Where to Stay in Florence first time: 7 Best areas & safe neighborhoods

Wondering where to stay in Florence first time? In this blog post, I will help you to find the best areas to stay in Florence for first-timers, safest neighborhoods, and the best hotels for all bugets.

Florence (Firenze in Italian) is a beautiful city located in the heart of the Tuscany region. It is a cultural haven renowned for its Renaissance art, breathtaking architecture, and influential history. It is home to world-famous landmarks like the iconic Duomo, Uffizi Gallery, and Ponte Vecchio. 

Florence is generally a safe city for tourists with a low crime rate compared to other major cities in Europe. But as in any touristy area, there are pickpockets and scams, you should always take care of your belongings, stick into populated areas, and avoid the central station late at night.

Florence offers a range of fantastic areas to stay for first-time visitors. Whether you prefer historical charm, bustling city life, or peaceful surroundings, there’s an ideal neighborhood to suit every traveler’s taste and create a memorable stay.

Where to stay in Florence for the first time?

The best areas to stay in Florence for first-timers and tourists are Centro Storico, Santa Croce, Oltrarno, Santa Maria Novella, San Lorenzo, San Marco, and San Niccolò. These are the city’s most popular and safe areas for tourists, making it a great base to explore Florence.

Centro Storico is the best overall area for first-timers, and those seeking 1 night or 2 nights stay in Florence due to its central location, safety, and excellent link to public transportation. Staying here allows you to be located close to major attractions, restaurants, bars, and shops.

I recommend spending at least 2 to 3 days in Florence to explore the city’s main attractions like the Duomo, Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, and Accademia Gallery, as well as enjoy its renowned cuisine. If you have more time, you can take day trips to Pisa, Siena, or the Tuscan countryside.

Below is a map of the popular areas in Florence for first-timers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the best areas to Stay in Florence first time
Map of the best areas to Stay in Florence first time

7 safe areas to Stay in Florence for first-timers & tourists:

1. Centro Storico

Centro Storico is the best overall area to stay in Florence for first-time visitors. It is the heart of the city offering easy access to major attractions, public transportation, and tourist amenities. Staying here allows you to be located in the middle of everything.

You’ll be located within walking distance to iconic landmarks, museums, churches, and art galleries such as Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery, and Accademia Gallery, where Michelangelo’s David is housed.

The historic center is well-connected to public transportation, with convenient access to the Santa Maria Novella train station, transportation hub of the city, making it a great base to explore the city and other parts of Italy.

This area is relatively compact. You can stroll through narrow cobblestone streets, visit charming piazzas, Renaissance palaces, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere of the city.  

In the heart of the city lies the Piazza del Duomo, a square dominated by the magnificent Florence Cathedral (Duomo), with its famous red dome designed by Brunelleschi. The square is also home to the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile.

You can also find the Piazza della Signoria, the political heart of Florence and is surrounded by important buildings such as the Palazzo Vecchio, which serves as the city hall. It is also home to the Loggia dei Lanzi, an open-air sculpture gallery, and a replica of Michelangelo’s David.

Be sure to visit the Uffizi Gallery, one of the world’s most important art museums, housing a collection of Renaissance masterpieces, including works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, and Raphael.

Head to the Arno River, you’ll see the Ponte Vecchio, the iconic bridge that is lined with jewelry shops and offers stunning views of the river and the city.

Centro Storico offers a wide range of dining options, from traditional Tuscan trattorias to trendy cafes and upscale restaurants. The area is also known for its vibrant street markets and boutique shops, offering plenty of opportunities for shopping and exploring local craftsmanship.

If you enjoy nightlife, the historic center has a lively atmosphere in the evenings. You’ll find bars, wine bars, and clubs where you can socialize and experience Florence’s nightlife scene.

Due to its central location and popularity, it can get quite crowded, especially during peak travel seasons. Accommodation and dining options here can be expensive.

Best places to stay in Florence Centro Storico for first-timers:


2. Santa Croce

Santa Croce is a great base for first-timers who want budget-friendly accommodations, and proximity to the historic center and Arno River. This area is known for its rich history, vibrant nightlife, charming streets, and the Basilica di Santa Croce.

Basilica di Santa Croce is one of the most important Franciscan churches in Italy. It houses the tombs of several famous Italians, including Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, and Niccolò Machiavelli.

Piazza Santa Croce is a lively gathering place, especially during events and festivals. It offers a great atmosphere and is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and shops. 

Sant’Ambrogio Market is a fantastic place to experience the local food culture of Florence. You can find fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and other culinary delights.

History lovers can explore numerous museums in the area. Casa Buonarroti, for example, is dedicated to the works and life of Michelangelo. Bargello National Museum in San Giovanni, houses a collection of Renaissance sculptures, including works by Donatello and Michelangelo.

Santa Croce has a vibrant nightlife scene, with numerous bars, restaurants, and cafes offering a variety of cuisine options. The neighborhood comes alive in the evenings, offering a range of entertainment options including live music venues and theaters.

The streets of Santa Croce are dotted with artisan workshops and boutiques selling traditional Florentine crafts, leather goods, and other souvenirs. It’s a great place to shop for unique gifts or keepsakes.

Santa Croce central location offers easy access to the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, and Uffizi Gallery. The neighborhood is also well-connected to other parts of Florence, making it convenient for exploring the city’s other attractions. 

Best places to stay in Florence in Santa Croce for first-timers:


3. Oltrarno

Oltrarno, also known as the “other side of the Arno,” is a great choise for more local and authentic atmosphere. Located on the southern bank of the Arno River, this area is known its bohemian atmosphere, artisan workshops, and local character.

You’ll find numerous artisan workshops where skilled craftsmen produce and sell handmade products such as leather goods, jewelry, ceramics, and textiles. This area is an excellent place to witness the artistry and dedication of Florentine artisans.

Oltrarno is home to some of Florence’s most famous cultural attractions, including the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Gardens, and the Santo Spirito Church. These landmarks offer a glimpse into the city’s rich history and artistic heritage.

Santo Spirito Church was designed by renowned architect Filippo Brunelleschi, the church showcases Renaissance architecture and houses various art treasures. The piazza in front of the church is a popular gathering spot for locals and visitors.

Palazzo Pitti is an impressive Renaissance palace that was once the residence of the powerful Medici family. Today, it houses the Palatine Gallery, Royal Apartments, and Boboli Gardens, a beautiful park where you can relax and enjoy panoramic views of Florence.

You can find the Piazza della Passera, lined with cafes, restaurants, and shops. This square is a great place to enjoy a meal, coffee, or simply soak up the local ambiance.

The San Frediano district within Oltrarno is known for its picturesque streets, local flavor, and the Basilica of San Frediano, with its stunning mosaic facade. You can explore the narrow streets, discover hidden gems, and experience the authentic side of Florence.

Oltrarno has its own local market, the Santo Spirito Market, where you can find fresh produce, local products, and artisanal goods. It is a great place to experience the local food culture.

Oltrarno offers a wide range of dining options, from traditional trattorias serving Tuscan cuisine to trendy cafes and wine bars. The area comes alive in the evenings, providing a vibrant nightlife scene with live music and cozy bars.

While Oltrarno is slightly removed from the city center, it is still within walking distance of Florence’s main attractions. The Ponte Vecchio, Uffizi Gallery, and the Duomo are all easily accessible from Oltrarno, making it a convenient base for exploring the city.

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


4. Santa Maria Novella

Santa Maria Novella is a budget-friendly area located just northwest of the historic center. It takes its name from the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella and is home to Florence’s main train station. 

One of the main highlights of the area is the 13th century Basilica of Santa Maria Novella itself. This magnificent church features stunning Gothic and Renaissance architectural elements. Inside the basilica, you can admire remarkable frescoes, sculptures, and intricate details.

Adjacent to the basilica is the Santa Maria Novella train station, which is a major transportation hub in Florence. This makes it easy to arrive in the city by train and also provides excellent connections for day trips to other cities in Tuscany, such as Pisa or Siena.

Within the neighborhood, you’ll find charming streets lined with historic buildings, shops, cafes, and restaurants. Via della Scala, Via de’ Fossi, and Via degli Avelli are some of the popular streets that offer a mix of modern amenities and traditional Florentine atmosphere.

History buffs can explore the Museo Novecento showcases 20th-century art, while the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is a historic pharmacy known for its exquisite perfumes and herbal remedies.

Santa Maria Novella is conveniently located within walking distance of the Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, and the Uffizi Gallery, making it an ideal base for exploring the city’s cultural treasures.

Santa Maria Novella has a wide range of accommodation options, including B&Bs, guest houses, apartments, and hotels. Accommodations here are often cheaper than other central parts of Florence, making it a great base for budget-conscious travelers.

Best places to stay in Santa Maria Novella for first-timers:


5. San Lorenzo

San Lorenzo is a budget-friendly area located right next to the historic center and Santa Maria Novella. It is known for its famous basilica, the Basilica di San Lorenzo, and the surrounding square, Piazza di San Lorenzo. 

The Basilica di San Lorenzo is one of the oldest churches in Florence and was the parish church of the Medici family. It was initially constructed in the 4th century but was extensively renovated and expanded during the Renaissance. 

The church showcases magnificent Renaissance architecture, with contributions from renowned artists such as Brunelleschi and Michelangelo.

Adjacent to the basilica is the Medici Chapels (Cappelle Medicee), a mausoleum that houses the tombs of several members of the Medici family, including Lorenzo the Magnificent. The New Sacristy, designed by Michelangelo, is particularly noteworthy for its sculptural masterpieces.

San Lorenzo is also famous for the San Lorenzo Market (Mercato Centrale), a bustling marketplace where you can find a wide range of leather goods, clothing, souvenirs, and local food items. 

San Lorenzo is centrally located, making it easily accessible and within walking distance from notable landmarks such as the Florence Cathedral, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Accademia Gallery, which houses Michelangelo’s iconic statue of David.

It’s an excellent destination for budget-travelers and those interested in Renaissance architecture, Medici family history, and experiencing the lively atmosphere of a traditional Italian marketplace.

Best places to stay in Florence in San Lorenzo for first-timers:


6. San Marco

San Marco is a budget-friendly district located in the northeastern part of the city center, just north of the Duomo. San Marco is known for its historical and cultural significance, as well as its beautiful architecture.

One of the main attractions in San Marco is the Convent of San Marco, a Dominican monastery famous for its frescoes by Fra Angelico, a renowned Renaissance painter. It also houses the Museum of San Marco, which displays a collection of religious art and artifacts.

Another notable site in the district is the Church of San Marco, which is closely associated with the Dominican order. The church features beautiful frescoes and sculptures, including works by Fra Angelico. It is also known for its peaceful cloisters and serene atmosphere.

San Marco is also home to the Accademia Gallery, which houses one of the most famous sculptures in the world, Michelangelo’s David. The gallery showcases a collection of Renaissance art, including works by Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, and other notable artists.

In addition to its historical and artistic attractions, San Marco offers a charming neighborhood with narrow streets, quaint squares, and local shops. There are also several cafes, restaurants, and gelato shops where visitors can enjoy a taste of authentic Italian cuisine.

Overall, San Marco is a must-visit district in Florence for budget travelers, foodies, art lovers, history enthusiasts, and those seeking a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the city.

Best places to stay in Florence in San Marco for first-timers:


7. San Niccolò and Piazzale Michelangelo

San Niccolò is a vibrant area located just outside the historic city center of Florence, on the southern bank of the Arno River. It is known for its charming atmosphere, narrow streets, and medieval architecture. 

The area is named after the San Niccolò gate, one of the ancient city gates that allowed access to Florence. Today, the gate still stands and serves as a reminder of the neighborhood’s rich history.

San Niccolò is home to numerous cafés, restaurants, and shops, making it a popular spot for both residents and visitors. You can wander through its narrow streets, explore the local shops, and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. 

The neighborhood is also known for its art galleries and workshops, where you can discover the works of local artists.

Piazzale Michelangelo is one of the most iconic and panoramic viewpoints in the city, offering breathtaking views of the Florence skyline. 

The square itself is a large terrace adorned with replicas of Michelangelo’s statues, including the famous David. Piazzale Michelangelo is a popular gathering place for locals and tourists alike, especially during sunset when the city is bathed in golden light.

To reach Piazzale Michelangelo, you can take a pleasant walk uphill from the San Niccolò area, crossing the Ponte alle Grazie bridge. Alternatively, there are buses that run regularly from the city center to the square.

Both San Niccolò and Piazzale Michelangelo offer unique experiences and stunning views of Florence. They provide an opportunity to explore the city from different perspectives and enjoy its rich cultural heritage.

Best places to stay in Florence in Piazzale Michelangelo for first-timers:


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In conclusion, Centro Storico, Santa Croce, Oltrarno, Santa Maria Novella, San Lorenzo, San Marco, and San Niccolò are the best places to stay in Florence for first-timers and tourists. These are generally safe area with many choices of accommodations.

I hope you found my article helpful and enjoy your holiday! If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality travel guides.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

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