Florence was the center of the Italian Renaissance and the rebirth of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. There is so much to do in this small village; iconic bridges, secret corridors, viewpoints, churches, Florence museums, and gardens. Not to mention one of the heartiest cuisines in Italy. This article is dedicated to the top Florence Museums.
The 6 Most Important and Influential Florence Museums
Unlike Rome, Paris or London, Florence is a small village rather than a city. That said, it is the small city that pulled Europe out of darkness; the birthplace of the Renaissance. Per capita, Florence is home to one of the greatest collections of artwork the world knows.
The artists born and trained in Florence would go on to decorate Europe at large. While this list is definitely shorter than the ones you’ll find in Paris or Rome, it is more than most could cover on their first trip to Florence.
6. Palazzo Bargello (Museo Nazionale)
I would likely recommend this museum or palazzo to someone with a longer-than-usual stay in Florence or even visiting for a second time. This is due to the collections of superior importance in Palazzo Pitti or the Uffizi Gallery. That said, if David was not in Accademia, this would rank above it. Palazzo Bargello has a wealth of artwork, mostly statues, including Donatello’s David which is without argument his masterpiece and worth the visit.
The statue is famously seen in the Medici TV Series produce by RAI, an Italian tv studio, and digested widely on Netflix. What is likely a copy of the sculpture can be seen in the courtyard of their home.
The museum was once a prison turned museum. It is a beautiful structure, as almost always in Florence, and the highlight is the inner staircase and courtyard. These works should be on your radar:
- Anghiari Battle by Giovan Francesco Rustici (sculpture of The Lost Leonardo)
- Crucifix by Michelangelo
- St. George by Donatello
- David by Donatello
- Bacchus by Michelangelo
- Bust of Coastanza Bonarelli by Gianlorenzo Bernini
Hours: 8:45 am – 13:30 pm
Address: Via del Proconsolo 4
5. Brancacci Chapel (Church of Santa Maria del Carmine)
While it is definitely not a museum, the Brancacci Chapel is one of those places you walk into and immediately understand you are somewhere important. The chapel is named after the silk merchant financially responsible for its creation, Felice Brancacci. If the chapel was located inside the Vatican Museums, it would likely see millions of visitors per year to the likes of the Sistine Chapel. It is actually referred to as the “Sistine Chapel of the Early Renaissance”. While it is not a Florence Museum it is influential, important and on the top of our list of recommendations.
While Brancacci is credited for the chapel’s existence, the artist responsible is known simply by the name Masaccio. A painter that would not be mentioned in conversation today but the likes of Michelangelo and DaVinci would have mentioned on a daily basis. Masaccio started on the chapel underneath Masolino da Panciale but eventually, the student would become the teacher, and Masaccio is credited for most of the chapel.
Why is it special? It is the first great work of art of the quattrocento (the 1400s). The chapel elaborated on a style Giotto started a hundred years prior with the Scrovegni Chapel and other works. Basically, artists started to consider the perspective of the viewer and other Earthly elements such as light coming in while painting. Something the Romans were doing as early as the 1st century AD with the Arch of Titus but was lost in time when Europe went into darkness after barbarians took over.
The Chapel shows scenes from the old testament and new testament in glorious color. Pay close attention to the faces and general energy each individual figure carries. Prior to this, figures acted as groups and in Masaccio’s work, they feel and look as individuals. You may see one figure show signs of anger next to another with signs of grief.
Hours: 10 am – 5 pm | Monday/Wednesday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday
Address: Piazza del Carmine 14
4. Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Signoria, in Piazza Signoria, is named after the government and has been the center for political gatherings for the better part of a millennia. The structure built in 1299 was ordained Palazzo Signoria prior to the name being changed to Palazzo Vecchio. Vecchio means “old” in Italian so you really can’t build a building and name it the old palace from day one.
The structure not only serves as the principal place for the civic government but is also accessible as one of Florence’s museums. Throughout the years the structure has been decorated head to two. From the frescoes in the Hall of Lilies to the Triumph of Furius Camillus. Some of the main points of interest are:
- Boy with a Fish by Verrocchio
- The Vasari Corridor by Giorgio Vasari
- Crossing the Red Sea in the Capella di Eleonora by Bronzino
- St. John in the Room of Penelope by Sandro Botticelli
- Stories of Furius Camillus by Francesco Salviati (Raphael School)
- Stanza delle Mappe Geografiche o Stanza della Guardaroba
The Vasari Corridors are one of those areas of extreme interest. It was built by the Medici Family in 1565 to provide a safer and faster route to Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi (Offices at the time). This is mostly due to possible threats and scrutiny in public places. It is a really cool experience to walk through knowing the long history and the unimaginable amount of important persons that have passed through it.
Location: Piazza della Signoria
3. Pitti Palace and The Boboli Gardens
You really cannot mention Florence without mentioning the Medici. They were the most influential dynasty in Italian history and arguably the history of the World. Needless to say, they have a massive estate in Florence. The estate has been preserved and converted into one of the most iconic Florence museums.
Their estate is on the south side of the River close to but away from the action in the center. It also could be considered a strategic choice considering their power. If there were general revolt from the people of Florence they’d have a strategic advantage defending themselves. They also had their own private gate entering and leaving the walls of Florence.
The Medici did not build the estate but instead bought it from the Grand Duchy of Tuscany which is not a person but a monarchy that controlled Tuscany off and on for a few hundred years. That said, the Medici did expand and add significantly to the estate’s opulence. Today, I would describe it as a must-see attraction in Florence. This is due to its wealth of artwork and low visitor count.
The attached Boboli Gardens are also glorious and included in the admission cost to get inside the Pitti Palace.
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 8:30 am – 6:30 pm
Admission: 16€ adults | Free for children 17 and under with passport
Address: Piazza de’ Pitti, 1
2. Michelangelo’s David in Accademia
Otherwise known as Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, Accademia is an art museum centered around Michelangelo and his work. Unlike the Uffizi, the gallery is centered around Michelangelo’s statue of David which is a must-see on the bucket-list for Florence.
Deservingly so, David was cut from a block of marble abandoned by more than one other sculptor whom all described it as, “Un-usable”. Michelangelo not only was able to work with it but sculpted what is arguably his masterpiece.
He famously described David as “trapped” in the marble. It is a humble way to describe sculpting. David always existed inside that block of marble and it was Michelangelo’s mission to get him out.
You can also see four unfinished statues by Michelangelo which sort of frame the corridor that leads up to David. There are also works by other artists in Accademia including Sandro Boticelli. Getting tickets can be difficult. We offer a guided tour of Florence that includes a stop into Accademia to see David and visits many of the main sites in Florence lead by a local English-speaking guide.
- Guided tours of Accademia and Michelangelo’s David
- Where is Michelangelo’s David in Florence
- Best Places to Eat Near Accademia
Admission: 8€ adult | 2€ reduced
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 9 am – 6:45 pm
Accademia is also open from 7 pm to 10 pm Tuesday & Wednesday of October 2020
Address: Via Ricasoli, 58/60
Most Popular Florence Tours
1. The Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is Florence’s premier art gallery and one of the greatest collection of Italian Renaissance artwork on Earth. The Uffizi was founded in the 16th century and formerly declared a museum open to the public in 1865. Over 4 million visitors enter the Uffizi each year which makes it the most ticketed attraction in Florence. Why?
The Renaissance by definition gave birth to a new era of art, architecture, and culture. Florence was the epicenter and it spread throughout Italy and Europe. If the Renaissance was the rebirth of an era of art and it started in Florence then there is going to be a lot of famous artwork in Florence. Much of that artwork is in the galleries of the Uffizi.
The structure was designed by Giorgio Vasari completed in 1581 for the Medici Family. The name literally means “offices” and it was used as governmental offices for some time.
Today, you can see some of the world’s greatest artworks including the Birth of Venus and la Primavera by Sandro Botticelli. This is a must-visit site for visitors to Florence and we recommend a guided tour of the Uffizi to bring the museum to life. If that is not in the budget definitely check our museum guides below
- Guided Tour Options
- Guide to Visiting the Uffizi Gallery
- Top Things to See Inside the Uffizi Gallery (Self Guided Itinerary)
- Best Places to Eat Near the Uffizi
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 8:30 am – 6:30 pm
Admission: 20€ adults | Free 17 and under with passport
Address: Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6