Bologna is a medieval city in northern Italy, home to the world’s oldest university, the University of Bologna. Founded in 1088, it’s been in continuous operation ever since. A vibrant and cosmopolitan city with a large student population, it has a youthful vibe with plenty of options when it comes to shopping, dining, entertainment, and nightlife. Especially renowned for its food scene, there are many delectable local specialties to try, including tortellini and lasagna. The city center, or centro storico, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with many stunning historical buildings and porticoes.
When trying to determine the best place to stay in Bologna, one of the most important factors is location. Start by choosing the area of the city in which to stay, according to your particular plans and preferences. We’ve provided an in-depth look at some of the most popular to help you make the very best decision.
Bologna’s historic center is a great place to stay for first-time visitors and sightseers as it’s centrally located and will put you within walking distance of many of the city’s top attractions, including Piazza Maggiore. There are a number of important buildings and monuments that you’ll be within easy reach of too, such as Neptune’s Fountain, the City Hall, and the Due Torri or Two Towers, a symbol of the city and a must-visit. You’ll have access to many outstanding restaurants for sampling the local cuisine and countless shops for giving your wallet a workout, including the stores of top Italian designers and the main shopping street of Via dell’Indipendenza. Plus, there is a wide range of accommodation options to choose from, including budget hotels within a short walk of Piazza Maggiore, apartment and Airbnb rentals, and luxurious boutique hotels, where you might even score a rooftop Jacuzzi for soaking with an enchanting view.
Ghetto Ebraico is a mix of historic and trendy. The old Jewish quarter was once the site of the city’s main synagogue, but it was destroyed in the 16th century. Today, it’s one of the coolest neighborhoods in the city, home to people from all walks of life yet you’ll still find many monuments commemorating the persecutions Jews suffered. Located in the medieval center just a short walk from Piazza Maggiore, it’s a vibrant community with narrow streets, colorful houses, small piazzas, secret canals, hip cafes, restaurants, bars, and street art. Visitors can find traditional Italian coffee, artisan shops, vintage stores, and the Museo Ebraico, which tells the story of Jewish culture in Bologna and beyond through a collection of photographs, documents, and artifacts. Just about every type of accommodation can be found here too. That includes mid-range and budget hotels, Airbnbs, and apartment rentals, while a hostel is just a few minutes away.
The Porta Saragozza/Manifattura delle Arti area includes the Marconi quarter of the historic center and the western suburb of Saffi. This vibrant neighborhood is known for its artistic style and welcoming LGBTQ community, home to the Cassero LGBTI+ Centre. It’s ideal for experiencing the local art and culture with many art galleries, theaters, and museums. The Museum of Modern Art of Bologna is located here and is a must-visit for art lovers, while the Cineteca di Bologna headquarters is a great place to see a film. The University of Bologna’s Cinema Lumiere and the Department of Philosophy and Communications are also located in the area, making it a great place to learn about the city’s history and culture. If you are visiting during the summertime, you can enjoy the many festivals and celebrations that take place in the Manifattura delle Arti, while the Cavaticcio public gardens are the perfect place to relax and enjoy the warm weather.
The University District is home to the oldest university in Europe, the University of Bologna, which was founded in 1088. It’s also one of the most beautiful with its libraries particularly impressive. As a popular tourist destination, visitors can even take a tour of the institution. It’s also home to a number of museums, including the Palazzo Poggi Museum of Arts and Science. There are some lovely parks and green spaces for enjoying the outdoors, but the main reason to stay in this lively neighborhood is the high concentration of restaurants, bars, and clubs which fill up after dark with visitors and students alike. Most of the fun happens along the main street of Via Zamboni which offers all you need, including delicious food to kick off the night before dancing ‘til dawn in one of the clubs. As it caters to students, you’ll find plenty of affordable accommodation here too, including a hostel and budget hotels.
Bolognina, which means “little Bologna,” is a multicultural neighborhood located just north of Bologna’s main train station. It’s a great place to stay for families and solo travelers who want a quieter setting as it’s tucked away from the main bustle of the city, better for anyone who wants to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep. At the same time, it’s close to the city center for sightseeing and exploring the top attractions. Plus, it’s well-served by public transportation and there are a number of hotels, hostels, apartment rentals, and Airbnbs in the area. It’s home to a variety of bars, clubs, and restaurants serving everything from international cuisine to traditional Italian fare, along with quite a few ethnic eateries. You can explore several cultural and historical attractions right here too, including the Museo per la Memoria di Ustica, a museum dedicated to the victims of a plane crash that took place off the coast of Sicily.
Fiera di Bologna is the city’s business district, located in the northern part of Bologna, east of Bolognina. Due to its location, there are more affordable accommodation options as compared to areas right in the center. You’ll find a wide range of hostels, hotels, and short-term rentals, making it much easier to travel on a budget. Despite being further from the center, it’s the heart of the action for many of the city’s events and big festivals, so it’s also perfect if you’re visiting Bolognia to attend an event. While it takes about 30 minutes to reach Piazza Maggiore on foot or 15 minutes by car, there are excellent public transport connections here, making it easy to get just about anywhere. As it is the local business district, there are many good cafes and restaurants, including 45 eateries alone at FICO World Eataly, a food-centric theme park featuring pop-up stores, restaurants, and hands-on exhibits.
The historic center (centro storico) contains many of Bologna’s attractions making it ideal for first-time visitors. It’s a compact area with narrow, winding streets jam-packed with medieval buildings. The city’s main square, Piazza Maggiore, is here along with the famous Fountain of Neptune, and this is one of the best areas for shopping too. You’ll find many small shops selling everything from souvenirs to antiques, food stalls, and markets. The streets that run north from Piazza Maggiore are known for their high-end items and stylish fashions. As the historic center is well-connected to other parts of the city by bus and the train station can be reached in about 20 minutes on foot, it’s easy to take day trips from here too. Plus, there are some charming B&Bs here and a wide range of hotels ideal for everyone from families to romance-seeking couples, including affordable three-star properties and value-priced four-star accommodations.
Ghetto Eraico, the Jewish Ghetto, is widely regarded as the coolest place to stay in Bologna. It offers an eclectic mix of old and new with street art, vintage stores, and many small artisan shops selling traditional Italian crafts and souvenirs at Via dell’Inferno, the former location of the synagogue. Not surprisingly, with the University of Bologna located here, there’s a great coffee house scene with many places to enjoy a delicious cup of authentic Italian coffee while people-watching. Plenty of nightlife venues can be found here too. A historic neighborhood, there are narrow streets lined with colorful homes, and those with an interest in Jewish culture will find plenty too. The Museo Ebraico is located here, telling the story of the Jewish community in Bologna. There are also many great places to stay, with a wide range of accommodations available for just about every budget, from inexpensive hotels to apartment rentals and Airbnbs.
This area is focused around the Porta Saragozza, one of the gates in the city’s medieval walls which dates back to the 13th century. Locals often refer to it as Manifattura delle Arti, or the Factory of the Arts. The city’s port between the Renaissance and the 19th century, together with its protoindustrial hinterland of canals, it was also the city’s manufacturing and mercantile heart until at least the late 1800s. Today, it’s the heart of the local LGBTQ community, a welcoming, friendly neighborhood, and a great place to experience local art and culture. You’ll find many art galleries, theaters, and museums, along with the vibrant nightlife. The Museum of Modern Art is easily reached from here and if you’re visiting in the summertime, you’ll be perfectly situated for many festivals, concerts, and other events that are hosted in Giardino del Cavaticcio, or Cavaticcio gardens. There are good, reasonably priced hotels and various apartment rental options too.
If you’re only planning a short stay and will be traveling around quite a bit while you’re in Bologna, staying close to the Bologna Centrale Station may be ideal. It’s well-served by local buses and it’s a hub for high-speed trains to other major cities, including Florence, Milan, and Venice. Plus, you’ll have easy access to many of Bologna’s top attractions. Piazza Maggiore can be reached in just 20 minutes on foot and the University of Bologna is just a short walk away. There are quite a few things to do right in the area too, including the Museum of Modern Art and the historic Porta Galleria that once served as the entrance to the city. This area is less expensive than most yet it’s easy to reach many places on foot. There are many hotels, including everything from budget-friendly options to reasonably priced four-star hotels and even luxury options with a pool and spa.
The Fiera di Bologna district is located in the northern part of the city and serves as the main business district. While there aren’t many tourist attractions here, it is home to FICO World Italy, the world’s largest food park, with nearly four dozen restaurants, ideal for sampling a wide range of Italian dishes. Plus, you’ll find opportunities to join food and wine tasting tours too. Many outstanding eateries can be found throughout the neighborhood and it’s also very well-connected to the rest of the city by public transport, making it easy to reach other districts and Bologna’s top attractions. It’s a good pick for an affordable place to stay with a variety of apartment rentals and hotels, including many budget options as it’s further from the center of the city which tends to be much pricier. If you’re looking for higher-end accommodation, including romantic boutique hotels, you’ll find that here too.
Bolognina is a great neighborhood for all types of travelers. Located north of the main train station, it’s easy to meet friendly locals here and it’s multicultural with people here from around the world, making it ideal for solo travelers. Safe and quieter than the historic center, families will love it too. Young visitors will appreciate the outstanding nightlife with the best alternative rock scene in the city, with many clubs and bars for enjoying it. The diversity also results in a wide range of restaurants serving all sorts of international cuisine from Arabic to Chinese, along with plenty of traditional Italian eats. There are quite a few attractions too, including lively markets and the Museo per la Memoria di Ustica. It’s well-served by public transport for getting around to other areas and when it comes to accommodations, you’ll find hostels, apartment rentals, Airbnbs, and hotels in all price ranges.
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