Where to stay in Bologna first time: Best areas

The best areas to stay in Bologna for first-timers 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. In this post, I will help you to decide where to stay in Bologna for the first time, with and without a car, and the safest places to stay in Bologna.

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.

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, Centro Storico, and Montagnola park at night. If you are looking for the safest place in Bologna for tourists, look into the Centro Storico area. 

Centro Storico is the best place to stay in Bologna for first-timers due to its close proximity to the city’s famous tourist attractions such as the medieval towers, Basilica di San Petronio, and Nettuno Fountain, as well as many choices of accommodations, restaurants, bars, and shops. If you book a stay here, you will be located in the heart of the city.

Centro Storico is also the best area to stay in Bologna without a car due to its super central location. Tourist attractions and the main train station can be explored by foot and public transport. The Bologna International Airport is only a few km away and easy to access by Aerobus and train. 

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

6 Best areas to stay in Bologna for tourists

1. Centro Storico, where to stay in Bologna first time

Centro Storico, or Old Town, is the best area to stay in Bologna for first-timer travelers because it is the very heart of the city. If you stay here, you will be located in the middle of everything, within walking distance to many of the city’s popular attractions such as the Two Towers, Basilica di San Petronio, and Nettuno Fountain, as well as many restaurants, bars, and shops.

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. 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 Centro Storico:

2. Fiera di Bologna, where to stay in Bologna with a car

Fiere is the business center of Bologna and 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 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, where to stay in Bologna for local vibe

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:

4. Bologna Centrale, where to stay in Bologna near the main train station

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:

5. Quartiere Saragozza, west of Bologna’s Old Town

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:

6. Santo Stefano, good location and accommodations

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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Overall, Centro Storico is the best area 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. So, there you have it, where to stay in Bologna for the first time, all you need to do now is to decide how many days to spend in Bologna and book a hotel for your trip.

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