3 day guide to Bologna: what to see and do

 Well hello to you my reader chums! Italy has my heart, it's a country that feels like home to me and I love it, even more, every time I touch base there. I'm lucky to have been to many cities and towns across Italy and it thrills my heart when I can explore new Italian cities. When I set foot in Bologna, I instantly fell in love and knew the city would be mine, and it would be a city I'd never get bored of.

Capital of the best Italian food and located in the Emilia Romagna region, Bologna is a city with more than first meets the eye. Its authenticity, way of life, and pure focus on good food were everything I could dream of in an Italian city. Bologna didn't have that tourist feel, but a welcoming atmosphere into its culture and I adored that. If you're planning a long weekend to Bologna, here is my 3-day guide to what to see and do.

This post contains affiliate links but all thoughts are my own.

Bologna Italy

Day 1: Get a feel of the city

Bologna is one of those cities where I could walk around and never get bored of its old-school charm and authentic vibe. Its medieval-looking buildings, charming locals, and wholesome ambiance were enough to make me stay forever. I adored roaming the streets, visiting the sights, and being a part of the locals' community.

The beauty of Bologna is the atmosphere and how safe, and content I felt roaming around the city. It almost felt like I'd been there before and had a sense of belonging. On your first day in Bologna, I would advise you to roam around and get a feel of the city. There's no need to have a direct plan on what to see and where to go as you'll discover what your favourite spots will be, however, these were a few of my favourite areas.

Piazza Maggiore/ Piazza Nettuno

The hub and centre of Bologna, Piazza Maggiore is a must-see for every visitor to the city. This is where the action happens and leads off to all the other unique streets and piazzas throughout the city. I loved the rush of this piazza and how it's surrounded by all the top shops and overlooked by the famous Basilica of San Petronio. Piazza Maggiore is right next to Piazza Nettuno which is slightly smaller but with the same vibe about it. They're definitely the best starting point for any Bologna newbies as you'll encapsulate the city's heart before you branch out to the quieter spots.

Piazza Maggiore Bologna

Piazza Santo Stefano

Every piazza had a unique vibe, but the general consensus is friendly with lots to see and there's always a buzz in the air that I don't know how to describe it. Piazza Santo Stefano was one of my favourite spots as it was slightly out the way and on the weekends, it hosts a vintage market. It has charming pebbly pathways, a gorgeous church, and is closeby to a hub of brilliant restaurants.

Piazza Cavour

Piazza Cavour had a sweet charm about it, which I adored. It has more of a park vibe, surrounded by the most beautiful archways which added a sense of glamour to the overall piazza. I loved sitting there in the evening with gelato as it's not as busy as the other piazzas, with many benches to perch on.

Piazza Cavour

Piazza Guiseppi Verdi

The university area of Bologna has a certain vibe that I adored and the charismatic buildings and scenery added to that overall ambiance. I really loved it and can see why students love attending their lectures there, it's definitely a place I want to study at. Piazza Guiseppi Verdi is a famous student quarter area where it has many student bars, restaurants, and cafes.

Via dell'Indipendenza

For the shopaholics, this street is where it's at. It's an endless long road packed with some of the best shops from designers to your regular high street shops, gelaterias, and boutique shops too. It's the perfect place for a mooch, especially on the cooler days in the city.

3 day guide to Bologna: things to see and do

Find your own favourite area

The beauty of Bologna is its medieval and rustic buildings and authentic charm. I wouldn't describe it as aesthetic like Florence for instance, it's old-fashioned, traditional, and truly Italian and that's why it's an incredible city to mooch around. Bologna has many hidden gems across the entire city, from quaint walkways, tucked-away restaurants to boutique shops and cafes, so that's why taking yourself on a random route will help you discover Bologna, off the beaten path. Via Clavature was one of my favourite streets because it was packed with different food markets, quaint shops, and near the hub of all fresh food to purchase from the varied delis.

Day 2: Visiting all the main sights

Once you've got your bearings around the city and what's where, it's a great time to tick off all the sights that make Bologna, the historical and cultural city that it is.

3 day guide to Bologna: things to see and do

Basilica di San Petronio

Basilicas are one of my favourite things about Italy and the Basilica di San Petronio genuinely blew my mind with its beauty. The basilica stands in the centre of Piazza Maggiore and really is the focal point of the whole piazza. It stands strong and the interior is even more stunning than the exterior. I was overwhelmed by the tall archways, sleek marble floor, and really, the sheer size of it all. The Basilica is free to enter and is open from 8.30am-1pm and 3pm-6pm every day.

Cattedrale di San Pietro

Located along the bustling street of Via dell'Indipendenza, it seems odd to have such a grand cathedral in the midst of it all. However, that adds intrigue and grandeur to the building even more so. I loved this cathedral too with detailed paintings on the ceiling and large, grand cream archways. It's gorgeous to visit and also free to enter. The cathedral is open from 7am-7pm every single day.

St Peter's Cathedral Bologna

Torre Degli Asinelli

Bologna is a gorgeous city, wherever you are but there's no other experience than seeing it from a birdseye view. The Torre Degli Asinelli was built between 1109 and 1119 and is a top landmark in the city. There are 498 steps to the top, and although, it is a pretty long trek, once you get to the top, the view is completely worth it. I would say, if you're claustrophobic, scared of heights, or aren't in a fit shape, you should be aware that the steps can be tight at times and there isn't loads of room to walk up. The entry fee is £5 and I would recommend booking in advance to secure your spot, especially in peak season. The view from the top of the tower blew my mind, it was incredible seeing the city in all its glory; the endless medieval buildings and rolling hills in the distance. 

Torre degli asilini

3 day guide to Bologna: things to see and do

Museo Civico Medievale/Museo Cívico Arqueológico

I'm a bit of a history nerd so I love visiting a museum in a new city as it is a great way to get to terms with the history of that place. There are two museums that are worth the visit on your trip: Museo Civico Medievale and Museo Cívico Arqueológico.  Museo Civico Medievale is filled with a precious collection of medieval artifacts of the 7th-9th century and artists' work from the 15th-16th century. It's 6 euro to get in or if you're under 25, only 2 euro. Museo Cívico Arqueológico is a must-visit, especially if you're a fan of archaeology. It contains a significant archaeological collection (the most important in Italy) of local history from prehistory to Roman times. This museum has the same entry fee.

Basilica of San Giacomo Maggiore 

Sometimes the best churches aren't the most obvious and away from the main hub and that was how I felt visiting the Basilica of San Giacomo Maggiore. Located in the university district and free to enter, I love how this church wasn't overly massive but had an intricate design and grandeur look to it.

Day 3: Setting your sights further afield from the main city

Hidden canals of Bologna

Although the hidden canals have now dried up, it's still cool to have a mooch and see where they were as it gives off a similar look to Venice with how the roads are mapped out. I think the coolest one worth making the visit is along Via Piella. On this road, there's a tiny square in a wall next to a restaurant and if you peek through, you can see the remains of the canal.

University of Bologna

The university area of the city was one of my favourites because it has such an old-school charm and unique beauty to it, that I could have roamed around for hours. It's only about a 15/20-minute from the main hub and is worth it for the roam. It's a great area to walk around, appreciate the beauty and sit with a coffee. You'll definitely want to study there when you walk around!

University of Bologna

Sanctuario de San Luca

This has to be one of my favourite parts of the trip. It always pays off going a little out of the city to see what's there and the Sanctuario de San Luca should be top of your list if you have the time. You can either get the bus from the centre of Bologna or hop in a taxi to visit the sanctuary. To enter the sanctuary/the church and mooch around is free, and the grounds themselves are gorgeous and offer a glimpse of the Bolognese hills.

It costs a couple of euros to go to the viewpoint and to the tombs so it's up to you whether to pay it. I would 100% say to pay to walk up to the top of the Sanctuary as the view of the Bolognese hills is one of the best things I've ever seen. I couldn't get over how beautiful they were. It was really a bucket list-worthy moment.

3 day guide to Bologna: things to see and do

Where to eat

Bologna is the capital of the best food in Italy and wherever you go, you're bound to find brilliant and mouth-watering food.

Breakfast in Bologna

Bottega Portici

Italian breakfasts are dream-worthy; for the coffee drinkers, it means starting the day with an expresso and for the non-coffee drinkers like me, it means pure chocolate joy. Italian hot chocolates are literally liquid chocolate and my favourite thing to drink in the morning, paired with a sweet pastry or cake. Bottega Portici, served up the best breakfast and also made from scratch sweet tortellini and it was so delicious.

Mortadella Lab

Mortadella is renowned in Bologna and I had my fair share on the trip. The Mortadella Lab was insane for sandwiches and there's a reason people queued up to get their fix. The sandwiches were massive and super delicious, it's definitely worth the visit.

Mortadella lab

Mercato di Mezzo 

I came across this indoor food market as I roamed around on the first day and loved it so much in there, I went back a couple of times. It has a couple of different food vendors serving up a range of freshly cooked foods from pasta to sandwiches and booze too. I had the classic tagliatelle ragu (famous in the Emilia Romana region) and it was insanely good, I'm still not over it.

Osteria del Podesta

I adored this little restaurant, dining alfresco. It served up a dream-worthy meat platter (as Bologna are known for their cured meats) and the classic butter and ham tagliatelle dish too. It was one of those places that had a charm to it and was very popular with locals too.

Trattoria La Finestrella

This restaurant had a slightly fancier appeal to it in the way it was presented and the food was on par. I had the mozzarella and prosciutto ham for starters followed by tortellini ragu, as Bologna is home to the tortellini. 

3 day guide to Bologna: things to see and do

Cremeria Cavour

I kid you not, the gelato in Cremeria Cavour has to be the BEST I've ever tasted. I had the chocolate and hazelnut and I could tell that it was made which incredibly rich chocolate and the flavours were second to none. I think about this gelato way too much.

Cremeria La Vecchia Stalla

This was located near Piazza Santo Stefano and has a beautiful range of gelato, that was my favourite thing about the place. I loved the ice cream in here, it was of top quality too and I can see why it gets busy with the locals.

Gelataria delle Moline

This was a random find and I'm glad I had some gelato from here because even though it didn't look too fancy, the gelato was delicious and satisfied all my taste buds. It was definitely more of a classic gelateria.

Where to stay

As Bologna is quite close-knit, you can really stay anywhere in the city to get the full experience of Bologna life. I stayed in an apartment in the northern part of the city and for me, it was the perfect location. It was only about a 10-minute walk into the main bustle of Bologna and the apartment was right next to a supermarket and close by to the train station too.

There are many different hotels, apartments, and other accommodation options throughout Bologna, it all depends on what you're looking for. The more central the better, but anywhere in the city will offer an authentic feel.

How to get around

Bologna is very easy to get around by foot (if you have the means to do so) as the main hub to the outskirts is all in easy reach to each other and very easy to navigate yourself around. There are buses available to get you where you need to be or the option of a taxi, but in the central part of Bologna, cars aren't really used in the prime part of the day, hence the use of bicycles by many locals.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Have you visited Bologna before?

Thank you for reading <3


  1. Bologna looks like such a lovely place to explore and spend some time just enjoying all the lovely sites (and food). Thanks for sharing -- this has given me some serious travel vibes!

  2. Wonderful post. Bologna looks like a lot of fun with many sites to explore and enjoy. Thank you for sharing 🤗

    Pastor Natalie

  3. Great guide to Bologna have always wanted to go, such a beautiful looking city.

  4. Was there any big suprises in Italy?

    1. I don't think so, I've been to Italy many times but my love for it gets bigger and bigger on each trip x

  5. Thanks for sharing Della! I love this guide to Bologna. I've never visited Italy before and I would love to go x

  6. Bologna looks like such a lovely place! I've only been to Italy once but I would love to visit again :) x

  7. Fab post! I hadn't heard of Bologna before but it looks amazing. I definitely agree with what you said about getting a feel for the city on the first day, though - that's so important anywhere you go. The cathedral looks stunning too! Thanks for sharing x

  8. Okay so Bottega Portici is on the list because how insane do those croissants look! Obsessed! What a fabulous trip x

  9. Oh wow such a wonderful post, I have never been. to Bologna before but they is so many things to do! I need to go, the food looks great


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