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Bologna is a charming, welcoming city that delights lovers of art and architecture as much as it does gourmets.

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Bologne

It is home to one of Europe's oldest universities and includes many historical buildings, palaces and porticos that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. The city is a gem to discover on foot or by bicycle.
Find out all you need to know to best organise your stay and choose your Bologna hotel.

Why visit Bologna?

Bologna is one of Italy's ten biggest cities, but it's less touristy than other destinations in the country, so it's still pleasant to wander, free from crowds of visitors. This student town with a wealth of history is at once simple and elegant, reserved and welcoming, calm and vibrant. Discovering Bologna means getting off the beaten track, while enjoying the guarantee of a memorable stay.

What can you do in Bologna?

Visit the old town

Start your tour on Piazza Maggiore. This central hub hosts the city's finest edifices, including the Fountain of Neptune, the Palazzo d'Accursio, the Palazzo del Podestà and the art-filled Basilica of San Petronio. From the basilica's upper terrace, admire a spectacular view of Bologna.
Then, from Piazza Maggiore, head over to Bologna's famous Due Torri (literally 'Two Towers'): the Garisenda Tower and the Asinelli Tower. Once you've climbed the latter's 498 steps, you won't be let down by the stunning vista before you.
To finish exploring the old town, stop by the city's most magnificent religious buildings. The San Pietro cathedral has a splendid Baroque interior and houses countless works of art behind its imposing red facade. In the Basilica of San Domenico, marvel at sculptures by Michelangelo. And don't miss the Basilica of Santo Stefano – a surprising complex made up of churches, chapels, a cloister and a courtyard.

Wander Bologna's streets

Like many Italian cities, Bologna is an architectural treasure trove. But you don't have to follow an interminable list of must-see buildings: just saunter down the old streets and alleys at your own pace as you soak up the city's unique atmosphere and admire the houses' colourful facades – there's a good reason why Bologna is nicknamed La Rossa: 'the red one'.
Remember to look up while you walk: the city is also full of shopping galleries and their richly decorated ceilings will astound you.

Like many Italian cities, Bologna is an architectural treasure trove. But you don't have to follow an interminable list of must-see buildings: just saunter down the old streets and alleys at your own pace as you soak up the city's unique atmosphere and admire the houses' colourful facades – there's a good reason why Bologna is nicknamed La Rossa: 'the red one'.
Remember to look up while you walk: the city is also full of shopping galleries and their richly decorated ceilings will astound you.

Another one of Bologna's nicknames is La Dotta: 'the learned one'. The city owes this name to its famous university – one of Europe's oldest.
The university is housed in a splendid palace and includes the Sistema Museale di Ateneo: a network of museums focussing on scientific heritage that features an anatomy museum, a botanical garden and a geological museum. And make sure to step inside the university's wonderful library – you'll be astonished.

See Bologna's city gates

You can observe tokens of the Middles Ages throughout Bologna. Nine of the twelve old gateways that once punctuated the city's ramparts are still standing today. A circuit will take you to them, starting at Porta Castiglione, also known as the 'Canals Gate'. It will then take you to Porta Santo Stefano and Porta Maggiore. Enjoy a little break then carry on your tour to Porta San Vitale. Next, head over to Porta San Donato, then to Porta Mascarella and Porta Galliera. Follow the inner ring-road avenues to reach Porta delle Lame, then Porta San Felice, and finish your discovery walk at Porta Saragozza, the so-called 'Pilgrims Gate'.

Unwind in lush, natural surroundings

Relax in Parco di Villa Spada: a green oasis of parkland at the heart of Bologna peppered with cypresses and bay trees and dotted with statues. These grounds are open to the public, and the park gives you a typically Italian backdrop.
Or head over to the sprawling Giardini Margherita public park, just a stone's throw from the city centre, and enjoy a picnic beside its sparkling lake.
To get some calm away from the bustle, you can also go to the university's botanical garden or stroll beneath the big, old plane trees of Parco della Montagnola.

Visit Bologna's museums

Art lovers will be in their element at the impressive Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna: the national art gallery of Bologna. This fine institute pays tribute to the Bolognese School of painters.
Or for more scientific minds, the university's network of museums is full of hidden gems that include a herbarium and museums of anthropology, mineralogy and zoology.

Marvel at Bologna from great heights

If you're looking for a panoramic view, you've got two main options.
Head up to the former monastery San Michele in Bosco, a 30-minute walk from Piazza Maggiore. Its viewpoint offers a sweeping vista of Bologna. Then you can visit the church and see its beautiful frescoes.
Or go up to the Madonna di San Luca sanctuary. This basilica perched atop the Monte della Guardia hill can be reached from the city via a long, monumental portico of 666 arches.

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