Exploring Bologna in less than 24 hours

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Looking for things to do in Bologna Italy in 1 day? Bologna is the capital of the Emilia Romagna region in Italy. It’s also the capital of food, as the Bologna food is such unique and great, that the city is also known for being the Italian capital of food. But what to do in Bologna in one day? If you’re not planning an Emilia Romagna tour, and you’re also not planning to spend more than 24 hours in Bologna, with this article we’ll see what are the best things to do in Bologna in one day? So, if we’re ready to see the best things to do in Bologna within this Bologna 1 day itinerary, let’s get started!

The first time I’ve visited the capital city of the Emilia Romagna region was in 2018, before actually moving to this region. In March 2018 I’ve spent the last 24 hours in Bologna from my 8-day Italian trip. It all started with 4 days in Rome, then continued in Florence, and ended in Bologna, Italy. Since I live in the region I had the possibility to extend this article, which originally was published 3 years ago, and updated in 2021.

Top things to do in Bologna in one day – 24 hours in Bologna

Bologna, Emilia Romagna

What are the best things to do in Bologna Italy in 1 day? At that phase of my life, I just launched my travel blog, and I’ve been writing my experiences as a story, instead of a static article. With the new updates, I have removed parts and organized the Bologna 1 day itinerary in a way that’s easy for you to follow! However, if you’re interested in what happened back then in Florence, before arriving at the capital city of Emilia Romagna, you can read about my adventures in Florence! So, you’re ready to find out what to do in Bologna in one day?


How to get to Bologna, Italy?

First, before getting into the things to do in Bologna in one day is to find how to get to Bologna! If you’re looking for tips for how to get from Florence to Bologna, or how to get from Florence to Bologna, here are the ways!

The region of Emilia Romagna in Italy is located between three of the most popular touristic regions of the country. These would be Lombardy, Veneto, and Tuscany. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you’re arriving in Milan, Florence or Venice, you can easily travel to Emilia Romagna in about 1-2 hours by train, car or bus.

Trains are usually the most simple ways to get around if you’re not renting a car. There are trains from Florence to Bologna, or from Venice to Bologna, but from Milano as well. The trains from Milan to Bologna are actually passing through almost all the cities in Emilia Romagna that you should be seeing, so you can also plan a railway trip in the region. If you prefer buses, I always swore on FlixBus for traveling in Italy, and I still do. Almost all Italian destinations are covered by FlixBus. It’s easy, cheap, you can deal with everything from the app. So yes… If you click on the below banner, it will take you directly to the train bookings.

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Airports around and in Emilia Romagna

Bologna has its own airport with international flights to most European cities. Depending on where you’re coming from, you might be able to fly directly into the city as well, so check out the options when booking your tickets. The train lines in the region are great, passing through all major cities of Emilia Romagna. If you’re not renting a car, trains are usually the easiest way to travel from one town to another by train.

Florence: If you fly to Florence Amerigo Vespucci airport, and you’re looking to visit Emilia, you can take the train, buses, such as FlixBus, or rent a car. The Capital city of Emilia Romagna is 2 hours away from Florence.

Milan: If you’re arriving in Milan, you might fly into Milano Linate, Milano Malpensa, or Milano Bergamo airports. With a short bus ride, you can reach the city center of Milan from any of these airports. If you’re not renting a car, you can reach the region of Emilia Romagna by train the easiest way. The first stop in the region, Piacenza is a 53-minute train ride from Milano Centrale train station. The train line goes through all the region, the second stop after Piacenza being Parma, then Reggio Emilia, Modena, and Bologna.

Venice: If you’re traveling to Venice, you might be flying into Marco Polo Airport, or Nicelli, or Treviso Airport. You can also rent a car, but if you’re choosing to travel by train, Bologna is 2 hours away from Venice, Italy. Let’s see some more information before heading to the top things to do in Bologna Italy in 1 day!


Where to stay in Bologna?

One more highlight before we get into the best things to do in Bologna in one day! Where to stay in Bologna, Italy? Fair question! Here are some of my recommended places to stay in Bologna:

Grand Hotel Majestic gia’ Baglioni – A stunning 5* hotel in Bologna if you desire being surrounded by luxury.

Hotel Corona d’Oro – A 4* hotel with impeccable interior design!

Residence Studio Vita – If you’re looking for a studio apartment with a rooftop terrace in the historic center.

Art Hotel Commercianti – Another 4* hotel with really local design, colorful, chic yet rustic.

Residenza del Duse – A cute 3* residence for a lower budget, and great reviews.

Casa Bertagni – An elegant, lovely apartment if you want more privacy

Dopa Hostel – My favorite hostel in Bologna. If you’re looking for where to stay in Bologna, and you want a really cool hostel with wooden capsule beds, this is the best!

Booking.com

12 Things to do in Bologna in 1 day – 24 hours in Bologna

What to do in Bologna in one day? Find the best things to do in Bologna, Italy, if you’ve got just 24 hours in Bologna! If you’re looking for an Emilia Romagna food guide, if you’re planning a food tour in the region, make sure to check out my tips for food in Emilia Romagna. Also, if you’re looking for day trips from Bologna in the region, make sure to check my articles about Ferrara and Piacenza as well.

The below list is structured with the best way to see the city within a Bologna 1 day itinerary. If you start in the morning, and you’re planning a day trip this way, you’ll have the list of the top things to do in Bologna Italy organized starting with a morning coffee, and ending with a delicious Tagliatelle al Ragu Bolognese. Are you ready to discover Bologna? Do you want to know the best things to do in Bologna Italy in 1 day? So let’s see everything you should know if you plan to visit Bologna in one day!



#1 Historic Center of Bologna, Italy

The city of Bologna has a unique nickname in Italy, “La Dotta, la Grassa e la Rossa”. La dotta means the learned one – as Bologna is the most famous university city in Italy, and it’s home to the oldest still-functioning university in Europe. Then, la grassa refers to the fact that food in Bologna is worldwide famous, so la grassa = the fat refers to the great food and Bologna as a gastronomic city. La Rossa, meaning the read refers to the red bricks that are really specific for Bologna’s historic center. The UNESCO heritage-listed porticoes paint the streets with lights, shadows, and deep architectural perspectives like a moving artwork (perfect for street photography!).

The historic center of Bologna is full of amazing hidden gems and lovely streets. Bologna’s other uniquenesses are the rows of colonnades and arches. The sidewalks in the city are mostly under stunning and colorful arches. This also makes Bologna the city of arches, another nickname for the capital of Emilia Romagna, Italy. If you’re spending 24 hours in Bologna, and you want to know the essential things for a one-day trip in Bologna, Italy, well here’s the first tip! Start with a stroll in the historic center of Bologna! You can wander around without any specific reason, to find a lovely bar for a morning coffee and brioche. One of the best things to do in Bologna in one day is to wander in the historic center! Next things to do in Bologna Italy in 1 day!


#2 Basilica di San Petronino

Do you want to know more about what to do in Bologna in one day? If you’ve got just 24 hours in Bologna, here’s another highlight! On the main piazza of Bologna, Piazza Maggiore, you’ll see the amazing Basilica of San Petronino. This is a minor basilica and church of the Archdiocese of Bologna. Basilica di San Petronino dominates the stunning square that’s surrounded by important buildings on each side. We’ll soon have a look at those too!

Now, a few details about Basilica San Petronino! It was dedicated to the patron saint of Bologna, Saint Petronius, who was the bishop of Bologna in the 5th century. The construction of the basilica started in 1390, and as you can see in the picture above, the main facade has remained unfinished ever since. An interesting fact about the basilica is that it was finally consecrated just in 1954. Also, it has become the seat of the relics of Saint Petronius just since 2000. Until that, the relics were preserved in the basilica Santo Stefano of Bologna. Let’s see some more things to do in Bologna in one day!


#3 Fountain of Neptune

When it comes to things to do in Bologna Italy in 1 day, the Fountain of Neptune is unmissable! When you’re arriving at piazza Maggiore, on the left side if you’re standing in front of the basilica, you’ll find the stunning Neptune Fountain. The fountain is located on the square called Piazza del Nettuno, surrounded by beautiful buildings of the historic center of Bologna.

This fountain was designed by the great architect Giambologna in the 16th century. The Neptune Fountain is one of the most significant fountains in Italy, and it’s a symbol of Bologna. The masterpiece is usually crowded, but it’s absolutely stunning in the morning lights, so if you can visit it in the morning, do so! It will be worth it, I promise!


#4 Piazza Maggiore, Bologna

As I have mentioned, the Piazza Maggiore is the main square of Bologna in the historic center, and visiting this post is one of the best things to do in Bologna in one day. We’ve already covered two important sights on Piazza Maggiore, the Neptune Fountain of Bologna, and the Basilica San Petronino. However, the list of important buildings on the Piazza Maggiore doesn’t stop here.

As I have already highlighted, if you’re spending 24 hours in Bologna, and you want to know what to do in one day in Bologna, Italy, the wandering in the historic center, then arriving in Piazza Maggiore are the two must-do things in Bologna for starters! Then, you can explore Piazza Maggiore, the Palazzo d’Accursio, the Palazzo Comunale, as well as the Palazzo del Podesta.

Wandering around on the piazza, stopping by for a coffee or an aperitivo under the Porticos, or maybe catching an open-air movie or a concert will bring your trip to Bologna to an even more fabulous experience. Whenever you visit the city, try to do in the warm season, so you can fully enjoy the vibes of this beautiful city in Emilia Romagna, Italy.


#5 Street markets in Bologna, Italy – top things to do in Bologna in one day

Here’s a highlight for the things to do in Bologna Italy in 1 day! To the east of Piazza Maggiore lies the bustling, colorful streets of Quadrilatero, one of our favorite spots in Bologna, Italy. The street market of Quadrilatero is unmissable! This is the trendy, gourmet heart of Bologna. The main source of perfection of food in Bologna, Italy. This neighborhood is filled with greengrocers and fishmongers who are shouting their daily specials. All this while you’re passing near focaccierias, bars, and artisanal bakeries. Imagine walking on a colorful color, with Sanpietrini under your feet (cobblestones), seeing the local sellers and artisans, fresh food, the smell of the perfect Italian coffee, and fresh, warm bread aromas in the air.

It’s unmissable! A street market walk in Bologna is something you must experience! So make sure to explore Quadrilatero. This neighborhood was always home to street markets and food stalls all the way back in the Middle Ages. It’s the place for local specialties, vinegar, cheese, fresh pasta, and wine. Many bars and salumerias on these streets have outdoor tables and these offer usually the most incredible aperitivo food as well. More things to do in Bologna in one day coming!


#6 Go to a local Salumeria in Bologna

As the Aperitivo is really much enjoyed with the different delicious cold cuts and cheese that’s originating from this region, aperitivo in Emilia Romagna is a whole different level if you compare them to the once in Rome for example. This explains why in the capital city of Emilia Romagna, in Bologna, almost every Salumeria shop has tables outside. They don’t just offer their incredible cold cuts, cheese products, fresh pasta, or wines, but they also prepare panini (sandwich) on-site, with aperitivo drink. If you’re asking me, I think this is fabulous!

So, if you’re exploring Bologna in 24 hours, and you have just one day in Bologna to see and try it all, make sure you’re not skipping a Salumeria. These are local shops, as I mentioned, that are selling cold cuts, cheese, and other local goodies. It is definitely another unmissable thing to do in Bologna! One of the oldest and most popular markets in Bologna is the Mercato di Mezzo. This one is located on the streets of the historic center of the city, right near Piazza Maggiore.

If you walk in a Salumeria, here are some of my highlights to buy: Salumi (salami), and if you find Salumi Piacentini, that’s the best! You can also find different types of Coppa and Pancetta, as well as different types of Ham, Speck, and Mortadella. – The Mortadella is also a typical product from Bologna! If you want to explore more about food in Emilia Romagna, make sure to check my guide! Let’s see what more we’ve got on our list of top things to do in Bologna Italy!


#7 Try for lunch some Tortelli in Brodo – a famous Bologna food type and dish

Of you’re looking for things to do in Bologna Italy in 1 day, eating outside is unmissable! Some of the best food in Bologna Italy is the tagliatelle pasta, which you can find as Tagliatelle al Ragu, which is one of the most famous dishes worldwide. Lasagna with Bechamel sauce is also something that you should try in Bologna, as well as the Mortadella cold cuts. Some of Bologna’s specialties include also the Maccheroni alla Bolognese with white ragu, and the Tortellini in Brodo as well as the Squaquerone cheese. Tortellini or Tortelli in Brodo are amazing. At this point, I must highlight also Piacenza, as if there’s something better than the Tortellini in Brodo, well, that’s the Anolini in Brodo, that’s a typical dish from Piacenza.

For lunch, you can try some Primi – first course – such as Tortelli, and the tortellini in Brodo, and don’t miss the local specialties of dolci. You know, Bologna is also famous for some amazing desserts, so don’t miss to try something for your taste!

If you’re visiting Bologna, you should definitely roll in a Bologna food tour! There are many different types of food tours in Bologna, with a highlight to Taste of Bologna tour. You can also find GetYourGuide food tours in Bologna right below!

Bologna Food Tour

If you are maybe you’re more interested in a food tour in Bologna, or you’re spending more than 24 hours in Bologna, definitely roll in a food tour. Within these, you can really explore the local cuisine and famous food products of Bologna and the region of Emilia Romagna. Some of the best things to do in Bologna in one day are to eat, join a Bologna food tour, and take one of the cooking classes in Bologna in one day!


#8 The Two Towers of Bologna, Italy

things to do in bologna
Leaning tower of Bologna, Two Towers of Bologna, Italy

More about what to do in Bologna in one day? How does it sound to climb 498 narrow, wooden steps to the top of a 97.2m tall, medieval leaning towner for the best views in Bologna, Italy? Well, if you’re spending just 24 hours in Bologna, and you want to know what are the most incredible and remarkable things to do in Bologna in one day, this is it! Climb the Asinelli tower!

The Two Towers of Bologna, know in Italian as Le Due Torri di Bologna is possibly the most renowned landmark in Bologna, Italy. Constructions were commissioned in the 11th century by the Asinelli and Garisenda families. The towers served as defensive fortifications, but also as status symbols that were strategically placed at the entry point of the city on the ancient Aemiliana Way (Via Emilia) to warn potential invaders. At this point, I should also highlight, that once there were 180 towers dotting the skyline of Bologna. Now unfortunately there are only twenty standing that has survived the centuries.

If you actually decide to climb the Asinelli Tower, you will gain an incredible view of the red city, the Citta Rossa. Seeing a medieval city like Bologna from above it’s unforgettable. You can book your visit to the tower ahead, which is one way if you’re traveling during the pandemic, it’s necessary due to the limitation of visitors, but outside of the pandemic, it’s also smart, due to the tourist invasion.


#9 Have a walk along the old city and canals of Bologna

If you’ve got just a day, and you’re looking for the things to do in Bologna Italy in 1 day, don’t miss the canals! A little-known fact is that Bologna has a 60km network of canals dating back to the Middle Ages. Used largely as a way to provide power to the Bologna’s industry, the majority of the canals are now obscured by the ever-expanding city. There are, however, a few locations where you can get a sneaky glimpse at part of the city’s heritage. 

It’s an incredibly pretty highlight of Bologna, especially if you’re visiting Bologna in 24 hours. The small canals of Bologna are a must. It’s almost like Venice, but with tiny canals and orange/red houses on the sides. If you’re visiting in the colder months, you might find the canals empty though. But when they are filled with water, that’s just so charming. These canals are about a 15-minute walk from Piazza Maggiore, and there are just a few parts that are actually still “in function”. Some of these are on Via Capo di Lucca, where the Moline canal runs partially uncovered.

You can spot some houses from the Middle Ages and some Renaissance millers as well on the right side. You can also visit the little window on Via Piella, where you can see the Reno canal through a restored “window”. Your third option for the medieval canals of Bologna is the bridge in Via Malcontenti. This is the only remaining watering place that was used for washing carts and watering animals. It’s definitely one of the highlights if you have 24 hours in Bologna! And we’ve still got some top things to do in Bologna Italy!


#10 Aperitivo

aperitivo bologna centro italy

As in every Italian city, one of the best things to do in Bologna in one day is the Aperitivo! When the clock hits 6 pm, it’s officially Aperitivo time! Usually, Aperitivo time in Italy is between 6-6:30 pm and 8 pm. At 8 it’s official dinner time. So, if it’s already 6 pm, make sure to spot a nice bar with outdoor tables and have some aperitivo drinks, such as a Spritz (Aperol or Hugo), or a Negroni, a Sbagliato (which is a messed up Negroni, literally). You can read in my post about the famous Aperitivo drinks to learn more about what to ask for!

When you’re having an Aperitivo, you say faccio l’aperitivo – which literally means that you’re doing aperitivo. If someone is asking you this in Italy, that means that they want to know if they should bring you snacks as well or just the drink? If you’re doing an aperitivo, you’ll get snacks, which are usually local specialties, nuts, cold cuts, mini pizza, bruschetta, cheese, olives, and in some places chips too. These snacks are always included in your aperitivo drink price.

In Bologna, the last time I’ve done an Aperitivo, it was at a Salumeria shop/Bar on Via Massimo d’Azeglio, right near Piazza Maggiore. This local is called Gran Bar and they also had a small outdoor space for a few tables on streets from the Middle Ages. Quiet lovely experience, I must say!


#11 Bologna National Gallery

If you’ve got 24 hours in Bologna, do not miss visiting museums! The Bologna National Gallery is unique first because contains many works that are related somehow to the Emilia Romagna region and the city of Bologna. Art pieces in the National Gallery of Bologna vary between ages as far back as the 13th century all the way to the 19th century. As it’s located within the old university complex, you can easily reach it from the city center.

The National Gallery in Bologna is split into two main sections. On one side, there’s the Accademia Clementina and the other, the Academy of Fine arts. The first one contains a myriad of 13th-century Byzantine paintings, while the Academy of Fine Arts has later worked. You can find notal pieces from painters like Raphael and Titian. And now, the last highlight if you’re looking for things to do in Bologna Italy in 1 day!


#12 Dinner time – one of the best things to do in Bologna in one day

emilia romagna food guide

If there’s one dish in Bologna that you must not leave without trying, that’s definitely the Tagliatelle al Ragu! Bologna’s most famous dish, the perfect dinner even if you’re spending 24 hours in Bologna. Finishing one day in Bologna, Italy with the most delicious Italian dish is the perfect way to finish the day. There are many great restaurants and Osterias in the city center. You can check out some of the following names of restaurants in Bologna. There are the Ca’ Pelletti, Bottega Portici, Osteria dell’Orsa, or Adesso Pasta between many many others.

If you’re ordering a Tagliatelle al Ragu in Bologna, you’ll get nearby freshly grated Parmesan cheese as well (Parmigiano Reggiano). With that cheese on top, the Bolognese ragu will be just perfect. More than perfect!

Wrapping up the 12 things to do in Bologna in one day – 24 hours in Bologna

Did you find something interesting within these things to do in Bologna Italy in 1 day? Did you find your answers on what to do in Bologna in one day? So if you’re on a one-day trip to Bologna, and you have maybe even less than 24 hours in Bologna, Italy, these are the 12 things to do in Bologna in one day that you should definitely consider visiting. If you prefer slow travel, you might not be able to finish all the 12 top things to do in Bologna Italy, but if you’re planning to go fast and see as much as possible, these 12 are definitely doable in a day in Bologna, Italy. Enjoy the perfection of the famous city of food, Bologna, and definitely consider visiting other towns and cities as well in Emilia Romagna! You can find on my blog many articles and guides for this region!


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Exploring Bologna in less than 24 hours

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