11 Superb things to do in Bologna

Written by Sam Van den Haute aka CheckOutSam

Bologna is frequently skipped by tourists in Italy. Unfortunately, I think. Because it really is a beautiful place. The city is easy to visit in one or two days, and in addition to many beautiful points of interest, this is also the place for food lovers. Many described it to me as the culinary heart of Italy. Great food, beautiful attractions and a cozy center. What else do you want?!
In this article I discuss my personal favorites in and just outside the city.

Sam Van den Haute CheckoutSam

Hi, I'm Sam, the blogger behind CheckOutSam!

Sam Van den Haute has been a full-time world traveler for ten years and has therefore gained a lot of travel and lifestyle inspiration on all continents. Do you still have questions after reading this blog? Ask them in the comments section or send me a message at [email protected] and I'll be happy to help you wherever I can!

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two towers bologna checkoutsam

Greetings from the top of the Two Towers of Bologna!

1. The two towers of Bologna

In the time of Dante and other Italian poets, Bologna was known as the city of towers. The more towers a city had, the richer it was considered. Dozens of giant buildings embellished the skyline of Bologna and undoubtedly provided a magical view. Unfortunately, most of these towers have been demolished or collapsed, and there are now “only” about twenty-one of the nearly 180 towers left.
For five euros per person you can climb the most famous and highest tower of Bologna (97 meters or 318 ft): the Asinelli tower. In addition, this beautiful tower is next to another great one: the Garisenda tower. Did you know that this tower is leaning to the side even more than the tower of Pisa ?!
From the highest point of the Asinelli tower you get an amazing view over Bologna. Tickets can be bought at the info point at Piazza Maggiore. There you are assigned a certain time frale, and with that time you can spend an hour at the highest point of the city. For me, this was one of the nicest things to do in Bologna, but don’t forget that you have to climb 498 steps first!

things to do in Bologna two towers

Climb up the highest tower of Bologna. For doing all those steps you get a great reward: undoubtedly the most beautiful view over the city!

2. Basilica di San Petronio

On the beautiful Piazza Maggiore of Bologna you’ll find the impressive Basilica di San Petronio. This atypical basilica is huge! The building is 66 meters wide and 132 meters long (216,5 ft wide and 433 ft long) , making it the tenth biggest church in the world!
The strange facade appears to consist of two different building styles, but actually this is simply the result of eternal discussion between different architects and contractors. I think it actually should stay this way. It looks quite nice!
You can visit the church for free, but to take pictures of the interior you have to pay two euros.

basilica di san petronio bologna

The Basilica di San Petronio is gigantic! Don’t you think this church looks rather different?

3. Piazza Maggiore

The Piazza Maggiore (where the Basilica di San Petronio is located) is in itself a point of interest in Bologna. This whole square is surrounded by beautiful buildings, cozy streets and deliciously scenting restaurants. Especially in the evening, the square comes alive when a lot of people come together to chat, have a pick-nick or just to watch other people. The many street musicians provide an even better atmosphere in this square.
In addition, under the roof in front of the basilica you can find the main tourist information point of Bologna. They can answer all your questions, and you can also buy tickets for climbing the Asinelli tower.

piazza maggiore bologna things to see

There’s a lot of things to see on the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna! Definitely come here during the weekend.

4. La Piccola Venezia

If you’re in the vicinity of Via Piella, you can make a quick stop at the ‘Piccola Venezia’. In the past, Bologna looked a bit like Venice, and there were also a lot of canals running through the city. One of these is in Via Piella. If you look around, you’ll see an open window where you can see yet another canal. It’s definitely not as impressive as Venice, but it shows you a nice part of the history of this city.

la piccola venezie bologna places to visit

One of the last canals that stream through Bologna. But don’t worry, Bologna has a lot of other places to visit that are worthwile!

5. Complesso di Santo Stefano or the ‘Seven Churches’

Of course, Italy has many religious structures worth a visit. And many of the places of interest in Bologna are churches. Of the dozens of churches I personally like the Complesso di Santo Stefano the most beautiful. The square on which this church is located is already worth the effort coming here. Although it’s called ‘Sette Chiese’ (seven churches), you’ll find not only a combination of churches but also courtyards and a beautiful chapel. The construction of this church is based on the Holy Trinity Church in Jerusalem. You don’t have to pay to visit this church, but a small offer is appreciated.

complesso di santo stefano or the seven churches of Bologna

The Seven Churches showcase a lot of beauty, but I thought the chapel was definitely the most beautiful part of the complex.

6. Biblioteca comunale dell’Archiginnasio

Old libraries are always fascinating to see. Unfortunately, you can’t see most part of the Archiginnasio library as a tourist, but you can look into two beautiful rooms for only three euros.
The ‘Anatomical Theater’ is a hall where classes were given anatomy. The full room is made out of wooden sculptures, where you can study the detailed anatomy of a human being.
You can also visit the Stabat Matter hearing room. Especially the walls and floors are very beautiful here. The view you get from this room at one of the old library’s rooms seems to me to be the most beautiful part of your visit here.

things to do in Bologna library

There’s a couple of things to do in the library of Bologna! Visit both the Anatomical Theater and the Stabat Matter hearing room. Both are gorgeous!

anatomical theater library bologna

Very detailed anatomical sculptures decorate the wooden interior of the Anatomical Theater.

7. Via Drapperie

Just next to the Piazza Maggiore you can find Via Drapperie. I think of it as one of the cosiest streets in Bologna. This narrow alleyway houses dozens of grocers, typical Italian restaurants, and during the day you’ll notice the delicious smelling fruit and vegetable market here as well. In the evening (and especially on weekends) this also seems to be the place where people get together, drink and chat.
In this street there are also a lot of salumerias and osterias. These are small Italian bistros where you can eat delicious sandwiches with typicalal Italian spreads (especially cheeses and meat). Be sure to go to Salumeria Simoni. The interior is breathtaking, but the sandwiches and panini’s are honestly the best I’ve ever had!

what to do in bologna? Via Drapperie

One of the yummiest things to see in Bologna is the Via Drapperie. All of your senses will enjoy the colors, scents and savours of this street.

8. Certosa di Bologna

Maybe a visit to a cemetery doesn’t seem like so much fun, but believe me: you’ll be amazed by this one! This graveyard is quite far away from the other sights in Bologna, but you can definitely spend a while here. It seems like this cemetery consists of different styles. Certain pieces remind me of a typical Flemish or Dutch cemetery, others reminded me of a Soviet environment, and other graves were undoubtedly beautiful Italian with richly decorated tombs and sculptures.

certosa di Bologna

Beautiful -yet a little creepy- sculptures and monuments. The cemetery of Bologna looks like a museum!

9. Other churches

Bologna has dozens of churches, basilica’s, cathedrals and chapels. Some more beautiful than the other. The Basilica of San Petronio and the Sette Chiese are the most impressive, but I also visited the Cattedrale di San Pietro and the Basilica of San Francesco. Definitely recommend if you have enough time. But certainly not a must.

cattedrale di san pietro churches in Bologna

The interior of the Cattedrale di San Pietro. Beautiful, but there are so many churches in Bologna that it’s impossible to see them all!

10. Eat !!!

The food of Bologna is an attraction in itself (no seriously. It’s not only absolutely delicious, it looks very good too!)
If there’s one tip that you should take to heart, it’s this one: stuff yourself in Bologna like you’ve never done before!
The food in this city is incredibly tasty. Moreover, because the city is not too touristy, the prices of restaurants are also very affordable.
Try some typical dishes from Bologna, and don’t miss the delicious hardened ham or local cheeses. Make sure to also read my article about a couple of amazing restaurants in Bologna if you’re looking for recommendations.

restaurants in Bologna attractions

After my roadtrip through Italy I have to aggree with the locals of Bologna: the best Italian food is found right here!

What to do just outside Bologna?

A visit to Bologna is especially enjoyable because of the amazing atmosphere, the delicious food and the special sights. But because this is a pretty small city, you may want to take a look outside Bologna for more tourist attractions.

9. Ferrari Museum in Modena and Maranello

In and around Bologna, a lover of fast cars and cars will soon find lots of things to see and do!
The Modena Ferrari Museum is a short train ride (20 minutes) from Bologna central station. Once you arrive, you can take the shuttle to the museum in Modena.
Museum may not be the right word, because you will see a huge collection of red-colored Ferrari’s, while only a small part of this yellow modern building talks about Ferrari’s history. After your visit to Modena, you can therefore continue your journey to Maranello. There you’ll find a second museum of Ferrari, this time with both information, interesting exhibitions and a whole bunch of luxury cars.
Visiting both museums isn’t cheap! For a combination ticket you pay €26 or $31. You will also pay €12 or $12 for transport between the station and both museums.
In both museums you can also pay to ride a F1 simulator. This will cost you €25 or $30 for 7 minutes.
More information about both museums can be found in this article.
Would you like to see more than Ferrari’s alone? Why not visit Ducati and/or Lamborghini? These two companies are closer to Bologna

ferrari museum bologna

About thirty minutes away from Bologna you’ll find two Ferrari museums. One in Modena, and one in Maranello.

10. Castello di Rocchetta Mattei

The Apennines are very close to Bologna. This mountain chain is already a fun getaway, but if you can combine this with a visit to the Castello di Rocchetta Mattei, I would definitely do that. This castle is a mix of all kinds of styles. Medieval architecture is effortlessly combined with Moorish architecture. Inside and from a distance, this castle is beautiful!
Unfortunately, this castle can only be visited on Saturdays and Sundays. You can do this from 09:30 am to 1:00 pm and from 3:00 pm to 5:30 pm. To make things even more complicated, you must book your visit (by Friday). A visit to the Castello di Rocchetta Mattei costs €10 per person.

castello di rocchetta mattei bologna things to do

The Castello di Rocchetta Mattei is gorgeous from the outside, but the interior will truly amaze you!

11. Dozza imolese Bologna

Dozza is about a 50 minutes drive from Bologna. This picturesque city is considered to be one of the most beautiful small cities in Italy. From far, the village seems to be yet another typical Italian village, but once you explore the inner city you will think differently very soon. The walls of all houses are decorated with beautiful drawings, paintings, frescoes and all kinds of art. Both in the evening and during the day, the city is beautiful to visit.
In addition, you can also explore the Piazza betlemme San Giovanni in Persiceto. One of the squares here is also beautifully decorated with artsy murals.

dozza imolese things to see outside bologna

In Dozza you’ll find lots of graffiti! Well… Sort of. It fits perfectly with the colorful houses.

Excursions in Bologna

Are you going to Bologna and would you like to arrange some things to do in advance? Or you just don’t want to lose too much time? Then it’s a good idea to plan your trips beforehand. There is also much more to do in Bologna than what I summarizez in this list.
Curious about some other ideas? Check out these offers:


» All tours and excursions in Bologna

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