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17 Absolute Best Things to do in Padua, Italy (2024)

Prato Della Valle, best things to do in Padua
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Padua, known as Padova in Italian, is one of the oldest cities in Italy and is home to beautiful historic buildings and important religious art. Today, Padua is most well known for its stunning 14th century Scrovegni Chapel, coated in frescoes by Giotto.

While the city is small, it is at its heart a university town so it is lively, young, and fun. We recently visited Padua and thoroughly enjoyed discovering this underrated city.

Whether you’re visiting on a day trip from Venice or have more time to spend here, Padua is well worth a visit. In this guide, we are sharing the top things to do in Padua, including important travel tips to help you plan the perfect trip!

17 Things to do in Padua

1. Visit the Scrovegni Chapel (Cappella degli Scrovegni)

The interior of this beautiful 14th century chapel is covered fully in frescoes by Giotto. These images, which extend across the ceiling, depict stories of the Virgin Mary and Christ. The frescoes are considered a Proto-Renaissance masterpiece.

Originally owned privately as part of the Scrovegni family’s palace, the chapel was bought by the city and restored throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

Frescoes by Giotti Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy

In 2021 the chapel became a part of Padua’s UNESCO World Heritage Site which encompasses the frescoes all across the city. The chapel is also sometimes known by an alternative name: The Arena Chapel. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: You must book your ticket in advance online at the official website. Time slots book out well in advance, so make sure to reserve ahead of time. Generally, tickets open in blocks of about six months. 

2. Discover the Basilica of Saint Anthony

Basilica of Saint Anthony

The Basilica of Saint Anthony is one of the highlights of Padua’s historic center. It consists of two parts: a cathedral and a minor basilica.

Saint Anthony is the patron saint of Padua but even so, this is not the main cathedral of the city. That title belongs to Basilica Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, otherwise known as the Padua Cathedral.

But back to the Basilica of Saint Anthony, the church is in the shape of a latin cross. Its construction incorporates elements of Romanesque, Gothic, Byzantine, as well as Islamic architectural styles.

There are stunning vaulted ceilings covered in rich colored frescoes. At the high alter in the center of the cathedral you’ll see 29 bronze sculptures by the Italian sculptor Donatello. 

Saint Anthony is the patron saint of “lost people and things,” so many make a pilgrimage here to ask the saint to look over people who they have lost. That’s why you’ll see images of people posted all around the cathedral. 

Keep in mind that the church sees millions of visitors annually, so it is always busy. The basilica is free to enter. 

Book this half-day Private Walking Tour of Padua with a local guide to learn more about the history of the city and its famous sites.

3. Stroll Through Prato della Valle

Prato della Valle is a huge oval-shaped public square and is the largest piazza in Italy. It is in the top 50 largest city squares in the world and in the top ten largest city squares in Europe. 

This is the perfect place to go for a stroll on a sunny day. From the square you can see two churches — the Santa Giustina abbey as well as the Basilica of St. Anthony. 

In the center of the square is a small island. Around the island is a canal, and around that canal are rows of statues. 

This land has seen a lot over the centuries. From theater to jousting to early iterations of opera. Now, there are festivals and regular markets here. And it is of course just a wonderful spot to enjoy a quiet pace.

4. Explore the Historic University of Padua

Padua University was founded in the 13th century when a group of students left the University of Bologna in search of more academic freedom and it is still in operation today. It is the second oldest university in Italy, behind Bologna.

One of the coolest facts about this university is that the first ever woman to earn an academic degree graduated from the university of Padua in 1678. Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia graduated with a Doctorate in Philosophy. 

The best way to see the campus today, which includes a visit to Padua’s Palazzo Bo anatomical theater, is on a guided tour. There are tours which are run directly by the university, and you can purchase tickets online here.

The anatomical theater is a must see and was built for anatomy classes. The building itself is beautiful, but the history is even more fascinating and important. 

5. Enjoy the Padua Market

Six days per week, for 800 years, this market has been operating in the Piazza delle Erbe in Padua. There are lines of sellers with fresh produce, spices, olive oil, cheeses, meats, and more. Plus there is clothing, fabric, bags, and other items for sale. 

Note that not all stalls are open every day — so make sure to check their specific opening hours.

6. Visit the Botanical Garden

Photo Credit: Evghenia Tiba from Getty Images

Built in the 16th century, Padua’s Botanical Garden is one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens.

The gardens started with a circular design which was meant to be demonstrative of the world. This original garden was enclosed in a wall to prevent thefts — which still occurred regularly. That circular design and wall have been retained to this day.

Now the gardens have expanded and there are a total of some 3,500 different species of plants here, the oldest of which is a Mediterranean dwarf palm which has been growing here since 1585. 

In addition to the historic gardens you can also visit the Biodiversity Garden which brings you on a journey through global climate zones. And there is also the botanical museum where you can learn more about the history of the gardens and all of the research the plants supported. 

The gardens are another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Padua.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION:  The gardens have various opening hours throughout the year. Make sure to check up-to-date hours on the official website. Full price tickets cost €10 per person.

7. Check out Padua’s astronomical clock

Astronomical Clock in Padua, Italy

Padua’s beautiful astronomical clock is one of the oldest working clocks in the world. It was originally built at the end of the 14th century.

The clock is located in the Piazza dei Signori. The huge clock face shows a 24 hour dial, meaning it makes one rotation a day rather than the standard two. It also shows the day of the month, the phases of the moon and the sun, as well as the movement of the planets. 

Not long after the clock was originally built, it was destroyed. In the 14th century it was rebuilt with one noticeable difference — the Zodiac sign for Libra was missing. There are a lot of theories on why this might have happened. I recommend going on a tour to learn more about those theories as well as the likely truth. 

You can tour the inside of the clock tower. Guided tours are offered by a group of local volunteers who work to preserve the heritage of the clock. 

8. Explore the Padua Cathedral (Duomo di Padua)

The Padua Cathedral, or cathedral of ​​the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, is the seat of the bishop of Padua and therefore the main cathedral of the city.

While this spot has been the site of a cathedral since the 4th century, the current cathedral was only built in the 16th century (though not actually finished until much later). 

The facade of the church remains to this day very simple and, in theory, unfinished. But inside the cathedral is completely different. It is spacious and bright and ornate. 

As well as the cathedral, the baptistery of the cathedral and the Diocesan museum are at this same site. The baptistery is a more intricate building, and some would say it is the highlight of this complex.

The baptistry was designed in the Romanesque style in the 12th century. Inside it is heavily frescoed. And in the museum you can see even more works of art which have been preserved from throughout history. 

9. Explore the Padua Astronomical Observatory (La Specola Museum)

Padua Observatory
Photo credit: sedmak from Getty Images

Built in the late 18th century, there is a widespread rumor that it was from this tower that Galileo made his discoveries. This, however, could not have been true as Galileo died more than a century before the tower was built.

Over the years however, though not by Galileo, there were many, many astronomical discoveries and research done from here. 

Eventually, in the 20th century, the tower was turned into a museum. In the museum you can see all the instruments that astronomers used over the centuries. The tower is also part of a greater castle complex. 

Note that most of the explanations of the instruments you will see are in Italian — a good translation app on your phone can help you understand everything. Also be aware that the museum extends up into the towers and it is necessary to climb stairs to see it all. 

The museum can be visited on a 1-hour guided tour. To book and reserve visit the official website.

10. Visit Palazzo Zuckermann

Once a palace, the Palazzo Zuckermann has been transformed into two museums. The museums are the Museo di Arti Applicate e Decorative, or the Museum of Applied and Decorative Arts, and the Museo Bottacin. 

The museum of decorative arts contains more than 2,000 objects dating as far back as Medieval times — from glassware to ceramics, jewelry, and furniture. The museum also has quite an extensive coin collection. 

The Museo Bottacin is a donated private collection which contains paintings and sculptures from the likes of Felice Schiavoni, Cristoforo Dall’Acqua, and more. 

The rooms of the museum have been renovated to represent what life might have looked like at different periods throughout history. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open Monday to Sunday from 9:00am to 7:00pm. You can purchase combination tickets for both this museum and the Scrovegni Chapel for €15, or the museum alone is €11. For more information, visit the official website.

11. Wander the charming streets

Make sure not to miss the pedestrianized Via Umberto I and Via Roma. Going from north to south you’ll start on Via Roma. Eventually the street turns into Via Umberto I.

This long stretch of road is a great place to go for a stroll. There is a lot of shopping, plenty of cafes, and just general people watching and good vibes. 

Another area not to miss in Padua is the ancient Jewish ghetto, or the Quartiere dell’Antico Ghetto Ebraico. This is also a gorgeous area with narrow, cobblestone streets.

You can walk around and enjoy the beautiful little courtyards and cafes. But if you want to learn more about the Jewish history here and throughout Padua, it’s highly recommended to book a guided tour. These can be arranged through the Synagogue and Jewish history museum. 

12. Grab a drink at Caffe Pedrocchi

Caffe Pedrocchi is an elegant coffee shop in the center of Padua. It is also the oldest cafe in the city.

While the cafe is the main event — serving a standard menu plus specialties like the famous mint coffee — there is also a restaurant and patisserie here. 

If you are after more than just a coffee, it is advisable to book a table in advance. 

13. Take a cruise along the Brenta Canal

The Brenta canal is a man-made waterway which runs from Venice all the way to Padua. You can easily navigate the canal to Venice and back again to Padua in a day (though it is a long day). 

The highlight of this cruise is the stunning villas you’ll pass all along the way. Many tours will stop at some of the most stunning of these villas. You will be able to enter and see the beautiful decorations and frescoes adorning these private Venetian estates. 

We recommend booking this full-day cruise from Padua to Venice.

14. Visit the Church of the Eremitani

The Church of the Eremitani (Church of the Hermits) was built in the 13th century. It is a great example of Gothic architecture and has spectacular ceiling made entirely of wood. 

Just next to the church is the Musei Civici Eremitani — this is actually a museum complex. There is an Archaeological Museum as well as a Museum of Medieval and Modern Art.

The Archaeological Museum houses pieces from as far back as the times before the Romans (around the 1st century BC — the Iron Age). The art museum houses around 3,000 works of art from renowned Italian artists such as Giambono, Romanino, and Padovanino.

The pieces range from the 15th to the 18th centuries. The highlights include pieces by Giotto like the famous cross as well as a multimedia exhibit to better understand his life and time period. 

15. Go on a wine tour

Vineyard in Saint Emilion

To the southwest of Padua are the Euganean hills. It’s about 26 km (around 16 miles — a 40 minutes drive) to reach the hills from Padua. 

This region doesn’t just have amazing wine, it also has spectacular, jaw-dropping scenery, developed from a once volcanic ground. The lush landscape encompasses extensive vineyards as well as olive groves. 

Wine production in this area dates all the way back to Roman times. Now it is known as the Colli Euganei DOC. And while you can try classics like a Prosecco, an even more exciting and even more local variety is Serprino. This is also a sparkling wine but it comes directly from this volcanic soil. 

We recommend booking a tour, which will provide transportation to and from Padua, as well as the winery visits with tastings. 

If you have a car, you can also book this Prosecco Tasting Experience at a local winery.

16. Admire the Palazzo della Ragione

This vast, beautiful building is an old market hall which then became a medieval town hall and is now back to being a market. The building separates the two main squares of the city — the Piazza delle erbe and Piazza della frutta. 

On the main floor of the hall there are a huge number of stunning frescoes as well as statues. And of course the famous wooden horse. 

You can find vendors selling meat, cheese, sweet treats, bread, and so much more. Stalls open daily within the building and even more pop up out front each day. 

The building — and the frescoes within — are a part of the UNESCO world heritage site in Padua.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: You can tour the inside of the Palazzo della Ragione everyday except Mondays. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00am-7:00pm. Tickets cost €7 per person and can be purchased upon arrival.

17. Taste the local cuisine

Of course, as with anywhere, you simply can’t leave Padua without trying some of the amazing local food. Here are a few dishes to order:

  • Bigoli – this is a spaghetti-like pasta but this one is even thicker. Make sure that wherever you try it the Bigoli is made fresh. There are two traditional ways for Bigoli to be served in the region. It is often prepared with a duck sauce, or it could be served in sauce with sardines. 
  • Spunciotti – this is actually not a specific food but rather a concept. It is basically small samples of food. Or a tasting platter. The name of this concept comes from the word stingere which means ‘to pierce’ as in, with a toothpick. It is most common to have your spunciotti with a glass of wine. 
  • Risotto coi rovinassi – this dish is a rich bowl of risotto with chicken livers (sometimes also hearts and gizzards). This is then topped with a Grana Padano (a local cheese similar to parmesan). It is possible you might also encounter this dish with beef or pork, but the version with the chicken livers is the most authentic recipe. 
  • Tramezzino – this is such a basic dish, but it is a local classic. Very simply, this is a tuna sandwich on white bread.
  • Folpetti – technically this is ‘musky octopus’ which doesn’t sound all that appetizing. But in reality this is just a type of octopus. In this dish, baby octopus are used. They are boiled and then served simply with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon. 

Map of Things to do in Padua

This map includes the best things to do in Padua. You can use it to easily navigate your way around.

To save the map to Google Maps on your phone or computer, click on the star next to the title. Once you do this, you’ll be able to find the map in your “saved maps” list on your phone.

To see a list of all the items on the map, click the box with arrow on the left. To enlarge the map, click the box on the right.

One Day in Padua Itinerary

Only have one day in Padua? Here are the can’t-miss things to do in Padua on your day trip.

  • Scrovegni Chapel
  • Basilica of Saint Anthony
  • Prato della Valle
  • Palazzo Bo at Padua University
  • Market at Piazza della Erbe
  • Astronomical Clock
  • Palazzo della Ragione
  • Botanical Garden

Getting around Padua

Padua is a small city and you can walk to all of the sites in this itinerary. The train station is a bit of a walk from the historic center; however, if you stop along the way, starting at the Scrovegni Chapel, everything will be within a 5-15 minute walk.

Is Padua worth visiting?

Yes! If nothing else, Padua is worth visiting for the Scrovegni chapel alone. However, once you’re there you’ll find there is a lot to see in this city making a visit very much worth it. 

How to get to Padua?

Getting to Padua by train

Padua’s train station is located to the north of the city. It is about 1.5 km (a little less than a mile) from the center of town. By foot it would take around 20 minutes to make the walk. 

Both the high-speed and regional trains come into the Padua station. Make sure when searching for tickets to use the name “Padova” some of the sites won’t recognize Padua. You can book your tickets at the station or online at Trenitalia.com.

  • Milan to Padua – There are direct trains from Milan to Padua. The journey takes around two hours. Trains leave approximately every 30 minutes throughout the day. 
  • Venice to Padua – There are constant trains throughout the day from Venice to Padua. The duration of the trip as well as the cost vary. The fastest option — which does only run a few times a day, is just 15 minutes. Other journeys can run as long as 45 – 50 minutes. 
  • Verona to Padua – The journey from Verona to Padua takes 45 minutes at the fastest, or around 90 minutes at the slowest. The journey is direct and there are trains going constantly throughout the day. 

Getting to Padua by car

If you plan to drive to Padua you’ll probably want to leave your car during your visit as Padua is quite walkable. There is metered parking throughout the city — you’ll need to keep feeding the meter from 8am – 8pm during weekdays.

It is handy to have a car though if you plan to go out on day trips such as one to visit the wineries of the region. 

  • The drive from Milan to Padua is about 240 km (150 miles) and should take just shy of three hours. 
  • From Venice to Padua the distance is just 40 km (25 miles) and will take about 40 minutes to drive.
  • Verona to Padua is about 88 km (55 miles) and the drive should take just about an hour. 

We recommend taking the train, instead of driving a car, as its much easier and more convenient to get around northern Italy.

Best time to visit Padua

Padua is a great spot to visit in both spring and early fall. These temperate seasons are lovely here and it’s pretty quiet, too.

Spring brings sunny days and fresh greenery as the city comes back to life. Fall on the other hand brings vibrant autumnal colors.

It can get quite cool though come winter, which is why we recommend an early versus late autumn visit. By November you’ll be looking at highs of just about 50°F (just around 10°C). 

We visited Padua in November, and the weather was chilly but sunny. The best part is it felt like we had the city to ourselves.

Summers are also a good time to visit. The weather is quite mild with highs rarely breaking 85°F (30°C) and generally the crowds aren’t too bad.

You can get a lot of day trippers from Venice though, so keep that in mind and time your visits to popular attractions for early morning or later afternoon when day trippers aren’t around. 

How much time do you need in Padua?

One day in Padua is enough to see the city center and the highlights. You can easily take a day trip to Padua from Venice or Verona, but you should plan to add on an extra day for any day trips.

You might want to take a cruise to Venice along the canals, or maybe head up into the hills to see the countryside and taste the wine. If you plan to do any of this it’s best to keep your hom ebase in Padua.

Where to stay in Padua

If you are planning on spending a night or two in Padua, there are plenty of beautiful hotels to choose from. We are sharing our top picks below.

  • Luxury hotel | Le Camp Suite & Spa – This beautiful 4-star hotel is centrally located and includes modern amenities, such as air conditioning.
  • Boutique hotel | Casa Giotto – A charming bed & breakfast located near the Scrovegni Chapel with modern and well-designed rooms.
  • Mid-range hotel | Majestic Toscanelli – A 4-star hotel in the heart of Padua with classic Italian decor. It also has air conditioning.
  • Budget hotel | Hotel Canton dell’Orto – This budget-friendly hotel is located near the Prato Della Valle and features simple decor and spacious rooms.

More Information for your Trip to Italy

FRANCE TRAVEL PLANNING GUIDE

France Travel Insurance – Should you get travel insurance for France? 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.

France Rental Cars – We’ve rented a car in France many times, 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.

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

France Hotels – Wondering where to book your accommodations for France? 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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