The flight from London is only two hours, yet Florence feels a world away. Upon arrival you will see why the light and landscape of this beautiful Tuscan town has inspired some of the greatest works of art ever created.
Many of those works are still here, proudly displayed in the galleries which fill the city centre, and the opportunity to gaze upon them draws many of the visitors who arrive each year.
While these galleries are rightly renowned, they are far from the only thing Florence has to offer – this is a city of style, of culture and hospitality, and one which boasts an aesthetic of which most others around the world should be supremely jealous.
Whether you come to marvel at the Duomo and Michelangelo’s David, or merely to float through the streets and stop at some trattorias, Florence is a destination which really should be on your travel list.
When you do visit, here are the best places to stay.
The St Regis Florence
Piazza Ognissanti 1
The heart of this city is the River Arno, and many of the best hotels sit along its banks.
The St Regis Florence occupies a handsome 18th-century building just along from the Ponte Vecchio, and many of the rooms and suites offer spectacular views of the river itself and its most famous crossing.
Decoration of those rooms is inspired by various artistic eras in the city’s history, giving each a unique character, and the public areas are filled with grand arches and period architecture.
An extraordinary glass ceiling and hand-blown Murano chandelier are the crowning glory of the restaurant, where guests are treated to high-end Mediterranean cuisine.
Be warned – you will be expected to dress accordingly for the surroundings when eating here, but a little extra effort makes a meal more memorable, and the spa and fitness centre will offer plenty of chances to relax after the formality of dinner.
Westin Excelsior Florence
Piazza Ognissanti 3
Just across the square from the St Regis, the Westin Excelsior Florence occupies a similar period building.
Like its neighbour, many of the 171 rooms have terraces or balconies which take advantage of the river views, but the character of the hotel is much more contemporary than its neighbour across the street.
The prime example of this modernity is in the rooftop restaurant, SESTO on Arno. Magnificent 360-degree views across the city, including from the three al fresco terrace areas, make for one of the best spots in Florence to enjoy an aperitivo, or a meal.
Downstairs, ORVM bar provides a more traditional, wood-panelled cosiness for enjoying drinks and light snacks.
The location of Piazza Ognissanti makes both hotels here perfect for strolling around the main tourist hotspots or popping across the river to enjoy a more authentic Florentine experience.
Once all that walking has exhausted you, some suites at The Westin have Whirlpool baths on the terrace – the perfect place to sooth your muscles while watching the sun go down.
Helvetia & Bristol
Via dei Pescioni 2
The Helvetia & Bristol has been welcoming guests to the historic heart of Florence since the late 19th century.
Formerly a favourite of wealthy young aristocrats completing their Grand Tours, the location of this astonishing palazzo means that today it is ideal as a base for those who wish to explore the galleries and Renaissance-era glories of the ancient city centre.
The hotel itself is such a treasure trove of hidden corners, period features and traditional decoration that you really don’t have to leave in order to get a taste of the golden era of Florence, but when you do you’ll find everything you’re looking for within easy strolling distance.
On-site Roman Baths provide one of the most relaxing experiences in the city, and if you’re lucky you may even be able to blag your way into a party held in the Winter Garden – it has been used by some of Italy’s most prestigious fashion brands.
Sina Villa Medici
Via Il Prato 42
Grand architecture, more than 200 years of history and a view over a beautiful Florentine square are not unusual in this town.
While Sina Villa Medici is another ancient palazzo bearing these hallmarks of the high-end in Florentine hospitality, it boasts a couple of features its rivals cannot.
The first is the contained courtyard garden and pool at the centre of the building – this is the soul of the hotel, a tranquil oasis from the city outside and the perfect spot to wile away some hours in the sunshine.
The second is a partnership with the legendary Harry’s Bar. The original has been a fixture of the riverside, and favoured spot of discerning travellers and residents alike, for more than 70 years, and in 2021 opened a second location in partnership with the hotel.
Order a negroni, recline on a lounger, and embrace La Dolce Vita.
Piazza della Repubblica 7
Piazza della Repubblica is one of the most lively areas of the city. The legendary Caffè Gilli bustles from morning until night, and many Florentine summer evenings will either begin or end here. Hotel Savoy occupies a prime spot on the corner of the square.
The public spaces of the hotel are liberally strewn with beautiful works of art, in keeping with the tone of the city.
Meals are served in Irene, which offers the choice of the serenity of a stylish interior or a private terrace on the northern side of the square, allowing guests to enjoy the bustle and vibrancy of the city’s social heart.
When it all gets too much, the spa on the top floor offers treatment and relaxation rooms with panoramic views of the Duomo’s spectacular roof.
Worth looking out for are the hotels ever-evolving partnerships with Tuscan talent, from bespoke upholstery designed by local brands to special curations of that art collection to showcase local, emerging artists.
Even the spa has eschewed bigger names in cosmetics to choose Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella as its partner – they have been making scents and medicinal balms in Florence since 1221.
Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
Borgo Pinti 99
Choosing a setting just a little outside the main city centre has allowed Four Seasons to create a sprawling masterpiece of a hotel.
The complex includes an array of suites, some of which house frescos from the 17th century, a private garden and pool area, expansive spa and a 37 room villa with its own pool and ballroom.
This is almost more of a resort than a city hotel, but if you do ever exhaust all the on-site amenities – including exploring the Ionic temple in the gardens, naturally – it’s actually only a 20 minute walk into the centre of town.
The team at the hotel can also arrange a wide variety of activities in the surrounding countryside, from hot air balloons to traditional truffle hunting.
Hotel Villa Cora
Viale Machiavelli 18
Venture slightly farther from the centre, just the other side of the famous Boboli Gardens, and you will find the magnificent Hotel Villa Cora.
Originally an aristocratic residence from the days when Florence was the capital of the Kingdom of Italy, it underwent a restoration in the 2010s to be reborn as a modern luxury getaway.
Despite the size of the property there are only 44 rooms and suites, spread across three different edifices, allowing for a sense of space not often found in urban escapes.
The outdoor heated pool remains a constant all year round, but the garden around it is best discovered in the summer (as one would expect), when an astonishing range of over 100 types of rose are in full bloom.
This is one of the most majestic properties in Florence, and its location to the south of the Arno makes it an ideal base for exploring the areas of the city often missing from the standard tourist trail.
Borgo San Jacopo 14
From its perch beside the Ponte Vecchio and overlooking the Arno, the Hotel Lungarno serves as a gateway to the southern half of the city.
Borgo San Jacopo is home to many of Florence’s most popular spots (try Trattoria Cammillo for a truly authentic dining experience) and is like an unofficial border between the touristy old town and the “real” Florence enjoyed by locals.
Appreciation of the river is key to the offering here, with the best suites offering balconies and views, and the terrace of Picteau restaurant the centre point of the hotel.
Lungarno is owned by the Ferragamo family, and the sense of style you would expect from them is displayed both in the hotel’s own art collection – Picasso pieces welcome you to the restaurant – and the exclusive shopping experiences the hotel can organise thanks to the family connections.
Lungarno degli Acciaiuoli 4
Directly opposite the Lungarno, a quick skip across the Ponte Vecchio, is her sister property, Portrait Firenze.
There are no rooms here, only suites – most have river views, many have terraces, and the south-facing aspect means you can enjoy your own private sunset every evening you spend here.
The décor leans heavily on images of glamorous visitors to Florence from the ‘Golden Eras’ of both travel and Hollywood.
Surround yourself with pictures of Hepburn and Bardot while sipping cocktails as the sunlight fades into the river – you’ll soon realise why so many of them came here.
Via del Campuccio 53
Many of the best hotels in Florence are former aristocratic palaces, but only one still is. Ad Astra comprises the first and second floors of a palazzo, with the ground floor serving as the residence of the current Marquis.
The hotel overlooks the largest private garden in Europe, and is named for the 18th century observatory tower within the grounds.
This is more akin to a high-end bed-and-breakfast than the other hotels on this list, the relaxed atmosphere and boutique nature of the property (a mere 14 rooms) giving guests the sensation of really living in Florence for a while, instead of merely passing through.
The local area of Oltrarno is filled with bars and restaurants, and if the Torrigiani gardens outside aren’t enough for your afternoon strolls, the massive Boboli is mere minutes away.
This is the perfect option for those who want to soak up the true soul of the modern Renaissance city, instead of just snatching a glimpse at its celebrated past.