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Looking for all the best things to do at Christmas in Bologna? Lucky for you, I have all the details ; )
My last trip to Bologna, in December, was my third. And let me tell you that walking into the historic heart of Bologna was like stepping into a Christmas card.
I couldn’t help but get swept away by the charm of Fiera di Natale, also known as Mercato di Natale. Trust me, you can’t miss it!
From the moment you step into Piazza Maggiore, you’ll get a good dose of seasonal spices, hot cocoa, and freshly baked pastries. Ah, the scent alone was worth the trip!
Savor a cup of Glühwein as you delve into this guide, which unveils the exciting experiences awaiting you in this Northern Italian gem during the holiday season.
Get ready to explore the festive treasures that Bologna’s Christmas markets have in store for you!
Bologna at Christmas: Bologna Christmas Market 2023 Opening Times & Official Dates
Most Markets open daily from November 16 to December 26 from 9:00 to 20:00.
Is Bologna Worth Visiting at Christmas?
Traditionally Christmas Markets in countries such as Germany and France get more attention than they do in Italy. So it makes you wonder if it is even worth visiting Bologna at Christmas time…
Personally, I have found that the Christmas markets in Verona and Bologna are definitely worth visiting.
For starters, it is way less crowded than the Christmas Markets in Berlin.
And what is Bologna known for? Food! So between the street food and mulled wine in a setting as beautiful as Bologna, I can’t think of any reason not to book your trip to Bologna this Christmas!
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Best Things to Do in Bologna at Christmas
Visit One of the Oldest Christmas Markets in Italy
Fiera di Santa Lucia
The market itself is what you would be hoping for in a Christmas market. Wooden chalets lined up in neat rows, adorned with twinkling fairy lights.
The vibe is tiny, rustic cottages plucked straight out of a holiday movie. I was so pleased with the wide range of food offerings, such as pizza and pasta.
You will find traditional Italian desserts like panettone and drinks like limoncello to an array of handmade crafts.
The gifts, oh the gifts! It’s not just about shopping; it’s like a treasure hunt.
I went crazy for the custom ornaments and handmade scarves and accessories. I found presents that I knew would make the people I love smile.
Each chalet felt like a mini wonderland, boasting unique crafts and gifts that were clearly made with love and a sprinkle of Christmas magic.
And let’s not forget the food that I couldn’t resist. Sipping on a cup of steaming hot chocolate while munching on crispy, sugar-dusted churros was a heavenly experience I’d recommend to anyone.
Take pictures at the Christmas tree in Piazza Maggiore
You might be wondering where the picture of me is standing in front of this beacon of Christmas cheer. Since I was traveling solo in Bologna and was too shy to ask someone to take the photo for me, I missed out.
I deeply regret not having many photos of my time at this incredible Christmas marking in Bologna.
Climb to the top of the Colle della Guardia
Visit the Blessed Virgin of San Luca
If you want to visit the Madonna di of San Luca at Christmas you are in for a beautiful view.
However, the hike itself can be a little challenging for anyone with mobility issues.
I would recommend taking the Trenino “San Luca Express” which costs approximately 10€.
This way you get a nice overall ride around Bologna with the finale of stopping at the church.
Stroll Around Il Quadrilatero Market
Visiting the ancient food market of Il Quadrilatero Market in Bologna during Christmas time is nothing short of magical.
You will be met with a cobblestoned street of twinkling lights and holiday decorations. This idyllic market district is nestled in the heart of Bologna’s historic center.
Some of the most traditional restaurants in Bologna can be found in Il Quadrilatero. Also, here you will find food vendors selling produce, cured meats, and cheeses.
During Christmas, you can also expect to find seasonal treats like panettone!
A trip to this historic market is like stepping into an Italian Christmas storybook. It’s an absolute must-see for anyone spending the holidays in Bologna.
Pay a Visit to the Seven Churches
When you visit Bologna at Christmas, you should make a visit to “Seven Churches”. However, there are only 4 churches remaining to visit.
I learned on my food tour that the “Seven Churches” refers to the Basilica of Santo Stefano, a complex of religious edifices located in the city’s historic center.
Dating back to the 5th century, these structures have undergone various transformations throughout the centuries.
The significance of the Seven Churches was the life of Jesus Christ, making it an important pilgrimage site.
Today, the church structures remaining that you can visit are:
- The Church of the Crucifix
- The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
- The Church of the Saints Vitale and Agricola
- The Church of the Trinity or Martyrium
Eat all the traditional Christmas Desserts
The holidays are a time of year to treat yo self ; ) and that can mean stuffing your face with all the culinary delights that Bologna has during the Christmas period.
In Bologna, I frequently indulged in the following desserts:
This fluffy, fruit-filled cake is not just good food; it’s an Italian Christmas icon.
In Bologna, you can find Panettone with local specialties like dark chocolate chips and pine nuts. Placed next to Christmas tree decorations, it adds a festive touch to Christmas lunch.
Another traditional dessert is best enjoyed with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and a glass of mulled wine.
Pandoro is often the centerpiece at New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Certosino or Panspeziale
This is an age-old recipe cherished by Bolognese people, filled with almonds, pine nuts, and a range of spices. It’s a treat that perfectly embodies the spirit of the season and is often included in food tours.
Torrone and Croccante
These sweet nougats made of honey, egg whites, and almonds or hazelnuts are staples in small markets around the Fountain of Neptune and the Chiesa dei Servi.
You can also find Torrone in adorable wooden houses that serve as Christmas ornament shops.
You will find this all year, not just at Christmas! Zuppa Inglese is commonly enjoyed throughout the year and often makes an extra appearance during the holiday season.
It’s a layered dessert, similar to trifle, featuring custard and sponge cake soaked in Alchermes liqueur, yum.
Special Spots for Desserts
If you’re wondering where the best place to enjoy these desserts might be, consider embarking on a food tour. It’s not just about tasting; it’s about diving deep into the culinary traditions of Bologna.
The bakeries I loved the most were:
The Portico dei Servi often hosts a French market where you can find local products, including traditional Italian sweets.
Attend a Christmas Show
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Santa Lucia Christmas Market (La fiera di Santa Lucia)
- Strada Maggiore, under the Servi portico
- November 11 to December – 26 from 9:00 to 20:00
This market is traditionally set up along the portico of the Church of Santa Lucia. You can expect a wide variety of Christmas decorations, nativity figures, and handcrafted goods.
I found it was smaller than some of the other markets but super cozy and worth visiting.
Fiera di Natale (Mercato di Natale)
- November 18 – January 6 from 9:00 to 20:00
- Via Altabella, 3, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy
This is the main Christmas market in Bologna, located in the iconic Piazza Maggiore. Rows of wooden chalets, adorned with twinkling lights, offer everything from traditional Italian foods to handmade crafts.
The market is often the epicenter of holiday festivities in the city, complete with seasonal music.
The Antique Christmas Market (Fiera dell’antiquariato)
- Voltone del Palazzo del Podestà
- From 12 December to 24 from 8.30 to 19.00
During my visit to Bologna around Christmas, I stumbled upon this market of antiques, trinkets, and knick-knacks.
This wasn’t just Christmas-only decorations, more of anytime decorations. I could tell that the Traditional Bologna Antique Market is a staple in the city’s holiday festivities.
Located in the square in front of the Basilica di Santo Stefano, the backdrop of the historic basilica made browsing through the market even more magical.
The French Christmas Market (Villaggio di Natale Francese)
- Piazza Minghetti Square
- 25 November – 24 December from 9:00 to 20:00
Bringing a bit of French flair to the Italian city, this market offers a range of products that include French food specialties, arts, and crafts. There are lots of French cheeses, wines, and treats to be had at this market.
Italian Christmas Traditions in Bologna
Christmas Markets and Wooden Houses
No Christmas in Bologna would be complete without a visit to its magical Christmas markets.
The wooden houses that line the streets are filled with local products, handmade crafts, and an array of Christmas ornaments.
These markets provide a wonderful opportunity to shop for gifts and souvenirs while soaking in the festive atmosphere.
Nativity Scenes (Presepi)
One of the most cherished Christmas traditions in Bologna is the display of nativity scenes, also known as ‘Presepi.’
You’ll find these intricate nativity scenes in churches, public squares, and sometimes even in smaller settings like shop windows.
The Big Christmas Tree and Light Displays
The city goes all out with Christmas decorations, including the big Christmas tree usually set up near the Fountain of Neptune.
The lights and ornaments on the tree are a sight to behold and provide a perfect backdrop for holiday photos.
The Festival of Santa Lucia
Held in early December, typically December 13th, the Festival of Santa Lucia marks the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season in Bologna.
During the festival, you can explore a special market filled with toys, sweets, and Santa Lucia-themed decorations. It’s a particularly delightful event for the kids.
Midnight Mass and Religious Celebrations
For those interested in the religious aspects of the season, midnight Mass is a deeply entrenched tradition.
The Chiesa dei Servi and other churches around the city host beautiful services filled with hymns, sermons, and nativity scenes, providing a peaceful way to celebrate the holiday.
New Year’s Eve Celebrations
If you are staying past Christmas and will be in Bologna you can enjoy fireworks!
Final Thoughts on Bologna at Christmas
I would highly recommend finding your way to Bologna during the holiday season! It is a special kind of way to experience Italy that most don’t get to see!
FAQs for Bologna at Christmas
The likely dates for the Bologna Christmas Market are from 16th November to 26th December 2023.
The market will be primarily situated at Strada Maggiore (Portico dei Servi). You can also find other markets at Piazza Maggiore, Via Altabella, and Corte Isolani.
The typical opening times for the Bologna Christmas Markets are from 9:00 to 20:00.
The temperatures average around 7°C for the high and 2°C for the low in December.
No, the markets will be mostly closed on Christmas Day.
No, Santa is not at the Christmas Markets in Bologna.
You will find limited options for vegan food, but lots of vegetarian options at the Bologna Christmas Markets.