8 Must-See Florence Neighborhoods and How to Visit
Florence is home to a treasure trove of stunning sites—there’s the Duomo, the Piazza della Signoria, and numerous important museums and monuments. This small Tuscan city’s blockbuster attractions are scattered throughout several distinct neighborhoods, each of which has its own unique history and character.
Whether you’re on the prowl for Renaissance glory, handcrafted gold and leather, signature Tuscan cuisine, or vibrant nightlife, here are the most interesting neighborhoods in Florence you should explore.
Perfect for architecture fans.
The heart of historic Florence is San Giovanni, home to Florence’s soaring Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (known simply as the Duomo), topped with Brunelleschi’s famed dome and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with its matching baptistery and Giotto’s bell tower. After visiting the complex—including the excellent Opera del Duomo Museum—stroll south down the luxury boutique-lined Via dei Calzaiuoli to Piazza della Signoria, or north along Via Ricasoli to see Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia.
Where trendy travelers shop and play.
The Arno River runs along the southern border of San Giovanni, and you can walk across the medieval Ponte Vecchio to the lively Santo Spirito district on the opposite side. One of the three main neighborhoods in the Oltrarno (the area of Florence on the opposite bank of the Arno River), Santo Spirito is beloved by locals and visitors alike for its mix of hip restaurants, traditional artisan workshops, and authentic neighborhood atmosphere.
The headline attraction in this cluster of quarters across the Arno River is Pitti Palace, the Medici’s massive former residence that’s now home to a number of excellent museums and the Boboli Gardens.
Home to Michelangelo’s towering masterpiece.
Set on the opposite side of the central San Giovanni quarter, the San Marco neighborhood is a less bohemian version of Oltrarno, with up-and-coming eateries tucked between artisan shops and corner groceries that have been around for decades. This is where Florence’s university is located, so you’re more likely to run into crowds of students than crowds of travelers while wandering the streets and squares.
The neighborhood is home to the San Marco Museum and a smattering of quiet chapels, cloisters, and gardens. The biggest attraction here is the Accademia, home to Michelangelo’s David. Walk just a bit farther north to Santa Annunziata to take in the eponymous basilica and Ospedale degli Innocenti, a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture.
Enjoy culture and commerce in this historic market district
Bordering both San Giovanni and San Marco, the bustling neighborhood of San Lorenzo is Florence’s market district, home to the San Lorenzo street market, known for its leather wares, and the covered Mercato Centrale food market. Start by shopping for leather goods and souvenirs at San Lorenzo until your hunger pangs tell you it’s time to head to Mercato Centrale for Tuscan snacks.
Then, stop in the Renaissance Basilica di San Lorenzo and adjacent Medici Chapels to take in some of the city’s finest Renaissance art (expect to get your fill of Michelangelo here).
Santa Maria Novella
Florence’s transit hub and most elegant square.
Home to Florence’s main train station, this busy quarter is named for the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, a striking Gothic-Renaissance masterpiece that’s one of the city's most important churches. Take in its beautiful interior chapels and Dominican cloisters, visit the 13th-century Officina Profumo Farmaceutica (one of the oldest pharmacies in the world), and relax with a gelato on one of the benches in the elegant Piazza di Santa Maria Novella.
An authentic Florentine neighborhood just beyond the Duomo.
The storied residential neighborhood stretches just east of San Giovanni to the imposing Basilica of Santa Croce, and its atmospheric streets are lined with historic palazzi, eclectic shops, and beloved local restaurants.
Florence’s Great Synagogue is located here, not far from the bustling food stands in the Sant’Ambrogio market and the treasures piled high at the flea market on Largo Annigoni. One of the most local corners of Florence, this district has seen a recent infusion of retro-cool boutiques and bistros.
Steps from the center but far from the crowds.
From Sant’Ambrogio, head across the Arno River to this pocket-sized corner of the Oltrarno east of Santo Spirito. San Niccolò is one of the city’s most up-and-coming districts, where chic shops and tiny hotels are wedged between niche museums and noble palaces. Meander along its shop-lined Via de’ Renai and Via de’ Bardi (which becomes Via San Niccolò), escape the crowds in quiet gardens, and take in bird's-eye views of the city from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Experience the Florence of true Florentines.
Along the opposite side of Santo Spirito, the San Frediano neighborhood was once a sleepy residential quarter. Today, it’s still home to many native Florentines and their beloved corner alimentari (food shops), and family-run artisan workshops, although the past decade has brought more fashionable (and more expensive) restaurants and shops to the district.
If you love browsing antiques and artisan crafts, this is a great neighborhood for wandering, with very little tourist traffic to detract from its authentic vibe. Be sure to visit the gorgeous Cappella Brancacci, often referred to as the Sistine Chapel of the early Renaissance.