Where to Stay in Florence, Italy First Time: 11 Best Areas

The best areas to stay in Florence for first-timers are the neighborhoods of Duomo, Santa Maria Novella, San Lorenzo/ San Marco, Santa Croce, San Frediano/ Santo Spirito, San Niccolò, Sant’Ambrogio, and Florence Hills. These districts are very popular with tourist that offer a wide variety of attractions and amenities.

In this blog, I will help you to decide where to stay in Florence for the first time, without a car, for families, couples, as well as the safest area to stay in Florence.

Florence is the capital city of the Tuscany region, central Italy. It is a great base to do a day trip to Siena, Lucca, Pisa by bus, and an arranged tour of the Tuscan countryside.

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. In 1865, it became the capital of a united Italy. Today, it is known as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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 area in to stayn in Florence are around Duomo and Piazza della Signoria because it is alway filled with people shopping and visiting sights.

Duomo is the best place to stay in Florence for first timers due to its prime location and its widest range of accommodations, restaurants, bars, and shops. If you stay here, you will be located in the middle of everything.

The Historic Center is small and walkable, you can easily explore the city on foot, buses, the tram, and taxis, so you don’t need a car to visit Florence. If you come to Florence with a car, it’s best to park the car outside of the historic center area.

Santa Maria Novella, Oltrarno, San Niccolò, Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence Hills are some of the best area to stay in Florence with a car.

💖 Best Area for first time:Duomo – Florence City Center
💎 Best luxury hotel:Rocco Forte Hotel Savoy
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Hotel Spadai
💰 Best budget hotel:Palazzo dei Conti Residenza d’Epoca

Where to stay in Florence? 11 Best areas to Stay in Florence for tourist

1. Duomo, where to stay in Florence for first-timers

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

Duomo is the best area to stay in Florence for first-time visitors due to its close proximity to Florence’s top tourist attractions, museums, piazzas, and historical landmarks. If you stay here, you will be located within walking distance to the top sights, restaurants, bars, and shops.

Duomo is located in the Florence historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can start exploring the city by visit the spectacular Ponte Vecchio bridge, an ancient structure spans the river Arno and was the only old Florentine bridge to survive world war II.

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 and Titian. 

You can see spectacular Renaissance sculptures in the National Museum of Bargello. Then there is the Museum of The History of Science, the Museum of Anthropology, and the Museum Opera del Duomo, or cathedral museum, that contains works by Michelangelo amongst its treasures.

There are a wealth of historic buildings to explore in the historic center too. The Duomo de Firenze (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore), is the city’s spectacular cathedral situated in the Piazza del Duomo. The Dome itself stands out and offers great views over Florence. Next to the cathedral is the Giotto’s Campanile and the Baptistry of Saint John.

Duomo is generally busy with tourists joining the local inhabitants day after day. There are some of the Tuscany’s most charming cafes, boutique shops, bars, restaurants, and clubs meaning that even when the sightseeing stops at night, Duomo is still a hive of activity.

Nearby stands the Piazza della Signoria, which is is extremely attractive to tourists, it retains the character it has had for centuries. The cobbled streets if lined with stylish cafes and luxury brand boutiques. The 14th-centur Palazzo Vecchio is another ancient structure full of ornate architecture and artistic treasures.

You can also find 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. The plan was to open up the area but the result you see today is that only a small part of the original piazza remains.

As you might imagine, this central part of Florence has the best accommodation choice, since it is the most popular area for travelers to stay. It can be crowded with tourists and noisy, so to avoid it you can book hotel with noise-proof glass windows and air-conditioning rooms.

There are hundreds and hundreds of hotels, guest houses, and apartment rentals in the historic center, so you are sure to find something that suits you. Due to its prime location, hotels here tend to be higher than other parts of the city, but it is well worth it.

Stay in Duomo if you’re first-time tourists who want to stay in Florence city center; you want great shopping and nightlife; you are traveling without a car;

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


See more: Best areas to Stay in Cinque Terre

2. Santa Maria Novella, where to stay in Florence near the train station

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 is home to Florence’s main train station, Firenze Station, well-connected with other parts of the city, you can easily make a day trips to Tuscany.

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. 

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.

Santa Maria Novella is home to many popular tourist attractions such as:

  • the beautiful Basilica di Santa Maria Novella Church, an ancient church housing some beautiful Renaissance decor and art. It was built by order of Dominican friars during 13th and 14th century.
  • the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy
  • the Chiesa di Ognissanti
  • the Museo Novecento
  • the Chiesa dei Santi Michele e Gaetano on the shopping street of Via Tornabuoni.

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 travel on abudget; you are traveling with family; you travel with a car.

Best places to stay in Florence in Santa Maria Novella:


3. San Lorenzo & San Marco, where to stay in Florence on budget

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

The beautiful districts of San Lorenzo and San Marco are located immediately to the north of Florence’s historical center and the east of the train station. Once upon a time, 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:


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

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 neighborhood 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. 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:


5. San Frediano and Santo Spirito, experience tradition and local life

San Frediano and Santo Spirito, lots of restaurants and bars

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:


6. San Niccolò and Piazzale Michelangelo, coolest districts of Florence

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 it’s one of the highlights of this part of the city. It’s 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:


7. Sant’Ambrogio, budget-friendly area, good food and restaurants

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:


8. Florence Hills, where to stay in Florence with a car

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:


9. Boboli and San Miniato al Monte, upscale residential neighborhoods

Boboli and San Miniato al Monte, upscale residential neighborhoods

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.

10. Santissima Annunziata, peaceful area for families

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:


11. Novoli, in northwestern Florence

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:


Read more: Frequently Asked Questions about Best Places to Stay in Florence

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?

Duomo and Piazza della Signoria are the best areas for first time visitors due to its prime location. If you stay here, you will be in the middle of everything, within walking distance to many tourist attractions, as well as many restaurants, bar, and shops.

Is Florence a good base for Tuscany?

Florence is a good base to stay in Tuscany because it is the capital city of the region. Florence is well served by transports, with Santa Maria Novella train station is in the very heart of the city. There is also SITA buses taking you to Tuscany countryside such as Chianti, Siena, Pisa, Arezzo, San Gimignano.

See more:

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. This is a birthplace of the Renaissance, where you can find the work of famous artists like Machiavelli, Lorenzo Medici, Dante, Michelangelo, Donatello, Galileo, da Vinci, Botticelli, and Raphael.

Overall, I recommend the Histororic center as the best base to stay in Florence for first-timers because it is the most convenient location to see top attractions. If you book a hotel here, you will be located in the middle of everything.

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