Bari is a city located on the south eastern coast of Italy facing the Adriatic see and opposite Dubrovnik in Croatia. With a population of 320,400 it serves as the second largest economic centre of the southern region of Italy behind Naples. The old town centre of Bari is nestled around the harbour and the wider residential and business area spreads out from this point into the mainland.
In early years, Bari was part of the Roman Empire and served as a major gateway to the Adriatic Sea, as time progressed its importance continued and the cities ownership changed hands many times during incidents such as the Siege of Bari in 1071 and the Bari Civil War in 1117. As a coastal city with access to many shipping routes, Bari has a varied economy that includes the agricultural and textile conversion industry, clothing and of course the large port.
The old town of Bari provides a fantastic display of historical architecture, important buildings such as the Castel Svevo, whilst the modern town hosts some fine museums and shopping streets. The combination of old and new is ever apparent in this wonderful coastal city.
Lets explore the best things to do in Bari:
1. The Basilica of San Nicola
This immense church in the centre of Bari is renowned for its fantastic design, opulent interior, and is an important place of pilgrimage for Roman Catholics in Europe.
Constructed in 1197, this basilica dedicated to Saint Nicolas has a Romanesque style and stands proudly in the centre of the old town of Bari near the harbour.
The front façade has some fantastic small details and sculptures and the interior has a simply stunning gold ceiling with painted artwork.
Inside you can also find the tomb of Saint Nicolas and a plethora of notable sculptures and mosaics.
2. The Church of San Sabino
Although considered to be less famous and well-known than the Basilica of San Nicola, the Church of San Sabino is still a fantastic building in its own right.
Located a short walk from the basilica of Saint Nicola, this church is another imposing building in the centre of Bari old town.
The front façade of the church features a similar design and is made of white stone and has several sculptures and ornate windows.
A later addition to the town of Bari, San Sabino was constructed in 1292 and is an important example of Romanesque architecture.
Inside there is a myriad of white stone and marble designs, and also an elaborately decorated crypt.
Furthermore there are many religious relics including the tomb of Saint Columba.
3. Bari Castle
This Norman castle has stood for hundreds of years and was supposedly built in the 1100’s by King Roger II. It features a traditional design with a central courtyard, four main guard towers and is surrounded by a moat on three sides.
Despite the castles immense age, it still remains in fantastic condition and has its original walls and towers.
Sat in an elevated position to the west of the old town centre, the castle provides a fantastic viewing point of the city.
You can walk through the courtyard, passages and on the walls and admire the fantastic architecture; there is also a selection of information boards and several interior rooms containing artefacts and exhibitions about the history of the castle.
4. Bari old town
The old town centre of Bari remains very much intact and is clearly distinct from the modern developments that surround it.
Whilst the old town has a maze of small, narrow cobbled streets that wind in an almost circular pattern, the modern town has a series of straight, parallel streets that speak of modernism and organization.
It is a true pleasure to explore the narrow streets of the old town to see the local culture, marvel at the fine buildings and see where this great city arose from.
Consider starting at the Basilica San Nicola and work your way towards the other cathedral and the castle whilst walking through the side streets and maybe finding a quaint café to enjoy a drink in.
5. Lungomare Nazario Sauro
Bari is a coastal resort, therefore it stands to reason that it should have a fantastic promenade, and it does – The Lungomare Nazario Sauro.
This walkway stretches for approximately 1000m from the harbour to the Parco per Cani and offers a truly scenic patch of promenade to enjoy in the Mediterranean sun.
Lined with fantastic architecture and white washed buildings, the promenade has a pleasant atmosphere and the views out to the sea are sublime.
If you are looking for a place to stroll, sit back and take in the scenery or even stop and have a drink, the Lungomare is the perfect choice.
6. Piazza Mercantile
Bari old town centre is full of hidden gems and the Piazza Mercantile is one such find – Located to the east side of the town near the harbour, this square is a charming place to visit and the architecture is quaint and endearing.
This square will transport you to a different time and truly looks like a typical Mediterranean coastal resort – Different coloured shutters cover the windows, washing hangs out on small balconies and plants and shrubs line the rooftops.
Consider finding a place to eat or sit under one of the shaded canopies and enjoy a coffee, or admire the decorative fountains.
7. Bari Provincial Art Gallery
Located on the brilliant Lungomare promenade, the Pinacoteca Provinciale is a fantastic modern gallery that hosts a wide variety of art works ranging from the 11th century right up to the 19th century.
The building itself takes pride of place on the promenade and has a series of archways on the front façade and a great deal of ornate detail.
Inside, the various exhibitions provide a wealth of high-quality art including paintings from medieval times, and a host of artwork centred on the Apulian school of art and notable Italian artists.
Work from artists such as Paolo Veronese, Giovanni Bellini and Tintoretto are particularly interesting.
8. Via Sparano
If you are looking for a spot of retail therapy, the Via Sparano will satiate your needs.
Located in the “new” district of Bari, this street runs from the epic Corso Vittorio Emanuele right through to the Piazza Aldo Moro.
Lining the street you will find a plethora of high street shops and also designer brands – particular shops of interest include the Disney Store, Emporio Armani, Pandora, H&M, Michael Kors and Zara.
Aside from the fantastic shopping opportunities, the street also offers a range of bars, cafes and restaurants and is a truly trendy place to visit.
9. Lido San Francesco
If you are looking to soak up the sun and enjoy the sea air, the Lido and beach of San Francesco is the perfect place to visit.
This stretch of beach lies to the east of the old town centre and offers a great deal of activities.
The beach features perfect golden sand and a stretch of clear blue water to take a dip in.
Here you can relax on one of the many sun loungers available, play some ball games or even build a sandcastle.
Surrounding the beach is also a myriad of shops, beach bars and restaurants to enjoy.
10. Visit the town of Altamura
Travel approximately an hour inland and you can find the entrancing town of Altamura – This town retains its historical charm and some of its original city walls are still standing today.
Famous for its delightful variety of bread, Altamura provides a fantastic place for a day trip and has a myriad of interesting sights.
Altamura cathedral is a fine building located in the town centre and is one of the main attractions and there are also a number of other fantastic churches.
Walk through the winding streets and take in the sights of this truly wonderful town.
Egnazia is an ancient ruin that once stood as a thriving coastal town of the Messapii people – Findings date human settlements as far back as the Bronze Age and the town is dated to the 8th century BC. Thousands of years old, all that remains of the town now are the foundations and remains of the building walls but it is still an interesting site to visit.
Approximately an hour to the east of Bari, Egnazia is a rare find and for those who are interested in ancient history is a great attraction.
Aside from the ruins, there is also a museum that showcases some of the artefacts found at the site, together with information about its history.
12. Parco Nationale Alta Murgia
The Alta Murgia National Park is one of the finest parks in the Apulia region and offers a different kind of attraction to the usual sight-seeing that Bari offers.
Located to the south of Bari, this expansive park covers a vast area of 677km square and offers a variety of different outdoors experiences.
The park has a varied landscape from forests and open pastures to rocky outcrops and old abandoned villages.
Here you can truly explore the Italian countryside and make use of the hiking and cycling trails.
Furthermore there is also a myriad of wildlife species including the wild boar, Kestrels and the Gray Wolf.
Guided tours are also available of the park that will provide you with a comprehensive insight into this natural region.
13. Borgo Murattiano
You might wonder why the business and commercial centre of Bari is listed as an attraction, but it provides a stark contrast to the old town and also offers some great buildings and sights.
A clear divide exists between the two centres in the form of the Corso Vittorio Emmanuele Street.
Cross over from the old town to this modern district and see a different side of Bari.
The streets are all aligned perfectly and laid out in a grid format and the architecture is fantastic.
19th Century architecture is present and the contrast to the historical buildings of the old town is evident.
14. Museo del Succorpo della Cattedrale
Although part of Bari Cathedral (Cathedral of San Sabino), these archaeological excavations offer an attraction in their own right.
Enter the Cathedral and take time to view this impressive structure, but also travel underground to view its unique subterranean world that features a myriad of Roman Ruins.
Included is part of a 2nd century road, a detailed mosaic from a previous basilica and also elements of a 9th century Byzantine church.
These different findings showcase the intricate history of Bari and how it has changed over the years.
15. Teatro Petruzzelli
As the largest theatre in Bari, the Teatro Petruzzelli is actuall the fourth largest theatre in the country.
Located in the new part of Bari, the theatre stands out from the surrounding buildings and features a magnificent orange façade with a great deal of sculptured detail.
Inside, the decoration is fantastic and the auditorium features typical details expected from a high quality theatre including a huge amount of red velvet and gold trimmings.
If you have the chance, check out what shows are playing and consider buying tickets to this amazing venue.