A Handy Bolzano Travel Guide
The cross-cultural reality of Italian and German traditions, Bolzano is a fascinating city that perfectly blends nature, history, and culture. One of the cities to visit in Trentino Alto Adige, it makes for a great travel destination in both summer and winter. Discover here the top things to do in Bolzano to fall in love with this northern Italian region.
What to do in Bolzano – Table of contents[toc]
- Bolzano is the capital of the Südtirol and of its namesake Bolzano province in Trentino Alto Adige region
- Bolzano in German is “Bozen”
- It sits at an elevation of 262 mt above sea level
- Its population is around 107.000
- The currency is Euro
- Italian and German are the official languages, so locals are bilingual and you will find signs and menus in both languages
- Bolzano is the door to the Italian Alps “Dolomites”
Top things to do in Bolzano
Meet 5000-year-old Ötzi
The first thing to do even if you are only one day in Bolzano is the Museo Archeologico dell’Alto Adige (Alto Adige Archaeology Museum). Home since 1998 to 5300-year-old Iceman Ötzi found in Italy, here you can see not only the Neolithic mummy but everything about him.
You will find its clothes, working tools and read bout his life, what he ate, his diseases and everything researchers discovered about the Bronze age in the area after he was accidentally found covered with snow by some tourists.
Enter the Duomo
Located near Piazza Walther, the majestic cathedral is definitely one of the places to visit in Bolzano if it’s your first trip. Devoted to the Holy Mary, its construction started in the 11th century and is now considered a precious example of Romanic and Gothic art.
The beautiful green-gold roof stands out from afar and is one of the features that make Bolzano Duomo famous and an original masterpiece. Its interior and exterior decoration is an interplay of art styles from different parts of Italy, such as the15th-century fresco by Giotto’s school positioned below the tower.
Impossible not to notice the wonderful bell tower decorated in filigree by Swabian stonecutter Hans von Schussenried in 1517.
Museo del Tesoro del Duomo
Once you visited the Duomo, enter the Museo del Tesoro del Duomo, literally “museum of the Duomo’s treasure”. Located at the foot of the bell tower, it displays a fantastic collection of sacred kits and vestment from the Baroque period, as well as sacred jewellery from the 18th century. One of the things to see in Bolzano if you are an art lover.
Stroll around the historic center
Take a walk around the streets and alleys of Bolzano city centre. Admire its German-influenced architecture and relax in one of the cafes with a warm drink especially if you are enjoying the city and its Dolomites in winter.
Explore the medieval identity of Bolzano in the streets where you can see local markets, shops, ancient vaults, historic mansions, inns and hotels like Luna Mondschein in Via Piave close to the historic Via Bottai.
Visit Piazza Walther
Piazza Walther is known as the city’s “parlour”. The origins of this piazza date back to the early 19th century and changed several names depending on who was the king or leader at the time. In 1901, the piazza was named after the medieval German poet Walther von der Vogelweide, but when the region became Italian, its name changed again in favour of the Savoy King Vittorio Emanuele III.
Only after WWII, it became Piazza Walther again and for good, and the statue of the poet stands tall in the middle.
All around the piazza are cafes and restaurants. This is the place of markets, festivals, if you are visiting in the winter festivities, don’t miss the Christmas Market set up here.
Walk under the covered galleries
Like many other northern Italian cities such as Turin, also Bolzano has its covered galleries (Portici). Via dei Portici is the first road of Bolzano, where the city was created by the order of a prince-bishop from Trento in the 12th century.
Some 300-metre-long, Via dei Portici was the pulsing heart of a city created for trading purposes. The road was closed between two doors and closed to the main door, where is Piazza delle Erbe, farmers used to sell fruits and veggies.
In medieval times, the buildings of Via dei Portici were both houses, shops and stockrooms. Today, we can still see the original architecture from the Middle Ages.
Make a stop in Piazza delle Erbe
Italian for “herbs’ square”, Piazza delle Erbe has been the place for the veggie market in the city since 1295. Still today, its fruits and veggies market takes place every day except Saturday afternoon, Sunday and holidays.
Discover the Dolomites near Bolzano
If you more days and are still wondering what to do in Bolzano, why not take a trip around the city to immerse in nature and dramatic Alpine views of the Dolomites of the Trentino Alto Adige region?
Some of the places near Bolzano perfect for a day trip are San Genesio, a typical mountain village that you can reach by car or with 8 minutes of cableway from the city, and Colle, also easy to reach via cableway that will take you to 1134 meters of altitude.
Where to eat in Bolzano
All around the city centre is full of traditional restaurants. We had a lovely lunch at Vögele Wirtshaus (Via Goethe 3), an old tavern set in a 13th-century building and managed by the same Kamaun family since 1870.
Some other good local restaurants in Bolzano are Zur Kaiserkron (Via della Mostra 2a), Casa al Torchio (Via Museo 2a), and Cavallino Bianco (Via Bottai 6), Bolzano’s oldest tavern.
Where to stay in Bolzano
- Hotel Figl – A mid-range hotel in Bolzano city center
- Parkhotel Laurin – An elegant hotel not far from Bolzano cathedral
- Villa Jasmine Guest House – Apartment in Bolzano historic center
- Castel Hörtenberg – A 5-star hotel near the city center
How to reach Bolzano
You can reach Bolzano easily by train with Trenitalia Frecciargento from Trento, Verona, Rome, Bologna and Florence. There are also bus lines that connect Bolzano to several Italian and international destinations. Check out here the trains and buses that reach Bolzano.
If you are coming by plane, you can land directly in Bolzano airport, which is a short ride from the city centre. The other airports close to Bolzano are those in Verona, Bergamo, Milan, Venice, Innsbruck, Bologna, Treviso.
Those who are renting a car need to be careful because Bolzano city center is a ZTL, limited traffic zone, controlled with cameras. Follow the signs to the parking or stay away from the city center to avoid fines. Click here to see where you can park your car or RV without entering the ZTL.
How to get around Bolzano
Since the historic centre is a ZTL, your best bet to visit the place is either on foot or using public transport.
In Bolzano and the Alto Adige area, public transport is well organised and coordinated with urban and extra-urban buses, local and regional trains as well as the different cableway services.
Day trips from Bolzano
You are done exploring the top things to do in Bolzano and still have some time in Trentino Alto Adige? Here are some nice and easy trips from Bolzano by train you can’t miss if you want to discover more of the region and northern Italy.
If you’ve decided to make Bolzano your base in Alto Adige, do make a day trip to Trento, the capital of the region.
From the Roman settlements to the medieval remains to a fascinating museum of science kids will love, Trento is rich in culture and has a vibrant society.
As soon as you arrive in Bressanone, you can’t avoid noticing the breathtaking mountain peaks surrounding the city and its German look.
Even though a small town, in Bressanone there are several places to visit, such as the beautiful cathedral and the palace residence of the prince-bishops.
Bressanone is half an hour train from Bolzano.
Famous for its thermal baths, horse races and beautiful views, Merano boasts many reasons that make it a great day trip from Bolzano as well as an exclusive holiday destination both in summer and winter.
In one day in Merano don’t miss to walk around its “portici”, covered galleries, perfect if you want to go shopping. History and nature lovers will have a great time walking around the greenery of the Trauttmansdorff Gardens and seeing where the Austrian princess Sissi stayed.
Merano is some 45 minutes train from Bolzano.
With about an hour train from Bolzano, you can spend a day in Verona visiting its top landmarks such as the historic arena, San Zeno church, Piazza delle Erbe square and the houses of Romeo and Juliet.
Verona is some an hour and a half train with Frecciarossa from Bolzano or between two hours and two hours and a half with a regional train.
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Rome-based travel writer, blogger and photographer.