Having lived in Florence, I didn’t think I needed to book any tours for my return trips. It wasn’t until I went back on a business trip with my mom that I realized I needed something to occupy her while I worked. I ended up booking an olive oil tasting tour and a pizza and gelato class for both of us, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Ever since our honeymoon in Florence, my husband and I look for opportunities to take guided tours and learn more about the places we visit. Whether it was the subject or the tour guide, these are some of the best Florence walking tours that we have experienced over the past few years.
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Best Walking Tours in Florence for Art
Introduction to the Uffizi Gallery Tour
You could spend hours waiting in line for the Uffizi. Or, you could wander the museum aimlessly and wonder if you are seeing what you think you should see. Even still, you could wonder what Renaissance art is and how it is different. Or, you could book a skip the line ticket and small group tour of the Uffizi with a local art historian and avoid the line, ask your questions, and leave Florence with a better understanding of how the Renaissance was born.
Our expert guide, William, was incredible. We would hire him for a private tour; he has that much knowledge to share. The Uffizi is absolutely daunting, and we did not have any perspective for Renaissance art. William walks you through the Uffizi, teaching about art, as well as the political context in which the Renaissance was born. You will see the “big” works of art (Like Spring and The Birth of Venus), but you will also understand what makes Renaissance art different. William shows how artists could take flat paintings to new dimensions using color. William’s passion for the subject is contagious. He refused to be deterred by the somewhat-sluggish-post-lunchtime enthusiasm by our group. I recommend going on an empty stomach so as not to experience the post-lunch lag.
This is one of the best guided tours for an introduction to Renaissance art and history in Florence, as well as the Uffizi. It is a great introduction to the museum, the art, and the time period. I especially recommend it to first-time Florence visitors. NOTE: If you decide not to do a tour, buy your tickets in advance, purchase the Firenze card, or have your concierge reserve them. Don’t spend all day in line. Skip the line. It’s totally a thing.
Visit the Accademia Early in the Morning
You can see David in the Piazza Michelangelo. Or the Piazza della Signoria. Both are lovely, but they do not compare to the original. The original David is housed in the Accademia Gallery. They best way to see him is on an early morning guided tour of the Accademia. Our guide provided a lot of perspective about different works of art housed in the museum and ended the tour at the David so we could spend as much time as we wanted in there. All the nights I spent in piazzas with the “fake” Davids did not prepare me for seeing the real thing. I felt dwarfed by the size of David (and I’m 5’10”); it’s hard to imagine how an artist has the vision to create something so large and so life-like. Even if you don’t think you are an art person, I think you have to see this in person.
This tour has timed entry tickets, and you still end up waiting in line for a bit, so I can’t imagine how long it takes if you are not prepared. If you plan to visit without a guide, you’ll want to buy tickets in advance. I see the lines snake for blocks down via Ricasoli during shoulder and high season so save yourself the headache. Book a skip the line tour/ticket or have your concierge arrange your visit. (Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an instance where there has not been a line. Ever.)
Best Florence Walking Tours for Learning History
Renaissance Florence Night Walking Tour
Angelo A. (yes, with an A) gives the best two hour walking tour in Florence for people who enjoy mystery, history, and humor. You start this Florence walking tour at the Palazzo Strozzi with an introduction to the Florentine power players. Angelo A captivates you with his story-telling and you can easily imagine you are sitting in the middle of the Renaissance, rather than present day. You’ll snake around through the backstreets and piazzas as Angelo entertains you with stories from the Medici family (and point out one of the descendants if he sees them) and the rise and fall of Florence. As night descends, you’ll feel the shroud of mystery cloak the city.
He will show you where Florence was re-built after World War II and share stories from his family’s history during that time. You won’t be able to tell until you start looking for it. Angelo A. will get on to kids defacing the Ponte Vecchio, point out bad restaurants, and tell you when you are making a mistake with your gelato flavors. He will also stumble upon classical music concerts and tell you to close your eyes and just enjoy the moment. You’ll cross the river and he will lead you through the Oltranro with more stories and legends of Florence. Angelo A. is irreverent, subversively funny, and fiercely passionate about his city. If you think you know Florence, book this tour and see if you learn anything new. I definitely did!
BOOK THIS: Evening walking tour of Florence
Palazzo Vecchio Tour
I cannot even tell you the number of times that I walked by the Palazzo Vecchio and never thought about what was inside. I thought it was just city offices. Last year, on our trip to Florence, I noticed the side doors were open one evening, giving way to a beautiful courtyard. I booked this Palazzo Vecchio tour because I wanted to know more about the Palazzo.
The tour begins in the Palazzo’s courtyard with a history of architecture and historical timeline. From there, you will make your way through the political history of Florence, the decisions of Popes, the secret hiding places for valuables, and the rooms where important decisions are made. As you climb higher in the Palazzo, you learn how Florence was able to take rival cities, like Siena and Pisa. You will find out whether or not Dan Brown’s depictions in Inferno are accurate. If you are anything like me, you’ll be completely fascinated by the map room. At the end of the tour, the guide will lead you to the first level of the tower and point out what you are seeing. The guide is extremely thorough and continually asks if you have any questions.
We didn’t book the apertivo or dinner option, so I can’t speak to the restaurant experience. Our tour ended around blue hour, which is my favorite time of day. We decided to stay up there to watch the sunset over the Ponte Vecchio, the Florence Duomo, and even Santa Croce. You can watch the lights come on throughout the city. It was really beautiful. (I think the view is better than the view from the bell tower and it’s less intense than the stairs to the top of il Duomo.)
BOOK THIS: Palazzo Vecchio / History of Florence tour
Best Florence Tours for Food
Florence Wine and Walking Tour
This Florence wine and food tour is primarily focused on the Oltrarno side of the river. That being said, it does end in front of the Duomo, so you will hear about most of the “major” Florence sites. Our guide was great at pointing out restaurants that she enjoys along the way, so we were able to build up our list of places to try. We visited a small wine shop with a separate tasting room in the Oltrarno. We tried several different red and white wines and enjoyed bruschetta with olive oil and different pate options. (Is there anything better? No. No, there is not.) After making our way back across the river, we stopped at another restaurant for a different wine and more snacks. I didn’t realize how much wine we were drinking, but I definitely felt a little tipsy by the end of the tour.
I did not get as much out of the historical information presented on this Florence walking tour. But, that being said, it’s a great introduction to the city. Also, I absolutely recommend it for trying local wines and learning more about Chianti and the wine-making process. I would also encourage you to ask for restaurant recommendations. We tried several places our guide recommended and all of them were tasty (and cheap!).
BOOK THIS: Sunset wine tour of Florence
Cooking Classes in Florence
You know what the best way to fuel up for more walking is? Carbs. You know what the best travel souvenirs are? Pizza and gelato. If you can’t (or don’t want to – let’s be real) bring your family to Italy, bring Italy to your family. My mom and I took this pizza and gelato class and loved it. You spend two hours learning the tricks of the trade and then enjoy your meal in the most delightful wine cellar. What’s not to love about that?
If you aren’t feeling pizza, then try this fresh pasta-making class. We learned to make egg-based and water-based pastas, including tortelli. We made three different sauces (with olive oil as the base) and everything was delicious. Again, you spend a couple hours learning how to make pasta from a master chef, and then enjoy it with your classmates. They give you all the recipes to take home so that you can enjoy Italy again and again. Completely worth it. (You can read about all of our experiences with different cooking classes in Italy!)
BOOK THIS: Pizza and gelato cooking class in Florence
BOOK THIS: Pasta class in Florence
BOOK THIS: 3 Pasta Cooking Class in Florence
Read more: Florence food tours and cooking classes
Florence Food Tour
In 2021, we booked a food tour of Florence. We had such an excellent experience with a Rome food tour that I decided to book the same company. Francesco was an excellent guide of the San Frediano and Oltrarno neighborhoods of Florence. Not only did he give us a lot of information about the various foods that we were trying, but he shared extensive knowledge about the restaurants and shops that we visited as well.
What I loved about this tour is how it was very seasonal. We were able to try local and regional specialties that were incredibly fresh. This also meant that we tried various dishes that we probably would not have ordered on our own. Most of the stops included a local cocktail or wine, so we got to try a variety of drinks as well. The tour was organized in such a way that conversations were easy and free flowing, the food was delicious, and we learned more about apertivo culture.
I highly recommend this tour as a way to get away from the tourist trap restaurants, learn more about seasonal cuisine in Florence (and Tuscany), and try a lot of new things along the way.
BOOK THIS: Florence Food Tour
Free Florence Walking Tours
After having a great experience with La Bussola in Venice, Tom wanted to try their free walking tour of Florence. They offer a morning tour and an afternoon tour. Since we prefer to rest in the middle of the day, we opted for the morning tour. The two free walking tours cover different sights, so you could certainly make a day of it, and a lot of people do. Our tour began at the Strozzi Palace, crossed the Arno into Santo Spirito, crossed the Ponte Vecchio and concluded near Via dei Neri.
I was surprised at how much we learned about the city (that we hadn’t learned on other tours), but what I enjoyed most are the recommendations the guides shared about restaurants and places to go. It certainly felt more authentic than most walking tours, and it’s how we found ‘Ino! The only drawback of this tour is that the group is larger than most. That being said, the guide was very proactive in ensuring that we had the opportunity to ask questions. They do ask that you register in advance, but if you show up before the tour, they will try to accommodate you if they are cancellations or no-shows.
BOOK THIS: La Bussola free tours Florence
DIY Free Walking Tours of Florence
If you aren’t the type to take advantage of guided tours (but I assure you that they are worth the money), I have a couple of options for a self guided walking tour of Florence. Grab your smartphone and some earphones and download the Rick Steves app. This app offers free audio tours of the Accademia Museum, the Bargello Museum, the San Marco Museum, the Uffizi Gallery, and a walking tour of Florence. His Florence and Tuscany book offers the same tours in written form, if you would rather read than listen. There are also a few Florence city walks in the Florence day by day book. (This is one of my favorite travel guides.)
When You Can’t Walk Around Florence Anymore
Fiat 500 Tour of the Florence Countryside
My husband probably has PTSD from our Fiat 500 tour (and Nico, the most patient tour guide ever, probably does, too). I, however, choose to remember how beautiful golden hour was as we cruised through the Tuscan countryside. How it felt to have the wind rushing through my hair. That the hills seemed to stretch on for miles when we were just barely outside of Florence. Watching the sunset while drinking delicious wine and snacking on tasty prosciutto. This driving tour departs from the hills outside of Florence, and you will be back in time for dinner or a stroll along the Arno. Pro tip: Make sure you are competent at driving a standard transmission because a vintage Fiat 500 has a double-clutch. (I prefer this to all the day trips because you don’t miss out on the beauty of Florence. You can make it back for a late seating at Sostanza, which isn’t the case with most guided tours.
BOOK THIS: Driving tour of Florence
Listen, Learn & Read More
As mentioned above, Rick Steves offers free audio tours of the most popular sites in Florence. If you use an earphone splitter, you can listen with your spouse and experience it together. (Tom and I do this, and I was stoked when Jenn Lake mentioned that she and her husband do the same when watching movies on planes.) Want to learn a little Italian before you go? I’ve been using the DK Eyewitness Phrase Book and CD since 2004. I would listen to it on my commute, and I definitely picked up more than I expected.
I still use books for a lot of travel planning. (We love going to Half Price Books and the library to browse their selections.) Florence and Tuscany Day-by-Day and the Top 10 Florence & Tuscany books are my favorite guides. If you don’t mind a guide that is a little bit large, I’ve been impressed with the information in the DK Florence and Tuscany guide. Tom likes the Rick Steves Florence and Tuscany book, but there is a lot of overlap between the city and country guides. You don’t need both.
We’ve spent a lot of time in Florence. If you need more inspiration or ideas to plan your trip, check out the links below. If you’re wondering what are some great places to visit in Tuscany, I’ve got the hill towns of Italy covered, too.