Are you heading on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Tuscany and looking for the best things to do in Siena? Then keep reading.
Tuscany is one of Italy’s most magical regions known for its endless rolling hills, iconic cypress trees, and thriving wineries. What’s more, it is home to some of the most beautiful villages in Italy such as Siena!
Siena is a stunning and historic city known for its hilly landscape, medieval architecture, and bursting charm. The city truly feels alive with an unmatched energy that is enough to put anyone under its spell.
Discover the 14 best things to do in Siena for the ultimate getaway.
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14 Best Things to Do in Siena
Enter the Siena Cathedral (Duomo di Siena)
The Siena Cathedral is one of the most unexpectedly beautiful pieces of architecture in Siena. It is like a hidden gem amongst the winding roads and various hills of Siena, but once you stumble upon this stunning Cathedral you will be awe-struck. Siena Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is both beautiful from the outside and the inside.
This cathedral looks very similar to the famous Florence Dumono with its white and black striped exterior which only adds to its charm. On the inside, you will find paintings, sculptures and more. Be sure to get tickets in advance to ensure you can go when you want.
Roam Around the Historic Center
One of the best things to do in Siena is to simply roam around the historic center and immerse yourself in the city’s captivating charm. The historic center of Siena is a UNESCO World Heritage site and offers a wealth of architectural marvels, narrow medieval streets, and vibrant piazzas. Here’s what makes it a must-do activity:
As you wander through the labyrinthine streets, you’ll encounter stunning landmarks such as the Siena Cathedral, a magnificent Gothic masterpiece adorned with intricate carvings and stunning mosaics.
Explore the Piazza del Campo, the main square of Siena, where the renowned Palio horse race takes place twice a year. Marvel at the grandeur of the Palazzo Pubblico, the city’s town hall, and climb the Torre del Mangia for panoramic views of the city.
The historic center is also a hub of local life, with bustling markets, boutique shops, and traditional cafes lining the streets. Take your time to soak up the lively atmosphere, stop for a coffee or gelato, and observe the daily rhythms of the Sienese people.
Roaming around the historic center of Siena allows you to fully appreciate the city’s rich history, remarkable architecture, and vibrant culture. It’s an opportunity to get lost in the enchanting streets, discover hidden gems, and create lasting memories of your visit to this captivating Tuscan city.
Walk Around Piazza del Campo
Located in the historic center of Siena is Piazza del Campo, the main public square with a long history. This huge, medieval square is often regarded as Europe’s best and most magnificent. The sheer size and architectural design make it very unique within Europe where most squares are quite quaint this one is HUGE! Plus, the iconic buildings circling it only add to its charm.
Admire Palazzo Pubblico
Palazzo Pubblico is a palace and town hall located right in the city’s main square Piazza del Campo. In addition to being very important historically it is also very beautiful. It is home to many breathtaking frescoes that are unique in that they were not commissioned by the church but by the government. Admire Palazzo Pubblico from both the exterior and interior for a taste of old life in Siena.
Marvel at Biblioteca Piccolomini
One of the best things to do in Siena is to marvel at the Biblioteca Piccolomini, located within the stunning Siena Cathedral. This extraordinary library, built in the 15th century, is a true treasure trove of art and literature. Here’s what makes it a must-visit attraction:
As you enter the Biblioteca Piccolomini, you’ll be captivated by the intricate frescoes that adorn the walls and ceilings. These magnificent artworks, painted by the renowned artist Pinturicchio, depict scenes from the life of Pope Pius II, a native of Siena. The vibrant colors, intricate details, and storytelling nature of the frescoes create a captivating ambiance.
The library houses a remarkable collection of ancient manuscripts, illuminated choir books, and rare texts. The intricately crafted bookcases, adorned with beautiful carvings, provide a glimpse into the rich literary history of Siena.
Take your time to explore the library’s exquisite collection, marvel at the craftsmanship of the books, and appreciate the artistic masterpieces that surround you. The Biblioteca Piccolomini offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in Siena’s cultural and artistic heritage, making it a must-see destination for visitors to the city.
Admire the City Views
One of the best things to do in Siena is head to one of the many high points in the city to admire the stretching city views. Siena from above is pure magic and viewing this city from an above perspective is a must. One of the easiest ways to get a beautiful view of the city is by booking accommodation with a view: one great option is Hotel Minerva which is the view pictured above.
Some additional places are: Facciatone and Vista Siena.
Embark on a Wine Tasting Tour
One of the best things to do in Siena is to embark on a wine tasting tour and indulge in the region’s renowned Tuscan wines. Siena is surrounded by picturesque vineyards and wineries, making it the perfect destination for wine enthusiasts. Here’s why a wine tasting tour is a must:
Venture into the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside and explore the vineyards that produce some of Italy’s finest wines. Join a guided tour that takes you through the winemaking process, from grape cultivation to fermentation and aging.
Immerse yourself in the rich flavors and aromas of Tuscan wines as you sample a variety of reds, whites, and rosés. Learn about the characteristics and nuances of each wine from knowledgeable sommeliers who will guide you through the tasting experience.
Beyond the wines, you’ll also have the chance to appreciate the breathtaking landscapes and vineyard vistas that surround you. Enjoy the serenity of the countryside and soak in the beauty of the Tuscan countryside.
Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or simply looking to savor the flavors of the region, a wine tasting tour in Siena offers a delightful and immersive experience that showcases the best of Tuscan winemaking.
Visit The Basilica of San Domenico
The Basilica of San Domenico is one of the most important basilica churches in Siena. It was built in the 13th and 14th centuries and shows a unique Gothic architecture style.
This Basilica stands tall and proud amongst the hilly terrain of Siena and is one of the most beautiful churches in the city. Although it is less popular and famous than the Siena Duomo it is still well worth a visit.
Explore the Sanctuary of Saint Catherine
One of the best things to do in Siena is to explore the Sanctuary of Saint Catherine, a significant religious site dedicated to one of the city’s most revered saints. Here’s why visiting the sanctuary is a must:
Located in the heart of Siena, the Sanctuary of Saint Catherine provides a glimpse into the life and legacy of Saint Catherine of Siena, a renowned mystic and patron saint of the city. The sanctuary is home to the Basilica of Saint Dominic, where you can admire beautiful frescoes and exquisite artwork that depict scenes from Saint Catherine’s life.
Explore the Chapel of Saint Catherine, which houses her relics and offers a serene atmosphere for reflection and prayer. Discover the small cell where she lived and the sacred spaces where she received visions and communicated with God.
Take a moment to soak in the spiritual ambiance of the sanctuary, paying homage to the life and teachings of this remarkable saint. Learn about her significant contributions to the Catholic Church and her impact on the city of Siena.
Visiting the Sanctuary of Saint Catherine provides a profound and enlightening experience, allowing you to delve into the rich history and spirituality of Siena. It is a place of reverence and inspiration, inviting visitors to connect with the profound legacy of Saint Catherine of Siena.
Enjoy Battistero di San Giovanni
Battistero di San Giovanni is a famous Catholic Church in Seina that can be found in the historic center. It was built between the years 1316 and 1325 and is well worth a visit both outside and inside. Easily one of the best things to do in Siena delves into its deep religious history and heading to Battistero di San Giovanni is one of the best ways to do this.
Aim to Witness Palio di Siena
If you are lucky, or plan well enough, to visit Siena on July 2nd or August 16th then you can witness the historic Palio di, Siena. This is a horse race that occurs twice a year that truly showcases the passion and culture of Siena. The race includes 10 horses and riders who are dressed to represent 10 of the 17 contrade (city wards) of Siena.
The race is 3 laps around the famous Piazza del Campo, including some dangerous and narrow parts to the laps like the curve of San Martino. Of course, the first rider and horse to cross the finish line win! The competition between the different Contradas is extremely high and witnessing it in person is a sight you will not want to miss.
Eat a Meal with a View
Siena is home to many amazing restaurants all with their own charm and beauty. Finding a unique place to sit down for a delicious Italian meal with a stunning view is one of the best ways to soak in the culture and beauty of Siena. Eating with a view is one of the best things to do in Siena for foodies and architectural lovers combined.
Here are some of the best restaurants in Siena:
- Osteria da Divo
- Zest Ristorante & Wine Bar
Rent a Scooter and Explore Tuscany
One of the top things to do in Siena is to escape the town for a day or two to explore the stunning Tuscany region. Renting a scooter or car is the best way to explore freely as the roads are very clear and well maintained and this way you can map your own adventures.
There are very few places as beautiful as Tuscany and visiting Siena, some of the other beautiful towns in Tuscany, and the Tuscany countryside is a must!
Gelato at Night
One of the best things to do in Siena is to indulge in a gelato night, savoring the city’s delectable frozen treats. Siena boasts a variety of gelaterias that offer an array of flavors to tantalize your taste buds. Here’s why a gelato night is a must:
As the sun sets and the city takes on a magical ambiance, head out for a leisurely stroll through the charming streets of Siena. Make your way to one of the renowned gelaterias that line the historic center.
Step inside and be greeted by a colorful display of gelato flavors, ranging from classic favorites to unique and innovative combinations. Choose your preferred flavors and watch as the skilled artisans create a masterpiece right before your eyes.
Where to Stay in Siena
When it comes to choosing where to stay in Siena, there are several options that cater to different preferences and budgets. Here are a few recommended areas:
- Historic City Center: Staying in the heart of Siena’s historic city center allows you to be close to major attractions like Piazza del Campo and the Siena Cathedral. You’ll have easy access to charming streets, shops, restaurants, and the vibrant atmosphere of the city.
- San Gimignano Gate Area: This area is located just outside the city walls, near Porta San Gimignano. It offers a quieter atmosphere while still being within walking distance of the city center. You can enjoy beautiful views of the city and the surrounding countryside.
- Fortezza Medicea: Situated near the Fortezza Medicea, this area provides a more residential feel. It’s ideal for those seeking a peaceful and tranquil stay while still being within walking distance of Siena’s main attractions.
- Surrounding Countryside: If you prefer a more relaxed and scenic setting, consider staying in the countryside surrounding Siena. There are agriturismos (farmhouses) and villas that offer a peaceful retreat, often with stunning views of vineyards and rolling hills.
When to Visit Siena
The best time to visit Siena is From May – October. These months offer the best weather and the most exciting events. If you want to avoid extreme heat visit in May – June and September – October. But if you can manage the heat visiting in July and August to see the Palio di Siena is a must.
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With so many amazing things to do in Siena, the adventure awaits!
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