The city, the capital of Emilia Romagna, is a destination you should definitely add to your travel bucket list. The Italian city will hypnotize you because of its vitality, its lifestyle and its architecture: Bologna will enter your heart and it will not come out any more.
View from above is a stretch of red roofs while approaching slowly is a palette of colors, a casket of buildings and arcades. Bologna has to be savored slowly, also enjoying the cuisine, famous all over the world. We have made a guide with the attractions not to be missed in Bologna. Check it out!
What to see in Bologna
Bologna is a city that must be visited on foot or by bike. But what to see absolutely? Surely from Piazza Maggiore, one of the symbols of the city, a concentration of art and medieval architecture that will leave you speechless. Here, it is absolutely worth visiting the Basilica of San Petronio, where you can visit the longest sundial in the world. On the square overlook other incredible buildings not to be missed: Palazzo dei Banchi, Palazzo dei Notai, Palazzo d'Accursio and Palazzo del Podestà. Under the Voltone del Podestà, near the Palazzo Re Enzo, there is a wireless telephone that you absolutely must try: it is a particular acoustic effect that will make you listen to what is said in the opposite corner.
Adjacent to Piazza Maggiore, almost to be its extension, you will find Piazza Nettuno, where is the famous Fountain of Neptune, symbol of the city that is located right at the entrance of the Palazzo di Re Enzo. Before leaving the square, take a trip to Salaborsa, which in the 19th century was the center of economic life in the city. Today, you will find an incredible library here. Under the transparent paving of the covered square of Salaborsa, you can see archaeological finds and what remains of the old Bologna.
Look for Via Santa Margherita, to visit the Gallery ONO Arte contemporanea, a small but very special gallery: here you will find books, exhibitions, illustrations and lots of vinyls.
Stroll along Via dell'Archiginnasio, along the street characterized by an incredible portico, you will find the Civic Museum of Bologna housed in the fifteenth century Palazzo Galvani and, a little further on, the Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio, which was the original seat of the oldest University of West (whose origins date back to 1088). Take some time to admire it, as it is one of the most beautiful buildings in Bologna, home to the Biblioteca Comunale dell'Archiginnasio. Inside it is absolutely worth a visit to the Anatomical Theater of the '600, the ancient classroom where the anatomy lessons were held.
Do not miss a visit to the nearby church of San Domenico that preserves sculptural wonders of inestimable value. Reach Piazza Santo Stefano, here you can visit a complex of churches known as the Complex of Santo Stefano, or the Seven Churches. Today there are only four of the seven churches, which you can already see from the Piazza: Church of the Crucifix, Basilica of the martyr San Vitale and Sant'Agricola, the Basilica of the Sepulcher and the church of the Trinity.
The Towers of Bologna, that of the Asinellis and Torre Garisenda, together with the Church of Saints Bartolomeo and Gaetano outline the profile of the city; you can climb to the top of the Asinelli Tower (the other is closed), climbing 498 steps, to admire the spectacle of red roofs from above. Stroll through the streets of the old market known as Quadrilatero to taste the best of the Bolognese culinary tradition (at this link you will find some useful addresses on where to eat). If you still have time available, do not miss a visit to the Pinacoteca di Bologna, which preserves incredible works by Raphael, Reni, Perugino, Tintoretto and Guercino among others. Push yourself up to the outskirts of the Pillar to admire a secret villa, Villa Gandolfi Pallavicini: an incredible baroque building.
Did you know that Bologna in the past resembled a bit in Venice? It was characterized by a dense network of canals and an important river port. If you want to discover a very interesting side of the city, we invite you to discover the heritage of canals, bridges and furrows that characterize Bologna Underground. Numerous underground tours of the city are organized on a daily basis. Trace of the old canals can also be found in the city center, at the Finestrella in Via Piella, where a small door will allow you to observe the Canale delle Moline that overlooks colorful buildings.
Did you know that Bologna is the city with the largest number of arcades in the world? The porticos of Bologna are almost 40 km long and have been built since the year 1000 when the University attracted students, academics and workers from the nearby countryside into cities, overcrowding that caused an emergency housing that the Bolognese resolved by increasing the volume of the apartments the upper floors with wooden ledges to which later columns were added for support. The most famous is surely that of San Luca which is also the longest portico in the world, which connects the city center with the Colle Guardia where there is the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca: if you have a few more days you will have to follow it absolutely. Around the city are worth a visit: the Portico degli Alemanni, the portico of the former convent of San Francesco, the Portico of San Giacomo Maggiore, the Portico dei Servi, the portico of Via Altabella.
The Towers of Bologna, that of the Asinellis and Torre Garisenda, together with the Church of Saints Bartolomeo and Gaetano outline the profile of the city; you can climb to the top of the Asinelli Tower (the other is closed), climbing 498 steps, to admire the spectacle of red roofs from above. Stroll through the streets of the old market known as Quadrilatero to taste the best of the Bolognese culinary tradition. If you still have time available, do not miss a visit to the Pinacoteca di Bologna, which preserves incredible works by Raphael, Reni, Perugino, Tintoretto and Guercino among others. Push yourself up to the outskirts of the Pillar to admire a secret villa, Villa Gandolfi Pallavicini: an incredible baroque building.
Did you know that Bologna in the past resembled a bit in Venice? It was characterized by a dense network of canals and an important river port. If you want to discover a very interesting side of the city, we invite you to discover the heritage of canals, bridges and furrows that characterize Bologna Underground. Numerous underground tours of the city are organized by the Amici Association. Trace of the old canals can also be found in the city center, at the Finestrella in Via Piella, where a small door will allow you to observe the Canale delle Moline that overlooks colorful buildings.
Things to do for free in Bologna like a local
Bologna is a small open-air museum, there are many things you can do without spending a penny:
- Visit the Archiginnasio courtyard
- Free museums on the first Sunday of the month
- Discover Majani building
- Go along the Portico di San Luca
- Admire the sculptures of Santa Maria della Vita
- Visit the ONO gallery
- Museum of Anatomical Waxes
- Via Piella's “Finestrella”
- Santo Stefano complex
- Botanical Garden
- Middle Market
The ancient market is a plus for some shopping like a local
Via Drapperie, Via Pescherie Vecchie and in the surrounding alleys is held every day the colorful market called 'del Quadrilatero', a Bolognese tradition with strong aromas and bright colors. And with a very strong accent!
It is an ancient market for the narrow streets characteristic of the city center, small and with the old buildings in pastel shades to make it a context. Fresh fruit, typical food, artisan products: take home or eat there? The walk in this market is a duty, and if you are of those with Instagram always in your hands ... these corners will not need any filter!
What to see in Bologna and surroundings
From Bologna you can start exploring the villages close to the city. Dozza, the painted village, is worth a visit. Over a hundred works have been carried out over the years by great names in contemporary art. The sketches of the works on the wall are preserved in the fortress. It is the Biennale of the Painted Wall that gave the city a marvelous open-air gallery
Do not miss a visit to the fifteenth-century village of Selva Malvezzi where you can visit the main palace and the Governor's palace. The village is a feudal complex of the homonymous noble family who owned Palazzo Malvezzi in Bologna along the ancient Via San Donato.
Two kilometers from Bologna, immersed in the dense vegetation of oaks, chestnuts and cypress trees is the Hermitage of Ronzano, a typical country monastery to visit. Do not miss a visit to the delightful medieval village of Brisighella and visit a hidden gem, the small village of San Pietro which is located in the middle of the hills of Orizzano. Worth a visit Mallacappa, the small village on the Reno, while in the town of Grizzina Morandi do not miss a visit to the fairytale Rocchetta Mattei.
What to see in Bologna with children
Are you in Bologna with your little ones? Climb to the top of the Torre degli Asinelli to admire the city from top. If your children are not too small you can do it without problems. Reach the phone under the Voltone del Podestà to play with the surprising acoustic effect. Stroll under the arcades and do not miss a stop at the Ice Cream Museum.
Visit Salaborsa and admire, beyond the glass floor, what emerges from the underground Bologna.Visit the Botanical Garden and enjoy a moment of relaxation reaching the Margherita Gardens. If you are passionate about history, then you cannot miss Palazzo Pepoli, the Museum of History of Bologna.
Where to stay in Bologna
Bologna is famous not only for its porticoes and towers, but also for its numerous artistic and cultural attractions, for concerts, trade fairs and events such as the Motor Show. Deciding where to stay in Bologna is definitely connected to the reason why you go to the capital of Emilia Romagna.
There are many attractions offered by the city, as well as the solution of where to sleep in Bologna, from cheap hotels to luxury hotels, from bed & breakfasts and guesthouses to apartments.
The best area to stay in Bologna is definitely the historical center but it is all ZTL (limited traffic area) and this involves parking problems for those who come by car.
In this case, an excellent alternative solution is to stay just outside the center, for example in the station area. Some hotels offer parking, or parking in the garage included in the price, and then reach the center or public transport, which are well-functioning, or even on foot with a short walk.
Where to stay in Bologna for Concerts and Fairs
In addition to its undisputed beauty, Bologna attracts many tourists thanks to its events, fairs and events, including in particular the Motor Show. In conjunction with major events, the facilities are often full and the prices are higher. It is advisable to book well in advance so as not to risk finding a full house.
If the reason for the visit is an event in particular, but you also want to visit the city, an excellent solution to stay in Bologna is always the historical center, from which you will easily move by public transport.
But if you have a few days available, the ideal is to stay close to where the event will take place, in the fair area for the Motor Show, near the Dall'Ara stadium or the Unipol Arena for concerts or festivals.