The best things to do in Bologna

Bologna is a charming city full of activities to explore. Read this article to find out what the top things to do in Bologna are.


7 minute read
Updated on 29 May 2024

Bologna is one of the best cities in Italy and offers plenty of activities and attractions for its residents. Whether you're interested in museums, food, or just taking in the sights and sounds of this vibrant city, Bologna has something to offer everyone.

Read on to find out about the top things that you can do in Bologna once you move there.

Explore the popular sights

If you're looking for things to do in Bologna, Italy, be sure to first check out some of the city's most popular sightseeing spots.

Piazza Maggiore is one of Bologna's most iconic squares. It’s home to several important buildings, including the Palazzo dei Banchi, the Palazzo d'Accursio, and the Basilica di San Petronio. Another important landmark on the square is the Fountain of Neptune, which was built in 1563.

The Basilica di San Petronio is one of the most important churches in Bologna. It was built in 1390 and is home to many important works of art, including the frescoes by Giovanni da Modena.

Museums in Bologna

Considering there’re 30 museums in Bologna, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if you don’t know where to start. Here’re the museums in Bologna that should be at the top of your list:

Museum of the History of Bologna

The Museum of the History of Bologna is a great way to learn about the city's past.

This museum chronicles the city's rich history, from its Roman roots to its medieval heyday. Visitors can see artefacts from all periods of Bologna's history and learn about the city's unique culture and traditions in this well-designed and informative museum.

The museum is in the heart of the historic center, near other major landmarks such as the Basilica di San Petronio and the Piazza Maggiore. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 19:00. The admission fee is €13 for adults and it’s free for kids.

Museo di Palazzo Poggi

Museo di Palazzo Poggi is one of the most popular museums in Bologna. Its core focus is science, with collections in the areas of anatomy, naturalism, physics, geography and more. Exploring this magnificent museum will teach you a great deal about the history of science.

The Museo di Palazzo Poggi is in the center of the city and is easily accessible by public transportation. It’s open Tuesday to Friday between 10am and 4pm, weekends and bank holidays between 10am and 6pm. Standard tickets cost €7, but if you study in Bologna at the University of Bologna, you might be able to get free admission!

You’ll have to get there at least 30 minutes before closing time to get in

Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna

The Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna is one of the most important museums in Italy. It houses an extensive collection of art, spanning from the 13th to the 20th-century. Some of the highlights of the collection include works by Giotto, Botticelli, and Giambattista Tiepolo.

The Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna is located in the heart of the city, just a short walk from the Piazza Maggiore. Admission to the museum is €10 for adults and €6 if you qualify for the reduced tickets. If you’re between 18 and 25 years old, it’s €2. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:00 to 19:00.

The first Sunday of every month is a free admission day to Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, take advantage of the free museum trip!

Museo Civico Archeologico

Museo Civico Archeologico in Bologna is a famous museum that is popular for its archaeological exhibits. It’s closed on Tuesday, but open from 9:00 to 18:00 every other weekday. At weekends and public holidays it’s open from 10:00 to 19:00. The entry fee is €6 for adults, €4 for seniors and €2 for 18-25 year-olds not studying. Students and children under 18 can enter for free.

MAMbo - Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna__

MAMbo is a museum of modern art in Bologna, Italy. The museum is famous for its collection of Italian and international modern contemporary art. Admission to the museum is €6 for adults, €4 for seniors and €2 for 18-25 year-olds not studying. Students and children under 18 can enter for free. The opening hours are as follows: Tuesday and Wednesday: 14:00 to 19:00 Thursday: 14:00 to 20:00 Friday- Sunday and holidays: 10:00 to 19:00 Closed on Mondays

Bologna also has something in store for the motorheads- The Ducati Museum and Museo Enzo Ferrari.

The Ducati Museum

This museum is famous for its collection of classic and modern Ducati motorcycles. The museum is located in the heart of the city, and is open most days from 9:00 to 18:00, it’s closed on Wednesdays. The admission is €18 for adults, €13 for seniors and students and kids go free .

Parks in Bologna

The parks and the botanical garden in Bologna are some of the most popular places in the city. They’re known for their beautiful gardens and for being a great place to relax and spend time with family and friends.

Bologna has parks for all sorts of activities, from strolling and relaxing to playing sports and picnicking. Here’re some of the best parks in Bologna, Italy.

Parco della Villa Ghigi

Parco della Villa Ghigi is a large park with plenty of trees and space to walk around. The park is a popular spot for picnics, as there're many tables and benches available. There’s also a playground for children, making it a great place for families.

Parco del Ravone

Parco del Ravone is another large park and it’s especially popular with dog owners as there’s a designated area for dogs to run and play. This park also has a playground and plenty of space to walk around.

Garden of Villa Spada

Garden of Villa Spada is a smaller but very beautiful park with its manicured gardens and sculptures. It’s a popular place to find seclusion from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The botanical garden “Orto Botanico dell'Università di Bologna”

Visiting Orto Botanico dell'Università di Bologna, the city's botanical garden is the perfect activity if you're a plant enthusiast or just looking for a relaxing day out.

The garden covers over 12 hectares and is home to over 4,000 species of plants. There's also a beautiful butterfly house, which is always popular with visitors. If you want to learn more about the plants in the garden, there’re guided tours available.

The opening hours change depending on the time of year. For Winter (October 1st to March 31st) it’s open Tuesday to Sunday and holidays 9:00 to 15:00. For Summer (April 1st to September 30th) it’s open Tuesday to Sunday and holidays 10:00 to 18:00__. It’s closed for working Mondays and in cases of severe weather.

You’ll need to arrive at least 30 minutes before closing for admission.

The best part? Admission is free for everyone who visits.

Explore the ‘must-see neighborhoods’ in Bologna

Bologna is split into nine neighborhoods, each of which has its unique character. Regardless of where you live, the neighborhoods that are worth exploring include:

  • The Quadrilatero district- one of the most popular neighborhoods in Bologna. This is where you’ll find the oldest market in Italy –—Quadrilateral. Many of the shops specialize in old-school handcrafts and commercial activities and have been handed down over many generations.

  • San Vitale- it’s home to many of the city's historical landmarks, such as the Basilica di San Vitale. If you're interested in history and culture, this is a great place to explore.

If you're looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, then the neighborhoods of Savena or Corticella may be more your style. These neighborhoods are known for their parks and green spaces. They’re great places to take a stroll in or relax in nature.

Experience the traditional cuisine and wine of Bologna

As with the rest of the best cities in Italy, Bologna has a variety of traditional dishes and wines that the city is popular for. From the famous Bolognese sauce to the Lambrusco of the Emilia Romagna Region, there’re endless new flavors to explore.

The best traditional cuisine restaurants in Bologna, Italy

You’ll find that there’s an endless array of restaurants at virtually every corner of Bologna. Even though they all have something unique to offer, you should have the following ones at the top of your list:

  • Trattoria da Vito
  • Osteria del Sole
  • Ristorante Piazza Maggiore
  • Trattoria San Domenico
  • La Lanterna

Here are the traditional dishes that are a must-try when in Bologna:

  • Tagliatelle al Ragù Bolognese
  • Certosino di Bologna
  • Lasagne Verde al Forno
  • Tortellini en Brodo

Best wine-tasting spots in Bologna, Italy

Life in Bologna isn’t complete without sampling the best wines the region has to offer. Some most popular wines in the region are Gutturnio, Malvasia, Barbera, Lambrusco, and Pignoletto.

If you’re all about wine, add these wine-tasting rooms at the top of your list:

  • Enoteca Italiana
  • Cantina Bentivoglio
  • Osteria Bottega del Vino

Events in Bologna to look forward to

The city also has a lively calendar of events and festivals throughout the year. Here’s the list of the most popular ones to look forward to:

  • La Primavera Prosecco- This festival celebrates the start of spring with delicious prosecco and food. It takes place in early April.

  • Rocco fortezza- This is a huge music festival that takes place in July. It features a variety of international and local acts.

  • Bologna Summer Fest- This party is held in August and features a mix of music, food, and culture.

  • Ferragosto- This party is held on August 15th to celebrate the Assumption of Mary. Although it's a religious holiday, there’re still plenty of festivities to enjoy.

Things to do around Bologna

Once you’re all done experiencing the city of Bologna to the fullest, you should consider exploring the area around Bologna. The city is surrounded by beautiful countryside, and there’re several towns and villages worth exploring.

One option is to head to the town of Modena. This town is known for its delicious food and some of the best restaurants in the Emilia Romagna region. There’re also several museums and art galleries worth checking out, such as the House Museum of Luciano Pavarotti and Galleria Estense.

Another option is to head to the village of Dozza. This village is home to a beautiful castle, and you can also visit the Museum of Emilia Romagna here. The village itself is very picturesque, and it's worth a visit for a day trip.

If you're looking for something a bit more active, you can go hiking or cycling in the nearby Parco delle Foreste Casentinesi. This park is full of beautiful forests and trails and serves as the perfect place to get away from the city for a while.

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