If you're looking for a charming Italian city with a rich cultural heritage and some of the best food in the world, Bologna should be at the top of your list. Located in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy, just a stone's throw from the Kentucky border, Bologna is a city with a vibrant history, beautiful architecture, and a lively arts scene. In this article, we'll take you on a tour of the 17 best things to do in Bologna, Italy, and show you why this city is a must-visit destination for any traveler.
Table of Contents
- Visit the Piazza Maggiore
- Explore the Two Towers of Bologna
- Visit the San Petronio Basilica
- Walk Along the Porticoes of Bologna
- Visit the Archiginnasio of Bologna
- Discover the Hidden Canals of Bologna
- Visit the Museo Civico Archeologico
- Go to the Bologna National Art Gallery
- Explore the Museum of Modern Art of Bologna
- Visit the Santo Stefano Basilica
- Discover the Bologna Botanical Gardens
- Try the Traditional Bolognese Cuisine
- Visit the Quadrilatero Market
- Take a Cooking Class in Bologna
- Go on a Day Trip to Ravenna
- Conclusion and FAQs
Bologna, known as the “Red City” due to its terracotta rooftops and buildings, is a hidden gem in Italy. It has a rich history, dating back to the Etruscan times. The city is home to some of the oldest universities in the world and is a hub for art, architecture, and food. Here are the 17 best things to do in Bologna, Italy.
Piazza Maggiore: The Heart of Bologna
No visit to Bologna would be complete without a stop at Piazza Maggiore, the main square and social hub of the city. Here you can soak up the atmosphere of Bologna while admiring the stunning architecture, including the iconic Basilica di San Petronio, the Fountain of Neptune, and the Palazzo d'Accursio. There are also plenty of cafes, restaurants, and bars in the area, making it the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat or a drink.
The Two Towers of Bologna: Torre degli Asinelli and Torre Garisenda
Bologna is known for its many towers, but the Torre degli Asinelli and Torre Garisenda are the most famous. The Torre degli Asinelli is the tallest of the two and offers panoramic views of the city from the top. The Torre Garisenda is shorter and leans to one side, making it a popular photo spot.
Basilica di San Petronio: The Largest Church in Bologna
The Basilica di San Petronio is the largest church in Bologna and one of the most impressive examples of Gothic architecture in Italy. The interior is decorated with beautiful frescoes and artwork, and there's even a sundial on the floor that was used to measure the equinoxes and solstices.
Archiginnasio of Bologna: The Oldest University in Europe
The Archiginnasio of Bologna is the oldest university in Europe and was once the center of learning in Italy. Today, it houses a library, a museum, and a stunning anatomical theater where medical students used to study.
4. Visit the San Petronio Basilica
The San Petronio Basilica is one of the largest churches in Europe and is located in Piazza Maggiore. It is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture and took over 200 years to complete. The interior of the church is stunning, with intricate frescoes, sculptures, and stained glass windows. Visitors can also take a guided tour of the church to learn more about its history.
5. Walk Along the Porticoes of Bologna
The Porticoes of Bologna are a unique feature of the city's architecture. There are over 38 kilometers of porticoes, which are covered walkways that line the streets of Bologna. They were built in the Middle Ages to provide shelter from the rain and sun and are now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Walking along the porticoes is a must-do activity in Bologna, and visitors can admire the architecture and enjoy the city's atmosphere.
6. Visit the Archiginnasio of Bologna
The Archiginnasio of Bologna is a historic building that was once the main building of the University of Bologna. It is now home to the Anatomical Theatre, which is a fascinating and eerie room where medical students used to dissect bodies. The Archiginnasio also has a beautiful library, with over 200,000 volumes, and stunningly decorated halls.
7. Discover the Hidden Canals of Bologna
Bologna has a network of hidden canals that run underneath the city. Visitors can take a guided tour of the canals, which provides a unique perspective of the city's history and architecture. The tour also includes a visit to the former market of Bologna, which is now submerged underwater.
8. Visit the Museo Civico Archeologico
The Museo Civico Archeologico is a museum that houses a collection of Etruscan, Greek, and Roman artifacts. The museum is located in a beautiful medieval building and provides an insight into the ancient history of Bologna and the surrounding regions.
9. Go to the Bologna National Art Gallery
The Bologna National Art Gallery is one of the most important art museums in Italy, with a collection of over 3,000 works of art. The museum houses works from Italian Renaissance painters such as Raphael, Titian, and Caravaggio, as well as works by European artists such as El Greco, Van Dyck, and Rubens.
10. Explore the Museum of Modern Art of Bologna
The Museum of Modern Art of Bologna, also known as MAMbo, is a contemporary art museum that features works by Italian and international artists. The museum is located in a former industrial building and hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
11. Visit the Santo Stefano Basilica
The Santo Stefano Basilica is a complex of seven churches that were built over the course of several centuries. The churches are connected by courtyards and tunnels, and each one has a unique history and architecture. The complex is located in the heart of Bologna and is a must-visit for anyone interested in architecture and history.
12. Discover the Bologna Botanical Gardens
The Bologna Botanical Gardens is a beautiful oasis in the heart of the city. It is the oldest botanical garden in Europe and is home to over 5,000 species of plants. The garden is a great place to relax, stroll around, and learn about the different types of plants.
13. Try the Traditional Bolognese Cuisine
Bologna is known for its delicious cuisine, and visitors must try some of the local dishes. Some of the must-try dishes include tagliatelle al ragù, tortellini in brodo, and mortadella. Visitors can also take a food tour of the city, which includes a visit to the Quadrilatero Market and tasting different local specialties.
14. Visit the Quadrilatero Market
The Quadrilatero Market is a vibrant and bustling market that sells fresh produce, meat, cheese, and local specialties. It is a great place to explore, try some of the local delicacies, and experience the local culture.
15. Take a Cooking Class in Bologna
Bologna is a great place to learn how to cook traditional Italian dishes. Visitors can take a cooking class with a local chef, learn how to make fresh pasta, and enjoy a meal with local wine.
16. Go on a Day Trip to Ravenna
Ravenna is a historic city located less than an hour from Bologna. It is famous for its stunning mosaics, which are considered some of the finest in the world. Visitors can take a day trip to Ravenna and explore the city's beautiful churches and monuments, including the Basilica di San Vitale and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.
17. Attend the Bologna Children's Book Fair
The Bologna Children's Book Fair is an annual event that takes place in Bologna in March. The fair is one of the largest international events dedicated to children's books and is a great opportunity to discover new books and meet authors and illustrators from around the world.
Bologna is a beautiful and historic city that offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors. From exploring the city's rich history and architecture to trying the local cuisine and attending cultural events, there is something for everyone in Bologna. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, make sure to add these 17 best things to do in Bologna, Italy to your itinerary.
- What is the best time of year to visit Bologna? The best time to visit Bologna is in the spring (March to May) or fall (September to November), when the weather is mild and the crowds are smaller.
- How long should I spend in Bologna? A minimum of two days is recommended to explore the city and its main attractions, but visitors can easily spend up to a week in Bologna.
- Is Bologna a safe city for tourists? Yes, Bologna is generally considered a safe city for tourists. However, visitors should still take the usual precautions and be aware of their surroundings.
- Can I visit Bologna on a budget? Yes, Bologna can be visited on a budget, with plenty of affordable accommodation, food, and activities available.
- What is the best way to get around Bologna? Bologna is a walkable city, and most of the main attractions are located within walking distance of each other. However, visitors can also use public transportation, including buses and trains, to get around the city.