Young, lively and simply likeable – welcome to Bologna! The university town surprised us quite a bit with its exuberant flair. And there are also impressive sights in Bologna.
Bologna is far less touristy than Florence, for example – and that’s why it’s a really worthwhile destination for a city trip. In any case, we found Bologna wonderful and can only warmly recommend a trip there.
So that you can plan and prepare your holiday perfectly, we will show you the most beautiful sights and highlights in Bologna in this blog article. Of course, as always, there are our detailed, very personal tips for your trip.
1. Bologna in Italy: First Travel Tips & FAQs Exciting facts & interesting facts about Bologna Bologna is the city of arcades! Over a length of 38 The arcades criss-cross the city for kilometers. Since 2021 the arcades of Bologna are even a UNESCO World Heritage Site! The arcades are not only beautiful to look at, but also offer protection from rain and sun – very practical. Bologna is home to the oldest university in Europe. In general, you immediately notice that Bologna is a university city. The flair is lively, hip, young and exuberant . The city’s bars aren’t just packed at weekends. Bologna is home of tortellini. It’s almost a must to eat tortellini in Bologna. In general, Bologna is a culinary jewel. Our tips for aperitivo, gelato & co. are of course further down in this article. Bologna is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region . By the way, Tuscany is only a stone’s throw away. That’s why many people plan Bologna as a stopover on a Tuscany road trip. Bologna has three nicknames: La Dotta, la Grassa, la Rossa. In German: La Dotta – the scholar (Bologna as a university city). La Grassa – the fat ones (thanks to the excellent, substantial cuisine). La Rossa – the Red (due to the red bricks of the houses). How many days should I plan for Bologna? Bologna is close 400.000 residents. The center of Bologna, in which almost all the important sights are located, is comparatively manageable.
Two nights are enough to get a good first glimpse of Bologna. This gives you enough time to visit the top sights.
Those who prefer to take it easy and maybe go on one or two excursions should stay three to five nights. Around Bologna there are some very worthwhile destinations (e.g. Dozza or Ravenna).
Bologna Bucket List: What shouldn’t I miss? For those who want it short and sweet, here is a small best-of list for Bologna. (Of course, more tips on these highlights and sights will follow in the course of the blog article.)
Enjoy the gigantic view of Bologna from the Asinelli Tower.The (unfinished) Basilica on the Main Square admire.The Visit the old university of Bologna. Wow!Through the countless Stroll through the arcades of Bologna and enjoy the flair. Immerse yourself in the aperitivo culture of Italy. Dolce vita at its finest!And last but not least: eat tortellini – or maybe even learn to prepare them. They come from Bologna. Yummy! 2. The most beautiful sights in Bologna Piazza Maggiore: The main square Let’s start at the central square in Bologna, the Piazza Maggiore. It is the pulsating center of Bologna – there is no way around it. Some of the most important sights of Bologna are located here, including of course the Basilica of San Petronio, , about which we will tell you more in the next chapter.
The Piazza Maggiore is lined with innumerable splendid palaces and arcades. The Palazzo del Podestà is particularly eye-catching. It comes from the 15. Century and is considered to be the oldest palace in the square.
Adjacent to Piazza Maggiore, Piazza Nettuno is undoubtedly the most important fountain in Bologna, the Neptune Fountain. You should definitely make a short photo stop at this attraction.
Basilica of San Petronio In the middle of the Piazza Maggiore sits the the most important church in Bologna, the Basilica of San Petronio. Your facade is quite an eye-catcher. It is in fact unfinished and only half covered with marble. (At first glance, you could almost believe that this is how it should be. It somehow seems right to us.)
The enormous dimensions are not deceptive. The Basilica of San Petronio is actually the fifth largest church in the world (measured by the height of the nave) and the largest brick church overall.
You can visit the interior of the church for free. (You only have to pay a fee of two euros if you want to take photos.) Personally, we found the interior of the church surprisingly simple.
One of the highlights in the Basilica of San Petronio is the Panorama terrace (“Terrazza”) at the back. Of this 54 meter high vantage point you can enjoy a magnificent view of Bologna.
Information about visiting the Basilica of San Petronio at a glance Entry: Free of charge, photo fee 2 euros, terrace 3 eurosOpening hours & further information:
Basilica of San Petronio (official website)
The crooked ones Towers of Bologna: Garisenda & Asinelli The symbol of Bologna and one of the most important monuments of the city are the two leaning towers called Garisenda and Asinelli. Once upon a time there were countless such towers in Bologna. Unfortunately, only a few of them remain today.
Especially the smaller of the two towers (Garisenda) is so crooked that one wonders how long it will be before it collapses. Really crazy!
Only the bigger tower (Asinelli) is allowed to be entered. And we would really recommend that to you. Above 498 (!) Wooden steps you reach what is probably the most spectacular vantage point over Bologna.
The sweaty ascent is worth it. The bird’s eye view view of the city is simply magnificent. For safety reasons there is a grid, but you can take pictures without any problems.
Our tip: Only a limited number of people are allowed on the tower at the same time per timeslot. We strongly advise you to book your ticket in advance (preferably several days). A timeslot always lasts 15 minutes (including ascent and descent). The time on the tower is therefore limited, but completely sufficient.
Info on visiting the Asinelli Tower Entry: 5 euros
Ticket reservation & further information: Asinelli Tower (Bologna Tourist Info Official Website)
Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio: The old University Just a few steps from Piazza Maggiore you arrive to one of the most important sights of Bologna, the magnificent Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio. This architectural masterpiece houses the old University of Bologna.
As a visitor you can only visit selected areas . A walk through the inner courtyard and the richly decorated staircase and corridors is free of charge.
For a fee of three euros, you can also use the historical anatomy hall and the Stabat-Mater hall visit. The wood paneled Anatomy Hall (actually “Anatomical Theater”) is smaller than expected but quite special. In the Stabat-Mater-Saal, the highlight is clearly the view of the library premises. (These may not be entered, however.)
Information on the Overview of the visit to the Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio Entry: 3 Euro (courtyard & corridors free)Tickets: At the cash desk on site
Quadrilatero District East of the Piazza Maggiore you reach the small but really worth seeing and very lively district Quadrilatero. A labyrinth of narrow alleyways lined with market stalls, delicatessens and restaurants awaits you here.
During the day, locals and touristsdrink their espresso and buy groceries here, in the evening people meet for an aperitivo and enjoy the Aperol Spritz.
Fun fact on the side: The delicatessen shop Ceccarelli is also located in this quarter, which the Austrian band Wanda wrote in their probably most famous song “Bologna” sings about
Bologna Arcades Arcades, arcades, arcades! In Bologna they are omnipresent and characterize the cityscape. Crisscrossing Bologna is a network of impressive arcades with a total of 38 kilometers in length. On your exploration of the city, you will walk (almost) continuously under arcades on some routes.
Some arcades are wooden, some are lined with columns, some are impressively high. In any case, twelve selected arcades in Bologna do not count for nothing since the year 1024 to the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
By the way, the longest and probably most famous arcade in Bologna is the Arcade of San Luca. It stretches for four kilometers from downtown Bologna to the Santuario della Madonna di San Luca. You can find more information about this attraction later in this blog article.
Piazza Santo Stefano & Basilica The picturesque Piazza Santo Stefano (also known as Piazza delle Sette Chiese) is one of the most beautiful squares in Bologna’s old town. In addition to the beautiful facades of the Renaissance palaces, the basilica of the same name, Santo Stefano , in particular, attracts everyone’s attention.
Our tip: It is definitely worth taking a look at the Basilica of Santo Stefano. Strictly speaking, this is a church complex consisting of several buildings and cloisters. Another gem is hidden around every corner. In addition, access is completely free of charge – highly recommended!
Little Venice There’s a tiny touch of Venice to the north of the city center of Bologna. There are still remnants of the once extensive canal system in Bologna. (We are deliberately talking about “leftovers” here so as not to stir up false expectations.)
You have the most famous “Venice view” from the Via Piella. There is a small, inconspicuous window behind which the iconic view called “Finestrella” is hidden.
Admittedly: the view of the Canale di Reno is really quite picturesque. However, this sight is not overly spectacular. Our conclusion: You can do it, but you don’t have to.
Santuario della Madonna di San Luca On a round 300 meter high hill southwest of the city center of Bologna the pilgrimage church Santuario della Madonna di San Luca is enthroned.
The church is famous for the Arcade of San Luca. It starts in the center of Bologna at the old city gate Porta Saragozza and extends from there along a length 4 kilometers up to the church.
If you are motivated by sport, you can dare the ascent on foot. Many (us included) make it easier for themselves and either take the bus to the top or drive to the top by car.
Information on visiting the Santuario della Madonna di San Luca in Overview Entry: Free, 5 euros for the panoramic terrace on the roof of the church
Getting there: Either on foot (through the 4-kilometre-long arcade), by car (parking available nearby), with the tourist train San Luca Expres (from Piazza Maggiore) or by public bus. (If you want to go directly to the church, take bus no. 20 & 58 Alternatively, you can also take bus no. Drive to Arco Del Meloncello and enter the arcade there.)Further information: Santuario della Madonna di San Luca (official website)
3. Eating & drinking: Culinary tips for Bologna Bologna = a Culinary paradise! So many Italian specialties that we also know come from Bologna and the surrounding area. Before we reveal our culinary tips to you, here are a few helpful tips for your trip.
Local drink her espresso (which, by the way, is always simply “Caffè” called) at the counter while standing. It’s also cheaper there than if you take a seat in the restaurant. For us, nothing symbolizes the Italian way of life as much as the Aperitivo. It’s sort of like Italy’s after-work, only that it’s really celebrated there. With the drink (Aperol Spritz!) you get a lot of appetizers for free. In Italy, a so-called “coperto” is usually charged, so a kind of cover. Usually you get some bread for it. Coperto does not refer to the tip, but you can tip a little less if coperto is already included. However, rounding up as we do is unusual. It is more likely to leave two euros at the table. Regional specialities Tortellini: You read that right: Tortellini come from Bologna. The culinary classic is omnipresent in the city. They are traditionally eaten “in brodo”, i.e. in a clear soup, although they are of course also served with various sauces in all restaurants. By the way, you can buy fresh tortellini in many shops in Bologna to take home. (Caution: Must be chilled and usually consumed within two days.) Al ragù: The pasta sauce that we know as “Bolognese” is actually called “al ragù” and comes from Bologna. It is served here with tagliatelle (not spaghetti!). Mortadella: The famous Italian sausage also comes from Bologna. You can hunt us with them, but if you want to try them, Bologna is a great place to be. The small shop “Mò Mortadella Lab”, where you can get mortadella paninis to go, is very popular for a snack between meals. Tips for cafes & restaurants Caffè Terzi: The absolutely perfect café for a short coffee break. It is best to do as the locals do and enjoy the espresso directly at the bar. It’s cheaper and more authentic. In addition a cornetto – delicious!
Cremeria Santo Stefano: The best ice cream we have eaten in ages! There are classic and unusual varieties. It just tastes great and the ice cream parlor is also nice to look at.
Sfoglia Rina: Tortellini are made in this very popular pasta shop near the center served in a variety of ways. (You can also buy fresh pasta to take away here.) Perfect for a quick lunch, although there can be a wait for a table at busy times.
Botanica Lab Cucina: In this rather hip restaurant, only vegan dishes are served. So if you’ve had enough of Pasta al Pomodoro, you’re in good hands here.
Trattoria di Via Serra: Very popular trattoria whose value for money ratio was even awarded by Michelin. Reservations recommended.
4. Our hotel tip for Bologna We stayed at the Aemilia Hotel Bologna , which we can highly recommend. A modern city hotel awaits you here with comfortable rooms and a really great roof terrace – including a distant view of Bologna.
The hotel is located in quiet location, about 000 minutes walk from the historic center of Bologna. The underground car park directly below the hotel is practical. Perfect for all those who arrive by car and want to save themselves the hassle of looking for a parking space.
The rooms are pleasantly sized and very comfortably furnished. We opted for the deluxe double room category and were therefore able to look forward to a wonderful view towards Bologna.
Breakfast is nothing special (as is usually the case in Italy), but there is plenty of choice and, by the way, delicious croissants. A highlight is the roof terrace. There you can enjoy the evening hours at sunset wonderfully.
Our conclusion: Although the hotel is much larger and less personal than expected, we felt very comfortable. The location is very convenient (especially for those arriving by car). We would come back!
Here you can book the hotel: Aemilia Hotel Bologna
5. Arrival & local transport Getting there: How do I get to Bologna? Bologna is in northern Italy, more precisely in Emilia-Romagna. Coming from Austria and Germany, arriving by car is definitely an option. It is about 7.5 hours from Vienna and a good 6 hours from Munich.
You should definitely arrange parking in advance. (Conveniently, our hotel had an underground car park for 15 Euro per night.) Also consider that the tolls in Italy are not exactly cheap. There is no vignette, you pay per section (by card or in cash).
You can take the train a little less stress (but longer) on road. Here, too, there are numerous direct connections to cities in German-speaking countries. The train station is not far from the old town.
Last but not least, Bologna also has an airport, which is conveniently located very close to the city. There are direct flights from several cities in Austria and Germany, including Vienna, Berlin and Munich.
You can search for cheap flights here: Skyscanner
How do I get from A to B in Bologna? Most of the sights in Bologna are within walking distance . The most important means of transport for a city trip to Bologna are your own feet.
There are numerous bus lines on public transport. For tourist purposes, however, these are of little importance. You can only use the bus for your trip to the Santuario della Madonna di San Luca (but you don’t have to).
6. Map: All sights & tips at a glance For better orientation you can find in this map all important sights and highlights in Bologna at a glance. Our tip: Simply click on the rectangle in the top right corner to open the map in the Google Maps app on your smartphone. This way you can navigate comfortably from A to B on site in Bologna.
Transparency: Affiliate Links This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!
Have you ever been to Bologna? How did you like the city? Which sights can you recommend? We would be very happy if you tell us your tips below this blog article.