Bologna canals are un unexpected photo spot in Bologna

31 Bologna Photo Spots: Locations For The Best Pictures

Bologna, Italy’s hidden gem, is a paradise for photographers seeking inspiration beyond the usual tourist trails. This city, with its rich history, vibrant markets, and stunning architecture, provides endless opportunities for capturing breathtaking images. Our guide on best Bologna Photo spots reveals the top places to photograph the essence of Bologna, from the iconic Two Towers to the lesser-known quaint alleyways that each tell a story. Whether you’re drawn to architectural marvels or the simple beauty of everyday life in Bologna, this list will guide you to the perfect spots.

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For those arriving via Bologna Airport, starting your photographic journey is made easy with our guide on getting from Bologna Airport to Bologna Train Station, ensuring you’re in the city center and ready to explore these spots without delay.

Piazza Maggiore (the most scenic one among Bologna photo spots)

Around Piazza Maggiore are many of the things to do in Bologna

If you are wondering what is Bologna really like, go to Piazza Maggiore first. This magnificent square is at the heart of the city’s historic center. It boasts impressive buildings such as the Basilica of San Petronio, Palazzo d’Accursio, Palazzo del Podestá, Palazzo dei Notai Palazzo Re Enzo, and Palazzo dei Banchi. The vast open space is perfect for capturing the grandeur of Bologna’s architecture.

Pro Tip: Go to Piazza Maggiore early in the morning when the square is bathed in soft, golden light.

Location: Piazza Maggiore

Palazzo d’Accursio (here you’ll find several Bologna photo spots in one place)

Palazzo d'Accursio in Bologna Italy

The Palazzo d’Accursio or Town Hall stands on the western side of Piazza Maggiore. This elegant medieval building is made up of several buildings that have been added over the years. Its intricate architecture and detailed façade are a must for any photography enthusiast.

Location: Piazza Maggiore

Medieval units of measurement

The ancient measurement units on the wall of Palazzo d'Accursio in Bologna

At the beginning of the 13th century, a weekly market was held in the square. On the façade of the Palazzo d’Accursio, near the Neptune Fountain, you can see the measures used by the merchants.

Location: Palazzo d’Accursio on Piazza Maggiore

The two eagles

The two eagles on Palazzo d'Accursio facade

On the same wall of the measures, under a window, you will find two eagles. The window above them is from the 16th century. The eagle on the left is thought to be the work of the young Michelangelo Buonarotti. The eagle on the right is attributed to Niccolò dell’Arca. The people of Bologna didn’t like Niccolò dell’Arca’s eagle, saying it looked more like a pigeon. However, both authorships are disputed.

Location: Palazzo d’Accursio on Piazza Maggiore


Sala Borsa is one of the many Bologna attractions on Piazza Maggiore

Salaborsa is part of Palazzo d’Accursio. It houses the city library. The main hall of the library is a spectacular work of architecture.

Sala Borsa is a public library and under archaeological excavations can be found

You can enter the library, but please be quiet and respect other people’s activities.

Location: Palazzo d’Accursio on Piazza Maggiore

Archaeological excavations under Salaborsa (one of the surprising Bologna photo spots)

No one would expect to find archaeolgical excavations and yet another photo spot under Sala Borsa in Bologna

Here you can find ruins of ancient buildings, wells, and a cistern.

After entering Salaborsa, turn left. There are two stairs going down. Take the right one and follow it to the door to the excavations. Admission is free. A small donation will be appreciated.

Location: Palazzo d’Accursio on Piazza Maggiore

The courtyard of the Palazzo d’Accursio

The courtyard of Palazzo d'Accursio makes a nice backdrop for photography

In this shady courtyard, you can rest for a while on the stone benches and take some nice photos.

Location: Palazzo d’Accursio on Piazza Maggiore

The staircase of the Palazzo d’Accursio

Palazzo d'Accursio in Bologna staircase

After crossing the courtyard, go to the right and you will come to a 16th-century staircase designed for horse carriages.

Location: Palazzo d’Accursio on Piazza Maggiore

Sala Farnese and the Clock Tower

Sala Farnese in Palazzo d'Accursio in Bologna

The staircase of the Palazzo d’Accursio leads to Sala Farnese. Sala Farnese, with its magnificent frescoes, is a baroque masterpiece in itself.

Take the stairs on the right and climb to the top of the Clock Tower to enjoy the view of Piazza Maggiore and the historic center.

The clock was added to the façade of the tower in the 15th century.

The entrance ticket to the Clock Tower also allows you to visit the Municipal Art Collections. Price: 8 euro

Location: Palazzo d’Accursio on Piazza Maggiore

Palazzo del Podestá

Palazzo del Podesta in Bologna
Palazzo del Podesta

Another remarkable example of medieval architecture in Bologna, this palace is an excellent subject for your photographs.

The palace is located in Piazza Maggiore, just opposite the Basilica of San Petronio. You will find thousands of ornamental tiles at the columns of the palazzo. The tiles represent flowers, coats of arms, animals, faces.

The tiles of Palazzo del Poddesta, Bologna

There are more than 7000 tiles and each one is unique. Legend has it that there are two identical tiles somewhere, but no one has been able to find them.

Location: Piazza Maggiore

Palazzo Re Enzo

Palazzo Re Enzo in Bologna

This medieval palace is another historical building in Piazza Maggiore. It was built in the 13th century. General access to the interior is not possible. It is only open to the public during exhibitions or other special events. However, its stunning architecture makes for a good photo opportunity.

Location: Piazza Maggiore

Lampione dei Neonati

Lampione dei Neonati in Bologna

Look at the corner of Palazzo Re Enzo on the side of Via Rizzoli and you will see a beautiful lantern. It was placed there to announce the birth of a child. It was supposed to be lit every time a child was born in the city. I don’t know how long it announced the coming of a new life, if ever, but it is an intricate detail to the grandeur of Piazza Maggiore.

Location: Palazzo Re Enzo on Piazza Maggiore

Neptune Fountain (the iconic one among Bologna photo spots)

Neptune Fountain is one of the iconic landmarks of Bologna and one of the best spots for photography

The fountain was built in the 16th century. It symbolizes the power of the Pope, who rules the world as Neptune rules the seas. At Neptune’s feet are four angels representing the Danube, the Nile, the Amazon and the Gang, the largest rivers of the known continents at that time.

Location: Piazza Nettuno

Basilica di San Petronio

Basilica di San Petronio with its unfinished facade is the most recognizable Bologna attraction

Adjacent to Piazza Maggiore is the magnificent Basilica of San Petronio. It is the sixth-largest church in Italy. Its unfinished façade and grandiose interior with 22 chapels offer many opportunities for stunning photographs. The play of light and shadow inside the Basilica is particularly captivating.

The entrance to the Basilica is free.

Location: Piazza Maggiore

The longest sundial in the world (the world-record-breaker one among Bologna photo spots)

Step into the Basilica of San Petronio to take a picture of the longest sundial in the world

On the floor of the Basilica of San Petronio is the longest sundial in the world. It was made in the 17th century by Domenico Cassini and is 66.6 meters long.

Location: Basilica of San Petronio on Piazza Maggiore

The oldest organ in the world

Basilica di San Petronio in Bologna keeps another secret, the oldest organ in the world.

In the Basilica of San Petronio, you will find another world record. The oldest working organ was built in the 15th century.

Location: Basilica of San Petronio on Piazza Maggiore

The two towers (Due Torri)

Asinelli and Garisenda Towers, also known as the Two Towers, are a must-see attraction in Bologna and are a perfect photo spot

Torre degli Asinelli (Asinelli Tower) and Torre Garisenda are the two iconic leaning towers of Bologna. Torre Garisenda was taller, but part of it was destroyed to prevent it from collapsing.

Only Torre Asinelli can be climbed. You can buy your ticket (5 Euro) at the entrance of the tower, but it is better to secure your place for the desired time slot by buying it in advance at the Bologna Welcome Tourist Office in Piazza Maggiore.

Among all Bologna photo spots, this is the most challenging due to its height, though climbing the 498 steps will reward you with a breathtaking view of the city from almost 100 meters high.

Location: Piazza di Porta Ravegnana

Palazzo della Mercanzia

Palazzo della Mercanzia with its intricate architectural details is one of the most Instagrammable places in Bologna

This Palazzo is a historic architectural gem. This splendid Renaissance building, built in the 15th century, served as a hub for trade and commerce. Its façade is adorned with intricate detailing and elegant arches.

Location: Piazza della Mercanzia, 4

The Archiginnasio (one of the breathtaking Bologna photography spots)

The Archiginnasio Palace is one of the top attractions in Bologna

Bologna is home to one of the oldest universities in the world and the oldest in the Western world. Founded in the 11th century, the University of Bologna is a spectacular building.

The clock tower of the Archiginnasio in Bologna

The Archiginnasio is a 16th-century building that was once the university’s main building. Its stunning courtyard is adorned with beautiful frescoes and sculptures, making it a perfect place to capture the historical significance of Bologna. It is one of the most intriguing Bologna photography spots.

Admission is free.

Location: Piazza Galvani, 1

The Anatomical Theater

The Anatomical theater is one of the best things to see in Bologna. With its intricate wooden details it is a nice photo spot.

The Teatro Anatomico is an ornate wood-carved lecture hall built in the 17th century. It was built for the teaching of anatomy. The room is decorated with wooden statues of the human body. There is a marble table in the center of the room that was used by students to dissect human bodies.

The entrance fee is 3 euros.

Location: Piazza Galvani, 1

The porticoes of Bologna (the Bologna photo spots which are all around you)

The portico of Via Galliera in Bologna is a must-see and a prefered photo spot

The porticoes of Bologna are more than 60 km of arcades, most of them in the city center. Twelve of the porticoes have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They were built to widen the second floor of the buildings and to provide shade and shelter for passengers.

They were chosen by UNESCO for their ability to represent the history of architecture that flourished in this city like no other urban reality. The porticoes have spread throughout the city since the late Middle Ages. Some of them are ten centuries old. This has given rise to an extraordinary variety of architectural solutions that have made the cityscape unmistakable over the centuries.

The portico of Via Farini is the most beautiful portico of Bologna. Don't miss to take a picture of it.

The porticoes of Bologna are almost 62 km long, of which 40 km are in the city center.

Since 1100, the growth of the University has created a need for new urban spaces, leading to the emergence of porticoes as private and public places for socializing and commerce in Bologna. These open-air salons are a symbol of the city’s hospitality.

The portico of Casa Isolani in Bologna

As you stroll through the city center, you’ll come across different types of porticoes. There are wooden ones, such as the 13th century Casa Isolani in Strada Maggiore and the porticoes of Via Marsala, and the 14th century “beccadelli”, semi-porticos without columns, such as those on the back façade of Palazzo d’Accursio and Palazzo Ghisilardi-Fava.

Location: all over the central part of the city. The portico of San Luca goes out of the city walls and leads to the Sanctuary of San Luca on the top of a hill close to the city.

Santuario della Madonna di San Luca (the remote one of Bologna photo spots)

Santuario di Madonna di San Luca in Bologna

A short walk from the city center leads to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca. The famous Portico di San Luca, consisting of over 600 arches and stretching for 3.8 kilometers, is the best way to reach this breathtaking place. The view of Bologna and the surrounding countryside from the top is nothing but spectacular.

Pro tip: The Basilica of San Luca and the Portico di San Luca offer some of the most breathtaking views in Bologna. For a unique experience, capture the stunning arcade as you walk along it toward the Sanctuary.

Location: Via di San Luca, 36

The entrance is free. Access to the dome is with a donation of 5 euro and to the crypt – 3 euro.

Former Jewish Ghetto

The former Jewish ghetto in Bologna

Stroll through the narrow streets of the former Jewish Ghetto, where you’ll discover charming corners and hidden gems. The former Ghetto Ebraico is full of bars, boutiques, and vintage shops.

Location: The main street of the former Jewish Ghetto is Via dell’Inferno (Hell Street), from which many smaller side streets open.

The Basilica of San Domenico

One of the best things you can do in Bologna is to visit the Basilica of San Domenico

The Basilica of San Domenico is one of the richest churches in Bologna. The convent of San Domenico houses the library with a heritage of 90,000 volumes.

The Chapel of San Domenico in Bologna

In the Chapel of San Domenico, inside the Basilica, rest the remains of the Saint in the Arca di San Domenico. The Arca di San Domenico is decorated with sculptures by Michelangelo, Nicola Pisano, and Alfonso Lombardi. One of the three sculptures by Michelangelo is believed to be the prototype of David, which can be seen in the Accademia Gallery in Florence.

The prototype of David by young Michelangelo is one of the hidden gems of Bologna

To find the young Michelangelo’s David, enter the Chapel of San Domenico, on the right side of the Basilica. Walk behind the Arca di San Domenico. The sculpture to the right is said to be the prototype of David.

Arca di San Domenico in Bologna

The entrance is free.

Location: Piazza di San Domenico 13

Piazza Santo Stefano

Piazza Santo Stefano in Bologna

Santo Stefano in Bologna is also known as “sette chiese” or “seven churches” because it is a complex of several religious buildings constructed in different periods. Once there were seven churches in the complex, but only four remain now, including the crypts.

The most impressive structure is the Chiesa del Santo Sepolcro, constructed on the ruins of an ancient Temple of Isis in the 5th century.

The museum inside the complex exhibits paintings, sculptures, and artwork from various eras.

Entrance is free.

Location: Piazza Santo Stefano

Canals of Bologna (the most surprising of Bologna photo spots)

Bologna's channels are one of the best photo spots

Bologna’s canals, also known as La Piccola Venezia, offer a unique and picturesque view of the city’s historic buildings reflected in serene waters.

Location: Via Piella, 5.

La finestrella

A line waiting to peek through La finestrella in Bologna

La Ventana al canal (the window at the canal) is a small window in a wall with a view of the canal. This almost unnoticeable window offers a unique perspective of the canal.

Pro tip: Go to the Finestrella in the evening to have it all for yourself and to admire an out-of-a-fairy-tale view. It is one of the best Bologna photo spots for night photography.

Canals of Bologna at night

Location: Via Piella, 16

Narrow Streets and Medieval Alleys

The streets of Bologna Old town keep unexpected photo opportunities

One of the best things about Bologna is its charming network of narrow streets and medieval alleys. These winding pathways are ideal for capturing the city’s authentic and historic atmosphere. Be sure to explore Strada Maggiore and its enchanting surroundings for your perfect shot.

Pro Tip: The best time for street photography is during the early evening when the warm, golden light bathes the alleys.

Quadrilatero (the yummiest of Bologna photo spots)

One of the many shops selling local delicacies in Quadrilatero in Bologna

Bologna is often referred to as “la rossa”, “la grassa” or “la dotta” which means “the red”, “the fat” or “the learned” in English. The nickname “the red” is due to the abundance of red buildings in the city. The nickname “the learned” comes from the fact that Bologna is home to the oldest university in the Western world.

Foodstalls at Quadrilatero in Bologna

As for the nickname “the fat”, the best way to understand it is by visiting Quadrilatero, which is located behind Piazza Maggiore.

Homemade pasta at Quadrilatero in Bologna

Quadrilatero is the ancient merchants’ quarter of the city, and it’s a very suggestive area where you can smell the aromas of Bolognese cuisine. The vibrant streets and food stalls of Quadrilatero offer the best opportunities for capturing the city’s culinary delights. It is one of my favorite Bologna photo spots.

A delicatessen in Bologna "The Fat"

The streets are lined with stalls selling fantastic fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables, cheese, fish, homemade pasta, and other local delicacies. Many of these family-owned businesses have been passed down from generation to generation.

Seafood stall at Quadrilatero in Bologna

However, Quadrilatero is not just a historical district, but also a foodie’s and photographer’s paradise with its variety of flavors and colors.

Location: the streets between Piazza Maggiore and the Two towers

Libreria Nanni

Libreria Nanni is the oldest bookstore in Bologna

In Quadrilatero, apart from colorful and delicious food, you will find one of the oldest bookshops in Bologna. It is Nanni bookshop.

Location: Via de’ Musei, 8

Santuario di Santa Maria della Vita

Santuario di Santa Maria della Vita in Bologna

The Church of Santa Maria della Vita is situated in the Quadrilatero area. You can climb the stairs to reach the room above the church, where you will find one of the hidden gems of Bologna – a small oratorio adorned with Baroque paintings, frescoes, and gilded carvings. The room houses a group of 15 terracotta statues, called Death of the Virgin, created by Alfonso Lombardi in the early 16th century.

Entrance fee: 6 euro

Location: Via Clavature, 8/10.

Bologna is a city filled with popular attractions and picturesque Instagram locations. Many of Bologna’s attractions are free which is not common in Italy. Whether you want to capture the grandeur of Piazza Maggiore or the quaint charm of its narrow alleys, there are plenty of opportunities to take the perfect photograph.

Bologna, with its rich history and captivating architecture, is an ideal destination for photography enthusiasts. You’ll find ancient towers and bustling food stalls, all waiting to be photographed. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or returning to explore more, don’t forget to bring your camera and be ready to capture the beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage Site in Emilia-Romagna, Italy.

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