Florence is an Italian city best known for its art. Home to the Galleria degli Uffizi and the Galleria dell'Accademia (where Michelangelo's David masterpiece resides), visitors from around the world flock to see famous statues and paintings by Raphael, Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci among others. The good news is you don't have to break the bank to get some world-class culture. You can view sculptures, paintings, and other works of art for less—or for free—if you know where to look.
Whether you're a history buff, art lover, or just passing through, there's something for everyone in Florence. Stroll the medieval streets admiring Florentine architecture (it's best to do this accompanied by a scoop or two of gelato!), take in views of the city's famous Duomo, and take tons of photos of the Arno River from the Ponte Vecchio at sunset for a memorable—and free—day on the town. And whatever you do, don't forget to bring your camera! Here are some great ways to get the biggest bang for your buck when visiting Florence.
Visit the Statue of David at the Galleria dell'Accademia—for less
You can't go all the way to Florence and not see David. For a budget-friendly way to visit Galleria dell'Accademia, try investing in a Firenze Card, which remains valid for 72-hours, covers admission to 60 museums, galleries (including Galleria degli Uffizi), historical villas, and gardens, and includes a three-day transit pass—great for taking cheap, scenic rides around the city. While the $81 (72 euro) price tag might seem a little steep, keep in mind that most of the included museums charge between $9-–$28 (8-–25 euros) each and you can now visit 60 of them over a three-day period. You'll also have access to a separate, shorter line for Firenze Card holders.
Visit the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence's famous Duomo
No trip to Florence is complete without a look inside the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, one of the most easily recognizable landmarks in the city. Fortunately for budget travelers, admission to this 13th century gothic cathedral is free (although you can pay about eight euros per person to climb the 463 steps of Brunelleschi's dome for sweeping views of the city or opt for the all-inclusive $12 (10 euro) ticket that lets you tour the Galleria dell'Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, Brunelleschi's Dome, Giotto's Bell Tower, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, and the Crypt of Santa Reparata). Step inside the cool marble interior during a hot summer day and check out Giorgio Vasari's magnificent frescoes featuring the Last Judgment and a beautiful clock built in 1443 by Paolo Uccello that still works today.
See free art—and famous replicas—in Piazza della Signoria
Visit replicas of popular sculptures like Michelangelo's David and Judith and Holofernes, grab a snack at one of the outdoor restaurants and cafés, or stroll the Piazza, taking in the sites on your own. You can also view Cellini's statue of Perseus holding Medusa's head, sculptures by Donatello, and Giambologna's Rape of the Sabines in the square's open-air sculpture gallery, as well as other works like Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus, and an impressive fountain featuring Neptune near Palazzo Vecchio, a 14th century palace that overlooks the Piazza.
Visit Piazzale Michelangelo for beautiful panoramic views of Florence
For a change of pace, take a ride on the #12 or #13 ATAF bus (tickets cost about $1.35 (1.20 euro) per person and are valid for 90 minutes) from the Santa Maria Novella train station to Piazzale Michelangelo for amazing panoramic views of Florence from the top of the hill. You'll get a beautiful 20 to 30-minute ride over the Arno River through the Florentine countryside to a scenic square overlooking the city, complete with a replica of Michelangelo's David and plenty of vendors to help you find the perfect souvenir.
Explore sites south of the Arno River
Visit Ponte Vecchio, the city's famous medieval arched bridge, now home to an assortment of shops and restaurants, and a regular spot for free musical entertainment. Cross the river to Florence's Oltrarno District to see how the super-wealthy Medici family once lived—admission to the Boboli Gardens, Pitti Palace, and several museums associated with the Medici Treasury are included with the Firenze Card (mentioned above), or you can purchase tickets for from seven euros ($8) per person. A three-day combo ticket is also available for from about $13 per person.