8 Things to Do in Bologna, Italy: The Foodie Capital of the World

Are you a foodie? Then, you have to visit Bologna, Italy. It’s known for the most amazing food in all of Italy and even the world I might have to say! I would totally just travel here for the food. In fact, the Emilia-Romagna region in general is known for it’s delicious cuisine.

But Bologna also has many other amazing things to do. It’s known as the town with the oldest university. Many of the streets are lined with beautiful porticos, which are covered walkways and they are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Read on for the best things to do in Bologna, Italy!

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Best Time to Visit Bologna

The best time to visit Bologna is during the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) when the weather is pleasant and the crowds are smaller. Spring brings blooming flowers and mild temperatures, while autumn offers beautiful foliage.

How long do you need in Bologna?

2 to 3 days is enough time to see what Bologna has to offer. In this time frame, you will have time to get a taste for all the delicious food, stroll the medieval streets, and admire iconic landmarks such as the Two Towers and Piazza Maggiore. If you’d like to take some day trips, Bologna is a great base for that. I’d add a few extra days to this so you can see nearby places like Modena, Parma, and more.

Is it Worth Visiting Bologna?

It is absolutely worth visiting Bologna especially if you’re a foodie like me. This town is lively and has so much to offer. You will not be disappointed! And if you’re debating visiting Bologna or Verona, check my opinion on which city is better to go to!

How to Get to Bologna

Bologna has its own airport making it convenient to get here. Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport (BLQ), is located just a few kilometers northwest of the city center.

From the airport, you can take the Aerobus shuttle, which runs frequently and takes 20 minutes to get to the center. Alternatively, taxis and rental cars are also available at the airport.

Bologna is well-connected by train, with the Bologna Centrale railway station being a major hub for both national and international train services. High-speed trains, such as the Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, and Italo, provide fast connections to major cities across Italy, including Florence, Milan, Rome, and Venice, as well as neighboring countries like France, Switzerland, and Austria.

8 Best Things to do in Bologna, Italy

1. Stroll through Piazza Maggiore

This is Bologna’s main square and home to the beautiful Fountain of Neptune. Here you’ll find the pulse of the city. It is a very busy square great for people watching or sitting down with a coffee and watching time pass. Bar La Linea is just the perfect place for that as it faces Basilica di San Petronio. There are also many shops and cafes nearby.

⭐ Fun tip! I did this amazing self-guided food tour where I picked up some vouchers near the square and redeemed them at various places around town at my own pace. It allowed me to try things I never would have thought to try myself! You can book the tour I did here. I sampled balsamic vinegar, pizza, chocolates, and more!

2. Visit the Basilica di San Petronio

The Basilica di San Petronio is of the largest churches in Italy, known for its beautiful facade and impressive interior. It’s located right in Piazza Maggiore.

The church is an extraordinary example of Gothic architecture which began construction in 1390. Its façade still remains unfinished but you can see it adorned with intricate marble reliefs.

Don’t miss a visit to the inside which is full of stunning artworks, including frescoes and stained glass windows. It is free to enter and open to visitors year-round from 8 am to 6 pm. Admission to the Terrazza and the Cappella dei Magi, however, costs € 3.

3. Climb Torre degli Asinelli (Two Towers)

The iconic towers of Bologna are one of the most famous buildings in Italy. One of the towers can be climbed for stunning views of the city. There are 498 wooden steps to the Asinelli Tower. Once up you will be rewarded with panoramic vistas of Bologna.

Sometimes it sells out so book in advance here. When I visited it was sold out and I wasn’t able to go inside sadly!

The towers were originally built by noble families as defensive structures and symbols of wealth and power. It dates back to the 12th century.

Today, the Torre degli Asinelli stands at a height of approximately 97 meters (318 feet), making it the tallest leaning medieval tower in Italy.

4. Indulge in the Foodie Scene

Wander through the Quadrilatero, a lively food market district, and indulge in the foodie scene.

Head to Mercato Delle Erbe, an indoor market with many stalls to choose from for freshly made food. The market is even selling fresh produce here.

For dinner, you have to try Tagliatelle al Ragù at Osteria dell’Orsa. Now, you’ll be craving something sweet so head over to Cremeria Santo Stefano for the best gelato in Bologna. It’s located on Via Santo Stefano.

Have lunch at 051 Zerocinquantuno and don’t miss the Tigella sandwiches. They are made with small, round breads and filled with a variety of meats and cheeses. It’s a traditional thing to try.

Things to try, Bologna Food Guide:

  • Tortellini en Brodo: Small, ring-shaped pasta parcels filled with meat and cheese.
  • Lasagna alla Bolognese: Layers of flat pasta sheets, béchamel sauce, Bolognese meat sauce, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
  • Cotoletta alla Bolognese: A breaded and fried veal cutle
  • Crescentine Fritte: Small balls of fried dough.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiana
  • Prosciutto di Parma
  • Balsalmic Vinegar

Best Food Tours in Bologna:

5. Check out the Archiginnasio of Bologna

The Archiginnasio of Bologna is a historic building from the 16th century that was once home to the University of Bologna. It features beautiful Renaissance architecture and an impressive anatomical theater.

Its magnificent halls, adorned with intricate woodwork, elaborate frescoes, and thousands of coats of arms belonging to former students and professors, reflect the university’s prestigious past.

It’s really stunning to see in person all the beautiful frescos adorning the walls and ceilings so be sure to take your time here and bring your camera for photo opportunities.

6. See the many Porticos

Porticos are a distinctive architectural feature of the city that has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The porticos are covered walkways that line the streets and connect many of the city’s buildings.

The tradition of building porticos in Bologna dates back to the Middle Ages. They were constructed to expand living space in crowded urban areas. Over time, the porticos became symbolic of Bologna and really adds to the distinct character and charm of the city.

7. Peak through the “Secret” window to a canal

Located on Via Piella this window opens up to a canal resembling Venice. See what it looks like here.

The window however isn’t really secret anymore, you’ll find a huge line waiting to take a photo here. It does move pretty quickly though!

8. Visit San Luca

During your stay head to the Sanctuary of San Luca on an early morning to best enjoy it without crowds and before it gets too hot.

To get there, you can take a walk along the Portico di San Luca, which stretches for 3.8 kilometers from the city center to the hilltop sanctuary. The portico is the longest covered walkway in the world and offers beautiful views along the way.

Note: The visit to San Luca can take a few hours, depending on your pace and the amount of time you wish to spend at the sanctuary.

Directions to San Luca:

1) take the San Luca express train from Piazza Maggiore (no walk at all) Info here

2) walk from the center (60-75 min. walk)

3) take bus 20 from the center until the bus stop, Meloncello, and then walk up to the church (30 min. walk).

Where to Stay in Bologna

Bologna Best Day Trips

1. Parma

Parma is a quaint town known for parma ham and parmesan cheese. You can get there in an hour by train from Bologna.

2. Modena

Modena is a beautiful city known for its balsamic vinegar and impressive cathedral. It’s easy to get here by train.

3. Ravenna

Ravenna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its stunning Byzantine mosaics. You can take this tour from Bologna to visit in one day!

📹 See my Instagram video on this town here
📄 Read my full blog post on visiting Ravenna

4. Dozza Imolese

Dozza Imolese is known for its colorful murals. You need a car to get here. If you stay at the hotel I stayed at the host will likely take you as he did for me!

📹 See my Instagram video on this town here
📄 Read my full blog post on visiting Dozza Imolese

5. Comacchio

A hidden gem and replica of Burano with many colorful buildings and canals. This place is also hard to get to and it’s ideal to have a car.

📹 See my Instagram video on this town here
📄 Read my full blog post on visiting Comacchio.

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