Things To Do in Bologna

Find out the best things to do in Bologna: tips for those on their first visit and a list of secrets to discover for those who already know the beautiful Italian city. You will have a wonderful journey thanks to our guide!

 

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Thing to do in bologna

Visit Bologna: the top 10 thing to see

You’ll find out  that visiting the town is  fun and easy. Let’s discover together the 10 things you must see in this wonderful and historical city. The exciting journey through the most famous landmarks is about to begin, a  thousand adventures await us!

1. The Two Towers

Thing to do in bologna - two towers
The Two Tower

The Asinelli Tower and the Garisenda Tower are considered the symbols of the medieval city. The two towers dominate the historic center from above. They are an architectural legacy that still characterizes the urban landscape.

Their sight is part of the daily pleasures of the Bolognese people who love and respect the two guardian sisters of the city. A stop in Piazza di Porta Ravegnana is a must to contemplate these wonders in all their shape.

👉  Suggested Tour: The Two Towers and food tasting

2. San Petronio Church

cosa fare a bologna, italy, san petronio, piazza maggiore
Church of San Petronio ©Bologna-Guide.com

The church of San Petronio is dedicated to the city patron. Although it is not the cathedral, it is certainly one of the most majestic buildings in the city. Be enchanted by taking a look at the marvelous facade overlooking Piazza Maggiore.

  You will find wonderful works of art upon entering it, including the frescoes by Giovanni da Modena as well as the longest sundial in the world.

This church has a lot to tell from the history of its construction to particular events that took place in this solemn building. Its sacred ground has been trampled by popes and emperors. In short, do not miss the opportunity to visit it!

👉  Suggested Tour: San Petronio and panoramic terrace

3. The Quadrilatero

Quadrilatero, Bologna Italy old market
Quadrilatero ©Giuseppe Cardone

The Quadrilatero is probably the most picturesque district of the historic center. In ancient times the area was dedicated to trade. Since the Middle Ages, the ancient streets have hosted the workshops of artisans and the headquarters of commercial corporations.

Today the tradition is still present and coexists with modernity. Walking through the narrow streets you will see shops of the famous luxury brands and small boutiques, delicatessens and restaurants with typical products.

👉  Find out the Best Food Tour in Bologna

4. The Seven Churches

Thing to do in bologna
Seven Churches ©Bologna-Guide.com

Piazza Santo Stefano is one of the most fascinating places in Bologna, the complex of seven churches overlooking the square is a masterpiece of religious architecture. The Basilica of Santo Stefano is made up of seven religious buildings that have undergone variations and extensions over the centuries. In this way, the complex of seven churches represents the evolution that the city has had from its origins to nowadays.

5. Piazza Maggiore

Things to do in bologna
Piazza Maggiore ©Bologna-Guide.com

Piazza Maggiore is the heart of the city center and one of the oldest squares in Italy. It is there that the local people meet and the great events that animate the city take place. If you really want to experience the town, take at least a quarter of an hour and sit on the “Crescentone” that borders the square. From there you can observe what is happening around you and admire the magnificent palace that surround it.

We have already helped thousands of people find the perfect accommodation.

Don’t risk it, read our tips!

We have already helped thousands of people find the perfect accommodation.

Don’t risk it, read our tips!

6. L'Archiginnasio

Archiginnasio and anatomical theatre Bologna
Archiginnasio ©Gwendolyn Stansbury

The Archiginnasio is located a few steps away from San Petronio and is certainly one of the most interesting buildings in the town. Born to host the lessons of the Alma Mater Studiorum (the oldest university in the world), it is a key place of Bolognese culture. The walls are adorned with beautiful heraldic coats of arms and some sections of this charming palace have a great artistic value. Not to be missed are the Stabat Mater Hall and the Anatomical Theater with the impressive teacher’s chair guarded by the “Spellati”, two skinned statues.

👉 Tour consigliato: Guided tour with food tasting

7. The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca

San Luca, neve, capodanno a bologna, natale a bologna
San Luca ©Denis Billi

The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca or simply “San Luca” for the Bolognese people, is a place of worship strongly linked to the tradition of the city. This majestic church is located on the Guardia hill at a height of about 600 meters and its imposing structure dominates Bologna from above. You can easily reach it in different ways: by car, by bus, by a little train or  you can walk along the longest portico in the world, the one in via Saragozza. Whatever your choice, the panoramic terrace awaits you at the top from which you can admire the beautiful panorama.

Little Train to San Luca 🚂
With gastronomic tasting

Get to the top of Colle della Guardia without any effort.
🤩 Enjoy the marvelous spectacle of the longest portico in Europe.

8. The Neptune's Fountain

what to see in bologna - fontana del nettuno
The Neptune © JJ Peg

The Neptune statue has rightfully been recognized as one of the heritage of the medieval age. The beautiful fountain on which the god of the sea rests is a masterpiece of medieval art commissioned by the papal emissary Pier Donato Cesi. The beauty of the statue of Neptune derives not only from its majestic figure but also from the complex symbolism that is hidden in it. Discovering the secrets it hides will be one of the pleasures of your trip.

Read the article: The seven secrets of Bologna

9. The Little Venice

Cosa vedere a Bologna - Finestrella di via Piella - La piccola Venezi, sette segreti di Bologna
The Little Venice ©Paolo Margari

You probably don’t know it but Bologna is an ancient river town. Over time, almost all the naval canals of the town were covered. However, it is still possible to find visible traces of these in some parts of the city. The Finestrella (little window) of via Piella is a magical point where this is possible, it opens onto a stretch of underground river that re-emerges in the historic center. The image to which it gives life is defined by many as “Little Venice”. This is only one of the seven secrets of the city of the Emilia Romagna region, get ready to discover them all.

10. MAMbo Museum

cosa vedere a bologna, mambo, museo arte moderna bologna, italy
MAMbo @Bologna-Guide.com

Without a doubt, the MAMbo is the most visited museum in the Emilia Romagna Region. The permanent collection can be visited through a thematic itinerary divided into nine sections. The museum, in addition to hosting the prestigious collection of modern and contemporary art, is often home to major international exhibitions.

If you like visiting museums, read our article on the 5 museums in the city not to be missed.

The Best Guided Tours

Whatever your tastes, you will certainly find what you are looking for, there are many itineraries and routes that will allow you to live extraordinary experiences.

You can enter the stalls of the ancient markets, contemplate with your eyes the wonderful Bolognese skyline and its soaring towers or be accompanied by a local guide.

Magnificent experiences are waiting for you, discover the unique itineraries and guided tours recommended by Bologna Guide!

BOLOGNA GUIDE SUGGEST YOU:

Things To Do in Bologna: 22 Tips

Not sure what to do in Bologna? Here are 22 unique things to do in the beautiful town! The activities are divided according to your knowledge of the city. They can be useful to those on their first visit as well as those who already know the place.

5 Things to do in Bologna for the first time

1. Climb the Asinelli Tower

The Asinelli Tower is one of the city’s landmarks, a building with an ancient history surrounded by legends. Reaching its summit is an experience not to be missed. The exciting view from the terrace will allow you to better appreciate the city skyline. The climb to the top is possible thanks to a wooden staircase of 492 steps, so put on comfortable shoes and get ready for a healthy and exciting physical activity.

A good way to tackle this adventure is to take a tour with a food tasting for a modest price

Breathtaking Panorama?
🧗🏼‍♂️ Climb to the top of the Asinelli Tower!

👉 Experience the thrill of climbing the highest leaning tower in Italy.
At the end of the venture, a tasting of traditional foods is waiting for you 🍴😋

2. Eat in a typical Tavern

Bolognese cuisine is appreciated and known all over the world thanks to an ancient culinary tradition that began in the Middle Ages. Since ancient times, the prestige of the university has attracted people from all over the world.

This multicultural aspect has contributed to the mixing of different cultures, and not only in literary environments but also in the culinary environment, literally a real melting pot. There are many dishes, all to be savored!

o discover them all, we recommend our article: Bologna Food. Once you have decided what to taste, you just have to choose where to eat. About it you can read: Best restaurants in Bologna.

3. Admire the Compianto sul Cristo Morto

The Compianto sul Cristo Morto is an artwork full of pathos, worthy expression of the greatest Italian sculptural art. The Compianto is located inside Santa Maria della Vita church in Clavature street.

cosa fare a bologna, fontana del nettuno
Ombra del Nettuno
© Valerio Agolino
Fotograf München
4. Sit on the “Crescentone” and contemplate the facade of San Petronio.

Sometimes stopping in order to contemplate  the world and its continuous comings and goings can help us free ourselves from the anxieties and burdens that sometimes follow us even when we are traveling. The ideal place to do this is the large step in the main square called “Crescentone” by the citizens because it recalls the shape of the traditional focaccia.

5. Follow the itinerary to discover the Seven Secrets of the city

The Seven Secrets is an exciting journey that will allow you to visit the city from a different perspective than usual. This itinerary will open your eyes to a new and unknown world where mysteries take shape through statues and landmarks of Bologna.

11 Tips for those who have already seen the city

6. Walking tour to San Luca

Surely one of the most loved habits of the local  people, this walk will take you along the longest portico in the world. It starts from Saragozza gate and then reaches the top of the Guardia hill where you can contemplate the beautiful Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca. The route is certainly not the easiest but it has some pleasant surprises and it is a unique experience.

The sanctuary can also be reached by the San Luca Express train, here you can find the details of the tour.

7. Take a traditional cooking class

Bologna is the Italian capital of good food, each dish is rich in tradition and yet once your holiday is over, only a delightful memory remains.

Don’t worry, there is a way to bring home the wonderful flavor of Bolognese cuisine: learn the secrets of the Sfogline (the old ladies that make handmade pasta)! 

Here you can book your Bolognese cooking lesson.

Do you Wonna Learn the Secrets of Italian Cuisine?
Start your way to becoming a great chef!

🍴 Live the authentic experience of cooking like a Bolognese 👨‍🍳
Learn how to prepare hand-made pasta and Tortellini!

8. Drinking wine in the oldest tavern of  Italy

Did you know that the Osteria del Sole is the oldest tavern in Italy? There are written records that date it back to 1465 and, despite the passing of the years, the Sun has continued to shine, remaining a place of other times. In this medieval-flavored tavern, conviviality is a must.

9. Discover the Jewish ghetto

As in many European cities, a Jewish ghetto was established here too. The dark and narrow alleys of the ghetto have not undergone major changes and today give back to us a surreal image. Just say the name of the main street “Via Dell’Inferno” (hell’s street) to feel a shiver down your spine.

10. Go shopping in Galleria Cavour

Galleria Cavour is the place of excellence for luxury shopping. Here you will find all the luxurious and high fashion boutiques you have always wanted. Just walking through the gallery, which is located under the ancient palace of the Pietramellara family, will make you feel like you are in a fantastic dream.

11. Ride a bike

Why not? A nice bike ride through the historic center is both fun and easy. In the city there are many cycle paths and bike parking areas. Bicycles are so popular among town residents that the municipality has even created a bike-sharing service, try it! (the page is available just in Italian, so sorry!)

cosa fare a bologna, mangiare il gelato
Ice cream in Bologna ©Bologna-Guide.com
12.Taste the ice cream of the Cremeria Cavour

An ice cream that makes history, Cremeria Cavour (once Cremeria Funivia) is the perfect expression of the Bolognese ice cream tradition. For years the care and dedication of the ice cream makers is recognized by the local population. This is demonstrated by the patience with which the Bolognese people wait in line to taste this delicacy.

13. Feel the tradition in the old craft shops

The craftsmanship is kept alive and you can still find historic family-run shops in the town. Visiting these old shops is a way to contribute to the maintenance of that care and passion of work that is being lost over time.

14. Spend an evening between wine-bar and pub in Via del Pratello

If you are looking for a relaxed environment in which to spend a nice evening Via del Pratello is the place for you. Along the way there are several pubs, wine bars, restaurants and finger-food places. For years now, the area has become a haunt for those who love nightlife. Surely you will find what is right for you!

15. Explore Mercato delle Erbe, the old vegetable market

This beautiful place is located in the city center, in Ugo Bassi street. The Mercato delle Erbe is not only the city’s fruit and vegetable market, you will also find food shops with typical products. But the best is yet to come! Although the central area of the building has remained unchanged, the side rooms host restaurants and coffee bar where you can stop to eat and drink.

16. Enjoy the rain walking in the shelter of the porticoes

Just walk a few streets and you’ll notice that you’re in the city of Porticoes! Even if the days are not sunny, don’t worry about it. Indeed, thanks to this beautiful architecture, the rain will no longer be an inconvenience but you can appreciate it while being comfortably sheltered by these beautiful arcades.

You are in the Italian capital of Good Food but not necessarily every place is exceptional! Discover our tips for an exceptional culinary journey!

6 Things to do in Bologna that you probably do not imagine

17. Admire the monumental cemetery of the Certosa

The Certosa is one of the most important cemeteries in Europe, in the 19th century the architectural and sculptural heritage of exceptional beauty made this place a stop on the journeys of Lord Byron, Theodor Mommsen, Charles Dickens and Jules janin.

18. Casa Carducci

The historic home where Giosuè Carducci spent his last years is now a space dedicated to culture. The Casa Carducci library consists of volumes collected by the poet and can be consulted freely. The rest of the building houses the Risorgimento Museum.

19.Cross the Cavaticcio park, learning that Bologna had a port
Parco del Cavaticcio ©Valerio Agolino - Fotograf München

The charming Cavaticcio garden is just a few steps from the MAMbo. This enchanting place is what remains of the ancient port area. Despite the enormous changes it is still possible to see part of the Navile canal emerging inside the garden.

20. Attend an Aperitivo on the top of the tower

The Prendiparte tower is one of the 24 towers of the charming town that survived to the present day. Although the tower hosts a wonderful bed and breakfast now, on some occasions you can attend an aperitif on the terrace. Drinking wine on the top of the tower and enjoying the great view is certainly one of the most sensational things to do.

21. Finding the place where Maserati was born

Don’t you know? Maserati was born right here, not far from the Seven Churches. Today a plaque commemorates the place where the first headquarters of the prestigious car company stood. Engine enthusiasts will be proud to know this!

22. Have fun with vintage games at the Flipper Museum

If you thought that museums were just boring places where you have to contemplate in silence artworks, we will change your mind. At the Spazio Tilt is hosted part of the heritage of the Flipper Museum, over 400 specimens including pinball machines and video games. Important: every appliance can be used by visitors because these machines are designed to be used and not looked at.

All Attractions

Pinacoteca nazionale di bologna Art galley bologna

The Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna

The National Art Gallery of Bologna, housed in the former Jesuit novitiate, is one of the most important museums in the Emilian city. It preserves a vast collection that includes Emilian painting from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century, although there are numerous non-Bolognese artists.

Re Enzo palace, bologna italy

Re Enzo Palace

Palazzo Re Enzo è sicuramente da annoverare tra gli edifici più maestosi di Bologna. Il solo guardare la sua facciata ti farà sognare di vivere

the archaeological civic museum mca of bologna

Archaeological Museum of Bologna

The Civic Archaeological Museum of Bologna is strongly recommended for history lovers as well as for all those who wish to learn more about the roots and origins of our land.

San Luca in Bologna

The Church of San Luca in Bologna

The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca is a reference point for anyone who loves Bologna. Returning home from a trip, the sight of the sanctuary on the green Colle della Guardia warns us that our beloved city is nearby.
Surrounded by legends and charm, this site is not just a place of worship but a real symbol that seems to watch over the city of Bologna from above.

Garisenda tower, the two tower of bologna, italy

The Garisenda Tower

The Garisenda is the faithful companion of the Asinelli tower and has been close to it since they were erected. The lower of the two towers is almost 48 meters high and is characterized by a steep slope that made it unusable for military purposes.

Church of San Francesco in Bologna

Church of San Francesco

The majestic and twisted structure of this Gothic style church will dazzle you as soon as you see it. Its construction dates back to 1263 and is perhaps the first example of French influence in Italian Gothic style

natale-e-capodanno-a-bologna

Christmas and new year eve in Bologna – All you need to know

To visit bologna you can not choose better, the days between Christmas and New Year Eve are perfect. the city is full of colored lights and the streets smell the scent of sweets and the sparkling winter air. With the new year knocking on the door you just have to enjoy the last days of 2018 starting 2019 in the best way.

Margherita Gardens of Bologna

Margherita Gardens

The Margherita Gardens are the ideal place to relax. A few steps from the center are the largest city park in the city.

palazzo d'accursio

Palazzo D’Accursio

Palazzo d’Accursio is one of the main historic buildings. Do not miss for any reason such an important place in the history and tradition of Bologna!

cathedral of san pietro, cathedral of san pietro, bologna

The Cathedral of San Pietro in Bologna

The most important church in Bologna is undoubtedly the Cathedral of San Pietro. Climb the bell tower and discover the “Grandma” who has been living there since 1594!

mercato delle erbe, bologna centro, dove mangiare a bologna

The Mercato Delle Erbe

The Mercato delle Erbe is a splendid example of how historic buildings can find a new function within the city center. Here is the place to shop and stop for lunch!

Borghi da vedere vicino bologna

5 villages to visit near Bologna

Near Bologna there are some of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Explore with us these medieval remains in search of the beauty that they hide among their tortuous alleys.

Mambo museum of modern art bologna

MAMbo – The modern art museum

The Mambo, the Museum of Modern Art in Bologna, is certainly one of the most beautiful museums to visit in the city. In our guide you will find useful information for your visit (such as hours and cost) and many curiosities. Following the nine thematic path you will find an extraordinary cross-section of modern and contemporary art that has characterized the Italian scene from the sixties to today.

San Domenico church in Bologna Italy

The Church of San Domenico

The Basilica of San Domenico is one of the most beautiful churches in Bologna, inside you will see the Arca di San Domenico which houses the remains of the saint. You can admire beautiful artworks of Italian artist including three statues of Michelangelo.

piazza maggiore, Bologna, Italy

Piazza Maggiore and the best squares to visit

Every good guide defines the main square, Piazza Maggiore, as the true center of Bologna. But many forget to explain why it is so important. Starting from Piazza Maggiore our guide will make you discover the most beautiful squares in the city

Bologna Italy panorama

Discover the primacies of Bologna

Bologna is a world-famous city, but many travellers do not know that the it holds some primacies. The longest portico of the world is just one of them. Our guide will tell you what primacies the city has achieved through its history and what makes it a unique destination to visit.

Santo Stefano e le Sette Chiese

Seven Churches and the Basilica of Santo Stefano

The Basilica of Santo Stefano (mostly known as complex of Seven Churches) is of course a place to see in Bologna. This church is charming and show on its walls the scars of the ages, here you can see how the city was change during his history.

museum in bologna

Best 5 museum to visit in Bologna

Many places host artistic collection of different kind as well there are more than thirty museum. How to choose which one to visit first? In this post Bologna-Guide.com suggest you the best five museum to see in Bologna!

Archiginnasio bologna

The Archiginnasio and Anatomical Theatre

The Archiginnasio is a wonderful palace that deserves to be visited. Born to host the university lessons, is one of the most beautiful buildings to see, a place rich in history and culture!

San petronio Bologna

The Basilica of San Petronio – a must see church

You will be amazed by the Basilica of San Petronio. Its façade is the triumph of contrast between light and dark; at night the marble seems to shine with its own light and the bricks on the top combines with starry sky.

what to see in bologna - fontana del nettuno

The Neptune’s Fountain

The Neptune fountain is one of the top 10 attractions. The Neptune statue (Zigant in Bolognese slang, it means giant) is a landmark full of secrets to discover.

Asinelli tower, The two towers of bologna

The Asinelli Towers

The Asinelli and the Garisenda tower are the towers symbol of the medieval city and one of the best things to see. Climb the Asinelli Tower and reach his top is one of the things to do absolutely! Follow the tips of our guide and find out all the curiosity.

Bologna: Tourists FAQ

To really know it 100 years would not be enough. However, a day in the historic center will be enough to get a bit of its beauty.

In particular, we recommend you to:

  • Stroll in Piazza Maggiore and the Quadrilatero area
  • Contemplate the Two Towers from Via Rizzoli
  • Explore the Seven Churches complex

There are several activities that you can do for free by visiting the town of Emilia Romagna Region. Here are 6 activities not to be missed:

  • Visit the Botanical Garden in Irnerio street.
  • Follow the Seven Secrets tour.
  • Visit one of the Public Museums of the city on the first Sunday of each month.
  • Look out from the window of Piella street and see the “Little Venice”.
  • Reach the Sanctuary of San Luca through the Longest Portico in the World!
  • In summer, spend an evening at the  “open-air cinema” in Piazza Maggiore. In fact, during the eventSotto le Stelle del Cinema” numerous visions of cult movies are offered completely free.

Bologna is magnificent in every season, it all depends on what you are looking for.

  • The month of December is ideal if you love the Christmas atmosphere and the markets, a giant Christmas tree is “planted” in the main square. If you want to learn more about it you can read: Christmas and New Year in Bologna.
  • During the spring, the city comes alive with outdoor events and concerts in city parks.
  • In the summer, cult films are shown during the “Sotto le Stelle del Cinema” exhibition and can be seen for free in the main square.

Staying at least 3 days in the city you can see all the main attractions:

  1. Asinelli and Garisenda towers
  2. San Petronio church
  3. The Quadrilatero area
  4. Seven Churches Complex
  5. Piazza Maggiore
  6. The Archiginnasio building
  7. The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca
  8. Fountain of Neptune
  9. The small window in Piella street and “The Little Venice”
  10. The MAMBO – Museum of Modern Art of Bologna

Don’t forget to eat in a typical “osteria”, read our article to find out about the best restaurants in Bologna!

A visit on foot is perhaps the best way to enjoy the alleys of the city. The Central Station is about 15 minutes walk from the central square. Once there you can follow our 1 day itinerary.

Not sure what to do in Bologna when it rains? No problem! First of all, remember that the historic center is surrounded by arcades and even without an umbrella you can avoid getting wet.

Among the most popular activities during a rainy day we have:

  • The traditional walk along Saragoza street, under the ancient portico of 4 km that leads up to San Luca Sanctuary.
  • Immerse yourself in the art and culture of one of the Best 5 Museums in Emilia Romagna Region.
  • Go to the Sala Borsa. Much more than just a city library, this property is worth a visit, at the very least.
  • Go to FICO Eataly World to discover the over 100,000 square meters dedicated to Italian culinary excellences.

The medieval architecture of Bologna is undoubtedly the ideal setting for a romantic evening.

Among the perfect places for a passionate kiss we have:

If, on the other hand, you are planning a romantic dinner, “Vicolo Colombina” and the “Drogheria della Rosa” are  the right restaurants for you.

If you are looking for an accommodation do not miss our article: Romantic Hotels in Bologna!

Between Christmas and New Year’s the streets come alive with lights and colors, there is so much to see and explore that you will be spoiled for choice.

In particular we suggest:

  • The Christmas Markets
  • Discover the Bolognese Nativity
  • Taste the “Panone”
  • Attending the Burning of the “Vecchione”.

For more details read our article: Christmas and New Year’s in Bologna