15 Best Things to Do in Padua (Italy)

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Padua (Padova) is a commune located in the Veneto region of North East Italy – Although often considered to be part of the greater metropolitan area of Venice and Treviso, Padua has a distinct history and has been an important city since the Middle Ages. Located on the Bacchiglione River, Padua lies approximately 25 miles to the west of Venice and has a current population of 214,000. This city is extremely beautiful and features a plethora of charming architecture, bridges crossing the river, and also the important University of Padua which once played host to the legendary Galileo.

Records actually show that Padua is one of the oldest established cities in Northern Italy and it has seen some form of settlement since 1183 BC. Throughout the subsequent years, Padua was invaded by various factions including the Huns and Goths. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Padua became hugely important and its university was renowned throughout Italy.

Today the industrial zone to the east of Padua is one of the largest in Europe and employs over 50,000 people. As a tourist destination, Padua offers a rich selection of historical buildings, beautiful gardens and interesting museums.

Here are the best things to do in Padua:

1. Basilica di Sant’Antonio

Basilica di Sant'AntonioSource: flickr
Basilica di Sant’Antonio

This immense, many domed basilica is undoubtedly the highlight of Padua and it stands out for everyone to see in the centre of the historic old town.

Originally constructed in the 1200’s, the basilica features a myriad of different architectural styles and is listed as one of the international shrines of the Holy See.

At the front, several archways and intricate details frame the main doorway, but the side is the real treat – 8 different domes stand out above the walls together with a series of delightful towers.

Inside, the detail is simply awe-inspiring – frescos and beautifully coloured artwork cover literally every inch of the basilica together with various gold trimmings and marble sculptures.

Furthermore, there are also several chapels that feature beautiful Renaissance artwork from artists such as De Zevio.

2. Piazza dei Signori

Piazza dei SignoriSource: flickr
Piazza dei Signori

One of the main squares in historic Padua, the Piazza dei Signori serves as one of the central gathering places in the city and has historically held civic celebrations and tournaments.

Created in the 14th century, the square was built around the famous clock tower and it is filled with Medieval and Renaissance details.

At one end of the square sits the Chiesa di San Clemente, and at the other the Torre Dell’Orologio (Clock Tower). Lining the square are a series of houses, restaurants, shops and cafes and at one end sits the beautiful Marciana column.

This square also plays host to regular markets and events so there is a chance that you may experience some authentic Italian culture and local life too.

3. Padua Duomo

Battistero del DuomoSource: flickr
Battistero del Duomo

Although the exterior of the Basilica di Sant Antonio might outclass the Padua Duomo, this church is actually the main Chiesa of the city and it has a simply sublime interior.

Located in the self-styled Piazza Duomo, the Cathedral was created originally in 1117, but was destroyed via an earthquake.

Inside the Duomo, the white washed walls created a high contrast to the blue and red patterned marble floor and the many arches and columns create a pleasing effect.

Of particular interest is the Baptistery of Padua that features a highly detailed fresco painted by Giusto de Menabuoi and covers the whole wall an ceiling.

4. Cappella degli Scrovegni

Cappella degli ScrovegniSource: flickr
Cappella degli Scrovegni

Located in the pleasant Giardini dell’Arena, the Cappella degli Scrovegni is a truly monumental church and is famed for its sublime interior frescos.

The outside of this church is quite understated, and if you were unaware of its historical importance, you may simply pass it by.

Created in 1305, the interior was designed by the famous Giotto who was responsible for the design of the Florence Campanile.

Practically every available wall space is packed full with various religious depictions and display a burst of colour.

Split into several different sections, the frescos represent general stories from the bible, the life of Christ, and the vices and virtues of man.

Considered a true masterpiece, the detail and colour still present today is fantastic and this is one piece of Paduan art you cannot miss out on.

5. Palazzo della Ragione

Palazzo della RagioneSource: wikipedia
Palazzo della Ragione

This immense town hall sits in the centre of the Piazza della Frutta and is considered an icon of the city of Padua.

It is reported to have the largest unsupported roof in Europe and it boasts the past power and influence that Padua had.

Created between 1172 and 1219, the town hall has stood for hundreds of years and has been a central point for various civic ceremonies and legal courts.

Inside the hall is a vast open chamber that is richly decorated with a series of colourful frescos created by Nicolo Miretto and Stefano da Ferrara.

Hundreds of individual frescos line the walls and depict various allegorical stories and historical events.

6. Orto Botanico

Orto BotanicoSource: flickr
Orto Botanico

This small botanical garden is truly captivating and contains a plethora of interesting plants, vegetation, herbs and trees.

Created in 1545, it is one of the oldest gardens still in existence and originally served as a learning centre for the university students.

At one end of the garden is a series of modern greenhouses that contain a myriad of different plant species, whilst at the other is a typical nursery garden that is laid out in a circular shape and annexed into many small charming sections.

If you love plants and the natural world, the Orto Botanico will prove to be a true treat.

7. Prato della Valle

Prato della ValleSource: flickr
Prato della Valle

Standing at a colossal 90,000 square meter, the Prato Della Valle is the largest square in Italy and also in Europe.

This is one of the most important areas of Padua and the locals simply love the open space and the design of the square.

Whilst called a Piazza, the square is actually oval and features a circular water feature that is surrounded by a series of 90 statues depicting various important figures in the history of Padua.

Four bridges cross the water and lead you into the central section that contains a water fountain.

Come here to admire the design and scale of the square, but also to relax under the shade of the trees or sunbath on the well-manicured lawns.

8. Brenta Canal

Brenta CanalSource: wikipedia
Brenta Canal

The Brenta Canal stretches for many miles between Chioggia on the coast, to Padua where it turns back into the Brenta River.

Created in the 15th century, the canal was meant to expand trading routes and possibilities for Venice and the major cities in Northern Italy.

Boat trips are actually available on this impressive waterway that take you from Padua to Venice and visa versa.

On the way, you will see a variety of beautiful houses, stately homes, and villas such as Villa Foscari and Villa Pisani.

Furthermore, the natural scenery is truly amazing and as you pass out towards Venice you will see the odd small village scattered around the banks of the canal.

9. Musei Civici

Musei CiviciSource: flickr
Musei Civici

This complex of museums and historical buildings is located in the Giardini dell’Arena and features two museums and the fabulous Cappella degli Scrovegini.

Included in the art galleries are sublime paintings by renowned Renaissance artists included Titia, Giotto, Bellini and Veronese.

The collection is considered one of the finest examples of Venetian art between the 12th and 19th centuries in Italy.

Aside from the artwork, there is also a collection of historical artefacts from various eras including pre-Roman, ancient Greek and Etruscan.

Each exhibit is wonderfully displayed and contains multimedia features too.

10. Giardini dell’Arena

Giardini dell'ArenaSource: flickr
Giardini dell’Arena

Located in the northern part of the old town of Padua, the Giardini dell’Arena is a pleasant place to explore and relax.

It is advised to combine a visit to the Capella degli Scrovegni and the Musei Civici together with a gentle stroll through the park and along the banks of the northern canal.

The grounds of the park are beautiful with many shaded areas covered by luscious trees and plants, furthermore, there are several footpaths that wind through the grounds to create a pleasant walking trail.

This truly is a pleasant place to spend some time and take a break from sight-seeing.

11. Padua Canals/Rivers

Canal in PadovaSource: flickr
Canal in Padova

Aside from the Brenta Canal, Padua also has several central canals and rivers that provide fantastic walking opportunities and are a great way to see the city.

Starting at the Via Goito, you can follow a footpath down the length of the river and admire the beautiful water scenery until you reach the Museo dell Astronomico.

From here you can either continue along the Riviera Tiso da Camposampiero into the town centre, or follow the river in a northerly direction right through to the Giardini dell’Arena.

During your walk, you will pass many beautiful buildings and see the fantastic natural landscape that the river provides.

12. Palazzo Zuckerman

Palazzo ZuckermannSource: flickr
Palazzo Zuckermann

Located next to the Giardini dell’Arena, the Palazzo Zuckerman is another fine collection of art that has been amassed over the years.

Split into two large floors, the first floor contains a huge amount of objects collect from the region surrounding Padua including pottery, ceramics, ivory, jewellery, silverware, textiles and furniture.

On the second floor is a museum dedicated to the merchant Nicola Bottacin who made a huge collection of artwork, weaponry and old coins/money.

These items combine together to provide a fascinating insight into the history of this region, and a glimpse at how the tastes and fashions of the people have changed throughout the years.

13. Cafe Pedrocchi

Caffè PedrocchiSource: flickr
Caffè Pedrocchi

As the name would imply, this fantastic Cafe allows owners to bring their beloved dogs! Located on the Piazza Cappellato Pedrocchi, this establishment is in close proximity to the Piazza dei Signori and Ragione Palace.

This wonderful and charming cafe offers an extensive drinks list with a selection of wines, spirits, liqueurs, coffee and soft drinks.

Furthermore, drinks are accompanied with a large platter of snacks and appetizers which provides excellent value for money.

14. Day trip to Venice

VeniceSource: flickr

Due to the fantastic transport links between Padua and Venice, it would be a shame not to make the most of your trip to northern Italy and visit the floating city too.

Trains travel between Padua and Venice at regular intervals and the journey takes approximately 25-27 minutes.

Venice is a wonderful city and offers a great deal of rich history, fantastic architecture, and of course the beautiful canals.

Ensure that you ride a Vaporetto on the Grand Canal, walk through St.

Mark’s Square, take the lift of the Campanile for stunning views of the city, and cross the Ponte di Rialto.

Furthermore, there is also the magnificent Doge’s Palace and the sombre Bridge of Sighs.

Available cruisePadua to Venice Boat Cruise of the Brenta Riviera

15. Sample some local cuisine at the Trattoria al Prato Restaurant

Trattoria al PratoSource: tripadvisor
Trattoria al Prato

If you are looking for a fine restaurant that boats high quality food, excellent service and a beautiful location, the Trattoria al Prato is the perfect choice.

This wonderful establishment is located on the northern side of the Prato della Valle and is only a 15 minute walk from the main squares in Padua.

Run by two gentlemen, the staff are extremely friendly and ensure that your experience is a memorable one.

The menu offers a great choice of traditional Italian courses and international cuisine.

15 Best Things to Do in Padua (Italy):

  • Basilica di Sant'Antonio
  • Piazza dei Signori
  • Padua Duomo
  • Cappella degli Scrovegni
  • Palazzo della Ragione
  • Orto Botanico
  • Prato della Valle
  • Brenta Canal
  • Musei Civici
  • Giardini dell'Arena
  • Padua Canals/Rivers
  • Palazzo Zuckerman
  • Cafe Pedrocchi
  • Day trip to Venice
  • Sample some local cuisine at the Trattoria al Prato Restaurant