Plan your trip to Bologna
The beautiful city of Bologna is located in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy.
You can visit Bologna all year round, but it’s truly magical in December with the Christmas markets and decorations.
The best reason to visit Bologna in the winter months? Aside from the Christmas atmosphere, you’ll be rewarded with fewer tourists and a more authentic experience.
Here’s my list of 12 magical things to do in Bologna in winter.
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12 things to do in Bologna in winter
1. Join a walking tour of Bologna
I always recommend walking tours if you’re new to town.
I joined a walking tour and got to see places I would never have found on my own.
On a tour, you’ll get to explore the ancient Quadrilatero market, see the fountain of Neptune, and visit the Basilica of San Petronio, just to name a few.
It’s a great way to see Bologna’s highlights.
Book your tour – Bologna walking tour (⭐️ 4.5/5)
2. Visit the enchanting Christmas Markets
Bologna’s Christmas market, called Fiera di Natale or Mercato di Natale, is located in the historic city center.
This is a central spot for festive activities and shopping during the holiday season. You can find all sorts of crafts and delicious Christmas foods.
- Dates: 16th November to 26th December 2023.
- Location: Strada Maggiore (Portico dei Servi) but also at Piazza Maggiore, Via Altabella, and Corte Isolani.
- Opening times: 9 am to 8 pm. Christmas Day: Mostly closed
3. Piazza Maggiore
Piazza Maggiore is Bologna’s central square, dating back to the 13th century.
It’s surrounded by important Renaissance buildings, the Neptune Fountain, and is home to one of Europe’s largest basilicas.
It’s a must-visit when you’re in Bologna!
Read next: 27 best European cities for New Year
4. The Anatomical Theatre
One of the coolest places in Bologna is the Anatomical Theatre at the University of Bologna (the oldest university in the Western world).
Back in the 1500s, this was where students would watch dissections on a central marble table.
The place is made of cedar wood and has some really intricate details. If you’re into history, it’s worth a look.
5. Santo Stefano and the Seven Churches
Santo Stefano is often called “The Seven Churches.”
It was originally built in the 5th century with seven sections, each for a part of Christ’s story, but now only four are left.
When you step inside away from the cold temperatures, you’ll spot four main churches and the Courtyard of Pilate.
6. Quadrilatero market
If you’re a foodie, you should visit the Quadrilatero district.
This historic market area is a labyrinth of narrow streets brimming with local produce, meats, pasta, and other Italian delicacies.
Must-tries? Go for the Tortellini, Tagliatelle, prosciutto di parma and Mortadella.
7. Food tour in Bologna old town
Food is one of the main reasons to visit Bologna!
If you’re up for some serious foodie action in Bologna, this 4-hour food tour with Secret Food Tours gets top reviews!
You get to start with breakfast, then dig into fresh pasta, cheese, wine, and even gelato. There’s also a secret dish they’ll spring on you!
You’ll learn about traditional foods in Bologna, and if you’ve got any diet restrictions, just give them a heads up.
Book your tour – Bologna food tour (⭐️ 5/5)
8. Climb the Asinelli Tower
Up for a little adventure in this ancient city?
Brave the cold and climb the city’s tallest tower for a panoramic view of Bologna’s iconic red roofs.
The Asinelli Tower was built by the Asinelli family in the 12th century and it’s the tallest tower in Bologna at 97.2 meters.
The historic building is right next to Torre Garisenda Tower and offers amazing views from its peak, 498 steps up. But be warned: it’s a steep climb!
- Adults: €5
- Kids (4-12), students, 65+: €3
- Bologna Welcome Card EASY & PLUS holders: Free
- Heads up: Book your tickets a bit ahead of time!
9. Admire the porticos
Bologna’s porticos are a Unesco World Heritage site and one of the must-see landmarks in Europe.
With nearly 40 kilometers of arcades, they’re ideal for a winter walk because you’ll be sheltered from the rain or occasional snow.
Along the way, you’ll find cozy cafes where you can enjoy a hot cappuccino or mulled wine.
10. Visit the Ferrari factories
If you’re a car enthusiast, you should visit Italy’s Motor Valley where you get to see the big three: Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Pagani.
On this popular tour, you’ll see their museums and factories, dive deep into their histories, and even get the option to drive one on a track or road!
Plus, there’s this F1 simulator for a real race-day feel. You’ll need to book 48 hours in advance, though.
Pre-book your tour – Ferrari Lamborghini Pagani Factories and Museums (⭐️ 5/5)
11. The Sanctuary of San Luca
One of the best things to do in Bologna in winter is visit the Sanctuary of San Luca.
You can walk or take a tour of this sanctuary located on a hill overlooking the city.
The porticoed pathway leading from Bologna city center to the sanctuary is one of the world’s longest.
Book tickets – Porticoes of Bologna and Basilica San Luca Guided tour (⭐️ 4.5/5)
12. Day trip to nearby medieval villages
Bologna is surrounded by charming nearby towns, and one of the best places is Dozza (my favorite).
You can visit by car (buses are not frequent) or with a tour like this one. On the tour, you get to visit the two medieval villages, Brisighella and Dozza.
Expect world-class olive oil tasting, iconic landmarks, local Italian lunch, and medieval sights!
Book here – Best medieval villages getaway from Bologna (⭐️ 5/5)
FAQ – Bologna in winter
Is Bologna worth visiting in winter?
Yes! Bologna in winter is quieter and cozy. With fewer tourists, you can enjoy its festive decorations, and avoid the crowds which often leads to overall better service.
Its covered walkways are perfect for chilly days, and local museums offer a warm escape.
Is December a good time to visit Bologna?
Yes, December is a good time to visit Bologna.
While it’s cooler with temperatures averaging around 40°F (4°C), the city offers a festive ambiance with holiday decorations and markets.
Plus, you can enjoy Bologna’s renowned cuisine in a cozy, wintry setting.
What is Bologna like in December?
Bologna in December is cold with average temperatures around 40°F (4°C).
The city has a festive ambiance with holiday decorations and traditional markets.
Is Bologna cold in the winter?
Yes, Bologna gets cold in the winter, often around 40°F (4°C). Snow typically falls annually, sometimes abundantly.
You should dress warmly and be prepared for potential snow.
More posts about Bologna you might like
- How to spend an amazing 3 days in Bologna
- How to explore Bologna in one day
- 10 delicious foods you must eat in Bologna
- Is Bologna worth visiting? Pros and cons guide
- 10 best Bologna food tours you should try