I still dream about the red terracotta roof tiles across Florence’s skyline, and while my last trip to Florence was only a few weeks ago, it already feels like a lifetime. There are so many vantage points in Florence, some of which involve a lot of huffing and puffing and squeezing past crowds of selfie stick-toting tourists to get to, but from personal experience I can tell you that the view is always 100% worth it, rain or shine.
Beyond the obvious and popular tourist attractions in Florence, there are several other places that we found that also offered spectacular scenes across the city – read on for where to find the best views of Florence!
Italy is full of wonderful viewpoints (and rooftop bars) where you can see cities from above. Head on over here for even more Italy travel tips!
1. North Terrace
The private north Terrace is one of my favorite places for the best view of Florence. It is normally closed to the public and under lock and key, unless you are part of the Little Peek on Florence tour (it is AKA the “A Glimpse of Florence” tour) at the Duomo complex.
The terrace wraps around the cathedral and you’re greeted with the end-to-end skyline as well as Brunelleschi’s Dome towering above. The best thing about this viewpoint? You’re one of only a few people to be on the Terrace on any given day!
Probably the most popular and well known viewpoint in Florence, people from all over the world flock to climb 463 steps up to the top of the Duomo. For this reason, there are often long lines of visitors waiting to get in (the majority of the climb up is single file only); nevertheless, once you reach the summit, everything else will fade away and for a moment – just a moment – all that matters is what’s in front of you.
Still within the Duomo complex, Giotto’s Campanile (Bell Tower) offers a slightly less strenuous climb to the top and a lookout right across from Brunelleschi’s Dome. Once you get to the top, check out the 360-degree panoramic view around you and try to spot the tip of Palazzo Vecchio!
The only issue with the view at Giotto’s Bell Tower is that the view from the top is slightly obscured by wire netting. You’re more likely to get a great photo from here with a small point-and-shoot camera, or your smartphone lens. Check out some of my best tips for taking photos with a smartphone!
Pisa is just a stone’s throw away from Florence and is a fantastic day trip destination. Click here for my guide to visiting the Duomo and the Leaning Tower of Pisa!
4. La Terrazza
Would you like a coffee or tea with that view? If so, this alfresco terrace is the place for you. Head into the Rinascente department store at Piazza della Repubblica and take the elevator up to the top floor for a lazy (and crowd-free) afternoon.
Around the corner from Piazza della Repubblica is the Orsanmichele Church. Don’t let its unassuming exterior fool you – the church has a beautiful interior and is famous for the hall of saints housed within its museum. The museum is only open on Mondays from 10 am to 5 pm, but entrance is free. One more floor up from the collection of statues is a bare and empty room…but this room has wall-to-wall windows with some great views of Florence.
Siena’s UNESCO-listed historic centre is a short train ride away from Florence. Click here for my guide to visiting Siena in 1 day!
Palazzo Vecchio is probably best known for its copy of Michelangelo’s statue of David, and after Brunelleschi’s Dome and Giotto’s Campanile is the next most recognizable monument towering over Florence’s skyline. Apart from housing a museum, the Palazzo Vecchio also has a climbable bell tower that many people don’t take advantage of. There are a number of ticket options including one for those who only want to climb the bell tower and skip the museum (€10), or you can access both the museum and tower for €14.
The great thing about this place is that the tower doesn’t shut until 9 pm from April to September (except for Thursdays when it closes at 2 pm), and when we visited we were 2 of a total of only 4 (FOUR!) people at the viewpoint and witnessed the sunset glow over Florence. Spectacular!
If you’ve seen a panoramic photograph of Florence, chances are it was taken here. Although it has a fancy name, the square is more or less a bare parking lot, yet Piazzale Michelangelo is one of the most popular destinations for jaw-dropping views across Florence. Make sure you get here early to watch the sunset, because it is a popular viewing spot. Be prepared to hustle your way through crowds of people, but the pay-off is enormous.
If the idea of crowds makes you nauseous, check out San Miniato al Monte instead – a quick 5 minute stroll from Piazzale Michelangelo. Personally, I found the views from San Minato al Monte to be slightly more obstructed than from Piazzale Michelangelo, though I did appreciate the lack of hordes of people.
The Rose Garden is a hop and skip away from Ponte Vecchio on the other side of the Arno River. As you can imagine, the garden is popular among couples so don’t be surprised if you witness some smooching on the lawn. There is no entrance fee and the garden is open year-round from 9 am to sunset. I hear the best time to visit is in May and June in the heart of springtime!
Unfortunately, we ran out of time and didn’t get a chance to visit some of Florence’s other famous gardens, many of which are across the Arno River and off the beaten path. There’s no better place to spend a sunny afternoon, looking over Florence’s skyline! Here is a wonderful guide from Georgette from Girl in Florence on the best gardens to head to!
BONUS: Oblate Library
The Oblate Library is an underrated and lesser-known viewpoint in Florence, just steps away from the Duomo itself. The public library is housed in a convent dating back to the 14th century, and it is a popular gathering spot for students preparing for exams. Entry is free and there is a small cafe on the second floor where you can sip on a cup of coffee with a view of the Duomo (for a fraction of the price of other popular tourist cafes with a view). If you do plan to visit the Oblate Library please be quiet and respectful – it is a public space that local students use!
The best places to eat and drink in Florence
La Terrazza: Would you like a coffee or tea with that view? If so, this alfresco terrace is the place for you. Head into the Rinascente department store at Piazza della Repubblica and take the elevator up to the top floor for a lazy (and crowd-free) afternoon.
Trattoria Le Mossacce: a little hole-in-the-wall with delicious home-cooked Italian fare.
La Posta: Hands down the best bruschetta, penne pomodoro, ravioli rose we had in Florence (we eat here every single time we are back in town!)
La Petite: Sister restaurant of La Posta, try their twist on the classic carbonara but with duck instead of bacon!
Golden View Open Bar: Slightly more upscale but the view and service can’t be beat. Book ahead and ask for a balcony table for an incredible view of the Ponte Vecchio.
Casa Del Vin Santo: Beautiful pizza, delicious wine.
Mercato Centrale: Such a fun building to visit! The food court upstairs offers everything from pizza to steak to sushi, and the fresh market downstairs is extremely photogenic and a great place to pick up souvenirs.
da Garibardi: Located right next to Mercato Centrale, da Garibardi serves delicious traditional Italian fare and offers a gluten free menu as well.
La Ménageré: A beautiful, hip coffee shop offering a wide selection of salads, pastries and sandwiches if you want something light, or a more extensive menu if you want a sit-down lunch/dinner.
Divina Terrazza at the Grand Hotel Cavour: A beautiful rooftop bar in Florence located within a swanky hotel – come here for incredible cocktails and views of the Duomo. You must make a reservation in advance and may be asked to leave some form of photo ID with the reception desk downstairs. The reservation fee is 18 Euros per person with one drink included.
Love good wine and want to venture over to the wine region in Tuscany? Head on over here to read more about the Tuscan wine region and other stunning wine destinations around the world!
The best hotels to stay at in Florence
Hotel Calzaiuoli is a 2 (yes, TWO!) minute walk away from the Duomo Complex. The staff were extremely friendly and accommodating, rooms were bright, comfortable and spacious, and the breakfast spread was amazing. Click here to book your stay at Hotel Calzaiuoli!
La Tana Dei Leoni is an amazing guesthouse right in front of the Ponte Vecchio. It was an amazing room and great value for money – I would highly recommend this over Hotel Calzaiuoli for anyone with a slightly lower budget! Click here to book your stay at La Tana Dei Leoni!
Agnolo is a 2-bedroom apartment in the Santa Croce district of Florence. The apartment is extremely spacious and offers 2 separate bathrooms as well. The kitchen is well equipped if you want to self cater or keep some wine and food in the fridge, and the bedrooms were very comfortable. Perfect for anyone traveling as a group or with family! Click here to book your stay at Agnolo in Florence!
Heading to other cities? Click here for more Italy destination guides and travel tips or check out all of my hotel recommendations and booking tips for Italy here!
Where are your favorite places to visit for great views in Florence? Let me know in the comments section below!
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