How to visit the Uffizi Gallery in Florence: top highlights & how to get free entry
When it comes to trips to Florence, there are a few things that you absolutely must do: marvel at the grandeur of the Duomo, stroll and people-watch along the Ponte Vecchio, tuck into a trattoria to enjoy a hearty Florentine steak, and, of course, stand in awe of artistic masterpieces at the Uffizi Gallery.
Home to some of the planet’s most important paintings and sculptures, the Uffizi Gallery is the second-most visited attraction in Florence (coming in right after the Duomo) and the second-most visited museum in Italy (the Vatican Museums top the list). No tour of Florence (or of Italy for that matter) would be complete without spending a few hours strolling the Uffizi art gallery’s storied halls.
Where is the Uffizi Gallery in Florence?
Located next to Piazza della Signoria in the historic city center, the Uffizi Gallery is an easy-to-reach attraction. “It’s a quick walk from most hotels, and it’s right on the river,” said staffer Emily. “So, when you’re done, you can grab a bite to eat or go out to the Ponte Vecchio to do some people-watching.”
The Uffizi Gallery in Florence was originally built in 1560 as the administrative and legal offices of the city. It was commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici, first Grand Duke of Tuscany—yes, of the famous Medici family. Over the years between its founding and when the Medici dynasty ended in 1737, countless Renaissance-era pieces that were commissioned by the family were stored in the Uffizi. The entire collection, including the building itself, was then gifted to the city of Florence. The only condition? That these masterpieces never be removed from the Uffizi art gallery (though some pieces do occasionally get loaned to other museums). Each year, about a million people make a pilgrimage to this iconic museum when visiting Florence.
To say that the Uffizi Gallery is a bucket-list destination would be an understatement, and with that many visitors (we’re talking roughly 10,000 a day), it’s important to be prepared ahead of your own visit. Below, we’ve created a handy guide to this cultural institution. We’ll give you the lowdown of what’s in the Uffizi Gallery and the best way to visit the Uffizi Gallery. (One of those ways is for free!)
What’s the best way to visit the Uffizi Gallery? Plan ahead!
As one of the most famous museums in the world, visiting the Uffizi Gallery requires pre-trip planning and organization. And considering the breadth of work you’ll find here, you may even want to reserve a full day to discover as much of it as possible.
Our seven-day Florence: The City Experience tour includes a couple of free days. You can devote one of them entirely to exploring the various galleries at the Uffizi. But, we highly recommend you book your ticket in advance to avoid potentially very long lines, especially if you go on one of our tours of Florence during the high summer season. An advance booking allows you to not only pick the day of your visit, but also the time. You’ll want to be punctual for that time slot. Being late can lead to losing your reservation altogether. Booking in advance does come with added fees. If you want to avoid that, you can try your luck by standing in line to purchase your tickets at the museum. But come as early as possible. Closed on Mondays and on December 25, the Uffizi Gallery’s hours are 8:15 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.
Here’s a pro-tip: If you time your trip to Florence properly, you may be able to enter without having to pay the admission fee. On the first Sunday of every month, the Uffizi Gallery opens its doors to everyone for free. However, tickets can’t be booked in advance for this. It’s first-come first-served.
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What’s in the Uffizi Gallery?
Inside the Uffizi Gallery’s three-floor, U-shaped layout are iconic works by the likes of Da Vinci and Michelangelo. But these more than 40 rooms are filled with not only masterpieces from the 13th to the 18th centuries but also rare, ancient artifacts that the Medici family collected over centuries. As you can imagine, the Uffizi Gallery’s artworks have helped define cultural movements all over Europe. There is a lot to see, and you can easily spend a full day exploring and still not see it all.
One way to make the most of your visit: avoid trying to see it all. There are thousands of pieces in the museum, and it’s totally ok if you’re not interested in seeing everything. To organize your visit more efficiently, look at the Uffizi’s virtual guide. From there, pick out the artists and pieces you want to prioritize seeing, and plan for how you’ll navigate through the museum’s maze-like blueprint.
The masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery
A world-class arts institution like the Uffizi has something for everyone. We’ve compiled a quick glance at some of its greatest hits to help get you started. As for the rest? You’ll have to save them for your next trip to Florence.
- On the second floor of the Uffizi art gallery, in room 41, are the works of two revered artists: Michelangelo and Raphael. Michelangelo’s circular painting of the Holy Family, titled Doni Tondo, is one of the Uffizi Gallery highlights. It’s the only confirmed panel painting by the artist that exists today. Raphael’s vivid Madonna of the Goldfinch, which depicts Mary with baby Jesus and John the Baptist, is also worth a close study.
- Leonardo Da Vinci’s works also have their own climate-controlled room in the Uffizi. The recently restored (but unfinished) Adoration of the Magi is the centerpiece. It was commissioned by Augustinian monks in 1481 and was supposed to be completed in 30 months. Instead, what we have here is a fabulous glimpse at Da Vinci’s creative process.
- The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli is one the Uffizi Gallery’s famous paintings. Located in Hall 10, this 15th century masterpiece of the goddess Venus emerging on a scallop shell usually tops visitors’ must-see list.
- If you’re interested in portraits, head to room eight to see two of the best of Renaissance: Piero della Francesca’s diptyque of the Duke of Urbino Federico da Montefeltro and his wife Battista Sforza. These oil-on-wood profiles are among the artist’s most celebrated works for their striking style.
- Hall 83 is dedicated to the Italian painter Titian, who was famous for the Venetian style of using vivid colors. Titian was particularly renowned for his ability to capture the softness of the human body, most obvious in his Venus of Urbino, which is one of the Uffizi Gallery’s most famous paintings.
- In Hall 90, you’ll find three of Caravaggio’s most famous paintings: The Sacrifice of Isaac, Bacchus, and Medusa, one of the most sought-after pieces in the entire museum. Fun fact: rumor has it that the face on the medusa might have been a self-portrait of Caravaggio when he was young.
- In the same room as the Caravaggio pieces is Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes. This stands out as one of the most dramatic Uffizi Gallery artworks. There is the intense theme of the painting, of course, but the contrast of darkness and light is especially masterful, too.