Florence on a Budget – Best Things to do for (Almost) Free and More Budget Tips

When I visited Florence during my recent Tuscany road trip, I was ready to spend all my hard-earned money from blogging and indulge in the museums, good food, and more.

I was not thinking of budgeting in Florence. However, I did end up spending almost nothing and had a blast! Florence on a budget is possible, and also a lot of fun. 

The reason why I did end up spending almost nothing was that my dog was not allowed in many places – while Italy is extremely dog-friendly, Florence is not. Given the amount of tourists, I can somewhat understand. And while I was upset when it happened, it turned out that you can do a lot of free things in Florence that are fun, and there are many ways to save money in Florence.

So, here are my tips for a fun and cheap trip to Florence.

Florence skyline from Piazzele Michelangelo
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BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS FOR FLORENCE

Best Time to Visit

If I have learned one thing it is this: Italy is busy and crowded, and tourists cannot get enough of Italy. With an increase in tourists, so increase the prices for accommodations – drastically.

So, if you visit during the shoulder season, you will do yourself a favor – and your budget, too.

Where to Stay in Florence on a Budget

Of course, staying in the historical center of Florence is fun. However, since Florence is very walkable, you can also stay in Oltrarno, on the other side of the river. It just takes a few minutes to get to the historic center, but it is (much) cheaper.

Also, public transportation in the region is very good. You can also stay in a place like Pistoia, which is a 30-minute train ride away, but trains run frequently and tickets are quite cheap. It is not always the best option, but it can be if you pick good accommodations close to the train station.

Please Note: Florence charges a local city tax of 2– 5€ per person per night (it depends on the hotel category, 5€ is for one night at a 5-star hotel). The city tax is usually not included in your accommodation rate and needs to be paid extra at the hotel – children up to twelve years do not pay the tax – and there are a few other exceptions.

How to Get Around in Florence on a Budget

There are sightseeing buses and regular buses (which are not expensive btw), but you can walk to most places, if you are fit.

Bike in Florence, how to get around in Florence for free
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I did not use any public transportation (let alone taxis), and if you enjoy walking, then you will not need to spend any money on transportation (pack light, so you can even walk from the train station to your hotel upon arrival). No bikes needed in Florence!

How to Drink/Eat Cheap in Florence

My guide told me that the restaurants in Oltrarno, on the other side of the river where the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens are located, are all good and they are much cheaper. So, avoid the restaurants in the historic center.

Italian food, bruschetta. Where to eat in Florence on a budget
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Also, if you just want a cappuccino or espresso, have it at the counter and don’t order it at the table. Prices increase and can be twice as high if you sit down.

Also, many restaurants charge an extra fee – a “coperta,” which can be 1-3€. If you take your pizza to go, you can save that money.

Do aperativos: There are a number of restaurants that offer this kind of dinner. You buy one drink (which can be around 6-12€) and then have a buffet that comes with it. I did not try them, but my guide really recommended them – particularly at the restaurants in San Lorenzo Square, which have good offers (she mentioned the Kitch Deux as being extra good).

Also, have your lunch at Via dei Neri Street (it is not in the Oltrarno area though). You can get really good sandwiches, the Florentine style, for 5-8€, and they will keep you full for a while. 

Picnic: Florence has some amazing squares and gardens that can be visited and you can spend hours there. Buy your drinks and snacks in the supermarket, so you do not have to buy the more expensive drinks from the restaurants/cafes close by.

Free water: I have not seen many, but I saw a few water fountains that provide fresh and clean drinking water. So, bring your water bottle and refill here (I saw two fountains, one on my way to Michelangelo and one in the Rose Garden).

Things to Do for Free in Florence

So, as mentioned, there are a lot of cheap or free activities to do in Florence. Here are a few.

Free Walking Tours

Go on a free walking tour. I have done several walking tours all over the world and I love them. Since I always give a tip, I cannot say that they are free – and I do recommend giving tips if you like the guide and tour.

But it is a cheap and good alternative to paid tours (the tour I did took about 2.5 hours and I gave a 10€ tip. It always depends on how many people join the group and in which part of the world I do the trip – if you are on a budget, you can give 5€ per person but I think, it is fair to give a bit of tip).

My guide gave some amazing tips and I learned more about Florence than I would have if I had researched the info myself.

Free Art

Okay, seeing the original statue of Michelangelo is probably a one-of-a-kind experience. However, if you don’t visit the Accademia Gallery and pay for the entry, you will find several replicas in Florence that you can visit… for free!

Florence Michelangelo David Statue
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Florence Piazza della Signoria in one of the best places to go
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And if you visit the Piazza della Signoria, you will be impressed by the statues you see displayed all around the piazza. It is amazing what you can see! Since you will not have the explanations for each statue as you might have in museums, make sure to do prior research or keep your phone/info leaflets at the ready.

Statue in Florence_
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Leonardo da Vinci Statue in Florence for free to visit
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Free Churches

You can visit several of the stunning churches in Florence for free. Some come without the lines.

Free churches and attractions in Florence to visit
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Then there is the impressive Duomo at Piazza Del Duomo. You only pay if you want to climb the Duomo for a view (or visit the baptistery or the museum).

If you want to visit the Cathedral, Dome, Baptistery, Bell Tower, Crypt, or Museum, you can buy a ticket that costs 18€ and visit all of these attractions for the one price.  

The tickets are not “skip-the-lines” though and the museum is closed on the first Tuesday of each month.

Free Museums

On the first Sunday of each month, all state museums are free. This includes the popular Uffizi Gallery, the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Garden, and the Accademia. Lines are long, so you are better off booking off-season.

Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval bridge that bursts with life – an attraction that is busy and interesting… and doesn’t cost a cent.

Florence Vecchio Bridge close-up_
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Outdoor Markets

If you have visited other parts of Italy, you know how popular local markets are. Outdoor markets are a part of Italian life and culture, where locals go to buy fresh fruits, cheese, charming antiques, homemade soap, and practical housewares. Personally, I stay away from markets because they are busy and crowded, but you should experience them at least once.

Check out the markets behind the Basilica of San Lorenzo – and don’t forget to haggle!

Medici Villas

In 2013, twelve Medici villas and two gardens were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. They are not directly in the city center, but it might be worth it to hop on a bus and visit them, as they are all free to visit.

Piazzale Michelangelo

One of the best places to visit in Florence is the Piazzale Michelangelo – it offers the best views of Florence and is free. It is extremely popular for seeing the sunset, but great to visit at any time of the day or year.

Florence view from Piazzale Michelangelo is one of the best things to see
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Rose Garden

You probably cannot compare the Boboli Garden to the Rose Garden, but it is a beautiful garden that is free and lies below the Piazzale Michelangelo. So, with many flowers and plants – plus the views – it is a nice and free alternative to visit.

Rose Garden in Florence- things you can do in Florence on a budget
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free things to do in Florence, Rose Garden in Florence
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Florence Rose Garden with a view
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Oblate Library Terrace

For more great views, head to the public library right behind the Duomo. It has a top floor terrace with a great view. So, another fun thing to do for free in Florence.

San Miniato al Monte and its Cemetery

If you make it to Piazzale Michelangelo, you will see a church in the background, which offers great views, too. Take a few extra steps and visit the San Miniato al Monte and its cemetery. San Miniato al Monte is your chance to see a working monastery, and behind it is a cemetery that surrounds the entire church.

Read more about the perfect 10-14 day itinerary for Italy.

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Budget travel tips for Florence, where to go and what to see on the cheap in Florence
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As you can see, you can spend a few wonderful days in Florence without spending much – just plan in advance, travel off-season, and know where to get the good “stuff“ for free.

Safe Travels, Arzo
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