Florence or Venice: Which Italian City to Visit?


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Florence and Venice are two of the most popular cities in Italy. Venice is known for its historic canals and glass-blown artwork while Florence is famous for its architecture, wine region, and food. If you have a finite amount of time to explore Italy, you might find yourself wondering whether to visit Florence or Venice. 

Florence might be your choice if you’re an art and history lover, Venice might be the better option if you’re after a romantic escape. However, both cities are fascinating and they have characteristics that make visiting each one a very unique experience.

Keep reading for a list of everything you need to know when deciding whether to visit Venice vs Florence.  

Florence

Centrally located in Italy, Florence is the largest city in the Tuscany region. It’s well known for food, history, and culture, making it a favorite destination for tourists. Florence is also the gateway city to exploring the wine regions and natural spaces of Tuscany. 

Ponte Vecchio in Florence
Ponte Vecchio in Florence

Accessibility 

If you’re arriving by train, you’ll come into Florence through the Stazione Santa Maria Novella. There are other train stations in the city, but this one is the biggest and most centrally located, so it’s probably where you’ll hop off to begin your Florence adventure. You can view schedules here.

The Florence airport is about five miles from the city center and can be accessed by taxi, bus, tram, or rental car. 

Taxis are available in the city center, but there is no rideshare service like you’d find in other Italian cities. If you have a rental car (you can find one on Rentalcars.com), you won’t be allowed to drive in the center of Florence. Those streets are reserved for residents only. 

Most of the main attractions in Florence are accessible by foot. Anywhere from five to twenty minutes of walking will take you throughout the main neighborhoods. It’s also the best way to stumble upon hidden gems, find quaint cafes, and wander into local artisan shops.

Navigating Florence is usually easy with clearly marked signs and an intuitive layout, however, you should still use a map or GPS to help navigate. Overall, getting around Florence is easy and affordable. 

Uffizi Gallery
Uffizi Gallery

Affordability

The busiest months in Florence are during the summer. You should expect prices across the board to increase from roughly June through August and be more affordable if visiting Florence in winter.

When it comes to lodging and eating in Florence, you can really spend any amount of money.

However, Florence is generally more budget-friendly for travelers than Venice. Many activities are affordable and there is a lot to see just walking around the city, which is entirely free. If you opt for a high-end visit to Tuscany or private tours, expect to pay more for your stay in Florence. 

It’s also worth noting that Florence has more variety in terms of what kind of experience you can have. For example, you have more flexibility to splurge in one area and save in another. You will probably visit nicer restaurants and stay in nicer accommodations in Florence for a lesser price than Venice.

Florence is also a larger city, which grants its visitors more options when they’re deciding where to eat. If you wander from the tourist-oriented city center, you will find cheaper lodging and dining. 

Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio

Things To Do In Florence

One of the biggest differences between Venice and Florence is the sheer number of things to do. You could easily spend several days in Florence, exploring the city and Tuscany, and have plenty to see and do. It’s very worth your time to spend at least two days getting to know Florence with another day spent venturing into the region. 

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is by far the most stunning of attractions in Florence. This impressive cathedral stands out against the skyline and sits in the middle of the city. You can go inside the cathedral, but expect to wait in a long line unless you visit as soon as it opens. You can organise a guided tour here.

Ponte Vecchio is a classic spot to visit while wandering Florence. This medieval bridge is lined with colorful jewelry shops with excellent views of the city and river. 

Lovers of art museums will find themselves right at home in Florence. The Uffizi Gallery, housing Renaissance masterpieces throughout the ages, is the most popular. You can buy tickets here.

The Accademia Gallery, where Michelangelo’s David lives (pre-book tickets here), and Pitti Palace (pre-book tickets here) are two other main museums in Florence, but there are many more. While wandering the city, you can also expect to come across pop-up exhibits for various artists. Florence has a rich history of art, artists, and architecture. 

Palazzo Pitti
Palazzo Pitti

Aside from these, make sure you visit Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, and Piazza del Duomo. There are gardens, vegetable markets, science museums, plazas, and even tombs to explore. 

If you have time during your visit to Florence, take a day trip to Pisa, and a tour of Tuscany. Whether you’re a lover of wine or not, this famous wine region of Italy is beautiful with rolling green hills and stunning vineyards.

You can learn about the history of wine and olive oil production in the country. Pisa is just a short train ride away or can be visited on a guided tour.

From the train station in Pisa, walk about twenty minutes to reach the Leaning Tower of Pisa and surrounding museums. These are two iconic destinations that are easily accessible from Florence. 

You can also take day trips to cities like Lucca and Siena if you have the time, as well.

Beautiful Lucca
Nearby Lucca

Where to Stay in Florence

Hotel Bellavista – This mid-range hotel is a great option for visitors looking for a comfortable and convenient choice in the Tuscan capital. Located close to the train station within easy walking distance of all Florence has to offer, they have a range of different rooms available and an option to include breakfast. Click here to see their availability

25hours Hotel – This luxury hotel is a great choice for those looking for a plush stay in Florence. They offer a number of rooms perfect for couples looking for a romantic escape. There is also breakfast included in the nightly rate and there is a fitness centre, restaurant and bar on site. Click here to see their availability

Ostello Bello Firenze – If you’re looking for a great social atmosphere or are travelling on a tight budget, this highly-rated hostel is an excellent option. They have both dorms and private rooms available, good common areas and a fantastic location for exploring the best Florence has to offer. Click here to see their availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Florence hotels!

Beautiful Florence
Beautiful Florence

Venice

Venice is arguably one of the most famous cities in Europe. Known as the “City of Canals”, Venice is filled with beautiful architecture, gondolas, and a fascinating history. It has over 118 islands that make up the city, making it one of the most interesting cities to explore on foot. 

Accessibility

The easiest way to reach Venice is by train at the Santa Lucia Train Station. From the train station, you can easily walk to your accommodation.

There is a small airport, Marco Polo Venice Airport, that you’ll have to take a bus or boat from to get into Venice proper. You can book a bus here or a boat here.

Getting around Venice is as unique as the city itself. In short, there are three main ways to get around Venice: buses, walking, and vaporettos. 

Walking tops out as the best way to get around Venice. The walk from Santa Lucia to St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) is usually 20 – 30 minutes. When exploring Venice by foot, it’s wise to have a map or GPS at your disposal.

The streets are relatively well-marked, but they twist and curve to create a maze-like city. With all the narrow alleys and random dead ends, it’s easy to get lost. That said, Venice is one of the coolest cities to get lost in. 

Buses are mainly to reach Venice from the mainland. Once in Venice itself, you won’t see any cars. Instead, most people use vaporettos to get around. These are essentially water buses that go between all the main points of interest throughout Venice.

It connects the six areas of Venice as well as the other island in the Lagoon. Purchasing single-ride tickets can add up very quickly. Instead, consider buying an unlimited multi-day transportation pass. 

The other ferry option is the traghetto. This is a lesser-known option, but worth it for the more affordable price point. It helps visitors cross the Grand Canal easily and cheaply, costing around a quarter of the price of a vaporetto ticket.

Water taxis and gondolas are the two most expensive ways to get around the city. Gondolas are mainly tourist attractions, running from €80-100 for half an hour. Water taxis can transport up to ten people, but tend to be spendy and the prices usually jump at night. 

Venice Grand Canal
Iconic view of Venice’s Grand Canal

Affordability

Venice is generally more expensive than Florence. Unsurprisingly, Venice sees millions of visitors every year–more so than other parts of Italy. It’s because of this that prices tend to be higher.

Venice is also a much smaller city compared to Florence, so there are fewer options for lodging. This leads property owners to increase the per night cost of a room to sell to the tourists willing to pay the most.

Similar to Florence, restaurants, cafes, shops, and accommodations near St. Mark’s Square will have higher prices than other parts of Venice. However, expect to pay more for nearly everything in Venice than Florence. 

Rialto Bridge in Venice
Rialto Bridge

Things To Do In Venice

Venice is a historic and elegant city with plenty of sites to see. You’ll probably recognize many of the highlights from their appearances in pop culture.

Start with the Rialto Bridge. This intricately-designed marble footbridge spans the Grand Canal. It’s a great place for a view of the Grand Canal, especially for sunrise or sunset.

St. Mark’s Square is the largest and most popular public square in Venice. It’s surrounded by shops and restaurants while being home to the stunning St. Mark’s Basilica. You can buy skip-the-line tickets here.

While exploring Venice, you’ll want to make sure to visit Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Signs. The palace boasts the Venetian Gothic style and was historically the palace of the Doge of Venice, a high authority figure in the former Republic of Venice. You can buy tickets here.

Gondolas parked near Doge's Palace
Gondolas parked near Doge’s Palace

It dates back to 1340. The connecting Bridge of Sighs is a white marble bridge built high above the canal between the Doge’s Palace and a prison. The bridge was built to transport prisoners from interrogation rooms in the palace to their cells in the prison. 

Those who love the arts will appreciate the beauty of the Teatro La Fenice and enjoy wandering the art collection at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection of modern art.

If you have an afternoon to spend venturing out of the center of Venice, hop on a vaporetto to visit Burano or Murano. These little islands are known for their lace and glass-blown art, respectively.

They are colorful and charming parts of Venice that are well worth a few hours of your time and just a short ride from the main part of Venice. 

If you have a few days to spend in Venice, you could also opt to go on a day trip to nearby Verona or go wine tasting in the famous Prosecco region.

Verona is a good day trip option from Venice
Verona is a good day trip option from Venice

Where to Stay in Venice

Riva del Vin Boutique Hotel – Situated within reach of the iconic Rialto Bridge, this lovely boutique hotel is perfect for those after the ideal romantic escape in Vence. There are a handful of chic and comfortable rooms available, a bar on site, and a great breakfast included in the nightly rate. Click here to see their availability

Ca’ Angeli – Located in the central San Polo neighborhood, this wonderful hotel is an excellent choice for those looking for a luxe place to stay in Venice. They offer only a handful of beautiful, clean and comfortable rooms and they also have a great breakfast available each morning. Click here to see their availability

Combo Venezia — This hostel in the cool Cannaregio neighborhood is a great choice for budget and solo travelers to Venice. As one of the city’s highest-rated hostels, they have both private rooms and dorm beds available and great shared spaces and self-catering facilities. Click here to see their availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Venice hotels!

Accademia Bridge in Venice
Accademia Bridge in Venice

Venice or Florence: The Verdict

So, should you visit Venice or Florence? The two cities each have their own unique characteristics that make them memorable, however, there are several differences that might make one better than the other for your trip to Italy. 

If you want art, history, and other cultural museums, Florence is your place. Here, you’ll generally find more to do, especially if you plan a day trip or two out of the city. Florence also had more options for incredible food due to being a larger city.

Those traveling on a budget should head to Florence as well. Again, because Florence is a larger city with more options for lodging and dining, there will be more flexibility for all budgets. 

If you find yourself wanting a city that captures the romance that Italy is famous for, go to Venice. With the canals, music, gondolas, and architecture, you are bound to feel the warm sentiments that come from wandering these picturesque streets. 

When it comes to crowds, Venice is almost always packed with tourists. The city receives millions of visitors every year from all over the world. This, coupled with the narrow streets and limited space, quickly makes Venice incredibly dense with tourists.

Florence also sees a lot of visitors, especially during the summer months, but is more spread out, so it won’t feel nearly as crowded as Venice. It’s easier and cheaper to get around Florence, with more options for exploring small towns and regions around the city.

Whether you should visit Florence vs Venice should be based on how much time you have, budget, and the activities you’d like to do. Florence has more to do while Venice is the romantic, picturesque pocket of Italy you’ve seen in movies. No matter which city you choose to visit, it’s certain to be a trip you won’t forget. 

Are you trying to decide between visiting Venice or Florence? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!

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Audrey Webster is a writer for The World Was Here First. She is an Oregon native who has visited countries across the globe and currently spends her weekends exploring the Pacific Northwest. Her approach to traveling combines exploring famous tourist sites and wandering off the beaten path to discover new destinations.

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