Inspiration for your next holiday
Inspiration for your next holiday
Florence is a divine destination that has universal, year-round appeal and should be considered a must-see city for anyone considering visiting Tuscany. Florence, or Firenze to the Italians, is the vibrant capital city of Tuscany and birthplace of the Renaissance era.
The cultural significance of this city throughout the ages is immediately apparent when roaming around the vibrant districts, wondrous sights and world-renowned galleries. Visitors should not mistake Florence as an aged historical and Artistic city, the city continues to drive Italian culture and has a plethora of bohemian and trendy districts where you can shop in boutique stores, sip an espresso with the trendy locals and eat an endless amount of the finest Italian cuisine.
Idyllically situated within the rolling Tuscan hills, Florence is also a surprisingly small city which can be explored on foot and is equally appealing as an overnight, weekend or week-long destination.
The distinct neighbourhoods of Florence are wonderful to roam through and make the city feel constantly new and interesting. The city is situated on the banks of the Arno River and the waterway provides a natural split between the Arts and History to the north and the vibrant, trendy districts to the south.
The five best districts to be based in are: 1) Santo Spirito 2) Santa Croce 3) San Niccolò’ 4) San Frediano 5) Duomo (Downtown & Historic Center)
The map below shows the main districts of central Florence.
The neighborhoods of Florence: 1) Santo Spirito 2) Santa Croce 3) San Niccolò’ 4) San Frediano 5) Duomo (Historic Center) 6) San Marco 7) San’t Ambrogio 8) Santissima Annunziata 9) San Lorenzo 10) Santa Maria Novella 11) Le Cure 12) Oberdan 13) Campo di Marte 14) Michelangelo 15) Le Cascine
North of the river, the historic Duomo and Santa Croce districts are both wonderful choices for those wanting to be a stone’s throw from the magnificent sights and the heart of Florence. The Duomo district is filled with stylish, grand hotels, whereas Santa Croce offers smaller, boutique options that are popular with Italians.
Cross the Ponte Vecchio bridge and you will enter the vibrant and trendy Santo Spirito and San Frediano districts: These are a great option for those wanting to experience modern Florentine culture, design, and cuisine.
The map below shows the location of hotels and rental rooms in Florence. By altering the date of your trip, the map will display current prices and availability.
If it’s your first time in Florence, it is recommended to be in either Santo Spirito or Santa Croce. These two districts are central, vibrant and have the best amenities.
Santo Spirito is an ideal first stay for tourists wanting boutique accommodation, easy access to the historic sights and a modern, intimate, and cool nightlife.
Santa Croce is a perfect choice for visitors who want to be stone’s throw from the wondrous sights of the historic sights but stay within accommodation that feels distinctly Tuscan: This district is also a perfect option for exploring some of the sights on the fringe of the centre, such as the Mercato Centrale and the San Lorenzo market.
Duomo (historic centre)
The downtown and historic centre of Florence is a compact delight, located on the northern banks of the river. It is the place to stay if you are looking for stylish, high-end hotels, designer stores and restaurants, or famous art galleries and museums.
This area is always the most popular with tourists by day, as it is the closest to Florence' s most famous attractions, such as the Church of Santa Maria Novella, the unmissable Uffizi Gallery and the iconic Ponte Vecchio. The busiest tourist area is around the majestic Duomo, but the maze of narrow streets and hidden plazas mean it is easy to escape the tourist crowds. By night this district is beautifully lit up, more peaceful and inviting to explore on foot.
The Downtown area, the Piazza della Repubblica and close to the Arno River, are where most of the high-end hotels are located, and these tend to be the most expensive in the city. You will also find many business hotels around the Fortezza, as this is where most conferences and exhibitions take place.
Insight: If you are staying in this area make sure to have an espresso and roam the streets early before day trippers and tourists flood the architectural sights. The Uffizi Gallery is best viewed early morning (as it opens at 8.15am) and the Accademia at around 5pm once all the guided tours have left.
Wandering east of the historic centre, visitors will stumble into the charming Santa Croce district where the tourist groups disperse and the narrow, cobbled streets feel much more local and inviting. The streets in this neighbourhood are peaceful in the morning but become alive with local businesses and small eateries from lunchtime onwards.
Characterful Santa Croce is frequently chosen by visitors who know the city well, due to its central location yet authentic Tuscan atmosphere. By being based in Santa Croce you are within walking distance of the city's historic sites, such as the Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Vecchio and the Duomo.
One of the most popular areas of Santa Croce is the Via de' Benci, which connects Arno riverside to Santa Croce square. Along this street, and the many side-streets leading off it, are a variety of social bars and restaurants where locals and foreign tourists mix.
Upon Crossing over the Ponte Vecchio bridge, the narrow streets transverse the hillside in all directions within the Santo Sprito district. Named after the pretty Church of the Holy Spirit (Basilica di Santo Spirito), this area is crammed with life and delights.
The narrow, intersecting streets are filled with characterful artists' workshops, boutique shops, and bohemian cafes that overlook the Arno River. This district is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered. It is worthwhile exploring the delights and then taking a break in tranquil Boboli Gardens, known as the 'green lungs' of Florence, before descending back to the intimate nightlife.
By night Santo Spirito and the neigbouring San Frediano district, come alive with trendy food venues and cocktail bars which are frequented by stylish Florentines’ and in-the-know tourists. Top recommendations include Rasputin, a hidden speakeasy which comes alive with Jazz music (Borgo Tegolaio street) and NOF for a trendy Florentine vibe (Borgo San Frediano street).
Top tip: If you choose to stay in Santo Spirito, it is recommended to avoid choosing to stay in the bustling square of Santo Spirito Basilica, which comes alive at night, and pick one of the quieter streets like nearby Piazza Torquato Tasso.
Florence is a wonderful city for couples. The combination of renaissance art, beautiful sights and intimate spots make it a perfect place for a memorable and absorbing escape.
For couples wanting a luxurious, effortless escape, it is recommended to stay along the riverside or within the historic centre where the finest hotels and restaurants are located. For couples staying in this district, it is a short stroll in the twilight to the impressive Duomo lit up or to the pretty riverside viewpoint.
For couples looking for more of an intimate and trendy stay, it is recommended to head to the Oltrarno area south of the river and specifically Santa Spirito. Here couples can stay in a range of stylish apartment hotels and dine in rustic, romantic restaurants.
Wherever you choose to stay as a couple it is highly recommended to visit the Piazzale Michelango square at sunset. The iconic and spectacular view is particularly romantic, albeit very popular.
Always choose the location you'd like to be based in before looking for accommodation in Florence. This may sound obvious, but it is all too easy to be sucked in by an amazing discount or outstanding reviews without really considering which area you will be staying in.
Florence is great destination for parents who dream of experiencing culture whilst keeping the kids occupied.
For those staying out of peak season, the Duomo and historic district is highly recommended. The hotels are centrally located so days can be divided up between the district without tiring little legs. Restaurants around the Duomo are particularly catered to tourists and will have Italian dishes catered to little tastebuds.
For those staying in peak season, it is worthwhile exploring the Florentine hills surrounding the centre. From June onward city centre temperatures can soar and a slower pace of exploring is needed. Hotels surrounding the centre offer more facilities and swimming pools that are perfect for siesta escapes.
For those that are lucky enough to visit Florence on a business trip or work nomadically. there are plenty of options: The best area for high-end hotels is the part of the Lungarno close to Piazza della Signoria. This area is in the centre of the city and close to all attractions, however it is also secluded from the noise. For those with a tighter budget, the San Niccolò’ district has a relaxed atmosphere and café culture to enjoy while working.
The most popular districts in Florence are those close to the historic centre, however, younger people nowadays tend to live outside the centre in the areas such as Novoli or Scandicci. These areas have recently become increasingly fashionable while offering great value accommodation.
If you are searching for a calmer experience during your stay in Florence, then the San Niccolo district could be perfect for you. This is a district of contrasting vibes, a jewel nestled between the Arno River and the hills leading up to the stunning Piazzale Michelangelo, from where you can enjoy the best view in Florence.
Slightly off the radar, this area of the city is characterful and fascinating. The riverbank is lined with laid-back restaurants and inviting wine bars, and just a few steps back from the river, you will find a long stretch of elegant villas.
If you are looking for a party holiday, then Santo Spirito is probably your best fit, together with Santa Croce. The nightlife of these two districts differs, with Santa Croce being slightly more touristy, while Santo Spirito is more popular with locals. Regardless of the style, both districts come to life at night, crammed with groups of people gathering to sip wine and chat while walking from bar to bar around the city.
Florence is small and generally safe, but avoid the area by the Santa Maria Novella train station at night. While close to the main centre and therefore usually crowded, it can be a little unwelcoming late at night. Similarly, some of the streets nearby - such as Via Palazzuolo – can be dark and unsupervised at night.