosphere, and truly memorable food (anything with truffle oil is a must.) Make sure to book your table during the day, because there is always a line.

Go to a market: Street markets are a very common thing in Italy, and you can find all sorts of products, but leather items are probably the best purchases you can make at a market. "Leather" bags are often rip-offs, but notebooks are worth it, and typical of Florence. 

Image Credit: Flickr/Graeme Churchard

Eat bistecca alla fiorentina: a delicious specialty in Florence, this beef steak — which you should probably share because it is huge — will make your mouth water. 

Have lunch at the Mercato Centrale: Cheap, fun and unique. Lunch at this market will be an experience you will definitely remember. 

Image Credit: Alice Preat

The city is pretty small, so you really don't need to spend an entire week there. Three to four days is perfect, and Italians are generally a happy and lively people, who like to eat, laugh, drink and talk. Don't be that obsessed and angry tourist. Be like them and you will have the best time in beautiful Firenze.