5 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Florence (with maps)

5 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Florence (with maps)
Image by Mark via Flickr

A Tuscany itinerary that does not include Florence is a crime against the tourism industry and maybe even Italy as a whole. Less popular with tourists than the noble and voluptuous Venice, only a few cities can boast of having its artistic and architectural heritage. Although it might have been easy to determine what museums you want to visit, choosing where to stay in Florence might not be as self-evident. The Duomo neighborhood is an obvious choice for many reasons. However, you might be interested in adventuring in another part of town and seeing more than the tourist attractions. Here is an overview of your possibilities to help you decide what part of Florence is right for your trip.

Duomo & Piazza della Signoria

Distance from the Duomo:
Location: The historic city center of Florence is situated along the Arno river
Main sights: Santa Maria di Fiore, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signora, Palazzo Vecchio, Giotto’s Campanile, Museo Galileo, The Baptistery, Medici Chapel, Laurentian Library
In a nutshell: This is where we find the majority of sights and the tourists going with it. Close to the Via de’ Tornabuoni, Florence’s answer to Fifth Avenue, luxury shopping enthusiasts will be in a heavenly mood. Here, an afternoon break is taken in one of Duomo’s many cafés. The area is cosmopolitan and very lively. I wouldn’t recommend it to people looking for somewhere peaceful as some report that the party can sometimes go on until 4:00 AM.
Stay here if: you are only interested in the sights of Florence rather than looking for other experiences.

 Where to stay in Florence
Duomo, Image by Alexander Baxevanis via Flickr
 Where to stay in Florence
Santa Maria Novella, Image by KotomiCreations via Flickr

Santa Maria Novella

Distance from the Duomo: 650 m, 8 min. walk to get there
Location: This is a neighborhood west of the Duomo and it borders the Arno river. 
Main sights: Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy, Grand Cloister
In a nutshell: Not all parts of Santa Maria Novella are resplendent. I’ll admit the streets around the train station are rough-cut. On the other hand, the district becomes much more attractive as you go south-east. This quiet neighborhood is close to the Via de’ Tornabuoni, Florence’s answer to Fifth Avenue. Something to put luxury shopping enthusiasts in a heavenly mood. The place is becoming more and more gentrified with a growing restaurant scene. Perfect for families wanting to stay on the North side of the river.
Stay there if: you are looking for a more laid-back and quieter neighborhood.

San Lorenzo & San Marco

Distance from the Duomo: San Marco is 900 m away from the Duomo. That means an 11 min. Walk to the Duomo. San Lorenzo is a bit closer (400 m away). 
Location: San Lorenzo is north of the Duomo district, and San Marco neighbors San Lorenzo to the North.
Main sights: San Lorenzo Central Market, Galleria dell’Accademia, Piazza San Marco
In a nutshell: San Lorenzo’s closeness to the train station is perfect for those who plan to take the train a few times. Those planning on staying in Florence will relish its proximity to the local market and authentic atmosphere. Additionally, San Lorenzo and quieter San Marco are two budget-friendly districts.
Stay there if: you are based in Florence to explore Tuscany or are here for an extended stay.

 Where to stay in Florence
San Lorenzo
San Lorenzo, Image by Fabrizio Buoso via Flickr
 Where to stay in Florence
Santa Croce
Santa Croce, Image by Jean-Louis Mazieres via Flickr

Santa Croce

Distance from the Duomo: 800 m, 9 min. walk from the Duomo

Location: the area east of the Duomo and bordering the water

Main sights: Santa Croce Basilica, Piazza Santa Croce, Uffizi Gallery

In a nutshell: Although Santa Croce is very close to the main attractions, the district is more popular with the locals than tourists. This eccentric nightlife corner of the city can be noisy at times, but it is the perfect spot to feel right in the heart of everything. Its only downside is that it’s quite far from the train station, but you’ll be able to walk everywhere.

Stay there if: you are in Florence and looking for the finest nightspots


Distance from the Duomo: 1.1 km (14 min. walk) to the Duomo
Location: Literally on the other side of the Arno river
Main sights: Piazzele Michelangelo, Boboli Gardens, Borgo San Jacopo, Torre dei Marsili, Torre de’ Belfredelli
In a nutshell: Oltrarno has an old-world feel and bohemian streets to stroll to your heart’s content. There are few tourists in this neighborhood, where hipster cafes, antique shops, and gourmet restaurants coexist in an artsy and relaxed atmosphere. The district delivers gorgeous vistas of Florence and is the ideal place for families.
Stay there if: you are looking for the perfect neighborhood away from the tourist crowd.

 Where to stay in Florence
Oltrarno, Image by Mark via Flickr
Florence neighborhoods
Open Street Map

In summary

DuomoFor its central location
Santa Maria NovellaFor the shopping
San Lorenzo & San MarcoFor a long term stay and day-trippers
Santa CroceFor the nightlife
OltrarnoFor the families