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Looking for the best things to do in Parma, Italy? This small city in Emilia Romagna has an incredible mix of culture and history, which is why it’s one of our favorite cities in the region. In this guide, we’re sharing our top tips for visiting Parma, including where to eat and what to see.
People from all over the world go to Parma for one reason: its food. From the world-famous Parmigiano Reggiano and Parma ham to home-cooked tortellini, you are in for a real treat during your visit to this foodie city.
We have been to Parma three times, all on separate occasions. First, we went for the food and took a tour of a Parmigiano Reggiano factory to learn about the process of making our favorite cheese. Our second time, we went for the historical sights. And on our most recent visit, we went to take it slow and enjoy.
Whether you’re visiting Parma one day or for a few days, this article gives you over 20 ideas to suit foodies, history buffs, culture vultures, and everything in between.
The Parma region is one of our favorite places in Italy, and we can’t wait to tell you everything we love about it – let’s explore this beautiful Emilia Romagna city!
Where Is Parma in Italy?
Parma is located in the region of Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy. It is situated on both sides of the Parma River and is well known for its historical importance and beautiful architecture.
Because of its location, the city has a long and varied history, with Romans, Etruscans, Lombards, and Celts all having left their mark here. Parma was also an important center during the Renaissance period, from which many of its artistic masterpieces originated.
20 Best Things to Do in Parma, Italy
There’s no shortage of things to do in Parma. Below, we’ve listed all of our favorite places along with plenty of useful information to help you plan your own itinerary. You’ll find a map at the end of the list to help you easily navigate your way around the city.
1. Visit National Gallery
The National Gallery in Parma is a must-see for art lovers. This gallery is located in the city center and is part of the Pilotta Palace complex, which includes the Farnese Theater, Palatine library, and the Archaeological museum.
It showcases showcases dozens of important works from artists such as Correggio and Canaletto.
In addition to paintings, there are also sculptures and ancient coins on display. The collection also includes several frescoes and other decorative works from the 16th century. There are guided tours available if you’d like to learn more about the galleries’ contents, but it’s also possible to explore independently.
PRACTICAL INFO: The National Gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30 am until 7:00 pm. Entry is €13 per person for access to the entire Pilotta Palace Complex. For more information, reference the official website.
2. Farnese Theater
Also known as the Teatro Farnese, this 17th-century Baroque theatre is also located in Palazzo della Pilotta. It is one of the most important examples of baroque theatre in Europe.
The theatre’s stage is decorated with elaborate woodwork and sculptures and is truly an awe-evoking experience.
The Farnese Theatre also has an array of frescoes by Italian master painters such as Correggio and Annibale Carracci.
PRACTICAL INFO: The Farnese Theatre is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30 am until 7:00 pm. Entry is €13 per person for access to the entire Pilotta Palace Complex. For more information, reference the official website.
3. Palatine Library
The Biblioteca Palatina is also located in the Palazzo della Pilotta in Parma. Established in 1622 by Philip II of Spain, it houses more than 220,000 books and manuscripts including early editions of Dante’s work. It also boasts an impressive collection of scientific works from Galileo Galilei and other famous scientists.
PRACTICAL INFO: The library is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30 am until 7:00 pm. Entry is €13 per person for access to the entire Pilotta Palace Complex. For more information, reference the official website.
4. Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum houses a wide selection of artifacts from Ancient Rome. The museum features collections of coins, sculptures, pottery, and mosaics from the Roman era.
There’s also a large collection of weapons and armor that were used during the Middle Ages as well as precious gems and minerals from around the world.
PRACTICAL INFO: The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30 am until 7:00 pm. Entry is €13 per person for access to the entire Pilotta Palace Complex. For more information, reference the official website.
5. Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi
This is the city’s main piazza and home to some of the city’s most iconic monuments.
The piazza is a popular place for locals and tourists alike and it’s usually busy with people enjoying an afternoon stroll or simply taking in the sights. Throughout the week, you’ll find pop-up vendors or street performers.
6. Visit the Parma Duomo
The Parma Duomo is a beautiful cathedral located in the heart of Parma and dates back to the 11th century.
The duomo’s ceiling is covered in frescoes by the artist Antonio Correggio. It is one of the most unique and masterful cathedrals in all of Italy and should be one of your top things to do in Parma.
PRACTICAL INFO: The duomo is open from 7:45 am to 12.00 pm and from 3:00 pm to 7:20 pm Monday through Saturday. On Sundays, it’s open from 7:45 am to 10:30 am and from 3:00 pm to 7:20 pm. It’s free to visit.
7. Visit the Baptistry
The hexagonal Baptistry is an old Romanesque-style building and is the most impressive sight in all of Parma. It dates back to the 13th century and is considered one of the most important Medieval monuments in Europe.
The inside ceiling and walls feature frescoes as well as an intricate wooden ceiling. With its unique architecture and incredible interiors, this is our personal favorite monument to visiting in Parma.
PRACTICAL INFO: The baptistry open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and entry costs €12. Tickets can be purchased at the Diocesan Museum just across the piazza.
8. Quick Visit to Diocesan Museum
The Diocesan Museum in Parma is a great place to visit if you’re looking for religious art from the Middle Ages. It’s located inside a former bishop’s palace and contains over 5000 pieces related to the history of the church in Parma.
The museum is pretty small only takes up to 30-minutes to visit.
PRACTICAL INFO: The museum is open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and admission is €12 – this includes the ticket to the baptistry as well.
9. Visit the Church and Monastery of San Giovanni Evangelista
The Church of San Giovanni Evangelista is located behind the Duomo. It’s a beautiful Romanesque-style church dating from the 12th century and features a mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles. You’ll also find frescoes by Correggio inside of this church.
PRACTICAL INFO: The church is open every day from 8:30am to 12:00pm and from 4:00pm to 7:00pm. The monastery is open Monday to Saturday from 9:00am to 12:00pm; closed on Thursday and Sunday.
10. Wander Through the Charming Streets
Wandering through the streets of Parma is one of the best ways to experience the city’s charm and vibrant culture. Get lost in the narrow cobblestone alleys, marvel at the stunning churches, and enjoy a slow stroll along the banks of the River Po.
Anywhere we are in Italy, we always make sure to have time to explore for an hour. It’s the best way to happen upon hidden gems and to discover a city for yourself.
11. Take a Stroll and Relax Through Parco Ducale
Parco Ducale is one of the largest parks in Parma. It features expansive greens and trails dotted with sculptures and lakes.
We spent a couple of hours here laying on the grass, sitting by the fountain, and people watching. If the weather is warm, you should make some time to enjoy this part of the city.
Parco Ducale also hosts numerous events throughout the year, including art exhibitions, musical performances, and outdoor theatre shows.
If you’re hungry for a bite to eat or want a place to pick up a drink, make sure to stop by the cafe in the park called daMAT.
12. Camera di San Paolo
The Camera di San Paolo is a hidden gem in Parma, Italy. This chamber is located in a former monastery and is a small room with stunning 16th century painted ceilings by Correggio.
The visit only takes a few minutes and is definitely worth a stop.
PRACTICAL INFO: It’s open from 9:30 am until 5:30 pm on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. On the weekends, it’s open from 9:30 am until 6:30 pm. Entry is €5. Check out the official website for more information.
13. Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Steccata
This 16th-century old church features an impressive blend of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque elements. It’s located in the city center near the Piazza Garibaldi.
Inside, you can admire ornate frescoes and an exquisite wooden organ from the 16th century.
PRACTICAL INFO: The church is open daily from 7:30 am to 12:00 pm and 3:00 pm to 6:30 pm. Entry is free.
14. Teatro Regio
This photogenic theatre was built in the early 1800s and has been a key part of the city ever since. From opera performances to ballets, Teatro Regio is known for hosting some of the most prestigious events in Parma.
15. Visit a Parmigiano Reggiano + Parma Ham factory
Parma is world-renowned for its production of these two delicacies and it’s essential to get your hands on some while you’re here.
The factory tours are not only fascinating but you’ll get to sample the products as well. Learn about the entire production process and see how each product is crafted with patience, care, and skill – all done by hand!
You can either reach out to the factories and book a tour on your own, or you can take a guided tour that includes transportation.
We’ve done a tour to the Parmesan and Parma ham factories twice, and it’s one of our favorite things to do in Parma! Here are a couple of tours that we recommend:
- Best value: Parmigiano cheese and Parma ham Tour – This half-day tour will take you to both a Parmesan cheese and Parma ham producer where you’ll get to learn about the process and enjoy some tastings.
- Full-day tour: Parmigiano Cheese, Parma Ham and Balsamic Tour in Italy – This full day small group tour takes you not only to a Parmesan and Parma ham producer, but also to a Balsamic producer in the Modena region. If you have limited time in the region, then this is a great tour to see all three of the major products produced in the area.
16. Take a Food Tour in Parma
Parma is famous for its delicious food. One of the best ways to experience it is by joining a food tour. A knowledgeable local guide will take you to a range of shops and restaurants, where you can sample some of the typical local dishes.
We recommend this private half-day food tour of Parma. On the tour, you’ll get to taste local wines, meats, cheeses, fresh pastas, and more.
We have done several food tours in the Emilia Romagna region and it is always our most memorable and favorite part of our stay. What’s better than getting to know an Italian city through its food?
17. Visit Casa del Suono
Located in a former 17th century church, the House of Sound is a unique museum that’s free to visit. It’s a project in collaboration with the University of Parma that allows visitors to reflect on the impact that modern day technology has on sound.
Inside the museum, you’ll explore the history of sound through interactive exhibits, such as sound simulations and videos.
PRACTICAL INFO: It’s open Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. Access to the museum is free.
18. Check out Cittadella Park
Cittadella Park is about a 20-minute walk from the center of the city. It’s surrounded by a 16th century fortress with the entrance to the park being the old gate.
Here you’ll find locals playing with their kids or having picnics with friends. You won’t find many tourists here, so it’s a great spot to get a peek into local life in Parma.
If you’re visiting on a warm, sunny day and have some extra time to spare, it’s worth the jaunt out to this relaxing spot in the city. We visited for an hour or so and enjoyed a bit of respite from the busyness in the center.
19. Museo Glauco Lombardi
Located in the heart of Parma, this museum features Glauco Lombardi’s collection of 19th century artifacts relating to Parma’s royalty. The museum is located in the former home of Empress Marie-Louise, the second wife of Napoleon, and includes costumes, housewares, and art from her time.
PRACTICAL INFO: It’s open between Tuesday and Sunday from 9.30 am until 4 pm. Entry is €7. You can check out the official website for more information.
20. Try Horse Meat… If You Want
This may sound a bit surprising to a foreigner, but horse meat is a local delicacy in Parma. We have tried it raw and it’s a leaner meat with a gamey flavor. Personally, it’s not our favorite, but if you’re feeling adventurous, then this is your chance to give it a try.
It can be found in different restaurants around town, such as Da Pepen’s famous horse meat sandwiches.
Map of Things to Do in Parma
Here is a custom map to you easily navigate your way around parma. We’ve tagged all of the sights and places to eat.
To see the list of places, select the box with the white arrow on the left and you’ll see everything in this post tagged on the map. To open the map in Google Maps on your phone, select the box on the right.
How to Get To Parma?
Because of its location, there are several ways to get to Parma. If you’re flying into the region, then there are two international airports located within two hours of the city: Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport (BLQ) and Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP).
From there, we suggest either traveling by train or car.
Parma by Train
The train is the best and most convenient way to get to Parma. There are regular and direct trains to Ravenna from major cities like Bologna, Milan, and Venice. Frequency, prices, and travel times vary depending on where you’re coming from.
We’ve listed some of the most popular routes:
- Bologna to Parma: The fastest train takes about 49 minutes, and prices start at 8€
- Modena to Parma: The fastest train takes about 27 minutes, and prices start at 6€
Book your tickets either at the train station, or more conveniently, book using the Trenitalia app or website. You can also use this app to get updates on any delays or disruptions that may affect your journey.
Parma by Car
Traveling by car is a great option if you want more flexibility, doing an extended trip to Italy, or have a lot of luggage to carry.
- Bologna to Parma: The journey distance is about 100km and will take around 1hr 20 minutes.
- Modena to Parma: The journey distance is about 60km and will take around 50 minutes
Best Time to Visit Parma
Parma is a great place to visit all year round. We’ve visited in the late summer and fall and both times of year are equally beautiful.
With that being said, the best time to visit Parma is during the shoulder season, either May, June, September, and October. Prices are best during this time and you’ll avoid the summer crowds.
During the fall, you’ll get to experience the changing of the colors, which is stunning, especially while driving through the countryside.
How many days in Parma is enough?
Two days in Parma is a great amount of time if you want to get a good feel for the city without feeling too rushed. You can easily visit Parma on a day trip from Bologna or other cities in the region; however, you won’t have time to do everything listed in this post in one day.
If you only have time to visit for a day, then we suggest checking out our one day in Parma itinerary.
Where to Eat In Parma
It’s difficult to choose the single best restaurant in Parma, Italy. We ate in so many outstanding places and all of them had delicious food. Here are our top picks of the restaurants which really stood out to us:
- Da Pepen – Famous for their horse meat sandwiches. If you’re not into horse meat, they have a variety of other options to choose from using local cured meats. Our personal favorite was the carciofa pie, which is made of artichokes and cheese.
- Ristorante Cocchi – A fantastic spot to try local cuisine, such as stuffed tortelli and anolini in brodo. You can’t go wrong here.
- Officina Alimentare Dedicata – A great spot to try a variety of local cured meats and cheeses.
- Tabarro – A lovely wine bar in the heart of Parma serving local wine varietals and charcuterie.
- Ciacco Gelato – The best spot for gelato in Parma. They have a variety of unique and classic flavors to choose from.
What Foods to Try in Parma?
Parma is famous for its food, so we 100% recommend taking every opportunity to sample everything you can lay your hands on. From cheeses, meats, breads, oils, and pasta, Emilia Romagnan food is divine. What’s more, it’s all locally produced, and so fresh so you know what you’re eating is authentic.
Here are some must-try foods whilst you’re in Parma:
- Parmesan Cheese – Made from cow’s milk, the secret to its flavor lies in its aging process of 12 to 36 months. This is when it develops an intense nutty flavor. Parmesan cheese is often used as a topping or ingredient in many Italian dishes like pizza, pasta, risotto, and soufflé. It has a granular texture and can be eaten in small cubes with fruit and nuts, or grated over pasta dishes for added flavor.
- Parma Ham – This is a dry-cured Italian ham, usually served in thin slices. It’s made from the hind legs of a pig, which are first cured with sea salt and then hung for up to 18 months for the flavors to fully develop. Parma Ham has an intense, salty flavor and aroma, so it’s often used as an ingredient in Italian dishes or simply served on its own as part of an antipasto platter.
- Horse Meat – Horse meat is a popular delicacy in the city of Parma. It is usually served as a cured and thinly sliced salami or carpaccio or as part of a dish with other meats. The flavor is quite unique and intense, almost like gamey beef. Horse meat can be paired with fruits such as figs to balance its richness.
- Homemade Pasta – Homemade pasta is a staple in the Parma region, with two of the most famous being Anolini in Brodo and Tortelli. Anolini is made by preparing small square pieces of pasta dough, each containing a piece of prosciutto and Parmigiano cheese, which are then boiled in broth. Tortelli is another popular dish, which consists of pasta filled with ricotta cheese and herbs, boiled and served either in sauce or melted butter. Both dishes may vary slightly depending on the recipe but usually retain the signature flavors that make them some of the most popular homemade kinds of pasta in the city.
- Crescentine – Also known as ‘Gnocco Fritto’, this is a type of bread originating in the Parma region. It is prepared by kneading flour, water, and lard into a dough which is then fried in lard. It’s usually served with cured meats, cheese, honey, or jam and is used as a snack. Crescentine is great for pairing with regional dishes such as Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Prosciutto di Parma ham, or Culatello di Zibello ham.
- Lambrusco – Lambrusco is a sparkling red wine that originates from the Parma region. It is made from various red grape varieties, including Ancellotta and Uva Sorela. Lambrusco has a light and dry flavor profile with notes of fresh cherry fruits and slight acidity. Lambrusco pairs well with traditional Parma dishes such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and Culatello di Zibello ham, as well as the crescentine flatbread mentioned earlier.
- Pignoletto – Pignoletto is a sparkling white wine produced in Parma. It has a dry, light, and crisp taste, with subtle aromas of pear and apple. This white wine pairs well with light appetizers such as olives, prosciutto crudo, and Parmesan cheese. It can also be enjoyed with main dishes like risotto alla parmigiana or pasta al pesto. Pignoletto is often served chilled for the best flavor experience.
- Culatello di Zibello – This is a type of cured ham that originated in the Italian city of Parma. It is made from the thigh of the pig, which is then salted and aged for up to two years. The flavor is intense yet delicate, with notes of spices and herbs like juniper berries that give it its unique character. Culatello pairs well with Lambrusco wine from the same region as well as wines produced in other parts of Italy. It also goes well with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, making for a delicious antipasto or aperitivo.
Where to Stay In Parma?
There’s an abundance of accommodation options in Parma, from boutique hotels to quaint guest houses. We recommend staying central so it’s easy to walk to all the attractions, this is also where you’ll find the best hotels in Parma.
Below, we’ve shortlisted some of the best places to stay in Parma.
Our top pick: Palazzo Dalla Rosa Prati
Located right next to the Parma duomo and baptistry, this palace turned hotel is the best place to stay in the city. Not only because of its charm factor, but the location and amenities are fantastic. We’ve personally toured this hotel and loved it.
Best boutique hotel: Savoy Hotel
Located in the center of Parma, the Savoy Hotel offers charming rooms and has breakfast included.
Best luxury hotel: Grand Hotel De La Ville
This 5-star hotel is located right on the edge of town and is about a 10-minute walk to the central piazza. It features 1920s decoration with modern amenities – breakfast is included in the price.
Parma Travel Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve gone into a lot of detail in this article so far giving you plenty of inspiration to help plan your itinerary. Below are questions we get asked about planning a trip to Parma.
Is Parma Worth Visiting?
Parma is definitely worth visiting. The city is home to some of the finest foods, as well as flavorful wines. From Parma, you can explore nearby cities like Bologna or Modena, which all feature their own unique cuisine and architecture.
The countryside of this region is also beautiful and full of classic Italian villas and farms that produce products like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and Prosciutto di Parma ham. With its rich history and delicious food, Parma is definitely worth a visit!
Which Is Better Modena or Parma?
Modena and Parma are both beautiful Italian cities with plenty to offer. However, there is more to see in Parma. We love both so recommend spending some time in each of the cities.
Is Parma or Bologna Better to Visit?
Both Parma and Bologna are worth visiting if you have the time, but Bologna is the bigger of the two cities and there’s more to see. Bologna could easily fill up a few days or even a week – although Parma is packed with tourist attractions too! Ultimately it all depends on what type of experience you want to have, but we highly suggest visiting both while you’re in Italy.
What are the best day trips from Parma?
Parma is a great destination to base yourself in to explore more of the Emilia-Romagna region. Four of the best day trips from Parma are to Modena, Bologna, Faenza, and Ravenna. Each has their own unique attractions that make them worth exploring.
More Information for your Italy Trip
BOLOGNA: If you’re planning to visit the capital of Emilia Romagna during your trip, check out our guide on the 25 Best Things to do in Bologna and our Bologna Food Guide. You may also like our article on the Best Gelato Shops in Bologna and a step-by-step guide to walking the Portico San Luca (the longest portico in the world)!
FLORENCE: Looking to stop by Florence for a day or two? Our 2-day Florence Itinerary can help you plan out your trip.
RAVENNA: Visit the stunning 5th century Byzantine Mosaics in Ravenna, and read all about this incredible on our 20 Best Things to do in Ravenna post.
ITALY TRAVEL PLANNING GUIDE
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.