Birthplace of the Renaissance, it’s fair to say Florence (Firenze) exudes art at every turn, with countless galleries and museums showcasing centuries of artistic and scientific innovation. Read on to discover some of the best museums in Florence, Italy, from the majesty of the Uffizi and Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, to the absorbing Museo Galileo, and beyond.
While this beauty is evident from simply strolling the city, art lovers will want to dig deeper into Florence’s cultural jewels by spending time in some of its world-class galleries and museums.
Given the sheer volume of art in the city, and the corresponding colossal number of museums and galleries, our run-down of the best museums in Florence might help focus your plans, so you can make the most of your trip.
Housed in what were once government offices (uffizi) built by Vasari for Cosimo I, these later became the home of the Medici’s art collection.
The spectacle of masterpieces begins immediately, with altarpieces of the Maestà (Madonna Enthroned) by Duccio, Cimabue and Giotto.
Among the Uffizi’s many, many highlights, rooms 10-14 boasts a bounty of works by Botticelli.
While The Primavera and The Birth of Venus are the biggest crowd-pullers, don’t overlook Botticelli’s wonderful religious paintings, such as the Madonna of the Magnificat and the Madonna of the Pomegranate.
Meanwhile, in the Michelangelo room, all eyes are on the artist’s Doni Tondo — the only easel painting he came close to completing.
Been there, done that, and bought the Michelangelo t-shirt? The Uffizi (officially Galleria degli Uffizi) now has a whole new floor of galleries, plus an excellent bookshop. All of which gives art-lovers plenty of reasons to return.
Occupying the Palazzo del Bargello, which was built in 1255 and became the seat of the city’s chief magistrate, the Bargello leaves visitors little time to catch their breath. The room right behind the ticket office is crammed with treasures, including masterworks by Michelangelo.
Meanwhile, Salone del Consiglio Generale, the museum’s second key room, showcases the genius of Donatello, fountainhead of Renaissance sculpture. In addition to his celebrated statue of St George, the room features two figures of David.
Another notable highlight of the Bargello is its superb collection of European and Islamic applied art, with dazzling specimens of work crafted from enamel, glass, silver, majolica and ivory.
During Florence’s brief tenure as the Italian capital between 1865 and 1871, Palazzo Pritti housed Italy's kings. Today the complex contains eight museums.
The Palatina galleries are the absolute highlight, with wonderful paintings by Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, and many others. In fact, the Palatina art collection is second only to the Uffizi.
Meanwhile, Galleria d’Arte Moderna features a chronological survey of primarily Tuscan art from the mid-eighteenth century to 1945.
If that wasn’t enough, the palace’s gardens – Giardino di Bóboli – are gorgeous too. Of all its Mannerist attractions, the most celebrated is the Grotta del Buontalenti. You’ll find this to the left of the entrance, beyond Giambologna’s statue of Cosimo I’s favourite dwarf astride a giant tortoise.
Another spectacular feature of the garden is the fountain island called the Isolotto.
Reopened in 2015 after a €50 million rebuild that extended the museum into an eighteenth-century theatre, the collection comprises over than 750 items arranged over three floors.
The show-stopper on the ground floor is a huge top-lit hall containing a reconstruction of Arnolfo di Cambio’s facade of the Duomo.
Also on the ground floor, you’ll find a room devoted to Michelangelo’s Pietà (1550–53). Carved when he was almost 80, this is one of his last works, and intended for his own tomb.
Completed in 1504 when Michelangelo was just 29, David has been displayed for almost four hundred years.
Today the sculpture occupies a specially built alcove, protected by a glass barrier that was built in 1991 after one of his toes was vandalised with a hammer.
Nearby, you can see Michelangelo’s unfinished St Matthew (1505–06), which he started as a commission from the Opera del Duomo soon after completing David.
Long after Florence had declined from its artistic apex, the city’s reputation as an intellectual hothouse was continued by its scientists, and the Museo Galileo is on hand to showcase exactly that.
Some of Galileo’s original instruments are on show on the first floor, among them the telescope he used to discover the four moons of Jupiter.
The same floor also features the museum’s holy relics – bones from three of Galileo’s fingers, plus a tooth. Other cases are filled with beautiful Arab astrolabes, calculating machines, early telescopes, and ornate thermometers.
The most imposing single exhibit on this floor is an enormous armillary sphere made in 1593 for Ferdinando I.
On the floor above, exquisitely manufactured scientific and mechanical equipment is on show, along with dozens of clocks and timepieces, spectacular electrical machines, cases of alarming surgical instruments, and anatomical wax models.
On the ground floor, on your way out, you’ll pass through a child-oriented interactive area that explains key scientific principles.
Head to the first floor to see a huge array of funerary figures and two outstanding bronze sculptures. Namely, the Arringatore (Orator), the only known large Etruscan bronze from the Hellenistic period, and the Chimera. This triple-headed monster was made in the fourth century BC.
Elsewhere, the museum has a child-pleasing Egyptian collection. This includes papyri, statuettes and sarcophagi with mummies.
The Uffizi, the Accademia and the Bargello belong to this group, as do the Palazzo Pitti museums, the Boboli gardens, and the archaeological museum.
You can reserve tickets (booking fee of €4 for Uffizi and Accademia, €3 for the rest) by phoning T055 294 883, or online.
In the case of the Uffizi and Pitti, you can also reserve tickets at the museum sites.
Note that on-the-door admission to all state-run museums is free on the first Sunday of the month and for EU citizens under 18, on presentation of a passport.
18–25s get a fifty percent discount, as do teachers, on proof of identity.
Nearly all Florence’s major museums are routinely closed on Monday, though some are open for a couple of Mondays each month.
In most cases, museum ticket offices close thirty minutes before the museum itself.
An extra €7 gives you unlimited use of public transport.
The card enables you to bypass the queues at the major museums, which have separate gates for card holders.
Note that in order to make it worthwhile, you have to pack a lot into each day. What’s more, some of the museums are some distance out of the city, and unlikely to feature on anyone’s short city break.
The card can be bought at the Via Cavour and Piazza Stazione tourist offices, and at the Uffizi (door 2), Palazzo Vecchio, Bargello, Palazzo Pitti, Palazzo Strozzi, Museo Bardini and Cappella Brancacci.
If bought online, the card can be collected from any tourist office, or the Museo Bardini, Cappella Brancacci, Palazzo Vecchio or Palazzo Strozzi.
You'll also find plenty of inspiration in our customisable trip itineraries. For example, our Trip Back in Time itinerary showcases Florence's Renaissance romance.
Alternatively, culture vultures looking to mix things up will love our Italian Cities of the Renaissance itinerary — it includes Rome, Florence and Venice.