Florence Museums (Self Guided), Florence

Over the centuries Florence gained a huge collection of art works. Almost half of them come from the world known artists that lived here and the other half comes from the private collection of the Medici family that have ruled the city for a long time. To show their pride, the city of Florence displayed all these magnificent works of art in numerous museums and palaces. Take this tour to get familiarized with the best paintings, sculptures, drawings, frescoes in the world.
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Florence Museums Map

Guide Name: Florence Museums
Guide Location: Italy » Florence (See other walking tours in Florence)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 km
Author: greghasleft
1
Uffizi Gallery

1) Uffizi Gallery (must see)

If you were limited to visiting just one Renaissance location in Florence, or the whole world for that matter, the most obvious choice would be the Uffizi Gallery. Housed in the Palazzo degli Uffizi, initially designated as the magistrate office – hence the name "uffizi", erected in the 16th century by Giorgio Vasari for Cosimo Medici, the 1st Duke of Florence, it represented an ideal setting for the Medicis' art collection as well. The gallery has been open to the public since 1765 and, to this date, become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florence.

The displayed here must-see works of art include Sandro Botticelli's “Birth of Venus” and “Adoration of the Magi”, not to mention the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio and other eternal greats. The collection is truly magnificent and you can easily spend here a whole day without noticing!

While paintings and statues are what most people come here for, the decoration of the rooms, especially the ceilings, are just as spectacular and worthy of attention. With more than 50 opulent rooms to explore, it is actually quite hard to absorb everything in one go, so you might want to take a break and “recharge batteries” at an on-site cafe with a terrace which, among other delights, offers visitors some truly great views unseen anywhere else.

Given the world-class status of the museum, it is perpetually busy and the hours-long queue here is not uncommon, especially during peak season. Those who book their tickets in advance from the official website, have a substantially shorter wait and may get it cheaper, too. Also note that no liquids are allowed onto the premises and the restrooms are available only at entrance and exit. At your own risk, you may try and go an hour or two before closing just in hopes to get a ticket without queuing. Good luck!

Tip:
If you decide to go, note that no liquids are allowed onto the premises and the restrooms are available only at entrance and exit.
At your own risk, you may try and go an hour or two before closing just in hopes to get a ticket without queuing. Good luck!

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 8:15am-6:50pm
Closure starts from 6:35pm
The ticket office closes at 6:05pm
2
Museo Galileo

2) Museo Galileo

The Museo Galileo (before 2010 known as the Institute and Museum of the History of Science) is a science museum housed inside an old palace named Castellani. It was founded in 1927 by the University of Florence. The museum is located in the Piazza dei Giudici, by the River Arno and close to the Uffizi Gallery.

The museum features many artifacts from the 15th to 19th century, mostly pioneering scientific instruments including world globes, stethoscopes, navigation instruments and telescopes with accompanying videos to the exhibits.

Operation hours: Monday, Wednesday - Sunday: 9:30 am - 6:00 pm; Tuesday: 9:30 am - 1:00 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace)

3) Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) (must see)

Just like the Duomo complex, Palazzo Pitti and major local art galleries, Palazzo Vecchio, or the Old Palace, is one of the key sites in Florence that is absolutely essential for understanding the history and culture of the city. One of the most impressive town halls in Tuscany, this enormous Romanesque-style palace has been the office of a Florence mayor since 1872. Prior to that, for a while between 1865 and 1871, it also housed the Italian government.

The solid facade of this crenelated military-like fortress is decorated with shields recounting the city's political history, plus adorned with a series of sculptures among which are the likes of Michelangelo's “David”, “Marzocco” – the heraldic lion, symbol of Florence, Donatello's original “Judith and Holofernes” and “Hercules and Cacus”. A standalone attraction within the palace is the Tower of Arnolfo, access to which costs an additional fee.

Walking through the palace, from the huge Salone dei Cinquecento to the most intimate quarters, virtually transports one back in time, offering a glimpse into the secluded privacy of the Medici rulers, magnificently decorated as part of the iconographic program designed by Giorgio Vasari. It is hence advisable to take one's time and explore the property without haste, so as to be able to get the historically-intense, artistically-rich experience, quite possibly resulting in a crick-in-the-neck feeling from gazing at the gorgeous ceilings above, one room after another.

There are various add-on tours of the palace available that are fun for kids and don't cost too much extra. Among them, for instance, the 'Secret Paths' tour, lasting about 1h½, delivered by knowledgeable guides and allowing access to the parts of the palace otherwise closed for the public.

Tip:
If you decide to go for a tour, it is advisable to book directly with the museum by email, stating the preferred date and time, and then wait for confirmation. You will pay upon collecting the tickets on the day of the tour. After it is finished, you can wander freely around the palace at will.
Be aware, though, that since this is an active municipality office, it is quite possible that, on special occasions, the building may be temporarily closed for public. It is, therefore, recommended to check their website for possible announcements to this effect prior to the visit.

Opening Hours:
Fri-Wed: 9am-11pm; Thu: 9am-2pm (Apr-Sep); Fri-Wed: 9am-7pm; Thu: 9am-2pm (Oct-Mar)
4
Bargello

4) Bargello (must see)

If Florence, in general, is a paradise for architecture buffs and art lovers, then the Bargello museum is even more so. Occupying a medieval fortress, this museum houses some of Italy's most valuable sculptures and other works of art.

Also known as Palazzo del Popolo (the People's Palace), this is one of the oldest structures in the city, dating back to 1255. Throughout its history, the building has served many different roles. Early on, back in the 16th century, it accommodated the so-called Captain of the People, the police chief of Florence, called “bargello”, hence the name of the palace. After that, the Bargello Fortress served as a prison, up until the mid-19th century, upon which it was converted to a museum displaying a large collection of Gothic and Renaissance sculptures.

Among the displayed artifacts here are the works of Donatello, Michelangelo, Verrochio, Brunelleschi, and other greats. Notably, Donatello’s statue of David was the first male nude sculpture ever exhibited since ancient times, thus manifesting a turn in the history of European art. The inner courtyard of the museum is an elegant space crammed with the relief and free-standing sculptures; however, the most famous items are placed in the gallery, off the courtyard, and in the large exhibition space above. Apart from the Renaissance items, the collection includes rare artifacts from the Byzantine, Roman and Medieval eras. Alongside sculptures, you can find here jewelry pieces of the European Renaissance and Islamic origin, too. For visitors convenience, all the exhibits are accompanied by English descriptions.

Donatello’s “David” was the first male nude sculpture since ancient times, and you can admire this turn in art history without an overwhelming amount of visitors. The interior courtyard is an elegant space crammed with relief and free-standing sculpture; however, the most famous works are in the gallery off the courtyard and the large exhibition space above. Among the treasures of Renaissance artists and craftsmen, those spaces house rare pieces of artifacts from the Byzantine, Roman and medieval era, along with beautiful jewelry right from the Renaissance period down to the Islamic period. You can take your time there, as you'll find some very intriguing collections presented interestingly with English explanations and there is no sense of pressure that you have to rush through to “see everything”.

Tip:
To better plan your visit to Bargello, check out the museum's website in advance for opening hours, noting that on special occasions it may close rather late. Those brave enough to wander around the eerie, empty medieval building late in the evening, may find this rather entertaining.

Opening Hours:
http://www.bargellomusei.beniculturali.it/musei/1/bargello/
5
Dante House-Museum (Casa di Dante)

5) Dante House-Museum (Casa di Dante) (must see)

Found in the heart of medieval Florence, Casa di Dante or the Dante House-Museum is a 20th-century building set on the site – as the records suggest – of a very probable location of the Alighieri family house, the birthplace of one Italy's most cherished poets, Dante Alighieri.

Spread across three floors, the museum displays, among other artifacts, some of the most important works of Dante, illustrative of major milestones in his life. The ground floor is dedicated to Dante's early years, while the first floor showcases documents related to his exile in 1301, plus the final years of his life in Ravenna. Finally, the second floor exhibits a vast collection of Dante’s belongings (both, originals and replicas) garnered over the years. There, you can see a miniature copy of “Divina Comedia”, the smallest printed edition.

Also, across the street from the Dante House, there is a map following which you can reach the church where Dante, at the age of nine, first caught sight of Beatrice Portinari, also nine at that time, who would for decades afterwards symbolize for him a perfection of female beauty and spiritual goodness. Despite Dante's fervent devotion to Beatrice, she did not return feelings and got married to another man and then died at a fairly young age...

After having served as one of the six priors governing Florence, Dante’s political activities, including the banishing of several rivals, led to his own banishment, upon which he wrote his masterpiece, “The Divine Comedy”, as a virtual wanderer, seeking protection for his family in one town after another. In the poem’s first and second books, the poet takes a tour of Hell and Purgatory guided by poet Virgil. In Paradise, however, he is guided by Beatrice. Although Dante himself referred to his work simply as “Comedy”, it became enormously popular and a deluxe version of it, published in 1555 in Venice, assumed the new title that we all know today.

Tip:
Steep stairs, but there is a lift, which is not obvious when you enter.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm (Apr-Oct); Tue-Fri: 10am-5pm; Sat, Sun: 10am-6pm (Nov-Mar)
6
Accademia di Belle Arti

6) Accademia di Belle Arti (must see)

The Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze, located on Via Rasacoli, is an art gallery whose history dates back as far as 1563. Under the advice of Giorgio Vasari, an artist and writer, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de' Medici set up the Accademia e Compagnia delle Arti del Disegno (Arts of Drawing Academy and Company). The institution not only housed renowned artists of Cosimo’s court but also functioned as organisation for the artists of Tuscany. Accademia di Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts) was born as a result of a 1784 decree of the then Duke of Tuscany, Pietro Leopoldo, along with conservatory of music and a school for art restoration.

The Academy and its Gallery are home to some of Michelangelo’s work. A must see art gallery in Italy, Michelangelo’s David is on display here along with his unfinished Prisoners and statue of St. Matthew. The gallery also displays several paintings made by artists between the 13th and 16th centuries. These Renaissance-era paintings are works of famous artists like Uccello, Ghirlandaio, Botticelli and others. A room is dedicated to a series of polyptychs which are marvelous. The Gallery also houses plaster sculptures by artists like Bartolini, Pampaloni and Giambologna, to name a few.

Recorded in history as the first academy for drawing in Europe, this Art Academy and Gallery is a must visit for every guest of Florence.

Why You Should Visit:
Michelangelo's David is the undeniable star, but an impressive collection of medieval and renaissance art, too.
The musical section is also tremendous – strings by Casini, Amati and Stradivari, harpsichords and some rarer stuff.
Audio guides are good (for a fee) and have adults or children's version.

Tip:
A good time to go during high season is on Thursdays when the Accademia is open late (after 7pm) and you don't have long lines.
Consider pre-booking otherwise. You'll have to take your online booking to a doorway just opposite and a little down the street to turn the booking into your tickets (ask the guards to direct you).

Operation Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-7pm
7
Museo di San Marco

7) Museo di San Marco (must see)

San Marco is the name of a religious complex in Florence that comprises a church and a convent. The convent, which is now a museum, has three claims to fame. During the 15th century it was home to two famous Dominicans, the painter Fra Angelico and the preacher Girolamo Savonarola. Also housed at the convent is a famous collection of manuscripts in a library built by Michelozzo.

The present convent occupies the site where a Vallombrosan monastery existed in the 12th century, which later passed to Benedictine monks of the Silvestrine line. In 1435 the Benedictines were replaced by Dominicans from the Convent of San Domenico in Fiesole. Two years later, they appealed to Cosimo de' Medici the Elder, who lived nearby in the family palace, now known as the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, to fund the renovation of the entire complex. The works were entrusted to Michelozzo. Each cell of the monks' cloister and many other walls were decorated by Fra Angelico in collaboration with others, including Benozzo Gozzoli. Cosimo de' Medici had a cell at the convent for his personal retreat.

San Marco is famous as the seat of Girolamo Savonarola's discourses during his short spiritual rule in Florence in the late 15th century.

Why You Should Visit:
Extensive sacred art collection that leaves a lasting impression, particularly if you have an interest in the genre transition at the end of the Gothic and beginning of the Renaissance periods.

Tip:
The museum is inexpensive to visit (only €4) and is covered by the Firenze Card as well.
Make sure you check out the galleries & the cells on the top floor as these can be easily missed.

Operation Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8:15am-1:15pm; Sat, Sun: 8:15am-4:15pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Florence, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Florence

Create Your Own Walk in Florence

Creating your own self-guided walk in Florence is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Dante's Florence Walking Tour

Dante's Florence Walking Tour

Dante Alighieri is considered one of the greatest poets of all times. He was born in Florence and spent most of his life there until he was exiled. Many of the structures in the city were built according to his greatest epic poem Divina Commedia. This tour will take you on a trip through Dante's life and work in Florence.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 km
Michelangelo's Masterpieces Walking Tour

Michelangelo's Masterpieces Walking Tour

Michelangelo spent over 20 years of his life in Florence during which he created some of the most beautiful masterpieces this city had ever seen. The most famous of them, the David, is also located in Florence along with a few copies. Take this tour to discover the Florence side of Michelangelo's artistic mastership.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 km
Duomo Walking Tour

Duomo Walking Tour

Duomo quarter is located in the very heart of the Florence Historic Center. This area is deservedly considered the religious and the civic centre of the town. Most of the historic sites Florence is famous for are to be found here. Take this tour to explore all the masterpieces of the Duomo quarter.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 km
Novella & Indipendenza Walking Tour

Novella & Indipendenza Walking Tour

Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has been called "the Athens of the Middle Ages". This city has to offer a lot of wonderful places to admire. Take this tour to explore Indipendenza and Santa Maria Novella quarters, visit beautiful Dominican basilica of Santa Maria Novella, as well as Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Accademia di Belle Arti, Cappella dei Principi and...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 km
Novella Walking Tour

Novella Walking Tour

Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has been called "the Athens of the Middle Ages". This city has to offer a lot of wonderful places to admire. Take this tour to walk along the Arno embankment and explore the south-eastern part of the Santa Maria Novella quarter.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 km
City Orientation Walking Tour

City Orientation Walking Tour

The city of Florence was founded by Julius Caesar in 59 BC as a settlement for veteran soldiers and, as such, was built in the style of an army camp with the main streets intersecting at the present Piazza della Repubblica. The original name Fluentia was due to the fact that the city was built between two rivers. Later, the name was changed to Florentia which means “flowering” or...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 km

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