Last updated on March 7, 2023 by Wandering our World
Italy is blessed with some of the most beautiful cities on Earth, with Florence and Venice standing out as two of the very best. If you want to experience authentic Italian culture, art, food, and history, with incredible scenery all around, either one of these cities will give you all you need.
They’re both worth visiting and rightfully rank among Europe’s most popular ‘bucket list destinations’. After all, they’ve both got so much to offer, from the iconic waterways of Venice to the magical architecture of Florence.
Both of these cities are aesthetically appealing, with charming buildings, winding streets, wonderful food, and so much to see and do.
However, they actually have quite a few key differences that make them very different vacations…
Venice, for example, is best-known for its canals. The city is built around the Venetian Lagoon, spread out across more than a hundred small islands, connected by bridges and waterways. It’s an incredibly unique place that is regarded as one of the world’s most romantic cities, making it well-suited for couples and honeymooners.
Florence, meanwhile, is a city of art and culture. If you want to see works from the great Italian masters of art, like Da Vinci and Michelangelo, this is the place to go. It also boasts wonderful architecture, and it’s situated right in the heart of charming Tuscany, with lots of little villages and other charming cities within day trip distance.
Of course that’s just scratching the surface when it comes to how Florence and Venice are similar and different.
Luckily we know both these cities well, so right here we’ll show you which is better for activities, day trips, food, families, nightlife, which is cheaper and lots more. All to help you make the right decision!
- A Quick Overview
- Which Is Best For Activities?
- Which Is Better For Shopping?
- Which Is Better For Nightlife?
- Which Is Better For Food?
- Which Is Better For Day Trips?
- Which Is Better For Families?
- Which Is Best For Couples & Honeymoons?
- Which Is Best For Backpackers?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
- Which Is Cheaper?
- Which Is Easier To Get To?
- Which Is Easier To Get Around?
- Which Has Better Weather?
- Which Is The Better Choice?
A Quick Overview: Florence vs Venice
Florence: A Quick Overview
Florence – known as Firenze in Italian – is a city in the Tuscany region of Central Italy. It’s the capital of Tuscany and the largest city in the region, too, with more than 360,000 inhabitants in the main city and over 1.5 million people in the full metropolitan area. Millions of tourists flock to this city each year.
Regarded as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is best-known for its contributions to Italian art and culture.
During the Renaissance period, it was one of the most influential and important cities in all of Europe, with many leading artists and scholars spending time and crafting incredible works here.
The city may not be as influential as it once was, but it has retained its status as a haven for artists and art lovers, being home to some truly extraordinary sculptures, buildings, paintings, and other creations, including works by Caravaggio, Raphael, Botticelli, and others.
Key landmarks here include the majestic Santa Maria del Fiore – known simply as The Duomo – as well as the Uffizi Gallery and an array of extraordinary palaces, piazzas, museums, and churches.
Thanks to its location in Tuscany, Florence is also well-placed for tours of the surrounding countryside.
Venice: A Quick Overview
Venice – or Venezia, in Italian – is a city to the northeast of Italy. It’s around 126 miles from Florence in a straight line, or around 3 and a half hours away if traveling by car.
It’s part of the Veneto Region, of which it is the capital city, and over 250,000 people live in Venice, and many more visit the city from places all over the globe.
Known as one of the most unique and visually striking cities in Europe, Venice is built across a total of 118 little islands.
It actually has more than 400 bridges connecting different parts of the city, along with winding waterways that tourists can travel along in Venice’s famous gondolas, while waterbuses or vaporetti wind their way along the central Grand Canal
Venice is divided into two main sections – the centro storico, or historic island city, and the terraferma or mainland section.
Most visitors will spend their time in the island city, which is where many of Venice’s most famous landmarks can be seen, like the Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Basilica, and Piazza San Marco.
There’s a lot of history in Venice, too. The city served as the capital of the Republic of Venice for over a thousand years, and it was one of the largest economic and trading power in Europe for a long time.
These days, Venice relies mostly on tourism for its economy and often tops lists of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Which Is Best For Activities?
One of the reasons Florence and Venice are so popular with travelers is thanks to their long lists of attractions and activities. There are plenty of fun and interesting things to do in both of these cities, including some truly special activities you won’t find anywhere else.
Museums and galleries are commonplace in both cities, and there are plenty of historic landmarks to visit and gorgeous buildings to admire, along with classic Italian piazzas where you can simply sit with a cup of coffee and watch the world go by.
However, each city also has its own activities and attractions that separate it from the rest. And the right choice for you will depend on your personal tastes and preferences.
Although in general, Florence may appear more to art and culture lovers, while Venice has more novel attractions, like its gondola rides and famous bridges.
Venice also tends to have fewer things to do than Florence and may therefore be better-suited to shorter breaks or a simple weekend away. Florence typically requires a little more time to fully appreciate and has galleries and museums that can take up entire days of your travel itinerary.
Below we show you the best activities in each city so you can make up your own mind about which will suit your holiday the most:
Florence: The Activities
If you’re heading to Florence, you’ll most likely spend a lot of time touring the city’s museums and galleries.
The Uffizi Gallery is the most famous – it’s here that you can find some of the most iconic Renaissance works – and visitors should also check out the Galleria dell’Accademia, home of Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the statue of David.
Florence is also famed for its architecture, with awe-inspiring buildings seemingly waiting around every corner.
You can visit several historic palaces here, like the Palazzo Vecchio, which serves as the city’s town hall, and the Palazzo Pitti, which was home to members of the Medici family.
The Duomo, or Florence Cathedral, is arguably the most emblematic symbol of the city, with its distinctive dome towering over the surrounding piazza, while the Ponte Vecchio is another fascinating structure – this quirky, colorful bridge is home to various jewelers and art dealers. You can also find other churches, museums, and squares in the city’s historic center.
If you feel like getting out of the city for a while, Florence is also nicely located for day trips to other charming cities, such as Pisa, with its famous Leaning Tower, or Siena. You can also set out on adventures into the Tuscan countryside, visiting wineries, olive oil producers, or quaint little villages.
Venice: The Activities
Like Florence, Venice has a list of must-see landmarks for visitors to enjoy.
There’s the incredible Rialto Bridge, for instance – this marble bridge stretches across the Grand Canal and offers incredible views of both sunrise and sunset. The Doge’s Palace is a must-see spot, too – it was once the home of the Doge, or Duke, of the Venetian Republic.
St. Mark’s Basilica is one of the most extraordinary buildings in the city, beautiful enough to rival Florence’s famous Duomo, and there are plenty of other bridges, churches, and squares dotted about.
The Bridge of Sighs is unmissable, and even though Venice can’t compete with Florence’s art collection, it still has some great galleries, like the Peggy Guggenheim.
No visit to Venice can be complete without spending some time on the water.
Couples might like to try one of the city’s gondola rides – these flat-bottomed boats have been used for centuries and were once the main form of transportation in Venice, but are now mainly used by tourists looking for a romantic and memorable experience.
Venice also has day trip opportunities to cities like Verona, and if you visit at the right time, you could partake in one of Venice’s famous festivals, like Carnevale, which runs for a couple of weeks around February or March each year, or the Venice Film Festival, which has been running since the 1930s.
Which Is Better For Shopping?
If you love to shop and want to buy some fabulous Italian attire to take back home or some fun souvenirs for family and friends, you shouldn’t have many problems in either Venice or Florence, as both cities have plenty of souvenir stores and boutiques to take a look around.
Venice is a shopaholic’s dream, with so many stores selling everything you could hope to buy.
Head to Salizada San Moise for luxury, high-end boutiques of Italian designers like Versace and Prada, for example, or wander around the Piazza San Marco for traditional Venetian souvenirs and locally-made crafts. One of the best things to buy here is a genuine Venetian mask.
Fancy boutiques can also be found in Florence along the city’s famed Via Roma, and there are some super department stores with several floors of goods to check out. The Via dei Serragli is a good place to grab locally-made, artisanal items, while the Via della Vigna Nuova is lined on both sides with clothing and accessory stores.
There are also some budget-friendly markets in Florence, like the Cascine Market and San Lorenzo Market, and it has more to offer for travelers who want to find a few bargains.
Therefore, Venice may be better for unique souvenirs, but Florence provides better value and a wider range of shopping options.
Which Is Better For Nightlife?
When it comes to nightlife, neither Florence nor Venice rank among the most club or bar-oriented cities in Italy. However, both of these locations still offer things to do and places to go once the sun has set.
Florence is the winner in our eyes though as it boasts quite an impressive array of wine bars, nightclubs, and fun pubs.
If you’re looking for a lively evening, head to the Santa Croce neighborhood, which is where local students go to party, or take a stroll around the trendy Oltrarno district.
The problem with Venice’s nightlife is that the historic center is quite sparsely populated, due to high costs. Most people live over on the mainland, and the islands can feel a little empty in the evenings.
Still, if you head to the Lido neighborhood, you can still find a few decent bars and clubs.
Which Is Better For Food?
Italian cuisine is beloved all over the globe, and no matter which city you choose to visit, you’ll be able to find quality pizza and pasta with ease.
However, if you really want to eat well and enjoy fabulous restaurant meals throughout your trip, Florence may be the better option.
Florence is well-known among Italians and travelers for its excellent culinary scene. The city has an array of dazzling restaurants serving up some of the finest food in Italy, often made with local ingredients sourced from around Tuscany.
It’s an amazing place to go if you want to taste authentic Italian dishes, like hearty stews, filled with flavor.
In Venice, there are lots more restaurants and eateries catering towards the tourist crowd rather than locals, so you’ll find quite basic pizza and pasta dishes.
However, this city’s specialty is seafood, and if you love the likes of fish, shrimp, and mussels, you’ll find some super restaurants around the city, along with some really nice street food.
Which Is Better For Day Trips?
There’s plenty to see in both Florence and Venice, but you might also like to spend a day or two of your vacation away from the city to see a different part of Italy. So, which of these two destinations offers the better range of day trips?
Well, Florence has the advantage of being in the middle of Tuscany, with so much to see in the surrounding area.
You can hop on a train and head out to other cities like Siena and Lucca, which are both very beautiful in their own right.
Pisa is another super city to visit, or you could try a trip to a small village, like Vinci, where it’s possible to see Leonardo da Vinci’s birthplace.
The hilly terrain of Tuscany also makes for good hiking ground, and it’s quite easy to leave the city behind and spend some time on one of the area’s famous hiking trails, like the Via Francigena or Grande Escursione Appenninica.
If you’re looking for day trips from Venice, there are plenty of terrific options to choose from.
From Venice you could take a boat ride over to nearby islands like Murano and Torcello, for instance, or ride the train to nearby Verona – best-known as the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Wine lovers might also like to visit the Prosecco region from Venice, where you can take vineyard tours and sample some of the latest creations.
Or, for hiking and nature, take the trip to Belluno, at the foot of the Dolomites, and set off on one of the many mountain paths winding out of this little town.
Which Is Best For Families?
Both Venice and Florence can appeal to visitors of all ages, making them both fine family-friendly destinations. However, you might find that one of these cities is more appealing to your family than the other, and it will mostly depend on the tastes and ages of your children.
With its incredible canals, extraordinary layout and gondola rides, Venice definitely has the wow factor for kids.
Little ones and teens may very well be blown away by the sights and sounds of this special place, and they should have a good time touring locations like the Doge’s Palace or taking a boat ride along the waterways.
Florence, meanwhile, is very oriented towards its art and culture scene, with most travelers spending their time in galleries and museums. This can certainly appeal to older kids, but younger ones might be a bit bored by paintings and statues.
On the plus side, Florence usually works out a lot cheaper for family getaways when compared to Venice. More on that later.
Which Is Best For Couples & Honeymoons?
For couples, there really is no bad option between these two cities. They’re both charming and romantic in their own special ways, with lots of things for you and your partner to do, and plenty of potential for magical memory making.
Venice has been consistently ranked as one of, if not the most romantic city in the world, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a remarkably pretty place where couples can lose themselves among the winding alleys or spend quality time sailing along in their own private gondola.
Florence is also a dream destination for honeymooners and loving couples, with lots of art and culture to soak in, world-class restaurants for romantic evening meals, and the gorgeous Tuscan countryside right on your doorstep.
Which Is Best For Backpackers?
If you’re a backpacker or solo traveler, you need to think carefully about which city is better-suited for your budget and needs.
And when it comes to backpacking and budget-friendly travel, there’s one clear winner here: Florence.
Florence is actually regarded as one of the best backpacking destinations in all of Italy, as it has good links with several other cities, along with plenty of budget-friendly accommodation, like hostels where you can rest up without spending too much and even meet other travelers from around the globe.
In contrast, Venice has very few accommodation options for backpackers and independent travelers.
Costs are also much higher in this city, making it hard to get around on a budget, and the touristic nature of the historic center makes it quite hard to get a truly authentic experience or mingle with locals as easily as you can in Florence.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Budget: Hotel Ungherese is a lovely boutique hotel decorated beautifully and with a gorgeous garden and terrace to enjoy your Italian breakfast in the morning.
It’s just a few minutes bus ride from the historic center too, so you’ll be getting a good location alongside a great price. See photos and rates here!
Luxury: Set in a 15th-century building in the heart of the city’s historic center, Hotel Bernini Palace is stylish and luxurious at every turn. Grab a cocktail from the lounge bar and take it up to the terrace for panormaic views of this ancient city.
Staying at this five-star hotel feels like a once in a lifetime experience, and luckily it’s still affordable for most. See photos and rates here!
Budget: Finding a Venice accommodation with a canal view on a budget is difficult in such an expensive city, but Residence Laguna Giudecca is a two-bedroom holiday apartment that offers just that.
However it’s often reserved months in advance, and no wonder due to the location and gorgeous views. See photos and rates here!
Luxury: Set 80 m from Saint Mark’s Square and with stunning lagoon views, Baglioni Hotel Luna is known for being one of the best hotels throughout Italy.
Arrive in style by gondola – yes that’s possible at this five-star hotel on the water – then head past the chandeliers to the exceptional terrace with panoramic views. A stay here really is holidaying in style. See photos and rates here!
Which Is Cheaper?
Cost is one of the big factors to take into consideration when choosing between Florence and Venice, and it’s also one of the biggest areas in which these two cities differ, as a trip to Florence should cost significantly less than a trip to Venice.
More or less everything is cheaper in Florence, from the accommodation to local transportation and food.
It’s still not exactly a cheap city when compared to other places around Europe, but it’s much more budget-friendly than Venice, and you should be able to find a place to stay and enjoy good food each day without going over-budget.
Since Venice is such a famous touristic destination, prices are high here. Food tends to be pretty expensive, while hotels in the main areas can cost quite a lot – try booking several months in advance to get the best prices.
Which Is Easier To Get To?
Both Venice and Florence have international airports, but you may find that one of these cities is easier to access than the other.
In general, most travelers will have an easier time getting to Venice, especially those flying from the US.
Venice actually has two international airports – Marco Polo and Treviso. Most travelers will fly into Marco Polo, which is only a short boat or bus ride from the city. It has direct flights to and from dozens of European cities, as well as parts of the Middle East and several cities on the eastern side the US and Canada. Treviso is smaller but has good budget flights from the UK.
Florence Airport, meanwhile, has direct flights to parts of the UK, Germany, France, and several other European countries, but no direct connections to the US.
Flights to this airport are also quite limited and operate on a seasonal schedule, so you might find it easier to fly into Pisa or even Rome and then travel to Florence by bus, train, or rental car.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
Florence has the benefit of being quite a compact city, with many of the main galleries, museums, and landmarks all focused in the historic center of the city.
It’s a highly walkable city, and you can get from piazza to piazza with ease on foot – this is also one of the best ways to simply take in the architecture and beauty of this place.
Bikes, e-bikes, e-scooters, and Vespas are also popular ways to travel around Florence, with plenty of bike lanes appearing as you approach the city limits.
There are also some handy buses to take you around, along with a tram. Renting a car might be useful if you plan serious exploration of the Tuscan countryside, but it won’t be necessary for most travelers.
Over in Venice, things work a little differently. The unique, watery layout of this city means that you’ll spend a lot of time simply walking along narrow streets and across bridges to get from place to place.
Vaporettos and water taxis are good for getting across the water quickly, while gondolas are pleasant to experience, but quite slow.
Overall, Florence is probably the easier place to navigate, as it can take a little time to get used to Venice’s one-of-a-kind layout, but both of these cities are pretty accessible and tourist-friendly, so you shouldn’t have much of a challenge in either location.
Which Has The Best Weather?
Since Florence is situated further south than Venice, it tends to have warmer temperatures all year long. The summers last longer and have less rainfall, while the winters aren’t quite as cold as those in Venice. So, if you love sunshine and warmth, this is certainly the city for you.
However, the summer temperatures in Florence might actually be too hot for some travelers, reaching a peak of around 32°C or 90°F. It’s generally recommended, therefore, to visit in the shoulder months of May or September to avoid the summer crowds and heat, if you can.
Due to the watery surroundings of Venice, this city can feel quite sticky and humid in the summer months.
Not only that, but there’s also a risk of flooding during the wetter periods of the year, from October through to January, so you’ll need to check the forecast and choose your travel dates with care. Again, the shoulder months are usually the best times to visit.
Florence vs Venice: Which Is The Better Choice?
Florence and Venice rank among Italy’s best cities to visit. They’re both fabulous places, with rich histories, fascinating culture, and some of the world’s most breathtaking architecture around every corner. It’s strongly recommended to visit both of these places to experience all that they have to offer.
However, if you can only pick one or want to know which city is best for most travelers, Florence takes the win in this comparison.
Not only is Florence cheaper than Venice, but it has a more diverse range of things to do, a better restaurant scene, livelier nightlife, and almost unlimited day trip potential around Tuscany and beyond.
With that said, Venice is still a true marvel and easily one of the world’s most special cities. The over-crowded (with tourists) and expensive nature of this city can be a little off-putting to some, but its winding waterways and storied bridges are still absolutely worth seeing.