It’s really not hard to make a case for visiting Florence. This famous Italian city is known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, and it holds some of the most important artworks by some of the greatest artists in the history of European culture. Home to the incredible Uffizi Gallery and the beautiful cathedral with its one-of-a-kind brick dome, Florence is one of Italy’s most visited cities and a perfect place for a vacation whether you want to enjoy art, shopping, incredible food, or easy access to the beautiful Tuscan countryside.
What it isn’t necessarily, is cheap. Florence is hardly a hidden gem, with almost 30 million tourists visiting each year. While it’s perfectly justifiable, that kind of mass tourism has a way of driving up prices for everybody. Once you’ve gotten to Florence, found a hotel, had a few meals, and got tickets for the top attractions, you may find your holiday budget has been completely demolished.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Part of the attraction of Florence is its unique atmosphere and historic architecture, and that needn’t cost you a thing. Taking a walk through the city is a pleasure all by itself, and all you need for that is to drop off your bags at a luggage storage near Florence railway station so you’re not carrying more than you need to.
Speaking of the railway station, it is the gateway to the city for the majority of travelers. And its central location means you can begin exploring this pearl of the city right from the station itself. Even in this busy area, there are some great free attractions to visit. Here are some ideas:
Piazza del Duomo
There’s no avoiding this one. And as you’ll see from the tourist crowds the moment you arrive, almost everyone has the same idea. Still, just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s not good. Florence’s Piazza del Duomo is one of Italy’s most beautiful public squares, and it is totally free to visit, so you really shouldn’t miss this one while you’re in town.
The Piazza is home to some of the most famous and most beautiful buildings in Florence, including the Cathedral, or Duomo, and the Baptistery. Surrounded by cafés and restaurants, this is also a wonderful location for people-watching, as the square is packed with tourists at pretty much any time of year.
It’s free to visit this public space, and it’s also free to visit the Cathedral and the Baptistery. You’re definitely not going to be able to escape the crowds in these locations, but they are some of the best things to do in Florence, paid or not, so the fact that they are free is just icing on the cake.
Another of Florence’s legendary public spaces, this isn’t any kind of hidden gem, either. You’ll find this small square just as busy with tourist crowds as the one outside the Cathedral, especially at sunset. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a visit, though.
Piazzale Michelangelo offers incredible views over the rooftops of Florence, including Brunelleschi’s incredible dome on top of the Cathedral. The square is also famous for housing a replica of Michelangelo’s statue of the biblical David, one of the masterpieces of Renaissance sculpture that you won’t have to pay to see. All it costs to visit this place and take in the magnificent view is the bus fare to get there (unless you decide to walk for 30 minutes from the train station) and the inevitable gelato you’ll have to treat yourself to.
San Lorenzo Market
So far, we’ve focused on tourist-friendly locales. But some people want to experience the real and authentic life of the places they go on vacation, and San Lorenzo Market is the ideal place to do that.
Although it’s not exactly unknown to tourists – is anywhere in Florence, really? – this produce market remains a place where locals do their shopping. That makes a great place to visit if you’re staying in a holiday rental apartment with a kitchen. But even if you’re not cooking, this is a wonderful place to sample local products like wine, olive oil, and cheese. It’s free to visit, but with so many tempting items on offer, you might find yourself having to spend a few euros here to pick up a memorable souvenir of your trip.
Florence has a long history of rivalry between aristocratic families that sometimes spilled over into actual warfare. But not everything had to be settled at the point of a sword. This impressive palace was built by the wealthy Strozzi family and was deliberately designed to be bigger than the palace of the ruling Medici family just to annoy them.
Nowadays, the palace hosts an ever-changing array of art exhibitions celebrating not just Renaissance painting and sculpture but art from around the world and from various eras of history. It costs €15 to go inside, but if you have a card for train travel from the national train company Trenitalia, you can get two-for-one admission. Every Thursday from 6 PM onwards, anyone under the age of 30 can get in for free. They also host lots of special events throughout the year when admission is free for everyone, so keep an eye on the calendar so you can enjoy art in this most cultural city without spending a penny.
Florence for free
It’s not always easy finding affordable attractions in this heavily-touristed city. However, with a little planning, you can see some of the best of Florence without spending anything at all. Even some of the major museums of the city, like the Uffizi, have a free admission day on the first Sunday of the month. The museum gets extremely crowded during these events, but it’s worth it to see some masterpieces of art cheaply.
Take advantage of some of the free things to do in Florence to make your holiday budget stretch further. The more you save, the more of this fantastic city you’ll be able to see.