One of the greatest attractions in Florence, Italy is the Uffizi Gallery. This amazing museum features a collection of more than 1500 Gothic and Renaissance paintings, spread over more than 80 rooms. All the top artists of the centuries between the 13th and 16th century have some works at the Uffizi, including Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio and many more. As you can understand, this museum is a “must-see” in Florence, but is also very crowded. In this guide, you will find out 5 ways of visiting the Uffizi Gallery, the best being a private tour.
Uffizi Hours, tickets, doors
Let’s start with the Uffizi schedule: the Gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday (and closed on Mondays). The schedule is from 8:15 AM to 6:50 PM. The Uffizi Gallery is closed on January 1st, May 1st and December 25th.
When planning your visit consider about 3 hours, and plan to finish no later than 6:30 PM, or you will spend the final part of your tour with a disturbing, high volume voice pressing you to hurry up.
Days to avoid
Avoid the first Sunday of the month. The Gallery is free on those days which, at first sight, looks like good news. Unfortunately, because of this, you cannot make a reservation, and the lines are terribly long (hours).
Avoid Fridays, if you can. About 10 times/year, there is a strike. It’s not a strict rule, because (by law) labourers can strike on any day but, in the past 5 years, strikes have always been on Fridays, for a simple reason: striking on Friday gives the Trade Unions the best chance to have many participants (that can enjoy a long weekend). However: this means that if you reserve on a Friday, you have a 20% chance of ruining your day. If you happen to have a tour, or a reservation, and there is a strike, the Gallery will open late or close early. In any case, the reservations won’t be respected and the lines will be huge.
Reserving your skip-the-line tickets
Although you can just go, stay in line, and buy your entrance tickets, it’s highly recommended to buy them in advance. It costs just € 4.00 more (per person). You can choose your entrance time (from 8:15 AM to 5:00 PM), and will have a privileged fast entrance. There can be lines, even there, because of the security checks. But they’re fast, compared to the huge and slow lines you will find without a reservation.
There are three doors at the Uffizi, each with his special function. If you reach the Uffizi square from Piazza della Signoria, you fill find doors number 1 and 2 on your left, and door number 3 on your right.
If you don’t have a reservation, you must go to door number 2, and stay in line until it’s your turn to buy the tickets and get in. During high season, they use to allow 30-40 people in once every 20-30 minutes. Door number 2 is also the place where you can make a reservation for another day. In this case, just tell the personnel, and you won’t stay in line. However, there are better places to make your reservation (online; at the MyAccademia bookshop, in via Ricasoli 57, or at the Orsanmichele church, but this last option is only active during high season).
If you have a phone reservation or bought tickets online, you must go to door number 3 first, to collect your tickets. Don’t go earlier than 10-15 minutes before your scheduled entrance time, or they won’t give you your tickets. If you bought tickets at the MyAccademia, at the Orsanmichele church, or at door number 2 of the Uffizi, you can skip this step.
Once you have your skip-the-line tickets, go to door number 1. There are two ways to approach door number one, assuming you are front of the door: from the right (reserved individuals), or from the left (reserved groups). You are a group if you are a party of 10 or more persons with a guide. In any other case, you are considered as an individual.
From 2017, when searching for Uffizi, you will happen to find the “Uffizi Galleries”. This is how the combination Uffizi-Pitti Palace has been renamed. Ideally, in the future, the two museums will be connected by the Vasari Corridor (closed in 2018 for the necessary works) but, until that happens, they remain two different places. At the moment, it’s possible to buy separate tickets for the Uffizi and for Pitti, or a combined ticket, that we suggest only if you plan to visit both places, of course.
Visiting the Uffizi Gallery on your own
Visiting the Uffizi gallery on your own is fine but, unless you are an art expert, you will probably miss out on some of the highlights, and also miss the hidden gems. There is a high chance that some works are temporarily moved to other rooms, either to prepare an event of because they are restoring the room. You could also pace your visit in a wrong way, getting worn out after only one fourth of the Gallery, or going too fast without seeing the main things. In other words, if your budget allows, go for a guided tour, it’s well worth the money.
However, if you opt for visiting on your own, here is a general recommendation: the Uffizi Gallery is an “U” shaped building, with two floors to visit. In other words, there are 4 corridors, each one with its rooms. The problem is, these 4 parts of the Gallery don’t have the same “weight”. It’s wise to spend more time in the rooms of the first corridor (from Giotto to Botticelli), and leave about half the time for the other parts of the gallery.
Here are two ways to visit the Uffizi Gallery on your own:
1 – Visiting the Uffizi Gallery on your own, without a reservation (or even for free!)
This is a method to visit the Uffizi without spending much, or spending nothing, if you go on the first Sunday of the month. Unfortunately, this is hard to do during high season (March to October, plus Christmas holidays), but if you happen to be in Florence in November, early December, late January or February, it can be done. If you avoid weekends, there won’t be long lines in these months. If you go during weekends, or opt for the first Sunday of the month to have free access, you will find long lines (extremely long during high season). We don’t recommend this way. See how long lines can be below.
2 – Visiting the Uffizi Gallery on your own, with a reservation
Even if you want to save money, I would make a reservation. You will only spend € 4/person for the reservation, in addition to the cost of the ticket. This way, you can join the privileged line and get straight in, or stay in line for a minimal time. This is a must, during high season.
3 – Visiting the Uffizi Gallery on your own, with the official audio guide
Official audio guides are available after the security checks, for € 6/person. Don’t expect much though: their main advantage is they will point you to the highlights, so you’re sure not to miss anything important. That said, the voice won’t tell you any insight: it’s mostly a history of the painting, who made it and for whom, and how it reached the Gallery (donation, purchase, etc). Nothing special: you can find the same info on any Uffizi guide, book or e-book.
Visiting the Uffizi Gallery with a guided tour
This is certainly your best option, for the reasons already explained above. The Gallery is large, and the collections are stored in a building erected in 1560, for a different purpose. Sometimes it’s hard to find things. Having some guidance is necessary. On top of this, a tour guide will tell you stories, will describe the personality of the painters and of the patrons of each painting, and will explain the reasons why a painting was made, and the hidden meanings. It’s just so much more interesting and entertaining. Go for it!
4 – Visiting the Uffizi Gallery joining a group guided tour
If you decide to join a group tour, you will have skip-the-line tickets included in the price. The guide, or someone working for the agency, will collect your tickets. You will also have radio headphones to better hear the guide. Prices will be different based on maximum group size and tour duration. The less expensive tours usually have a max group size of 25, and a duration of 1.5 hours. Well, let me tell you that these are not worth the money, unless the Uffizi Gallery is just something to check off a list. Managing a group is not so easy: introduction, security checks, go upstairs, show tickets at the check point and re-group… it will take 30 minutes just to get in the first room, where the tour actually starts. It will be a rush, with a strict schedule (2 minutes in front of each painting) and no many chances to ask questions. Better opt for tours lasting at least 2 hours, the optimal would be 3 hours.
5 – Visiting the Uffizi Gallery with a private tour
This is the best way of visiting the Uffizi, but it can be expensive. If your budget allows, go for it without hesitation. Private tours have a fixed price (the guide) and a variable price (the tickets). As a consequence, they are pricey for small parties, but become affordable when your party is composed by 5 or more people. The total expense, in this case, becomes comparable to the expense for a group tour and can even be lower, for parties of 8-9 persons or more. A private tour of the Uffizi Gallery will typically last 3 hours. Your guide will be flexible, the pace will be adapted to your preferences, and you will have a chance to ask any question, take breaks, have a coffee in the Uffizi terrace. In other words, it will be a relaxing and very informative tour. We recommend this way of visiting the Uffizi Gallery.
Whatever way you choose, we hope this post was useful. You can contact us for any question.
Enjoy Florence and your visit of the Uffizi gallery!