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The Best Areas to Stay in Florence
Despite its small size, Florence has distinct neighborhoods that vary in flavor and in how touristy they are, so your choice of where to stay will affect your experience. There is no single best neighborhood for tourists; the main attractions are in the city center, but other areas have their own highlights. The city is compact and the center is easily walkable even from districts further out.
Most of the best hotels in Florence are in the city center or Santa Maria Novella, though there are good luxury options a little further out too. Florence’s best mid-range and budget hotels can be found in primarily in the San Frediano, Santo Spirito, San Lorenzo, and San Marco neighborhoods.
City Center – the medieval and Renaissance heart of Florence lies between the Duomo in the north and the River Arno and Ponte Vecchio in the south. It is an absolute tourist magnet, with narrow, always crowded streets. After all, here is where Florence’s status as a cultural force finds true expression, with more great museums, churches, and palaces than your eyes can comfortably take in. Great for both high-street and high-end shopping. Some excellent bars and restaurants, but you will need to avoid the tourist traps. Excellent accommodation options, from luxury to budget ones, though not a great area if noise is a concern.
To the east is Santa Croce, centered on the gorgeous basilica of the same name. Less touristy, it’s a great place to enjoy the local café culture and shop for food at the Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio. At night, it comes to noisy life, with enough great bars and clubs to satisfy the most demanding hipsters. Lots of lovely guesthouses, with some standout high-end hotels.
West of the Ponte Vecchio, in the Oltrarno (other side of the Arno) down to Porta Romana lie San Frediano & Santo Spirito. Once poorer areas, they now ooze bohemian chic yet still manage to remain down-to-earth. Full of artisans’ workshops and independent boutiques, but also hot restaurants and bars with better prices than the center. There is a good range of accommodation for all budgets, especially if cool guesthouses are what you’re after.
San Lorenzo & San Marco lie north of the center. Previously poorer, particularly towards the station, now gentrifying, but still less packed with tourists than the center. Home to Michelangelo’s David and the much loved Mercato Centrale, these areas will satisfy appetites for culture as well as food. Excellent local eateries and vintage boutiques can be found. A great area for budget stays, but also some lovely high-end options.
West of the center is Santa Maria Novella, between the main train station and the river. From the gritty north around the station, it shades quickly into an area of cool boutiques and bars running down to the river. The shopping here is some of the best in the city and there are some standout luxury hotels, with many budget choices close to the station.
San Niccolò & Piazzale Michelangelo are pretty and romantic areas south of the river and east of the Ponte Vecchio; San Niccolò stretches along the river bank, while Piazzale Michelangelo rises on hills to the south. San Niccolò is arty, with narrow streets full of bars and shops, while further south the streets wind upwards through gardens to the famous viewpoint of Piazzale Michelangelo itself. A range of accommodation for all budgets.
Boboli & San Miniato al Monte are green neighborhoods south of the Arno. Between Santo Spirito and Piazzale Michelangelo, you will find fewer attractions, though the Palazzo Pitti is nothing to sniff at. Quiet leafy streets, gardens, and villas rise uphill toward San Miniato and its beautiful church. You can find some lovely luxury hotels with a pool.
The Best Places To Stay in Florence
- Best Neighborhood in Florence for Sightseeing: City Center
The narrow, cobbled city center streets are full of iconic sights. Between the medieval Ponte Vecchio with its jewelry shops and the impressive Duomo with its spectacular dome lies the best-preserved Renaissance old town in the world. Add in the spiky grandeur of the Palazzo Vecchio and the unrivaled collection of Galleria degli Uffizi and you have a mind-boggling array of great art and architecture. For more gorgeous art and churches, visit San Lorenzo and San Marco to find the Cappelle Medicee and the Galleria dell’Accademia, home to Michelangelo’s David, among other attractions.
- Best Neighborhoods in Florence for Nightlife: San Frediano & Santo Spirito, Santa Croce
You will find plenty of cool bars and nightspots in Florence. Check out the area between Piazza Santa Maria Novella and the river, or around Via di San Niccolò. But for the places that really come alive at night, full of craft beer, cocktails, even live music or film screenings, head for hip Santa Croce, especially around Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio. San Frediano & Santo Spirito offer a similarly eclectic – and exciting – mix of venues, particularly along Borgo San Frediano and Piazza Santo Spirito.
- Best Neighborhoods in Florence for Food and Restaurants: San Frediano & Santo Spirito, Santa Croce
Good food is everywhere in Florence, though you need to dodge the tourist traps to find the good stuff in the center. San Lorenzo centers on the Mercato Centrale, full of fresh produce and gourmet food stalls, and has a selection of great eateries, from authentic Trattoria Mario to hot newcomer La Ménagère. However, both Santa Croce and San Frediano & Santo Spirito have a great range of excellent food, often at reasonable prices. The former has great cafes, gourmet street food at Mercato Sant’Ambrogio, dining with theater at Teatro del Sale, and the only 3-Michelin-star in the city at Enoteca Pinchiorri. The latter’s offerings range from traditional Tuscan to modern reinventions at Essenziale and Il Santo Bevitore, to authentic tapas and vegan cuisine.
- Best Neighborhoods in Florence for Families: Santa Maria Novella, San Niccolò & Piazzale Michelangelo
Santa Maria Novella is handily located between the main train station, city center, and river. It’s close to all the big historic attractions as well as the huge Parco delle Cascine to the west, and proximity to the station means easy day trips to Tuscany and beyond. San Niccolò & Piazzale Michelangelo are quieter and more residential than the center, with beautiful parks including Giardino delle Rose. Hotels here often have gardens and may even boast a pool.
- Best Neighborhood in Florence to Stay for First Timers: City Center
For a newcomer, there is nothing better than to immerse yourself in the intense sights of the city center. From here, it’s an easy walk to all the other listed neighborhoods. Santa Croce is another good option, just east of those central attractions, but with more of a local flavor, and quieter areas if that’s what you need. Both have excellent accommodation for all budgets.
- Most Romantic Neighborhood in Florence: San Niccolò & Piazzale Michelangelo
The city center is a heady mix of picturesque streets and beautiful art and history that makes it supremely romantic. Boboli & San Miniato al Monte are quiet areas with gardens and villas with a view. San Niccolò & Piazzale Michelangelo between them give you both quaint, old streets and sweeping views of the city, as well as elegant boutiques and fine dining.
- Best Neighborhoods in Florence for a Local Vibe: San Lorenzo & San Marco, Santa Croce
To mingle with the locals, head for Mercato Centrale, Florence’s favorite food market, in San Lorenzo. The area is also full of authentic trattorias and independent shops. To the east, in Santa Croce, you’ll find the smaller but much loved Mercato di Sant’ Ambrogio. The streets around it are full of great cafés and restaurants that draw the locals as well as students and tourists. For people-watching, head for lovely Piazza di Santa Croce.
- Best Neighborhoods in Florence for Walking: Boboli & San Miniato al Monte
Florence is a pleasure to walk around. Whether you’re getting lost in the narrow city center streets or peeking into artisans’ workshops in Oltrarno, there are treasures you likely will not discover any other way. Boboli & San Miniato al Monte offer a different experience if you enjoy climbing roads – a chance to explore the gorgeous Giardino di Boboli, visit the Forte di Belvedere, and walk up winding streets with stunning views down into the city.
- Safest Areas of Florence
Florence is, in general, a city where visitors can feel secure. In particular, areas which are more residential – in Santa Croce, or across the Oltrarno, from San Frediano to San Niccolò – are very safe. Tourists should simply take the usual precautions e.g. watch their bags and stick to busy streets late at night.
- Unsafe Areas of Florence
Congested, touristy areas tend to be places where pickpockets are a risk, so take care e.g. around Ponte Vecchio, Piazza del Duomo, Mercato di San Lorenzo, and other hot spots in the center. The same advice holds on busy public transport, but otherwise, the city center is safe. The streets around Stazione Santa Maria Novella can feel sketchy and are best avoided late at night.
The 7 Best Neighborhoods in Florence for Tourists
1. City Center
The heart of Florence is a feast of medieval and Renaissance art and architecture. Bustling streets lead unexpectedly to truly iconic places, from the pastel houses of the Ponte Vecchio to Brunelleschi’s awe-inspiring dome on the Duomo. The museums, starting with the Galleria degli Uffizi, are some of the finest in the world. It’s also a great shopping destination, with high street brands along Via dei Calzaiuoli and Via Calimala, and luxury labels on the famous Via de’ Tornabuoni. All kinds of great food can be found here, from gourmet panini at All’Antico Vinaio to elegant Michelin-starred dining at Ora d’Aria; bars range from casual to chic rooftop ones. There are excellent luxury hotels, but also budget ones too if you do not mind staying in this busy area.
Best Hotels: Portrait Firenze • Hotel Brunelleschi • Palazzo Vecchietti Best Cheap/Moderate Hotels: Milù Hotel • Hotel Davanzati
2. Santa Croce
Santa Croce is the best area for local flavor north of the river. Just east of Via del Proconsolo and just steps from the central sights, it manages to be less touristy, more laidback, with a great local market and the old Jewish quarter. It boasts its own impressive attractions, including the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, with its collection of Renaissance sculptures and the lovely Basilica di Santa Croce, resting place of a host of Florentine greats, including Michelangelo, Macchiavelli, and Galileo. The food scene is fantastic, whether you are shopping for produce at Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio, enjoying the fantastic Tuscan fare at one of the Cibrèo restaurants nearby or splashing out at the 3-Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri. At night, it draws a cool, young crowd, with great bars especially on busy Via dei Benci and around the market, like the live music venue Le Murate. Accommodation tends to be reasonably priced, with some upscale hotels as well.
Best Hotels: Baglioni Relais Santa Croce • Hotel Bernini Palace Best Cheap/Moderate Hotels: De Benci B&B • La Maison du Sage
These 2 deeply cool neighborhoods lie in Oltrarno, the south bank of the river, from Ponte Vecchio in the west to Porta Romana, one of the ancient city gates, in the south. The spirit is bohemian and local, though gentrification has made this part of town more fashionable, with tons of hot new restaurants, craft cocktail places, and wine bars; check out around Piazza Santo Spirito and Borgo San Frediano just for starters. Also known as the artisan quarter, they are packed with antique shops, cool boutiques, galleries, and workshops; start shopping on Borgo San Jacopo, Via Santo Spirito, and Via Romana. Lower on big sights, but do stop to enjoy Brunelleschi’s Basilica di Santa Spirito, relax at Piazza Tasso, and book a tour of the private Giardino Torrigiani. Some high-end accommodation options, but also plenty of delightful guesthouses.
Best Hotels: SoprArno Suites • Hotel Lungarno • AdAstra Best Cheap/Moderate Hotels: Hotel Annalena • Foresteria Valdese di Firenze
4. San Lorenzo & San Marco
North of the Duomo and east of the train station are San Lorenzo & San Marco. Formerly poorer areas, particularly towards the station, and now transforming, they make for a great destination for foodies. Start with the gourmet food stalls on the first floor of the Mercato Centrale, serving everything from traditional lampredotto to artisanal pizza and chocolate. Head over to Via de’ Ginori for cool bistro/café La Ménagère, quality panini at SandwiChic, and fine gelato at My Sugar. Like most of historic Florence, there a couple of big attractions here: the Galleria dell’Accademia, the beautiful monastery of San Marco, painted by Fra Angelico and his pupils, and the Cappelle Medicee, the grand burial place of the Medici, adjoining San Lorenzo itself. A great area to find cool hostels, but also some lovely high-end options.
Best Hotels: Firenze Number Nine • Four Seasons Hotel • Grand Amore Hotel and Spa Best Cheap/Moderate Hotels: Antica Dimora Johlea • Plus Florence • WoW Florence Hostel
Santa Maria Novella is a large and varied area stretching west from Via de’ Tornabuoni, between the main train station and the river. Although the station is very convenient, avoid the grungy area around it and head for bustling Piazza di Santa Maria Novella and its lovely church. Between here, the center and the river, you will find excellent shopping, with top labels on Via de’ Tornabuoni and a myriad of cool boutiques, galleries, and vintage shops on Via della Spada, Via dei Fossi, and more. There is some great food and drink to be found too, with classy riverside bars, craft cocktails at Manifattura, and plenty of trattorias serving Tuscan cuisine. Some beautiful boutiques and luxury hotels around the piazza and the river, while closer to the station you will find many budget options.
Best Hotels: J.K. Place Firenze • The St. Regis Florence • Palazzo di Camugliano Best Cheap/Moderate Hotel: BBH Firenze
Picturesque San Niccolò lies east of Santo Spirito along the river, while quieter Piazzale Michelangelo rises on hills south of it. Like the other Oltrarno areas on the riverbank, San Niccolò is arty and buzzing, which makes for great shopping. Explore Via San Niccolò, where you’ll find perfumier Lorenzo Villoresi, and funky street art at Clet. Climb medieval landmark Torre San Niccolò for great views and enjoy good food and drink in its shadows, such as fine pasta at Zeb, cocktails at The Speakeasy, and elegant dining at La Bottega Del Buon Caffè. Piazzale Michelangelo is a largely residential area with lovely gardens and a major attraction – the square after which it is named, which boasts a replica of David and glorious views of the city. There are accommodations to suit all budgets, often with space for a garden.
Best Hotels: Villa La Vedetta • Serristori Palace Best Cheap/Moderate Hotel: Hotel David
Boboli & San Miniato al Monte are green, upscale residential neighborhoods, sandwiched between Santo Spirito to the west, Piazzale Michelangelo to the east, and extending south. They are restful, full of lovely views, and can feel much further out of the city than they are. The key attraction here is the grand Palazzo Pitti with its clutch of museums and the green space of Giardino Boboli behind it. You will likely leave to go shopping or eat out, but it’s a pretty area for wandering, with villas set on hills, capped by San Miniato and one of the most beautiful churches in town. Accommodation includes pretty guesthouses and some lovely luxury hotels.
Best Hotels: Villa Cora • Art Hotel Villa Agape Best Cheap/Moderate Hotel: La Terrazza su Boboli
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