Where to stay in Bologna 2023 – 6 Best areas

Where to stay in Bologna? with and without a car? In this post, I will help you to decide the best area to stay in Bologna (include map), best hotels for all budget travelers, and safest places.

Founded by the Etruscans, Bologna is the capital and largest city in the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy. It is only halfway between Florence and Milan, a 90 minutes train ride from Verona.

With its old university, world’s longest porticoed walkway, and beautiful squares, as well as hidden canals, medieval narrow streets, and good food scene, Bologna is definitely well worth a visit.

Where to stay in Bologna?

The best areas to stay in Bologna for tourists are Centro Storico, Fiera di Bologna, Bolognina, Bologna Centrale, Quartiere Saragozza, and Santo Stefano. These are popular neighborhoods for tourists that offer a variety of attractions and amenities.

Centro Storico is the best overall area to stay in Bologna for tourists, especially for first-timer due to its central location and proximity to major attractions. Staying here puts you close to everything, including important sights, restaurants, bars, and shops.

Bologna is a generally safe city for tourists, but as you travel to any big city, you should alway practice common sense and be aware of your surroundings. You should avoid the area around the train station and Montagnola park at night.

If you are looking for the safest place in Bologna for tourists, look into the Centro Storico area. It is the heart of Bologna City Center, offering plenty of things to do and see.

If this is your first time visiting Bologna, I recommend spending at least 3 days in Italy’s 7th-largest city to visit famous attractions, and enjoy local food and wine. If you have more days, you can enjoy the city at a slower pace.

💖 Best Area for first timers:Centro Storico
💎 Best luxury hotel:Grand Hotel Majestic gia’ Baglioni
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Hotel Roma
💰 Best budget hotel:Casa Isolani, Piazza Maggiore

Overviews of best areas to stay in Bologna for tourists

Here is an overview of recommended areas in Bologna for tourists:

Best areas in Bologna for touristsWhy should you stay in this area?
Centro Storico (Historic Center)This is the heart of Bologna and the ideal place to stay for most tourists. You’ll be within walking distance of major landmarks like Piazza Maggiore, the Two Towers (Due Torri), and Basilica di San Petronio. There are plenty of restaurants, cafes, and shops in this area, making it a great choice for those who want to explore the city on foot.
Fiera di BolognaIf you’re attending an event or exhibition at the Bologna Fiera, staying in this area is convenient. However, it’s not as central as the historic center, so you may need to rely on public transportation to reach the city’s main attractions.
BologninaThis neighborhood is known for its vibrant atmosphere and is becoming increasingly popular with tourists. It offers a mix of modern and traditional Bolognese culture, and you’ll find some trendy bars, restaurants, and art spaces here. It’s not far from the city center and can be a good choice if you want a more local experience.
Bologna CentraleIf you’re arriving in Bologna by train and want easy access to the transportation hub, staying near Bologna Centrale can be convenient. From here, you can take trains to other cities in Italy and also explore Bologna’s attractions via public transport.
Quartiere SaragozzaThis area is known for its historic architecture, including the famous Portico di San Luca, which leads up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca. It’s a quieter neighborhood compared to the historic center but offers a unique experience and is well-connected to the city center.
Santo StefanoSanto Stefano is known for its picturesque piazzas, including Piazza Santo Stefano, which is surrounded by historic churches. It’s a charming and quieter area, making it a good choice for those who prefer a more relaxed atmosphere. It’s still within walking distance of the city center.

Map of areas and neighborhoods in Bologna:

Where to stay in Bologna Map of Best areas & Neighborhoods
Where to stay in Bologna Map of Best areas & Neighborhoods

Where to stay in Bologna without a car?

The best areas to stay in Bologna without a car are the Centro Storico, Santo Stefano, and Bologna Centrale (Central Station). These areas are well-served by public transportation, including buses and trains, making it convenient to travel around Bologna without a car.

If you prioritize proximity to the main attractions, Centro Storico is the top choice. If you prefer a quieter area with medieval charm, Santo Stefano is a good option. If easy access to transportation is a priority, Bologna Centrale provides convenience and a variety of amenities.

Centro Storico has the most central location, close to the main train station, offering easy access to tourist attractions on foot and bypublic transport. The Bologna International Airport is only a few km away and easy to access by Aerobus and train. 

Where to stay in Bologna with a car?

The best areas to stay in Bologna with a car are the Train Station area, Bologna Fiera, or the area outside just outside the ZTL (Limited Traffic Zone). Remember to check the parking facilities at your chosen accommodation and make reservations in advance to ensure availability.

Some of the best places to stay in Bologna with a car parking are Phi Hotel Bologna – Al Cappello Rosso, Suite Hotel Elite, and Savhotel.

Bologna has restricted traffic zones called ZTL in the city center. These areas are restricted to authorized vehicles only, and driving through them without permission can result in fines. It’s advisable to park your car outside the ZTL and explore the city on foot or by public transportation.

How to get around Bologna without a car as a tourist?

Getting around Bologna without a car is relatively easy, as the city has an efficient and well-developed public transportation system, as well as pedestrian-friendly streets. 

Here are some options for getting around Bologna without a car:

Walking: 

Bologna is a very walkable city, especially in the historic center. Most of the major attractions, shops, and restaurants are within walking distance of each other. 

Wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll likely do a lot of exploring on foot.

Public Transportation: 

Bologna has an extensive public transportation network, including buses and a suburban train system. You can purchase tickets at kiosks, newsstands, or on board buses. 

Consider getting a daily or multi-day pass if you plan to use public transportation frequently.

Bicycles: 

Bologna is a bike-friendly city with dedicated bike lanes and bike-sharing services like Mobike. You can rent a bike and explore the city at your own pace. 

Just be sure to follow local traffic rules and stay safe while cycling.

Scooters: 

Electric scooters, such as those provided by companies like Lime or Bird, have become popular in many cities, including Bologna. You can download the respective app, locate a scooter, and rent it for a short ride within the city.

Taxis: 

While taxis are available, they can be more expensive than other transportation options. 

Trains: 

If you plan to travel to nearby cities or towns, Bologna’s central train station, Bologna Centrale, is a major transportation hub. You can take trains to destinations throughout Italy and even other European countries.

Tourist Cards: 

Consider purchasing a Bologna Welcome Card or a similar tourist card. These cards often provide unlimited access to public transportation for a specific period, as well as discounts on attractions and services.

Guided Tours: 

Joining a guided walking or biking tour can be an excellent way to explore the city’s highlights while learning about its history and culture from a local guide.

Car Rentals: 

While you want to avoid driving within the city center due to limited parking and ZTL (Limited Traffic Zones), you may consider renting a car for day trips to nearby towns or countryside attractions.

Bologna is known for its well-preserved historic center, so exploring it on foot or by public transportation is often the best way to fully experience the city’s charm.

Where to stay in Bologna
Where to stay in Bologna
Where to stay in Bologna
Where to stay in Bologna

Best areas to stay in Bologna for tourists are:

1. Centro Storico

Centro Storico, or Old Town, is the best overall area to stay in Bologna for first-timer travelers due to its central location. Staying here offers easy access to major attractions like the Two Towers, Basilica di San Petronio, and Nettuno Fountain, as well as many restaurants, bars, and shops.

Bologna has rich history dating back to thousand years ago; it was founded by the Etruscans, grew as a Roman city, was a medieval powerhouse of trade and learning, and birthplace of the oldest university in the world.

Centro Storico is the most beautiful area of Bologna that is packed with beautiful squares, medieval buildings, fountains, churches, and narrow streets. You can start exploring the historic center of Bologna from its main square, Piazza Maggiore. 

Piazza Maggiore was built in 1200 after the fall of the Roman Empire as a public place for meeting. Before its current name from 1945, the square had different names such as Vittorio Emanuele II in the 19th-century, and Piazza della Repubblica from 1943 to 1945.

The square is surrounded by important buildings. The western’s side of the square stands a wonderful building called Palazzo d’Accursio, or Palazzo Comunale. The building houses the Bologna’s city council, Municipal Art Collections, and Morandi Museum.

To the south of the square, you can find a medieval palace called Palazzo dei Notai, and the unfinished Basilica of San Petronio, which is the most important church in Bologna. The Basilica of San Petronio is dedicated to saint Petroniu, the city’s patron.

The east of the square is the 16th-century Renaissance-style palace façade called Palazzo dei Banchi, while Palazzo del Podesta can be found in the north of Piazza Maggiore.

Next to Piazza Maggiore is the Public Library Biblioteca Salaborsa, and the Piazza del Nettuno with its 16th-century Fountain of Neptune. Built by the Flemish sculptor Giambologna, between 1563 and 1566, this fountain is one of the most famous landmarks in Bologna.

Another must-see in the Bologna is the Two Towers, which are the symbols of the city. The two medieval towers are Torre Garisenda and Torre degli Asinelli. Built in the early 12th-century, only Torre degli Asinelli is open to the public and you can climb up to 498 steep and narrow steps to the top to view the red city below.

Bologna, city of porticoes, has miles and miles of porticos, which are arched walkways. Stroll along the Portico di San Luca, the world’s longest covered walkway. It is a 3.8 km archway with 666 arcades connecting Porta Saragozza to the beautiful Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca on the Colle della Guardia hill.

If you head to the University district, you will see the University of Bologna, the world’s oldest, founded in 1088. Bologna was an important center of European intellectual life in the middle ages.

Within a 10 minute walk from the Old Town, you can find Ghetto Ebraico, the Jewish ghetto neighborhood, dating back to 1556. Stroll along narrow cobbled streets, you will find restaurants and shops. There are numerous attractions in the neighborhood including Museo Ebraico, Piazzetta Marco Biagi, and Giardina Margherita.

Bologna is known as the Fat City and the Centro Storico is a great place for foodies with plenty of bars, restaurants, cafes, and markets. The Bologna food tour is a popular tour to explore Italian cuisine. Quadrilatero is the medieval market that is packed with tiny stalls and bottegas selling fresh Bolognese specialties and local white wine Pignoletto or red Lambrusco. 

Mercato di Mezzo and Mercato delle Erbe are perfect places to taste a variety of traditional food and aperitivo. You can try traditional Italian food such as Bolognese specialties, tortellini, tagliatelle, pasta, mortadella, and tagliatelle al ragù.

Famous places to eat are Salumeria Simoni, I Conoscenti, and Sette Tavoli. For drinks, try coffee at Aroma, or aperitivo at one of the many bars of the city center. The historic center offers lively nightlife with many nightclubs, and bars.

Apart from dining, nightlife, and sightseeing, Centro Storico offers plenty of shopping opportunities. Stroll along its main shopping streets such as Via Rizzoli and Via dell’Indipendenza, you will find the best Italian designs, as well as antiques and souvenirs.

One thing I want to mention is that Bologna has more than 60 km of canals running underneath the city. You can see the canal at the Via Piella through a framed window in the wall.

Centro Storico is the best area to stay in Bologna without a car due to its central location. With many popular attractions located within walking distance apart, you can easily explore on foot. I

In addition, Centro Storico also offers easy access to the Central Railway station and Guglielmo Marconi International Airport, making it easy to get around by public transport.

Centro Storico has a wide range of accommodation options ranging from budget bed & breakfast to luxury hotels. The city’s only five star hotel, Grand Hotel Majestic gia’ Baglioni, is located in the historic center.

Best places to stay in Bologna Centro Storico for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): Grand Hotel Majestic gia’ Baglioni, 5-star hotel, located in an 18th-century palace, in the heart of Bologna, within walking distance from Piazza Maggiore, the famous Two Towers, Palazzo Fava, and Bologna Central Train Station.
  • Mid-range ($$): Hotel Roma, 4-star hotel, situated in the historic centre, short walk from restaurants and shops, Piazza Maggiore and the Towers of Bologna. It is is well connected by bus and its on-site restaurant offer views of Via D’Azeglio pedestrian street.
  • Budget ($): Casa Isolani, Piazza Maggiore, great accommodation, located in the heart of Bologna, within easy walk from Via Indipendenza, Piazza Maggiore, and Via Zamboni.

2. Fiera di Bologna

Fiere is the best area to stay in Bologna with a car because many hotels here offer free private car parking. Some of the hotels between the Old Town and Central Station offer car parking but with a fee between 20 – 30 euros.

Fiere is the business center of Bologna and is located northeast of the city center, close to the Bologna Centrale Railway Station, and 8 km away from Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport. 

The neighborhood is home to a trade exhibition center that hosts numerous festivals and events, as well as several tall blocks including the headquarters of the regional Emilia Romagna government. So if you travel to Bologna on business, Fiera di Bologna is the best choice to book a hotel.

Food lovers can visit nearby FICO World Eataly, a 10-hectare area dedicated to Italian cuisine. The complex has 45 restaurants with some Michelin-starred chefs. This is the largest food and agriculture park in the world, also houses gardens, factories, and animal farms.

Fiere district has plenty of good mid-range and budget hotels, and most of them offer free private car parking. With its good public transport and cheaper than Old Town, Fiera di Bologna is not only ideal for business travelers, but also for budget backpackers, and those traveling with a car.

Best places to stay in Bologna Fiere:

Mid-range ($$): Hotel Cosmopolitan Bologna This 4-star hotel is located on Via del Commercio, close to Bologna Congressi Exhibition Centre and Tangenziale motorway. It provides free car parking and a free scheduled shuttle to the trade fair. FICO Eataly World is less than a 5-minute drive away.

Mid-range ($$): Savoia Hotel Country House Bologna This 4-star hotel is located on Via San Donato, 350m from A14 motorway. Savoia Hotel is one of the best places to stay in Bologna without a car because it offers onsite private car parking. You can enjoy live music and homemade pasta of the Emilia Romagna Region at its restaurant.

Budget ($): Hotel Michelino Bologna Fiera This hotel is located on Via Michelino, offering private car parking, as well as buffet breakfast, and air-conditioned rooms.

3. Bolognina

Bolognina, also known as Little Bologna, is one of the best neighborhoods in Bologna for local culture and history because there are no major tourist sights here.

This historic working class neighborhood is located on the outskirts of the city center, close to the main train station. It is also a multicultural area with good street art, ethnic restaurants, and typical Bolognese trattorias.

You can take a look at cultural attractions such as the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Museo per la Memoria di Ustica, Ex Mercato Ortofrutticolo, Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, or Modern Art Gallery of Bologna.

There are numerous Mercati (Markets) in the Bolognina neighborhood. You can find a Mercato Bolognina in Via Albani, and Cirenaica, as well as shops and boutiques along the streets . You can buy fresh local food, try gelateria, a scoop of cream ice cream with lemon and chocolate. 

Bolognina has a good range of budget-friendly guest houses, B&B, and apartments. Being away from a touristy area, it offers cheaper accommodations, food, and drinks.

Best places to stay in Bologna in Bolognina:

  • Luxury ($$$): Elizabeth Lifestyle Hotel, 4-star family-friendly hotel, located within walking distance from Museum for the Memory of Ustica, offering a private parking, family spacious rooms, and a 24-hour front desk.
  • Mid-range ($$): Savhotel, 4-star modern hotel, close to the Fiera di Bologna exhibition centre. You can find public buses stop nearby that offers link to the historic centre.
  • Budget ($): Bed And Breakfast Arcobaleno, great B&B, located only 10-minute walk from Bologna Centrale Train Station. It is also well-connected with a bus with links to the Bologna Exhibition Centre and town centre stops.

4. Bologna Centrale

Bologna Centrale is located within walking distance to the Historic Center. It is the fifth busiest train station in Italy. Located in central Italy, Bologna is an important train hub of the country. Part of the station was rebuilt because of the destruction by a bomb in 1980. 

There are high-speed train services to major cities such as Rome, Florence, Milan, and Venice inside Italy but also from Austria, France, Germany, and the UK.

The ground floor of the station houses Freccia Club, Sala Blu, as well as restaurants, and shops. You can find bus stops outside of the station in Piazza delle Medaglie d’Oro.

Bologna Centrale is an overall safe area but as in any crowded and touristy area, you should always take care of your belongings, and be aware of surroundings. 

Due to its convenient location, easy access to the train and the city center, Bologna Centrale Station has plenty of accommodation options for all budget travelers. Accommodations here tend to be cheaper than the Old Town.

Best places to stay in Bologna Centrale Station for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): Starhotels Excelsior, superior hotel, located in front of Bologna Train Station and the airport bus terminal. It is also convenient for visit the gardens of Parco della Montagnola , Bologna Cathedral and the central square of Piazza Maggiore.
  • Mid-range ($$): NH Bologna De La Gare, 4-star hotel, great location in Bologna near the Central Train Station and the shopping district.
  • Budget ($): Amendola Central Station, budget-friendly sustainable accommodation that has soundproof rooms and a luggage storage space. Close to MAMbo, Via dell’ Indipendenza and Museum for the Memory of Ustica.

5. Quartiere Saragozza

Quartiere Saragozza is located to the west and within walking distance from the Old Town. The neighborhood offers numerous accommodations, restaurants, bars, and shops, while close to famous attractions of the historic center such as Piazza Maggiore and the Two Towers.

It is home to Renato Dall’Ara Stadium, which is a multi-purpose stadium. If you come to Bologna for sports events, and concerts, this neighborhood is a great base.

There are numerous green spaces in the neighborhood. It is also home to Porta Saragozza, starting point of the longest portico in the world, the Portico di San Luca, leading to the Basilica of San Luca.

Best places to stay in Quartiere Saragozza:

  • Luxury ($$$): Suite Hotel Elite, a design 4-star hotel located a short drive from Guglielmo Marconi Airport. It is surrounded by restaurants and within walking distance from a supermarket.
  • Mid-range ($$): La Magnolia B&B, great guest house, that has a paid car parking, and guest rooms with air conditioning, a private bathroom, bed linen and towels.
  • Budget ($): Il Giardino Nel Parco R&B, offering both rooms and apartments, located within walking distance from Bologna’s historic Old Town.

6. Santo Stefano

Santo Stefano is conveniently located close to the Historic Center of Bologna. You can easily explore famous attractions on foot and public transport if you choose to stay in this neighborhood.

The area is home to Piazza Santo Stefano, connecting via Santo Stefano with the Two Towers. The square is home to the seven churches called the Basilica of Santo Stefano.

Piazza Santo Stefano hosts antique markets, as well as musical performances. The square is a meeting point for locals and tourists.

Nearby is the 26 hectares, English-style romantic garden, Giardini Margherita. It was home to an Etruscan burial ground. There is also a nice artificial pond, and a small part of the ancient Savena canal.

Santo Stefano has a good selection of guest houses and B&B, offering basic amenities such as air-conditioned rooms, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV, a private bathroom with bathrobes, toiletries and hairdryer.

Best places to stay in Bologna in Santo Stefano:

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Summary – Where to stay in Bologna?

In conclusion, Centro Storico, Fiera di Bologna, Bolognina, Bologna Centrale, Quartiere Saragozza, and Santo Stefano are the best places to stay in Bologna for tourists. They are the most popular locations in the city, offering a wide range of accommodation for all budget travelers.

Overall, I will choose Centro Storico as the best base to stay in Bologna for first-timers due to its prime location. If you stay here, you will be located within easy walking distance from popular landmarks, as well as many restaurants, bars, and shops.

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