Bolzano is the northernmost Italian city and probably one of the most underrated places by international travellers visiting Italy for the first time. It is nestled among valleys, mountains and vineyards and is the getaway to more exploration of beautiful South Tyrol and the Dolomites.
On this post, I have compiled a list with my recommendations for the best ten things to do in Bolzano in summer, one of the lesser-known small towns in Northern Italy worth a visit.
What to do in Bolzano in Summer
Being located in the Dolomites Bolzano is a multifaceted city that changes its colours and flair completely, to match the season’s scenery. You will be stunned to see how cheerful Bolzano turns towards the summer months. With its beautiful flowerbeds and the sunlight reflecting the buildings, it makes it to a concert of colours. If you plan a trip to South Tyrol in summer, here is my guide with the best things to do in Bolzano for active travellers.
1. Embrace the Dolomites landscape at Walther Square
This is the place where to start your visit the city. Right in the heart of Bolzano, Walther Square is an open piazza with a fantastic view of the surrounding valleys and the Dolomites in the background. It’s a delight to spend time there, walking around and marvelling at the beautiful old buildings, a blend of German and Italian architecture.
You can view the statue of Walther von der Vogelweide, a medieval singer surrounded by large flowerbeds. Or sit outside and enjoy the warm sunlight in summer under the shade of umbrellas, sipping a drink or a coffee, while watching people go by and the Dolomites in the background. Walther Square is where the famous Bolzano Christmas Markets and the Flower Market take place in winter.
2. Visit the Bolzano Cathedral
This Gothic and Romanesque cathedral is one of the main attractions in Bolzano with its green emerald roof tiles, that stands out and makes it for picture-perfect scenery. The interior of the cathedral is not as exciting as the exterior though, but the altar is a Baroque masterpiece of the 17th century. The entrance is free and worth a visit.
3. Browse through the markets Piazza Delle Erbe
The Bolzano Market at Piazza Delle Erbe is also an iconic place in Bolzano so full of life, colours and smells. There you can not only buy the best freshest local produce but also taste delicacies from both German, Ladin and Italian traditions. It’s worth browsing through the stalls to discover new herbs and spices. Don’t miss out to check out the pubs and restaurants.
4. Take a stroll at Via Dei Portici – Laubengasse
This was the main shopping area in the oldest street of Bolzano when the city was born in 1180. The walkway is wholly covered under arches, the Via Dei Portici, with decorated vaults, and a collonade is stretching for over 300 meters from Mercato Delle Erbe to Via Bottai, past the town hall. Shine or rain, you will love this walk. And if you want to do some good shopping in the arcades, there are dozens of places, from big brands to old shops. For sure a must-do thing when in Bolzano.
5. Meet the Otzi in the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology
No visit to Bolzano is complete without visiting the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology, a unique museum where you will see the well preserved Otzi. The 5300 years old Iceman was found in an ancient glacier in 1991 in the Italian Alps. In the museum you can learn about the archaeological findings and all the artefacts in an entertaining display, also thanks to an excellent audio guide that will reveal many details about the fascinating life of the Otzi the Iceman.
6. Take the Cable car Renon
This is another top thing to do in the city centre of Bolzano. Right from the Centro Storico (Italian) or Altstadt (German) you can take the cable car for a short ride to Renon on the top of the hills. For only 10 Euro the train ride takes you to the SopraBolzano station. From there you can savour the superb view of the surrounding mountains. But there is much more to do. Grab a map of the trails there are dozens of short and medium long walks that you can do from the Renon plateau to Collalbo which is connected by a train. And from there you can walk any of the many trails that take you through meadows, valleys and small picturesque villages of Bolzano.
7. Visit Hocheppan Castle
In Bolzano and South Tyrol, there are 800 castles to visit. While Runkelstein Castle is the most famous among the Bolzano castles, I suggest Hocheppan Castle, a.k.a. Castel D’Appiano, instead. You can get there by bus from town to visit the interior. First built in 1130 and rebuilt in 1350 this is probably the most beautiful castle in the whole region.
You can visit the castle inside and outside with its pentagonal donjon, and complex structure with a chalk tower makes it to a different castle. Inside there is a very well-known tavern where you can east exquisite food, a delicious lunch after hiking in its vicinity. In summer the D’Appiano Castle will hold the Jazz Festival Event on the Sunday 30th June. On all other days, there is a guided visit of the castle complex and the chapel for 7 Euro from 11.00 to 4.00 pm.
8. Explore the Puez-Geisler Nature Park
Out of the 7 South Tyrol nature parks, this is a picture-perfect place that combines it all. The Puez-Geisler nature park is one of the most spectacular places in the Dolomites for hiking. From Bolzano, it takes one and a half-hour drive, but the short day trip is worth it. You can stay overnight or go to one of the day-hikes. This place is significant because of the geological rock formations that you can see on the hiking trails.
There is a quite long circular hike at the foothills of the Sass de Putia, but there are many more starting from there taking you to Zanser Alm (hut), and connecting Val Funes to Val Gardena. One of the unmissable thing to do from Bolzano for a Dolomites road trip or a multi-day hiking trip.
I will be organising a day tour to the Puez Geisler Nature Park in June.
How to get to Bolzano
The easiest way to get to Bolzano, from any other place in Italy is to travel by train. Trains in Italy are the fastest way to move around the country. From Venice to Bolzano it’s only a 2.5 hours train ride. From Milano 3.5 hours with the Frecce, and there are a few connections a day. If you prefer driving a car and want to visit more of the Dolomites, it will take a couple of hours from Verona on the highway (autostrada).
How to explore Bolzano
Bolzano is one of the easiest and safest cities in Italy to get around. You don’t need a car to visit its surroundings thanks to a fantastic local train and bus network that is very efficient and connects you with every smaller town and village in South Tyrol.
By bus and train: you can get almost anywhere from town. That’s a great thing because you don’t need to hire a car in Bolzano to explore the Dolomites.
By Bike: South Tyrol and Bolzano are famous for their extensive cycling paths. There are many, but these are the most known bike routes in Bolzano: the 17km Oltradige Cycle Track from Bolzano to Caldaro. The Valle D’Isarco Cycle Track from Bressanone to Bolzano. And the Val D’Adige Cycling track from Bolzano to Merano.
By Cable Car: there are three cable cars (Funivie) in town to take to the surrounding hilly plateau to enjoy a view of the city from above.
By rental car: if you want to be more independent than hiring a car is the way to go, it gives you more flexibility, and you don’t have to adjust to
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