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The 5 best tourist attractions in Bologna

La Grassa, la Rossa e la Dotta” (the Fat, the Red and the Erudite): this is how the capital of Emilia Romagna is called. Its gastronomic tradition, its brick roofs and its important University have made it famous all over the world and every year more and more tourists choose to visit it. If you are also planning to travel to the city, here are the 5 best tourist attractions in Bologna that you just must not miss.

Even if you have little time and choose to visit Bologna in one day, don’t worry: you’ll be able to fit all of these stops into your itinerary. The historical center of Bologna, in fact, is very intimate and one of the best ways to get around it is with a walking tour.

tourist attractions in bologna

1.   Basilica of San Petronio

The most famous and most important of Bologna’s tourist attractions is definitely the Basilica of San Petronio.

This church, in addition to being the most important building of worship in the city, is considered one of the largest churches in the world.

Its foundation dates back to 1390, but its works lasted centuries and its facade, as you can see, remained unfinished.

Inside the Basilica of San Petronio, in 1530, Charles V was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Among the most beautiful and significant works we would like to point out the central portal with some representations taken from the Old and New Testament, the Bolognini Chapel (frescoed with the Stories of the Three Kings, the Last Judgement, Heaven and Hell) and the oldest pipe organ in the world still in use.

2.  Neptune Fountain

Not far from the Basilica of San Petronio, leaving Piazza Maggiore to reach Piazza del Nettuno, there is the most famous fountain in the city. It is the Fountain of Neptune, called in dialect al Żigànt.

The work was inaugurated in 1566 and it is the product of the collaboration of Zanobio Portigiani, Tommaso Laureti and Giambologna.

Tradition has it that students, before an exam, go here to turn twice counterclockwise around the fountain: it seems that it brings good luck!


3.    Asinelli Tower

Once upon a time, there were many towers in Bologna. They were built for defensive purposes and as a symbol of the power and wealth of a family.

Today there are about twenty left and the two most famous ones are surely the Asinelli Tower and the Garisenda Tower.

During your visit to Bologna you can climb to the top of the first one to enjoy one of the most beautiful views of the city and understand why it is called “la Rossa” (the Red).

Be prepared, though; the steps to climb to the top are almost 500!

The Garisenda Tower is also linked to a student tradition: if you’re a student, don’t climb it before you graduate, it’s said to bring bad luck!

4.  Basilica of Santo Stefano

The Basilica of Santo Stefano is one of the best tourist attractions in Bologna. It’s a complex of religious buildings also known as the Seven Churches.

Its origins are still very controversial, but the most credited hypothesis is that Bishop Petronius, returned from a trip to Jerusalem, has decided to create a place that would faithfully reproduce the places of worship of the Holy City.

Inside the complex there are the Church of the Crucifix, the Basilica of the Sepulchre, the Church of San Vitale and Sant’Agricola, the Courtyard of Pilate, the Church of the Martyrium, the Medieval Cloister and the Museum of Santo Stefano.

The most interesting building is undoubtedly the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which, it seems, was built over an ancient temple dedicated to the goddess Isis.

tourist attractions in bologna

5.   Middle Market

Finally, during any self-respecting visit to Bologna you can not miss a walk in one of the markets of the city. We suggest you the Mercato di Mezzo (Middle Market), a true historical place of Bolognese gastronomy.

Mortadella, various cold cuts, tortellini, tagliatelle, fresh pasta, fish, meat and vegetables: the best products to eat in Bologna are all here!

The scents will delight you and, we are sure, you will immediately want to sit down in the trattoria to enjoy a great traditional lunch!

That’s why we want to invite you to take part in our food tour of Bologna: accompanied by an expert local guide you will visit some of the most symbolic places of the city and stop to taste the best typical delicacies.

What are you waiting for? Are you one of us?