Things to do in Bologna

Things to do in  Bologna

Welcome to Bologna

Italy is a well-known food lover's destination, and Bologna is at the epicenter of the country's culinary heart. This historic city, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, is a place where eating can rightly be called a local pastime—and one of the main reasons people visit. Food tours in and around Bologna include such local delicacies as prosciutto from nearby Parma, nutty Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and the famous balsamic vinegar from the town of Modena just 28 miles (45 kilometers) away. Walk through the city's colorful food markets with a guide to find out what’s on menus all over town, or learn the secrets of Italian cuisine from expert chefs during a cooking class. When you need a break from all that eating, take a walking tour or guided bike ride through Bologna's historic center to see the Basilica di San Petronio and Fountain of Neptune (Fontana del Nettuno) on Piazza Maggiore, the two medieval leaning towers, and the University of Bologna, founded in 1088 AD by its own students. For farther-afield highlights, take a day trip to the nearby towns of Bazzano and Vignola; the pretty villages of the Reno Valley; or the factories where Lamborghini, Pagani, and Ferrari make their sports cars.

Top 15 attractions in Bologna

Ferrari Museum (Museo Ferrari)

The most evocative name in Italian sports cars is Ferrari, and this dedicated museum in Maranello, Italy, focuses on the auto manufacturer’s history and production. It features 25 cars, including road cars and prototypes, a section devoted to the historic Formula 1 racing team, and fascinating automotive artifacts and memorabilia.More

Bologna Piazza Maggiore

Bologna’s most important square, Piazza Maggiore, is lined by elegant medieval and Renaissance palaces. Today, you can enjoy views of the Basilica di San Petronio and the Fountain of Neptune from the bustling café tables beneath their porticoes, or enjoy the square as part of a food tour or sightseeing tour.More

Bologna University Quarter

Bologna is home to the oldest university in Europe, and the city owes much of its youthful vibrancy and thriving cultural life to the formidable student population, concentrated in the lively University Quarter. Tour this area to discover its cache of cafes and clubs, along with fascinating historic museums and university buildings.More

San Petronio Basilica (Basilica di San Petronio)

Dedicated to the fifth-century bishop Petronius, who became Bologna’s patron saint, the San Petronio Basilica (Basilica di San Petronio) dominates Piazza Maggiore in the heart of the city. One of the largest churches in the world and a soaring example of Gothic grandeur, the basilica Is a highlight of any Bologna city tour.More

Two Towers (Due Torri)

More than 100 towers pierced the sky above Bologna in the Middle Ages, but only 20 still stand today. The most famous are the city center’s Two Towers (Due Torri), which lean at a gravity-defying angle that rivals Pisa’s Leaning Tower. Climb to the top of the taller one for fabulous views over the city and surrounding countryside.More

Lamborghini Museum (Museo Lamborghini)

The Lamborghini Museum (Museo Lamborghini) is a tribute to the passion and life’s work of founder Ferruccio Lamborghini. It showcases Italy’s most famous luxury vehicles in a journey through the past, present, and future of the coveted car brand.More

Anatomical Theatre of the Archiginnasio (Teatro Anatomico dell'Archiginnasio)

Bologna is home to the world’s oldest university, and one of the city’s most remarkable sights is part of the university’s medical school: the 17th-century Anatomical Theater in Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio. Visit this richly paneled and decorated hall to see where students once heard lectures and observed surgical procedures.More

Ducati Museum (Museo Ducati)

Emilia-Romagna’s Motor Valley is legendary among fans of luxury Italian cars and motorcycles, and the Ducati Museum (Museo Ducati) is one of the area’s most impressive attractions. Housed in the Ducati factory headquarters outside of Bologna, this museum is a must for motorcycle enthusiasts.More

Fountain of Neptune (Fontana del Nettuno)

Giambologna’s 16th-century Fountain of Neptune (Fontana del Nettuno), also known as Il Zigànt, or The Giant, is one of the most famous landmarks in Bologna. A bronze Neptune stands watch from atop the ornate Renaissance fountain in Piazza Maggiore, a popular and picturesque gathering spot for locals and visitors.More

Enzo Ferrari Museum (Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari)

In the center of Modena, a historical brick factory building is dwarfed by the adjacent contemporary glass-and-steel hangar topped with a bright yellow car hood–shaped roof. Together, these two structures and their contents tell the story of Enzo Ferrari, race car driver and founder of one of the most famous car brands in the world.More

Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca (Santuario della Madonna di San Luca)

Perched on Colle della Guardia 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) southwest of Bologna’s historic center, the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca (Santuario della Madonna di San Luca) was built to house a Byzantine icon of the Virgin Mary. Its portico, running from the city’s Porta Saragozza to the hilltop sanctuary, is the longest covered arcade in the world.More

Basilica of Santo Stefano (Basilica di Santo Stefano)

Only four churches of the original seven that once made up this stylistic jumble of buildings remain, but a visit to the Bologna’s Basilica of Santo Stefano (Basilica di Santo Stefano) is still a fascinating stroll through centuries of religious architecture. With winding passageways linking chapels and cloisters, this is one of the city’s most captivating churches.More

Prendiparte Tower (Torre Prendiparte)

More than 100 towers stood guard over Bologna in the Middle Ages, but only 20 survive today. One of the few left standing is Torre Prendiparte, the second-highest in the city, soaring almost 200 feet (60 meters) above street level. Climb the internal staircase to the panoramic rooftop for bird’s-eye views over the historic center.More

Oratory of Santa Cecilia (Oratorio Di Santa Cecilia)

Don’t be fooled by the simple facade of this oratory tucked beneath the portico along the length of the Church of San Giacomo Maggiore. Inside, the small chapel is decorated with some of the most important works of the 16th-century Bolognese Renaissance, painted by prominent artists in the Bentivoglio court.More

Basilica of San Domenico (Basilica di San Domenico)

Behind its understated Romanesque façade and distinctive rose window, the 13th-century Basilica di San Domenico is teeming with Renaissance treasures, and ranks among Bologna’s most important churches. The elaborate interiors, a paradise for art enthusiasts, house works by Michelangelo, Filippo Lippi, and others.More

Top activities in Bologna

Bologna traditional food tour - Do Eat Better Experience
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The Award-Winning Private Food Tour of Bologna: 6 or 10 Tastings
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Bologna City Walking Tour

Bologna City Walking Tour

Day Tour Parmigiano, Ferrari Museum, Balsamic, Lambrusco, Lunch with Transfer
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Private Emilia Romagna Food Tour Full Day
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Cesarine: Small group Pasta and Tiramisu class in Bologna
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Classic Bologna Food Tour

Classic Bologna Food Tour

Stay Hungry Stay Bologna
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Stay Hungry Stay Bologna

Ferrari Full Day
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Ferrari Full Day

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All about Bologna

When to visit

As with most of Italy, spring and fall are the most pleasant times to visit Bologna. When Italian beach season starts in midsummer, Bologna empties out due to scorching temperatures. The city reels in summer with a week of hundreds of outdoor screenings of rare and restored films during the Cinema Ritrovato Festival—a great way to beat the heat.


People Also Ask

What is Bologna famous for?

Known as La Grassa (The Fat Lady), Bologna has long been a foodie mecca, but the city offers more than just unforgettable meals. This university town has a lively center where medieval towers and churches loom above student-packed cafes. Italy’s Motor Valley (home to Ferrari and Lamborghini) sits just outside the city.

What is there to do in Bologna?

It’s all about food in Bologna, and dining, tastings, and gourmet strolls draw most visitors. In addition to tucking into heaping plates of tortelloni, you can visit Piazza Maggiore and its San Petronio Basilica, climb the Two Towers for sky-high views, and dive into the historic university district.

Is Bologna worth a day trip?

Yes. Especially if you want to sample some of the best food in Italy or experience a city bustling with more residents than tourists. By train, Bologna is 40 minutes from Florence and less than 90 minutes from Venice, an easy respite from the hordes at those two destinations.

How many days do you need in Bologna?

You can see Bologna’s most important sights in a day, though you’ll need more time if you use the city as a base for visiting the automotive museums and factories in Motor Valley or for touring the nearby Food Valley to sample Parmigiano-Reggiano, prosciutto di Parma, and balsamic vinegar.

Is Bologna famous for Bolognese?

Yes. Though locals don’t call it Bolognese, which, in Italian, simply means anything or anyone from Bologna. Instead, order up a plate of tagliatelle al ragù to sample the city’s legendary ribbons of fresh egg pasta tossed in a rich meat sauce that's been simmered for hours.

What can you do for free in Bologna?

With its endless network of porticoes (recently listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Bologna is a city made for wandering. You can follow the porticoed walkways from the city center all the way up to the hilltop Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca for views over the city.

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