Here are the top attractions tourists want to see. Most lie in Florence's compact centro storico (definition of centro storico). You'll find their locations on this Florence Map. For convenient hotels see Top Rated Central Florence Hotels.
Florence's most famous square is Piazza della Signoria, the heart of the historic center and a free open-air sculpture exhibit. The Loggia della Signoria holds some important statues including a copy of Michelangelo's David. The piazza has been Florence's political center since the middle ages and Florence's town hall, the medieval Palazzo Vecchio, sits on the piazza. Inside the palazzo are elaborately decorated public rooms and private apartments that can be visited. Around the piazza are cafes and restaurants.
Florence's most popular site is its Duomo (cathedral), the Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore. The huge Gothic duomo was begun in 1296, consecrated in 1436, and holds 20,000 people. Its exterior, made of green, pink, and white marble, has several elaborate doors and interesting statues. Inside, Brunelleschi's Dome is a masterpiece of construction. Buy a ticket to climb the 463 steps to its top. See pictures of Florence taken from the Duomo Dome.
The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), built in 1345, was Florence's first bridge across the Arno River and is the only surviving bridge from Florence's medieval days (others were destroyed in World War II). The Ponte Vecchio is still lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry. From the bridge, you'll have a great view along the Arno River and beyond. Ponte Vecchio Pictures
The Galleria degli Uffizi holds the world's most important collection of Renaissance art but it's also Italy's most crowded museum so it's a good idea to buy tickets ahead to avoid long ticket lines (use the link above for booking information or buy tickets from Select Italy). The Uffizi holds thousands of paintings from medieval to modern times and many antique sculptures, illuminations, and tapestries. Artists whose works you'll see include Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Perugino, and Raphael.
Florence's Galleria dell' Academia holds important paintings and sculptures from the 13th-16th centuries. Michelangelo's David, probably the most famous sculpture in the world, is in the Galleria dell' Academia as well as other sculptures by Michelangelo. You'll also find an interesting collection of musical instruments, begun by the Medici family. You can buy tickets from Select Italy in advance.
Cross the Ponte Vecchio to the Giardino di Boboli, a huge park on a hillside in the middle of Florence behind the Pitti Palace. Here you'll find beautiful gardens and fountains and a great view of Florence from the Forte Belvedere. Open daily at 8:15 (except some Mondays in winter) with seasonal closing times.The Pitti Palace, Florence's largest palazzo, was once the seat of the Medici family. Eight different galleries feature art, costumes, jewelry, and the apartments. Buy tickets from Select Italy