The Best Bars in Bologna, Italy

The Two Towers
The Two Towers
Photo of Julia Buckley
14 September 2021

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.


Bakery, Bar, Deli, Italian
Italy, Emilia Romagna, Bologna, Via Ugo Bassi, coffee and pastry Gamberini founded in 1907, counter
ECJ7JJ Italy, Emilia Romagna, Bologna, Via Ugo Bassi, coffee and pastry Gamberini founded in 1907, counter | Courtesy of Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
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.


Bar, Italian, $$$

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.

Osteria del Sole

Wine Bar, Wine, Beer, Cocktails, Pub Grub, Italian
Italy, Emilia Romagna, Bologna, Vicolo Ranocchi, Osteria del Sole
K748H0 Italy, Emilia Romagna, Bologna, Vicolo Ranocchi, Osteria del Sole | © Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
In the middle of the Quadrilatero – Bologna’s sprawling foodie area since Medieval times – the Osteria del Sole has been keeping guests happy since 1465. There’s a selection of largely local wines, but the real draw is that you can bring your own food – stock up in the surrounding food shops and enjoy a packed lunch on the long benches, where there’ll usually be some elderly gents playing cards at the other end.

Bizarre Cocktail Boutique

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Italian, $$$
Bizarre Cocktail Boutique
© Bizarre Cocktail Boutique
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.

Le Stanze

Bar, Wine Bar, Italian, $$$
Italy, Emilia Romagna, Bologna, Le Stanze, bar restaurant housed in the former private chapel of the 16th century Palazzo Bentivoglio
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Caffè Ristretto

Bar, Pub Grub, Beer, Wine, Cocktails, Italian, $$$
A tiny, low-key cocktail bar on the cobbled Via Montegrappa, just off main drag Via Indipendenza, Caffè Ristretto’s friendly staff will help you let your hair down. The movie-poster-covered ceiling and the strong G&Ts will get you right into the mood.

Caffè Rubik

Bar, Cafe, Italian
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).


Bar, Restaurant, Dessert Shop, Dessert
Caffe Zanarini in Piazza Galvani, Bologna, Italy.
© David Broadbent / Alamy Stock Photo
This chic bar behind the main piazza and the Basilica of San Petronio is another good bet for aperitivi. Skip the slightly cramped upstairs and take a table in the pretty Piazza Galvani outside. There’s a nice mix of ages, despite it being near some of the major university buildings.

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.

These recommendations were updated on September 14, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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