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Things to do in Bologna

Things to do in  Bologna

Welcome to Bologna

Italy is a well-known food lover's destination, and Bologna is at the epicenter of the country's culinary heart. This historic city, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, is a place where eating can rightly be called a local pastime—and one of the main reasons people visit. Food tours in and around Bologna include such local delicacies as prosciutto from nearby Parma, nutty Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and the famous balsamic vinegar from the town of Modena just 28 miles (45 kilometers) away. Walk through the city's colorful food markets with a guide to find out what’s on menus all over town, or learn the secrets of Italian cuisine from expert chefs during a cooking class. When you need a break from all that eating, take a walking tour or guided bike ride through Bologna's historic center to see the Basilica di San Petronio and Fountain of Neptune (Fontana del Nettuno) on Piazza Maggiore, the two medieval leaning towers, and the University of Bologna, founded in 1088 AD by its own students. For farther-afield highlights, take a day trip to the nearby towns of Bazzano and Vignola; the pretty villages of the Reno Valley; or the factories where Lamborghini, Pagani, and Ferrari make their sports cars.

Top 15 things to do in Bologna

#1
Bologna Piazza Maggiore

Bologna Piazza Maggiore

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Bologna’s most important square, Piazza Maggiore, is lined by elegant medieval and Renaissance palaces. Today, you can enjoy views of the Basilica di San Petronio and the Fountain of Neptune from the bustling café tables beneath their porticoes, or enjoy the square as part of a food tour or sightseeing tour.More
#2
Ferrari Museum (Museo Ferrari)

Ferrari Museum (Museo Ferrari)

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The most evocative name in Italian sports cars is Ferrari, and this dedicated museum in Maranello, Italy, focuses on the auto manufacturer’s history and production. It features 25 cars, including road cars and prototypes, a section devoted to the historic Formula 1 racing team, and fascinating automotive artifacts and memorabilia.More
#3
Lamborghini Museum (Museo Lamborghini)

Lamborghini Museum (Museo Lamborghini)

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The Lamborghini Museum (Museo Lamborghini) is a tribute to the passion and life’s work of founder Ferruccio Lamborghini. It showcases Italy’s most famous luxury vehicles in a journey through the past, present, and future of the coveted car brand.More
#4
San Petronio Basilica (Basilica di San Petronio)

San Petronio Basilica (Basilica di San Petronio)

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Dedicated to the fifth-century bishop Petronius, who became Bologna’s patron saint, the San Petronio Basilica (Basilica di San Petronio) dominates Piazza Maggiore in the heart of the city. One of the largest churches in the world and a soaring example of Gothic grandeur, the basilica Is a highlight of any Bologna city tour.More
#5
Bologna University Quarter

Bologna University Quarter

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Bologna is home to the oldest university in Europe, and the city owes much of its youthful vibrancy and thriving cultural life to the formidable student population, concentrated in the lively University Quarter. Tour this area to discover its cache of cafes and clubs, along with fascinating historic museums and university buildings.More
#6
Two Towers (Due Torri)

Two Towers (Due Torri)

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More than 100 towers pierced the sky above Bologna in the Middle Ages, but only 20 still stand today. The most famous are the city center’s Two Towers (Due Torri), which lean at a gravity-defying angle that rivals Pisa’s Leaning Tower. Climb to the top of the taller one for fabulous views over the city and surrounding countryside.More
#7
Anatomical Theatre of the Archiginnasio (Teatro Anatomico dell'Archiginnasio)

Anatomical Theatre of the Archiginnasio (Teatro Anatomico dell'Archiginnasio)

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Bologna is home to the world’s oldest university, and one of the city’s most remarkable sights is part of the university’s medical school: the 17th-century Anatomical Theater in Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio. Visit this richly paneled and decorated hall to see where students once heard lectures and observed surgical procedures.More
#8
Fountain of Neptune (Fontana del Nettuno)

Fountain of Neptune (Fontana del Nettuno)

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Giambologna’s 16th-century Fountain of Neptune (Fontana del Nettuno), also known as Il Zigànt, or The Giant, is one of the most famous landmarks in Bologna. A bronze Neptune stands watch from atop the ornate Renaissance fountain in Piazza Maggiore, a popular and picturesque gathering spot for locals and visitors.More
#9
Enzo Ferrari Museum (Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari)

Enzo Ferrari Museum (Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari)

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In the center of Modena, a historical brick factory building is dwarfed by the adjacent contemporary glass-and-steel hangar topped with a bright yellow car hood–shaped roof. Together, these two structures and their contents tell the story of Enzo Ferrari, race car driver and founder of one of the most famous car brands in the world.More
#10
Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca (Santuario della Madonna di San Luca)

Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca (Santuario della Madonna di San Luca)

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Perched on Colle della Guardia 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) southwest of Bologna’s historic center, the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca (Santuario della Madonna di San Luca) was built to house a Byzantine icon of the Virgin Mary. Its portico, running from the city’s Porta Saragozza to the hilltop sanctuary, is the longest covered arcade in the world.More
#11
Ducati Museum (Museo Ducati)

Ducati Museum (Museo Ducati)

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Emilia-Romagna’s Motor Valley is legendary among fans of luxury Italian cars and motorcycles, and the Ducati Museum (Museo Ducati) is one of the area’s most impressive attractions. Housed in the Ducati factory headquarters outside of Bologna, this museum is a must for motorcycle enthusiasts.More
#12
Basilica of Santo Stefano (Basilica di Santo Stefano)

Basilica of Santo Stefano (Basilica di Santo Stefano)

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Only four churches of the original seven that once made up this stylistic jumble of buildings remain, but a visit to the Bologna’s Basilica of Santo Stefano (Basilica di Santo Stefano) is still a fascinating stroll through centuries of religious architecture. With winding passageways linking chapels and cloisters, this is one of the city’s most captivating churches.More
#13
Basilica of San Domenico (Basilica di San Domenico)

Basilica of San Domenico (Basilica di San Domenico)

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Behind its understated Romanesque façade and distinctive rose window, the 13th-century Basilica di San Domenico is teeming with Renaissance treasures, and ranks among Bologna’s most important churches. The elaborate interiors, a paradise for art enthusiasts, house works by Michelangelo, Filippo Lippi, and others.More
#14
Prendiparte Tower (Torre Prendiparte)

Prendiparte Tower (Torre Prendiparte)

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More than 100 towers stood guard over Bologna in the Middle Ages, but only 20 survive today. One of the few left standing is Torre Prendiparte, the second-highest in the city, soaring almost 200 feet (60 meters) above street level. Climb the internal staircase to the panoramic rooftop for bird’s-eye views over the historic center.More
#15
Oratory of Santa Cecilia (Oratorio Di Santa Cecilia)

Oratory of Santa Cecilia (Oratorio Di Santa Cecilia)

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Don’t be fooled by the simple facade of this oratory tucked beneath the portico along the length of the Church of San Giacomo Maggiore. Inside, the small chapel is decorated with some of the most important works of the 16th-century Bolognese Renaissance, painted by prominent artists in the Bentivoglio court.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 3 Days in Bologna

How to Spend 3 Days in Bologna

Notable Porticoes in Bologna

Notable Porticoes in Bologna

Food Lover's Guide to Bologna

Food Lover's Guide to Bologna

Top activities in Bologna

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Recent reviews from experiences in Bologna

star-5
Great tour. Guide was...
Brian_S, Jun 2022
Classic Bologna Food Tour
Great way to see Bologna with a little history.
star-5
Just Wonderful
mybabysnookie, Jun 2022
Taste of Bologna Walking Tour
She spoke in good English made me aware of some of the history of Bologna.
star-5
Not to miss while in Bologna - seriously made our trip!
Nestor_V, May 2022
Bologna Custom Private Tours by Locals, Off-the-Beaten-Path
He was also a wealth of knowledge and helpful in us discovering other things to do during our trip to Italy.
star-5
Highly Recommend!
Laura_N, Apr 2022
Bologna traditional food tour - Do Eat Better Experience
This food tour was a great way to see the city and learn about the culture of Bologna.
star-5
Delicious and Informative
Grace_D, Apr 2022
Bologna Food Tour from a local perspective
The food was delicious and we loved getting to see how the tortellini is made.
star-4
Bologna is amazing
Alexa_L, Mar 2022
Bologna City Walking Tour
We booked the English version and instead got plotted in with an Italian tour group, but our guide would translate for us after.
star-5
A must do, walking eating tour of Bologna
Hannah_S, Jul 2022
Classic Bologna Food Tour
The guide was extremely knowledgeable and taught us a lot about food and the history of Bologne, he was very friendly and spoke excellent English.
star-5
Car & food lover’s dream day!
Vanessa_M, May 2022
Cars&Food: Lambo, Ferrari, Parmesan, Balsamic Vinegar, lunch, private transport
Then it was almost an hour drive to Ferrari museum which had more cars to see and a Store to shop.
star-5
Highly recommended!
ravien_s, Mar 2022
Private Market Tour and Cooking Class in Bologna with a Local in Her Home
She speaks some English, so it helps if you speak a little Italian, but it all added to the feeling of authenticity and warmth I felt during our time together.
star-5
Amazing
Lingshu_L, Dec 2021
Bologna Food Tour from a local perspective
It was the perfect way of getting to see the highlights of Bologna.
star-5
Perfect day in Bologna
Jet, Oct 2021
The 10 Tastings of Bologna With Locals: Private Food Tour
He was very friendly and knowledgeable, and his English was impeccable.
star-5
Gioia is the best guide for Bologna!
SusanJoan_S, Sep 2021
The 10 Tastings of Bologna With Locals: Private Food Tour
Gioia is a delightful tour guide, blending interesting food stops and tastings with local history and the top sights in Bologna.
star-5
Eat and sightsee. Great time.
Galit_A, Feb 2020
Secret Food Tours Bologna w/ Private Tour Option
There is much to see and taste in Bologna, and Raffaella was knowledgeable and friendly.
star-5
A fabulous guide to Bologna..
WhereToNext73, Apr 2019
Bologna Custom Private Tours by Locals, Off-the-Beaten-Path
From history to places to visit & eat - this was a fabulous tour & recommended it as a must..
star-5
Great bike tour guide
Robert_M, Apr 2019
E-Bike tour on the hills of Bologna
A great way to see the outer perimeter of Bologna.
star-5
We had a great time traveling around...
Jeffrey P, Jun 2016
CSTRents - Bologna Segway PT Authorized Tour
There are a lot of historical sites that are much easier to see this way rather than walk, especially in the heat.
star-5
Really worth it - amazing host . He...
RachelDawn_J, Sep 2016
Bologna Food Experience: Factory Visits with Gourmet Lunch and Wine Tasting
He spoke very very good English and was entertaining, funny and extremely knowledgable and passionate about all of the foods we visited.
star-5
Gioia was a great guide...
Odette_T, Jan 2022
Drinks & Bites in Bologna Private Tour
It was great to see the area come alive and be a part of the Bologna night scene.
star-5
A highlight on our Italy trip
Tim_W, Aug 2020
Lezione Privata con Chef di Cucina Tradizionale Bolognese
Flaminia helped us with communication difficulties in English and answered all questions that came to our minds.
star-4
It’s a factory tour.
David_L, Feb 2020
Bologna Food Experience: Factory Visits with Gourmet Lunch and Wine Tasting
The factories we visited were very interesting and to see the time and effort that goes into making each of these was good.
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All about Bologna

When to visit

As with most of Italy, spring and fall are the most pleasant times to visit Bologna. When Italian beach season starts in midsummer, Bologna empties out due to scorching temperatures. The city reels in summer with a week of hundreds of outdoor screenings of rare and restored films during the Cinema Ritrovato Festival—a great way to beat the heat.

People Also Ask

What is Bologna famous for?

Known as La Grassa (The Fat Lady), Bologna has long been a foodie mecca, but the city offers more than just unforgettable meals. This university town has a lively center where medieval towers and churches loom above student-packed cafes. Italy’s Motor Valley (home to Ferrari and Lamborghini) sits just outside the city.

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What is there to do in Bologna?

It’s all about food in Bologna, and dining, tastings, and gourmet strolls draw most visitors. In addition to tucking into heaping plates of tortelloni, you can visit Piazza Maggiore and its San Petronio Basilica, climb the Two Towers for sky-high views, and dive into the historic university district.

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Is Bologna worth a day trip?

Yes. Especially if you want to sample some of the best food in Italy or experience a city bustling with more residents than tourists. By train, Bologna is 40 minutes from Florence and less than 90 minutes from Venice, an easy respite from the hordes at those two destinations.

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How many days do you need in Bologna?

You can see Bologna’s most important sights in a day, though you’ll need more time if you use the city as a base for visiting the automotive museums and factories in Motor Valley or for touring the nearby Food Valley to sample Parmigiano-Reggiano, prosciutto di Parma, and balsamic vinegar.

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Is Bologna famous for Bolognese?

Yes. Though locals don’t call it Bolognese, which, in Italian, simply means anything or anyone from Bologna. Instead, order up a plate of tagliatelle al ragù to sample the city’s legendary ribbons of fresh egg pasta tossed in a rich meat sauce that's been simmered for hours.

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What can you do for free in Bologna?

With its endless network of porticoes (recently listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Bologna is a city made for wandering. You can follow the porticoed walkways from the city center all the way up to the hilltop Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca for views over the city.

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