13 Absolute Best Things to Do in Bolzano, Italy

Now that we spend so much time in Italy, it seems a bit strange to imagine that the first place we ever visited in the country was Bolzano.

As the capital of the South Tyrol region, Bolzano offers an incredible cultural mix of Italian and Germanic influences (you’ll still see some references to Bolzano as its German name, “Bozen”), delicious and varied food, beautiful architecture, and–the highlight–absolutely stupendous natural scenery.

Surrounded by small mountain villages, seemingly endless vineyards, several castles, and of course the ever-impressive Italian Dolomites, Bolzano is an Italian city like no other.

My grandparents first started visiting Bolzano many years ago, and at this point, Jeremy and I have visited several times, both with family and by ourselves. It may not be a typical destination on most Italy itineraries, especially for first-time visitors–but it’s definitely a city worth seeing.

Looking for the best things to do in Bolzano? We’ve got them all covered here.

Best Things to Do in Bolzano Italy: Trails Near City
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The Best Things to Do in & Around Bolzano, Italy

Check out Piazza Walther.

Every city in Italy has a main piazza that you simply have to stop by–either on purpose or simply because it’s an unavoidable fact of life–and in Bolzano, that’s Piazza Walther.

Bright and colorful, as well as steps away from Bolzano’s cathedral, Piazza Walther is both beautiful and, due to its central location, an excellent place to start working through your list of things to do in Bolzano.

As far as Italian piazzas go, Piazza Walther is a quite modern one: it was built in the early 19th century.

Best Things to Do in Bolzano, Italy: Flowers in City

Admire the view from the Santa Maria Maddalena Church.

Vineyards coat the landscape outside of Bolzano, creating one of my personal favorite views in the world (grapes + stone churches + rolling hills + snow-capped mountains in the background = an amazing sight), and there is no better place to admire the view than from the Santa Maria Maddalena Church.

This tiny church isn’t open to the public more than a few hours a day, but its stone exterior, the incredible view from its property, and the nearby wine tasting room all make this tiny church a place worth visiting.

Best Things to Do in Bolzano: Santa Maria Maddalena Church

Go wine tasting.

No matter how much we love Tuscany and Tuscan wine–which is a lot–the hard truth is that when it comes to scenic vineyards, South Tyrol has Tuscany beat by a long shot.

… And not only are the vineyards gorgeous to look at, but the local wines are also delicious!

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Pay a visit to Bolzano’s castles.

The area surrounding Bolzano is home to plenty of medieval castles, making it the perfect playground for history lovers and landscape lovers alike.

Castel Roncolo (aka Runkelstein Castle) is the easiest to reach from Bolzano and is known not only for its beauty but for its decidedly-not-PG secular frescoes.

Castel Mareccio and Flavo Castle (which boasts a restaurant!) are also nearby and worth checking out, even if only from the outside.

What to Do in Bolzano: Castel Roncolo

Say hello to the 5,000-year-old man.

Around 5,000 years ago, a middle-aged merchant died in the snowy Alps. Around 30 years ago, he was found again–mostly intact.

Ötzi, as he is now known (I prefer that nickname to “the Iceman”, anyway) has been intriguing scientists for decades. His DNA, blood cells, clothing, objects, and more have all been incredibly valuable in identifying who he might have been and what life might have been like in the region at that time.

Today, you can visit Ötzi in Bolzano, along with many of the original artifacts found with him and information about many of the scientific discoveries made with his help.

Without a doubt, a visit to Ötzi is among the most unique things to do in Bolzano!

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Step inside Bolzano’s Duomo.

Bolzano’s main cathedral is beautiful and imposing in all of its Gothic splendor. When you step inside it today, it’s hard to believe that it was severely damaged by Allied bombings in 1943!

Set just steps from Piazza Walther, the Duomo’s Gothic appearance and tiled rooftop set it immediately apart from the crisp, primarily pastel-colored buildings that surround it.

Things to Do in Bolzano: Bolzano Duomo

Visit the Flower Market.

In a more-than-century-long tradition, each spring Piazza Walther finds itself coated in gorgeous flowers and greenery for its annual flower market.

If you happen to be in Bolzano at the right time of year to visit, be sure to stop by for endless photo opportunities and perhaps a bouquet or two!

Best Things to Do in Bolzano: Flowers

Dive into the cuisine of South Tyrol.

The food of South Tyrol is a delightfully delicious blend of Italian and Germanic influences–you’ll see strudel and speck (local cured ham), dumplings and pasta, wienerschnitzel and wine, polenta and pretzels.

When in doubt, order anything sourced locally–local cheeses, wines, and meats are particularly popular and easy to find–and prepare to immediately add a dozen long, lingering meals to your list of things to do in Bolzano.

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Take a ride on the funiculars.

Bolzano is home to three funiculars, and each one stands ready to ferry you off to picturesque villages, great hiking opportunities near Bolzano, and unforgettable views.

The most popular one is the funicular heading to Soprabolzano (and since the station is right in the middle of town, you definitely don’t need a car to access it). Once you arrive in adorable Soprabolzano, there is a small train that is waiting to whisk you off to even more villages, views, and epic hiking in Italy.

As if that wasn’t enough, the funiculars themselves are fantastic entertainment and are an amazing way to appreciate the views of the mountains, villages, and vineyards that surround Bolzano.

What to Do in Bolzano: Funiculars

Marvel at the unique culture of South Tyrol.

South Tyrol feels like a world between worlds: until 1918, the region was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and it has clearly retained aspects of Germanic culture.

The architecture often feels more German than Italian, the food obviously has Germanic influences, and in a way that’s difficult to put into words, the area often feels more Germanic than Italian–perhaps it’s the more reserved and formal culture, perhaps it’s the pristine cleanliness of the streets, perhaps it’s something else.

You’ll also hear German spoken at least as often as Italian in South Tyrol, particularly in the smaller villages like Soprabolzano.

It makes South Tyrol a fascinating environment to explore, and an incredibly rich cultural destination–and definitely one worth visiting as part of a Dolomites itinerary.

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Check out the daily market at Piazza delle Erbe.

The local market at Piazza delle Erbe is one of my favorite spots in Bolzano–it’s constantly exploding with colorful and tasty products, from sunflowers to speck, and is bustling with activity.

A visit here will always be on my list of things to do in Bolzano, no matter how many times we visit!

What to Do in Bolzano Italy: Piazza delle Erbe

In December, visit the oldest Christmas market in Italy.

Bolzano is home to Italy’s oldest Christmas market, and while it doesn’t hold a candle to those in Austria in Germany (sorry, Italy), it’s still pretty fabulous.

You’ll find local products and artwork, a mix of food that makes the blend of Italian and Germanic culture in South Tyrol evident, plenty of Christmas trees, festive decor, local wine, and even a small ice skating rink.

The Best Things to Do in Bolzano: Bolzao Christmas Market

Getting Around Bolzano

The city center of Bolzano is easy enough to get around by walking, though distances can be a bit far if you’re staying further from the center (think 30+ minutes of walking in some cases).

If you’re wondering how far a particular location is from the city center, check the walking distance to the hotel from Piazza Walther.

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We’ve visited Bolzano both with and without a car, and while having a car does make things a bit simpler and give you more options when you’re considering what to do in Bolzano (especially if you want to stay outside of town or be able to access the Dolomites and hike in gorgeous destinations like Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Seceda), it’s really not necessary.

Bolzano does make an excellent addition to a road trip through northern Italy, though, so if you do have a car, you can definitely take advantage of exploring the region!

There aren’t any metros in Bolzano, but there is a fairly easy-to-use bus system (though keep in mind that the buses may not always run quite on time). During the high season, there are also tourist shuttles than run out to popular attractions like Castel Roncolo.

Best Things to Do in Bolzano: Flower Fields

Where to Stay in Bolzano


Capitol Rooms — “Budget” in Bolzano is a bit of a misnomer–we’ve generally found South Tyrol more expensive than most other places in Italy–but if you’re looking for a simple, reliable location in the heart of Bolzano for relatively low prices, Capitol Rooms might be the right option for you!

Check rates & book your stay at Capitol Rooms!

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Art & Design Hotel Napura — If you’d like to trade a close location to the city for beautiful vineyard views, a rooftop hot tub, a hearty breakfast, and spacious, luxurious rooms, consider the Art & Design Hotel Napura. Some of our family stayed here on our latest family trip to Bolzano, and we can attest to the fact that the property is beautiful and the service wonderful!

Since the hotel is a few miles outside of Bolzano, you’ll probably want to rent a car if you’re visiting this property–however, it’s not entirely necessary, as there is a local bus stop a short walk away.

Check rates & book your stay at Art & Design Hotel Napura!


Parkhotel Laurin — Housed in a stunning Art Nouveau building in the center of town and home to a gorgeous restaurant featuring South Tirolian cuisine, Parkhotel Laurin is the perfect place to relax in the lap of luxury in Bolzano.

You can’t ask for a prettier property, tastier breakfast, or better location from which to explore the best things to do in Bolzano!

Check rates & book your stay at Parkhotel Laurin!

The Best Things to Do in Bolzano, Italy: your ultimate guide to the city! #italy #bolzano #southtyrol #bozen #travel #dolomites

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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.

22 thoughts on “13 Absolute Best Things to Do in Bolzano, Italy”

  1. Hi,

    Just wondering what the best way to travel within Bolzano to check out places such as Dolomites, Maranza, Lago di Braies, Santa Maddalena, Val di Funes, Val Venosta/Vinschgau, Durnholz Valdurna, Ritten/Renon, Durnholzer See and Sarntal.

    It will be my first time visiting Europe/Italy, so feel very lost. Any help/advice would be highly appreicated.

    • HI Tajinder!

      Unfortunately, this trip was in mid-2016, so the exact villages we visited have faded from memory (this was before copious notetaking!). In general, we found the best way to get around to different villages in the region was the funicular (included in the Bolzano card, along with public transportation such as buses), and the train for destinations that were further away.

      We visited many surrounding villages and towns during our trip, and though we had rental cars, we didn’t once use them. The public transportation system, including the funiculars, was robust and easy to use.

      Good luck with your trip! It’s a beautiful area, we’re hoping to plan a trip back soon.

  2. Thank you for your information on Bolzano, can’t wait to see it in May!! Looks like my concern is unwarranted about not having a car. We plan on traveling most of Italy by train or other public transportation.

    • So glad it was helpful, Mary! You can definitely get by without a car in Bolzano. It’s helpful to have if you want to get off the beaten path, of course, but far from a necessity!

  3. Aw Bolzano. We usually spend our summer holiday every year in st Johann in tirol in Austria and always visit Bolzano as a day trip. I will keep a note of your suggestions as we just wonder about and always head up the funicular but have yet to try the wee railway. Last visit was 2019 but not been back due to covid. I use my fone for translations as I dont speak Italian or German. The last time I did this it was in the large pub/cafe at the railway station and it gave the staff a good laugh. Dont no when we will next visit and looking highly unlikely this year also.

    • Sounds like an amazing tradition! Can’t wait to get back ourselves, though we too doubt it’ll be in 2021 now… at least we’ll appreciate it even more once we’re back!

  4. Curious where exactly the train station is – if I go, it will be from Padua. Train was recommended, was informed approximately 2 hours. Does a day trip seem doable, and adequate? Thank you.

    • The train station is on the edge of the historic center, and you can easily walk around town and to the museums from there. My hesitation with a day trip is that it won’t give you time to get into the mountains! If you’re primarily interested in enjoying the center of the city, though, it’s certainly doable.

  5. Hi Kate,
    I loved reading your write up about Bolzano! So much so that we’ve rearranged our drive from Salzburg to Brescia to spend 2 days in Bolzano. We love wine and would love some recommendations on wineries if you have them. Thank you!

    • Hi Debbie!

      We haven’t done a lot of formal wine tasting up in South Tyrol, but you won’t forget enjoying a tasting at Weingut Fliederhof or Weingut Plonerhof anytime soon!

      They’re both right by the Santa Maddalena Church, and the view from in front of the church is one of my favorite views on the planet (the top photo on this blog post was taken there). 🙂

      Have a fantastic trip!

  6. Great blog. We will be taking some of your suggestions to heart when we visit in a few weeks. Can you recommend a wine tasting tour in the Bolzano area?

    • Hi Peter,

      Looks like you and Debbie had the same question, I just answered her right above. 🙂

      Enjoy your time in Bolzano!

  7. good morning
    we are travelling to the Dolomite region in mid to late August.
    Where is the best place to base yourself, or should you locate in several different towns.
    Is it better to have a car, or can you tour daily places by local bus?

    • Hi Trish!

      It depends on what you’re looking for–either moving towns or staying in one place works. Some people like to spend part of their visit based in a larger town or city (like Bolzano), and then some in the countryside at a cabin or agriturismo. It all depends on your personal style!

      Same goes for the car–if you stay in a city like Bolzano, you don’t *need* one: local buses and the funiculars can get you to plenty of hikes, towns, etc. that will keep you busy. But if you want to go to more off-the-beaten path places or have particular trails in mind, you’ll probably want a car.

      I’d recommend starting by making a list of exactly what you want to do in the region, and then narrowing down whether you’ll need a car for those spots.

  8. We are planning our second trip to Italy in June/July and you sold me on Bolzano! The Art & Design Hotel looked amazing but we saw some reviews about the AC not being in the bedrooms? Do you happen to know if this is this true for all the rooms or just the suites?

    • Hi Jen,

      That’s wonderful to hear–you guys are going to have a great time!

      As far as I know, the entire Art & Design Hotel offers a/c! I just spot-checked the listings for a few of their suites to double-check, and it was listed as an amenity for each of the ones I looked at. At that price point, it would be fairly common, too.

      However, throughout much of Italy (and Europe), especially in cooler climates, it’s common for a/c to exist but not be available for use except in the summer months. As a result, if there’s a heat wave during the late spring or early fall, someone could occasionally have a less-than-ideal experience with climate control. In June and especially July, though, that shouldn’t be a concern!

      It’s hard for me to say for certain if that’s what happened without reading the exact reviews, but it’s not an uncommon mismatch in cultural expectations for Americans visiting Europe (broadly speaking, electricity is much more expensive across the pond, so expectations surrounding a/c usage are a bit different).


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