Have you ever heard of Padua? This is a pleasant student city in Northern Italy with many beautiful sights. What to do in Padua? Here are 11 tips.
Padua: a little bit of history
Padua (which is called Padova in Italian) is located between Verona and Venice in Northern Italy. It is an ancient city (they say it’s the oldest city in Northern Italy) and was founded in 1183 BC. The city was almost completely destroyed by a major fire in 1174 and has been completely rebuilt afterward. It has been a university town since 1222 and the famous Galileo Galilei was a professor at the university in Padua for a while.
The city is still a pleasant student city and it is a great place to go for a day trip from Venice or Verona.
What to do in Padua?
What are the most beautiful sights in Padua and what are the best things to do? Here are 11 tips:
Prato della Valle
The highlight of your visit to Padua is undoubtedly Prato della Valle. This is the largest square in Italy (in fact one of the largest squares in all of Europe) and there are no fewer than 78 statues in two rings around a canal. There are fountains, benches and beautiful buildings around the square. A great place to relax and enjoy this beautiful Italian city.
Basilica di Sant’Antonio
Not far from Prato della Valle is one of the most beautiful churches in the city: Basilica di Sant’Antonio (St. Anthony’s Basilica). This basilica is an important pilgrimage site and you will undoubtedly encounter several pilgrims during your visit. It was built in the thirteenth century and there is really a lot to see. It consists of several buildings and there is also a garden with a very old library. A very impressive sight!
Orto botanico di Padova
I stood in front of the gate of Orto Botanico di Padova, but I still regret not entering (the entrance fee, unfortunately, did not fit my budget at the time). Orto botanico di Padova is the oldest (university-affiliated) botanical garden in the world and it is not without reason on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In the garden, you will find special plants and trees, including medicinal and poisonous plants, orchids, and carnivorous plants.
Duomo di Padova o Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta
The Duomo di Padova (also called Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta) is the home of the Bishop of Padua. It is an old church, the foundation stone was already laid in the fourth century. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by an earthquake and then rebuilt in Romanesque style in the twelfth century. The complex consists of two buildings: the cathedral (white walls and marble floors) and to the right is a baptistery (many old frescoes can be admired here).
The Duomo di Padova is located in the Piazza Duomo, which also houses the Museo Diocesano di Padova. A beautiful building where the bishop lived in the fifteenth century.
Padua is a student city (which is clearly visible because you’ll see a large number of young people, trendy coffee bars, and university buildings) and usually, you will also find a lot of street art in such cities. This is also the case in Padua. I saw this beautiful mural near Piazza della Erbe. Isn’t it a gorgeous?
Piazza della Frutta
In Piazza della Frutta you have several sights for the price of one! It is the commercial center of the city and there is often a market to see. On either side, you can see several beautiful buildings such as the impressive Palazzo della Ragione: a historic covered market. The Torre degli Anziani tower is also an eye-catcher, this tower has been here since the thirteenth century.
Piazza dei Signori
Near Piazza della Frutta is another square that is actually just as beautiful: Piazza dei Signori. The most striking building on this square is the beautiful clock tower (Torre dell’Orologio), which is one of the most famous places in the city. This tower dates from 1430 and you can climb the tower. You can also learn more about this building (and Padua) in the accompanying museum.
Go shopping on Via Umberto I.
Italy is the land of fashion and design, so every Italian city has at least one great shopping street. In Padua, it is Via Umberto I, where modern shops alternate with historic old buildings. There are also many coffee shops and eateries here for a quick lunch.
Wander through the Jewish Quarter
In 1603, the Jewish community in Padua was put in a separate neighborhood: the Jewish ghetto. The entrances were guarded and the Jewish community was locked up at night. It was a tight and unsanitary neighborhood and rents were high. Because it was so full, they mainly built upstairs. This makes the streets seem even narrower. The ghetto was abolished with the arrival of the French in 1797.
Nowadays the Jewish quarter is one of the main tourist attractions in Padua: narrow streets, beautiful little squares (with cozy restaurants and terraces) and beautiful facades. You will find the Jewish Quarter near Piazza della Frutta, around Via S. Martino e Solferino street.
Chiesa degli Eremitani
Walking back to the station during my visit to Padua, I passed Chiesa degli Eremitani and decided to pop in. That was not a bad idea! Chiesa degli Eremitani is a church that is quite austere by Italian standards, you actually enter a large space (no chapels). The church was built in 1276 and the walls have several old frescoes. I was so impressed that I completely forgot to take pictures, so you need to take my word for it, haha!
You can enjoy delicious Italian food almost everywhere in Italy and of course, that is also possible in Padua. In Padua, I even ate one of the best meals (and drank one of the tastiest wines) of my entire trip in Italy. The restaurant (Caffè della Piazzetta) was tucked away in a beatuful square in the Jewish Quarter and I can really recommend eating here!
Practical tips: transportation & where to stay
Public transport in Padua
The center of Padua is not that big, so you can easily reach all the beautiful sights on foot. In addition, there are also trams and buses. You can get tickets on the bus or tram, but you can buy the cheapest tickets at edicole (newspaper stands) and tabaccherie (tobacco shops). You can then stamp them on the bus or tram.
Where to stay in Padua
Would you like to stay the night in Padua? A hotel room, apartment, or bed in a hostel can be booked in no time via Booking.com. These are a few accommodations I can highly recommend:
- Massimago Wine Tower: Beautiful guest house in a fourteenth-century building (with frescoes on the walls).
- B&B Casa Camilla: Cozy B&B with a large garden outside the center in a quiet area. You can rent bicycles to explore the area.
- Hotel Al Prato: Nice hotel with modern rooms. The best thing? It is right on the beautiful Prato della Valle!
How do you get to Padua?
Do you feel like going on a trip to Northern Italy and would you like to visit Padua? Italy is easily accessible by train and by plane.
By train to Italy
Since Italy is kind of centrally located in Europe, you can reach Italy by train easily from almost everywhere. It might be a long ride, but you can always make a stop on the way. That’s what I did when I traveled to Northern Italy from The Netherlands by train last year, I had a stopover in Düsseldorf (Germany) and stayed for a week in Interlaken (Switzerland). The best cities to aim for when you’re traveling to Italy are Milan and Verona. Both are great to use as a base to explore more places in Northern Italy. From Verona, it only takes one hour to travel to Padua.
Look for international train tickets in Europe on NS International, Deutsche Bahn, and Oui.sncf. Do you want to explore more countries in Europe by train? Then it might be cheaper to buy an Interrail pass.
Traveling to Italy by plane
Are you short on time or not in the mood for a long train journey to Italy? You can of course also travel by plane. The nearest major airport is Venice. Check Skyscanner for the cheapest airline tickets and a comparison of flight times.
Traveling by train in Italy
It is super easy to travel by train within Italy. You can buy tickets online via the Trenitalia website or at the station. Note: if you buy a ticket at the station, you still have to validate it by inserting it into a stamping machine at the station.
Tips for a trip in Northern Italy
Would you like to visit Padua and see more beautiful places in Northern Italy? Then these are great travel guides to learn more about Italy:
In addition, I wrote these articles about Northern Italy:
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