8 must-see museums in Florence

David de Michel-Ange

Off to explore Italy’s capital of Tuscany? Discover our selection of 8 must-see museums in Florence!

The former capital of the kingdom and cradle of the Renaissance in Italy, Florence is known the world over for its beauty and numerous historic monuments. Its city center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is packed with churches, palaces, gardens and museums. But you’ll have to make your own choices, as one stay in Florence is rarely enough to see them all. The « City of the Lily » boasts some of the finest art collections in the world. The major artists of the Renaissance helped make Florence the capital of Italian art. Dante Alighieri, Michelangelo, Donatello and Leonardo da Vinci all left their mark on the city’s palaces. To discover the masterpieces of the great masters, visit eight museums in Florence with our selection of must-sees!

1. Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery)

La Galerie des Offices

Photo credit: Flickr – Naval S

Length of visit: between 2 hours and one day

Ticket: yes

The Uffizi Gallery is one of Florence’s must-see museums. Dating back to the 16th century, it once housed state institutions. Over time, the office complex became a museum. Initially, it housed the Medici family’s private collection. Later, many other works by Italian artists were added to the collection. In fact, this Florence museum is one of the finest and most comprehensive in the world of Renaissance art. You can admire paintings and sculptures by the greatest artists, including Machiavelli, Dante, Vinci, Vespucci, Raphael…

The visit unfolds naturally through a series of galleries, each presenting a different period, with works dating from the 12th to the 18th centuries. Depending on your interest in art, you can spend from 2 hours to a full day in the museum, so extensive is the collection.

2. Galleria dell’Academia (Academy Gallery)

Visit time: between 1h and 4h

Ticket: yes

The Galleria dell’Accademia is located in the building of the former Florence Academy of Fine Arts. It’s one of Florence’s must-visit museums, and for good reason: second only to the Uffizi Gallery in terms of attendance. The main attraction is Michelangelo’s David, the artist’s masterpiece and the museum’s emblem. But in addition to this monumental 5-meter-high statue carved from a gigantic block of marble, you’ll discover major works of Florentine and Italian painting and sculpture. These include numerous paintings by Boticelli, such as Madonna of the Sea and Madonna and Child.

You’ll marvel at the many rooms, each with its own theme. Discover, for example, international Gothic works, Russian icons or musical instruments. Depending on your mood, you can take a quick tour. Just concentrate on the major paintings and sculptures. A tour of all the rooms, on the other hand, can take between 2 and 4 hours.

3. Corridoio Vasariano

Le Corridoio Vasariano

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Efired

Visit time: between 30 minutes and 1 hour

Ticket: yes

The Vasari Corridor is a passageway that crosses the River Arno on the Ponte Vecchio. It links the Palazzo Pitti and the Palazzo Vecchio, and was used by the Medici to reach their various palaces. It enabled them to cross from one side of the river to the other safely, without having to go down into the street. Indeed, in those days, the risk of attacks was particularly high. The complete route passes through the Uffizi Gallery, then follows the Arno quay before crossing the Ponte Vecchio. It then skirts around the Manelli tower-house, past the church of Santa Felicita and the Buontalenti grotto, before arriving at the Palazzo Pitti.

Paintings by Italian artists of the 17th and 18th centuries are displayed throughout. But the most striking collection is that of self-portraits. This is a unique selection of over 200 self-portraits by Italian and foreign artists such as Rembrandt, Ingres, Chagall and Diego Velasquez. Small windows in the corridor wall allow you to observe people in the street discreetly, but also to enjoy unparalleled views of the city.

Corridoio Vasariano is a must-see museum in Florence!

4. Museo Nazionale del Bargello (Bargello National Museum)

Le Museo Nazionale d'Il Bargello

Photo credit: Flickr – Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup

Visit time: Approximately 2 hours

Admissionticket: yes

The Bargello Museum is Italy’s first national museum, established by royal decree in 1865. It houses objects from the Medici collection, as well as from convents and monasteries that have closed or from private donors. The result is one of the largest collections of Italian Renaissance art, with major works by Donatello, Luca della Robbia and Benvenuto Cellini. The tour takes place over three floors.

On the first floor, you’ll find the palace’s magnificent courtyard and Michelangelo’s room. On the second floor, you’ll find the Donatello room, with its sculpture of Florence’s emblem, the Marzocco. Other rooms focus on Italian ceramics, the 14th century, Islamic art and ivory. On the top floor, you can admire masterpieces by Andrea and Giovanni della Robbia, and rooms featuring bronzes, medals and armor.

5. Museo dell’Opera del Duomo

Musée de l'Opera del Duomo de Florence

Photo credit: Flickr – dvdbramhall

Length of visit: 1 hour for the museum to half a day for the whole complex

Admission ticket: yes

This is the museum of the cathedral‘s work. It is located in a building behind the cathedral. It can be visited in combination with the dome, baptistery, campanile and crypt of Santa Reparata. This Florence museum was opened to the public in 1891 and houses over 700 works from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, on a total surface area of over 6,000 square meters.

Highlights include Michelangelo’s Pieta and Donatello’s Mary Magdalene. Numerous magnificent religious works are also on display, including altars and the baptistery doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti. All these pieces have been placed here for conservation reasons and replaced by copies in the cathedral, baptistry and campanile.

6. Pitti Palace and Palatine Gallery

Le Palazzo Pitti, vu des Giardini di Boboli

Photo credit: Flickr – Toni Almodóvar Escuder

Length of visit: Between 2 hours and one day

Ticket: yes

Palazzo Pitti was built in 1458 by Luca Pitti, a wealthy Florentine banker, and bought by the Medici family in 1549. It then served as the residence of the Dukes of Tuscany, lords of the city. Generation after generation, an impressive collection was created, with each resident adding his or her own personal touch to the overall decor. While the building’s powerful exterior may appear austere, the interior is brimming with beautiful works of art. The Palatine Gallery on the second floor contains paintings by Raphael, Titian, Rubens and Peter of Crotone. It makes the Palazzo Pitti one of Florence’s must-visit museums. The Royal Apartments and the Gallery of Modern Art will not leave you indifferent.

Other collections include the Costume Gallery, the Porcelain Gallery, the Silverware Museum and the Transport Museum. The Palazzo Pitti is a great place to visit, offering a wealth of different art forms from many different eras.

7. Palazzo Vecchio

Vue sur le Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italie

Photo credit: Shutterstock – QQ7

Visit time: Between 1h and 4h

Ticket: yes

The Palazzo Vecchio, literally « old palace », is located in the famous Piazza della Signoria. Built in 1299 to house high-ranking officials in the heart of the city, it now houses the town hall and is one of Florence’s must-see museums.

The Tower of Arnolfo overlooking the building is an impressive 95 meters high. You first enter a sumptuous courtyard decorated by Vasari, before landing in the Hall of the Five Hundred. This is one of the most beautiful rooms on the tour, with its immense murals glorifying the Medici family. It also features Michelangelo’s sculpture of the Victorious Genius. The other rooms, like the Hall of the Lilies and the Apartments of the Elements, rival each other in beauty.

Finally, the highlight of the visit is the climb up the 233 steps to the top of the tower. Here, you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of Florence and the best vantage point on the cathedral’s dome.

8. Bardini Museum

Museo Bardini

Photo credit: Flickr – Kotomi_

Length of visit: Between 1h and 2h

Ticket: yes

This house-museum houses over 3,600 works of art in a luxurious setting, making it a great place to visit when you’re looking for something to do in Florence. The coffered ceilings and ocean-blue walls showcase the many pieces accumulated by the museum’s founder. These include paintings and sculptures, as well as ceramics, coins, musical instruments and antique furniture. Highlights include Donatello’s Madonna dei Cordai and Madonna della Mela, and the original of Pirto Taca’s famous Porcellino.

In addition to the permanent collection, this Florence museum hosts temporary exhibitions of contemporary art and photography. A visit to the Bardini Museum is often combined with a visit to the home of Rodolfo Siviero, the 007 of Italian art.

Now you know the must-see museums in Florence. What about you, which ones made the biggest impression on you?