Bergamo top thigs to do
Brilliant Bergamo: 12 Top Things To See And Do In This Northern Italian City
Located in northern Italy, Bergamo is a large city of more than 120,000 residents that is also a draw for tens of thousands of tourists throughout the year. They’re drawn to the city’s attractive mix of the historic and the modern, with an old walled part of town dating from the 16th century sitting next to ancient cathedrals and other religious landmarks juxtaposed against high-end and boutique shops and all the great food and drink options you’d expect in Italy.
One of the reasons that Bergamo has become so popular with tourists is that it has a great travel infrastructure, with rail, road and air links making it easy to get in and out of the city. For visitors coming from overseas it’s most likely you’ll arrive at either Il Caravaggio International Airport that’s located about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Bergamo, or land at Milan Linate Airport which is located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the city. For those traveling to Bergamo from Europe, the A4 motorway leads to the city. And Bergamo also has a train station with connections both within Italy and beyond to other European cities.
Whichever option you choose to get to the city, there’s truly something for everyone whether it be a relaxing slow-paced vacation or a packed schedule of historical site visits, or whether it’s a trip to indulge in fine dining or to just enjoy the scenery. Check out the list below for 12 of the top things to see and do in Bergamo to make sure you have a great visit.
1. Go for a walk along the Venetian Walls
The upper part of Bergamo is a centuries-old part of town that is enclosed by Venetian walls, and this upper city serves as the city’s historic center. There are several historic landmarks still standing within the upper city walls, but before you venture to see a specific building you should consider going for a walk along the Venetian walls. It’s a wonderful way to get an above-ground view of the old part of town, as well as the rest of Bergamo, so you can get your bearings at the start of your trip. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has recognized the importance of these walls by designating them as a World Heritage Site. You can walk for as little or as much as you want; the entire length of the walls is about 6 kilometers (3.5 miles), and you can pay for guided tours, but it’s free to walk them on your own.
2. Make a visit to the Cappella Colleoni
Construction on the Cappella Colleoni (it translates as Colleoni Chapel) started in 1472, and resulted in one of the most attractive buildings you’ll find in Bergamo. It is a chapel and museum that is free to visit, and provides a great visual attraction inside and out. The exterior of the building is decorated in red and white marble, while inside you’ll find exquisite artworks dating back centuries. The building was designed to be the shrine for Bartolomeo Colleoni, a mercenary captain who lived from 1400 to 1475 and was born and died in Bergamo. Visitors to the Cappella Colleoni can see a statue of him on a horse, as well as his daughter’s tomb. For anyone with a love of history or religion, or both, this is a must-see spot.
Opening hours: Opens 9am to 12.30pm every day throughout the year, and from 2pm to 6.30pm from March to October, and from 2pm to 4.30pm from November to February
Cost: Free to visit
3. Learn about natural history at the Museo Civico Scienze Naturali E. Caffi
For a museum of a different kind, consider spending some time at the Museo Civico Scienze Naturali E. Caffi, otherwise known as the Museum of Natural Science, which is home to exhibits about anything and everything on the history of animals and the environment. The museum boasts that it has millions of items on display, and perhaps the most popular (and perfect for a memorable picture) is the large statue of a mammoth that greets visitors at the entrance. But there are many other exciting things to see, including the skeleton of an Allosaurus dinosaur, fossils that are many centuries old, and dedicated areas exploring topics like geology and zoology. If nature is your passion then you’re bound to have a good time at the museum.
Opening hours: Closed Monday, from April to September open 9am to 1pm and 2.30pm to 6pm Tuesday to Friday and 10am to 6pm Saturday and Sunday, and from October to March open 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm Tuesday to Friday and 10am to 6pm Saturday and Sunday
Cost: €3 regular entry, free for ages 17 and under
4. Enjoy the artworks at the Accademia Carrara
Art lovers are in for a treat if they make a visit to the Accademia Carrara, which is an art gallery and art academy that was established in 1796. The building underwent a major renovation in 2015 and is now reopened for visitors to see centuries-old priceless art. Its collection includes almost 1,600 paintings, more than 130 sculptures, and many other works of art that include creations made from bronze, porcelain, and other materials. The museum also hosts a series of regular events dedicated to particular artists and artworks, so you can check out its website (https://www.lacarrara.it/en/) to see if there’s something interesting happening during the time you’ll be in Bergamo. Once you’re at the museum you can either walk yourself round and see the exhibits at your own pace, or ask about one of the guided tours on offer.
Opening hours: Closed on Tuesday, open from 9.30am to 5.30pm all other days of the week
Cost: €12 regular entry, €10 for ages 18 to 25, free for ages 17 and under
5. Spend some time in the Piazza Vecchia
Located in the upper old part of the city, the Piazza Vecchia is a beautiful public square with historic buildings and a centuries-old look that transports you back to yesteryear. It has long been a popular gathering place for residents who sit in the square or at its several cafes and restaurants to eat and drink and watch the world go by. Feel like a local by doing the same and spending some time here. The elaborate Contarini Fountain acts as the central focal point of the square, but you can see many other interesting features and buildings including the Palazzo Nuovo that in the present day is a library but in the 1800s was the city’s town hall. The library itself can be an interesting place to visit as it houses collections of important books, manuscripts and other documents dating back centuries — some as old as the 16th century. And if you truly want to immerse yourself in old Bergamo there is a hotel located by the square, so you could stay there and wake up every morning with your first view being the beautiful Piazza Vecchia.
6. Get a taste of theater at the Teatro Donizetti
For anyone who is a fan of the theater, make time on your Bergamo vacation to see the Teatro Donizetti (Donizetti Theater). The building was constructed in the 1780s and in 1897 was renamed to its current title in tribute to the composer Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti, who was born in the city. Every year the theater hosts a season of plays, ballets, and operas, so there is bound to be something that appeals to most people. The theater’s website (https://www.teatrodonizetti.it/en/) has details on all the coming shows, as well as links for buying tickets to see them, so it’s advisable to check in advance to see if you can make your trip to Bergamo coincide with a show you’d like to see. Opening hours will vary based on performances, but the ticket office is open from 1pm to 8pm every Tuesday to Saturday so you could always make an impulse decision to purchase tickets to a performance if you see something playing during your visit that you might enjoy.
7. Learn about the composer Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti at his birthplace
For anyone that visits the Teatro Donizetti and wants to learn more about the composer Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti that the theater is named after, you can visit his birthplace in the city. Donizetti was born in Bergamo in 1797 and went on to compose many operas in the bel canto style, and is considered by some to have been the inspiration for other composers including Giuseppe Verdi. He wrote many great operas and is beloved in the city. Donizetti and his family first lived in the basement of a relatively small house on the street known as Via Borgo Canale, and the building has been preserved as a national historic landmark because of its importance to the country’s culture. Visitors are able to tour the ground floor of the house and see exhibits about Donizetti’s life and work, including a timeline of his career and more. Music fans in particular will want to make the Donizetti birthplace one of their priorities to visit. For more details on visiting this landmark, including opening hours and other questions, either email email@example.com or visit www.donizetti.org
8. Marvel at the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica
One of the most ornate religious buildings in Bergamo is the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica, which translates as the Basilica of St. Mary Major. It’s a very popular destination for tourists, and is located near the popular Piazza Vecchia. Construction work on the church first started in the 1100s but work on the basilica itself was not finished until the 1300s. You enter from one of two sides of the building and once inside will find magnificently ornate religious carvings, statues and decorations made from high quality marble and other materials. There are detailed mural paintings known as frescos all over the ceilings depicting various biblical scenes and themes. It’s easy to spend a lot of time in here discovering all the large and small details, as the elaborate decorations appeal to many visitors whether religious or secular.
Opening hours: Open from 10.30am to noon and from 2.30pm to 5.30pm every Monday to Wednesday, from 10.30am to 5.30pm every Thursday to Saturday, and from 9am to 10.15am and from 3.30pm to 5.30pm every Sunday and on religious holidays
Cost: €3 regular entry
9. Explore the Rocca fortress
The imposing stone fortress known as the Rocca is located in the old upper part of Bergamo, and is an interesting historical landmark. Construction on this fortification was completed in the 1300s to help defend the city. It’s instantly recognizable because of its large round stone tower and very high walls. It sits atop the Sant’Eufemia hill, and so when you visit you can get marvelous views of the entire city of Bergamo below from all directions. That makes it an ideal spot for anyone looking to get great pictures of the city and beyond. On a particularly clear day it’s said that you can even see some of the buildings in Milan from the fortress. In addition to enjoying the view and exploring the interior of the Rocca fortress, you can also visit a museum housed within its walls. The museum tells the history of Bergamo, offering some fascinating exhibits that detail how the city has evolved over the years since its initial founding.
Opening hours: From October to May it’s open every Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30am to 1pm and from 2.30pm to 6pm, and from June to September it’s open every Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 1pm and from 2.30pm to 6pm, and every Saturday from 10am to 7pm
Cost: €5 regular entry, €3 reduced entry, free for the disabled and students ages 18 and under
10. Do some shopping on the Via XX Settembre
Some people like to make shopping a priority on their vacations, and Bergamo does not disappoint in this regard. There’s a street called the Via XX Settembre which is located in the heart of the city and is what many would consider a high street. Situated in the modern lower part of Bergamo, this street has many stores including high-end fashion companies, boutique shops and much more. You can find big name brands and also items unique to the city to take home as souvenirs. And if you need a rest from the all the shopping then you can grab a bite to eat or a drink at any of the cafes or restaurants that are in close vicinity. It’s like having the amazing shopping options of Milan but in a much less hectic setting.
11. Take a ride on the Funicular
The funicular are orange rail cars with white stripes that are a fun way to get from the upper old part of Bergamo to the more modern part of the city below and back again. Residents and tourists alike use this as the main method of transportation between the two parts of town, as it provides a quick and scenic connection. The windows on the rail cars mean you can admire the views as you’re taken to either the old or modern city. The funicular was first opened in 1887 and was modernized in 1917 to improve the system. An additional attraction is the café that is located at the upper city station where you can enjoy a drink or a snack before your ride. Expect the journey to take about five to 10 minutes for a one-way cost of €1.30. Tickets are available to buy at the stations in both the old part of the city and the modern part of the city. The funicular runs from morning until night and the rail cars depart roughly every 30 minutes in both directions.
12. Admire the ornate Palazzo Vecchio
Dating back to the 1500s, the Palazzo Vecchio is an ornate palace that is now a popular tourist destination for visitors to Bergamo. The city restored the building in recent years and the ground floor now houses the municipal Bergamo offices, but other parts are open for tourists to explore. In particular you should check out the “noble” floor that offers a glimpse at what the rooms used to look like back when the building was in use as a palace. Elaborate paintings across the walls and ceilings are a must-see in each of the rooms on the noble floor. One of the highlights is what’s known as the Throne Room, which features several antique painted statues of high historical value that date back to as far as the 17th century. Other things to see include the palace’s former art gallery, and an impressive staircase dating back to the 1700s that features elaborate paintings that tell the story of the Greek hero and god Hercules.
Opening hours: By request on the first Sunday of every month