Bolzano isn’t as well-known as cities like Rome, Venice, or Milan, but the city at the foot of the Dolomites is worth a visit.
I’ve been visiting Bolzano, Italy since 2004 – as a cycling and hiking guide, solo traveler, on dates with my husband, and now with three children. I hope this guide will help you make the most of your time in the city!
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Why Visit Bolzano?
Bolzano is known as the ‘Gateway to the Dolomites,’ and the ‘Capital of Christmas,’ but there’s so much more to the town:
- Gorgeous Austrian-influenced architecture
- Ötzi, the Ice Man – a 5000-year-old mummy!
- Both Italian and Austrian cuisine
- Views of the Dolomites and surrounding vineyards (wine tasting, anyone?)
- Excellent variety of quality boutique shops
- Activities and playgrounds for kids
- Well-maintained castles
And it’s easy to reach by train or car.
Good To Know: Bolzano has a reputation for being expensive, but it’s actually a very affordable place to visit because there are so many free and inexpensive things to do!
Where is Bolzano, Italy?
Bolzano, (Bozen in German) is located in Northern Italy in the autonomous province of Bolzano and the autonomous region of Trentino–Alto Adige/Südtirol.
Distances from Bolzano To:
|Distance by Car
|Time by Car
|Time by Train
|1 hr 45 min
|1 hr 40 min
|1 hr 45 min
|2 hr 10 min
|3 hr (bus/train)
|2 hr 30 min
|3 hr 20 min
|3 hr 10 min
|3 hr 15 min
|2 hr 45 min
|3 hr 30 min
|3 hr 10 min
Map of Bolzano, Italy
Check out our Printable Map of Italy!
When to Visit Bolzano, Italy
Bolzano has something to offer at all times of the year:
Summer in Bolzano
Summer is our favorite time of the year in Bolzano! Combine your visit to Bolzano with some time in the Dolomites hiking and exploring the small villages. The city is also extra lively with events like the Südtirol Jazzfestival.
Good To Know: It can be very hot in Bolzano in the summer. Make sure you keep cool with a gelato, a dip in the city’s outdoor pool, or a stroll under the shade of the porticoes in the center.
Winter in Bolzano
Another wonderful time to visit Bolzano. The atmosphere is magical around the holidays! Bolzano has one of Italy’s best Christmas markets, and it’s an excellent access point for the nearby ski slopes.
You may like our article on Where to Spend Christmas in Italy!
Spring and Autumn in Bolzano
While the summer and winter attract visitors from Europe and further afield for hiking and skiing, visit in the shoulder seasons for a view of life in a real Italian city!
Have your morning coffee at the bar with locals, visit the uncrowded markets, and stop by to see Ötzi without having to wait in line.
Spring is an explosion of flowers and blossoms, from the apple trees to the city’s famous flower festival.
Autumn is an exciting time with the grape harvest and the changing colors of the trees and vineyards. There are also food and wine festivals, cultural festivals (like Transart), and farmers’ markets in Bolzano in the fall.
Bolzano Monthly Temperatures and Precipitation
Bolzano has hot summers and very cold winters.
Trying to decide when to visit Italy? Check out our monthly guides:
Italy in January
Italy in February
Italy in March
Italy in April
Italy in May
Italy in June
Italy in July
Italy in August
Italy in September
Italy in October
Italy in November
Italy in December
How Much Time to Spend in Bolzano
While there are plenty of things to keep you busy and entertained in colorful Bolzano, the dramatic Dolomite mountains are a short drive or bus ride away and they are more worthy of your time (my opinion).
If you have less than 3 days in the Dolomites, make a quick stop in Bolzano to see Ötzi, stroll the Via dei Portici to the Piazza delle Erbe Market, and have a coffee in Piazza Walther.
With 3-5 days in the Dolomites, spend ½ day to a full day in Bolzano.
If you’re visiting the Dolomites for 5-7 days, spend a full day in Bolzano toward the beginning of your trip, and if you love it, you can always come back.
If you’ve got kids with you, spend a full day.
Good To Know: We always visit Bolzano on our trips to the Dolomites, but everyone in our family is happy to return to our ‘base’ in the mountains after a day of city life. [Although my kids always want to make repeat visits to Bolzano’s Talvera Park.]
15 Best Things to See and Do in Bolzano
See the Ice Man
Ötzi is a mummy that was preserved in a glacier very close to the Austrian border. Scientists have dated him at over 5,000 years old! He was found in 1991 and now has his ‘home’ in a special chamber at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano.
You can see Ötzi and his well-preserved clothing, tools, and equipment in a well-displayed exhibit at the museum.
It’s a must-do for kids and adults! Pre-book your tickets if you’re pressed for time. The museum is in the center and easy to walk to.
Visit the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology’s official website for opening hours and ticket info.
Go Shopping on Via dei Portici
Bolzano’s oldest street, the Via dei Portici (Laubengasse in German) is a 300-ish meter long street of porticoes, or covered walkways. You’ll find a range of shops – clothing, housewares, sportswear, art, souvenirs, toys, and more. There are some international brands, but most are boutique shops or local or regional brands.
This is a wonderful place to stroll and people-watch, window shop, or shop for quality products.
It’s also the place to be on hot summer days (shade) and during rain showers (no umbrella needed).
Good To Know: Bolzano sells shoes for women with large feet! It’s tough to find shoes over size 40 or 41 in most parts of Italy. If you’re a big-footed female, Bolzano is your friend!
Visit the Market in Piazza delle Erbe
Even if you don’t need anything from the market, walk by (it’s conveniently located in the center) to see the colorful flowers, fruits and veggies, and local products like pretzels, pastries, salame and cheese.
Pick up some ingredients for a picnic in Talvera Park.
Good To Know: Heading to the mountains soon? You can find dried fruit, nuts, and snacks for your hikes here.
Hang Out in Piazza Walther
Sit on one of the benches, on the edge of the flowerbeds, or grab a seat at one of the restaurants or cafes that line Bolzano’s picturesque main square.
People-watch, look up at the pastel-colored buildings (or the mountains!), and admire the patterned tile roof of Bolzano’s Gothic cathedral.
Good To Know: Often eateries on main piazzas are low-quality, but we love Walther’s for Italian food or aperitivo.
Good To Know: There’s a public toilet in the corner of the piazza (opposite the cathedral).
Take the Cable Car up to Soprabolzano and the Earth Pyramids
Catch the 10-15 minute Funivia del Renon (located near the Bolzano train station) and head up into the Bolzano hills for spectacular views of the city, the mountains, and the Earth Pyramids.
The cable car takes you up to Soprabolzano (Oberbozen). From there, take the trenino (little train) for about 15 minutes to Collalbo.
From Collalbo, walk about 30-minutes to the Earth Pyramids. There are info panels (in English, Italian, and German) there, and you can see the boulder-topped structures from multiple viewing platforms.
This is a beautiful excursion any time of the year!
Eat a Sausage
You’ll find würstel in many restaurants in Bolzano, often accompanied by beer and crauti (sauerkraut). Sit down in a cozy, wood-paneled brew pub like Batzen or join others in a beer hall like Paulaner Stuben.
Our family’s favorite place to get a sausage is at the small stand in Piazza delle Erbe, next to the fountain. Choose your sausage, bread, condiments, and sit at the base of the fountain and watch the lively market.
Go For a Walk on One of Bolzano’s Walking Paths
Yes, you could easily walk around Bolzano all day without getting bored, but there are also some gorgeous walks around the city.
You can walk along the Talvera river on both sides. Head to the Talvera Meadows/Park, choose a side of the river, and enjoy! The paths are a combination of paved, gravel, and dirt paths. Both sides are frequented by joggers, parents with strollers, and people out walking their dogs. The western side (Lungotalvera San Quirico) is longer and continuously paved and gets more cyclists. It will also lead you to Castel Roncolo if you want to walk or cycle there.
Stop by the tourist info office in Piazza Walther for details on the St. Oswald Promenade (which starts near the northern edge of Talvera Park). You can combine the walk with a visit to the Roncolo Castle. Take the quick shuttle from Piazza Walther to the Castle for a visit, and then walk back to town along the St. Oswald Promenade.
The Guncina Promenade is another well-known walk that offers beautiful views of the area but it’s a little bit further from the city center.
If you want to walk into the vineyards that surround town, walk up to Santa Maddalena from the center (start near the Funivia Renon). Note: This is a road, not a walking path.
Explore the Multi-Story Sportler
In a world of The North Face, Nike, and other international brands, go local and visit Sportler, Italy’s highest-quality outdoor gear store. Sportler is based in Bolzano and its flagship stores are on Via dei Portici.
The main store has multiple stories and carries outdoor shoes, clothing and equipment. You’ll find a focus on local brands, but you can also shop for some international favorites.
There’s also a Sportler Alpin, with alpine-focused clothing and gear. It’s also located on Via dei Portici.
Good To Know: Sportler has an excellent selection of clothing and gear for kids (top floor) and there’s a toilet, kids play area, changing area, and breastfeeding area available for shoppers.
Visit a Castle
Bolzano’s two most accessible castles are Roncolo Castle (Italian: Castel Roncolo, German: Schloss Runkelstein) and Maretsch Castle (Italian: Castel Mareccio, German: Schloss Maretsch).
Roncolo Castle is our favorite, even though it’s not quite in the town center. You can walk (it’s just north of the Talvera Park), or drive, or take the quick shuttle from Piazza Walther. Visit for its gorgeous non-secular frescoes that show scenes from Medieval daily life.
Maretsch Castle is the most convenient castle to reach from the center of Bolzano. You can walk to it in just a few minutes (or if you’re driving to see it, park in Parkplatz Maretsch). The castle is small, but it’s in a beautiful setting in the vineyards.
Important: Check the opening hours and times before heading to either castle (but especially Maretsch).
- Sigmundskron Castle – home of one of the Messner Mountain Museums
- Prösels Castle – our favorite castle in the area for a visit, especially with kids
- Castel Fragsburg – 5* Relais and Chateaux hotel; dramatic setting above nearby Merano
- Castel Flavon / Haselburg – Dine in a castle high above Bolzano
Attend a Seasonal Event in Bolzano
Bolzano is lively year-round, with its markets, shops, and cultural scene. But, the city also has special events each year that draw visitors from Italy, Europe, and around the globe. Some of the annual highlights include:
- Bolzano Christmas Market – Bolzano has been nicknamed the ‘Capital of Christmas’ due to its festive atmosphere during the holidays. It has one of the region’s most beautiful Christmas Markets, set in Piazza Walther – enjoy the twinkling lights, the Christmas tree, tasty treats like apple strudel, and stalls with Christmas crafts and gifts.
- Spring Flower Market – Piazza Walther explodes with the colors of the festival’s flowers.
- Bolzano Wine Tasting – Each spring, Maretsch Castle hosts around 40 of the area’s best wineries and you can visit to sample wines and try some local foods as well. Another celebrated wine event in Bolzano is summer’s Calici di Stelle – a walk down Via dei Portici, tasting wines along the way.
- Südtirol Jazzfestival – A popular Italian jazz festival for the talent that arrives and where the musicians play – in Bolzano and mountain towns, on mountaintops, at castles, lakeside, and more.
Good To Know: In 2022, Bolzano hosted its first Apple Festival, sure to become a tradition in Italy’s (and Europe’s) apple heartland.
Ride a Bicycle
Bolzano is an extremely bike-friendly city. You’ll see locals riding to and from work and school, and kids and adults cycling at Talvera Park. Walk by the Adige River and watch the locals and tourists on the Adige Cycle Path, a 300-kilometer bike path from Reschen am Rschensee (Austria) to Verona, that runs through Bolzano.
Our favorite valley path is the Val Venosta path, in the west-east direction (downhill). It’s suitable for all levels and ages and you can utilize the trains and multiple rental stations.
Sample Local Wines
The Dolomites may not be as recognized for its wines as Piedmont or Tuscany, but the area has a selection of high-quality wines that you should try while you’re in the area. We love Lagrein and Gewurztraminer, and Vernatsch.
Try all three in an enoteca or restaurant in Bolzano, or head into the surrounding vineyards to sample them at their source.
Relax or Play in Talvera Park
Talvera Park is one of our favorite parks in Italy. Why?:
- It’s huge, clean (litter – what’s that?), and well-maintained
- The grassy areas are perfect for a picnic
- There are a ton of walking paths
- Shady areas are nice for a nap
- The kids’ playgrounds are top-notch, and there’s something for all ages (even teens!)
- The trampolines wear my children out
- The views are spectacular
- It’s easy to reach from the center on foot or by bicycle
- If feels safe
Explore the Messner Mountain Museum
Reinhold Messner, one of history’s most decorated and famous mountaineers, is from the Dolomites and has created a 6-site Mountain Museum. The main part of the Museum is near Bolzano, in Firmian (inside the Sigmundskron Castle).
Don’t dismiss a visit to the Messner Museums because you’re ‘not a mountaineer.’ The Museums each have a different theme and appeal to many different ages and types of visitors.
There are 5 other locations:
- Corones (Plan de Corones) – futuristic design by architect Zaha Hadid
- Juval Castle (Val Senales) – Messner’s home
- Dolomites (Monte Rite) – focuses on ‘rock’
- Ortles (Sulden) – glacier exhibit; ice tools
- Ripa (Brunico Castle) – focuses on the people of the mountains
Check out the Messner Mountain Museum’s official website for details on the themes of the locations, opening hours and days, and entrance fees.
Hang with the Locals at the Lido
On a hot summer day, stay cool under the porticoes of Via dei Portici or join the locals and cool off at the Bolzano Lido, on the banks of the Isarco River.
The outdoor pool is clean, refreshing, and in a nice green area, and it’s suitable for adults and children.
Important: Don’t leave your valuables when you swim.
What to Eat in Bolzano
Yes, you’re in Italy, but as soon as you step foot in Bolzano you’ll see why you’re more likely to see a sausage at a restaurant than a pizza.
Try some of the local fare, including:
|German Bread Dumpling
|Strudel di Mele
|Ravioli (with spinach & ricotta)
|Doughnuts (filled with jam)
Where to Eat in Bolzano
Wirtshaus Vögele – traditional South Tyrol dishes in a beautiful atmosphere, either outside or in the historic building. Italian options also, and an excellent wine selection.
Hopfen & Co – typical South Tyrol dishes. Have aperitivo at a small table out front.
In Viaggio Ristorante – Michelin-starred restaurant run by chef Claudio Melis and his team. Creative menu.
Sausage Stand in Piazza delle Erbe – Service with a smile and a delicious sausage. What more could you want?
Walther’s – excellent location in Piazza Walther and the Italian dishes (pizza and pasta) are delicious. Family-run, friendly staff, and they have gluten-free pizza!
Gelateria Eccetera – you’ll see a line of locals waiting for gelato here; try the canella (cinnamon).
Read more about Where to Eat in Bolzano
Where to Stay in Bolzano
I recommend staying outside of Bolzano and visiting during the day. The surrounding areas of Bolzano are gorgeous, and you can find accommodation in vineyards, near castles, or nestled in the mountains. Our favorite base in the Dolomites is Fiè allo Sciliar (Völs am Schlern) an easy 20-minute drive or 30-minute bus ride from Bolzano.
How to Get to Bolzano, Italy
Innsbruck (INN, 120 km) and Verona (VRN, 150 km) are the closest international airports, but you will probably find better flight schedules and prices from larger airports like Venice (VCE, 220 km), Milan Malpensa (MXP, 320 km), and Munich (MUC, 300 km).
If you’re arriving from within Italy or Europe, check flights into Treviso (TSF, 190 km), Bolzano (BZO, 5 km), Milan Linate (LIN, 270 km), or Bergamo (BGY, 240 km).
There are lots and garages scattered throughout Bolzano. One of the most convenient is the Central garage, which is a 5-minute (not-so-scenic) walk to Piazza Walther. We usually park in the Mondschein Garage (which pops you out right in the beautiful pedestrian area).
Read about Driving in the Dolomites
Good To Know: Remember to take all valuables with you. Don’t leave anything that could be tempting to would-be thieves.
If you’re planning on driving in Italy, check out our posts on:
Renting a Car in Italy
Renting a Car in Italy as an American
Italian Gas Stations and Getting Gas in Italy
Important Italian Road Signs
Driving in Italy
International Driving Permit for Italy
Renting a Car in Italy with a US Driver’s License
Italian Toll Roads – Driving on the Autostrada
Paying Tolls in Italy
Parking in Italy + Parking Sign Translations
ZTLs in Italy
Bolzano’s train station is in the center and it’s an excellent way to reach the city. You can travel directly (no changes!) from larger cities like Florence, Venice, and Milan. If you do need to change trains, it will likely happen in Verona.
The train station is a 3-minute walk to Piazza Walther.
Good To Know: If you’re planning to visit Bolzano on a trip up to the mountains, you can arrive in Bolzano by train and then utilize the area’s excellent public bus network to travel to and between the mountain villages.
Read more about Train Travel in Italy.
The bus station is next to the train station – a 3-minute walk takes you to Piazza Walther.
Bolzano is easy to reach locally by bus. You can also take the bus from other parts of Italy, but the train is the better option.
Bolzano with Kids
Bolzano is a highlight for our family, and I’m sure it will be for yours too! There are so many activities and attractions for kids (even babies and toddlers) and the city is compact and walkable. Plenty of family-friendly facilities make it an easy place for parents too.
Some of our favorite things to do with kids in Bolzano:
- Play at the huge Talvera Park. There are so many fun toys and play structures (not to mention the huge grassy meadow for playing soccer or running around), and there’s even a special ‘baby and toddler’ playground.
- Visit some of Bolzano’s unique toy shops.
- Take the cable car up to Soprabolzano.
- Walk around the market in Piazza delle Erbe (everyone gets a small amount of € to buy something for our picnic or snack).
- Ride bikes on the bike paths (even though we live here, we rent bikes when we visit Bolzano).
- Visit Ötzi!
For more tips and info, see our post on Visiting Bolzano with Kids!
Bolzano is part of our 7 Days in the Dolomites with Kids Itinerary.
Tips For Visiting Bolzano, Italy
- Don’t feel like you need to stay at a hotel in town. I prefer staying in the mountains above Bolzano (a quick 20-minute drive or 30-minute bus ride) and visiting Bolzano on a day trip.
- Visit the city center, and also take the time to walk outside the bustling area around Piazza Walther. The walk to Maretsch Castle and Talvera Park shows quieter parts of the city.
- Rent a bike! Do as the locals do and use two wheels to move around town. Bikes are useful for visiting the city center, or even better, ride one of the valley bike trails.
- Brush up on your German language skills (even though most locals are mother-tongue Italian speakers). Locals will appreciate the effort, even a few simple words, and phrases.
- Don’t drive your car into the center. There are ZTLs (limited traffic zones). Park in one of the city’s many lots or garages. We usually park in the Luna Mondshein Garage or the Central Garage.
- The Tourist Info Center is large and the staff is very helpful in organizing your visit to Bolzano and the mountains. Stop in to pick up maps and enquire about events – there are so many in the area!
Bolzano is definitely worth a visit – for its mountain and vineyard vistas, excellent shopping, pastel-colored and Austrian-influenced buildings, local ‘Ice Man’ Ötzi, and delicious local cuisine!
Bolzano, Italy (Bozen in German) is most known for being the home of Ötzi, the Ice Man, a mummy that’s over 5,000 years old. The city also hosts one of Italy’s most beautiful and celebrated Christmas markets each holiday season.
According to ISTAT (Italian National Institute of Statistics), in 2022 Bolzano has just over 107,000 residents.
Bolzano is pronounced bohl-TSAH-noh.