It’s one of the smaller cities in the region, and because of its size, it’s an excellent place for a weekend city vacation. Alternatively, visit for the day on your Tuscany road trip.
The Baptisterium (place of baptism) sits right by the leaning tower of Pisa in the middle of a vast grass square. The 54 meters high, circular-shaped building has an incredible domed roof and an intricate facade. What’s more, just like the leaning tower of Pisa, this building also leans a little too, although not quite as much!
Wander around the cylindrical building admiring the details of the architecture before taking a look inside. The interior, although simple, is beautiful. It’s worth visiting for the upper level, where you can see amazing views out over the rest of Pisa.
Camposanto is a massive cemetery within the same complex as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was built in 1277 to make the graves next to the cathedral look a bit neater. It’s also said that the soil here came from Jesus’s place of crucifixion! All this history means many famous and influential people are buried here, such as the mathematician Fibonacci, who created the Fibonacci sequence that we still learn in school today.
The interior of the Camposanto has magnificent frescoes. However, the real highlight is the interior courtyard with its regal columns and arches.
Cattedrale de Pisa
The Cathedral of Pisa (Santa Maria Assunta) is often forgotten about in favor of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. However, it stands right next door and is a historical gem in its own right. The beautiful Romanesque building is made from white marble that’s been intricately carved and sculpted. Inside, you can find more marble, as well as religious relics, gold gilding, and beautiful paintings.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa has become famous for its noticeable tilt (of 5.5 degrees), making the building look as if it defies gravity! The eight-story building is the cathedral’s bell tower, although the bells haven’t rung in over 100 years.
Why does the Leaning Tower of Pisa tilt?
Construction began in 1172 before they realized the ground they were building on wasn’t stable. Over 200 years, they tried to fix the lean, but it wasn’t possible in the end. Now, measures are taken to prevent its collapse, but its sharp tilt has become a funny phenomenon for tourists to document.
Although many people come here to get the classic Leaning Tower of Pisa photo, it’s worth taking a good look at the building itself and its fantastic architecture. You can even climb 297 steps to the top of the tower, where you can get great city views. In the past, this wasn’t allowed for fear that it might make the building lean even more!
Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles)
The leaning tower of Pisa, Cathedral, Camposanto, and Baptisterium all sit in a beautiful grass square that’s free of cars. This area is now a designated UNESCO world heritage site because of its cultural and historical significance. After you’ve visited all the sights, spend a few hours just lying in the grass around the monuments. This is a beautiful way to spend an afternoon in Pisa!
Santa Maria Della Spina
Pisa has lots of churches, but Santa Maria Della Spina is arguably the most beautiful of them all. This tiny church has a detailed gothic facade and has a unique setting on the riverbank. Della Spina means ‘of the thorn’ as one of the thorns from Jesus’ thorn crown once rested at this site.
Gelateria De’ Coltelli
Gelato is life in Italy and Pisa does it very well. There are plenty of places to grab some refreshing ice cream, but the most famous is the Gelateria De’ Coltelli. It’s known for its exotic gelato flavors, where people can choose anything from candied lemon peel to ginger. Plus, it’s got a great location on the banks of the River Arno.
Borgo Stretto is the most important shopping street in all of Pisa. However, it’s not just for shopping; it’s the perfect place to admire the beautiful Italian townhouses painted in terracottas and pinks with their wooden shutters and hanging washing.
The ancient street passes adjacent to the river and has many narrow lanes shooting off into cute squares. Walk Borgo Stretto, admiring the stone archways and collonades that house all the cute boutiques, cafes, and restaurants, finding hidden gems around every corner – one of the top things to do in Pisa!
Kieth Haring House
Kieth Haring is a famous artist known for his vibrant murals. He painted this huge mural across one side of a grand Italian house with an array of colors. The abstract piece depicts moving people, meant to represent life and vitality. What’s unusual about this piece is the unique mixture of old and new, with the modern work splashed across a traditional home wall.
Visiting the Keith Haring house is undoubtedly a special thing to do in Pisa!
Palazzo Della Carovana
Palazzo Della Carovana is a stunning square that sits at the very center of Pisa, Italy. Known as the Knights Square, it’s home to fascinating historical buildings such as the magnificent Palace of the Elders and the Normale di Pisa University.
The square is incredibly rich in history. In fact, the university was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte, and the library was once the seat of the government in the middle ages. Now, it’s a great place to come and hang out, watching the students go about their day amongst the series of beautiful buildings.
Sadly, most of these buildings aren’t accessible for the public, but they’re still worth a visit and one of the top things to do in Pisa.
Parco Don Bosco
Parco Don Bosco is the cities park: a beautiful green space filled with pine trees that’s great for escaping the heat and the buzz of the city. Bring a picnic and enjoy some time in the peace of nature. You can also see the remains of a Roman aqueduct that runs right alongside the park. History is everywhere in Pisa!
Best Cafes and Restaurants Pisa
Italy is famous for its delicious food and Pisa is no exception. Discover beautiful cafes to try variations of freshly made pasta dishes, gelaterias with every flavor you can imagine, and shops selling local cheeses and meats. Make sure to look out for the traditional Tuscan soup and focaccia, or perhaps join a cooking workshop where you can learn how to make pasta like a true local!
Some of our favorite restaurants were:
- Pasticceria Dolcepisa (vegan and gluten-free options)
- Ristoro Pecorino
- Filter Coffee Lab (hipster vibe)
- Kabuto Ramen & Bistrot
Tip: Try to stay away from restaurants located right by the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Although the view is good, the prices are much higher, and you’ll find some more authentic places to eat down the narrow streets.
How to Visit Pisa
Pisa’s popularity means it’s really easy to visit from all over the world. It has an international airport with flights running to major destinations around Europe and internationally! Because of this, Pisa is known as the gateway into the Tuscany region, and it’s a great place to base yourself to visit other places in the area.
Getting around Pisa
Pisa, although one of the most important cities in Tuscany, is also one of the smallest. Because of this, it’s super easy to see everything the city has to offer on foot. This is also an excellent slow way to take in all your surroundings and find secret spots that you might not have if you were on the bus or metro.
If you want to explore a bit further outside of Pisa, do as the locals do and rent a Vespa or bicycle! There’s nothing better than seeing the beauty of Tuscany with the wind in your hair.
Where to Stay in Pisa
There are lots of great neighborhoods to stay in Pisa. However, if it’s your first time visiting and you want to be close to all the sights, we recommend staying in the central area of Santa Maria. We stayed right next to the leaning tower, see the hotel here (See image below). For a slightly cheaper alternative, choose to stay in the neighborhood of San Giusto, which is near the train station. There are lots of great local cafes and restaurants here too!
Best Time to Visit Pisa
For most people, the main draw of visiting Pisa is the Leaning Tower of Pisa itself. This, and all the other unique historical attractions, means there are often many tourists and long queues. Because of this, it’s best to visit in the springtime, when you’ll still get pleasant temperatures but queues will be smaller, and the city will, in general, be much quieter. It also means lower prices!