The Ultimate One Day in Bologna Itinerary

So you have just one day in Bologna, Italy–don’t worry!

You’ll be surprised at how much you can cover when you have a detailed plan for discovering Bologna in a day.

Though the city is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region and one of the best food destinations in Italy, it is fairly small, and many of its best attractions are grouped close together.

In other words, you can cover a decent chunk of Bologna in 24 hours or less and walk away at the end feeling like you have gotten a fantastic snapshot of the city.

We’ve visited Bologna several times, including one trip where we spent a full month “living” in Bologna, hunting down all of its nooks, crannies, and best spots.

cityscape of bologna from asinelli tower, one of the best things to do bologna italy

After many days worth of stuffing our faces, researching, and exploring, here’s our recommended itinerary for Bologna in a day.

We’ve tested this itinerary on family members we’ve shown around the city and had a fantastic time showing our loved ones around.

Fair warning, though: this one day in Bologna itinerary is mostly centered around eating and then walking around/climbing up various things to work it off in time for the next meal!

kate storm sitting on a bridge during a day in bologna itinerary

The Ultimate One Day in Bologna Itinerary

Start your day in the Piazza Maggiore.

Bologna’s central piazza is easily the best place to stay your one day in Bologna.

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This famous piazza is beautiful, it’s easy to find, and it’s surrounded by plenty of coffee and pastry shops for those (like us) who need a cappuccino to kick off a morning of exploring.

While you’re in Piazza Maggiore, be sure to duck into San Petronio’s Cathedral and take a look at the impressive Neptune’s Fountain!

cathedral in piazza maggiore during a one day bologna itinerary

Prepare to eat absolutely everything.

Bologna, and the Emilia-Romagna region in general, is a place to eat.

Considered one of the best food cities in Italy, Bologna is a heaven for those who love Italian cuisine.

As you’re plotting out your goals when trying to see Bologna in a day, definitely make a point to schedule time for food–you’ll want a lengthy lunch and dinner to be part of your plans!

If you’d like to explore Bologna’s food scene in depth during your one day in Bologna, we recommend spending your morning on a food tour.

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This well-reviewed food tour will point out some of Bologna’s major sights while also teaching you all about Emilia-Romagna cuisine (with plenty of time to stuff your face built in, of course).

If you go for the food tour, simply loop around and pick this Bologna itinerary back up for the afternoon when you’re finished, crossing off anything that you already saw.

Book your Bologna food tour today!

kate storm sitting at a crowded restaurant in bologna italy drinking red wine

Visit San Petronio’s Terrace.

The roof of San Petronio’s Cathedral (yep, the one conveniently located in Piazza Maggiore) is home to one of our favorite views of Bologna.

Not only can you admire the city and surrounding countryside from above, but you’ll also have a picture-perfect view of Bologna’s leaning towers, the most recognizable features of the city!

view of bologna from San Petronio's Terrace

Stop into the Anatomical Theatre & Library of Archiginnasio.

With only one day in Bologna, we don’t recommend spending too much time in museums.

With the Palace of Archiginnasio and its museums located right next door to San Petronio’s Terrace, it’s definitely worth taking a quick peek!

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The palace, which has long been owned by the University of Bologna, is home to a 17th-century carved anatomical theatre, which is incredibly beautiful and yet historically was used for medical students to learn how to slice and dice bodies–not exactly as pretty a use as you would imagine for a space like that!

Down the hall, you’ll find the library, and while tourists aren’t allowed into most of it, even a quick glance is worth the time it takes to get there–it is gorgeous!

interior of Anatomical Theatre, one of the best things to do with 24 hours in bologna italy

Stroll down Via Drapperie and explore the Quadrilatero area.

Via Drapperie is one of the prettiest streets in Bologna and one of my all-time favorites in the city due to its combination of delicious food and incredibly eye-catching displays.

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Via Drapperie and its surrounding streets make up the oldest market in Bologna, dating back to the Middle Ages, and is known today as the Quadrilatero area.

Here, you can find everything from cheese shops and cured meat shops to flower stands and cafes, all of it ridiculously photogenic.

man cutting charcuterie surrounded by a display of meat in bologna italy

Grab lunch in the Quadrilatero area.

We recommend stopping on or around Via Drapperie to grab lunch.

Not only is it a gorgeous place to enjoy a view with your meal when you only have one day to eat in Bologna, but you’ll also need the energy for your next stop!

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If you’d like to sit inside, we recommend ducking into the Mercato di Mezzo, which offers plenty of options.

However, we suggest finding a small restaurant with outdoor seating instead.

plate of tagliatelle al ragu on the table in bologna attractions

It’s much more memorable to have lunch in Bologna when you’re able to watch the hustle and bustle of the busy streets over your pasta and wine.

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If you’d like to try a traditional Emilia-Romagnan dish for lunch, consider ordering tagliatelle al ragu (the real version of what the rest of the world knows as spaghetti bolognese), tortellini en brodo, zuppa inglese, or tortellacci.

Of course, you should definitely start your meal with a plate of Emilia-Romagnan cured meats, including mortadella (the delicious meat that has been radically altered and renamed bologna outside of Italy).

plate of cured meat and aperol spritzes, and excellent addition to a one day in bologna itinerary

Head over to Torre Asinelli for a great view of Bologna.

Climbing the leaning medieval tower of Asinelli is a bit of a challenge for those of us who are scared of heights: at 498 perilous steps up (that almost always have at least one side open to a visible drop, though there is a handrail), it is by far the tallest tower in Bologna.

But, as someone who hated every second of the climb, I can attest that it was totally worth it.

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Reaching the top of Torre Asinelli will give you incredibly epic views over Bologna, including views of Piazza Maggiore and a chance to see Torre Garisenda, which sits next door to Asinelli and has an even more pronounced lean, from above.

Because only a limited number of people are allowed to climb Torre Asinelli at a time, we recommend booking your ticket in advance through the official website.

view of piazza maggiore and bologna from asinelli tower during one day in bologna italy

Enjoy the porticoes.

Bologna is known for its beautiful porticoes–wide, covered walkways that are flanked by buildings on one side and columns on the other.

The city is filled with them, and they are not only beautiful, but they’re also functional!

The porticoes will keep you cool in the summer, dry in the rain, and far away from vehicle traffic at all times when you’re under them.

people standing under porticoes in bologna in a day

Check out Bologna’s hidden canals.

One of our favorite things about Bologna is its series of hidden canals, and spending a day in Bologna wouldn’t be complete without finding a couple of great viewpoints!

Bologna’s canal system dates back to the Middle Ages, but today, most of the canals are either filled in or covered, and aren’t visible to the public.

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There are a few exceptions, though (and the city of Bologna helpfully provides this map to help tourists find them).

With only one day in Bologna, we recommend starting with the most famous viewpoints.

The first is the view of a canal through a small window on Via Piella (while small, this shouldn’t be difficult to find: there was a literal line to take a look through it when we visited).

Cross the street, and there’s a pretty, open view of a canal on the opposite side of the street.

view of a hidden canal surrounded by colorful buildings during a one day in bologna itinerary

More Than One Day in Bologna, Italy?

You can definitely fill more than a day in Bologna without getting bored–we have cumulatively spent over a month in the city and plan to continue visiting over and over again.

If you have more time in Bologna, consider a visit to the Museum for the Memory of Ustica (the museum is centered around a controversial plane crash, and includes the plane!), strolling to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca above the town, and paying a visit to the archaeological or history museum.

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We have a full list of the best things to do in Bologna here.

If you’d like to dive deeper into Bologna’s food scene (highly recommend) taking a cooking class or booking a behind-the-scenes foodie day trip to Parma and Modena (one of our favorite day trips of all time!) are both excellent ideas.

kate storm and jeremy storm touring a parmigiano reggiano factory in parma italy

Want to add another country to your list and see a gorgeous town?

San Marino is an involved but delightful day trip away.

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Interested in more day trips from Bologna?

We have a full list of beautiful nearby destinations here.

Crowded street in Bologna with outdoor restaurant, Florence to Bologna Train

Where to Stay in Bologna, Italy

Looking for a well-reviewed, centrally located place to stay when enjoying one day in Bologna, Italy?

Each of these properties is well-reviewed with an excellent, central location, and makes a fantastic place to rest your head while in Bologna.

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Residenza Bianconcini — Set in a historic building in the university district, the Residenza Bianconcini is especially noted in the reviews for its charming neighborhood close to major attractions and its delicious included breakfast!

Check rates & book your stay at Residenza Bianconcini!

B&B Second Floor — Located a short walk from Bologna’s leaning towers and many other major attractions, this B&B has fantastic reviews across the board.

Check rates & book your stay at B&B Second Floor!

small church in piazza santo stefano, one of the best places to visit in bologna italy

Because we spent a month in Bologna, we rented this spacious Airbnb a bit away from the center of town.

The apartment was perfect for long visits (very clean, close to a grocery store, great wifi), but the 20-minute walk to the center of Bologna means that we wouldn’t recommend it for a short stay.

If you’re considering staying in an Airbnb, check out our best tips here.

clocktower in piazza maggiore, one of the top things to do bologna italy

Getting Around Bologna for 24 Hours

Bologna is a very compact, walkable city.

Unless you have any specific limitations, nothing on this one day in Bologna itinerary will require anything other than walking to get around!

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The Bologna train station (which is also the pickup location for the shuttle to the Bologna airport), is less than a 20-minute walk from Piazza Maggiore, so in all likelihood, you’ll be able to walk into town, as well!

Right across from the train station, you’ll also find the main Bologna bus station.

red buses driving along a street in bologna itinerary

During the month we stayed in Bologna, we were staying on the outskirts, about a 25-minute walk from Piazza Maggiore… and even still, we took a bus exactly once while in Bologna: the day we arrived.

The bus system in Bologna is fairly extensive, so if you want to avoid some walking, that might be an option to consider.

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It’s worth noting that, like in most of Italy, Uber is unavailable, and while we saw a handful of cabs driving around, they weren’t extremely numerous.

Though Bologna is generally very safe, be sure not to visit without travel insurance!

roses for sale at a stand in bologna italy

When to Spend a Day in Bologna, Italy

Like many places in Italy, we consider spring and fall to be the best times to visit Bologna.

The weather will be less oppressive than the summer, and the markets and city life will be more active than in the chilly winter.

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However, there are benefits to visiting Bologna for a day at any time of the year.

The summer sees festivals and great produce, and the winter will see decreased crowds.

No matter when you are able to spend one day in Bologna, take the opportunity!


2 photos of bologna viewpoints, red text on a green background reads "how to spend one day in bologna itinerary"

About Kate Storm
Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

15 thoughts on “The Ultimate One Day in Bologna Itinerary”

  1. What an interesting read. now I finally now what bologna is – her ein Austria it’s also called Mortadella (I’m not a fan, mor a Prosciutto kinda girl) but I’ve heard it beeing refered in US shows quite frequently.
    So far, I’ve only been to Bologna for one night on a business trip in winter, so I only saw the city at night and quickly bought a huge chunk of Parmiggiano (which I then put in my freezer at home, cut into convenient pieces) I really need to return and visit during daylight and the sunny season.
    I also had no idea about the cannals 🙂 thanks so much or sharing
    Trish

    Reply
    • You definitely had the right idea on what to do with limited time. 😀 The parmigiano-reggiano is amazing! I miss it every time we leave Italy.

      Reply
  2. Going to do a day trip here from Florence – Please tell me your must-go-to restaurants for every meal, snacking, appertivos… Whatever you think 🙂 Thank you!

    Reply
    • Yum!! You’re going to have such a good time. Unfortunately, our restaurant recommendations are a bit limited for Bologna because we cooked most of our meals at home. We had tasty pizza at a restaurant called La Bella Napoli, but you’ll probably want to stick with Emilia-Romagnan food on a day trip! I recommend ordering a tagliere misto at one point to get a great spread of Bologna’s cured meats and cheeses (we had a fabulous one on Via Drapperie, but I can’t find the restaurant name for the life of me). Be sure to also order tagliatelle al ragu–Osteria dell’Orsa is a very popular spot for it, but we haven’t eaten there ourselves.

      Reply
  3. Hello Kate,
    My name is Marco and I’m from Brazil. This summer I’ll be heading to Milan with my girlfriend and one of the places we were thinking to spend a day was Bologna. I have really enjoyed your itinerary and description of the city. I have 2 doubts I was wondering if you could answer me. Maybe our only day left to visit it will be on a monday. Bologna is a city that everything is closed during mondays or is it just normal? Also, you have posted a picture of a establishment written “La Prosciutteria”. Do you recommend there or that was just a random pic?

    Thank you a lot!
    Marco

    Reply
    • Hi Marco! Many museums in Bologna are closed on Mondays, but restaurants and such will be operating as normal. The La Prosciutteria photo is just because we passed by the restaurant and it was photogenic, we didn’t eat there ourselves. Hope you have a great visit to Bologna!

      Reply
  4. We arrived in Bologna via train today and fly out the 22nd. Would love to see some cheese production (have 2 teen daughters with us) but trying to decide if it’s worth renting a car for the day (maybe Parma and Modena?) or just doing a tour. Would prefer to avoid large groups at ALL costs though I know anything more private may be out of our price range. Any ideas or thoughts are appreciated! Do you know of any affordable tours with transportation who keep groups small? Or any local car rentals? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Meridith!

      It honestly depends on what you define as large groups. I believe our tour had around 8 people on it, I’d say 8-15 is about what to expect on a guided day trip style tour (they usually travel in large vans). Our group didn’t feel overwhelming to us!

      You can certainly rent a car, but be sure to check with the factories you plan to go to in advance that they’re open and accepting visitors! For cars, we recommend looking at Discover Cars, they’ll pull up all the different agencies in the area (both local and international).

      Reply
  5. Thank you! I think we’ll end up renting a car so we have freedom for our last day to explore in Italy! Your info on Bologna really helped so thanks for that too! Really like the vibe of the city.

    Reply

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