20 Reasons to Visit Bologna in 2024

“Is Bologna worth visiting?”

If you are planning to visit Italy, you might be asking yourself, “Is Bologna worth visiting?

Bologna Tower

Cities like Rome, Venice, or Florence are often overshadowed, but Bologna, the lively and historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, presents a unique blend of rich history and globally renowned gastronomy that makes it an unforgettable Italian destination. 

Your first visit to Bologna will pleasantly surprise you by the extraordinary culinary scene and authenticity, standing out from other tourist cities in Italy. This encourage visitors to return, again to visit Bologna. Whether you’re a food enthusiast, a history lover, or simply someone eager to explore Italy beyond well-trodden paths, Bologna should unquestionably be on your Italian wish list. Read on to discover 20 reasons why I believe Bologna is worth a 100% visit.

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Is Bologna Worth Visiting?

In case you’re still wondering – YES, Bologna is definitely worth visiting!

Hungry for the real Italy? Ditch the tourist crowds and say “Ciao!” , “Bologna” , the food capital that’s anything but cheesy.

Places of interest and the main things to do and see in Bologna in 1, 2 or 3 days.

The Learned, the Red, the Fat: this is how Bologna , the capital of the rich Emilia Romagna, is defined.

La Dotta for the presence of one of the oldest universities in Italy which continues to attract Italian and foreign students and maintains its role as a very active cultural centre.

Bologna the Red for the color that the roofs and houses give to the city, keeping alive the typical colors of the medieval era.

Bologna la Grassa for its tasty and sublime gastronomy: Bolognese cuisine is known throughout the world and has conquered even the most severe palates.

Bologna is not only this: for example, it has extraordinary places of the spirit, such as the church of San Luca which can be reached by crossing 6 km of porticoes or the complex of 7 churches, scenic and beautiful, the church of Santa Maria with the extraordinary “ Lament ”.

Most of the places of interest are located in the center of Bologna, so there is no need to travel by car or public transport.

In short, it is one of the most beautiful Italian cities and is easy to visit.

Bologna Travel Resources

  • Best Things to do in Bologna: After visiting Bologna several times, I have put together a comprehensive travel guide to help you plan your stay!
  • Bologna Food Guide: I am a pretty big foodie, so I have put together a list of 27 dishes you need to try on your trip to Bologna.

20 things to do and see in Bologna

1. Explore Bologna: A Mix of Old Stories, Fancy Buildings, and Cool Views!

Imagine a place where stories from way back, fancy old buildings, and cool views all come together , that’s Bologna! Right in the middle is this awesome square called Piazza Maggiore, with cool stuff like the big San Petronio church and the Accursio Palace.

People hang out around the square, grabbing coffee or getting together for weekend fun. And there are two famous towers, the Asinelli and Garisenda, that stand really tall and tell stories from a long time ago. If you’re up for it, climb the Asinelli Tower’s 498 steps for an amazing view!

By Fenilefrina - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=110023063

Here’s a cool fact: Bologna used to have more than 100 towers! Can you imagine what it would be like if they were still around today? Let’s take a journey through time and discover the cool stories and awesome buildings that make Bologna special. Don’t miss out come check out the cool stuff in Bologna now!”

2. The food capital of Italy

Bologna, a city famous for its delicious food, earning it the title of the food capital of the country. People even call it “The Fat” because of its amazing culinary scene.

Situated in the Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna is where some of Italy’s most famous foods like Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Mortadella, Balsamic Vinegar, and Prosciutto di Parma originated.

The city is well-known for dishes like tagliatelle al ragu (similar to what’s often called “spaghetti bolognese” elsewhere), tortellini, and tasty green lasagna.

One of the favorite dishes is tortellini in brodo, which are small hat-shaped pastas filled with pork, served in a meat-based broth and topped with Parmesan cheese.

Bologna is filled with historic markets, family run delis, and traditional osterias serving hearty, delicious food that is at the heart of Bolognese culture.

The local passion for food is contagious, making the city’s cuisine alone a great reason to visit. In Bologna, food is not just something you eat; it’s a way of life. If you want to dive deeper into the history of gastronomy, You will not regret it.

3. University City

Bologna is famous not only for its rich history and delicious food but also for its lively academic scene. The University of Bologna, founded in 1088, holds the title of the oldest continuously operating university in the Western world

You can explore the Archiginnasio, the university’s old section, for a small fee. Inside, you’ll find the Teatro Anatomico, where students studied anatomy in the 17th century. You can also stroll through halls adorned with coats of arms from past students.

The modern university is located on the city’s outskirts, contributing to a vibrant and culturally diverse atmosphere with its bustling student life.

4. The Gelato (Ice Cream) is the best in the world

The gelato scene in Bologna is amazing! The city is serious about gelato, boasting over 100 gelato shops. There’s even a University of Gelato where people from all over the world come to learn how to make this delicious treat.

You’ll find classic flavors like pistachio and stracciatella, as well as unique ones like caffe bianco (white coffee) and apricot with ricotta and chocolate – a real treat for your taste buds.

Every scoop of gelato is a work of art in Bologna – just the right balance of melty and smooth. Somehow, they’ve mastered the art of creating the perfect scoop.

5. Centrally Located

Bologna’s central location makes it a fantastic hub for day trips. Situated in the heart of Italy, it’s conveniently close to many major cities and attractions.

In just a few hours, you can explore the romantic canals of Venice, the scenic hills of Tuscany, or the charming coastal villages of Cinque Terre. Florence is just a 35-minute train ride away, and Verona is only an hour and a half.

Moreover, the region of Emilia-Romagna itself has much to offer. From the breathtaking Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna to the delicious food in Parma and Modena, there’s something for everyone.

You can even take a day trip from Bologna to visit the Ferrari factory near Modena or embark on a full-day food adventure to discover local Parmesan and prosciutto producers near Parma. The possibilities are limitless.

With excellent rail connections from Bologna’s train station, day trips are easy and convenient, making Bologna an ideal base for exploring the surrounding areas.

6. Less Tourists

Bologna is a bit of a hidden gem in Italy, and that’s great news for visitors. Unlike the more famous cities like Rome and Florence, Bologna is much less crowded with tourists.

While Rome and Florence have their own charm, they often get packed with tourists and shops targeting them, which can make the experience less authentic and relaxing.

In Bologna, you will find a calmer and more genuine atmosphere. It’s rare to encounter large groups of tourists, and there are hardly any souvenir shops. Most of the restaurants are locally owned, offering fantastic food that’s not geared specifically towards tourists. Many stores feature locally-made goods like pasta-making tools, Italian wool coats, and other crafts.

It’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in true Italian culture, and luckily, one of the few major cities in Italy where you can still enjoy that authentic experience.

7. Local Markets

One of the best parts about visiting Bologna is exploring its local markets. The Quadrilatero, located in the city center, is the oldest market in Bologna. Here, locals sell a variety of goods like fresh fish, fruits, vegetables, meats, pastries, homemade pasta, and bread. It’s also a great spot to enjoy cured meats, cheeses, and wines from the region. Check out Salumeria Simoni for a fantastic charcuterie board. Another option is Mercato delle Erbe, a covered market with fresh fruits, veggies, and flowers. You can buy fresh produce or dine at one of the market’s restaurants offering pizza, fresh fish, and more.

8. Music Scene

Bologna has a lively music scene catering to different tastes. Whether you like classical music, jazz, rock, or electronica, you’ll find it all here. The Bologna Philharmonic Orchestra performs at the Teatro Comunale, ideal for classical music enthusiasts. For more contemporary vibes, check out clubs like Covo Club and Estragon, hosting concerts from indie rock to electronic music. Jazz lovers shouldn’t miss Cantina Bentivoglio, known for live performances and classic Bolognese food. This mix makes Bologna’s music scene one of Italy’s most dynamic.

9. Porticoes

One unique feature of Bologna is its extensive network of porticoes covered walkways spanning over 62 kilometers, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally built in the Middle Ages, these porticoes are now a symbol of the city. You can walk up the world’s longest portico from the city center to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, offering stunning views. Piazza Cavour boasts beautiful porticoes adorned with frescoes.

10. Affordability

Bologna is a budget-friendly destination compared to popular spots like Rome or Florence. Accommodation options range from mid-range hotels to hostels, providing diverse choices. While not as luxurious as other cities, Bologna’s hotels are more affordable. Dining is a delight with higher quality restaurants at reasonable prices. Many attractions are free or reasonably priced, allowing you to explore without hefty fees.

11. Museums

Although Bologna’s museums may not match Rome or Florence, they offer unique insights into the city’s rich history. The Museo della Storia di Bologna in Palazzo Pepoli covers Bologna’s past from the Etruscan era to modern times. Art lovers shouldn’t miss the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, housing Emilian paintings from the 13th to 18th centuries, including works by Raphael and Titian. The Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica, located in a 16th-century palace, is a hidden gem for music enthusiasts.

12. Authentic and Local Charm

Bologna stands out as one of the most authentic Italian cities, avoiding the trappings of mass tourism. Unlike touristy areas, Bologna features family-run businesses, local shops, and historic markets instead of souvenir stores. As you stroll through the narrow streets, you’ll encounter vintage markets, small restaurants, and locals going about their daily lives. On Sunday evenings, join locals in their traditional passeggiata – a leisurely stroll to socialize. Bologna lets you experience Italy like a local.

13. Nightlife

Bologna’s nightlife is vibrant, especially with its large student population. Local bars and cafes are lively throughout the week, offering good company, great music, and drinks. Camera A Sud and bars near Mercato delle Erbe, like those on Via Belvedere, are popular among locals.

14. Walkable

Bologna is exceptionally walkable, with most attractions within a 15-minute walk. The city’s porticoes, spanning over 62 kilometers, provide shade in hot weather and protection from rain. Clear and informative signage makes navigation easy for tourists, allowing you to stroll around stress-free without relying on public transportation.

15. Safe

Bologna is a safe city for all travelers, including solo visitors. Normal precautions apply, such as keeping an eye on belongings in crowded areas. Well-lit porticoes at night and busy main streets until at least 11:00 pm contribute to a feeling of safety.

16. Proximity to Nature

Bologna’s location at the edge of the Apennine Mountains makes it ideal for nature lovers. The Parco Regionale dei Gessi Bolognesi e Calanchi dell’Abbadessa, a short drive from the city, offers unique geological formations, hiking trails, and diverse flora and fauna. Closer to the city, the Bologna Hills (Colli Bolognesi), especially San Pellegrino Park, provide walking trails easily reached on foot from the city center.

17. Friendly Locals

Bologna’s locals are exceptionally friendly, always willing to help and offer suggestions. Engaging with locals is a great way to get restaurant recommendations and learn more about the city.

18. Learn to Make Pasta

Participating in a cooking class is one of the best ways to appreciate Bologna’s food culture. Several local chefs and cooking schools offer classes where you can learn pasta-making techniques and traditions. It’s a fantastic way to delve into the local culinary heritage

19. Festivals

Bologna hosts various festivals, including the Cinema Ritrovato Festival, celebrating classic cinema. The Tortellini Festival, usually in October, is a culinary event where local restaurants showcase their take on the beloved pasta.

20. Taste Iconic Foods Straight from the Producers

Bologna’s central location in the Emilia-Romagna region allows easy trips to visit producers of iconic Italian foods. Organized tours offer guided visits to cheese dairies, prosciutto factories, and acetaias (balsamic vinegar producers), providing insights and tastings.

Good to Know Before You Visit Bologna

  • Weekends are busy, so plan accordingly.

  • Sundays are quieter with some closures, plan your visit mid-week for a livelier experience.

  • Bologna is a food-focused destination; if you’re not into food, it may not be the best fit.

  • Winters are chilly, and summers are hot; ideal times to visit are in the fall or spring for pleasant weather.


How many days do you need in Bologna?

The number of days you need in Bologna depends on your travel preferences and the pace at which you like to explore. However, many people find that spending 2-3 days in Bologna allows them to see the main attractions and enjoy the local atmosphere.

Is Bologna or Florence nicer?

Whether Bologna or Florence is nicer is subjective and depends on personal preferences. Florence is known for its Renaissance art and architecture, while Bologna is famous for its medieval and Renaissance buildings, vibrant food scene, and historical charm. Both cities have their unique appeal, so it’s a matter of what interests you more.

What is so special about Bologna?

Bologna is special for several reasons. It is renowned for its well-preserved medieval architecture, including the iconic Two Towers, as well as its rich culinary traditions. Bologna is often referred to as “La Dotta” (The Learned) due to its ancient university, “La Grassa” (The Fat) for its delicious food, and “La Rossa” (The Red) for its terracotta-colored buildings.

What is better Venice or Bologna?

Whether Bologna or Florence is nicer is subjective and depends on personal preferences. Florence is known for its Renaissance art and architecture, while Bologna is famous for its medieval and Renaissance buildings, vibrant food scene, and historical charm. Both cities have their unique appeal, so it’s a matter of what interests you more.

Is Bologna a walkable city?

Bologna is a relatively walkable city, especially in the historic center where many of the main attractions are located. The city center is compact, making it convenient for exploring on foot.

Is Bologna cheap or expensive?

In terms of cost, Bologna is generally considered more affordable than cities like Florence or Venice. However, prices can vary based on personal spending habits and the type of accommodations and activities you choose.

Should I skip Bologna?

Whether to skip Bologna depends on your interests. If you appreciate historical architecture, a lively local atmosphere, and excellent food, Bologna is worth a visit. If those aspects don’t align with your preferences, you might consider other destinations.

Is Verona or Bologna better?

Comparing Verona and Bologna depends on your preferences. Verona is known for its romantic ambiance, Shakespearean connections, and well-preserved Roman architecture, while Bologna offers a more vibrant local culture and renowned culinary scene. Choose based on what appeals to you more.

Is Bologna close to Rome?

Bologna is not very close to Rome, but it’s well-connected by train. The train journey takes approximately 2 hours, making it a feasible option for a day trip or a short visit if you’re staying in Rome.

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