Things to do in Siena

Things to do in  Siena

Calling all architecture buffs

A soaring Gothic cityscape, warren of medieval cobblestone alleys, and raucous annual Palio horse race make UNESCO-listed Siena a Tuscan A-lister. Visitors can marvel at its open-air museum of a historic center—thick with architectural masterpieces like the Piazza del Campo and Duomo—and soak up the authentic vibe of the contrade neighborhoods. Set in the heart of Chianti, Siena is also a popular departure point for countryside wine tours and cooking classes, outings on horseback or Vespa scooter, hot air balloon adventures, and hill town hopping between Pienza, Montepulciano, Montalcino, and San Gimignano.

Top 15 attractions in Siena

Siena Cathedral (Duomo)

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The Siena Cathedral (Duomo di Siena) is one Tuscany’s most beautiful churches, second perhaps only to Florence's Santa Maria del Fiore. The magnificent Gothic and Romanesque structure is hard to miss thanks to its tall spires, bold white-and-green stripes, and ornate facade. Inside, the cathedral is equally impressive with works of art by Donatello, Bernini, and Michelangelo.More

Piazza del Campo

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Siena’s central Piazza del Campo is one of the most beautiful and famous squares in Tuscany. This sweeping, shell-shaped space is anchored by the magnificent Palazzo Pubblico (home to the Museo Civico) and soaring Torre del Mangia tower, and hosts the historic Palio di Siena festival each July and August.More

Montalcino

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The medieval center of Montalcino is certainly picturesque, but this hilltop village south of Siena is best known as the birthplace of the prestigious Brunello wines. A favorite destination for oenophiles, pretty Montalcino is also popular with photographers and foodies.More

Siena Historic Center (Siena Centro Storico)

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With its lively piazzas, Gothic monuments, and well-preserved city walls, the Siena Historic Center (Siena Centro Storico) is one of Italy’s most impressive medieval cityscapes. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995, the old town is an open-air museum of striking historical architecture, including the Piazza del Campo and the Gothic cathedral.More

Mangia Tower (Torre del Mangia)

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Piercing the sky above Siena, the soaring Mangia Tower (Torre del Mangia) is a notable feature of the medieval town’s skyline. It affords views across the rooftops to the surrounding Tuscan countryside. Climb the hundreds of steps to the top, or admire this imposing bell tower in Piazza del Campo from below.More

Palio of Siena (Palio di Siena)

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Every year in July and August, Piazza del Campo hosts the raucous Il Palio, a historic, bareback horse race between 10 of Siena’s 17 contrade (town districts). The festivities also encompass religious services, pageants, and banquets.More

Monteriggioni

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Picturesque Monteriggioni is the quintessential Tuscan village, encircled by medieval walls and perched on a hilltop above a rolling expanse of olive groves and vineyards. Stroll through its postcard-perfect center of cobblestone piazzas, pretty churches, and Renaissance townhouses and enjoy the authentic atmosphere.More

Basilica of San Domenico (Basilica di San Domenico)

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One of the most historically important churches in Siena, the Basilica of San Domenico (Basilica di San Domenico) is famous for another saint: the city’s own Saint Catherine. It was here that Catherine took her vows in 1363 at the age of 15, and the church holds a number of her relics, including her head, thumb, and whip used for self-flagellation.More

Montalcino Fortress (Fortezza di Montalcino)

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Montalcino is known as the heart of Tuscany’s Brunello di Montalcino wine production, but oenophiles shouldn’t overlook this hill town’s spectacular Fortezza di Montalcino, an imposing 14th-century fortress set above the town’s medieval center with sweeping views from its watchtowers and an atmospheric wine shop.More

Santa Maria della Scala

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One of Europe’s first hospitals, Santa Maria della Scala was endowed by Siena’s wealthiest medieval families, who also commissioned artworks to decorate the building. View the original frescoes and altarpieces inside the chapels and oratories of this historic hospital, now a museum, on a tour of Siena’s most important sights.More

Fonte Gaia (Gaia Fountain)

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The heart of Siena is Piazza del Campo, and the heart of this famous square is Fonte Gaia (Gaia Fountain). Dating from the 15th century, the fountain is lined with replicas of the original bas-relief panels by Jacopo della Quercia, considered a precursor to Michelangelo, and is one of the top attractions in this Tuscan town.More

Baptistery of San Giovanni (Battistero di San Giovanni)

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The Cathedral complex is among Siena’s top attractions, and it includes both the Duomo and adjacent Baptistery of San Giovanni (Battistero di San Giovanni). Echoing the Cathedral’s Gothic architecture, the stripped-down facade of the baptistery belies its sumptuous interiors, decorated by some of the 15th century's most important artists.More

Siena Civic Museum (Museo Civico di Siena)

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The Siena Civic Museum (Museo Civico di Siena), housed in Palazzo Pubblico on Piazza del Campo, is one of the most important museums in Siena, with a large collection of frescoes, paintings, and sculptures from the Sienese school and others. The most significant is Ambrogio Lorenzetti's massive 14th-century fresco cycleThe Allegory of Good and Bad Government.More

Abbey of Sant'Antimo (Abbazia di Sant'Antimo)

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One of Tuscany’s most beautiful sights, the Abbey of Sant'Antimo (Abbazia di Sant'Antimo) is a 12th-century Romanesque church and monastery set deep in the rolling olive groves outside the hilltown of Montalcino in the Val d'Orcia. The abbey is a popular stop during wine tours or day trips through the Tuscan countryside.More

National Art Gallery of Siena (Pinacoteca Nazionale Siena)

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Siena’s National Art Gallery houses a large collection of paintings from the Sienese School, an artistic movement from the 13th and 15th centuries. Peruse paintings and sculpture from the late Middle Ages through the Renaissance at this museum.More

Top activities in Siena

San Gimignano, Chianti, and Montalcino Day Trip from Siena
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From Siena: Pienza and Montepulciano Wine Tour
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Siena: A Wine Tour and Tasting Experience
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Private Tour: Secret Siena Walking Tour

Private Tour: Secret Siena Walking Tour

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All about Siena

When to visit

Siena is an open-air museum with excitement year-round. You’ll find chilly, wet days in winter and soaring temperatures in summer, however, so the milder spring and fall are ideal. The city is at its most festive for the historic Palio horse race held yearly in the main Piazza del Campo on July 2 and August 16. Art enthusiasts should time their visit for late summer when the marble mosaic cathedral floor is uncovered for viewing.

Getting around

Traffic is restricted (or banned) in most of Siena’s old town, but this small city is easily covered on foot. Most visitors arrive by train from Florence, and there is a local bus that connects the train station to the old town above in about 10 minutes. For those arriving by car, there is ample parking in a number of dedicated areas around the old town perimeter—from there, it’s a quick, uphill walk to the main sights.

Traveler tips

Siena’s Palio is one of Italy’s most revered historic festivals. The main event is a no-holds-barred bareback horse race around a temporary track in the city’s shell-shaped main square (June 2, August 16). Riders from 10 of the city’s 17 contrade, or districts, participate, but many don’t finish—the winner is the first horse to cross the finish line, rider or not. The Sienese are passionate and fiercely loyal to their contrada and favored horses.

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People Also Ask

Is Siena worth visiting?

Yes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to an intact medieval old town that seems frozen in time, Siena is among Tuscany’s top sights. Its magnificent cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece, and the main Piazza del Campo is one of the most distinctive squares in Italy.

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What is Siena, Italy known for?

This handsome medieval hill town has a number of claims to fame, including its religious art and Gothic architecture. Siena is perhaps most known for the raucous Palio horse race held in Piazza del Campo each summer, during which horses from the 17 local contrade, or districts, compete for glory.

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Is one day enough for Siena?

Yes, Siena is an ideal day trip, with a small old town that is easy to cover on foot in a few hours plus a spectacular cathedral complex, excellent local shopping, and authentic restaurants serving Tuscan fare. You can cover all the town’s highlights in a single day.

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What is Siena popular for?

Located about an hour’s drive from Florence, Siena is a popular day-trip destination for its blockbuster art and architecture, charming medieval old town, and relaxed small-town pace. Most visitors make a beeline for the cathedral complex, Piazza del Campo, and picturesque warren of lanes in the old town.

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Is there a lot to do in Siena?

Yes, Siena is stuffed with important works of art and architecture to see, boutiques and artisan workshops to browse, eateries from historic cafés to authentic Tuscan trattorias to try, and delightful winding lanes to explore on foot. The surrounding countryside is home to top-tier wineries for tours and tastings.

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How many hours do you need in Siena?

You will need at least three hours to see the major sights in Siena, including the cathedral, Piazza del Campo, and historic center. Plan to spend a full day for a more in-depth visit, including attractions like the Gate of Heaven cathedral rooftop, town hall, and Mangia Tower.

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