what to do in Bolzano Italy

What To Do In Bolzano – The Best Day Trip Itinerary



Are you asking yourself whether Bolzano is worth visiting and what’s there to do?

Well, I get it. Bolzano is not a very popular Italian city, at least not on the level of Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan. While it doesn’t offer the history and culture that they do, it’s a paradise for nature and mountain lovers, a picturesque place to get away from the hustle and bustle, but still be able to wander and explore while listening to the birds chirping and glancing at the mountain peaks surrounding you.

I saw many other questions online about whether Bolzano is worth visiting, whether you need a car, how expensive it is, and many more. Since I had the same questions before spending a week there, I thought I could help you out by answering most of them. I’ll do that throughout this article, especially in the last section. 

First, let’s focus on why you should go and what to do in Bolzano Italy. I believe that going through the perfect one day itinerary will make you fall in love with this city even before you get there.

I had high expectations for this city, and they were all exceeded. Keep reading and you’ll see why.

Q1. How to get to Bolzano?
Before I tell you about the things to do in Bolzano you should first understand whether you can logistically fit a day trip here. 

Bolzano can be reached in under 3 hrs by train from these big Northern Italy cities: Bologna, Milan, Venice, Verona, and Innsbruck.

Here are the exact distances:
Verona – 1.5 hrs
Innsbruck – 2 hrs
Bologna – 2.5 hrs
Venice – 2.40 hrs
Milan – 2.40 hrs

I personally flew into Bologna, took a taxi from the airport to the station, and then a fast train from Bologna to Bolzano. The journey was easy and mesmerizing with the changing scenery from hills to mountains.

Q2. Is Bolzano worth seeing?

You can be the judge; after all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

How Do You Spend A Day In Bolzano Italy?

Now that you know how to reach this city and also got a glimpse of what it has to offer, let me share with you my Bolzano first day itinerary.

What to do in Bolzano Italy, 1 day itinerary
What to do in Bolzano Italy, 1 day itinerary

This itinerary packs a lot in one day. You see, even though I spent 6 days in Bolzano, I really only had one full day to explore it. All the other days were dedicated to visiting nearby towns and mountain viewpoints. If you are intrigued to choose Bolzano as your base, don’t worry, I will share more about the other fun activities you can do.

PS: Even though it packs a lot, there’s still plenty of time to do everything without rushing. I suggest you take the earliest and last trains, especially if you want to experience a local dinner in a very traditional restaurant. I will give you the spot once we get to that point of the itinerary.

Let’s start.

Q3. Can you visit Bolzano without a car?
Absolutely. You don’t need a car in Bolzano unless you plan to visit more remote towns and mountain peaks.

This itinerary and my entire 6 day stay were completely car-free.

Q4. What to do when you arrive at Bolzano train station?
You might be thinking: “Do I need a taxi, can I take a bus? and where do I start?”

You don’t need to take the bus, and neither a taxi. Bolzano train station is in the city center, just 5 minutes from the main square, which is where we’ll start this one day itinerary.

You can see it in the Google Maps screenshot below. Just type Walther Platz as your destination and enjoy the 5 minute walk.

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Exploring Bolzano’s Old Town (Bolzano Itinerary part 1)

Bolzano is a very walkable city, especially the center and the old town. Everything is close and easily reached, but there are many little medieval and alpine looking streets to explore. Plus, if you love window shopping, there is a street with gorgeous boutiques.

As soon as you arrive in the square, you have two options:

  1. Have breakfast, even if it’s your second one.
  2. Explore the old town.

Either way, take 10 minutes to walk around the square and soak in the mountain views while you admire the beautiful architecture and the locals living life so stylishly, hopefully, all in the sunshine.

Breakfast spots in Bolzano

These are the ones I tried:

  1. Franziskaner Bakery
  2. Café Konditorei Monika

Would I recommend them?

They both had a nice local atmosphere but the food wasn’t amazing. Just keep in mind that, as most Italians, I have high food standards. I am not saying it wasn’t good, but I can’t put it in my top cafe list.

These are the ones I wish I tried:

  1. Stadt Hotel Cafe
  2. Loaker Cafe
  3. Exil Lounge Cafe
  4. Caffe Mattei

Even though I spent 6 days in Bolzano, I hopped on a train every day except the first one. On those 5 days we had breakfast in the other towns, hence why I didn’t try more cafes. No worries though, as Bolzano will probably become my Summer go-to destination in Italy (yes, I really fell head over heels for this mountain city)!

What To See In Bolzano Old Town?

After breakfast (or even before) you can take an hour stroll through Bolzano’s old town. It really only takes 20 minutes, but if you stop to take pictures and appreciate what you are seeing, it should take about 60 minutes.

You can see on the map below that you’ll be doing a loop starting from Walther Platz and ending at the Bolzano Cathedral.

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These are these are the attractions of this first part of the itinerary:

  1. Kornplatz or Piazza del Grano – here you will find one of the cafe spots I mentioned earlier, Exil Lounge Cafe.
  2. Via dei Portici is the main street in the old part of Bolzano, famous for its porticoes and medieval architecture. It’s also the best street for window shopping and when you really want to buy something.

Fun fact: If you visit Trento, Merano and Brixen, you’ll find a similar looking street with the same name in all three cities. That’s because it’s part of the medieval architecture of the Trentino Alto Adige region.

  1. Obstplatz or Piazza delle Erbe – here you will find the daily market with fruit, vegetables, bread, pastries, local meats and cheeses, flowers and more delicious food. It’s open from early morning till 7 pm. 
  2. Dr Josef Streite Gasse – continue onto this street to admire more of the medieval architecture.
  3. Via dei Grappoli – this will lead you back to Walther Platz if you pass through Galleria Walther (a passage inside the old mall), or to the Bolzano Cathedral if you proceed to Via della Rena or Reingasse.
  4. Bolzano Cathedral – I suggest you go around the cathedral first and see it from all angles. There’s a small alley leading to a square called Piazza della Parrocchia. From there you’ll come onto Via dell’Isarco (the street we were staying in, right next to the Duomo and square), and here you will find the entrance to the cathedral. 

You are free to go in and explore the cathedral. Or you can stay a little longer in Eisackstrasse and listen to the beautiful sounds coming from the music school opposite the Duomo.

That’s part 1 of your first day in Bolzano done. Doesn’t it sound fun? That’s just part 1 though, the best is yet to come.

PS: If you plan to go to Bolzano for the weekend or 2 days, this can be day 1 of your trip here. You can arrive, settle into your accommodation, wander through old town, do some shopping, sit for an aperitivo and people watch (both Stadt Hotel Cafe & Exil Lounge Cafe are great spots to do that), and have a nice dinner.

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Exploring Bolzano’s Monastery & Green Heart (Bozen itinerary part 2)

Part 2 of this fun day in Bolzano will take you to the other side of old town (still very close to Piazza Walther), where you’ll explore a monastery, a castle and then soak up the nature right in the centre of Bolzano.

PS: If you are thinking of visiting Bolzano for the mountain views, there’s a stunning viewpoint right next to the Talvera bridge. Make sure to snap some pictures. But keep in mind that the best views are yet to come.

This second part of the itinerary takes 40 minutes starting and ending at Walther Platz. However, if you plan to enter the castle and explore the park, I think it will take you just under 2 hours.

Here are the stops:

  1. Franziskanergasse – this is the road that takes you the monastery; make sure to look up and admire the views before you enter the monastery.
  2. Franciscan Monastery (free entrance) – it’s a peaceful spot in Bolzano where you can admire the friary gothic architecture, mural paintings and a beautiful cloister. 

Fun Fact: In the Franciscan Church lies the body of the nephew of Conte Vlad, aka Dracula, or so they say.

  1. Castel Maretsch (€5 p.p, last entry is Noon, then from 14 pm) – the location of this castle is stunning. Even without a ticket you can walk around it and admire the vineyards. 
  2. Petrarca Park – this is a gorgeous park worth exploring, and it’s right next to the Talvera river and bridge
  3. Ponte Talvera – cross the bridge to get to the Victory monument
  4. Victory Monument – this was commissioned by Benito Mussolini during the fascist regime in honor of Italy’s victory in World War 1. It also marked the division of Tyrol into North and South Tyrol.

Once you get back to Piazza Walther, I suggest you have a break and maybe have a late lunch. 

If you don’t plan to stay in Bolzano for dinner, you can take my recommendation now and have a traditional lunch at Il Cavallino Bianco. We had dinner here on our first full day, which was at the end of this same itinerary.

Another great lunch spot in the main square is Signorvino. We had a picky dinner here on our last night; it was very romantic at night, we sat outside overlooking Walther square, and all the tables had a small lamp.

Otherwise, you can choose one of the cafes I suggested earlier and have an aperitivo and snack.

Bolzano Cable Car & Visiting Oberbozen (Upper Bolzano Attractions)

Part 3 has to be my favorite part of the day. Other than because of the breathtaking views it’s because this part involves taking a train, and I love trains. It’s also because in just 30 minutes you are transported to a place that feels miles away. You can see the mountains up close, the cows in their element, wooden houses, all in the comfort of your seat.

Here are the attractions of part 3 of this Bolzano Day Itinerary:

  1. Cable car to Upper Bolzano with Funivia del Renon
  2. Ritten Train to Collalbo (18 mins)
  3. Stop in Collalbo and check out the viewpoint over the Earth Pyramids
  4. Train back to Upper Bolzano
  5. Cable car back to Bolzano

Q5. How do you get the cable car to Upper Bolzano?
It’s simple. Just walk 13 minutes to Cable Car Ritten through Via Renon (see map below).

Once you get there, go to the ticket office and purchase your tickets. 

If you are staying in Bolano for the night, you should have received the Bolzano card with your stay for free. That allows you access to the cable car and the train for free, and in that case, you don’t need a ticket. All you have to do is stamp it before every ride. It’s one card per person.

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While on the cable car, enjoy the scenic views over the city of Bolzano. I think this is where I fell in love with it.

Once you get out of the cable car you’ll be in Oberbozen. It’s probably mid afternoon by now, so if you have to go back to the city you are staying in, I suggest you hop immediately on the mini Ritten train

You’ll find the train waiting for you right when you come out of the cable car, and it will take you to Collalbo. It’s not the destination that counts but the journey, so get your camera ready and soak in those precious moments.

Once the train stops for good, you’ll be in Collalbio. You can go down and stretch your legs, or stay on the train and go back to the cable car.

If you have the time and the energy, you can take a 40 minute hike to see the Earth Pyramids – cone shaped pillars formed naturally by deposits of clay and boulders.

Q6. What to do in Oberbozen?
If you were to go earlier you can enjoy a walk, like Freud Promenade, and stop for a picnic along the way.

Once you go down with the cable car, you can walk 5 minutes to Bolzano station and take your train back to Milan, Venice, or whichever city you are coming from.

If you still have time, or are staying the night, remember my earlier suggestions about dining at Cavallino Bianco or Signorvino.

What Next? More South Tyrol Beauty.

I really hope you enjoyed coming along on this virtual journey through Bolzano. It truly was a magical day for me and my husband, and I wanted to share it with you, so you can enjoy that same experience and make the best memories.

Keep in mind that I went to Bolzano at the beginning of Fall, although it felt more like the end of Summer. However, you can enjoy this same itinerary in Winter, Spring and Summer. If you choose to go in Winter or around Christmas, you’ll get the bonus of seeing some snow on the mountains and also exploring the Christmas markets. 

If you are intrigued by Bolzano, wait till you see what this region has to offer. There’s plenty to see and do near Bolzano. Read my other articles on Trentino Alto Adige.

And if you don’t know where to start, read these first:

Seceda Mountain Peak – a beautiful day trip from Bolzano

Bressanone – half day trip from Bolzano

Merano – following in a princess’ footsteps

Bolzano City FAQ

Before we end this article, let me answer all the other questions that usually people ask about Bolzano.

What language do they speak in Bolzano?

In Bolzano and the entire province, there are 2 official languages – Italian and German. Bolzano is Bozen in German. 

Why is Bolzano famous?

Many visit Bolzano to go to the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology, where there is Otzi’s mummy – the glacier iceman. The city also has a rich history related to the arts, music and theatre, and also an important place for commerce between the North and the South of Italy, but also Germany and Austria.

What food is Bolzano famous for?

If you are going to Bolzano make sure to try these local delicacies: Canederli dumplings, speck, Schlutzkrapfen ricotta and spinach ravioli, Goulash with polenta, Loacker wafers, Strudel, and Strauben fried dough.

Is Bolzano an expensive city?

From what I saw while staying in Bolzano for 6 days, paying for the accommodation, the food, and the groceries, I didn’t find it to be very expensive.

So from a tourist point of view, I think it’s a very convenient city, especially when you consider you are given a complimentary public transportation card that allows you to travel freely in Bolzano and visit nearby cities too through regional trains.

Is Bolzano a good base for the Dolomites?

I believe it’s the best base if you want to explore both cities and mountains, especially if you are coming by train and don’t plan to rent a car. If you want to be closer to the mountains, Ortisei is another great base.

How do I get from Bolzano to Dolomites?

The easiest way to get from Bolzano to the Dolomites is to go to Ortisei by bus, and then choose which peak you want to visit, and either hike there or take a cable car.

Alessia Spampinato