Florence is a culture vulture’s ideal city break, boasting some of the finest art galleries in Europe and amazing architecture that has survived since the Renaissance. It’s an incredibly compact city so you can get everywhere on foot, which is just as well; soaking up the atmosphere as you wander the streets is the best way to get a feel for Florence, and a wrong turn is often rewarded with a hidden gem.
The first stop of a Florence city break is the Uffizi Gallery, an art museum housing one of the best Renaissance art collections in the world. It’s so popular it’s wise to buy tickets in advance to avoid the queue at the entrance. The Academia Gallery houses Michelangelo’s famous David statue, or you can see a replica of it in the Piazza della Signoria, one of Florence’s main squares dotted with marble statues.
Florence’s defining landmark is the Duomo, a huge basilica decorated with an intricate exterior of pink, green and white marble and topped with a huge dome that visitors can climb for beautiful views of the city and a close-up look at the painting on the inside of the dome. The Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza della Signoria is also worth a stop, or you can people-watch from the steps in the square.
Florence is a real hotspot for fashion, specialising in leather goods such as handbags and expertly-crafted shoes. The Via de’ Tornabuoni is dominated by designer stores while the Via del Corso has a good mix of designer and high street names, and at the budget end of the spectrum is the open-air San Lorenzo Market packed with bargains. Don’t forget the Ponte Vecchio, the medieval bridge famed for the goldsmiths’ shops that line its pavements.