Florence in December: What to Do, What to Expect, and a little Christmas guide to visiting
If you are considering visiting Florence in December, then this guide is for you!
Whether you want to explore Florence’s Christmas market or take a day trip to one of the Tuscan hill towns for even more holiday festivities, December can be a great time to visit Florence. Additionally, you won’t find the usual crowds in Florence in the winter months, making December a great time to visit the most popular sights in Florence without the crowds.
In this post, we’ll explore what to do in Florence in December, what to expect weather-wise, and what to pack for winter in Florence. We’ll also give some tips for visiting Florence in December and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about visiting Florence.
Best Things to Do in Florence in December
With Florence’s many sights and attractions, you can easily spend a few days in Florence. From The Nutcracker ballet to the Florence Light Festival, Florence has plenty to offer in December. Here are the top things to do in Florence in December.
Shop Florence’s Christmas Market
The largest Christmas market in Florence is the Weihnachtsmarkt Santa Croce, which takes place in the Piazza Santa Croce every year from late November through mid-December. Although the market originated in Germany, it has been a tradition in Florence for more than 500 years.
The Santa Croce market has an international flair, with over fifty vendors selling traditional European foods and crafts from wooden stalls. Here, you will find everything from German pretzels and Dutch crepes to Austrian pastries and Italian cheeses, jams, and chocolates. You will also find plenty of hot drinks to warm you up on a cold day.
This is also a great place to shop for handmade Christmas ornaments, decorations, and gifts.
On the weekends, you will also find some other smaller Christmas markets popping up throughout Florence.
Enjoy the Florence Light Festival
If you are in Florence in December, be sure to take a stroll through the historic city center after dark! Beginning on December 7th, Florence becomes illuminated with numerous Christmas lights and light projections displayed throughout the city.
On the evening of December 7th, you can watch the traditional lighting of the enormous Christmas tree in the Piazza del Duomo. You will also find a traditional nativity scene displayed in this same square.
Throughout the city, you will also see artistic light projects displayed in Piazza della Signoria, Piazzale Michelangelo, Piazza della Repubblica, Ponte Vecchio, and other Florence monuments and piazzas.
For a spectacular view of the Florence skyline and the Christmas festivities below, visit Piazzale Michelangelo. This is one of the best places to watch the sunset.
Piazza della Repubblica is also particularly charming with its vintage carousel adorned with Christmas decorations!
See Florence’s Best Attractions Without the Crowds
One of the best things to do in Florence in December is visit all of Florence’s best attractions without the crowds. If this is your first time visiting Florence, be sure to visit these popular sights and museums:
- The Florence Duomo: The Florence Duomo is one of the most iconic attractions in Florence, dominating the Florence skyline and known for its incredible brick dome. For a sweeping view of Florence, you can climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s Dome. The cathedral is open Monday to Saturday from 10:15 am to 4:45 pm. (Note that the dome will be closed in December 2023 for work on the interior.)
- The Uffizi Gallery: The Uffizi Gallery is one of the finest collections of Renaissance art in the world. With works by Botticelli, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, and other famous artists, the Uffizi Gallery is certainly worth a visit, especially if you have an appreciation for Renaissance art. The Uffizi Gallery is open from 8:15 am to 6:30 pm. It is closed on Mondays and on December 25th.
- The Accademia Gallery: The Accademia Gallery is home to the world-famous marble statue of Michelangelo’s David and is worth visiting just to see this statue alone. The Accademia Gallery is open from 8:15 am to 6:50 pm. It is closed on Mondays and on Christmas day.
Tip: Although December is far less crowded than other months, we would still recommend buying your tickets to these attractions in advance.
Warm up with a Cup of Italian Hot Chocolate
If you are visiting Florence in winter, then you must try an Italian hot chocolate.
Florence is known for its deliciously thick hot chocolate (called cioccolata calda) in winter. However, the hot chocolate in Florence is not like that in other countries. It is made with real melted chocolate, sugar, and milk. Additionally, due to its thick consistency, it is served in a tiny cup and eaten with a spoon.
You can pick up a hot chocolate at Caffè Gilli (the oldest cafe in Florence, located in Piazza della Repubblica) or Dolci e Dolcezze (near Mercato Sant’Ambrogio) on your trip to Florence in December.
See The Nutcracker Ballet
Seeing The Nutcracker ballet has always been one of my favorite Christmas traditions – how much better to see it in Florence! Every year on December 23rd, Tchaikovsky’s timeless classic, The Nutcracker, is performed at the Teatro della Pergola in Florence.
The Teatro della Pergola is one of the oldest opera houses in Italy and has an absolutely stunning interior. If you find yourself in Florence around Christmas, don’t miss this unforgettable performance of the Christmas classic, The Nutcracker.
Take a Day Trip to Tuscany for More Christmas Festivities
If you have an extra day or two in Florence, consider taking a day trip to one or more of the Tuscan hill towns. Here are some of the best day trips from Florence to take in December:
- Siena is only an hour and a half away from Florence by train and is a wonderful town to visit in December. The streets, shops, restaurants, and hotels are adorned with Christmas lights and decorations, making Siena a charming place to visit. In the beginning of December, Siena also hosts a medieval-style market, where you can buy artisan crafts, Christmas decor, and local food and wine.
- Lucca is an easy day trip from Florence and is a great place to do some Christmas shopping. On the first two weekends in December, Lucca hosts a historic Christmas arts and crafts market. Lucca is about one hour and twenty minutes away from Florence by train.
- Arezzo is also an easy day trip from Florence (one hour and twenty minutes away by train). From the end of November through the beginning of January, Arezzo turns into Citta del Natale, a dazzling Christmas town with lights, a ferris wheel, a carousel, an ice skating rink, markets, and more. This is a delightful town for families to visit in December.
- Montepulciano has one of the best Christmas markets in Italy, called the Mercatino di Natale. The market takes place in the main square, Piazza Grande, and has vendors selling handmade Christmas ornaments, wooden products, toys, and local foods. Montepulciano is best reached from Florence by car. It is about one hour and twenty minutes away from Florence by car.
Enjoy a Warm Tuscan Meal
In the winter, there is not much better than stopping in one of Florence’s many trattorias and enjoying a delicious Tuscan meal. In our opinion, the Tuscany region has some of the best food in Italy!
For a seasonal favorite, try ribolliti, a special Tuscan dish made with kale that is only available in the winter. You might also try pappa al pomodoro (a filling Tuscan bread and tomato soup), ribollita (a hearty Tuscan stew), or biscetta alla fiorentina (the famous Florentine steak).
Weather in Florence in December
The weather in Florence in December is cold and humid. While temperatures in Florence rarely drop below 35 degrees, the high humidity can make it feel colder than it actually is. You most likely won’t see snow in Florence in winter, although you may get some rainy days.
The downside of visiting in December is that you’ll get fewer daylight hours, especially towards the end of December. However, you can always use the more dimly-lit hours to visit some of Florence’s best museums or enjoy the Christmas lights around the city.
What to Pack for Winter in Florence
Since the weather can be chilly in Florence in December, we would suggest packing layered shirts, pants, thick socks, and a warm coat. A hat, gloves, and scarf will also help keep you warm. We would also suggest bringing water-resistant shoes or boots and a packable umbrella, as December is known to have some rainy days.
Tips for Visiting Florence in December
Here are a few important tips for visiting Florence in December to help you make the most of your trip:
- Visit in early or mid-December for the lowest prices and least amount of people. Generally speaking, Florence in December is far less crowded and more affordable than other times of the year. However, you can expect higher prices and more people in late December around Christmas and New Year’s.
- Book your accommodations early if you plan on visiting Florence over the holidays. Just like in Italy’s other major cities, hotels in Florence can fill up quickly over Christmas and New Year’s.
- Book tickets to Brunelleschi’s Dome, Accademia Gallery, and Uffizi Gallery in advance. While December is considered low season in Florence, it is worth buying your tickets for Florence’s most popular sights and attractions in advance to guarantee yourself a spot.
- Dress warmly and bring an umbrella when walking around the city. As mentioned above, it is best to be prepared for cold weather and possible rain showers throughout the day.
FAQs: Visiting Florence in December
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about visiting Florence in December.
Is it worth going to Florence in December?
If you are looking to avoid the crowds and save some money on accommodations, then yes, December can be a great time to visit Florence. Florence also has a number of Christmas festivities occurring in December, such as the Santa Croce market, Christmas lights displayed throughout the city, and The Nutcracker ballet performance.
The main downside of visiting Florence in December is the limited daylight hours. However, Florence is filled with beautiful light displays in December, so there is still plenty to see in Florence with little daylight. You can also enjoy visiting many of Florence’s museums during these hours without the crowds, such as the Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia Gallery, the Borghese Gallery, Palazzo Vecchio, and Pitti Palace.
What is the best way to get to Florence?
If Florence is your first stop in Italy, you can fly directly into Florence Airport (FLR). If you are coming from another major city in Italy, then you can easily get to Florence by train. With Italy’s high-speed trains, Florence is only one hour and thirty minutes from Rome, one hour and forty minutes from Milan, and two hours from Venice.
What is the easiest way to get around Florence?
The best way to get around Florence is by walking. You can easily walk to all of the main sights and attractions from the city center. There is no metro system in Florence, but you can always take a taxi if needed.
Conclusion: Florence in December
If you don’t mind the cold without the snow, then December can be a great time to visit Florence. Visiting Florence in December will allow you to experience all of Florence’s main sights and attractions without the crowds and save money on accommodations. You will also get to experience Florence’s Christmas festivities, such as the Santa Croce market, the Florence Festival of Lights, and some delicious Italian treats.
From Florence, you can also take a day trip to Tuscany to experience even more Italian Christmas festivities.
We hope that this guide has helped you with planning your visit to Florence in December.
Cate is the owner and author of Intentional Traveling. She is a wife and homemaker who also loves to travel. Her goal is to provide you with practical itineraries, tips, and guides to simplify your travel planning and help you make the most of your time on each trip.