Bologna is full of amazing things to do from exploring the rich history to taking romantic strolls and enjoying panoramic city views. The food alone will make you want to stay for a while but if you’ve only got 3-days in Bologna then this ultimate guide is for you.
While you could easily extend your stay and still not run out of things to do or places to eat at in Bologna, this essential travel guide will get you started on your holiday plans. Here are the best things to do in Bologna in 3 days.
Day 1 - Morning
Start your visit in the heart of the city at Piazza Maggiore, Bologna’s historical and cultural hub. This square has been the central hub for centuries and today it’s home to Bologna’s most important religious and political buildings.
Here you’ll find the Basilica di San Petronio, Palazzo d’Accursio, Palazzo dei Notai, Palazzo del Podesta, and Palazzo dei Bianchi. Grab a delicious, freshly-baked pastry from the nearby Caffè degli Orefici before soaking up the atmosphere of Piazza Maggiore.
Then take time to explore the famous Basilica di San Petronio, once inside you can appreciate the sheer size of it and if you’re looking for a hidden gem, make your way to the basilica’s terrace where you’ll be able to enjoy a picturesque view of the city.
Day 1 - Afternoon
From the Basilica, make your way to the Archiginnasio via the Portico del Pavaglione. The porticoes are one of the most famous attractions in Bologna and these covered walkways are great when you’re exploring the city on foot, no matter the weather.
After a short walk along the portico, you’ll reach the Archiginnasio, which once was the main building of the University of Bologna and the oldest university in Europe. Today it houses Emilia-Romagna’s largest library and the Anatomical Theater.
Retrace your steps back to Piazza Maggiore and start weaving in and out of the alleys and streets that make up the Quadrilatero – the city’s old medieval market. Stop for some well-deserved lunch at Mercato di Mezzo, or enjoy a spritz and a platter of cold cuts from Bella Vita for that authentic local taste.
Day 1 - Evening
Spend the late afternoon exploring La Piccola Venezia, Bologna’s “little Venice.” Be sure to look for the Finestrella, a small but famous window that overlooks a canal, and get a glimpse of the ancient canal system.
From La Piccola Venezia, it’s time to climb up Bologna’s leaning tower for fabulous views of the city. The Torre degli Asinelli is the tallest leaning medieval tower in the world, standing at 97.2 meters. It’s a bit of a climb but the view at the top is worth it. End the first day of your three days in Bologna with an authentic dinner at Ristorante Il Tinello.
Day 2 - Morning
Once you’ve ticked off some of Bologna’s must-visit attractions it’s time to really explore the city’s rich food traditions. Start your second day of your 3-days in Bologna with a hearty brunch at Mercato di Mezzo, it’s near Piazza Maggiore. Take a walk through the 3-story pavilion and sample the region’s meats, sausages, and cheese.
If you prefer something a little sweeter then head to one of the many coffee shops for a cup of the good stuff and a delicious breakfast. Lampadina is a great option in Piazza Malpighi, it’s a new and modern coffee bar that breaks the rules with flavored coffee.
There’s a new recipe every month but you can expect to choose between flavors such as cappuccino with hazelnut, Orient Espresso with ginger and cinnamon, or La Rosa nel Bosco, with blueberries and rose petals.
Day 2 - Afternoon
Spend the afternoon off-the-beaten-path exploring the Mercato Albani in the eclectic Bolognina district or go on a guided food tour around Bologna to discover the best meat and cheese shops in the Quadrilatero area, eat traditional ragu, sample Parmigiano Reggiano and balsamic vinegar, and indulge in charcuterie.
Next stop, Biblioteca Salaborsa (Salaborsa Library). You may be thinking why visit a library but you just have to walk inside the Palazzo d'Accursio to understand why. Apart from the library’s incredible architecture inside, beneath the main floor, you’ll be able to see ancient Roman ruins.
If you have time you can go down into the basement of the library for a small fee and see the 2nd-century ruins up-close before you head off for some much-needed gelato from La Torinese and enjoy the view of the Fountain of Neptune.
Day 2 - Evening
Time for some more food! Sit down and enjoy a zesty spritz (or two!) and experience a classic Bolognese aperitivo - the Italian tradition of drinks and nibbles before dinner, it’s a welcomed reward after a busy day of exploring.
Another best thing to do in Bologna is to go on a food tour to experience how real locals eat. Whether it’s a Bolognese trattoria experience where you can have a sit-down dinner with a local host and learn about Italian food culture and the dishes that are eaten for primo and secondo.
Day 3 - Urban Walks
Time to work off all that delicious food you ate yesterday! Make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes, you’ll be walking lots today. After coffee and a bite to eat make your way to the Arco del Meloncello, the start of the arcade consisting of 666 arches leading to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca.
The basilica lies atop the Colle della Guardia and offers a beautiful view of the city. After you’ve soaked up the views head back down to Giardini Margherita. This is the largest park in Bologna and a great place to sit back and enjoy some sunshine after 3 days of exploring.
Day 3 - Day Trip
If you have time and you’re looking to explore more outside of Bologna then head off to Modena. It’s the perfect day trip that’s just a short train ride away. Modena is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you’ll be able to visit top attractions like the Piazza Grande and Palazzo Comunale.
Amble through the medieval town center, discover its famous landmarks, highlights, and hidden gems and taste the produce that the town is famous for, like balsamic vinegar and Lambrusco wine. Then hop on the train and head back to Bologna to enjoy your last night in the city.
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