Five ways to visit Florence’s Uffizi Gallery (and one to avoid)

In the five years that I have been creating itineraries for independent travelers to Italy, I’ve never met a traveler who wanted to go to Florence and skip a visit to the city’s famous Uffizi art Gallery. But the Uffizi is a huge and exhausting museum with thousands of paintings and sculptures that can make your brain hurt (or worse). You need a plan of attack for this museum, so below are pros and cons of five ways to visit Florence’s Uffizi Gallery. Since several of those mean buying your own admission tickets, I’ve also described five ways to get Uffizi skip-the-line tickets.

But first let me emphasize that there is no good reason to stand in a three-hour ticket line at the Uffizi:

Here’s the ticket line you’ll be skipping if you take the advice below.

Uffizi art Gallery Florence ticket line

Photo by Simon Clayson

Instead, consider visiting the Uffizi Gallery with…

 

Uffizi private guided tour

Hire a private guide to take you through the museum. I’ll say right off the bat, this is what I recommend if your budget allows. There are lots of excellent private guides such as Freya’s Florence.  Pros: Your guide will get your skip-the-line tickets. You’ll book the tour starting time according to your own schedule. An expert guides you through the galleries and you’ll learn a huge amount about art, about history, and about Florence. Tailor the tour as you’d like (for example you might want to spend more time on Caravaggio and less on Botticelli), moving at your own pace and asking for bathroom, coffee, or bookshop breaks according to your own needs. Cons: this is probably the most expensive option for 2 visitors (but if there are 4 or 5 or 6 of you, a private guide might be less expensive than a group tour). What it costs: For a 2-3 hour tour, a private guide will cost your group about 200 – 300 EUR plus admission tickets which are about 15 EUR for adults including booking fees.

 

Uffizi Group Tour

Many companies offer guided group tours at various prices and lengths (usually 90 minutes, 2 hours or 3 hours) and you’ll see the groups throughout the museum when you visit. These tours must be booked in advance, leave at pre-scheduled times, and the groups are of various sizes. As long as the group is small – so fewer than about 12 people such as the tours offered by Context Travel or Walks of Italy – a group tour can be great. Larger tours may make you feel like you’re being herded like cattle.  Pros: Skip-the-line admission tickets are included when you book a tour. An expert takes you through the galleries, providing history and context. Your specific questions are answered by a real person.  Cons: You can’t tailor the tour to your own needs. If the tour is large, there’s that cattle thing. If you decide to take a tour with a larger group, make sure to stick close to the guide so you can hear everything. What it costs: Expect to pay about 50 – 75 EUR per adult for a 2 or 3 hour smaller group tour; a larger group tour might be half of that or even less.   

 The Birth of Venus by Botticelli Uffizi Gallery Florence Italy

 

Uffizi audio tour, downloaded ahead of time

Before you leave home, download an Uffizi audio tour onto your phone or other device, and then book your own skip-the-line admission tickets using one of the five methods below. Pros: Very inexpensive, go at your own pace, still get a great tour, and you can listen to the audio ahead of time if you want (to make sure it’s clear, not an annoying or monotone voice etc). Cons: You have to book your own skip-the-line tickets. You can’t ask a guide questions. It’s difficult to chat with your fellow travelers unless you press pause and pull your headphones off your ears. It drains your battery. What it costs: Entrance tickets plus the audio tour: Rick Steves Uffizi audio tour is free; the itunes Uffizi audio tour app is $2; these children’s Uffizi podcasts are free.

 

Uffizi Gallery audio tour with headset, rented onsite

Pick up the Uffizi’s official audio guide – with one or two headsets – when you arrive at the museum as long as you have ID. Pros: Inexpensive, you move along at your own pace, skipping pieces if you’d like, and the audio guide contains excellent information. Plus it doesn’t drain your phone battery. If you’re traveling with just one other person, the 2-headset option means you can pause at the same time and same place in the tour for discussion, which is nice. Cons: You need to buy your own skip-the-line admission tickets (use one of the approaches described below). You can’t ask a real person any questions. It takes time to pick up and drop off the audio guide at the beginning and end of your visit (potentially more lines). Some people describe the audio tour as dull and monotonous, but others say the tour is delightful and the voice is cheery, go figure. What it costs: Entrance tickets plus 6 EUR for a single pair of headphones and 10 EUR for an audio guide with 2 pairs of headphones.

 

Uffizi self-guided tour, with pre-printed materials

Book your own skip-the-line tickets using one of the methods described below, then walk through the Uffizi galleries on your own, avoiding large tour groups, and read about works of art at your own pace. For pre-printed materials, you could just buy a book, or you could find a list of the Uffizi’s most famous works and print out information from the internet (wikipedia, for example) to bring with you. Or, buy this excellent Uffizi art history guide for the kindle, iPad or iPod for $4 which you can read either on your device or print out and bring with you. You can even study up before departure so you’re not overwhelmed by seeing everything for the very first time, by spending time online at the Virtual Uffizi.  Pros: It’s inexpensive. Go at your own pace. Easy to start a discussion within your group / family. Just see what you want to see. Cons: Your eyes are on the page rather than on the work of art. You can’t ask an expert if you have questions. You have to book your own tickets. What it costs: Entrance tickets plus a few dollars. 

 

Uffizi walk-through, with no guide and no written materials

This is of course an option, but not one I’d recommend and I can’t think of any pros here. The Uffizi is not set up as an interactive museum. The labels next to the paintings are not descriptive; most just have the name of the painting and the artist, so you won’t get any context or history. You’ll be annoyed by the tour groups disrupting your peace, and like this Tripadvisor reviewer, you may decide you’re “bored to death” after looking at “500 year old paintings of angels and cherubs” with no additional information.

 

Giotto Ognissanti Madonna Florence Uffizi Gallery

Image of Giotto’s Ognissanti Madonna from Wikimedia Commons

 

Five ways to buy skip-the-line Uffizi Tickets

Buy them online, ahead of time. The official website for booking Uffizi tickets is this one, where you’ll pay 6.50 EUR for an adult ticket or 11 EUR if there’s an exhibition, plus a 4 EUR booking fee per ticket. [UPDATE: As of November 1st, 2014, basic adult ticket prices are going to increase to 12.50 EUR.] You’ll pick the day and a time for your visit. (Doing an online search for Uffizi tickets will bring up lots of websites selling these tickets but don’t be surprised to see them at 23 EUR a ticket after a markup.) These tickets are skip-the-line tickets, but you’ll print a voucher and then you’ll still need to pick up your tickets at the Uffizi at Door Number 3, where there could be a (shorter) line of people, like you, who bought tickets online. Then you’ll enter the Uffizi through Door Number 1, where again there could be a (shorter) line.

Buy a Firenze Museum Card. With a Firenze Card you can skip the line into the Uffizi too, but at 72 EUR per person, whether the Florence museum card is worth it depends on how many museums you plan to visit in Florence in the 72 hour period the card is valid. I’ve done the math for many clients to see whether it’s worth buying this card, and I haven’t yet advised anyone to buy it. But, you don’t need to worry about making reservations ahead of time, so that is a major plus.

Buy a Friends of the Uffizi Card. In Italian, it’s the Amici degli Uffizi card. It also allows you to skip the line and go whenever you like, so no need to pick a timed entry. For adults it’s 60 EUR but it for a family of 4 it’s 100 EUR so is a much better deal than the Firenze Museum Card. It’s still only worth it if you’re going to be visiting several museums, but it’s valid for a year.

Get last minute tickets in Florence. If you arrive in Florence without Uffizi tickets, and there’s a long line at the Uffizi, head over to the Church of Orsanmichele in Via dei Calzaiuoli (between Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Signoria) where there is a Firenze Musei ticket office open Monday – Saturday between 9 am and 4.15 pm. But don’t rely on this approach: you risk that there are no available tickets, or that there aren’t enough for your party, or that you can’t go when you wanted to go. However if the alternative is going to stand in that long line, then it’s worth checking here first.

Make reservations over the phone at no charge, and pay later. If you think you might go to the Uffizi while you’re in Florence and you want to make a reservation just in case, this is a great option. Call the Uffizi Gallery at +39 055 294883 and make your booking. You’ll get a reservation number. Then when you get to the Uffizi on the day of your reservation, pay the admission fees plus booking fees at Door Number 3, then enter through Door Number 1. If you call to cancel your reservation, it costs you nothing. But if you reserved 4 tickets and show up needing fewer tickets, you still need to pay the booking fee – but not the admission – for all the tickets you reserved.

 

Whew! I think that’s it. Do you have any advice to add? 


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Posted by on Nov 18, 2013 in Art, Florence | 15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Alexandra
    November 18, 2013

    Hey Madeline! Thanks so much for citing my Uffizi Art History Guide amongst the options for visiting this museum. I think you have weighed them all out very well.
    There is an update to the uffizi guide – it’s not just for Kindle any more, but also available as an IOS app for iPhone or iPad. Just search for the same name on the app store :)
    I’m linking to this article amongst press reviews of my guide.
    Ciao!
    Alexandra

    Reply
    • Madeline
      November 18, 2013

      Hi Alexandra, I’m happy to include your guide, it’s excellent, not that I was surprised. Thanks for the information about the other places to get it!

      Reply
  2. Gerrry Mendoza
    July 2, 2014

    Ey man !!! thank you for your this great post !!! =)

    Reply
  3. KH
    July 5, 2014

    Great article!!! Thank you for this

    Reply
  4. Georgi
    July 7, 2014

    Great advices!! Thanks for the tips, I think you saved many ppls’ time!

    Reply
  5. The Devil is in the Details | Four Off The Beaten Path
    August 3, 2014

    […] a good note, I felt victorious when this article pointed me to the right web site for buying skip-the line-Uffizi tickets for 15 Euro (strangely […]

    Reply
  6. Jeff
    August 25, 2014

    I would like to buy tickets for the Uffizi ahead of time. Sept 3rd.
    Why are there 3 different drop down menus for prices on B-Ticket website when purchasing?
    We are 2 adults…55 and 71yrs old
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Madeline
      August 25, 2014

      hi Jeff, There are 3 drop downs because there are 3 different types of tickets: full price, reduced, and free. It sounds like you are probably going to need two full priced tickets but click on the links about the reduced and free tickets here for details: http://www.b-ticket.com/b-ticket/uffizi/venue.aspx

      But buy those tickets asap! Uffizi tickets for September 3rd are already half gone…

      Reply
  7. Christopher Boles
    August 29, 2014

    Our trip to the Uffizi was worth the effort to book the tickets in advance. Just know that the ticket redemption office is across the square from the entrance. We were told at door 3 to go across the square to get our reserved tickets and then go to door 1. It was smooth all the way. Let me say that the place is 3 floors and be prepared for walking as well as a lot of stairs. Do not be in a hurry, take your time and enjoy the experience. There is so much to take in from the art, sculpture and the many rooms. it can be a mental overload to try to see it all in a hurry. Remember this one rule, “do not forget to look UP” as half the art is usually on the ceilings. The statuary is outstanding. Would I go again, yes!

    Reply
  8. Get set | .::.
    September 11, 2014

    […] Good Links: Rome2Rio | Copenhagen Guide | Uffizi […]

    Reply
  9. Tien
    September 11, 2014

    Great advice. Thank you!

    Reply
  10. Rachel
    October 4, 2014

    Excellent and comprehensive article, thank you. It’s clearly necessary to be fully prepared for the Uffizi! I am still rather confused as the official ticketing site doesn’t seem to offer me the option to buy a standard €6.50 ticket; it wants to charge me €15 to include the current exhibition. I only want the standard admission as that will be quite enough I think – but there’s no option for that, unless I’ve missed something? Been round in circles trying again & again but no €6.50 option. Boo!

    Reply
  11. Ronna
    October 20, 2014

    Thanks, this was so useful! We made a last-minute decision to stop in Florence for just two days en route to Rome, but one of those days was a Monday, when the museum is closed. Tuesday tickets were already sold out online, but I just called the phone number you listed, and they still had openings for tomorrow. Great tip!

    Reply
  12. Lucy
    October 20, 2014

    hello, I am visiting Florence at the end of the month, and the Uffizi gallery is on the list. What do you think of the official guided tours provided by the gallery itself? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Madeline
      October 20, 2014

      Lucy where do you see information on the guided tours provided by the Uffizi Gallery?

      Reply

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