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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 10 attractions in Bologna


Bologna Piazza Maggiore

Bologna’s beating heart is Piazza Maggiore, in the city’s old center. A classic example of Renaissance town planning, it is one of the most graceful public squares in Italy. The pedestrianised square is surrounded by the Basilica di San Petronio, the Palazzo Communale (city hall), palatial public buildings and Bologna’s trademark covered walkways ringed by arches. Sit at an outdoor cafe to enjoy people watching in the sunshine during the day, and visit in the early evening to see the beautifully floodlit Fountain of Neptune, sculpted in 1566.More

Ferrari Museum (Museo Ferrari)

You might easily associate the Ferrari name with Italy, but did you know that Ferrari is based not far from Bologna? In the town of Maranello, just outside Modena, you’ll find not only the Ferrari Museum but also the factory complex and the famous Fiorano test track. The Ferrari Museum - Museo Ferrari in Italian - is a few steps from the factory in Maranello where every Ferrari is made. The museum contains a number of cars, including both cars designed for regular driving and some from the company’s illustrious Formula 1 racing history. In addition to the actual cars, the museum also has exhibits of photographs and racing trophies as well as interactive displays. For racing enthusiasts, the Ferrari Museum has an F1 racing simulator based on the Monza race track outside Milan. You need to reserve a slot in the simulator in advance, and before you begin your experience you’ll even get pointers from a Ferrari technician.More

San Petronio Basilica (Basilica di San Petronio)

Named for Bologna’s patron saint, the city’s fifth-century bishop, the Basilica di San Petronio is the world’s fifth-largest church and a fabulous example of Gothic grandeur. Construction began in 1390, but plans to enlarge the basilica were halted in the 1500s when the design threatened to overshadow that of St Peter’s in Rome. Thanks to this creative curtailment, the basilica’s facade detail remains unfinished. On a tour of the basilica’s interior, admire the frescoed chapels and apse, the rich stained glass and marble. The exterior features detailed carvings of biblical scenes. Look out for the brass sundial embedded in the floor of the eastern aisle.More

Two Towers (Due Torri)

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

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

Bologna is home to the world’s oldest university in continuous operation - founded in 1088 - and one of the many schools in the university is a medical school. You might not think that a medical school would be an attraction worth seeking out, but the historic Anatomical Theatre of the Archiginnasio alone is worth the trip. The Archiginnasio is a university building, originally constructed in the 16th century, that served for many years as the primary university building. Today, it houses the largest municipal library in the region, but the main attraction is the Anatomical Theatre. Built in 1637, it’s a gorgeous room paneled entirely in spruce with a coffered ceiling. The seating is amphitheatre-style, and the seat from which a professor would deliver lectures more closely resembles a throne or a preacher’s pulpit than a teacher’s desk.More

Bologna University Quarter

Bologna owes much of its contemporary charm and vibrancy to its lively University Quarter. As in all good university cities, it has a good cache of cafes, bars and clubs to cater to its student population. Bologna’s university has an impressive lineage, dating back to 1088, making it the first university in Europe. During the Renaissance and Baroque eras, it attracted some of Europe’s finest thinkers, including Renaissance scholars Mirandola and Alberti, astronomer Copernicus, and the artists Durer and Borromeo. The university houses a number of museums, including an Anatomy Museum, Herbarium, Physics Museum, Museum of Anthropology, Wax Museum and Museum of Zoology. Most museums are found in the Palazzo Poggi, the university’s seat after 1803. A highlight is the Astronomy Museum, along with the palazzo’s many frescoes and impressive decor.More

Prendiparte Tower (Torre Prendiparte)

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

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

Casting a protective eye over Bologna, the hilltop Santuario de Madonna di San Luca basilica can be seen from most vantage points in the city. Built in the mid-18th century to house a portrait of the Virgin Mary painted by St Luke, the basilica has some notable artworks and statues. One of the main highlights of this basilica is getting there – on foot. The sanctuary lies 4 km (2.5 miles) south-west of central Bologna, linked by the world’s longest undercover portico. Supported by 666 graceful arches, the portico is gently stepped as it winds uphill.More

Lamborghini Museum (Museo Lamborghini)

Showcasing Italy’s most famous luxury vehicles, the Lamborghini Museum and factory tells the past, present, and future of the coveted car brand. From the first 350 GT model built in 1964 to the factory of custom cars built on site, visitors can get a sense of the passion behind the manufacturing process. The museum also unveiled the famed Murciélago car, considered by many enthusiasts to be a masterpiece. Visitors can see a range of vehicles on display — from vintage to contemporary, built for racing or as concept cars.> Open since 2001, the museum is a tribute to the passion and life’s work of founder Ferruccio Lamborghini. Many of the older cars in fact come from his personal collection. There are behind-the-scenes glimpses into the production, including large-scale models and parts of cars that were never made. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a prototype out for testing.More

Basilica of San Domenico (Basilica di San Domenico)

Behind its understated Romanesque façade and distinctive rose window, the Basilica of San Domenico (Basilica di San Domenico) is teeming with Renaissance treasures, as well as ranking among Bologna’s most important churches. The church was built in 1221 to house the tomb of San Domenico, Founder of the Dominican Order of Preachers, and the Ark of St. Dominic remains the church’s grand centerpiece – a magnificent marble shrine created by Nicola Pisano and Niccolò dell’Arca.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

Recent reviews from experiences in Bologna

City Cycle Tour -Bologna
John_M, Sep 2020
2-Hour Bike Tour of Bologna
Weekends have less traffic but more footfall as pedestrianised areas increased.
A highlight on our Italy trip
Tim_Wegmann, Aug 2020
Live an afternoon as a chef!
Flaminia helped us with communication difficulties in English and answered all questions that came to our minds.
Eat and sightsee. Great time.
galitartom, 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.
A fabulous guide to Bologna..
WhereToNext73, Apr 2019
Bologna's Best Kept Secrets Tours by Locals: Private & 100% Personalized ★★★★★
From history to places to visit & eat - this was a fabulous tour & recommended it as a must..
Great bike tour guide
Go04774974554, Apr 2019
E-Bike tour on the hills of Bologna
A great way to see the outer perimeter of Bologna.
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.
Really worth it - amazing host . He...
Rachel Dawn 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.
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.
An amazing gastronomical experience!
izzaldinsoerono, Dec 2019
Secret Food Tours Bologna w/ Private Tour Option
Our guide Mattia took us around Bologna to see some of its most amazing sights but most importantly, savour the town's most delicious food, all of which were authentic to the region and wouldn't probably be known to tourists.
Must-do for car/racing enthusiasts
Ross P, Oct 2019
Ferrari Lamborghini Pagani Factory and Museum Day Tour from Bologna
On time, extremely knowledgeable about all things motoring and about the local area, history of Bologna and Modena etc, and with perhaps the best command of English of any tour guide we met during our 2 week trip to Italy.
Great way to get your bearings in Bologna
Robert M, Sep 2019
2-Hour Bike Tour of Bologna
It's a great way to quickly spot the key attractions and to generally get a feel for the layout of the city.
An amazing food tour with Delicious Bologna, This is a must while you are there! Yes, Yes Yes!
CiaoCrissi, Sep 2019
Bologna Food Tour from a local perspective
The tour to see how the pasta is made was super fun too.
linds202, Aug 2019
Private cooking class at a local's home with lunch or dinner in Bologna
So welcoming, amazing to see how people live in Bologna, felt part of the family eating lunch together.
Super day out, well worth the money.
caz_jw, Nov 2019
Bologna Food Experience: Factory Visits with Gourmet Lunch and Wine Tasting
His command of English was astounding.
The memories from this tour will...
Michelle V, Oct 2016
Bologna Food Experience: Factory Visits with Gourmet Lunch and Wine Tasting
The early hour start time was well worth it when we arrived at the Parmesan factory to see it in full working mode.
An exceptional day out day out...
Susan B, May 2017
Bologna Food Experience: Factory Visits with Gourmet Lunch and Wine Tasting
At no point did we get bored, it was fascinating to see the processes that are needed to provide us with such delicious products we learnt a lot.
Where to begin! This was a...
Dominic I, Oct 2015
Bologna Food Experience: Factory Visits with Gourmet Lunch and Wine Tasting
We found this tour through Trip Advisor originally, and we were surprised to see thousands of five-star reviews, with nothing less than that, so we gave it a shot - it turned out to be the best decision we made while on our visit through Italy!

Frequently Asked Questions