Florence is an open-air museum and attracts millions of visitors from all over the world every year, year round. Renown as the cradle of the Renaissance for its palaces, churches and museums, Florence is certainly unique.
While you're visiting Florence, you'll want to visit lots of these museums - which ones? Check out our top recommended sights to see in our 2 day itinerary.
Are you also wondering whether you need to book any of them ahead of time? You likely do for some museums: here are our recommendations on when and which ones, with tips on how to buy and where.
Definitely Book Museums in High Season!
We call Florence's busiest season the "high season" and this is roughly from May until September. During this time, there are so many people downtown it often becomes difficult to walk through Piazza Duomo (don't try it in a hurry!) and the lines at the city's major museums are long, with waits of over an hour... but only if you didn't book your museum tickets ahead of time!
So generally speaking, it is good practice to book Florence museum tickets in advance if you're coming in the high tourist season, which can actually start around Easter, quiets down a bit and then picks up with the warm weather and continues until the end of September. I personally think that the extra cost of the pre-booked ticket reservation is easily justified by the time you save not queuing in front of the museums, in essence giving you more time to discover more of Florence. Booking ahead does mean you need to decide on a date and time to visit, as tickets are sold for specific entrance times. This is particularly true for the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery, the city's two most visited museums.
If, on the other hand, you want to leave your visit to Florence flexible, just prepare yourself for the lines and prepare to make conversation with fellow people waiting in line, visitors who come from all over the world and which might make the long wait a bit more interesting!
During the rest of the year
Florence does have a quieter or "low" season, from November until March, when the number of visitors are definitely lower. It doesn't mean the city is deserted but with less numbers, the city center is a bit more enjoyable 😉. All joking aside, during the rest of the year, the lines at the Uffizi and Accademia are shorter but they are impossible to predict. You can take your chances and NOT book ahead of time, enjoying the city just like the locals in its "off-season".
Any time of year, with limited time
The exception is if you're in Florence for a limited time, like with only a day or two in the city. Many might only have a few hours in Florence, so I would suggest to book your tickets ahead of time and not spend even half an hour in line! You will want to make the most of the time you are in Florence.
The Uffizi and Accademia Galleries, Florence's Most Visited Museums
The Uffizi Gallery, with over 2200 works of art, is one of the most visited museums in all of Italy with almost 2 million visitors just last year. Even though Uffizi tickets can be reserved easily online or by phone, long lines still form every day in front of the museum and visitors wait 2 or more hours to be able to get inside. The museum, however, does offer the chance to shorten the wait by pre-booking tickets online or by phone and we highly recommend to book your tickets ahead of time, particularly for the Uffizi Gallery.
It is important to know that the Uffizi Gallery does limit the number of admissions at any one time for security measures and sets aside the number of these spots it will sell in advance. These advance tickets are sold through various channels, including authorized resellers. During the high season, some dates can be sold out on one website and still be available elsewhere so it makes sense to check your dates and book your Uffizi Museum tickets as soon as you know when you'll be in Florence. Just remember that the Uffizi Gallery is always closed on Mondays.
Among the other museums in Florence which merit booking tickets ahead of time is the Accademia Gallery. At the Accademia is where you'll find the original marble statue of David by Michelangelo and his Prisoners, as well as other masterpieces by Perugino, Filippino Lippi and Botticelli. Just like the Uffizi, the Accademia is visited by over 1,2 million visitors every year.
The long lines at the entrance on via Ricasoli wind around the nearby corner. To avoid queuing under the sun or rain (there is no portico to protect from the elements as there is at the Uffizi Gallery), we highly recommend you book tickets ahead of time.
The Bargello, Pitti Palace and Other Museums in Florence
Even though other Florence museums, such as the Bargello National Museum with its great sculpture collection, the Pitti Palace with its several museums and the Boboli Gardens, and the Medici Chapels with more sculptural masterpieces by Michelangelo, are not as busy as the Uffizi and the Academy, it's still useful to reserve tickets for these museums if you're visiting during high season. For these museums, you can reserve tickets online three days in advance while for the Uffizi we recommend getting them much before.
Where to buy museum tickets?
So now that I've convinced you that buying your museum tickets ahead of time is the way to go, you might be wondering where you should buy your tickets!
- By telephone: if you're looking for the cheapest solution, the first stop is to call +39-055-294-883 to prebook tickets by phone. It is also the best as you don't have to pay ahead of time, but are given a booking# and with this, you present yourself before your reserved time and pay and pick up for your tickets. Remember, though, that Italy is +1 Greenwich time and you have to call Monday through Fridays.
- Uffizi.org and Accademia.org: These are NOT the official websites for each of the museums, but if you want to book online, this is our second recommendation. Seeing as the institutional website doesn't offer really detailed information about each one (at the moment, very minimal and only in Italian), these websites written by the VisitFlorence.com team offer a lot of the information we are often asked on here! The sites have info on what to see inside these museums, suggested itineraries to follow to see the masterpieces when you have limited time and offer basic information on opening hours, types of tickets and latest news. For the sites, Florence-Tickets.com (an authorized reseller of museum tickets) is our trusted partner to sell tickets to Florence's museums. We earn a small commission on each ticket and tour sold through through these two sites so if you have found this and those sites useful, by buying through our links you support our websites!
- Viator.com, an international company specialized in selling tours offered by local companies. We found that a great way to visit both the Uffizi and Accademia (and the rest of Florence) is in the company of a licensed tour guide who can explain the importance of the artworks in a simple and interesting way that makes history and art quite fun! We recommend Viator because it offers a wide variety of tours (which in turn also include the ticket to the museums) as well as combinations of museum tours with walking tours of Florence. Take a look, as many tours are quite a lot of fun!
- Polo Museale Fiorentino, the institutional website for the Uffizi, Accademia and other state museums in Florence. The museum entity is being dismantled (by Italian Minsterial decree in 2014) and the museums have been divided into 4 separate museum entities. Four new websites are in the works (the old website has been taken offline in February 2016). The online platform for buying tickets is still active (follow the links you find within the individual museum pages) and while tickets for museums are the cheapest online here, you cannot change time or date or cancel the tickets once you've purchased them. Keep in mind that you might find a date or time sold out on this booking site but find the same date and time on other websites - and that while other sites will generally sell museum tickets at higher cost, you will pay for the availability and additional services, such as the possibility of changing time/date or even cancelling the booking (for a fee).
First Sundays of the Month are FREE!
Since July 2014, the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage started offering free entrance at all State museums across all of Italy on the first Sunday of the Month. This means that the Uffizi, Accademia and the rest of the State museums in Florence (see the list here) are free on that first Sunday! It also means you CANNOT book advance entrance on that day and will need to wait in line along with everyone else... unless you have a Firenze Card. Read more about the Florence museum 3 day pass here to decide whether it is convenient for you. Lines can be long, even in the off season, on those free Sundays.
Only in Florence for a few hours?
Regardless of the time of the year, if you're visiting Florence for only a few hours (as is the case for many doing day trips from cruise ships that stop in Livorno), I highly recommend you BOOK your museum tickets ahead of time. You won't have much time to dedicate to Florence and you don't want to spend time in lines. Booking your tickets ahead of time will be one way to ensure you have more time to see beautiful Florence!
Have any questions on booking museums or where to buy them from? Post your questions below!
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