Visiting Parma is worthwhile just for its amazing food, with parmesan cheese and parma ham topping the list of must-eat produce. But art and culture lovers will also fall in love with the romanesque cathedral, Roman ruins, Renaissance art and famous opera house.
Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.
Think of Parma, and prosciutto ham and parmesan cheese probably spring to mind. But there are plenty of other delights to sink your teeth into in this ancient city, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Alongside the many culinary offerings of Parma, it has world-leading art, Roman ruins, Renaissance frescoes and opera houses to explore. Here are the top things to see and do in Parma.
Visit Galleria Nazionale
The iconic Palazzo della Pilotta, home to the Galleria Nazionale, houses the main art collection in the city and is a must-visit spot for fans of Old Masters paintings. Over 700 pieces are on show here – from Leonardo da Vinci’s famous unfinished painting Head of a Woman to the fascinating oil painting Turkish Slave by renowned local artist Parmigianino. Various exhibitions centred around everything from the art of 14th-century Parma to Correggio’s High Renaissance paintings make this gallery worth the trip.
Of course, no visit to Parma would be complete without tucking into the finest delicacies the city has to offer: parmesan cheese and parma ham. Don’t miss the charcuterie boards at Degusteria Romani, a cafe in the heart of the city, which piles delicious prosciutto and nutty parmesan next to salty local salami and bread.
Learn the history of the region at Museo Glauco Lombardi
Set across seven exhibition halls in the Palazzo di Riserva is the Museo Glauco Lombardi, a museum dedicated to the art and history of Maria Luigia of Habsburg – the Duchess of Parma between 1814 and 1847 – and her first husband, Napoleon Bonaparte. Opened in 1961, the museum showcases local 19th-century artefacts, from painting and jewellery to documents and furniture.
Sip wine at Enoteca Fontana
They say you don’t know Parma until you’ve squeezed your way into Enoteca Fontana. Regional wines and moreish nibbles take centre stage at this bustling wine bar where, if you’re lucky enough to get a seat, you can ask the local drinkers for recommendations and enjoy glasses for as little as €2. Think of this place as a crash course in regional Italian wines. Your head won’t thank you tomorrow, but at least your bank balance will be intact.
Visit the Cattedrale di Parma
Consecrated in 1106, the romanesque cathedral is understandably one of the top attractions in the city. Two great marble lions guard the entrance and inside, amazingly colourful frescoes – including Correggio’s Assumption of the Virgin, one of the finest pieces of the Italian High Renaissance – steal the show. Below, the crypt preserves the relics of San Bernardo degli Uberti, patron saint of the diocese. Entry is free and guided tours are recommended to get the most out of your visit.
Explore the Battistero di Parma
The baptistry, conveniently located next door to the cathedral, dates back to the 12th century and is a stunning example of romano-gothic architecture in the region. Its unassuming pink-and-white marble facade undersells the magnificence that awaits inside: just like the cathedral, its interior is covered with mesmerising frescoes. It’s a small building that punches above its weight in terms of the art and history to discover – and there are local guides available who can talk you through its beauty in detail.
Watch the opera at Teatro Regio
A host venue of the Verdi Festival – a month-long annual celebration of composer Giuseppe Verdi – this intimate opera house has been entertaining Parma citizens since the 1800s. Verdi, who was born nearby, performed most of his renowned operas at the theatre. Thanks to its reputation, contemporary performances – including Verdi’s Requiem – are of a very high standard and you’ll need to plan ahead if you’d like to attend, as tickets sell out very quickly.
Stroll around the Piazza Garibaldi
Piazza Garibaldi is a humming, cobbled square on the site of an ancient Roman forum, now known for its top-rated bars and shops. This bustling interchange is also home to the Giuseppe Garibaldi statue, alongside the Governor’s Palace, an arts, exhibitions and events centre in a former government building. Keep an eye out for the unique sundials that adorn the building.
Take five in Parco Ducale
Escape the buzz of Parma city centre at Parco Ducale, a former royal residence that’s now a public park, on the banks of the Parma stream. This expansive green lung is just a 10-minute stroll from the heart of the city but its tree-lined avenues, calming fountains and wildlife pond give it an entirely more tranquil vibe. The 16th-century Ducal Palace, which was once the Duke of Parma’s lavish palace and now used by the carabinieri (domestic police), sits within in the park.
Listen up at Casa del Suono
At the unusual Casa del Suono – or the House of Sound – you get a unique opportunity to learn about the weird and wonderful history of music technology. This quirky museum, housed within a deconsecrated 17th-century church, touches on everything from vinyl records to transistor radios and more modern digital music. It’s an excellent way for an audiophile – or anyone interested in the development of music – to while away a few hours.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.