Last Updated on January 6, 2024 by Ingrid & Alex

I had only been once in the past in Bologna in Italy, only passing from the airport to the train station, and I wasn’t really impressed. That’s why when we found the cheapest tickets to Italy, for 2 days in Bologna itinerary, I wasn’t expecting much.

Little needs to be said that the first few hours from landing, the city seemed to work hard to prove me right.

The public transportation was on strike, thus we waited for almost one hour at different bus stops without any luck. It was a cold and windy February night for us to find out that there was no Uber in Bologna.

Moreover, we could not find any taxi stop, so we were somehow left with the public transportation option. And fast, because it was already past 9 PM.

When finally we decided to walk the 20 minutes to the hotel, the bus eventually arrived. And it was full! Of course.

Come prepared and read the things to know when traveling to Italy for the first time

Keep on reading because it gets better, I promise!

During our 2 days in Bologna, the city surprised me and I will answer all the questions I know you have because I also had them before going.

Bologna is often overlooked mainly because of its good position only 1 hour away by fast train to the art-infused Florence, 1 hour and a half from Romeo and Juliet’s Verona, or 2 hours from the most romantic town on the water, Venice. Also, somehow many other Italian important cities and landmarks step in front of Bologna, but I think the town needs a chance!

The city is called in so many ways by the Italians – La Dotta (because it is home to the oldest university in the Western world), La Rossa (because of its red buildings), La Grassa (because it is home to some of the best food in Italy).

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Read also: 30+ Italian gifts for Italy lovers

2 days in Bologna itinerary – let yourself surprised

2 days in Bologna

Day 1 – Things to see in Bologna on your first day

Saturday morning, we woke up early, had a delicious Italian breakfast, and headed to town. So what are the things to do in Bologna Italy in 1 day and is that enough to spend in Bologna?

The first thing I noticed that impressed me was all the arches the buildings had. Neverending. Picture perfect heaven.

We reached the Torri Asinelli (Two Towers) just before it opened, some minutes before 9 AM.

The two towers are truly impressive, and if you want to take the perfect picture, without the crowds in the background, make sure to get there early. Later on, the streets get so crowded and lively that it will be impossible to shoot that picture you know you want.

Climb the Asinelli Tower and admire the leaning Garisenda Tower

what to see in bologna in 2 days

Only a few steps from the main square (Piazza Maggiore), the Asinelli Tower is the tallest of the 2 you will see here. And it is the one you will be allowed to climb. The leaning tower of Bologna, the Garisenda Tower, is closed to the public.

We thought the view from the top must be amazing, so we decided to go up!

Just bear in mind that the tickets can be bought from BolognaWelcome in Piazza Maggiore, and not from the tower.

If however, you don’t want to wait in line for any of the tickets, the Bologna Welcome Card is the perfect solution!

You can purchase it online, offering you the option of skipping the line for some of the attractions, and it is valid for all of the main tourist attractions in Bologna. The perfect solution for your 2 days in Bologna itinerary, right?

If however you are looking for an alternative and don’t feel like buying the card, you can book online a ticket to the Torre degli Asinelli and a tasting of typical products. Check it out here!

2 days in bologna

Getting back to the tower, once we bought the ticket, we came back, and were lucky to get up with the second group to enter the tower, meaning it was still ok.

I won’t lie to you, the climb was tough! The tower has 97 m and hundreds of steep wooden stairs, and it is hard to believe it dates from somewhere before 1200.

But the climb is totally worth it! The view from the top is breathtaking and the whole city, with the red stone buildings and colorful walls, is easily seen from here.

Piazza Maggiore and the San Petronio Basilica

things to do in bologna italy in 1 day

Since the main square (Piazza Maggiore) is so close to the Two Towers (Due Torri), this was our next stop, not before we stopped by to admire and take hundreds of pictures with the cherry trees in bloom.

Piazza Maggiore is exactly what you are expecting from an Italian main square. Imposing buildings (such as the Palazzo del Podestà, the Palazzo Comunale, or the Palazzo D’Accursio), people rushing around, terraces packed where everyone stops by for aperitivo or a coffee, and tens of galleries with shops.

Impossible to miss is the San Petronio Basilica, the half-white half-black building that will catch your eye as soon as you enter the square. The building is impressive but even nicer is the terrace from where we got another beautiful panoramic view over Bologna.

San Petronio Basilica panoramic view terrace costs 3 EUR to get to the top, but be careful it can get windy! My skirt was a bit too short and I couldn’t enjoy the terrace to the fullest haha.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday 7:45 am -1:30 pm and 3 pm-6:30 pm; Saturday and Sunday 7:45 am-1:30 pm and 2:30 pm-6:30 pm

Panoramic terrace (54 meters in height) – entrance on the side Piazza Galvani: Monday-Thursday: 10 am-1 pm, 3 pm-6 pm; Friday-Sunday: 10 am-1 pm, 2:30 pm-6:30 pm

If you want to find out more about its history, book a 90-minute tour including a visit to the terrace for some sweeping views. Check it out here!

Other churches to visit in Bologna:

  • The Basilica di Santo Stefano – or the seven churches dating back to the Longobard times
  • The Basilica San Domenico – for the history and art passionates
3 days in Bologna

Fountain of Neptune (Piazza del Nettuno)

Just a few steps away from Piazza Maggiore, we encountered Neptune, sitting gracefully in his fountain.

Built between 1563 and 1567 by the Flemish sculpturer Jean de Boulogne, the statue sits today between the municipal building and Sala Borsa which hosts the municipal library on one side, and the Palazzo Re Enzo which hosts exhibitions and other events on the other.

Via Rizzoli

Via Rizzoli Bologna

Lined with an enchanting array of medieval buildings adorned with colorful facades, this lively thoroughfare is a captivating blend of history and modernity.

Strolling along Via Rizzoli, pedestrians encounter an eclectic mix of shops, boutiques, and cafes, offering a delightful shopping and dining experience.

The street is not only a commercial hub but also a cultural artery, housing architectural gems such as the Basilica di San Petronio, Bologna’s grandest church, and the medieval Palazzo dei Notai.

(Window) Shopping in Bologna via Independenza

Yes yes, we weren’t there for the shopping, but who can stop two girls from window shopping?

All our friends were there: from Hermes to Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci and more.

If you meet them via Independenza, make sure to tell them hi from us.

Of course, the main shopping street in Bologna is home to more than luxury brands and it is where you will find low-cost clothes shops, fast food places, and other small shops.

Don’t miss a walk in the Quadrilatero district.

The charming and historic neighborhood is renowned for its medieval architecture, vibrant atmosphere, and culinary delights. Nestled in the heart of the city, Quadrilatero is a maze of narrow streets and alleys lined with colorful buildings, bustling markets, and eclectic shops.

The Quadrilatero is particularly famous for its traditional food market, Mercato di Mezzo, where locals and tourists alike can explore stalls brimming with fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, cured meats, and other gastronomic treasures.

As the sun sets, the district transforms into a lively hub of restaurants, bars, and cafes, offering a delightful blend of authentic Italian cuisine and a buzzing social scene.

Tip: if you love flowers as much as I do, don’t shy away from paying a visit to Frida’s, the most beautiful flower shop in Bologna.

Get lost in the streets and discover the hidden window in via Piella

Get lost in a manner of speaking of course because it would be terribly hard to get lost in Bologna since the city center is not that big after all. We just left ourselves wandering around and got to see a lot of pretty colorful buildings, many churches (we are in Italy after all), and towers.

It is said that Bologna used to have around 180 towers (only around 100 by some accounts), with only around 20 left today.

things to do in bologna italy in 1 day

We almost spent one day just walking around, because how else would you get the real feel of a town?

Just by going to those places further away from the city center, you will find the trattorias where Italians eat, the cafeterias where kids gather after school, the coffee places where ladies meet up after their weekly appointment at the hairdresser.

streets of Bologna

On our stroll, we passed by one of the main things you should not miss in your 2 days in Bologna or even 3 days in Bologna: the secret window on via Piella on the Reno canal.

The place was unfortunately under renovation and did not look as expected. But maybe you’ll have more luck than us!

2 days in bologna

We stopped by on a bench in a small park, sat in the sun, and took it all in.

Friends meeting for coffee and discussing daily problems at a small and fancy coffee place on the corner, couples walking their kids wearing their best suits making me imagine they had some meal planned afterward with their larger family (as Italians usually do), old couples holding hands just going along with their normal lives, this little old lady with her fancy chair and a newspaper in hand reading it under the warm Spring sun.

That’s what I love most about Italy, and that’s why I go back over and over again.

Something else I always like to do in a new town is to go on a tour with a local guide. They will always show you the hidden places, and you’ll get to be more efficient. 

I prefer booking a tour online because prices are always better, and I can make changes or cancel if somethings come up and I cannot make it. On top of that, I no longer have to wait in line or waste time on location to decide. 

Here are some great tours for Bologna:

what to see in bologna in 2 days

Archiginnasio Library (Biblioteca Comunale dell’Archiginnasio)

Right in the heart of Bologna, there’s this amazing place that will feel like Heaven for book lovers. And not only.

The building is both a public library and a museum.

The palace dates from the 1500s and throughout the years it hosted the Law and Arts University, but since the 1800s it has been transformed into a library. The building was damaged in 1944 by a bomb and has been rebuilt.

Stepping inside feels like stepping into another era and world. Everything is so impressive, knowing exactly where you are due to the many arches in the interior garden. As you go even deeper into the palazzo it is incredible to see that students have this place to study inside.

One day in Bologna itinerary

Salaborsa Library

Since we’re at the Library topic, and if you love books and bookshops as much as I do, another place worth seeing in Bologna is the Salaborsa Library.

Bologna library

Even if you only spend 15 minutes here and get lost in between bookshelves and arches, these will be 15 minutes well spent during your 2 days in Bologna.

Address: Piazza del Nettuno, 3, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy

Bologna nightlife

As the night fell, we met some friends and decided to take advantage of the great nightlife this university city offers.

Before we knew it, the streets were filled with people, and everyone was enjoying their night out with a drink in hand.

The heart of Bologna, especially around the Piazza Maggiore and the surrounding streets, pulsates with energy as locals and visitors spill into the myriad of bars, pubs, and clubs that dot the cobblestone lanes.

Day 2 – Things to see in Bologna on your second day

The Botanical Garden of Bologna

We were initially planning on taking the train on the second day of our stay in Bologna and choosing from the many perfect day trips from Bologna, running to some small village somewhere close.

But since plans sometimes change, we decided otherwise while walking towards Bologna’s train station. And the one place that changed everything was the Botanical garden of Bologna.

One of the oldest in Italy found in the University area, the garden is not very large, but still hosts lots of different plants and flowers.

We spent the morning in the park, listening to the birds singing in the blooming trees. Even though the place is close to the road, you won’t hear much but the birds singing.

Day trips from Bologna

Basilica and Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca

And since we decided on staying the whole two days in Bologna, what else was there left to do?

On Saturday we had tried to take the San Luca Express up on the hills, to the Basilica of San Luca, but did not manage because the line was so big and we could not fit into the bus. Since there was only one other bus going up, and since it was getting darker, we decided to leave it for Sunday.

Tip: go on a tour from downtown Bologna to the Basilica and Sanctuary of San Luca – visit the monastery, learn about the Portici, and ride the train with a stunning panoramic view over the city. Check it out here!

It turned out that taking the bus on Sunday at around 11 AM was a good idea, because we could enjoy the views and come back all the way to Bologna city center on foot.

Day trips from Bologna

Of course, one can choose to climb on foot, while admiring the almost 4 kilometers portico, summing up almost 600 arches. Or you can do it the other way around, as we did.

The Basilica of San Luca is beautifully perched on the top of the hill, surrounded by beautiful nature that can be observed from the dome’s terrace. (another great experience included in the Bologna Welcome Plus card)

The long sanctuary basically connects the city (all the way from Porta Saragozza) to the basilica and was initially built to offer shelter for the yearly religious processions.

Two days in Bologna Italy

Park Villa Spada and Villa Delle Rose

Step outside of the normal road, who knows what you might find?

And that’s what we did when walking from the Basilica of San Luca towards Bologna.

On the right side of the road, there’s a theatre, and behind it, there’s a park. And in the park, we found a beautiful villa hosting a modern art gallery. Villa Delle Rose.

I must admit I hadn’t read about this place anywhere and we came across it totally by chance, but I loved how quiet the area is, with a big garden behind and the perfect spot for beautiful pictures.

Day trips from Bologna

Walking just a few steps down the road, we found another charming surprise: Villa Spada.

Even though when we got there the museum was closed, the garden still looks impressive and is worth paying the visit. The villa is also surrounded by a huge park, where you will feel like getting lost in the woods.

We climbed the hills, wandered around, stopped by the villa to take some dreamy pictures, and continued our descent towards Bologna.

2 days in Bologna

I think it’s not hard to assume this area is one of the best in the city (or at least that was my impression) judging by the beautiful houses perfectly located in a quiet area, filled with gardens, blooming trees, and very close to the hills.

Plenty of old-style villas, but also new-style Italian houses.

I don’t know how other people are, but we always end up checking out the prices of houses, especially in Italy, but when they look like this who can blame me?

Two days in Bologna Italy

Other things to see in Bologna if you have more time

When you have more than just one day in Bologna or 2 days in Bologna, the town has so much to offer.

And this is what I would add to the trip for a 3rd day spent in Italy’s red town:

  • Take a food tour: not only for the foodies but also for everyone in love with Italian cuisine. During a food tour, you will taste not only the local traditional dishes but also Italian wines. If you’re there only for the wine, book a wine tasting tour in one of the oldest inns in town. 
  • Learn to make pasta at a pasta cooking class
  • Go on a gourmet tour of Bologna – learn not only about the history of Bologna but taste some delicious chocolate, traditional cold cuts, local mortadella, salami, and much more. Check it out here!
  • Mercato dell’ Erbe – head to the local market early in the morning and buy some of the freshest fruit, vegetables, cheese, and salumeria. 
  • Eat gelato at one of the best gelato places in Bologna: Cremeria Cavour and Cremeria Santo StefanoJust don’t go on a Monday because both are closed.
  • Park of Montagnola – situated near the historic center, serves as a retreat for locals and visitors seeking tranquility and natural beauty. The centerpiece of Montagnola is the neoclassical-style Teatro Montagnola, an open-air theater often hosting cultural events.

How to get to Bologna

Getting to Bologna depends on your current location and the mode of transportation you prefer.

By Plane: Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport (BLQ) serves the city. You can book a flight to this airport from major international airports in Europe or outside.

By Train: Bologna has a well-connected railway station, Bologna Centrale. You can check train schedules and book tickets online or at the train station.

If you are planning to travel from further away destinations such as Milan, Rome, or Florence and you wish to take advantage of the fast train system, it is advisable to book your ticket in advance for the best price.

For example, the fast train links Bologna to Milan in a little over 1 hour, while the intercity or regional trains will take around 3 hours between the two cities.

By Car: If you prefer driving, you can use a navigation app or a map to plan your route to Bologna. Italy has a well-maintained road network.

How to get around Bologna

The city is mostly walkable, with the most important attractions located relatively close to one another.

However, you might want to make use of the public transportation system. We did all the itinerary on foot, but we took the tourist train to San Luca.

Where to stay for two days in Bologna

Of course, there are plenty of options when it comes to staying in Bologna for two days or more.

Since there weren’t any stairs in the city (an inside joke because we always end up choosing a hotel/apartment on the hill for the view and it takes forever to reach it every day after having walked for miles), we decided not to stay in the heart of the city, but still walking distance from it.

At the end of the day, almost anywhere you choose to stay in Bologna you will be within walking distance from the city center.

But here are some options for different budgets and distances from the city center:

Villa Benni B&B – I had no idea this place existed and we passed by it while coming down from the San Luca Basilica, stopped by the doors, and drooled haha. The place is a castle, with a huge garden, animals and all that. Who wouldn’t want to stay here?

Check availability and prices here!

Two days in Bologna Italy

Boutique Hotel Liberty 1904 –  just a few steps outside of the city center, away from the crowded streets, this is the hotel we chose to stay in.

It took us roughly 20 minutes on foot through the many arches from the hotel to Piazza Maggiore, which is not much if you take into consideration the price.

The hotel is clean, with small rooms and not an amazing view, but the breakfast is delicious and we woke up every day with the smell of fresh warm croissants, looking forward to going down and eat some with a strong Italian cappuccino.

Check availability and prices here!

Two days in Bologna Italy

Hotel Metropolitan – perfectly set in the center of Bologna, with a rooftop terrace and lovely simple rooms, this is a good option if you are looking to stay close to all the main attractions of Bologna.

Check availability and prices!

Hotel Touring – with a beautiful rooftop terrace, a Summer jacuzzi from where you can admire Bologna’s skyline after a full day of exploration, what more can you ask from the perfect place to stay in Bologna?

Check availability and prices!

We_Bologna – if you are looking for cheaper accommodation for your 2 days in Bologna escape, this hostel is the perfect stop.

Check availability and prices!

When is the best time to visit Bologna

We visited Bologna on a chilly February, but with the right clothing, this month would be perfect for an escape to the red city.

Better yet, we would suggest visiting Bologna during spring or autumn (March to May or September to November).

While we don’t usually encourage people to visit Italy during summer, because of the crowds and high temperatures, August is the month when most Italians escape the cities to hide at the sea or in the mountains, so that might be an option for you.

Is Bologna worth visiting?

First things first: is Bologna worth visiting? 

One thing is sure, Bologna is not as popular as other Italian destinations out there, but I think that’s nothing more than an injustice.

And that’s because Bologna is so worth visiting! 

First of all, because its streets are filled with history, unique architecture, plenty of towers, and some hidden villas. Secondly, because there’s a good part to it not being so famous: you can still find quiet corners.

Another good reason for choosing Bologna as your main location when coming to the North of Italy is because you can easily get to many of the more important Italian towns by train.

So long story short: yes, Bologna is worth visiting!

Where to eat in Bologna and must-try food

Known for its cuisine, the best tagliatelle al ragu, mortadella, and tortellini in brodo, Bologna is THE destination for foodies.

Even so, since we were always on the run, we just had a few meals, but we made those count.

Even when we were too tired to stay out and eat dinner and took something from Coop (a local supermarket) the food was delicious and something you can find tasting so heavenly only in Italy. You can never go wrong with some parmigiano reggiano and some prosciutto.

But if you have more time, here are the places you shouldn’t miss.

Osteria dell’Orsain the University area, with the kitchen open all day long until late in the night, they don’t take reservations and are always packed with people.

We ate here on Saturday evening and were lucky to wait only around 5 minutes outside to be seated, but if you are in a larger group you could wait up to 45 min – 1 hour.

Two days in Bologna

They seat you at tables together, the food is delicious and traditional, and prices are ok. Don’t expect luxury or anything, just a true Italian experience.

I Portici Ristorante – with a Michelin star, I was recommended this restaurant because of its delicious pasta. Book a table here for a special night in town.

La Bottega di Franco – just look at the pictures on their site and you will drool. Apart from that, the garden is incredibly romantic, perfect for lunch on a sunny Spring or Summer day.

Osteria Bottega – another Michelin awarded restaurant to try when you have more time in Bologna.

Spaccanapoli – the best Napoletana pizza in Bologna.

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22 responses to “The Complete 2 days in Bologna Itinerary”

  1. […] the Apennines mountains, the nearby ski resort etc.) and Pescara. There is also a route connecting Bologna (one more overlooked beautiful Italian city)  and Bari multiply times per day that stops at […]

  2. Naomi Avatar

    Saving this for when I start planning Italy! Way more beautiful than I thought, definitely underrated and those are the best parts now 🙂

    1. Ingrid Avatar

      It truly is! I wasn’t really expecting much and I was planning on spending the second day in another town, but I’m happy I didn’t. You should give Bologna a chance!

  3. Sophie van der Meulen Avatar

    I’ve been to Bologna several times and I just can’t get myself to fall in love with the city. The countryside however, is amazing. I loved the little towns, the hills and all the amazing food things you can do around Bologna like visiting a parmesan factory, the balsamic vinegar museum and vineyards. I’m glasd you enjoyed Bologna though!

    1. Ingrid Avatar

      You are right, the villages and the less touristic places in Italy are the best! Especially when it comes to local food and products. But I somehow was charmed by Bologna as well 🙂

  4. Allie G. Avatar

    Such a great detailed post with beautiful pictures! I have been to Italy once before and hit all the major cities. For my next trip, I will definitely try to squeeze in a couple of days in Bologna. This post moved Bologna to my bucket list for Italy!

    1. Ingrid Avatar

      You should go back and get to see the smaller villages, those where you cannot find as many tourists as in the large overly touristic ones such as Rome, Milan, the Cinque Terre, Florence or Venice.

  5. Lisa Masson Avatar

    Such gorgeous reds! Looks like a dream. I am definitely adding it to my Italy bucketlist! 🙂

  6. […] if I’m lucky – and this year is one of that kind of lucky years when apart from red Bologna, I’ll be seeing Puglia and the Amalfi Coast), I still can’t help but fall in love with […]

  7. […] in the world, and I try to get there at least once per year. This year, after seeing the red Bologna in February, I have finally made a dream come true and got to the South, spending 4 days in […]

  8. […] Bologna – just a few hours away from Venice, “la Dotta, la Grassa, la Rossa” (the erudite one, the fat one, the red one) is both a good day trip from Venice or a more affordable location from where to take a trip for one day in Venice. […]

  9. […] travel month, bring on an umbrella, a jacket, and some good rain shoes. Although, I’ve spent 2 perfect days in Bologna in February and got no rain, and some […]

  10. […] Taste great food and explore red streets in 2 days in Bologna. […]

  11. […] people visit Bologna for the food, and rightly so. Some of the best places to try include Bocca Buona for the fried puff […]

  12. […] Have only limited time to spend in Italy? Why not see the Eternal City for one day or eat your heart out in Bologna for 2 days […]

  13. […] a shorter vacation, you can choose to spend one day or two days in Bologna, and mix in at least 1 or 2-day trips outside of […]

  14. […] best places include Bocca Buona, Dell’Orsa, and Al 15, where you can try the local delicacies. Bologna is where the famous Ragu sauce, lasagne, and tortellini were first […]

  15. […] Have limited time but you still want to make the best out of your trip to Italy? Why not spend one day in Rome or eat all the Italian food you want for 2 days in Bologna? […]

  16. […] matter if you spend one, 2 days, or set Bologna as your basecamp for your Italy itinerary, this city will treat you […]

  17. […] travel month, bring on an umbrella, a jacket, and some good rain shoes. Although, I’ve spent 2 perfect days in Bologna in February and got no rain, and some […]

  18. […] over to Bologna for spaghetti alla bolognese, mortadella, or tortellini in brodo, stop in Modena and taste the […]

  19. […] the heart of the city. Plus you have many great options for airports, including Florence, Pisa, and Bologna!  The train to Florence is only 30-40 minutes, while Pisa is 90 minutes and Bologna is less than 2 […]

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