What to do in Bologna Italy

What to do in Bologna? Practical tips & the most beautiful sights

Did you decide to go on a city trip to Bologna? This lively student city is perfect for history and food lovers! What to do in Bologna? You’ll read all about it in this article.

Bologna: a little piece of history

Bologna is located in the north of Italy and is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region. The city is very old, the first mentions are more than 3000 years old. It is a real student city and you will find the oldest university in Europe here. Because of the many red roofs, the city is also called la Rossa. Another striking feature of the city is the many towers. Most of the 180 towers were built in the Middle Ages and now only 15 remain.

A city trip to Bologna is highly recommended for lovers of culture, history and good food.

What to do in Bologna?

What to do in Bologna? Which sights do you have to see? These are seven fun things to do in Bologna:

Le due Torri: the most beautiful view in Bologna

Le due Torri in Bologna
From Le due Torri in Bologna you have the best view.

The most famous medieval towers in Bologna are Le due Torri. The highest of the two, called Asinelli, is a whopping 97 meters high and you can actually climb to the top! You have to reserve a time slot through this website and a ticket costs € 5 (December 2020).

Once your inside, you’ll have to climb a lot of (wooden) stairs before you get to the top. From the top, you’ll have a 360-degree view of all the red roofs in Bologna, it is so beautiful!

A visit to this tower is not very suitable for people with a fear of heights.

Join a free walking tour

Free walking tour Bologna
Learn about the history of the city with the free walking tour.

Bologna is a city with a rich history and it is so great to learn something about it. I went on this free walking tour and saw many beautiful places in Bologna this way, which I probably would have missed if I went exploring by myself. It only takes 2-3 hours and really complements your Bologna city trip. The tour is in principle free, but tipping is appreciated.

Piazza Maggiore

Piazza Maggiore in Bologna
The Piazza Maggiore is the most important square in Bologna.

Almost all cities in Italy have a central square and in Bologna, this is Piazza Maggiore. Major events are held here and around the square, you can see many beautiful buildings, including the Palazzo d’Accursio and the Basilica di San Petronio.

Against Piazza Maggiore is another beautiful square: Piazza del Nettuno. In the middle of this square is the impressive Fontana del Nettuno.

Cattedrale Metropolitana di San Pietro

Cattedrale Metropolitana di San Pietro in Bologna
The Cattedrale Metropolitana di San Pietro is one of the most beautiful churches in Bologna.

In Bologna, you can visit many impressive churches. The Basilica di San Petronio on Piazza Maggiore is a must-see (with the largest sundial in the world), but I myself found the interior of Cattedrale Metropolitana di San Pietro more interesting.

This church is quite hidden in the city center, and the entrance is on the busy shopping street Via dell’Indipendenza, diagonally opposite the H&M. It is a richly decorated large cathedral and with many beautiful details.

Biblioteca comunale dell’Archiginnasio

Biblioteca comunale dell'Archiginnasio in Bologna
In Bologna you will find the oldest university in Europe.

Everywhere in Bologna, you’ll see students meeting each other and you see buildings that belong to the University of Bologna. One of the most beautiful places is the Biblioteca Comunale dell’Archiginnasio, which you can visit for free. The entrance full of shields and murals is a delight to the eye. It feels a bit like you ended up in a Harry Potter movie!

For a small fee, you can also visit the anatomical theater and the promotion hall.

The churches in Piazza Santo Stefano

The churches on Piazza Santo Stefano in Bologna
Check out seven churches in one in Piazza Santo Stefano.

Piazza Santo Stefano is a wonderful place to take a break during your Bologna city trip, but here you’ll also find one of the best sights in Bologna: Sette Chiese (seven churches). There are seven small churches on the square, all of which are interconnected. It is very nice to discover them all, they are all different. When you only have time to explore Bologna for less than 24 hours, I would definitely recommend visiting this square. It’s so pretty!

Arco Bonaccorsi

Arco Bonaccorsi in Bologna
The Arco Bonaccorsi is the longest portico in the world.

Walking around Bologna you will probably notice something: almost every street has arched porches. Some arches are even more beautiful than the others. It is also not surprising that in Bologna you can also find the longest portico in the world: the Arco Bonaccorsi. This portico is no less than four kilometers long and you can walk through it to Santuario Madonna di San Luca. This has a nice viewpoint, and you can see all of the city from here.

How do you get to Bologna?

Bologna is a must-see when you’re road tripping in Northern Italy. Do you want to visit Bologna on a long weekend? Then it probably is more convenient to fly to Bologna. You can fly to Bologna from almost everywhere in Europe. When you’re flying from The Netherlands, you’ll find cheap plane tickets when you book with Transavia and fly from Eindhoven Airport.

Do you prefer to depart from another airport? Check Skyscanner to compare prices, flight times and find the cheapest tickets.

From the airport, you can travel by Marconi Express to Bologna train station in 7 minutes.

Where to stay in Bologna

In Bologna, there are enough hostels, hotels, and apartments to stay the night. There is something for every budget. A couple of recommendations:

  • Dopa Hostel: great hostel within walking distance of the center with a cozy communal kitchen. Spacious dorms and each bed has a curtain, light, and electricity socket.
  • B&B SpeakEasy – Due Torri: nicely decorated and cozy B&B with a view of Le due Torri.
  • Gregorini Bingham Art Luxury Suites: do you feel like some luxury? Then this is a great place to sleep. Modern with old elements.

Check Booking.com for all available accommodations and prices.

Are you staying a little longer or would you like to stay in an apartment in Bologna? Check Airbnb for more options. Have you never booked through Airbnb? Then use this link to register and you will receive a great discount on your first booking.

Transportation in Bologna

Most of the sights in Bologna are in the center which is quite compact. So you can easily visit everything on foot. Would you still like to use public transport? There are many buses you can take and a ticket (from the driver) costs € 1.50. More information about public transport in Bologna can be found on this website.

Where to eat in Bologna

Bologna is one of the best places in Italy to enjoy Italian cuisine. There are so many restaurants and they all have their own specialty. These were my favorite places to eat in Bologna:

  • Va Mo Là: Restaurant full of books. Delicious Italian dishes with the wines taste even better. My personal favorite!
  • Osteria dell’Orsa: The most popular restaurant in Bologna. There is always a line here. Good Italian food and cheap.
  • Centro Natura ristorante bio vegetariano: Centro Natura is a health center where you can take sports lessons and eat healthily. Delicious vegetarian Italian food for little money.
  • Zoo: Healthy juices and good coffee. Good place to have lunch or to work (you see a lot of students here).
  • Caffè Rubik: Super cozy place for a drink in the evening.

The best time for a city trip to Bologna

You can of course visit Bologna all year round, but it can get very cold in the winter months. My advice for a Bologna city trip: visit the city between April and November. Then you have pleasant temperatures and clear skies. I myself visited Bologna in early October when it was still warm enough to walk around without a jacket during the day.

These are my tips on what to do in Bologna!

Would you like to read more about a city trip in Italy?

Check out one of these articles:

Or order one of these travel guides:

Insight Guides Pocket Bologna

Northern Italy: Emilia-Romagna: including Bologna, Ferrara, Modena, Parma, Ravenna and the Republic of San Marino

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As a girl from a small town in the Netherlands, I always dreamed of traveling. I thought it would always be a dream, but nowadays, I travel 6 to 8 months a year and I hike thousands of miles on the most beautiful hiking trails. On this website you can read all about my favorite destinations.

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