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25 Best Things To Do in Bologna, Italy (2023 Update)

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Are you looking for the best things to do in Bologna, Italy? Look no further!

Bologna is one of the most underrated destinations in Italy and it also happens to be one of our favorite cities to visit in all of Europe. In total, we’ve spent over 2 months in Bologna, so we know a thing or two about what you should do here.

Piazza Maggiore in Bologna, Italy

Located in Emilia Romagna, just 40 minutes north of Florence by train, Bologna is the region’s capital and is still an under-the-radar destination in Europe.

It’s a vibrant city filled with local shops, incredible restaurants, and medieval architecture. Bologna feels like an authentic Italian city without having been overrun by tourists.

Known as the “food capital of Italy”, Bologna is home to some of the best Italian cuisine and restaurants in the world. Ever heard of mortadella? Prosciutto? Parmesan cheese? Balsamic vinegar? All of these foods hail from the Emilia Romagna region, and Bologna is one of the best places to taste test them all.

We haven’t even mentioned pasta yet, but don’t worry, we’ve included all that you should eat in the food section below. Make sure to come to Bologna with an empty stomach because no one leaves this city hungry!

If you’re looking to discover more of Bologna’s history, you can visit the university, which is one of the oldest in the world. Additionally, you can wander your way through the city’s UNESCO World Heritage site – the porticoes.

Ready to explore the 25 most amazing things to do in Bologna? Let’s do it! After you’ve read all about the best things to eat, see, and do here, make sure to scroll to the bottom for our Bologna travel guide, where we share all you need to know for your visit to this delicious Italian city.

Your Map of Bologna

From the best places to eat in Bologna, to the Asinelli Tower and the city’s other main attractions, this map will help guide you through the best things to do in Bologna.

If you prefer, you can book a Bologna walking tour to visit the essential sights with a guide, but if not, this map serves as a great way to discover all of the must-see Bologna sights.

25 Best Things to do in Bologna Italy

1. University of Bologna

Visiting the University of Bologna is one of the top things to do in Bologna, Italy. Founded in 1088, it is considered the oldest university in the Western world and has remained a significant part of Italian history for centuries.

The old university is located in the Archiginnasio Palace, just off of the main square in Bologna. The palace was built in 1563 with a goal to centralize all of the different schools (medicine, math, physics, etc.) in one building instead of having them located all around the city.

Devastatingly, the palace was bombed in 1944 during WWII and had to be reconstructed after the war.

The most important room in the palace is the 17th century Anatomical Theater built by Antonio Levanti. This room is where anatomy lectures were once held. You’ll notice a marble table in the center of the room that is a replica of the dissection table that was used during classes.

Additionally, the theater features two famous statues called the “Skinned Men” that were sculpted by Ercole Lelli in the early 1700s.

After your visit to the Anatomical Theater, walk down the hallway to Stabat Mater Hall. This used to be a lecture hall for students studying law. One of the highlights is taking a peek through the doorway on the lefthand side of the room. Here you can see the Municipal Library where thousands of historic books are on display.

Unfortunately, the library is closed to the public, so this is the best view you’ll get of it.

Make sure to take your time to wander around the palace and admire the beautiful decorations and paintings that cover the walls. Most of which are coats of arms representing students who had attended the school between the 16th-18th centuries.

Buy your tickets online here, or you can purchase your ticket from the ticket booth on the second level of the palace.

Opening hours: Monday – Saturday from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Ticket prices: €3 per person


2. Wander Through the Porticos

Bologna is a city renowned for its culture, history and food. But one of the most unique features of this beautiful Italian city are the UNESCO World Heritage porticoes.

The porticoes were built starting in the 11th century and now span over 62 km throughout the city. From exploring their intricate designs to taking a stroll beneath them while admiring the views, wandering through Bologna’s porticoes is an absolute must-do activity.

Make sure to stop by and admire the porticoes of the Piazza Cavour. The ceilings are covered in well-preserved fresco paintings that are absolutely stunning!


3. Gelato Tasting

best gelato in Bologna

Bologna boasts more than 100 gelato shops, which is quite a feat for a relatively small city. You’re guaranteed to find good gelato in the city. In fact, we had the best gelato we have ever had in our life here.

As foodies, we have searched high and low throughout Italy for the best gelato, and Bologna’s gelateries always rank #1.

One of the best things to do in Bologna is to take yourself on a gelato tour to taste some of the best gelato in the city. Here are a few of our recommendations.

Cremeria Santo Stefano

This is consistently the top gelato shop in Bologna. We’ve been here more than ten times and it never disappoints. Why is it the best? The ingredients are fresh, the flavor is just right, and the texture is melt-in-your-mouth perfect.

It’s a bit of a walk to get here from the main square, but for the best gelato ever? It’s worth it.

The caffe bianco is our favorite flavor.

La Sorbetteria Castiglione

 You can’t go wrong with the gelato from La Sorbetteria.

Try the Crema Michelangelo, made with caramelized almonds, amaretti, and cacao. If you prefer classic nut flavors, they do pistachio and almond gelato very well.

Cremeria Cavour

This gelato shop is centrally located and has a lot of amazing flavors to choose from. The unique flavor combinations make this gelato shop a stand out in our books.

We recommend trying the 50 Special and the Cioccolate e Rhum. Make sure to get your gelato with the chocolate cone – it is heavenly!

Cremeria San Francesco

This is a small gelato shop that specializes in flavors made with seasonal and natural ingredients. They also serve quite a few creamy vegan flavors as well.

During the fall, you can try their pumpkin gelato, or alternatively, the apricot, ricotta, and chocolate during the late summer. All of their gelatos are fresh and have fantastic flavor.

For our full list of the must-try gelato in Bologna, check out our post on the 8 best gelato shops.


4. Taste the local specialties

Tagliatelli al Ragu Bologna food

The food was our main lure to Bologna and it did not disappoint. If you only have a couple of days in Bologna, the one thing you need to do is eat, eat, and eat some more!

The Emilia-Romagna region is known for producing some of the most famous Italian products in the world. Parma ham, parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, and mortadella are just a few. You can even take day trips to Modena and Parma to see how these products are made and stored!

So what foods should you try while you’re in Bologna? Here are just a few of the many fabulous dishes.

Tagliatelle al ragu

First and foremost, you have to try a ragu dish. The most famous and popular dish in Bologna is ragu served with homemade tagliatelle, and egg based pasta. It’s heavy, rich, acidic, and perfectly balanced.

You may be wondering if this is the same dish as “pasta bolognese”. Technically, it is. However, we suggest that you never ask for this in Bologna because, well, that’s not what it’s called in Italy.

Try the tagliatelle al ragu from Altro?


This small hat-shaped pasta is often stuffed with a pork mixture. It’s best eaten as a soup with a meat-based broth and topped with some fresh parmesan.

If you’re visiting Bologna during the first week of October, then make sure to stop by the city’s Tortellini Festival in the Palazzo Re Enzo. Many restaurants from Bologna come together for a day to showcase their take on this classic pasta. It’s a fun way to taste many variations of this dish.

Try the tortellini in broth from Trattoria Bertozzi.


What’s the difference between tortellini and tortelloni? Tortelloni is simply bigger than tortellini. This pasta is usually stuffed with a ricotta and spinach mixture and served with sage and butter.

Additionally, during the fall, you’ll often find it stuffed with pumpkin, which is our personal favorite way to eat it.

Try the tortelloni from Sfolgia Rina – they make their pasta fresh everyday and often have a few flavors to choose from.

Lasagne Verde

You can’t leave Bologna without trying lasagne verde (green lasagne). It’s called green lasagne because the noodles are mixed with spinach to create a green-colored noodle.

The pasta is then layered with ragu and bechamel sauce, creating the perfect combination of rich and creamy flavors.

Try the lasagne verde from Golosita della Nonna – their take on this Italian classic is one of the best in the city.

Check out our complete Bologna food guide for 27 traditional must-try foods.


5. Eat at the best restaurants in Bologna

Wondering where to eat in Bologna? We’ve tried and tested many of the city’s most popular and delicious restaurants. Here are a few of our favorites.

You’ll find local cuisine at all of these restaurants and you can’t go wrong at any of them. Make sure to reserve your table in advance – spots fill up quickly most days of the week!

If you don’t have time to make a reservation, you can always arrive right when the restaurant opens and you may be able to get a table (for 2 people). We’ve had decent success doing this in the past.


6. Mercato delle Erbe

The Mercato delle Erbe is a food lover’s haven. From meats and cheese to fresh pasta and locally sourced produce, you will find everything here to shop like a local and cook your own Italian feast.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try horse meat from Macelleria Equina on the far end of the market. We’ve tried it and it’s not our favorite for various reasons, but it is a regional specialty that can try if you’d like to.

Adjacent to the market are two food halls on either end. Here you’ll find many food stalls that are perfect for a quick bite to eat or drink. If you’re in the mood for pizza, grab a slice (or two!) from Mozzabella – our favorite pizza by the slice in the city.


7. Climb the Asinelli Tower

As you’re walking around the center of Bologna, you’ll notice two tall towers that rise above the rest of the city. These towers are known as Le Due Torri (the two towers).

The Asinelli tower was built between 1109 and 1119 and was once 1 out of 180 towers built during the Middle Ages. The tower stands at 97.2 meters tall and is 498 steps to the top.

If you’re looking for the best panoramic views of Bologna, then you’re going to have to make the climb all the way of to the top! Trust us, the views are incredible and it’s not to be missed!

The best time to visit is in the evening when the lighting is best for photos.

Opening hours: 10:00am – 5:15pm (fall and winter hours vary)

Ticket price: €5 per person

Book your tickets in advance to reserve a time slot.


8. Piazza Maggiore

Piazza Maggiore is not just any ordinary square; it is the soul and heart of Bologna. Built in the 1200s, this piazza is surrounded by beautiful architecture dating back many centuries.

The square boasts the iconic Basilica di San Petronio, the city’s largest church and Palazzo del Podestà, which once housed the city’s ancient government.

Other notable sights in the square include the Torre dell’Orlogio (the clock tower), and the medieval fountain of Neptune.

Surrounding the piazza are many cafes, restaurants, and shops selling local delicacies and souvenirs. If you’re into people watching, take a seat on one of the steps near the basilica and settle in for an hour or so.


9. San Petronio Basilica

The San Petronio Basilica is located in the Piazza Maggiore. The construction on the basilica began in 1390, but it was never finished – even to this day.

The interior of the church is quite simple overall. Inside, you will find a few chapels with beautiful frescos that can be visited for a small fee.

The most unique part of this basilica is the 17th century Meridian line designed by Cassini that runs across the church. Everyday at noon, the sun falls directly on the line in a different place indicating the altitude and exact placement of the sun throughout the year.

If you would like to learn more about the Meridian line, as well as the history of the church, then you can sign up for a private walking tour of the San Petronio Basilica and old university.

Access to the church is free.


10. Seven Churches of Santo Stefano

From the outside, the Seven Churches of Santo Stefano looks just like any other church. However, once you walk inside, you will realize that this is not the case.

The Seven Churches of Santo Stefano is a historical religious complex dating back to 5th century that features several churches that were built during different time periods.

The Church of The Holy Sepulcher, a 5th century church, is the oldest of the seven churches. It features a replica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, Israel.

As you make your way through the other churches, you’ll notice remnants of frescoes, graves, and historical artifacts that serve as a reminder of how old this complex actually is.

The Santo Stefano complex is free to visit and is open every day. Plan on spending at least 20 minutes here. For opening hours and more details, visit the official site.


11. Walk to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca

Built between the 17th and 18th centuries, the Portico di San Luca is the longest portico in the world spanning a total of 3.8km. The portico takes you all the way up the Colle della Guardia hill until you reach the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca.

The walk begins at the Porta Saragozza, just outside the historic center, and usually takes 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete. We recommend doing this in the morning to beat the rush and the afternoon heat during the summer.

The walk is mostly uphill with quite a few flights of stairs. If you prefer not to walk, you can opt to take the San Luca Express Train up the hill instead. You can catch the train at the Piazza Maggiore. They usually have a little booth where you can sign up and pay.

It takes around 20-30 minutes to get to the San Luca Basilica from the Piazza Maggiore on the train.

Book your San Luca Express train tickets in advance, or you can book your tickets in person. Round-trip tickets cost €12 for adults and €3 – €6 for children (depending on their age).

Once you make it to the top of the hill, you can visit inside of the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca and enjoy the views. If you want panoramic views of the city and of the hills, then you can pay €5 for the San Luca Sky Experience and climb to the top of the dome for fantastic views.

The basilica is free to visit.

For more information, check out our detailed guide on walking the Portico di San Luca.


12. Visit the Quadrilatero

The Quadrilatero is the oldest market in Bologna. Located just off of the Piazza Maggiore, the streets are lined with stalls selling fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, and local crafts. You’ll also find plenty of restaurants offering a nice setting for an aperitivo or a meal.

If you’re looking for a fantastic place to get a sampling of local meats and cheeses, then this is the place to do it.

We suggest stopping by Salumeria Simoni to try one of their charcuterie boards for a tasting of some local mortadella, prosciutto, and Parmesan cheese.The earlier you arrive the better – it gets pretty crowded in the afternoons and evenings.


13. San Pellegrino Park

If you are looking for an escape from the city, then San Pellegrino park is for you. The park is located right at the edge of the city and just below the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca.

We spent the afternoon wandering our way through the green hillside and enjoying the nice views of Bologna from the park. There are several walking trails that you can follow if you’re up for a bit of a hike, or you can simply take a leisurely stroll and enjoy being surrounded by nature.

To get to the park, you’ll follow Via di Casaglia up past Villa Spada until you arrive. It’s about a 3.5 km (2.2 miles) walk from Piazza Maggiore to the park, so make sure to take some water and snacks.


14. Find the Hidden Canals

Bologna has a network of “hidden” canals that were originally from the 12th century. While most of the canals run underground beneath the city, there are a few just outside of the city center that you can visit.

For the most iconic view, visit the Finestrella di Via Piella, which is a small window overlooking one of the main canals.

Social media has made this a popular tourist attraction, so you will most likely have to wait in line to get your perfect shot through the window. While this is neat to see, we think it’s a bit overrated and should not be a priority on your to-do list if you don’t have the time.

To avoid the line, go early in the morning.


15. Go on a Food Tour

One of the best ways to experience the regional cuisine in Bologna, Italy is by going on a food tour. On your food tour, you’ll get to sample the most popular local dishes and delicacies while also enjoying a unique cultural experience.

We’ve done a couple of foods tours in Bologna and it is one of our favorite things to do! Our guide took us through the city as we tasted local specialties and discovered some shops and foods that we would have never known about before going on the tour.

This Classic Bologna Food tour is our favorite food tour in Bologna (we’ve done it twice!), and it’s a great way to spend a half-day getting to know the city through food.


16. Visit the Clock Tower and Palazzo d’Accursio

One of the most iconic sights in the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna is the Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower.) Standing at a height of over 60 meters, this impressive structure was built in 1334 and has been a symbol of time passing throughout its long life.

From the top of the tower, you can get stunning panoramic views across Bologna’s red-tiled rooftops and the Piazza Maggiore – it’s an experience not to be missed!

The clock tower is located at the Palazzo d’Accursio, which has been home to the local government since the 14th century. Along with your ticket purchase to the clock tower, you also get access to the Municipal Art Collections located inside of the Palazzo d’Accursio.

The interior features several rooms and halls that are elaborately decorated with beautiful hand-painted ceilings and walls. As an interior enthusiast, this was one of my favorite sights to visit in all of Bologna.

Even if you don’t have a lot of time, a visit to the art collections is worth a brief visit.

Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 10:00am to 5:00pm

Ticket prices: €8 per adult for both the clock tower and art collections

Get your tickets on the official site.


17. Explore the city’s museums

Bologna is home to some fantastic museums. From a modern art museum to a history museum, here are some of the city’s best museums.

Museo Civico Archeologico (Archaeological Museum)

Bologna’s Archaeological Museum has been around since 1881 and is housed in a 15th century palace located near the Piazza Maggiore.

The museum is home to an impressive collection of ancient artifacts, including Egyptian objects and ancient Roman and Greek art.

Opening hours: Everyday (except Tuesday) from 10am – 7pm

Ticket prices: €6 per adult

Book your tickets on the official site.

Compared to other Italian cities that are known for their iconic museums and galleries, most people don’t necessarily visit Bologna for its art. However, the Pinacoteca Nazionale is home to some fantastic Italian artworks dating between the 13th to 18th centuries.

Located in the University District, the Pinacoteca Nazionale is one of the best art museums in the city. Inside, you’ll discover famous Renaissance and Baroque artworks, as well as many temporary exhibitions that are held throughout the year.

Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 9am – 7pm (Wednesdays from 9am – 2pm)

Ticket prices: €8 for adults | €2 for kids | Free with Bologna Welcome Card

Book your tickets on the official site.

MAMbo (Modern Art Museum of Bologna)

Bologna’s Modern Art Museum opened in 2007 and is housed in a former bakery. It features modernist art from the mid-20th century to the present day.

The highlight of the museum is its collection of still life paintings by world-renowned artist and Bologna native Giorgio Morandi. In addition to his paintings, the museum also hosts annual exhibitions and has a collection of permanent artworks.

Opening hours: Tuesday and Wednesday 2 pm – 7 pm | Thursday 2 pm – 8 pm | Friday, Saturday, Sunday and festivities 10 am – 7 pm | Closed Mondays

Ticket prices: €6 per adult

Book your tickets on the official site.

Museo della Storia di Bologna (Bologna History Museum)

The Museo della Storia di Bologna is located in Palazzo Pepoli in the heart of the city. This museum is dedicated to telling the history of Bologna dating all the way back to the Etruscans.

The experience takes you on a virtual journey by using modern technology, such as projected videos and virtual reality to get a unique view into the city’s past.

Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 10:00am to 7:00pm

Ticket prices: €12 per adult | Reduced tickets available

Book your tickets on the official website or in person.


18. Take a Foodie Day Trip

If you are a foodie like us, then you’re most likely visiting Bologna because of the food. One of our favorite ways to immerse ourselves into the food culture is by visiting producers and farms of where many products are made.

To get a closer look and gain a better understanding of local Emilia Romagna foods, we suggest taking a day trip to either Modena or Parma (or both!).

Modena and Parma are located within an hour by train and car of Bologna. Both offer fantastic food-focused day trip experiences where you can meet with local producers and try many famous Italian products that are freshly made.

parmesan factory in bologna

In Modena, we recommend doing this balsamic vinegar tour where you can learn about the process of making this traditional Italian staple and enjoy a sampling straight from the producer!

If you prefer a more traditional food tour where you get to sample a few of the regional specialties (including balsamic vinegar), then this Modena food tour is for you! We’ve done this tour a couple of times and absolutely loved it.

In Parma, we suggest taking this small group tour where you’ll spend a half-day visiting a Parmigiano Reggiano cheese factory and a Parma ham producer. You’ll get to experience first-hand how one of the most famous cheeses in the world is made, as well as learn how one of the most delicious cured meats is produced.

For the ultimate Bologna food experience, we recommend this full-day food tour that includes a wine tasting, a visit to a Parmigiano Reggiano factory, an Acetaia, and to a Parma ham producer.

With so much to see and taste, Modena and Parma make for a perfect day trip destination!


19. Join a cooking class

If you’re looking for a unique and exciting way to explore the culinary culture of Bologna, Italy, then taking a cooking class is an absolute must. Not only will you learn about traditional Italian dishes and their history, but you’ll also get hands-on experience in the kitchen and brush up on your pasta-making skills.

You’ll learn basic techniques such as kneading dough and rolling out pasta to learning how to make classic pasta sauces and stuffings.

We recommend this highly-rated pasta cooking class where you’ll learn how to make traditional Emilia Romagna dishes.


20. Visit a nearby winery

Emilia Romagna is known for its sparkling wines – Lambrusco and Pignoletto being the two main varietals.

Lambrusco is a red sparkling wine with a light flavor and low alcohol content that pairs well with many of the heavier, meat centric meals in the region. Pignoletto is a white sparkling wine with a touch of acidity and fruitiness that pairs well with many pasta dishes and salads.

With many wineries located within an hour or so of Bologna, why not take a day trip to a winery for a tasting?

We recommend visiting the vineyard Opera 02 for an afternoon tasting of their organic wines.

Here you can sample local wines, learn about the wine-making process, and enjoy stunning views of rolling hillsides and picturesque villages.

Whether you’re a connoisseur or simply enjoy sipping on delicious wines, going wine tasting near Bologna is a fantastic activity.


21. Learn how to make gelato the old fashioned way

Visiting Carpigiani Gelato University is a treat for any gelato lover. The university is located just outside of the city center and is considered the premier institution for learning the art of gelato making. Founded in 2003, the university has trained thousands of professionals and hobbyists in the art of gelato, sorbet, and pastry production.

If you want to learn the art of gelato-making yourself, you can sign up for week-long or month-long courses. Or if you are just curious about the history of gelato and want to learn how to make gelato the old fashioned way, then you can sign up for a one-day gelato-making class.

During the class, you’ll be guided through the museum as you learn about the origins of gelato and modern techniques used to make gelato. After the tour, you’ll make your own gelato using ancient and modern techniques.

While the day-course isn’t super intensive, it is a fun way to gain a better appreciation for this Italian treat and learn some skills to make your own gelato at home.

Book your masterclass experience at the Carpigiani Gelato Museum here. The price is €50 per person for a 2.5 hour experience.


22. Have a picnic in the Giardini Margherita

Located in the heart of Bologna, the Giardini Margherita is a beautiful public park that boasts 26 hectares of greenery and a historic lake.

Today, the Giardini Margherita is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, offering a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. Visitors can stroll through the park’s winding paths, admire the colorful flowers and lush foliage, and relax on the grassy lawns.

If you’re looking for a nice respite from the city, shop for some picnic supplies in the city and spend an afternoon relaxing in the park.

Additionally, you can stop by Le Serre dei Giardini for a drink outside or for a bite to eat in their greenhouse or in the gardens. The restaurant serves fresh food and light drinks that are lovely on a nice afternoon.


23. Visit the Certosa Cemetary

The Certosa Cemetary in Bologna is a truly unique and fascinating experience. Located just outside the city center, this open-air museum gives visitors an opportunity to explore its ancient tombs and monuments dating back centuries.

It’s also home to some of Italy’s most renowned figures from the past, including artists, musicians, writers, politicians and more.

Not only is this one of Europe’s oldest cemeteries, but it’s also one of the most beautiful cemeteries we’ve ever visited.

We spent a couple of hours wandering around and admiring the unique architecture. You can walk to the cemetery from the city center, it takes about 45 minutes to get there from Piazza Maggiore. You can also opt to take a local bus, in which case takes about 20-25 minutes depending on traffic.

The cemetery is free to visit.


24. Take a day trip to one of the many nearby cities

Due to its central location in the region, Bologna is a fantastic city to settle into for a few days and take some day trips to nearby cities.

We’ve already mentioned Modena and Parma as must-see cities during your time in Bologna, but there are plenty more to visit.

Here are a few other day trips from Bologna we recommend:

Ravenna – The city of Byzantine Mosaics is just an hour and a half away by train from Bologna. You can visit all of the churches in one day, plus sample a delicious piadina sandwich. A local flat bread sandwich stuffed with cheese an meats.

Ferrara – Only 30 minutes from Bologna train, Ferrara is a wonderful Medieval city that can be seen in a half-day. Spend your time wandering the streets, visiting the Este Castle, and the Diamanti palace.

Dozza – A town known for its wonderul art murals that adorn the walls of the city, this can be combined with another day trip from Bologna if you are renting a car.

Ferrari Museum – Located just outside of Modena is the Ferrari museum. Car lovers flock from all over the world to visit the museum and factory where these idolized cars are made. You can either take a group day trip from Bologna or rent a car and visit yourself.

Rimini – If you’re wanting a bit of a beach getaway, then head to Rimini for a day on the Adriatic Sea. Rimini is known for its golden sandy beaches and ancient history. It combines the best of both worlds and makes for a great day trip from Bologna.

For a complete list of cities to visit, check out our article on the 23 best day trips from Bologna.


25. Join the Passeggiata on Sunday

Piazza Maggiore in Bologna

Every Sunday, the streets of Bologna come to life before dinner (4pm – 7pm) with locals and visitors coming together to take part in La Passeggiata.

This is a tradition that dates back centuries, and it’s an opportunity for people to stroll through the city’s charming streets and plazas, chatting with friends, making new acquaintances, and stopping by the local cafes.

La Passeggiata has become a beloved pastime in Italy, and it’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon if you want to experience some of the city’s vibrant culture. Sunday afternoons are bustling with people walking and talking, so join in on the fun and take part in this weekly Italian tradition.

Don’t have time to see it all?

If you don’t have time to see everything on this list but still want to experience the best of Bologna, then this section is for you.

Here are the 10 can’t miss things to do in Bologna if you only have a day or two in the city.

  1. Visit the old University of Bologna and the Archignassio
  2. Walk to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca along the longest portico in the world
  3. Eat your way through the Quadrilatero market
  4. Go on a food tour
  5. Climb to the top of the Asinelli Tower
  6. Wander around the Piazza Maggiore
  7. Visit the Santo Stefano Complex
  8. Eat your way through the city (gelato included!)
  9. Take a day trip to Modena and Parma to visit the food producers
  10. San Petronio Basilica

How many days do you need in Bologna?

We recommend spending a minimum of 3 days in Bologna. You need at least two days to explore the city and then a third day to take a day trip in the region.

If you are wanting to see more of the region, then we suggest making Bologna your home base. Its central location makes it easy to visit nearby cities within an hour or two like Florence or Ravenna.

How do you get to Bologna?

You can get to Bologna by car, train, or plane. Bologna has a both a train station and an international airport.

Getting to Bologna by plane

The Bologna international airport is called Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport (BLQ). If you are flying from Europe, then you should be able to find a flight directly to Bologna. For those flying from international destinations (outside of Europe), you will have to fly into Milan or Rome and then take a train to Bologna.

To get from the Bologna airport to the city center, take the Marconi Express monorail to the Bologna train station. The train runs every 7 minutes throughout the day and costs €11 each way or €20 round trip. You can review the timetable and book your tickets here.

The monorail drops you off at the train station. From here, it’s a 15-20 minute walk to the center of the city.

Alternatively, you can take a taxi from the airport to your accommodation. It takes around 15-20 minutes and is pretty reasonably priced.

Getting to Bologna by Train

The Bologna train station connects you to the rest of Italy, and it’s pretty quick to get to and from other major cities like Milan, Florence, and Rome.

If you are arriving by train, then you can either walk to your accommodation or arrange a taxi from the station. It takes 15-20 minutes to walk to the center from the train station.

Renting a car in Bologna

Planning to rent a car during your trip to Bologna? We’ve rented a car here several times and have a few tips to make it an easy experience for you.

First things first, if you are only staying in Bologna and do not have any day trips planned, you do NOT need to rent a car. In fact, we would highly advise against it. Parking is limited and expensive and it’s not worth risking getting a ticket by driving in the city’s restricted zones.

We do recommend renting a car for the day if you plan to take a day trip that’s only accessibly by car. For example, if you want to go to San Marino or to the Ferrari factory, then renting a car for the day is a fantastic option.

We like to use Discover Cars for our car rentals in Italy. We usually rent a car near the Bologna train station and arrive early in the morning to pick it up and then drop it off that same evening. It’s convenient, quick, and easy.

Is Bologna worth visiting?

Yes, Bologna is definitely worth visiting! With it’s fantastic food scene, historic architecture, authentic culture, and convenient location for day trips, you are sure to have an incredible time in Bologna.

We fell in love with Bologna the first time we visited and have since been back three times. The amazing food and wonderful people keep us coming back!

The Bologna Welcome Card

The Bologna Welcome Card is a tourist card that provides access to many of the city’s most popular attractions at a reasonable price.

There are two types of cards that you can purchase:

  • The BW Card EASY – €25/person
    This card includes access to over 10 of Bologna’s museums plus the Asinelli tower and a guided walking tour of the city.)
  • The BW Card PLUS – €40/person
    This card includes everything on the BW Easy Card plus access to the City Red Bus tours and the San Luca Express train. It also gives you a discount on the Clock Tower tickets.

The card valid for 15 days from the activation date (or first day of use), so there’s no need to rush to see all of the sights within a couple of days.

Is the Bologna Welcome Card worth it? It totally depends on what you want to see in Bologna. If you plan to see a lot of museums, then you should definitely purchase a BW Card.

If you’re just planning to see a couple of the main sights, like the Asinelli Tower and the Basilica di San Luca, then we would not recommending purchasing a BW Card.

Bologna Travel Guide

1. Best time to visit Bologna?

Bologna’s temperatures are more mild than Northern Europe; however, the city still experiences pretty hot summers and cold winters.

The best time to visit Bologna is from late spring to early fall. Specifically, we suggest visiting during the months of May and October when the temperatures are nice and the city is not too crowded.

We prefer to visit Bologna during October. The countryside is absolutely stunning during this time when the hills are dotted with red and yellow leaves.

There are also many fantastic food options during the fall season in Bologna. We’re talking mushroom pastas galore and pumpkin stuffed tortelloni.

2. How do you get around Bologna?

The best way to get around Bologna is to walk! Most of the main sights are in the historic city center and can be reached within a 15 to 20 minute walk no matter where you are in the city.

If you’re planning to visit somewhere outside of the center, then the bus is your best option. You can purchase single-use bus tickets at any tobacco shop in the city. The cost is €1.50 per ride.

We use the Google Maps bus option to help us get around Bologna by bus.

3. Do you need cash in Bologna?

In our experience, almost all restaurants and shops take card in Bologna. However, we always recommend having some cash on hand, since some places might have minimum card spend requirements (gelato shops) and you may need cash in this instance.

There are plenty of ATMs around the city, so you can easily take out cash if needed. We always travel with our favorite Charles Schwab debit card that reimburses us for all ATM fees while we’re abroad.

4. Do people speak English in Bologna?

Most of the people working at restaurants, shops, or the touristy sights know some English in Bologna. You shouldn’t have any issues getting around if you don’t speak any Italian.

As a common courtesy, we always recommend learning a few essential words before traveling to Italy like hello (buongiorno), thank you (grazie), and goodbye (ciao or arrivederci).

5. Where to stay in Bologna?

The best neighborhood to stay in Bologna is the Centro Storico. This is the historical center of the city and most restaurants and attractions are within walking distance from here. It’s also the most charming part of the city.

6. Best hotels in Bologna

You’ll find many fantastic options for places to stay in Bologna. One thing to note is that there are limited hotels in the center, which means prices can get quite expensive during peak season (June, July, August).

Make sure to book well in advance (at least 2 months) to get the best rates and to have the best available options. Here are a few Bologna hotels that we recommend for your stay:

More Information for your Trip to Bologna

Bologna has some of the most delicious gelato in all of Italy. Check out our guide to the best gelato shops in Bologna

Looking to do a day trip from Bologna? There are so many incredible day trips from Bologna, including a food tour in Modena and a visit to the Ferrari factory in Maranello. Take a look at our article about the 23 best day trips from Bologna.

Wanting to try some unique foods from Emilia-Romagna? Check out our article on the most underrated foods in Emilia Romagna

Wondering how to get from the Bologna airport to the train station? We have an entire guide to help you get to the city from the airport.


Italy Travel Insurance – Should you get travel insurance for Italy? YES! We always get travel insurance before all of our trips for peace of mind. Check out Travel Insurance Master to find the best plan for you.

Italy Rental Cars – Is it safe to rent a car in Italy? Yes! We’ve rented a car in Italy too many times to count, and it’s definitely the most convenient way to get around the countryside. We rented our car through Discover Cars (our go-to rental agency), which helps you find the best rates no matter where you are traveling.

Italy Phone Plans – If your phone plan does not offer free coverage in Italy, then we suggest getting an eSIM. We used Airalo during our trip to Italy, and we had fantastic coverage the entire time. It’s easy to download and you can even top up via the app if needed.

Italy Hotels – Wondering where to book your accommodations for Italy? We’ve been reserving all of our hotels through Booking for years. Their messaging tool makes it easy to communicate with the hotels, and there are endless options to choose from.

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    1. Hi Renee! Thanks for your comment. I’m happy to hear that you found this post useful!

      Your trip sounds amazing! Happy to help if you have any other questions. – Jenoa

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