Bari is the capital city of the Apulia region, on the Adriatic Sea, in Italy. It is the second most important economic center of mainland Southern Italy after Naples and is well known as a port and university city. Just off the coast of Bari is an archipelago of five islands, called The Island of Saint Nicholas or "The City of Saint Nicholas." Tourism is a significant contributor to the city's economy, with over 4 million tourists visiting Bari each year. Bari has a Mediterranean climate with humid, hot summers and mild winters. Depending on how you like to spend your Italian vacation, any time of year can be a great time to visit Bari.
The port city of Bari is made up of five different urban sections. To the north is the closely built Bari Vecchia, also known as Old Town, on the peninsula between two modern harbours, with its medieval basilica-cathedral and the Castello Normanno-Svevo, a beautiful castle. To the south is the Murat district, a more modern section of town south of the base of Old Town. The Harbour is its own seafront area and Palese is close to the Karol Wojtyla Airport. The final neighborhood of note is the one surrounding the San Nicola Stadium which is flanked to the east by Poggiofranco.
You may be confused with all these neighborhoods within quite a small area, but don't be. This guide will help you narrow down the best place for you to stay in Bari based on your budget, travel plans, and overall taste.
Once you get to Bari, don't try to navigate the narrow streets with all your suitcases. Head to a Bounce luggage storage in Bari and let us handle the bags. That way, you can focus on sightseeing, nightlife, and just generally enjoying yourself.
Old Town/Bari Vecchia District
The Old Town area and Murat District both form part of the Bari City Center due to their central location. As you can probably guess, Old Town is just that, old. Also called Bari Vecchia, there are tons of great things to do in the area. You can easily get to the Basilica San Nicola, which is a beautiful Romanesque church in Bari Vecchia. It was founded in 1087 to house the remains of Saint Nicholas, who is also known as Santa Claus. The basilica is a beautiful example of Apulian Romanesque architecture, and well worth a visit. This district also makes it easy to visit another of Bari's main attractions: the Castello Normanno-Svevo. It's a castle that was built in the 12th century and is one of the most important historical sites in Old Town. Another highlight of choosing to stay in Bari Vecchia is your proximity to both the Bari Cathedral and the main square in central Bari called Piazza Mercantile.
If you like to be in the heart of the action and don't mind being surrounded by like-minded tourists trying to see all the same sights, Bari Vecchia is for you. This is where you'll find the most English on menus and spoken at various attractions. you'll also have access to the highest density of wonderful bars and restaurants that make up some of the best nightlife in Bari. But all this convenience, charm, and liveliness doesn't come cheap. This is hands down the most expensive part of Bari to get accommodation. Inventory is scarce and the majority of options of places to stay here are privately owned homes and apartments.
Hopefully, you don't have an aversion to dealing with a private host in Bari Vecchia, because the best accommodations are typically either B&Bs or small apartments that have a great location. You won't find any modern high-rise hotels here for obvious reasons, but that does limit your options quite a bit. All it takes is an open mind and a little bit of research and you're sure to find the ideal Bari Vecchia accommodation.
Also comprising part of the City Center, the Murat District is still considered central, but it's a little removed from the action and attractions of Old Town. The facilities are more modern and Bari Vecchia is a short walk away for most of your sightseeing needs. The area is named after the Italian general, Michele Andrea Domenico Napoleone Buonaparte Murat, who was born in the district. Luckily, they shortened the name!
Although not as scenic as Old Town, Murat still offers great bang for your tourist buck. There are tons of shopping options, including one of the best shopping streets in Bari, Vis Saparano. Murat is also home to the picturesque Piazza Umberto Gardens and many churches and theaters, and it's still a relatively easy walk to sights like Bari Cathedral.
Another plus to staying in the Murat District is the proximity to Bari Centrale Train Station. It's on the southern border of the neighborhood, and generally, for safety reasons, it's better to stay a little away from the train station anyway.
Murat is a modern and vibrant part of town that's still close to Bari's historic center, but the streets are wider and easier to navigate and your feet or public transportation can get you pretty much anywhere you need to go from here. If you need help navigating the public transportation system in Bari, check out our guide on how to get around.
Murat offers more affordable accommodation than the historic center and you'll find larger hotels mixed in with B&Bs. For more of a luxury hotel in Murat, consider a stay at the Oriente Hotel Bari. The rooftop terrace with stunning views should be enough to draw you in, and the charming air-conditioned rooms will keep you there. It's hard to find any hotels in this area with a pool, but you won't need that anyway. Most accommodation in Murat isn't more than a five to ten-minute walking distance from the Adriatic Sea.
Bari Harbour is a great place to stay in Bari if you enjoy the water. And who doesn't? The port is towards the water from Bari Vecchia and the town's sea promenade over the Adriatic Sea stretches down the harbour. This promenade is the perfect spot to take an evening stroll and if you follow the coast southeast, you'll end up at arguably the best beach in Bari - Pane e Pomodoro Beach. This directly translates to Bread and Tomato Beach, so it's probably a hint at what you should bring for your picnic lunch.
The Bari Harbour is a popular place to stay in Bari due to the wonderful views, amazing restaurants, and proximity to the attractions of Bari Vecchia. For example from the heart of the seafront promenade (Lungomare Nazario Sauro), it's only about a 20-minute walk to Bari Cathedral and most of the walk is by the sea. As you walk along the Lungomare, consider a stop for some food on the way. Depending on the time of day, you can even find some of the best brunch in Bari along the route.
Accommodation is limited near the harbour due to the district's small size, but one excellent option, if you can afford it, is iH Hotels Bari Grande Albergo delle Nazioni. This five-star hotel has a pool and hot tub with sea views, two restaurants, and a bar. It's possible to do so much at this hotel that you might be tempted not to leave.
Conveniently located close to the Bari Airport, the Palese district offers the easiest access to surrounding towns. You can easily get out of town and head north to places like Barletta and Vieste. On the other hand, if you are planning to visit Brindisi and Lecce, you'll just need to detour around Bari Vecchia first.
As Puglia's main air terminal, you can expect the Karol Wojtyla Airport to be busy at times and often hear the hum of planes overhead. But, it's not all bad. You're on the better side of town to access some of the Adriatic coast's picture-perfect beaches like Sun Beach and the Bari Beach Club. you'll find lots of great pizzerias and seafood restaurants with sea views here too. Other than for a few sights like the Norman Castle and main historical monuments and churches, it's possible you won't need to leave the neighborhood at all. Close to Sun Beach, you'll find the Villaggio Neolitico an over 6,000-year-old massive neolithic village that was only discovered quite recently.
In terms of hotels, Palese is where you'll find recognizable chains like the ibis Styles Bari Giovinazzo and a couple of Best Western options. There are hotels for every budget here and the higher concentration of hotels keeps prices quite reasonable.
San Nicola Stadium and Poggiofranco District
Well outside the City Center you'll find the area around San Nicola Stadium and Poggiofranco. As you might have already guessed, the centerpiece of this district is the San Nicola Stadium. The stadium is home to S.S.C. Bari, the city's football (soccer) team, and is much more modern than many of the other neighborhoods on this list. Anyone who likes to stay in places surrounded by more locals than tourists and dislikes crowds may feel right at home near San Nicola Stadium. Unless there's a football game on because the crowds and noise will definitely be higher then.
Although the area is modern due to the stadium, the accommodation is still limited generally to B&Bs and guesthouses with a few hotels on the outskirts of the district, and more so towards Poggiofranco. Since it's not exactly central, the prices tend to be much more reasonable than the other areas we have highlighted.
Because the San Nicola district is away from the hustle and bustle of the town center, it's easier to get around by car. On foot, things get a little trickier. From the stadium itself, it will take you over an hour to walk to the Bari train station and the attractions of Bari Vecchia are a further 15 to 20 minutes from there. If you choose to stay in this Bari neighborhood, you will likely need a car or at the very least plan to make use of the city's transportation network.
For many people, it's a no-brainer to stay as close to the historic Old Town as possible when you visit Bari, but it's not always that simple. Prices are high and inventory is low and vacationers will be limited to guesthouses and B&Bs instead of more modern and well-appointed hotels. If you are prepared to pay a little more for convenience, this remains a great option of where to stay in Bari, Italy.
Once you step away from Bari Vecchia, prices tend to decrease, and selection increases. Murat is a great choice for its central location and accommodation options as is Palese. The Harbour tends more towards luxury hotels and inventory is low, but the reward is still a central location super close to the water. For budget travelers and those who hate crowds, escaping every evening to your reasonably-priced accommodation near San Nicola Stadium might sound like just the ticket.
regardless of where you choose to stay in Bari, you're bound to have a fabulous time. Italian food, stunning beaches, and interesting historic buildings combine for a winning vacation every time!