Is Bergamo Worth a Visit? 16 Reasons to Spend a Weekend There

Steve Cummings

Bergamo Italy

If you are planning a trip to Italy and looking to visit somewhere less famous but just as beautiful as many of the bigger cities and towns, you should consider Bergamo. But, where is Bergamo, many of you may wonder. Found in the Lombardy region, north of Milan, this fascinating place has a population of approximately 120,000 and a rich history and heritage.

One of the distinctive aspects that draws tourists to it is that it has two specific sections—Città Bassa, the flat part of Bergamo with a stunning mix of modern and Neoclassical architecture, and the hill that stands over the lower side, called Città Alta. In that part, you will find many stunning 16th-century buildings and a mix of Renaissance and Romanesque-era architecture connected by narrow cobbled streets. You can easily travel between these unique sides of the same town on the funicular.

While all these details may have you sold on the town as a potential vacation destination, you may wonder if there are enough things to do in Bergamo. We will look at some of the best things to do in Bergamo in the following article.

1. Take a Ride on the Funicular

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credits: caliger_depositphotos

Known as the Funicolare Città Alta, the funicular is one of the more unusual things to do in Bergamo. There are many ways to get there from the lower part of the town. You can walk or drive up, but taking the cable car is much more fun. It is a spectacular way to reach the medieval side of Bergamo and offers stunning views of the rest of the city as you travel upwards.

It also makes getting between the two sections much quicker, taking just a few minutes.

2. Explore Città Alta

Although the town is a hidden gem, for those in the know, one of the top things to do in Bergamo is to visit Città Alta, the older part, as discussed above. When you arrive there, you might feel like you are entering a different time period. It is easy to walk around if you have a reasonably good fitness level. While it may feel easy to get lost, you are never too far away from where you started your exploration of the various winding, narrow alleyways and beautiful squares.

There are also several great little restaurants, and the locals are friendly and welcoming.

3. Walk Along the City’s Venetian Walls

credits: Leraabiby160987/depositphotos

For frugal travelers, there are many excellent, affordable activities around the city. Still, one of the unmissable free things to do in Bergamo is, without a doubt, walking along the old Venetian Walls that stretch along the parameters of much of the city. The Cinta Muraria, as locals call it, was built during the 16th century when the Venetians ruled. In those days, Bergamo was a strategic point for Venice that offered protection and defense against enemy armies and attackers. The walls are over 6km long and are an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As you make your way along the walls, you can gaze in wonder and take photographs of many of the ancient gates, like the excellent Porta San Giacomo. Although it may feel like a lot, there are many benches where you can stop for a rest, a drink, or even a bite to eat.

4. Visit Breathtaking Lake Como

Lake Como
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While there is more than enough to keep you occupied and intrigued within the city’s parameters, if you are looking for things to do near Bergamo, one of the best day trips you can plan is to the breathtaking Lake Como.

The journey from Bergamo to Lake Como is just 67.2km/41m, so the stunning body of water can be easily reached in under 2 hours. The lake has a unique and intriguing oblong shape and crystalline waters that beg to be dipped into. There are plenty of activities to do on the water, including various boating options, with both a guide and without, depending on what you prefer. If you tire of the Lake, you can also head into the villages that sit beside it, such as Varenna and Bellagio. If you plan to visit Lake Como in one day, we recommend you set off from Bergamo early to make the most of your trip.

5. Visit Milan

Milan, Italy
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While you may enjoy the peace that a holiday in a sleepy little tucked away place like Bergamo offers, you may also want to spend a day getting a flavor of what big city life is like in Italy. The distance from Milan to Bergamo is only 58.9km/36.5m, which means the journey between these two locations is just under an hour.

Milan is the second-biggest city in Italy, after the capital, Rome, and is known as an international center for design and fashion. It has many significant buildings, museums, and shopping hotspots. Along with the great restaurants and bars, you should visit the incredible Duomo, where you can see Da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper. Or stroll the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele, regarded by many as one of the most luxurious and elegant shopping streets in the world.

6. Parco Del Castello Di San Vigilio

Another of the best free things to do in Bergamo is the Parco Del Castello di San Vigilio, located northwest of Città Alta. This beautiful park is home to the ruins of Castello Di San Vigilio, or the Castle of San Vigilio, which was once the permanent residence of the rulers in Bergamo.

Walking around the garden grounds and the ruins is a great frugal activity, but one of the best things about this part of the city is that it sits a little under 500 meters above sea level. From that point, you can take advantage of some of the best views of the lower parts of the city and the stunning Italian countryside beyond Bergamo.

7. Dine In One of Bergamo’s Fine Restaurants

woman eating at restaurant
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

If you are wondering what to do in Bergamo at night after you’ve spent the day sightseeing, there are many great restaurants throughout the city where you can sample the local Italian cuisine. As it is in much of Italy, food is essential to life in Bergamo, and nine famous cheeses, including stracchino and taleggio, are produced in the city.

One of the popular dishes in Bergamo is casoncelli, which is similar to ravioli. It is filled with pork meat and salami, along with other seasonal ingredients, and topped with a sauce made with bacon and butter.

You should try authentic gelato before leaving Italy during the summer or at any time. Bergamo has its take on this classic Italian dessert called gelato alla stracciatella. It originates from a restaurant called La Marianna and is vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate shavings. Though it may sound simple, it tastes heavenly.

8. Try Some Local Wine

Man buying Wine
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Along with food, another answer to the question of “Is Bergamo worth visiting?” is wine. If you like a good red, rose, or white wine now and again, trying local wines where you travel is a good idea. Italy has no shortage of outstanding wines specific to certain regions. Bergamo is no different and is home to the winery called The Cypress: Moscato Scanzo and Valcalepio, whose Moscato wine is listed on the Italian DOCG wines.

The DOCG, or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, is Italy’s highest wine classification. Each bottle is produced using controlled methods and offers guaranteed high quality. It’s a great wine, and you should try it.

9. Climb to the Top of Torre Civica

Torre Civica, which translates as the Civic Tower, is an intimidating 56m/184ft tower built between the 11th and 12th centuries. One of the best things to do in Bergamo is climb to its top. There are two ways to do this: you can take the elevator's easy and less tiring option or test your physical fitness and climb the 230 steps to reach the top.

Regardless of your choice, the reward is the same—and it is a stunning reward. From the top of this tower, often called the Campanone by locals, you can enjoy sublime views of Bergamo's modern and medieval parts.

10. Accademia Carrara Museum

For art lovers, one of the top things to do in Bergamo is visit one of the many marvelous museums there. The Accademia Carrara Museum may be smaller compared to those in other parts of Italy, Europe, and the world, but it is still incredible in its own right. The collection was privately owned by Giacomo Carrara, an 18th-century count, and includes over 1,800 paintings from as far back as the 15th up to the 19th century.

Raphael, Pisanello, Mantegna, Bellini, and Botticelli are among the craft masters whose work is included in the collection.

11. Museo Civico di Scienze Naturali Caffi

If you are planning a long weekend or a week in the city and wondering what to do in Bergamo for a day, have children in tow, or are yourself a lover of nature and science, then the Museo Civico di Scienze Naturali Caffi is a must. This museum holds an incredible collection of exhibits that explore connected subjects like archaeology, paleontology, and natural science, among many others.

The amazement begins when you enter the museum, as a colossal mammoth greets you. The mammoth was created using remains found during the 20th century at Petosino Plain, close to Bergamo.

12. Museo Donizettiano

What if you are a music lover, especially fond of classical music and Italian composers? One of the top things to do in Bergamo is a visit to the Museo Donizettiano. This was first established in 1906 on the first floor of the magnificent Domus Magna, a 12th-century palace dedicated to the local famed composer Gaetano Donizetti. 

Within the museum, you will find documents, memorabilia, and portraits that highlight different parts of the composer’s life, including his studies in Bologna and Bergamo and his work as a successful composer of operas from 1822 to 1845.

13. Piazza Mercato Delle Scarpe

Piazza Mercato Della Scarpe is where the funicular that takes you into the old section of Bergamo arrives. This stunning square is home to many independent stores where you can find local crafts and produce, and restaurants where you can stop for a bite.

Remember this delightful little part of town when figuring out the best things to do in Bergamo. It is too easy to walk right through it and past it onto other destinations, but trust us, it is a great place to soak up Bergamo's unique and laidback atmosphere.

14. Cappella Colleoni

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credits: olena_kosynska/depositphotos

Whether you are a religious and spiritual, a fan of ancient architecture, or looking for free things to do in Bergamo, you should include Cappella Colleoni in your travel plans. Regarded by many as the most beautiful building in the city, this mausoleum and chapel were built in the 15th century for the famed Italian general Bartolomeo Colleoni.

Even in a visually stunning place like Bergamo, the Cappella stands out. Its exterior and interior are beautiful and intricately designed. Even more impressive is that, unless you want a guided tour (which is a great way to learn more about the building’s history and heritage), entrance into this chapel and mausoleum is entirely free.

15. Basilica Maria Maggiore

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credits: Marina113/depositphotos

While you are at the Capella Colleoni, take some time to explore the Basilica Maria Maggiore. You could forgive that the Basilica has a very uncompromising and intimidating appearance, with the Cappella so close to it and so impressively designed. However, when you venture inside, you will find this church as beautiful in its interior as the other buildings, making it one of the best things to do in Bergamo.

16. Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni

We wanted to highlight this small and often forgotten museum to finish our guide to the best things to do in Bergamo. The Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni is found within an eloquent and opulent 17th-century Baroque palace and is home to exhibits showcasing local artists. In addition to the incredible artwork, you should stroll around the relaxing and beautifully designed gardens at the back of the building.

Final Thoughts

While it’s fair to say that the city may not be the first on many people’s lists for places to visit when traveling to Italy, we hope we have shown that there are many things to do in Bergamo. It is a culturally rich and historically significant town with a unique character and atmosphere.

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