Located in northern Italy, Bologna is the capital and most populous city in the country’s Emilia-Romagna region and has about 400,000 residents.
Perhaps more than any other place in the country, Bologna is home to a diverse array of inhabitants of more than 100 nationalities. It’s situated between the Savena and Reno rivers, adjacent to the foothills of the Apennine Mountains.
It’s known for its amazing cuisines, supercar manufacturers, and abundant historical attractions, but it tends to get fewer visitors than other Italian cities like Rome and Venice.
Below are 15 of the best tours of Bologna that rank highly on many visitor’s itineraries.
1. Experience Bologna with a Local: Customized Private Meet-Up
For those who’d rather let a travel and tourism professional handle all the pesky details, this private, customizable tour of Bologna with a local guide would be a great fit.
Guests need only contact the tour provider, answer a few questions about interests and preferences, and they’ll put together an itinerary just for you and your travel companions.
Tours include many of Bologna’s most significant historical and cultural attractions and some that are slightly off the beaten path as well.
Options include two, four, six, and even eight-hour excursions that start with a brief meet and greet with a local host.
2. Bologna Theme Tour: Europe’s Oldest University
Some visitors are surprised when they learn that Europe’s oldest university isn’t in England or France, but in Bologna, Italy.
Bologna’s university was established in the 11th century, and the campus is home to a number of worthwhile attractions, including monuments to the founders, instructors, and students dating back to the Middle Ages.
On this value-packed, two and a half hour themed tour, guests will follow their experienced local guide’s lead and explore many of the historic city’s most iconic sites.
Tours also include the Renaissance Palazzo and the Archiginnasio Palace.
Food, drinks, and admission tickets aren’t included, so bring a few extra bucks.
3. City Center Walking Tour
For those who’d rather not waste valuable vacation time crammed into a bus full of warm-bodied tourists, walking tours are great ways to see things up-close-and personally and get an idea of Bologna’s layout.
Tours get underway at the centrally located Piazza del Nettuno. After a brief tour overview, participants will set out to explore city attractions, including the Piazza Maggiore, the Basilica of San Petronio, and the world’s oldest library at Piazza Santo Stefano.
Despite its relatively moderate Mediterranean climate, the weather can get warm, so it’s wise to dress appropriately and bring hats and sunglasses if you’ll be visiting during the summer months.
4. Full-Day Ferrari Experience
With their powerful engines, sleek lines, and exorbitant price tags, Ferrari’s aren’t exactly everyday cars. But for those visiting Bologna, there are many inexpensive ways to experience them in all their glory.
This full-day tour is all about the iconic Italian automaker, and its centerpiece is the official Ferrari Museum just up the road in Maranello.
Each outing includes guided factory and test track tours and a trip to Enzo Ferrari’s home in Modeno, after which everyone will head to a local farm just outside of town for a traditional lunch.
Tours last about eight hours and include moderate amounts of walking.
5. Red Bus City Tour and Local Food Tasting
For much of the year, Bologna’s weather is perfect for being outdoors. Touring the city in an open-air bus is an excellent option for those who want to feel like they’re outside without spending tons of energy walking or riding a bike.
Red Bus tours offer audio guides in multiple languages. At each attraction, guests will get a historical overview of what they’re seeing and decide whether or not they’d like to depart and take a closer look.
Tours include optional food tastings, and stops at the Basilica San Petronio, Palazzo dei Notai, and Palazzo Comunale, to name just a few.
6. 3-Hour Secret Food Tour
Bologna’s Quadrilatero neighborhood is one of the city’s culinary hotspots, and it just so happens to be the starting point for this popular 3-hour secret food tour.
Whereas many food tours tend to hit well-known locations, this one focuses on those that get less traffic.
That means a more memorable and authentic experience, as well as lots of opportunities to mingle with locals, learn about the city’s history and culture, and taste amazing traditional and contemporary foods.
Tours include six stops and samples of everything from aged balsamic vinegar and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to homemade pasta and cured meats.
7. Private and Personalized Best of Bologna Walking Experience
At least in the United States, we generally associate Bologna with overly processed logs of mystery meat manufactured in places like Kansas City and New Jersey.
Thankfully for travelers, Italy’s Bologna bears no resemblance to the aforementioned product.
In fact, it’s an exotic locale known for its stunning natural beauty, abundant historical attractions, friendly people, and vibrant cuisine. It may be best experienced on private and personalized walking tours like this one.
Tours include customizable itineraries, the services of a local guide, and pick-up from your Bologna accommodation.
Expect to get away from other tourists, rub elbows with locals, and see the city from a unique perspective.
8. Torre degli Asinelli & Food Tasting
Built more than 900 years ago and reaching nearly 300 feet into the blue sky, Torre degli Asinelli is Italy’s tallest tower, and one of Bologna’s main attractions.
For those who’ve got the nerve and stamina to make it to the top, it’ll take nearly 500 steps, but the views are remarkable and well worth the effort.
After visiting and learning about the tour, guests will enjoy a food tasting that includes traditional local, regional, and national dishes like pasta, cheeses, and baked goods.
The cost of admission to the tower is included, and guests get an ice cream voucher to enjoy later when the tour is over.
9. Cooking Class and Dinner with a Local Cook
Italians love to eat, and many of them are equally as passionate about sharing their culture and cuisine with visitors from all over the world.
For those who consider themselves diehard foodies and amateur chefs, this cooking class and dinner with a local cook option is a great way to spend a fun, engaging, and educational evening.
The activity centers on Bolognese cuisine and naturally includes the preparation of traditional pasta and sauces using fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Wine, camaraderie, hands-on time in the kitchen, a three-course meal, and warm Italian hospitality are also included.
10. LGBT Bologna: Book a Local and Likeminded Friend
It’s commonly said that money can’t buy friends, but this LGBT-centered tour of Bologna offers visitors the chance to do just that.
Forget traditional travel guides with their canned narratives and rigid itineraries; this private, personalized tour option is customizable and geared toward the globe-trotting LGBT crowd.
Before booking, prospective participants will answer a few questions about their interests and preferences. Shortly thereafter, they’ll receive an itinerary and a message from a likeminded guide.
Tours depart from a convenient location, and at any time during the excursion, the guide and guests may jointly decide to change things up if the collective spirit moves them.
11. Yummy Italian Food and Wine Tour with Long Lunch
Like yummy Italian food and long, relaxing lunches in idyllic settings?
If so, the pre-tour questionnaire is officially done, and it’s time to get down to what makes this eight-hour tour such a big hit.
First, it’s all about Bologna’s culture and food traditions and includes a local epicurean guide and pick-up and drop off from a number of convenient central Bologna locations.
Guests will visit facilities that produce Parmesan cheese, prosciutto, balsamic vinegar, and wine.
They’ll learn about how these staples of Italian cuisine are made, sample until their hearts are content, and enjoy an epic six-course lunch with wine in a family-owned restaurant.
12. Ferrari, Pagani, and Lamborghini Museum and Factory Tour
When it comes to being home to more supercar manufacturers than anywhere else in the world, Italy is a clear standout.
Featuring world-renowned brands like Ferrari, Pagani, and Lamborghini, Bologna, and the surrounding areas are like playgrounds for car enthusiasts who come from near and far.
Tours include an English speaking guide, pick-up from the train station, airport, or your hotel in Bologna, as well as visits to the factories and museums of the previously mentioned automakers.
Test drives at each location are optional. Though they’re exhilarating, they may not be a good fit for those traveling on budgets.
13. FICO Eataly World 1-Hour Tour
Bologna’s FICO Eataly World is a one-stop attraction for those looking for maximum exposure to the wonders of Italian cuisine without spending a whole day doing it.
This one-hour guided tour includes aspects of agriculture, history, culture, and food. Despite its short length, it is often counted as one of the visitors’ most memorable experiences.
The facility includes dozens of restaurants and cafés, street food vendors, and markets and shops that make for a truly unique experience.
Due to FICO Eataly’s vastness, many visitors choose to visit again in subsequent days, and it’s an especially big hit for those traveling with kids.
14. Train to San Luca Basilica with Food Tasting from Bologna
Regardless of age and interests, it’s common for many visitors to spend all their vacation time in Bologna without venturing into the country.
For some, however, day-trips and side excursions are fun ways to broaden their horizons and leave the urban setting behind.
This train and food combo tour begins and ends in Bologna, includes audio guides in eight languages, and is available multiple times daily.
Each guest gets a train schedule before departing, which makes it possible to explore San Luca Basilica and other attractions at their own pace without fear of getting left behind.
Guests also get vouchers for food tastings.
15. 3-Hour Guided Walking Tour
Short tours like this three-hour walking option are great ways to experience Bologna without setting aside a whole day.
Many of Bologna’s landmarks and attractions are centrally located, which makes seeing them in conjunction with one another relatively easy.
On this tour, guests will see the Fountain of Neptune, Piazza Maggiore, and the Mercato de Mezzo—one of the city’s main culinary attractions, where many residents and restaurateurs buy their ingredients daily.
For those who wish to take things to the next level, it’s possible to take advantage of extra-cost options like food and wine tastings and visiting the Anatomical Theatre of the Archiginnasio.