The Anti-Tourist

I like to beat new paths for myself.

Top 10 free things to do in Florence

By 07:30:00 , , ,

Ah, Florence. Birthplace of the Renaissance, heart of the Tuscan region and serial giver of travel bug (of which there is no known cure). I can still remember the first time I laid my eyes on the colossal Duomo when I was thirteen, and now, almost nine years later, I still get the chills whenever I manage to visit.

Admittedly, a city like Florence isn't cheap. Although low-cost airlines fly almost daily to the region, accommodation costs and spending money can add up rather heavily. In order to solve this travel/money dilemma, I've come up with a list of free things to do in Florence, rounded up from my years of flying to and from my favourite place on Earth. Check them out and give them a go the next time you're stepping on those magical cobbled streets - you're welcome ;)

1. Walk!

Yes, I know this one sounds quite silly, but if you've ever been to Florence you'll know what I mean when I say that every single street is an attraction in itself. The city is an open air museum, free for you to enjoy and admire.

Pro tip: really look all around you, especially for these great graffitti scattered all around Florence by l'arte sa nuotare (follow him on Instagram here)

Don't be afraid to slip into side streets and peek into any shop that tickles your fancy - check out this little wooden toy shop I found! 
A video posted by Desiree' Attard (@antitouristdes) on
2. Grab a bargain at the flea markets

Florence is bursting with different markets almost every day of the year, from the food stalls in San Lorenzo to the leather goods at Porcellino (where a golden boar guards the market - touch its paw for good luck!). 

Pro tip: My favourite market has to be Santo Spirito. Very few tourists know about this one, and every second Sunday of the month, the quiet daily food market turns into a true hoarder and vintage lover's paradise, with wares varying from vintage Chanel clutches to Burberry trenches and fifties paraphernalia. I managed (barely) to leave the market without buying anything, but I'm already saving for my next hunt over at the Oltrarno...

3. Watch the sun set from Piazzale Michelangelo

Ever seen those beautiful panoramic shots of Florence and wondered from where to get that view? Look no further than Piazzale Michelangelo. A few dozen steps (OK, a lot of steps) take you up a hill towards a handsome statue of Michelangelo. Join him as he gazes down towards one of the views of a lifetime. 

Pro tip: Time your visit carefully; head there about an hour before the sun begins to set and you're in for quite a show! 

4. Live the Night

The locals here love a good night out - whether its an after work aperitif or a good old meet up with friends, Florentine streets come to life at night, bustling with activity and fueled by the music of street hawkers. Go with the flow, you're from Florence for the night! 

5. People watch at Piazza della Signoria

This is probably the hub of all activity in Florence, so be warned, it will be very busy. But that means you get the opportunity to sit back and watch life go by, from the bustling businessmen in impeccably tailored suits to the snap-happy tourists gazing around. 

Pro tip: Don't forget to sneak in Palazzo Vecchio's courtyard - it's also free and the frescoes are amazing to see! 

6. While you're at it, admire the statues at the Loggia dei Lanzi 

Part of Piazza della Signoria, the Loggia is an open-air gallery of antique and Renaissance art, covered only be wide arches. It's also an excellent place to rest in some shade if it's mid-summer, as well as a place to wait for a storm to pass if you're there in winter (told from experience; that Loggia saved my drenched shoes one too many a time)! 

7. Make the most of free museums

You can't really enjoy Florence without going to its museums. The Uffizzi is a must for first-timers, but other smaller museums are just as spectacular, such as the Medici Chapel or the Pitti. The trick to going into museums for free is to time your visit - state run museums such as the ones mentioned are all completely free every first Sunday of the month! Now that's a deal :)

The gorgeous Boboli gardens - for free! 
8. Promenade along the Arno

The Arno is Florence's lifeline and adds on to its indescribable charm. Whether you stroll along its banks by day or by night, the view is always incredibly moving. I particularly love it at night, with the terracotta coloured buildings reflecting into its rippling depths. 

Pro tip: by day, keep an eye out for the Florentine rowing team training for their next match! They're often sighted rowing underneath the river's many bridges. 

9. Ponte Vecchio

No self respecting guide to Florence would forget Ponte Vecchio. Lined with luxury jewel shops on both sides, the bridge is also a home to most of the shop owners, who live just above their business. Did you know that the Medici, once Florence's governors, built a secret corridor through Ponte Vecchio in case a swift escape was required? 

Pro tip: Wake up a bit early and watch the sun rise over the river from Ponte Vecchio. Then see the jewelry shops slowly open their antique heavy wooden doors one by one as they get ready for another day at work. Trust me on this one - you'll want to see it. 

10. Church crawl! 

In most other cities, I wouldn't be seen dead in a church, but in Florence you can't miss out. From Santa Maria Novella to the magnificent marbled Duomo, most churches are a shining example of Renaissance grandeur and artistry, and what's more, they're usually free. Sure, you'll have to pay to go up to Giotto's tower or Brunelleschi's cupola, but entry will almost always be free of charge. 

Pro tip: You do not want to miss out on the Duomo's cupola or tower. Pick one, fork out some cash (a mere 10 euro) and climb up the stairs (again, a lot of stairs) to the top. I can't emphasize this enough - you really don't want to miss out on this. 

Bonus - Eat! 

Fine, this one isn't free, but hey, your body needs it, and you're in one of the best gastronomic cities in the world. So spend that money you've saved thanks to my tips and go get yourself some Bisteccha Fiorentina, cooked medium rare, accompanied with roast potatoes in honey. Or some good old oven-baked pizza. Or both, I won't judge. 

Feel free to share your own favourite things to do in Florence in the comments below! 

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