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Although Florence is best explored and savored over several days, since its historic center is relatively small and easily walkable it is possible to see its most famous sights in one day.
If you’re pressed for time and need to squeeze as much sightseeing as you can into 24 hours or less, our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend kicking off your whirlwind tour with a stroll through the city’s famous San Lorenzo leather market, which is near the train station, and then heading on to the Accademia Gallery. As the home of Michelangelo’s famed David statue — the real one; there is a replica in Piazza della Signoria — the Accademia Gallery is one of the most-visited tourist attractions in town. Avoid the long lines to get in by buying your tickets online ahead of time.
After getting your fill of art, walk the Piazza del Duomo to see Florence’s famous Duomo. If the line isn’t too long, duck inside to take a look, though it’s worth noting that the exterior is actually more elaborate and impressive than the austere interior. Also be sure to check out the Florence Baptistery, the city’s oldest building that’s just across from the Duomo. It features the “Gates of Paradise” doors, which have gorgeous detailed panels that were designed by Renaissance artist Lorenzo Ghiberti.
Next, head southeast to the Basilica di Santa Croce, the resting place of Florence’s most famous citizen, Michelangelo, and home to frescoes by Giotto and sculptures by Donatello. Get a long enough look for it all to sink in, then take a five-minute walk from there to Piazza della Signoria: This is the iconic piazza that’s overshadowed by Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s towering medieval town hall.
Taking the famed Ponte Vecchio, cross into the Oltrarno neighborhood for lunch and to explore the area’s back streets and artisanal shops. Be sure to stop at Santa Maria del Carmine to visit the Brancacci Chapel, one of the most important chapels of the early Renaissance period. After your relaxing stroll, head back across the river to the Uffizi Gallery, one of the world’s oldest and most famous museums — again, buy your tickets online ahead of time to avoid the lines.
Finally, finish your marathon day of sightseeing with a glass of wine and Tuscan meats and cheeses at a local enoteca.