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How to Explore Florence on a Budget

A BUDGET TRIP TO FLORENCE – FREE THINGS TO DO + TIPS

Are you planning a Florence trip but you do not want or cannot spend a fortune in Florence? Do not worry – Florence on a budget is quite easy.

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 with little money is possible!

Why did I not spend a lot of money in Florence? Well, the reason might surprise you: I did end up spending almost nothing because my dog was not allowed in many places. While Italy is extremely dog-friendly, Florence is not dog-friendly. I just could not visit most places. Given the number of tourists, I can somewhat understand. And while I was upset when it happened, it turned out that you can do many free things in Florence that are fun.

Florence skyline from Piazzele Michelangelo
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TRAVEL TIPS FOR FLORENCE ON A BUDGET

Before talking about how to explore Florence on a budget, here are some quick travel tips.

Best Time to Visit Florence for a Budget Trip

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. Come here in spring or fall to avoid the high costs of accommodation.

Where to Stay On a Budget in Florence

  • 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 excellent. You can also stay in a place like Pistoia, 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.
  • Mid-Range Hotels in Florence: This mid-range hotel is located close to the Boboli Gardens and the Piazzale Michelangelo. Check out the rates for the Park Palace in Florence.
  • Budget Hotels in Florence: The Plus Florence is a hostel near some of the main attractions, and you can book dorms or private rooms. Find out more about the hotel by clicking here.

Please Note: Florence charges a local city tax of 2– 5€ per person per night (it depends on the hotel category). 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.

How to Get Around Florence on a Shoestring

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). If you enjoy walking, 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 are needed in Florence!

How to Drink/Eat Cheaply

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 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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  • If you 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: Several restaurants 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 extra good).
  • Also, have your lunch at Via dei Neri Street (which is actually not in the Oltrarno area). You can get delicious sandwiches, the Florentine style, for 5-8€, and they will keep you full for a while. 
  • Picnic: Florence has some amazing squares and gardens. You could 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 just saw a few water fountains that provide fresh and clean drinking water. So, bring your water bottle and refill it here (I saw two fountains, one on my way to Michelangelo and one in the Rose Garden).

TIP: If you are looking for an itinerary, check out my Florence itinerary.

FREE THINGS TO DO IN FLORENCE

So, as mentioned, there are a lot of cheap or even free things to do in Florence.

Free Walking Tours in Florence

Go on a free walking tour. I have done several walking tours all over the world, and I love them. My guide in Florence gave some amazing tips, and I learned a lot about Florence – including some budget-friendly activities.

I 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 how part of the world I do the trip – if you are on a budget, you can give 5€-10€ per person.

Free Art in Florence

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 see… 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 in Florence

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

Free churches and attractions in Florence to visit
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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 and/or the museum).

Florence on a budget tips, Arzo Travels
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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 one price. If you want to skip the lines for the – otherwise – free Duomo, you can check out tickets here.

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

Free Museums in Florence

On the first Sunday of each month, all state museums are free in Florence. This includes the popular Uffizi Gallery, the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Garden, and the Accademia.

  • Lines are long, so you are better off booking your trip to Florence 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 in Florence

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 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 so it will be a budget-friendly activity in Florence.

Medici Villas in Florence

In 2013, twelve Medici villas and two gardens were added as 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.

Piazzale Michelangelo 

One of the best places to visit for (free) in Florence is the Piazzale Michelangelo – it offers Florence’s best views. 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 in Florence

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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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. 

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 surrounding the entire church.

PIN ME FOR LATER – FLORENCE ON A BUDGET

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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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FINAL THOUGHTS ON CHEAP ACTIVITIES IN FLORENCE

As you can see, you can spend a few wonderful days in Florence on a budget – so, whether you were looking for free things to do or general budget tips, I hope this post has helped you plan your trip better (for general Italy travel tips click here).

Florence is amazing – I fell head over heels in love with Florence. It is such a stunning city – and the fact that you can discover Florence on a budget and have an amazing time makes this place even more special.

If you are looking for day trips from Florence, check out my guide on Florence’s best tours.

Safe Travels, Arzo
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