While cities like Rome and Milan might be on the expensive side, it's much easier to visit the smaller city of Bologna and stick to a modest budget. You can enjoy all kinds of fun adventures in this lovely city while also saving money. Northern Italy is a very special place to visit, and you will be treated to UNESCO world heritage site locations, museums, and delightful Italian food around every corner. Heading to Bologna on a budget doesn't mean that you won't have any fun or be restricted in what you can do or see. You will be surprised at how easy it is to visit Bologna without having a ton of money saved up.
Before you head out to enjoy the fresh pasta, the wine, or other locations around the Emilia Romagna Region, consider dropping your bags off with Bounce. A Bounce storage facility in Bologna will keep your things safe while you save money and have a great time in this part of the world. We offer locations near the city center that are easy to access. Even if you only need to have your bags in storage for a few hours, we can ensure that you can make the most of your time enjoying your budget travel to Bologna.
Cheap places to stay in Bologna
Your hotel is likely to be one of your biggest expenses during your trip. You can save a lot of money if you choose from these hotels for your home base while you are in Bologna. If you're not sure which part of the city you want to stay in, our neighborhood guide can help you to make a choice.
B&B Hotel Bologna
This cute little hotel is located in an industrial part of town, but that doesn't mean that it's not a nice property. Rooms cost about $80 a night here, and you get an included breakfast with your room. There is free wi-fi and air conditioning in your room. You can walk to the city center with ease, and you'll be located right by various public transportation options. Piazza Maggiore is also nearby, along with a variety of museums.
This is a family-run location that offers free wi-fi, breakfast, and really friendly service. You will feel like part of the family when you move your things into your room for your stay. Rooms start at $60 a night here, and you will be within walking distance of Piazza Maggiore. You can also easily get on public transit from Hotel Panorama to visit other local attractions.
For those who love hostels, this is one of the best in the city. You can stay here for around $60 a night, and you can pick and choose from multi-person dorms to small, two-person rooms. There is a shared kitchen here, and the wi-fi is free. Just a five-minute walk from Piazza Maggiore and a few minutes from Bologna Centrale train station make this location hard to beat. Another nearby attraction is the Torri di Bologna tower which dates to the medieval period.
Cheap things to do in Bologna
There are many free or low-cost things to do and see in Bologna. This is not a huge city, and they strive to be welcoming and to make sharing the city with tourists affordable. Compared to some of the larger cities in Italy, you will find that access to museums and local tourist attractions is much more affordable.
Botanical Garden and Herbarium
The botanical garden is part of the college, which has been operating for generations in Bologna. This is a free activity that can easily take up part of a day. You can wander and see all the various flora and fauna and enjoy learning some information about the city, the college, and the collection as you experience the sights and sounds of the garden. The garden is now five acres in size, and it has been in existence since the 16th century.
Visit the Basilica di San Petronio
This lovely church is free to enter, but you must pay a small fee to take pictures. You can see art and frescoes on the walls, as well as Cassini’s meridian line, which is world-famous. This church is in the Piazza Maggiore, which is another ideal place to visit when you are on a budget. The Piazza Maggiore itself is full of amazing street performers, street food, and much more. You can easily head to this part of the city for the morning or the afternoon and have a ton of fun on a budget.
Climb the Garisenda Tower
It costs a minimal fee to be able to climb one of the two towers in the heart of the city. The Due Torri are very old, and they lean at an incredible angle. These towers are considered the leaning tower of Pisa of Bologna. This is one of the cooler things to see in the city, and you can easily afford to make the time (and space in your budget) to visit and enjoy this medieval pair of towers.
Cheap places to eat in Bologna
Eating in Bologna on a budget doesn't have to be a struggle. There are lots of ways to make sure that you can afford to experience the fantastic culinary scene in town, even though you have budget constraints. This is Italy, after all, so food is a big part of the culture, and missing out would be a real shame. Aside from sit-down restaurants, some of the most affordable and tastiest meals are found among Bologna's many street food vendors. You can even find some fancy dining locations that will make it possible to have a romantic meal with someone you care about for an affordable price. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
This adorable little bistro offers a sense of modern elegance paired with great service. The meals here for lunch will be about $16, and dinner will be $20 or so a plate. You can even enjoy a delightful house wine for a small added charge to go with your pasta and bread. There is everything from grilled vegetables to classic pasta dishes and more on the menu here.
Located near the two towers, this lovely eatery caters to budget travelers with amazing prices for pasta, veggies, and even wine pairings. You can have lunch or dinner here for about $15, and you will not go hungry. Most of the pasta dishes are served with handmade noodles, and the service is friendly and prompt. This is a great option if you are in the area of the towers or if you have climbed them and need to fill up on some carbs to recover.
This charming little Greek restaurant is a local favorite, and for a good reason. You can get a whole meal here, including dessert and wine, for $25. There are white tablecloths, a wonderful atmosphere, and many great menu options here. Who said that fine dining had to cost an arm and a leg? This is one of the best places in the city, and although the price point is relatively low, this is a great spot to celebrate an occasion or have a romantic meal.
Cheap bars in Bologna
Tons of charm, a fun setting, and really affordable wine and beer await you at Lime Bar. You can easily get drinks for $5 or less, and the service is really friendly. This is a local watering hole, and you will feel welcomed with open arms when you sit down to enjoy a drink here. This is one of many cute bars in this part of town, so it's easy to pair this bar with other stops in the area for a pub crawl type of night out.
Bar Onda Marina by Night
This location is a cafe during the day and a fun local hangout at night. You can get wine, beer, and cocktails here, as well as snacks. Enjoy sitting at the sidewalk tables and watching the world go by while you sip on a glass of delicious wine. The service is really good here as well, and there are sometimes specials on certain drinks during the week. You can enjoy drinks for $3-$5 here, and with this setting, you're sure to have a great time.
Bar La Linea
This is a very small and cozy bar located right next to Piazza Maggiore. Normally, bars near major attractions aren't a bargain, but Bar La Linea is the exception to the rule. It boasts a casual atmosphere, complementary chips when you buy drinks, and reasonable prices. Being able to sit down with locals and enjoy an affordable drink and a bit of food can really add to the charm of coming to Bologna on vacation. You will also be able to get delicious coffee here if you are not in the mood to have an alcoholic drink.
Bonus budget tips for Bologna
Start with a cheap flight
Be sure to shop around for cheap flights to get you to Bologna so that you have more money to spend once you arrive. Be flexible on your departure days if you can without wasting a lot of money on travel. Low-cost airlines like Ryanair fly direct to Bologna Airport, so that's a good place to start.
Be open to cooking
Cooking your own food in your Airbnb, shared hostel kitchen, or a hotel room with a kitchenette is often possible. Keep drinks and snacks from the local grocery store in your room to cut costs, and even making sandwiches for lunch can save a ton of money. When weighing accommodation options, even if you have to spend a bit more to get access to kitchen facilities, it can be worth it. You're likely to save more than the upgraded price difference.
The spring or the fall is the best time to head to Bologna to avoid the peak summer international tourist season. Although, since Bologna is such a student town, you'll find fewer residents at this time of year. But, for easy access to major attractions, weather that's not too hot, and cheaper accommodation, spring or fall are still your best bets.
Renting a bike can help you to get around Bologna easily and for only about $20. You can simultaneously give your feet a rest and cover a good amount of ground in a single day. This is especially useful if you only have a very limited time to spend in Bologna.
There is so much that you can see and do in Bologna on a budget. You can enjoy all kinds of adventures around the Emilia Romagna Region without stressing about money. There are many places where you can access free wifi, and taking advantage of free entry to some of the best museum locations can also help you to save money. This guide should have offered you great tips on how to save money on food, nightlife, accommodations, and transportation.
If you need more things to do while you are in Bologna that don't cost a penny, be sure to take a look at our guide to the best free things to do in Bologna. This is a great option for those who are traveling with kids or with a large group of friends or family. Traveling to Italy on a budget is easier than you might think! You should now be armed with all the tools that you need to plan the trip of a lifetime that won't break the bank.