11 Things to do in Bologna: Best places to visit (+ map)

co navštívit v bologni / památky a zajímavosti bologna itálie

Are you planning to visit Bologna, Italy and wondering where to go in Bologna and what not to miss? We’ve put together tips on the best places and things to do in Bologna, including useful information and a map.

Bologna in Italy

Bologna, with more than 400,000 inhabitants, is the seventh largest city in Italy and the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region.

It attracts tourists with the oldest university in the world, well-preserved medieval buildings and excellent cuisine. Still, you’ll get a break from the crowds in Venice, Florence or Rome.

Bologna is a city full of life and culture, where history merges with modern academic life. It retains its authentic character and is heavily populated by locals, giving the town centre a unique atmosphere.

Is it prettier than neighboring Florence? No. Is Bologna worth a visit? I’m sure it is. Especially if you want to escape the crowds, enjoy delicious cuisine and experience a true Italian city where it’s alive.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna

Things to do in Bologna: Best places to visit

Visit the magnificent Piazza Maggiore, climb the clock tower for the best view of the city and get lost in the streets lined with UNESCO-listed porticoes. Finish the day at the rustic taverna, where you will be treated to the famous Bolognese cuisine.

Bologna is full of things to see and experience.

See the best things to do in Bologna:

1. Piazza Maggiore

Piazza Maggiore is not to be missed on your visit to Bologna. Located right in the heart of the city, it is one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. It is spacious and adjacent to the Piazza del Nettuno – in fact, the two squares are intertwined and form a single unit.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna / piazza maggiore bologna
bologna italy / things to do in bologna / piazza maggiore bologna

Admire the important historical buildings and take a closer look at the Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune). The fountain is famous for its magnificent sculptural representation of Neptune, the Roman god of the seas. He is depicted with his arms outstretched, one of which holds a trident, symbolizing his power over the waters.

The sculpture is placed on a high pedestal surrounded by four cherubs and other mythical creatures representing different aspects of marine life and waterways.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna

2. Palazzo Comunale a Torre dell’Orologio

For the best view of Bologna, climb the Torre dell’Orologio in Palazzo Comunale (officially Palazzo d’Accursio). It is a town hall from 14th century with a distinctive clock tower that overlooks the entire Piazza Maggiore. The red roofs of Bologna make it a wonderful spectacle.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna

Torre dell’Orologio has 2 viewing platforms, the second one is only accessible by a narrow staircase and therefore inaccessible for children under 8 years old.

Admission and opening hours of Torre dell’Orologio

Admission to the Torre dell’Orologio is €10 and a reduced €7 for children 4-11, seniors over 65 or students. Free admission for children under 3 years of age and disabled persons including an escort.

Tickets for the tower must be booked in advance, as the number of people inside is limited. Each hour there are only 3 time slots in which you can enter.

The entrance to the tower is on the 2nd floor, reached by stairs or elevator (there are also free toilets). On the way, you will see the decorated interiors of the town hall. The building also includes a small courtyard where you can sit among the greenery.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna

On the right side of the tower is the Salaborsa Library. It is unique because you can see the historical foundations of Bologna in its underground for free. Advance reservations are not necessary – you can go right in. Open daily except Sunday 9:00-20:00, Saturday 9:00-19:00 and Monday 14:00-20:00.

Hotels Bologna 😴

ubytování bologna
The Social Hub

Modern hotel with swimming pool

ubytování bologna
Hotel Cosmopolitan Bologna

4* hotel on the edge of town, free parking

3. Basilica of St. Petronius

The Piazza Maggiore is flanked by imposing buildings, the most monumental of which is the Basilica of Saint Petronius. As soon as you arrive at the square, it immediately catches your eye.

This basilica from 14th century, dedicated to the patron saint of the city, Saint Petronius, is the fifth largest church in the world. The interior of the basilica is rather austere, with Gothic vaults and a richly decorated main altar.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna / basilica of st. petronius bologna
bologna italy / things to do in bologna

Entrance is free and, as in other church buildings, there is a dress code – covered shoulders and knees (they check it). Queues can form inside, but they pass quickly. It is open daily at the following times – 8:30 to 13:30 and 15:00 to 18:30.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna

4. Porticoes in Bologna

Bologna is famous for two reasons – its spaghetti and porticoes, which are even a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The porticoes in Bologna are more than 40 kilometres long, making them the most extensive network of covered walkways in the world. They vary in style from simple wooden columns and arcades to tall, elegant arcades decorated in Renaissance or Baroque style.

The goal of the porticoes was to increase living space in densely populated urban areas. The structures extended out from the first floor of the buildings, while leaving the ground floor open to provide cover for pedestrians. This is an advantage when visiting the city in the rain, from which you can easily hide.

5. Le due Torri: Garisenda and Asinelli

More than a hundred towers were built in Bologna during the Middle Ages. They were used for defence and as symbols of wealth and power of rich families. Only a few of these towers have survived, which is why Le due Torri, or the Two Towers, is one of the most important monuments in Bologna.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna le due torri asinelli

Torre degli Asinelli

The Torre degli Asinelli is approximately 97 metres high, making it the tallest tower in Bologna. The tower is open to the public and offers the opportunity to climb 498 steps to the top, where you can enjoy a fantastic view of the city and the surrounding area. The climb is challenging, but it’s worth it.

Now the tower is inaccessible in 2024 due to reconstruction. You can check the official website for the latest opening dates.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna le due torri

Torre Garisenda

Torre Garisenda is much lower, originally measuring around 60 metres, but today it is approximately 48 metres high. Due to problems with the foundations, the tower began to lean shortly after the construction was completed, which led to its shortening in the 14th century for security reasons.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna

6. Library in the Archiginnasio Palace

Go around the Basilica of Saint Petronius on your left and you will reach a small square where you will find the entrance to the library of the Archiginnasio Palace. It is one of the most important palaces in Bologna, having long served as the main building of the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world.

The architecture of the library and the entire palace is typical of the Renaissance style, with richly decorated arcades and frescoes.

archiginnasio palace bologna

You can peek into the courtyard for free – it is freely accessible during opening hours. The library interiors can be visited for a small fee of € 3.

Open daily except Sunday 9:00-19:00, closing an hour earlier on Saturday.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna / archiginnasio palace and library

7. Santuario Madonna di San Luca

The Santuario di Madonna di San Luca is an important religious building located at the top of the Guardia hill, offering a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside.

The shrine has stood here since 18th century, although the first chapel on this site is said to have existed as early as the 12th century. The reason for the construction was to preserve the icon of the Madonna, which supposedly protected the city of Bologna from various threats.

Santuario Madonna di San Luca bologna

The building is easy to spot from a distance thanks to its imposing Baroque architecture with its distinctive dome, which is reached by the Portico di San Luca, a 3-kilometre-long arcaded corridor.

Every year there is a traditional procession, during which the locals bring the icon of the Madonna to the town for a feast.

Santuario Madonna di San Luca is open daily from 07:00-19:00. Admission is free. Click here for up-to-date information on opening times.

How to get to Santuario Madonna di San Luca

  • on foot through Portico di San Luca – approx. 5 km ascent through the porticoes from the city centre. Calculate the time around 1.5 hours.
  • by bus no. 20 from the centre of Bologna to the stop Villa Spada, where you change to bus no. 58, which will take you to the shrine. Here you can find the timetable for line 58.
  • by car to the free parking lot just outside the sanctuary. Ideal for a short visit in the evening.
  • Tourist train from the centre of Bologna, which stops directly at Piazza Maggiore – usually on the left side of the basilica.

Hotels Bologna 😴

ubytování bologna itálie

4* hotel with roof terrace and excellent cuisine

ubytování bologna itálie
Combo Bologna

Cheap, clean accommodation in the centre

8. Piazza Santo Stefano

We move back to the centre of Bologna, where there is another beautiful square – Piazza Santo Stefano. It is especially famous for the Santo Stefano complex, translated as the Seven Churches, which includes several church buildings and chapels. Walking through the entire complex is like stepping back in time through different periods, from early Christianity to the Middle Ages.

piazza santo stefano bologna

You can visit the church for free. It also includes a museum and free toilets. It is open daily from 7:30-12:30 and 14:30-19:30, on Sundays only from 8:30 and on Mondays only from 18:00-19:30.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna

9. St. Peter’s Cathedral

St Peter’s Cathedral (Cattedrale Metropolitana di San Pietro) is right on the main shopping street, Via dell’Indipendenza. You may not notice it right away because it is not as dominant as the Duomo in Milan, for example. But then it immediately catches your eye with its baroque red brick façade, which hides richly decorated interiors and an accessible crypt.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna

Entrance to the cathedral is free. It is open daily from 7:00-18:30, on Saturdays from 8:00.

Directly behind the cathedral is the Torre Prendiparte, one of the few accessible towers in Bologna. It is only open on selected days – click here for more information.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna

10. La Piccola Venezia

La Piccola Venezia, translated as Little Venice, is one of the most charming neighbourhoods in Bologna. With narrow streets and canals lining the historic buildings. These are a bit shabby, but it still has its charm.

Like Venice, Bologna was once crisscrossed by canals. Most of Bologna’s canals are now covered, but you can still see some of these waterways in La Piccola Venezia.

The most famous spot in La Piccola Venezia is the Finestrella di Via Piella, a small window that reveals a view of the Canale delle Moline. There are often queues, so it’s better to come early in the morning.

la piccola venezia bologna

11. Museums in Bologna

Whether you’re into archaeology, history or art, Bologna has something for you.

If you like modern art, don’t miss MAMbo, which focuses on Italian and international art from World War II to the present (paintings, sculptures, photography, video). The Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna specializes in early medieval and Renaissance art, including famous artists such as Giotto, Raffael and Titian.

The Museo Civico Archeologico includes rich collections from prehistoric times, Egypt, the Etruscans and Roman civilisation. And if you’d like to learn more about the Lamborghini car brand, don’t miss the Museo Ferruccio Lamborghini near Bologna, or the Ducati Museum, which focuses on Ducati motorcycles.

☞ Read: Detailed itinerary for 2 days in Bologna including a map.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna

Where to stay in Bologna?

  • The Social Hub: Modern hotel with pool, gym and restaurant just a short walk from the station and the centre
  • Combo Bologna: Cheap but clean accommodation a short walk from the station, suitable for singles, couples and families
  • Hotel Cosmopolitan Bologna: 4* hotel on the outskirts of Bologna, free parking
  • Savhotel: Elegant hotel with roof terrace, excellent cuisine and wellness

Hotels Bologna 😴

ubytování bologna
The Social Hub

Modern hotel with swimming pool

ubytování bologna
Hotel Cosmopolitan Bologna

4* hotel on the edge of town, free parking

What to taste in Bologna?

Bologna is often referred to as the gastronomic heart of Italy, with a wide range of traditional dishes that you should definitely try on your visit:

  • Tagliatelle al Ragù – A classic Bolognese dish of wide, flat noodles served with a rich ragù sauce, known around the world as “bolognese”. A true ragù is slow cooked and contains ground beef and pork, tomatoes, onions and other vegetables.
  • Tortellini in Brodo – Small stuffed pasta traditionally filled with a mixture of meat or cheese, served in broth.
  • Lasagne alla Bolognese – Layered pasta with ragù, bechamel sauce and parmesan cheese, baked until golden brown. This dish is another classic of Bolognese cuisine that is not to be missed.
  • Mortadella – The famous Bolognese sausage that is tender, spicy and beautifully creamy. It is often eaten as part of antipasti or in sandwiches.
  • Gelato – Although gelato is not specific to Bologna, there are several excellent gelaterias in the city.
  • Pignoletto – A local frizzante (sparkling) white wine that perfectly complements Bolognese dishes. Its fresh and slightly fruity flavour is especially great with light pastas and seafood.
Tagliatelle al Ragù
Tagliatelle al Ragù

Transportation in Bologna

Bologna has an extensive network of public buses operated by TPER (Trasporto Passeggeri Emilia-Romagna). Buses cover the entire city, including the suburbs. During the night hours you can use the special night lines.

A regular ticket costs €1.50 – it is a transfer ticket and is valid for 75 minutes. You must re-validate your ticket each time you change trains. If you plan to travel more, a 24-hour ticket for €6 may be useful.

Tickets can be bought from ticket machines or points of sale marked TPER.

You can also pay with a contactless card, making travelling around Bologna even easier. When you board the bus, you will see green turnstiles where you can purchase your ticket using your card. The price is the same as for a regular ticket. The only condition is: 1 contactless card = 1 passenger.

How to get from the airport to the centre of Bologna: In our previous article you will find A detailed guide to Bologna Airport.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna

Parking in Bologna

Bologna has restricted traffic areas (ZTL – Zona a Traffico Limitato) in the centre, which are only open to locals or vehicles with special permission. These zones are often monitored by cameras, and you can be fined if you enter them without permission.

If you do not have parking from the hotel, there are several options for parking outside the ZTL zone:

  • Parcheggio Stazione Bologna Centrale P1 – parking garage a short walk from the station and with good access to the centre (about 15 minutes on foot)
  • Parcheggio Tanari – cheap outdoor parking (around €5 for the whole day) about 20 minutes walk from the centre, or. the bus stop is right next to the parking lot

You will also find the parking lots mentioned in the map at the end of the article.

bologna italy / things to do in bologna

Bologna Welcome Card

The Bologna Welcome Card is a tourist card with which you get a number of benefits and discounts:

  • Free entry to museums – The card provides free or discounted entry to many of Bologna’s museums and galleries, including the Museo Civico Archeologico and MAMbo.
  • Tours and excursions – Discounts or special access to various tours and excursions around the city, which include historical walks, gastronomic tours and other themed tours.
  • Transport – The PLUS version of the card includes red buses and a tourist train to Santuario Madonna di San Luca.
  • Discounts and special offers – In addition to the above, the card also offers other discounts in shops and restaurants.

The card can be bought online via the official tourist website of Bologna or at the various tourist information centres on arrival.

Things to do in Bologna – map

HOW TO USE THIS MAP: Above you will find a detailed map with tips on sights and attractions to visit in Bologna. Click at the top left of the map to see separate layers with highlighted locations. You can hide and show the different layers or click on the icons on the map to see the names of the places mentioned in the guide to Bologna, Italy. If you want to save the map, star it. For a larger version, click on the icon in the upper right corner.

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These were our tips on things to do in Bologna. Do you have a question? We’ll be happy to answer it in the comments below. Have a safe journey!

More information about Italy

BOLOGNA: We’ve put together a detailed itinerary of how to enjoy 2 days in Bologna (including a map). See our previous article for a detailed guide to Bologna Airport.

NORTHERN ITALY: Here is the itinerary and route map for 2 days in Venice. See the most beautiful places to visit in Verona. Or enjoy a wonderful holiday at Lago di Garda.

TOSCAN: Florence is just half an hour from Bologna – here are the most beautiful places in Florence. Are you planning to explore the whole of Tuscany? We’ve put together our tips on things to do in Tuscany, including a map.

ITALY: Get inspired by the most beautiful places in Italy.

Read even more tips on travelling in Italy.

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