This section is dedicated to take away all your "I wish someone had told me that before I went!" experiences. This way, you are better prepared for what to expect, what not to expect and can spend less time settling in, and more time making new friends in your chosen hostel. We share our insider knowledge of tips, tricks and important things to look out for in Bologna. To help you make friends with Bologna before you visit, we've included a few helpful and fun things you should know about the area. Enjoy!
Bologna, the oldest university town in Europe, is a fitting place for travelers, and especially backpackers. It is located right in the middle of the two famous destination and backpacker hot-spots; Florence and Venice.
Let us tell you, Bologna is one of these hidden gems in Italy you do want to visit. What can you expect?
Fantastic food and a very local experience as it is not a super touristic destination.
You can experience the Italian lifestyle first-hand without the tourism glasses.
The intact architecture of the historic town center is dotted with iconic towers, from a time where the local elite showed off by building these competing residences. There are local cultural sights and museums, but the university steals the show. Or maybe you're more interested in the food and eating your way through town in search of the best dining spots. Learn the local tricks of the good life, find a cafe, sit back, and take in the world rushing by.
Bologna is an absolute foodies heaven. Seriously. Keep an eye out on the daily menus. They are around 10€ and include these fantastic dishes you came to Italy for in the first place. Bologna's center isn't huge, yet the city is sprawling, so things certainly do get busy around town at peak times.
Yet despite the city having so much going for it, there aren't many visitors here compared to the rest of the Tuscan north and not-so-distant Venice.
Hostels in Bologna
Most likely you will arrive at the main train station in Bologna, named Bologna Centrale. Every airport shuttle, every local and obviously the trains arrive to the main train station. Unless you arrive by car, this will be your arriving point.
The very city center is just 10 minutes down the road. Most hostels are dotted a maximum of 10 minutes walk away from the main train station.
This is really one thing you do not have to worry about. In case you are arriving by car, make sure you pick a Bologna hostel slightly outside the very center. Usually there is free parking space. Use the filter to check for hostels in Bologna with parking.
The Bologna hostels are all spacious and have plentiful outdoor space thanks to their suburban or even small-town settings. They are popular with Italian scouting and school groups, but also attract independent solo-travelers visiting Bologna.
6 Cool Things to do in Bologna, Italy
I want to share a few things I absolutely enjoyed myself in Bologna.
1. Climb the leaning towers
It is not only Pisa that has a leaning tower in Italy.
At the square "Piazza di Porta Ravegnana", you find the famous Torre degli Asinelli and its twin tower. You can climb up this tower with its 498 steps. From the top you have a complete view over the whole city. Absolutely wonderful.
2. Mercato di Mezzo - Indoor Market
The Mercato di Mezzo is located in the very heart of the city. It's translation literally means middle Market. It is the cities oldest market.
As you can expect from any great Italian city, this market offers great eats, wine products and delicacies you only dreamed of so far.
3. Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca
You can see this Sanctuary from all over the city. It is sitting on top of the forested hill Monte della Guardia.
The trail for going up here takes you along a scenic route with a total of 666 arches. Bring your camera as you will find many photogenic spots. From the city center it took us around 1 and a half hours to hike up here.
You can also take a bus which is very affordable. Needless to say, the view from Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca and the basilica itself is worth the trouble.
4. Bike Trip around Tuscany
Since Bologna is very well connected with many major cities in Europe, it is easy to get here for a city break.
Visit Bologna and spend a weekend enjoying a bike trip around Tuscany. There is the scenic landscape, wine fields and tastings, many rural restaurants, and even the famous Ferrari and Ducato Museum.
5. Nightlife and Bars
Historically, Bologna is a student city. This is no surprise as it is home to the oldest university town in Europe.
The University district comes with a great nightlife. There are numerous nightclubs and bars with great live music, open until 4am. Around the streets Via del Pratello and Via Zamboni you can find many budget restaurants and bars.
6. Aperitivo Bar
Before heading out to explore the nightlife in Bologna, I highly recommend to hop inside a wine bar for an Aperitivo. An authentic Aperitivo, Italian Style. This means snacks and a drink before dinner time. Every area (even city) in Italy has its own Aperitivo rule. Do not apply your previously learned Aperitivo skill from Rome to Bologna; it won't work.
In Bologna, the time for an Aperitivo is anywhere about 6pm - 8pm.
Some Hostels in Bologna offer their own Aperivito experiences. This is also a great way to bond with your hostel mates. Tell them about this Aperitivo culture and head out to the city. There are many wine bars for aperitivo. Ask the hostel staff for their best recommendations.
Personally, we really enjoyed:
- Camera A Sud
- Gessetto Bar
- Osteria del Sole
Flights and trains to Bologna
Bologna is very well connected by train and air connection.
There are direct train connections to Milano, Florence, Verona and Venice. This is what makes it so easy to stop here for a night or two. As for flights, there are many budget airlines flying into Bologna, Italy.
How to get around Bologna
As stated earlier, Bologna itself is quite small. It is very walk-able.
Many hostels offer bikes for rent as well. Personally, this is my preferred way to see Bologna. It is a very bike-friendly city and in the very city center you have very little traffic. In fact, every Sunday the city center is car-free and you can walk on the streets.