If you’re in the midst of planning an unforgettable trip to Florence, you probably already know some of the amazing sights that await you- but before you get too caught up organizing your itinerary, you need to choose the perfect place to stay! While it is possible to see Florence on a quick day trip from a nearby city, you’ll definitely need at least a few days to enjoy everything that this spectacular city has to offer which makes accommodation an extremely important factor for most visiting travelers.
When it comes to lodging in Florence, you have plenty of great options to choose from ranging from hostels, hotels, B&B’s, or luxury villas outside of the city center. With this being said, you are probably wondering- what neighborhoods should I be looking to stay in during my stay? This travel guide will tell you the inside scoop on the top districts and areas to stay in so that you are ready to take off on your adventure to the remarkable Renaissance city of Florence, Italy!
The Historical City Center Has It All
Since Florence’s historical city center is relatively small and has banned most cars from entering, it is the perfect place to explore by foot!
If you like to be within close reach to all of the main attractions when you travel, you are in luck! The historical city center of Florence is actually pretty small making it easy to walk from one side to the other in less than thirty minutes. For example, walking from the Accademia Gallery to the iconic Duomo takes just about five minutes, while making your way from the Duomo to Piazza della Signoria takes about the same amount of time. So, what we are basically trying to say is that you can stay wherever you like in the city center without ever having to worry about being too far away from the action!
During the fourteenth century, Florence was divided into four districts: Santa Maria Novella, San Giovanni, Santa Croce, and Santo Spirito. These areas are known as “quartieri storici” and defined the city center that we know today. Over the years, various neighborhoods in Florence have arisen within the greater subsections of these areas and are each known for having their own unique characteristics. Keep reading to discover some of the best areas to stay within Florence’s city center to see which one would make the best fit for you or your family!
Where the Action Happens: The Duomo
If you like being in the center of it all, you’ll love staying next to one of Florence’s most bustling monuments: the iconic Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
When you think of Florence, you surely picture the stunning Florence Cathedral known for its iconic red dome that dominates the city skyline and makes a debut on nearly every postcard from the city. In the same complex, you’ll also find the exquisitely decorated Baptistery of St. John and Giotto’s Bell Tower which boasts incredible views of the city from the top. So, what could make for a better place to stay than in the Duomo district? This neighborhood is full of amazing shopping, great restaurants, and of course, the accommodations are just steps away from the gorgeous cathedral complex which earned the well deserved title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While all of the factors I mentioned above make the Duomo an ideal area to stay in, keep in mind that the nearby streets are quite crowded and accommodations can get really expensive considering the high demand for them. So if you are on a budget or simply prefer peace and quiet, you may want to look into staying elsewhere in Florence for your stay. If you have the extra money to spend and don’t mind living life at a high pace however, you’ll definitely love staying in this neighborhood in central Florence. In fact, you could even luck out and find a place that has rooms or rooftop terraces with a view of the dome itself! I mean, it doesn’t get more romantic than that, am I right?
Enjoy a Quieter Stay Across the River in Oltrano
Looking for tranquility in a hip part of town? Oltrarno may be the place for you!
To escape the inner city chaos and storms of tourists, Oltrarno, the beautiful area just south of the Arno river, is just a short walk away. After crossing one of the many bridges to get to Oltrarno, you’ll find that this district provides a more tranquil setting while still being quite the trendy spot. In fact, you’ll find various artisan workshops and art galleries lined along the picturesque streets to peak your head into, making it the prime location for an afternoon stroll. Did I mention that the food and nightlife here are amazing?
This area is also home to several must-see sights such as Palazzo Pitti, a grand palace turned museum that was constructed during the Renaissance and saw the rule of three separate dynasties. Another incredible spot located in Oltrarno is the Church of Santo Spirito which features gorgeous architecture, an adorable square out front, and plenty of options for lodging nearby. The last attraction that I will mention here is Piazzale Michelangelo, an amazing viewpoint located just up the hill from San Niccolò that is known for its glorious panoramic views of Florence, especially at sunrise or sunset. Thus, this marvelous area across the river sure does make for an amazing place to stay in Florence if you are looking for a quiet and affordable alternative that is still overflowing with things to discover.
Enjoy Amazing Art & Shopping Near Piazza della Signoria / Ponte Vecchio
The mesmerizing area near Piazza della Signoria contains world-renowned museums and is just a short walk away from Ponte Vecchio, a bridge that looks like it came out of a storybook!
Now to make our way back to the hustle and bustle of Florence, we head to the areas surrounding Piazza della Signoria and Ponte Vecchio. If you love shopping, or are as obsessed with art as I am, look no further for a place to stay! During the Renaissance era, Piazza della Signoria was the center of political life in Florence. Inside this large square, you’ll find the open-air sculpture museum known as the Loggia dei Lanzi, Palazzo Vecchio where the Medici family once ruled, and the magnificent Uffizi Gallery which houses some of the most famous artworks in the world including Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” and Leonardo da Vinci’s “Annunciation.” Beware however, because these amazing attractions often have long wait times and the surrounding streets are usually very busy as well. Before you book your trip, we recommend that you research the best times to visit Florence to avoid the crowds.
Of course with all of these amazing sights in the heart of Florence nearby, you’ll find plenty of trendy sandwich shops, up-scale gelaterias, and great places to shop for clothes, accessories or souvenirs as well. For example, while you are not taking in the amazing views from Ponte Vecchio, you can look inside the luxury storefronts that are built directly on the bridge. So, with all of these top sights at your fingertips, this area is a pretty great place to stay in- especially if you have to wake up first thing in the morning for your Skip the Line Uffizi Gallery Masterpieces Tour. Generally, prices for accommodations can be quite high in this area, however, with lots of options to choose from you may be able to find something that fits your budget.
Discover the Charming & Historical Neighborhood of Santa Croce
The eastern neighborhood of Santa Croce is known for giving off a local vibe and contains amazing restaurants fit for your all of your Florence travel desires
Santa Croce is one of the original quarters of Florence and gets its name from the the large church standing tall in its center, the Basilica of Santa Croce. Besides having a gorgeous Gothic design, this church and museum is famous for being the burial site of none other than Michelangelo Buonarroti, Galileo Galilei, Machiavelli, and many more important historical figures. The large square right outside of the church is also famous for hosting an annual competition known as the “Calcio Storico” in June, a Christmas Market during the holidays, and even a chocolate festival during February.
The best thing about the neighborhood of Santa Croce is that you’ll have the place to yourself! Well, not completely to yourself but you’ll definitely find less tourists in this part of town than others. One major perk is that nearby, you’ll find lively nightlife and top-rated eateries that serve up typical Tuscan cuisine such as the Florentine steak. Florence hotels are generally reasonably priced in this area, so if what I mentioned above sounds like a good fit for your travel style, consider choosing Santa Croce for your stay!
Escape the Crowds in San Marco
Stay in Florence on a budget and remain close to all of the major sights and monuments in San Marco
A little farther north of the Duomo is the neighborhood of San Marco. One of the main highlights here is Piazza San Marco, for which the district receives its name. After checking out the giant equestrian statue in the center of the square which just happens to be the meeting point of our Renaissance Walking Tour With The David, head to the stunning Basilica of Santissima Annunziata which features incredible masterpieces by important artists such as the Italian painter Perugino and flemish sculptor Giambologna. Just down the street, you’ll also find the Accademia Gallery, where Michelangelo’s iconic David sculpture is on display in all of its glory.
This unique section of the city tends to be on the quieter side in terms of tourists and is located just steps away from beautiful churches and museums. As far as prices go in San Marco, you can usually find pretty amazing deals in comparison to other hotels in Florence. Though this neighborhood may not receive as much hype as the other places I am mentioning on this list, it is definitely a good option to look into if you are looking to spend less on accommodation but still be surrounded by history.
Stay Connected in Santa Maria Novella & San Lorenzo
Located on the west side of town, the areas of Santa Maria Novella and San Lorenzo are close to the train station and contain a lot of historical gems to discover
Okay so, the area around the Santa Maria Novella train station may not have the best reputation, but there are a ton of recommended hotels within its boundaries that are great for on-the-go travelers who need to catch an early morning train. In general, the part of town surrounding the train station is pretty noisy and a little grimy, but if you venture to the more residential section closer to the river you’ll find a much more pleasant experience. Here, you’ll also be just steps away from the massive Basilica of Santa Maria Novella which is definitely worth a visit during your stay.
Located a few minutes walk away from Santa Maria Novella and the Duomo, you’ll find the busy but exciting neighborhood of San Lorenzo. This area is probably most famous for its daily market known as “Mercato Centrale.” At the market, you’ll find an indoor section devoted to fresh produce, fish, meats, and cheeses, while leather goods, clothing, souvenirs, and more can be purchased at the open stalls on the street. Another point of interest in San Lorenzo is the basilica of the ever so powerful Medici family to which the area received its name. In general, this neighborhood is full of lodging to choose from and like many other places on this list, contains lots of places to eat, drink, and shop.
Relax in the Nearby Florence Hills or Tuscan Countryside
If you want to get away from the crowds and have a little more time to yourself, you can opt to stay in a luxurious villa in the hills of Tuscany!
So, perhaps you’ve been to Florence before, or simply want to enjoy all that the city has to offer without staying directly in all of the chaos. Whatever the case is, opting for a more secluded place in one of Florence’s three hills or the outlying Tuscan countryside makes for a far more intimate and relaxing getaway. Plus, many of these places offer more space, lush gardens, and swimming pools to cool off in during the summer heat. Thankfully, there are a ton of options to choose from outside of the city center whether that be renting a rustic cottage in the Chianti region, or staying in an opulent winery, exclusive hotel, or villa in the hills just outside city boundaries. If sitting by the pool and drinking a glass of the region’s top wines with a view of the famous Tuscan rolling hills sounds like your ideal trip, this may be the best route to go.
If you do decide to stay outside of the city center and walking to the top sights in Florence isn’t an option, keep in mind that you’ll have to figure out the best ways to travel to and from your desired destinations. Some accommodations may offer a shuttle service which transports you to the “centro storico” of the city, otherwise, you can choose to hire a local car service or taxi take you where you need to go. If you are staying further away and decide to rent a car, keep in mind that traffic is restricted in the historical part of Florence so you’ll have to park outside of the designated zones to avoid fines.
Wherever you choose to stay, remember to enjoy every moment of your once in a lifetime trip to Florence!
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