Not everyone has heard of Bergamo, a small but lovely city in Northern Italy. It is situated in the picturesque Lombardy region and found right at the base of the Italian Alps. You will find that the city is separated into two halves; the old town of Citta Alta which is full of historic sites and medieval towers as well as the new and modern Citta Bassa below it, both easily accessible from Bergamo Train Station.
This city has an interesting past and is home to several ancient monuments and masterpieces. Bergamo is even the home city of Donizetti, one of the five greatest composers in the world. You will find a museum and his grave in the city alongside churches and cathedrals decorated with paintings from Bellini, Moroni, Raphael and more.
Bergamo is a stunning city that deserves more recognition than it gets and if you ever get the opportunity to travel here we highly recommend that you go for it! Not only is it a great place for a romantic getaway but also a fantastic location for a family vacation.
The kids will love exploring the old upper town with its ancient castles and cobblestone streets, as well as the modern lower city which has more recent buildings and attractions. If you are worried about losing your things, feel confident stowing your bags at a luggage locker in Bergamo. Use this secure service to store backpacks, shopping, and more so you and the kids can travel light all day.
Scale the Campanone O Torre Civica
The Torre Civica, or Civic Tower, is one of the best places to catch amazing views of the Bergamo upper town. You can reach the second highest platform by using the elevator so it is easily accessible, however, if you want to get to the top you will need to climb the stairs.
The views from the bell tower are definitely worth climbing to the top but since the stairs are small and narrow it might be difficult for smaller children or those who are afraid of heights. Once you reach the highest point you will be right below the bells and they are played several times throughout the day. If you have younger children or anyone with sensitive ears they might want to avoid getting close when they ring.
Visit the Cattedrale di Bergamo
One of the most popular structures in the city of Bergamo is the gorgeous Cattedrale di Bergamo which was built in dedication to Saint Alexander. It is situated right in the square of Piazza Duomo. If you find yourself in the area, try to stop by and see it in person.
It was built in the location where two other churches previously stood and they dated back to the early Christianity era times. This Bergamo cathedral follows a similar style with an impressive statue of the Virgin Mary adorned in a halo and cape in silver and gold as well as angels that hold a crown suspended above her head. Both kids and adults will enjoy visiting this amazing monument.
See the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore
You will find the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore in the Piazza Duomo of the old town of Bergamo Alta. This Romanesque basilica was built in the 12th century, although the interior was revamped back in the 17th century which is also when the dome received changes. The building does not have a main entrance but instead has four doors, one on each side of the building.
The structure is quite impressive, especially on the inside where is it covered from the floor to the entire ceiling with impressive artworks and paintings. Your kids might enjoy visiting the old chapel and seeing the beautiful artwork.
Spend time around Piazza Vecchia
The whole upper town of Bergamo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a fantastic place to explore so you should dedicate at least an entire day or two to the old city. Kids will enjoy walking around the ancient roads and historic buildings and they can even imagine that they are citizens from the middle ages.
While you are here, you are definitely going to be passing by the Piazza Vecchia. This central square is located in the heart of Bergamo Alta and has been a center of political power for centuries. There is a lot of history to be discovered in this one area so make sure you give it the time it deserves.
Go to the Museo di Scienze Naturali
Going to a museum is always a nice thing to do with the family. There are a few for you to choose from in Bergamo and one of the best for kids is the Civic Museum of Natural Sciences. They offer all sorts of exhibits that kids will love.
It is the top natural history museum in the whole city and its exhibits cover a range of topics. Come learn about bugs, minerals, rocks and fossils dating back hundreds of thousands of years ago. Other displays include models of birds and mammals or even a woolly mammoth!
Walk along the historic Mura Venete
The Venetian walls surround the Bergamo upper city and date back to the 16th century. These massive stone walls are now a historic part of the old town and also a very picturesque place to take a walk. This is a great spot to see a wonderful view of the Lombardy region and the modern city below you.
The walls are actually a pretty complex system with artillery platforms, individual rooms, several city gates and watchtowers. It can be fun to experience a bit of Bergamo's history while walking along these ancient city walls. If the kids like to walk, this is an ideal place to go. Consider local hikes too!
Explore the Palazzo della Ragione
Does anyone in your family love art? If so, then there is a fantastic gallery as well as art displays that are usually put up around the Palazzo della Ragione in Bergamo. The exhibitions change now and then so even if you have been here before it can still be exciting to come back and see what is new.
The artwork they display is all from local artists or has to do with the city. Some of the paintings include the Mother and Child by Bellini, the Portrait of a Young Man by Lorenzo Lotto and more. One of the exhibits displays portraits of Bergamo's citizens from the 16th century and it can be interesting to see how people have changed over time.
Admire the Cappella Colleoni
This structure, which is also called the Colleoni Chapel, is one of the city's monuments that you don't want to miss out on stopping by while you are in Bergamo, Italy. It was actually built to be the resting place of Bartolomeo Colleoni who was a well known soldier of fortune during the Renaissance.
The Cappella Colleoni is a nice piece of Renaissance architecture both inside and out. The exterior is decorated with patterns and shapes made of red, white and black marble and the inside of the building is even more beautiful. The Cappella Colleoni is home to the impressive statue of the soldier riding on horseback, and the painted dome of the church and its frescoes display beautiful works by Tiepolo, a talented artist from Venice.
Visit the Castello di San Vigilio
The Castello di San Vigilio is quite a sight to behold. This structure is very old and strategically placed atop a hill overlooking Citta Alta of Bergamo. It can be a tough walk up the hill to reach the castle but thankfully there is a cable car that can take you to the top. This is also a fantastic way to see a beautiful panoramic view of the upper town. There is no ticket office nearby but you can grab passes for the cable car at the Colle Aperto newsstand.
As far as castles go this one has it all, from a moat to round watchtowers along the walls. Kids will love to learn that the castle has secret tunnels and passageways underneath! You can even go inside one of the towers to admire the upper city center from above.
Try Traditional Italian Food
Bergamo has a fantastic food scene and one of the best ways to feel connected to a city is to eat like its citizens. The whole province of Bergamo and the surrounding area is filled with restaurants and eateries where the whole family can go out for lunch or dinner.
You can head to the lower town to check out some of the local bars and street food spots, and they can all be reached easily from the bus or train station. The main street and touristic areas are where you can find most of the family friendly restaurants although you can find slightly cheaper places to eat in places further away from the central city.
What are the Best Family Activities in Bergamo?
Fun things to do in Bergamo with younger kids
Kids often love to explore museums, especially when they involve cool things like fossils, minerals, bugs and animals. Museo di Scienze Naturali is a great activity for everyone to enjoy since older visitors can learn some fun new facts and younger kids will like looking at all of the cool displays.
Lots of younger kids find a fascination in old castles and kings. If they have a big imagination, they will adore visiting Castello di San Vigilio since it looks exactly like something outside of a storybook.
The Cappella Colleoni is a place that everyone should stop by when they visit Bergamo. it is quite an impressive building and small children will like to look at all of the paintings that cover the walls.
Fun things to do in Bergamo with older kids
The Civic Tower of Bergamo (Campanone O Torre Civica) is a great place to go for sightseeing. Because it has narrow steps and can be loud with the bells, we recommend you keep this activity for older children.
Trying new foods, and in this case, traditional Italian food, is always fun and it is a good idea to introduce your kids to different tastes whenever you can. However, older kids will probably get more out of this experience.
Guests of all ages are welcome to see the artwork at the Palazzo della Ragione, but older children might be able to appreciate the paintings more. Younger kids might also get bored quicker than older ones.
Free things to do in Bergamo with kids
Don't miss Piazza Vecchia. It is always nice to save money when traveling and a great part about Bergamo is that most of its monuments and historic buildings can be seen for free. Since you don't have to pay to go here you can take your time exploring the beaten path and cobblestone roads near the main square of Piazza Vecchia.
Explore the Mura Venete. The medieval Venetian walls are open to the public and can be visited at no charge. They were an important part of the city for most of its history and are a great place to walk around.
The beautiful Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Bergamo. It is free to visit and you don't need to buy tickets so come by and see it anytime.
Don't pass by Cattedrale di Bergamo. Bergamo is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy mainly because of its old buildings and pleasant landscape. Come see the monumental Bergamo Cathedral whenever you can since it is open to the public and free to visit.
The Perfect Destination for a Family Vacation
After stepping off of the plane at the international airport of Bergamo, you and your family will find yourself in one of the most picturesque and interesting cities in all of Italy. This city is full of fun things to do and places to see that are perfect for families. Whether it is a rainy day or you have good weather during your entire vacation you will have lots of options for things to do. We hope that you and the kids have a good time visiting Bergamo.