Tourists know Bologna for its food, but the capital of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region is also famous for its university, said to be the oldest in Europe. What that means, of course, is that it has a thriving bar scene. And while there are plenty of cheap and grungy places, Bologna also has sophisticated cocktail bars and more traditional spots, combining delicious drinks with food worthy of the city’s gastro reputation.
By day, it’s known for excellent cakes. But come aperitivo hour, Gamberini switches up a gear, laying on Bologna’s best buffet. Forget mini pizzas and sandwich quarters – here you’ll find things like seared pork belly and edamame, and canapés topped with prosciutto and cheese. Sit under the porticoes outside to enjoy the evening buzz.
This is a chain of wine bars, but don’t let that put you off – it enjoys the best views in the city, with tables threaded under the porticoes overlooking main square, Piazza Maggiore. Sit back with a glass of pignoletto (Emilia-Romagna’s answer to prosecco) or choose from the other local wines on the list. Feeling brave? Pick their wildcard option, and if you can identify the wine you won’t have to pay.
Bolognese bars tend to be traditional places that do a food-centric aperitivo, or cheaper student hangouts – so this super-sophisticated craft cocktail lounge is a bit of an outlier. You’ll find all the classics, as well as their own inventions – try the Cannes Rosemary Mule, with turmeric-infused vodka, lime juice, ginger beer and rosemary syrup.
The most beautiful bar in the city by any reckoning, this sophisticated joint is located in a sumptuous 16th-century chapel owned by Bologna’s eminent Bentivoglio family, its walls covered in frescoes and elaborate stuccoes. Don’t forget to toast the faded fresco of Jesus – possibly turning water into wine – behind the bar.
This little spot in the university quarter screams hipster, with shelves stuffed with cassettes, a collection of porcelain teapots, and vintage toys around the bar. There’s often live music, there are works by local artists on the walls, and it has a formidable selection of amari (Italian digestifs).
Looking for somewhere to stay? Book into one of the best hotels in Bologna with Culture Trip. We’ve compiled the must-visit attractions in Bologna, including the best museums. And for a bite to eat, don’t miss the city’s best restaurants.
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