Where to Stay in Florence First Time: 11 Best areas & districts

In this blog, I will help you to decide Where to stay in Florence first time, best areas to stay in Florence for first-time tourists (with a map and video), best hotels in Florence for all budgets (include the hotel where I stayed), and the safest places to stay in Florence.

Florence is the capital city and transport hub of the Tuscany region, central Italy, making it a great base to explore Tuscan towns such as Siena, Lucca, Pisa, and the Chianti wine region by train and bus, without the need of a car.

Founded by Romans in 59 BC, Florence is birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. It prospered under the Medici family in the 15th century and became a cultural and economic hub. Florence produced great artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

Florence has a small airport, you can have a flight to bigger cities like Bologna and Rome, then book the high-speed trains to Florence’s Santa Maria Novella station.

Where to stay in Florence for first-time visitors?

The best areas to stay in Florence for first-time visitors are Centro Storico, Santa Maria Novella, San Lorenzo, Santa Croce, and San Frediano. These are safe central neighborhoods for tourists, offering plenty of accommodation for all budgets.

Centro Storico is the best overall area for first time visitors due to its central location and proximity to major attractions such as Duomo, Uffizi Gallery, and Ponte Vecchio. Staying here offers easy access to the main train station, attractions, many restaurants, bars, and shops. 

The Centro Storico is small and walkable, you can easily explore on foot, buses, the tram, and taxis, so you don’t need a car to visit Florence. The historic center and the area around the main train station are best to stay without a car.

If you come to Florence with a car, it’s best to park the car outside of the historic center area because driving here is restricted and heavily regulated. Santa Maria Novella, Oltrarno, San Niccolò, Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence Hills are the best area to stay in Florence with a car.

Florence is generally a safe city for tourists with low crime rate but as any big city, you should be aware of pickpocketing, purse snatching in crowed places, and keep extra an eye on the areas around train stations at night.

The safest areas to stay in Florence are the historic center including the area around Duomo and Piazza della Signoria. These areas are alway filled with tourists, but it is recommended to always stay alert wherever you go.

Where did I stay in Florence?

When visiting Florence, I stayed at the popular Hotel Pendini in the heart of the historic center. It has a prime location, so I was able to explore most attractions on foot. It is very close to the iconic Cathedral, Uffizi Gallery, and Ponte Vecchio. I had a lovely breakfast and comfortable rooms.

💖 Best Area for first-timers:Centro Storico
💎 Best luxury hotel:Rocco Forte Hotel Savoy
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Hotel Spadai
💰 Best budget hotel:Palazzo dei Conti Residenza d’Epoca

Map of areas and neighborhoods in Florence:

Where to Stay in Florence, Italy Map of Best Areas & neighborhood
Map of Best Areas & neighborhood in Florence for tourists

Best areas to Stay in Florence for first-timers and tourists:

1. Centro Storico

Duomo and Piazza della Signoria, where to stay in Florence for first time tourists

Centro Storico is the best overall place to stay in Florence for first-time visitors due to its proximity to the city’s iconic landmarks such as Florence Cathedral, Ponte Vecchio, Uffizi Gallery, and Piazza della Signoria. If you stay here, you will be located in the middle of the action!

The Florence historic center is the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is compact and highly walkable, allowing you to explore most of the major sights on foot.

Despite being a pedestrian-friendly area, Centro Storico also has excellent transport connections. The main train station, Santa Maria Novella, is within walking distance, allowing you to easily explore other parts of Tuscany or travel to nearby cities like Pisa or Siena.

One of the most famous attractions in the city is The Duomo de Firenze (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore), situated in the Piazza del Duomo. Climb to the top of the dome for panoramic views of the city.

The cathedral square is surrounded by charming cafes, boutique shops, bars, restaurants, and clubs, making it a hive of activity. Next to the cathedral is the Giotto’s Campanile and the Baptistry of Saint John.

The historic center is home to numerous charming square, where locals and tourist gathering. Piazza della Signoria, foe example, is home to the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall. You can view the outdoor sculpture gallery, including the replica of Michelangelo’s David, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere.

There is also the Piazza della Repubblica, formerly the very center of the city’s economic and cultural life. That dates back to the Middle Ages but some of its beautiful buildings were destroyed in the 18th Century.

If you head to the Arno River, you can walk across the iconic Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge lined with jewelry shops. Enjoy the views over the Arno River and take in the charm of this historic landmark.

Close to this landmark is the beautiful Uffizi Gallery, one of the world’s finest museums of art. This glorious old structure houses treasures of the renaissance. Including works by artists such as Botticelli, Titian, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci.

The historic center has plenty of museums for history buffs and art lovers. There are spectacular Renaissance sculptures in the National Museum of Bargello, Museum of The History of Science, the Museum of Anthropology, and the Museum Opera del Duomo, or cathedral museum.

If you are tired of sightseeing, take a break at one of the many gelaterias in the Centro Storico and savor the delicious flavors of artisanal gelato. Sit at a café or on a square and watch the vibrant street life of Florence pass by.

While Centro Storico offers many advantages for first-time visitors, it’s worth noting that it can get crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons. But, the overall experience of staying in this area and being immersed in the heart of Florence makes it a popular choice for many travelers.

The historic center is considered relatively safe for visitors and is well-maintained, with a strong police presence. As with any touristy area, it is always advisable to take basic safety precautions such as keeping an eye on your belongings in crowded areas.

There are a wide range of hotels, guest houses, and apartment rentals for all budget travelers. Due to its prime location, hotels here tend to be higher than other parts of the city, but it is well worth it. Be sure to book a hotel with noise-proof glass windows and air-conditioning rooms.

Stay in Duomo if you’re first-time tourists; you want great shopping and nightlife; you are traveling without a car; you don’t mind lively atmosphere;

Best places to stay in Florence in Duomo for first-timers:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN DUOMO

See more: Best areas to Stay in Cinque Terre

2. Santa Maria Novella

Best neighbourhood to stay in Florence for family travellers
Santa Maria Novella

Santa Maria Novella is located immediate to the west of the historic center, and on the north side of the Arno river. It offers a mix of Renaissance architecture, charming streets, and beautiful squares, and convenient access to public transportation.

The area is home to the main railway station of Florence, known as Santa Maria Novella Train Station. It serves as a major transportation hub, connecting Florence with other cities in Italy and beyond. The station itself is an architectural landmark with a striking facade.

Santa Maria Novella takes its name from the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, a prominent church situated in the heart of the neighborhood. It is known for its stunning Gothic and Renaissance architecture, and was built by order of Dominican friars during 13th and 14th century.

Other popular tourist attractions are the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy, Chiesa di Ognissanti, Museo Novecento, Fortezza da Basso, and Chiesa dei Santi Michele e Gaetano.

The area surrounding the station is a bit down-at-heel and not a very attractive place to stay. But this is a large area, and as you head south from the station, the area around the Piazza de Santa Maria Novella is very appealing indeed. This part of town also enjoys a long stretch of riverfront.

The Piazza Santa Maria Novella, is a bustling hub of activity. It features a large open space with cafes, shops, and restaurants, making it a popular meeting point for both locals and tourists. 

Further to the west, you will find the Parco delle Cascine, the largest park in Florence with playgrounds for families and kids to relax. In summer you can also use the Le Pavoniere swimming pool.

The central and southern parts of Santa Maria Novella are excellent for exclusive shopping, dining, and drinking. In particular, you will find some excellent restaurants and bars on the riverfront. You can sit at a table in a beautiful part of town and watching the world go by.

You can shop at the Mercato Centrale, a vibrant indoor market where you can find a wide array of fresh local produce, meats, cheeses, and other delicious Tuscan delicacies. It’s a great place to experience the local food culture.

There is also an upscale shopping street called Via de’ Tornabuoni, which is lined with luxury boutiques, high-end fashion stores, and renowned designer brands, making it a paradise for fashion enthusiasts and shoppers.

Santa Maria Novella has an abundance of hotels, apartments, and places to stay. If you want to avoid noise, you can choose stay a bit further from the train station. As you head to the South and towards the river Arno, there are some very appealing beautiful boutiques and higher-end hotels. 

Stay in Santa Maria Novella if you want to stay near the train station; you plan to take day trip to Tuscan towns; you travel on a budget; you are traveling with family; you travel with a car.

Best places to stay in Florence in Santa Maria Novella:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN SANATA MARIA NOVELLA

3. San Lorenzo & San Marco

 San Lorenzo and San Marco, Best areas to stay in Florence for budget travellers

San Lorenzo and San Marco are located immediately to the north of the historical center and the east of the train station. These areas were quite downmarket, but in common with most European cities, they have been revitalized and gentrified as people move back into the city. 

San Lorenzo and San Marco offers some excellent budget accommodation; if you’re a backpacker or independent traveler, this is an ideal place to find hostels. Of course, there are good mid-range and high-end accommodation options here too.

Since Florence is so packed with historical treasures, almost every area has something great to see. In this area, you will find the beautiful Basilica de San Lorenzo, a church dating back to the 1400s, and Medici chapels, a grand burial place of the Medici.

Next door is the Sagristia Vecchia, a domed Renaissance church. These structures are in the beautiful Piazza di San Lorenzo, which also contains the Biblioteca Medicia Laurenziana, which is a grand library that was designed by Michelangelo.

San Lorenzo is also a great spot for foodies where you find Florence’s favorite food market, San Lorenzo Market, and Mercato Centrale with many local eateries and vintage boutiques.

In San Marco to the east, you’ll find the National Archaeological Museum and the Piazza Della Santissima Annunciata. The Giardina Dell Gherardesca and the neighboring Giardino di Palazzo Caponnii are two lovely landscaped parks over on the Eastern side of the suburb.

Other points of interests area the Museo di San Marco, the Museo degli Innocenti, and the Accademia Gallery which is famous for its David’s statue by the great Renaissance artist, Michelangelo.

Stay here if you are traveling on the budget, you want to stay central, but not right in the center, you want to be close to the central rail station Firenze Santa Maria Novella.

Best places to stay in San Lorenzo and San Marco:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN SAN LORENZO

4. Santa Croce

Santa Croce, best area to stay in Florence for nightlife
Santa Croce

Santa Croce is the area immediately surrounding the Piazza of the Basilica of Santa Croce. Known as Temple of Italian Glories, this striking building houses the graves of Renaissance greats like Michelangelo, Rossini, and Galileo.

This area is so close to the center of Florence that many people classify it as a part of the historic center, even though it is beside the Arno River to the east.

Santa Croce houses the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, which is Italy’s largest public library. This area also boasts several authentic Tuscan shops, flea markets and easily reach the Sant’Ambrogio market.

There are many pizzerias and restaurants on the nearby Via de’ Macci and Borgo La Croce. You will find the streets packed with great little restaurants and bars, cafes that attracts many young people gather for a drink and live music.

You can explore the narrow streets, visit the leather market, and enjoy local trattorias. Santa Croce is also home to the Piazza dei Ciompi flea market, perfect for antique enthusiasts. If you want to enjoy the same dining and nightlife like the locals, this is the perfect place to stay.

Stay in Santa Croce if you want excellent local style dining and nightlife; you want great shopping and dining, you want an affordable central location,

Best places to stay in Florence in Santa Croce:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN SANTA CROCE

5. San Frediano and Santo Spirito

San Frediano and Santo Spirito, lots of restaurants and bars
Oltrarno/Huw

Santo Spirito are San Frediano are great areas to stay in Florence to experience tradition and local life of the Florentines. They are the quiet neighborhoods of Oltrarno district, located the south side of the Arno River. San Frediano is the most traditional neighbourhood of Florence.

There are two main squares in the areas, Piazza Santo Spirito and Piazza del Carmine has many cool bars and excellent restaurants. Piazza Santo Spirito was designed by the Brunelleschi.

There are plenty of things to see on the historic center’s south side, including the Church of Santo Spirito and the spectacular Palazzo Pitti. This vast old palace joins up with the Uffizi Gallery on the North shore via a walkway across the Ponte Vecchio bridge.

The palace contains several museums, including the Old Royal Apartments, a Costume Museum, a display of ornate carriages, and a modern art gallery. Next door is the beautifully landscaped Boboli Gardens, an oasis of green in the center of ancient Florence that offers spectacular views of the city.

These urban neighborhoods are packed with really cool boutique shops, restaurants, osterie, cafe, bar. There is a high concentration of nightlife venues bars, bistros, cafes around Piazza Santo Spirito and Borgo San Frediano.

This part of town is the artistic center of the city, and there are lots of cool little craft shops selling all kinds of exciting stuff. San Frediano and Santo Spirito provides many bed and breakfasts, apartments for rent, small boutique hotels options.

Best places to stay in Florence in San Frediano and Santo Spirito:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN SANTO SPIRITO

6. San Niccolò and Piazzale Michelangelo

San Niccolò and Piazzale Michelangelo, great for nature and city views
Piazzale Michelangelo

Piazzale Michelangelo is located to the south of the river Arno and just to the east of Palazzo Pitti. The neighboring of San Niccolò spreads out to the east and south up into leafy hillside with sweeping views of the historic center of Florence, especially from the Gate of San Niccolò.

San Niccolò is known as artist’s neighbourhood, full of art galleries, design boutiques, cafeterias, restaurants, and bars. You can admire street art pieces along its narrow streets of cobble stones, or buy some beautiful artworks at Carla Bruttini Studio.

These areas have a wonderful spread-out and open feel, and they’re a nice place to stay if you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of the most central parts of town yet still be conveniently placed for all the sights.

These areas are full of pretty little parks like Giardino delle Rose, Terzo Giardino, Giardino Bardini; and this open environment should appeal to families since they offer safe places for the kids to play.

The Piazzale Michelangelo is a large open Piazza up on a hillside that you can climb up to from the river using the stairs of the Rampe di San Niccolo. It’s well worth the walk because the square offers one of the best views across the city.

Where these two areas meet the Arno River, you’ll find all kinds of excellent places to dine, drink, and shop. The riverside is a thriving and cool little area full of trattorias and art studios, and it’s an excellent place for a night out.

San Niccolò provides a range of accommodation for all budgets, with many apartments that have terraces overlooking the Arno.

Stay in San Niccolò & Piazzale Michelangelo if you want some of the cities best views; you want a central location with an out-of-town fee; you want lots of parks and green spaces.

Best places to stay in San Niccolò & Piazzale Michelangelo:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO

7. Sant’Ambrogio

Sant’Ambrogio, budget-friendly area, good food and restaurants
Sant’Ambrogio. source:Jameson Fink

Sant’Ambrogio is an area of Eastern Florence surrounding (and named after) the Church of St Ambrose – a Roman Catholic church.This part of the city is home to the University of Florence. Because of this, it’s an excellent place for budget travelers to head.

There are lots of bargain places to eat and drink, and the huge Santa Regio Market sells all kinds of fresh produce, so you can save even more money by staying in a self-catering apartment.

Sant’Ambrogio also has a great nightlife with many hip bars and clubs, especially around the Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio in Piazza dei Ciompi, Florence’s second market after the Mercato Centrale.

Sant’Ambrogio is the place where the Jewish community used to live. You can also find Tempio Maggiore of Florence which is the oldest Jewish Synagogue in the city.

While it might seem like this suburb is on the outskirts of Florence, you need to remember that Florence is a very compact and pedestrian-friendly city. All of the delights of the historic center are only a ten or fifteen-minute walk to the west.

Stay in Sant’Ambrogio if you’re traveling on the budget; you are foodie; you want to be a little way out from the center

Best places to stay in Florence in Sant’Ambrogio:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN FLORENCE

8. Florence Hills

Florence Hills, where to stay in Florence with a car

Florence sits in a basin surrounded by a number of hills, including the Fiesole, Bellosguardo, Porta Romana, and Settignano, which feature fabulous countryside and some beautiful little towns and villages.

If you really aren’t a city person, and you’re only happy when surrounded by the countryside, then you can still enjoy Florence on day trips from outside the city.

Here you can surround yourself with fields of olives and grapes and sample spectacular local wines and produce in homely village restaurants. You will find spacious hotels and delightful guest houses as you explore this region. 

Staying in the Florence Hills is an excellent idea if you are traveling by car. Florence Hills is the best area to stay in Florence with a car.

There is much pleasure to be had from cruising through the twisting roads that snake around the hills, stopping off at points of interest, and taking in some of the spectacular views of Florence and the surrounding countryside.

Stay in Florence Hills if you travel with a car; you like to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations; you want to enjoy Florence from a distance, you want to stay in some spectacular countryside;

Best places to stay near Florence Hills:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN FLORENCE

9. Boboli and San Miniato al Monte

Boboli and San Miniato al Monte, upscale residential neighborhoods
Boboli

These two neighborhoods of Florence are on the south side of the Arno River but are effectively part of the historic center.

They are predominantly wealthy residential neighborhoods that immediately surround the spectacular Palazzo Pitti and the Giardano Boboli. As I mentioned earlier, the Palazzo Pitti is a must-visit with its collection of fascinating museums.

Since this area is so central, it’s a great place to stay if you want to explore Florence on foot. These areas aren’t the best choice for budget travelers, but if you can afford it, they’re a great place to stay.

Stay in Boboli & San Miniato al Monte if you want to be in a central and upmarket, you want great high-end hotels with spectacular reviews, you can afford the best, you want to be close to lots of museums.

Best places to stay near Boboli and San Miniato al Monte:

  • Casa Botticelli This 3-star hotel offers air-conditioned rooms with a TV, a private bathroom with a bidet and free toiletries, and free wifi.
  • Soggiorno Pitti This guest house is right in front of the former royal palace of Florence, in a historic residential building. It offers en suite rooms with parquet floors and air conditioning.
🔍MORE HOTELS IN FLORENCE

10. Santissima Annunziata

Santissima Annunziata,  peaceful area for families
Santissima Annunziata/Paul VanDerWerf

Santissima Annunziata is the part of Florence that spreads out to the northeast of the historic center. There is plenty of historical interest in this part of town, including the Galleria dell Accademia which houses what is probably the world’s most famous sculpture, Michelangelo’s David.

The center of this area is a lovely old plaza packed with spectacularly ornate Renaissance buildings. Despite being an easy walk from the historical center of Florence, this area retains a remarkably relaxed and peaceful vibe.

For this reason, it’s an excellent place to stay if you’re looking fot the best neighborhood in Florence Italy with family or if you want a place that’s a little more chilled-out than some of the other central parts of town.

There’s a good range of accommodation at all budgets here, and some excellent restaurants too.

Stay in Santissima Annunziata if you want a peaceful area suitable for families, you want a central location with a relaxed atmosphere, you are traveling with your family, you want to see Michelangelo’s David.

Best Places to Stay in Florence in Santissima Annunziata:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN SANTISSIMA ANNUNZIATA

11. Novoli

It was only as Florence expanded in the 19th Century that Novoli became part of the city. It remains suburban in contrast to the hectic life that Florence in general offers.

You will still find some historic landmarks, notably two churches. Donato in Polverosa and Santa Maria a Novoli both date back to the Renaissance.

Villa San Donato is now largely in ruins, but this palace is still worth a visit. It had many functions throughout its history but today, it is a private museum with 14 rooms.

There is limited accommodation in Novoli, but you should be able to find a B&B or room to let if you do your research.

Stay in Novoli if you are looking for a sedate pace of life, simple accommodation is perfectly acceptable, and you do not like a city center base.

Best places to stay In Florence near Novoli:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN NOVOLI

Check out my virtual tour of the best places to stay in Florence in this video:

Where should I stay in Florence for the first time?

Centro Storico is the best overall area for first-timers due to its central location, easy access to public transportations, attractions, and amenities. Staying here allows you to be located within walking distance to major sights, restaurants, and shops, as well as day trips to other towns in Tuscany.

What are the best areas to stay in Florence?

Duomo, Santa Maria Novella, San Lorenzo, Santa Croce, San Frediano, San Niccolò, Sant’Ambrogio, and Florence Hills are some of the best areas to stay in Florence because they are the most popular and safe areas in the city for tourists.

Where to stay in Florence Italy with family?

The best areas to stay in Florence for families with kids are Duomo, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, Oltrarno, and Florence Hills due to their proximity to family-friendly amenities and attractions, and well-connected transportations.

Is Florence a good base for Tuscany?

Florence is a good base to stay in Tuscany due to its central location and well-connected to public transportation, by both train and bus. You can easily make a day trips to nearby Chianti, Siena, Pisa, Arezzo, and San Gimignano.

See more:

In conclusion, Centro Storico, Santa Maria Novella, San Lorenzo/San Marco, Santa Croce, San Frediano/Santo Spirito, and San Niccolò are the best places to stay in Florence for tourists and first-timer. They offer central and safe locations with a wide range of tourist amenities.

Personally, I recommend Centro Storico as the best base for first-timers because it is the most convenient location to see top attractions. You’ll also have easy access to the main train station, as well as many restaurants, bars, and shops.

About Author: Linda Smith

I'm Linda Smith, the Hotel Expert, an experienced travel blogger who passionate about traveling. I'm here to share with you all my travel experiences and tips. I cover a wide range of travel topics, specializing in sharing information about the best areas, neighborhoods, and hotels in each city. I hope all these things will make your travel easier.

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