Besides the great cultural towns, such as Venice, Florence and Rome, Italy is home to gorgeous cities often avoided by tourists. Bologna is one of them. The town is famous for being a university hub and for its amazing nightlife, but there are also plenty of places to see. Let’s read our 20 must-visit attractions to visit when in Bologna.
The leaning tower of Pisa may be more famous, but Bologna also has its tower. Asinelli Tower is the town’s largest, most beautiful and famous tower. It is possible to climb to the top of it (there are 498 steps) to enjoy great views over the city. Trust us, after eating in Bologna (which is one of the best culinary destinations of the world) you’ll really need it!
The heart of Bologna is Piazza Maggiore, the largest square of the town where usually people spend their nights drinking, chatting and having fun.
Saint Petronius Church
The beautiful basilica of San Petronio, located in Piazza Maggiore, is the main church of Bologna. While its façade is still unfinished and it may not be the most beautiful church in Italy, Saint Petronius, in ancient times, was supposed to be the largest church in the world, until the Vatican discovered the plans and retracted the funds for its construction.
Just few steps from the church is the Neptune Fountain. Designed by the great architect Giambologna in the 16th century, the fountain is one of the symbols of the city and one of the finest fountains in Italy.
Santo Stefano Church
One of the most beautiful churches in Bologna is undoubtedly Santo Stefano, a complex of eight buildings built during the 10th and 13th centuries by the Benedictine order of the town.
A must-see spot in town is the Archaeological Museum. It may not be famous like others in Italy, but it’s worth a look for its rich collections of prehistoric and Etruscan times found in Bologna and surrounding areas. It also hosts interesting treasures from the Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Celtic civilizations.
The best thing you can do in Bologna is stroll under its famous 666 portici, which are beautiful covered red terracotta arcades. Remember to take some excellent pictures here: the red of terracotta is simply amazing.
Another great art spot in town is the National Gallery, also known as Pinacoteca di Bologna. If you want to learn more about the town and region, there is nothing you should do more than spend some of your time here.
Piazza del Mercato, or market square, is a huge open space in the centre of Bologna that has hosted an open-air market since the 13th century. It is the perfect place to buy typical gastronomy or nice souvenirs to take home with you, such as mortadella, tortellini and so on.
Another must-see spot for the food-enthusiast is Quadrilatero, the medieval market where visitors can find all sort of Bolognese delicacies. Prepare yourself to be amazed by tortellini, tagliatelle, parmigiana reggiano, ragù (Bolognese sauce) and local wines. Then, remember also to buy a new pair of jeans!
Did you know that the first university of the Western world was founded in Bologna in 1088? Well, visit the Archiginnasio, which is the first seat of the University of Bologna, and don’t forget to see the Teatro Anatomico, where corpses were once dissected for scientific studies of the human nature, and the library, which is the largest stocked civic library in Italy.
San Luca Sanctuary
About 3.5km from the centre of Bologna, the basilica of Saint Luke is one of the most beautiful religious buildings of central Italy. It occupies a wonderful position overlooking the city below.
The most famous civic palace of the town is Palazzo Comunale, which occupies the western part of Piazza Maggiore. It is home to the Bologna administrative center since 1336 and is still used today.
If you are an Italian-fashion fan, go straight to Galleria Cavour. This place is not for everyone’s pocket, but totally worth a look for its classy shops, such as Armani, Gucci, Prada, Fendi and many more.
Museum of History
Housed inside the beautiful Palazzo Pepoli – the former residence of one of the richest families in Bologna in the Middle Ages – Museum of History traces the story of the town from the Etruscan era through modern times.
Saint Dominic Church
This beautiful church with a red façade, of course, is home to excellent artwork from the greatest Italian artists of all time, such as Michelangelo and Nicola Pisano.
Palazzo Fava is an old palace, home to amazing frescoed rooms on the 1st floor such as the Sala di Giasone painted by the artist Carraccis, and is used as space for temporary art exhibitions.
Via Augusto Righi
For a quick lunch, there is no better place to dine than via Augusto Righi in the student quarter, where visitors can eat the best and most famous Bolgonese fast food: piadina. This flatbread filled with cheese and prosciutto is sold everywhere, but the best and cheapest piadine are on this street.
Opened in 2007, MamBO is the coolest museum in Bologna, dedicated to contemporary art exhibitions of Italian artists. Remember that the entrance to the permanent collection is free the first Sunday of every month.
The hills around Bologna
The last thing you have to do in Bologna is to explore the surrounding hills around the town to have magnificent views of the city and spend some relaxing time surrounded by nature. You won’t regret it.