5 important tips for visiting the Florence Cathedral
1. Go prepared
You should remember that the Cathedral is a holy place, so make sure you cover up shoulders, knees, and midriff. If you want to climb the dome, you should make sure you have good shoes and a small water bottle (and your camera for the top!)
2. Book your time if you want to climb the Dome
The cathedral itself is free and you can visit any time during opening hours, but if you want to climb to the top of the Dome, you will need to book your time in advance, you cannot just turn up and get in the line. The Cathedral has limited slots for the dome climb so don’t leave your booking till the last minute.
3. Make time to see everything in the Duomo Piazza
The cathedral itself is stunning, but there are many points of interest in the Piazza del Duomo that you should make time for. You can buy all-inclusive tickets for about €15 that will gain you access to the Baptistery, the dome, the bell tower, the museum, and the Santa Reparata crypt (note that you will still have to book a time to climb the dome even if you buy this ticket in advance).
4. Take a free tour of the Cathedral
When visiting the cathedral itself, outside the main doors there are people who offer free tours of the Cathedral (these are usually tip based). Take a tour and gain some insightful information that you might miss if you are just wandering around by yourself.
5. Go a bit later in the afternoon
This is one of the most visited places in Florence so there is no 'golden hour' for visiting the cathedral, but if you visit in the afternoon then most of the morning tourist groups will have left, and you could climb the dome in time to see the sun start to go down over the city. You can book your tickets first thing in the morning before the lines start, then come back later to take shelter from the heat in the cool interior of the cathedral.
The Cathedral is located in Piazza del Duomo and is open at different times on different days:
- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 10 am – 5 pm
- Thursday: 10 am – 3:30 pm (depends on the month)
- Saturday: 10 am – 4:45 pm
- Sunday and public holidays: 1:30 pm – 4:45 pm
If you want to climb the Dome itself, you can book times every day from 8:30am until 7pm (5:40 pm on Saturdays).
Aside from visiting the dome itself, there are many points of interest in the Duomo complex, and you should visit all of them if possible; it is worth it even if it takes you most of the day or if you need to split over a couple of days:
- The Main Cathedral building of Florence
- Brunelleschi’s Cupola or Dome on the Cathedral
- The Santa Reparta Crypt under the Cathedral
- Giotto’s beautiful Campanile, or bell tower
- The Baptistery of Saint John
- The museum, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
Spread your Duomo complex visit over 2 days
Day 1 morning - Main Cathedral, Santa Reparta Crypt, Giotto’s Campanile,
Day 2 afternoon - Duomo Museum, The Baptistery, Brunelleschi’s dome at sunset!
How to book Duomo complex tickets
The entrance to the Cathedral building itself is free but you need a ticket for all the other parts. The most critical booking is for climbing the cupola or dome of the Duomo. There are two main ways that you can book tickets for your visit to the dome.
Option A - Buy a Duomo Pass
You can buy a Duomo Pass for your visit, and this will give you access to all six attractions in the Piazza del Duomo for €15. You can buy the ticket Online, or in person at the main ticket office located across the road from the main entrance of the Baptistery, in the ticket office in Giotto's Campanile, or at the Museum.
Book the Dome climb
Once you have bought your ticket, you need to book your time slot for climbing the dome. If you have bought your ticket online, you will be able to book your time slot at the time of purchase, which means you can avoid queues for booking in person.
Note Validity of Duomo Ticket
These passes are valid for 48 hours from the first admission, and allow you to visit each attraction once in that time period. Entry is included for the dome, the bell tower, the Baptistery, the museum and the underground crypt. Entrance to the cathedral itself is free, but you will not be able to climb the dome (unless you reserve a slot), or see any of the other historic sites of Florence.
Option B - Buy a Firenze Card
Firenze Cards a great way to skip queues, but you will still need to book a time in advance to climb the Dome. If you already have your Firenze Card, you need to visit the Duomo ticket office in person to get your tickets and book a time. There is a separate line for Firenze Card holders so look out for signs. Remember that Firenze cards are only valid for 72 hours from the first validation, so make sure it will still be active for the time slot that you have booked for the climb.
Dress right - respectable yet comfortable!
Like most churches in Italy, you will not be allowed in unless you are dressed appropriately. The general dress code for visiting churches and cathedrals is covered shoulders, knees and midriffs, and this applies to men and older children as well.
Planning the Duomo Complex visit
1. Plan your visit to Il Duomo and Giotto's Bell Tower
If you want to visit and enjoy everything in Piazza Duomo, then it can be a good idea to spread this out over two days, especially if you want to climb both, the cupola as well as the bell tower. If you have the Duomo pass, you have access to climb both the dome and the bell tower over a two day period. Both have a lot of extremely steep steps, so it would be difficult to tackle both of these climbs in one day.
Aim to climb the dome at sunset
Book a time to climb the dome for 5:30pm, and this should allow you to reach the top in time for the view of the sun setting behind the bell tower and over the rest of the surrounding city.
2. Visit plan for Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore
This is the main building of the Piazza del Duomo. The outside is covered in decorative marble that is a rich combination of pink, white and green. The interior of the cathedral is less decorative, but it does house the magnificent painting of the Last Judgement by Giorgio Vasari.
You can see this massive fresco up close if you have booked a time to climb up the dome, but it can still be seen when you visit the cathedral. Also see the Paolo Uccello sunset to sunset clock, telling the time in Italic hours. It is a great thing especially to share with kids, and it is just above the doors where you enter the Cathedral building.
Entrance to the cathedral is free, but please remember to dress appropriately. The cathedral itself is open from 10am to 5pm.
3. Visit plan for the Crypt of Santa Reparata
The underground crypt is another part of your Duomo pass, and it is worth putting aside half an hour to explore this part of the complex.
4. Visiting the Baptistery San Giovanni
If you have purchased the Duomo pass, it includes the other sites of interest around the cathedral. Do not miss the Baptistery; it has just as much history and beauty as the cathedral and the dome. The Baptistery is the oldest religious monument in Florence, and it is said to have been built over a Roman temple dating back to the 4th-5th century A.D.
The interior of the Baptistery is completely covered by golden mosaics depicting religious scenes, and the inside of the cupola is a sight to behold. The whole building is a unique octagonal shape and offers a breath-taking insight into the religious and architectural history of Florence.
The East door became the most famous after Michelangelo called it the Gates of Paradise. The Baptistery is open from 8:15am to 10:15am, and then again from 11:15 am to 7:30pm.
5. Visiting the Duomo Museum
The Duomo Museum is in a 3 storeyed building next to the main Cathedral building. It holds an extensive range of sculptures and works, including a Michelangelo ‘Pietá’, which he sculpted when he was nearly 80 years old.
If you are planning a visit to the Museum, you might also be interested in visiting the art restoration workshop nearby, where you can see works that are in a sort of 'work in progress' stage. This is a great little experience where you can see how the great sculptors once worked with chisels, hammers and drills. This workshop is located nearby the cathedral in the Via Dello Studio.
Note: official guided tours are recommended, and are a great way to explore the complex if you are not in the mood for wandering by yourself. You can find out more information here
- The Duomo has two different entrances: one on the front which is the entrance of the Cathedral; another on its left side which is the entrance for the rooftop, the highest point of the Duomo: the “Cupolone”.
- When possible, you should consider buying tickets online in order not to wait for ages in the queue.
- The ascent of the Duomo isn’t anything like the one of the Tour Eiffel: the dome has no elevator, of any kind. Also be aware of the fact that you’ll have to climb 463 steps.
- Not only that but since the corridor is very narrow, you’ll have to stop constantly in order to make other people climb down.
So my suggestion is: Saddle up, people!