Bologna, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy, is a charming city that has a lot to offer. From its rich history and culture to its delicious cuisine and vibrant nightlife, Bologna is a must-see destination for any traveler.
If you’re planning a trip to Bologna and wondering what to do in three days, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll provide you with tips on how to make the most of your time in the city and highlight some of the most important places you shouldn’t miss.
Day 1: Explore the Historic Center
Start your first day in Bologna by exploring the historic center, which is known as one of the best-preserved medieval centers in Europe. Begin your tour at the Piazza Maggiore, the main square of Bologna, which is surrounded by beautiful buildings such as the Basilica di San Petronio, the Palazzo dei Notai, and the Palazzo d’Accursio.
From there, head to the Two Towers, which are the symbol of the city. The taller one, the Asinelli Tower, offers a stunning view of Bologna from the top, but be prepared for a steep climb up the stairs. The nearby Garisenda Tower is shorter but equally impressive.
After visiting the towers, take a stroll along the Portico di San Luca, a covered walkway that stretches for 3.5 kilometers and leads to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, a stunning church perched on a hill overlooking the city. The walk can be a bit challenging, but the views are well worth it.
End your day with a visit to the Museo Civico Archeologico, which houses a collection of artifacts from the Etruscan, Roman, and medieval periods. The museum is located in the Palazzo Galvani and is open until 7 pm.
Day 2: Food Tour and Art
No trip to Bologna would be complete without sampling its world-famous cuisine. Start your second day with a food tour of the city, which will give you a chance to taste local specialties such as mortadella, tortellini, and gelato. You can join a guided tour or explore on your own, but don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Mercato di Mezzo, a historic covered market where you can find a variety of delicious treats.
After your food tour, head to the MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, which is one of the most important contemporary art museums in Italy. The museum’s collection includes works by artists such as Giorgio Morandi, Alberto Burri, and Lucio Fontana.
In the evening, take a stroll along the Canal di Reno, a picturesque canal that runs through the city. You’ll find many bars and restaurants along the canal, where you can relax and enjoy a drink or a meal.
Day 3: Day Trip to Ravenna
On your third day in Bologna, take a day trip to Ravenna, a city famous for its stunning Byzantine mosaics. Ravenna is about an hour’s train ride from Bologna, and trains leave regularly from the Bologna Centrale station.
Once you arrive in Ravenna, head to the Basilica di San Vitale, which is famous for its stunning mosaics depicting scenes from the Bible and the life of Jesus. The mosaics are incredibly detailed and well-preserved, and the basilica itself is a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture.
After visiting the basilica, head to the nearby Mausoleo di Galla Placidia, which is another stunning example of Byzantine art and architecture. The mausoleum is known for its beautifully preserved mosaics, which feature intricate patterns and symbols.
Before heading back to Bologna, take a stroll through Ravenna’s charming historic center, where you’ll find many shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Where to Stay
Bologna offers a wide range of accommodation options, from budget-friendly hostels to luxury hotels. If you’re looking for a central location, we recommend staying in the historic center, where you’ll be within walking distance of most of the city’s main attractions. Some of our favorite hotels in the area include:
- Albergo delle Drapperie: This charming hotel is located in the heart of the historic center and offers comfortable rooms with a traditional Italian design.
- Art Hotel Commercianti: This elegant hotel is housed in a historic building near the Piazza Maggiore and offers spacious rooms and a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the city.
- Zanhotel & Meeting Centergross: This modern hotel is located near the Bologna Airport and offers comfortable rooms, a fitness center, and a restaurant serving traditional Italian cuisine.
Where to Eat
Bologna is known for its delicious cuisine, and there are plenty of great restaurants and cafes to choose from. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Osteria dell’Orsa: This casual restaurant serves traditional Bolognese dishes at affordable prices. Don’t miss the tagliatelle al ragù!
- Trattoria Anna Maria: This cozy trattoria is known for its homemade pasta dishes and friendly service. Reservations are recommended.
- La Montanara: This pizzeria is located near the Two Towers and serves delicious Neapolitan-style pizza.
Free Tours in Bologna
If you’re traveling on a budget, there are several free tours in Bologna that you can join to learn more about the city’s history and culture. Some of the most popular options include:
- Bologna Free Walking Tour: This 2.5-hour walking tour covers the main sights of the historic center, including the Piazza Maggiore, the Two Towers, and the Portico di San Luca. The tour is led by a local guide and is available in English, Spanish, and Italian.
- Bologna Food Tour: This free tour takes you to some of the city’s best food markets and delis, where you can sample local specialties and learn about the history of Bolognese cuisine. The tour lasts 3 hours and is available in English and Italian.
- Bologna Street Art Tour: This free tour takes you off the beaten path to explore Bologna’s vibrant street art scene. The tour is led by a local artist and is available in English and Italian.
When is the best time to visit Bologna?
The best time to visit Bologna is in the spring (April-June) or fall (September-November), when the weather is mild and there are fewer tourists. Summer can be hot and crowded, while winter can be rainy and chilly.
How do I get around Bologna?
Bologna is a walkable city, and most of the main sights are located within the historic center. However, if you need to travel further, there is a reliable bus system and taxis are also available.
What should I pack for my trip to Bologna?
Make sure to pack comfortable shoes for walking, as well as clothing that is appropriate for the season. Bologna can be quite hot in the summer, so it’s a good idea to bring lightweight clothing and sunscreen. If you plan to visit churches or other religious sites, make sure to dress modestly.
Bologna is a city that offers something for everyone, from its rich history and culture to its delicious cuisine and vibrant nightlife. Whether you’re interested in exploring the city’s medieval center, sampling its world-famous cuisine, or taking a day trip to nearby Ravenna, Bologna is a destination that won’t disappoint. With this three-day itinerary and our tips on where to stay, eat, and explore, we hope you’ll have a memorable trip to this beautiful city.
For more information about Bologna and its attractions, visit the official tourism website of Bologna.