Inspiration for your next holiday
Inspiration for your next holiday
Set within the pristine Tuscan hills, Florence was historically the most progressive and artisanal city in Italy. The city is regarded as the birthplace of the Renaissance era, and today is a wondrous fusion of its history, proud culture and passionate people.
While the city's fame might evoke images of a large metropolis, Florence is actually quite small, and the city can be easily explored on foot. This smaller size is not reflected in it's variety, with numerous unique neighbourhoods and districts.
This guide will detail each of the main neighbourhoods and help you choose the best area to be based in for your trip in Florence.
Florence sits on the banks of the Arno River, with the majority of the historic area and it's famous art galleries on the northern banks. The historic centre of Florence follows much of its old medieval layout, with a warren of narrow alleys and cobblestone streets that open out on delightful plazas.
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 neighbourhoods and 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
As one of the best tourist destinations in Italy, there is always a high demand for accommodation, especially during the peak season. In summer, hotels in Florence's historic centre (areas 2, 5 and 6) are often fully sold out, meaning you may have to stay in accommodation on the fringes of the city. It is recommended to book accommodation as far in advance as possible to secure the best locations.
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.
Santo Spirito and San Frediano
The district of Santo Spirito (1), together with nearby San Frediano (4), are the two best areas to be based in, if you want to experience the real essence of Florence.
Santo Spirito lies on the southern side of Florence, and is filled with artists' workshops, bohemian cafes and stylish bars that overlook the Arno River. Come here at sunset to enjoy happy hours by the riverbank, far away from the tourist crowds, and immerse in the city and its culture. In Santo Spirito, you will get a real taste of living in Florence, while being close to the main tourist attractions of the city.
Highlights of Santo Spirito include the Basilica di Santo Spirito (which the district is named after), and the tranquil Boboli Gardens, known as the 'green lungs' of Florence.
Heading west is San Frediano, filled with trendy food venues, craft stalls, cocktails bars and weekly themed markets. San Frediano was once known as Santo Spirito's poorer cousin but today is as equally trendy and good to be based in.
Insight: If you choose Santo Spirito, you might want to avoid staying too close to the bustling square of Santo Spirito Basilica, and pick one of the quieter streets like nearby Piazza Torquato Tasso.
Downtown and the historic centre
The downtown (5) and historic centre of Florence is where 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, 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.
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.
The characterful Santa Croce (2) neighbourhood is frequently chosen by visitors who know the city well, due to its central location and genuine Italian atmosphere. Santa Croce retains a sense of authenticity that can sometimes be lost in areas filled with high-end hotels and designer stores.
By being based in Santa Croce you are within walking distance of the city's historic sites, such as the Uffizi Gallery and 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.
If you are heading to Florence for business, Santa Croce is ideal if you want to avoid the overpriced high-end hotels and find something a little more genuine.
If it's your first time in Florence, it is recommended to be in the Santo Spirito, the Down Town or Santa Croce districts.
These three areas are close to the main attractions and the heart of Florence. The only downside to these areas is that they are the most popular, and accommodation will sell out first or be more expensive.
If you are visiting in the summer months when accommodation options are a bit more limited, you want to be at least based within the SS67 ring road.
For slightly cheaper accommodation options look to the San Marco district where the bulk of the low-cost hotels and guest houses are found.
Insight: 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.
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.
When people think about Florence, a business trip may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, should you be visiting for a business trip, then 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.
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.
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.
Surrounding the city, you will find endless options for sightseeing and exploration. However, we would recommend heading to Fiesole if you have the extra time and wish to enjoy a couple of days away from the bustling urban areas. This hilltop enclave offers an aristocratic atmosphere and boasts a variety of refined and elegant restaurants and bars.
Finally, if you enjoy spending time in nature, head to Sesto Fiorentino and its small town of Colonnata. From there, you can take a hike up the hills, through the fields and woods of Via delle Cappelle, passing by beautiful rustic villas with olive fields. If you are feeling energetic, head up to Monte Morello - the view will be worth the extra effort, and you'll be able to walk off some of the delicious food and wine you have indulged during your stay in Florence.