‘Where to stay in Bologna?’ is a question I often get asked.
First of all, I think hotels and B&Bs make more sense over Airbnb if you’re only staying for a few days.
Despite the Airbnb craze of the past few years, I still do love the comforts of a hotel, a staffed reception, easily accessible in case of issues with the room and ready to provide sightseeing tips, the convenience of breakfast and toiletries generally included, and housekeeping, yes; because, at least on vacation, I don’t want to bother making my bed.
As for the area you want to pick when researching where to stay in Bologna, if it’s the first time you’re visiting, I’d say go for the historic city center within the 13th century walls; this will allow you to reach all major attractions on foot and easily go out at night. If you need to reach places outside the city center – like the beautiful hills that surround Bologna – or take side day trips, the city center is well connected via buses, while the train station can be reached in 15 minutes from main square Piazza Maggiore.
Don’t overrule altogether the possibility to stay outside the city, in the hills or countryside; it’s more peaceful, the landscape is lovely, you’re still close enough to the city, and I can take you on awesome walks there 🙂
Thanks to my work as a journalist, I’ve had the chance to stay at several Bologna hotels as part of a series of reviews I had to write for the travel section of The Telegraph. So here are my picks for where to stay in Bologna based on that experience.
*This is an ongoing list, meaning that as I discover and stay at new places, I’ll add them here if worthy.
**Prices indicated are approximate and vary, even widely, according to seasonality, and, above all, if there are trade shows in town (and Bologna hosts many). Prices are based on double occupancy in standard rooms. Breakfast is included in rates.
My Recommendations for Where to Stay in Bologna
- Grand Hotel Majestic già Baglioni
There’s a lot to love about Grand Hotel Majestic già Baglioni, Bologna’s most prestigious hotel, the only five-star in town.
Luxurious rooms and impeccable service in a prime location sums up the hotel’s strengths. Right in front of the city’s cathedral, the hotel is within walking distance of Piazza Maggiore, the landmark Two Towers, and the open-air medieval food market. When you walk inside, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into an aristocratic palace of the past: marble floors, white Doric columns, antique furnishings, paintings, mirrors, luxurious drapes and fabrics, art objects grace the hotel’s interiors, without being overstuffed or pompous.
Describing Grand Hotel Majestic già Baglioni as just a ‘luxury hotel’ wouldn’t do it justice though. This is a place that guards a centuries-old history that is strictly intertwined with the history of Bologna itself: remains of a Roman road in the basement hinting at Bononia‘s Roman past; a tower poking through the roof, reminding us that Bologna is also ‘la turrita’, the city with many towers; a conference room graced with Renaissance frescoes by the Carracci, the painters most closely associated with Bologna. In the hotel’s rooms, cultural movements like the Futurism were born and artists like Giorgio Morandi began their careers. Royals, Hollywood celebrities, Nobel prize winners, popes, politicians, musicians and actors, all have sojourned in the hotel’s elegant suites.
The Michelin-rated restaurant I Carracci, with frescoed ceilings, is open to the public, just as the retro-classic Café Marinetti, ideal for aperitivo, and the wine cellar Enoteca Morandi. Oh, and plan about an hour for breakfast: the buffet is so rich you’ll need a good amount of time to tackle it 😉
Double rooms from €350 in low season, and from €500 in high.
- Casa Bertagni
I’d say this is the most original B&B in Bologna, thanks to the creative, playful spirit of the owner, an architect who has converted the home built by his grandparents in the mid-1900s into a luxury guesthouse, furnished with precious antiques that come from the family’s private collection, blended with contemporary design. What I enjoyed the most was feeling as if I had my own house in the city center I was returning to at the end of the day.
There are only six rooms at Casa Bertagni, each different, each named according to a virtue, such as Temperance, Justice, Strength. When I visited, breakfast buffet was served at a large wooden table in the kitchen downstairs, a situation that invited chit-chat over coffee and pastries with other guests (isn’t that nice when traveling).
Casa Bertagni is located in the university district, a 15-minute walk from the Two Towers and Piazza Maggiore. The area can be a little sketchy at night, especially along via Zamboni; avoid it by taking Via delle Belle Arti instead.
Double rooms from €140 in low season, and from €370 in high.
- Art Hotel Commercianti
The best location in town! The 4* Art Hotel Commercianti stands on a little street right next to the Basilica of San Petronio. That means you’re steps away from, well, everything: from Piazza Maggiore to the Quadrilatero food market, from all kinds of restaurants and bars to museums and shops.
Family-run, Art Hotel Commercianti is housed inside an 11th-century building which, in the Middle Ages, was the first seat of the city council and later of the University of Bologna’s law school. The hotel has done a good job of maintaining the historic feel, which is one of the aspects I’ve enjoyed the most during my stay. Each room is decorated according to a theme related to the history or to symbols of Bologna – think the Neptune Suite or the Glossatori Suite. Go for the deluxe rooms for spectacular views of San Petronio Basilica from the rooms’ own private terraces.
Breakfast is generous, includes typical local pastries such as torta di riso and ravioli, and is laid out in the Sala del Pozzo, where a well from the early Middle Ages was found.
Double rooms from €130 in low season, and from €170 in high.
- Torre Prendiparte
How about sleeping in a medieval tower? You can when you stay at 12th-century Torre Prendiparte. Located in the heart of town, in the small Sant’Alò square, Torre Prendiparte, the second tallest tower in town after the Torre Asinelli, has 11 floors and a rooftop terrace, which you’ll have all to yourself when you book a stay. The first three levels consist of the living room, the bedroom loft and bathroom, and the kitchen/dining room.
Make the trek up to the rooftop terrace for amazing panoramic views of Bologna, where you can also enjoy an aperitivo arranged by the jovial tower’s owner.
Because it’s an expensive stay, you may consider booking just one night here and spending the others at a regular hotel/B&B.
From €500 a night for the whole tower. The rate also includes a guided visit led by the owner and a drink on the terrace.
- Casa Isolani
This is a recently opened B&B with two excellent locations: one is on the lovely Piazza Santo Stefano, the other on chic Via d’Azeglio.
The B&B consists of three apartments, each with four rooms. The rooms at the Santo Stefano location have great views of Bologna (the Altana room offers a spectacular 360-degree view over Bologna’s red roofs and hills); the structure is located inside the 15th-century Palazzo Isolani, and has a rustic feel, with exposed wooden beams and earthenware tiles; breakfast is served in the common living room.
The Via D’Azeglio location is more modern in style, features two apartments, and for breakfast you have to go to a nearby café, although I wasn’t impressed with the service there.
There’s no reception, and check-in must be arranged in advance. Casa Isolani will suit the budget-conscious traveler and those who like to feel they’re staying in a house rather than a hotel.
Double rooms from €100 in low season, and from €150 in high.
What aspects are most important to you when you research a place to stay? Share in comments!