Ten Things to Do in Bologna, Italy

Travellers who think with their stomach (like I do) might consider Bologna to be the ideal destination for a plate of spaghetti bolognese, but in fact this northern Italian city is home to many more things to do than simply eat! Bologna is a relatively small and very historical city, capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, and considered by many Italians to be one of their country’s most beautiful cities. If you are planning a short break to the city, here are some suggestions on things to do in Bologna during your stay.

Piazza Maggiore

The heart of Bologna is its Piazza Maggiore, the main square in the old town, which has plenty of famous buildings surrounding it, including the Basilica of San Petronio, the City Hall Building, the Portico dei Banchi and the Palazzo del Podestà. Scenic, historical and a good meeting and cafe place all at once, it’s a good place to centre your Bologna explorations.

things to do Bologna

Piazza Maggiore by night by Alessandro Capotondi

Tower of the Asinelli and Tower of the Garisenda

These two towers are often the main symbols of the town when you see Bologna in pictures. They both date back to the twelfth century and it’s possible to climb the Tower of the Asinelli.

things to do Bologna

View from the Tower of Asinelli by arj03

National Picture Gallery

Bologna’s National Picture Gallery is home to the most important local art and masterpieces from other parts of Italy too, and includes works by Raffaello, Giotto and Parmigianino. Do note that it’s usually closed on Mondays.

Fontana di Nettuno

The Fontana di Nettuno or Fountain of Neptune is another frequently-seen symbol of Bologna, and was built back in 1563. It’s an almost over-the-top representation of King Neptune surrounded by angels and fish.

things to do Bologna

Towering Neptune statue by Enrico Maioli

University Quarter

As a major university town, Bologna’s University Quarter is usually buzzing. With plenty of young people around there are numerous trendy cafes, bars and nightclubs to enjoy. But on the more intellectual side – after all, the University of Bologna is the oldest university in Europe – there are also some interesting museums within the campus, including the Naval Museum, the Museum of European Students, the Obstetric Museum and the Museum of Military Architecture – pretty much something for all tastes!

things to do Bologna

Statues at the University of Bologna by Meanest Indian

Basilica di San Domenico

The Basilica di San Domenico is one of Bologna’s most famous churches, and you can also visit the attached convent. Tourist guides will keenly tell you that Mozart played the organ here on a few occasions!

Bologna Museum of Modern Art

The Bologna Museum of Modern Art, also known by its trendy Italian abbreviation of MAMbo, has existed as an independent museum only since the 1980s and recently moved to brand new premises. Featuring art quite different from Bologna’s traditional galleries, it also offers performances and multimedia events.

Archaeological Museum

Bologna’s Archaeological Museum, or Museo Civico Archeologico, includes artifacts from both ancient Egypt and the Roman era and is housed in an old hospital – what’s more, entry is free.

things to do Bologna

Artifact at the Archaeological Museum by Mike Knell

Ducati, Lamborghini and Ferrari Museums

Within Bologna or nearby, there are three very important stops for car and motorbike obsessed travellers: the Ducati Museum, the Lamborghini Museum and the Ferrari Museum; there’s also the Bologna Motorshow if you time your trip correctly. The Ferrari Museum includes a special Formula One exhibition. If you’d like to visit several museums in one day, book a taxi in Bologna to travel between the museums.

things to do Bologna

Gold Lamborghini at the museum by Blosterblu

Cooking Schools and Food Factory Tours

Given our obsession with spaghetti bolognese, it is hardly surprising that food-related tourist attractions are widespread in Bologna. There are numerous cooking schools where you can learn to make great pasta and sauces, and also tours of various factories producing Italian wine, vinegar, cheese and of course pasta. Incidentally, I’m told that spaghetti bolognese is not a traditional food of Bologna – they use the bolognese sauce on tagliatelle or in lasagne!

things to do Bologna

Tagliatelle al ragu by WordRidden

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