Florence is a city of history, but it’s also a city of art. There’s something for everyone in this historic Italian capital, from museums to churches and a lively marketplace.

Start your exploration in the Piazza della Signoria, the cradle of Florentine culture. There’s plenty to see here, including Michelangelo’s David.

1. Palazzo Vecchio

The majestic Palazzo Vecchio was built in the 13th century and is a must-see for visitors to Florence. As a centre of power, it played a key role in the city’s history and is still today an important symbol for Florence and Italy as a whole.

It is home to the Salone dei Cinquecento, which was commissioned by Girolamo Savonarola in 1494 and is known as the “Hall of Five Hundred.” This room is dominated by an ornate ceiling that rises 21 meters high, each of its 38 panels adorned with allegories and scenes from the Medici family and the city’s history.

Besides the magnificent architecture, Palazzo Vecchio also holds several pieces of Renaissance sculpture. These include Judith and Holofernes by Donatello, a copy of Michelangelo’s David, and Hercules and Cacus by Baccio Bandinelli.

2. Basilica of Santa Croce

The Basilica of Santa Croce is a historic monument that is considered a symbol of Florence. It was constructed around 1294, replacing a smaller church located in marshy land outside the city walls.

The church was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio and is known for its gothic style architecture. It is a large basilica, with 16 chapels decorated by the best artists of the Renaissance.

The church also contains the tombs of many famous Florentines, including Michelangelo, Niccolo Machiavelli, Galileo Galilei, Ugo Foscolo and Gioachino Rossini. The complex was originally a place of worship for the Florentines, but over time it became a real pantheon of Italian art and history.

3. Duomo

A must-see for any trip to Florence, the Duomo is one of the city’s most iconic symbols. The cathedral has been a powerful presence in the city since it was built in the 13th century, and today it remains one of Europe’s largest churches.

The cathedral was first constructed by Arnolfo di Cambio and then the dome was added to the facade in the 15th century on a design by Filippo Brunelleschi. The original construction took over two centuries to be deemed finished, and the dome remains one of the greatest architectural feats of the Renaissance.

If you’re up for a hike and a view, climb the stairs to the top of the dome! You’ll take a 91-metre walk up and down 463 steps to enjoy stunning views over the whole city.

4. Mercato Centrale

One of the best places in Florence to stock up on fresh Italian foods is the Mercato Centrale. Located in an iron-and-glass structure designed by architect Giuseppe Mengoni in 1874, this food market is packed with vendors selling everything from pickled olives to fish, cheese, oil and vinegars.

The Mercato Centrale also has a food court on the second floor, so you can pick up some pizza or a few slices of gelato to enjoy while strolling around. In addition to food, the market is home to several shops that sell art, pottery, jewelry and souvenirs.

For tourists, a visit to the Mercato Centrale is an essential part of exploring Florence. The building is a perfect place to pick up local goods, taste a variety of foods and even try out a cooking class at the renowned Cucina Lorenzo de Medici.

5. Piazza San Lorenzo

San Lorenzo is one of the oldest churches in Florence, consecrated in 393 AD. During its long life it stood outside the city walls and was the city’s cathedral.

The architecture is characterized by an interplay between gray-white stone and plaster, which is enhanced by stuccoes, painted roundels with cherubim and seraphim, scenes of St. John the Evangelist on the walls and on the dome, and a map of stars in a side chapel.

Inside the church, Brunelleschi designed a series of naves with a Latin cross pattern. The simple lines of the aisles converge to create an appealing space with light and a sense of spaciousness. Instead of pillar supports used in earlier architecture, the columns are gray stone with beautiful capitals. In addition to the main church, San Lorenzo also contains the crypt and a library known as the Laurentian Library in the cloisters.