25 Things To Do in Bergamo: Ultimate Guide to Northern Italy’s Hidden Gem

25 Things To Do in Bergamo: Ultimate Guide to Northern Italy’s Hidden Gem

Bergamo may just be northern Italy’s undiscovered gem. It’s a thriving city not far from Milan oozing with historical charm. Its ancient upper town, Città Alta, is perched above the modern lower town, Città Bassa, fortified with 16th-century Venetian walls to protect it from invaders of the past. What makes it so wonderful is that it is far less touristy than other Italian cities and with so much untouched beauty to see. Discover the best things to do in Bergamo and why you should visit this gem in northern Italy.

Bergamo also happens to be my home as an ex-pat living in Italy. So I have grown to know the city like the back of my hand – or as Italians like to say, like my pocket!

If you need any other help planning your trip to Italy, visit my ultimate guide to planning a trip to Italy. I’ve combined what I’ve learned over my last few years of traveling all around Italy to help make planning a trip as easy as possible.

And if you need inspiration for your trip beyond Bergamo, I’ve written on some of my other favorite cities in Italy to inspire you.

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How to Reach Bergamo

Bergamo Città Alta from La Rocca Castle
Stunning sunset views over Città Alta from La Rocca

There are five convenient options to reach Bergamo. You can travel by renting a car, by train, by bus, by organized day tour, or arrive directly in the city at its international airport.

Being only 40 minutes away, Bergamo is a perfect day trip from Milan. Trains run back and forth daily – learn how to navigate them with these essential Italy train travel tips.

Companies like FlixBus and Terravision also offer buses from Bergamo to Milan, as well as other destinations, for as little as 5 euros.

If you choose to go by car, you may need to take the highway, so make sure to factor in the cost of tolls on your trip budget. It will vary based on the distance you are traveling, but, for example, the toll from Milan to Bergamo costs around 4 euros one way.

While DIYing your visit by using public transportation to having a car will save you money, you may prefer to spend a little more to have everything taken care of for you. In that case, you could join a half-day organized tour from Milan to Bergamo.

Bergamo also has its own airport, Orio al Serio (BGY). It’s the third-largest hub of RyanAir, so it could be a perfect budget travel trip if you are coming from Europe! There are buses that get you from the airport to Bergamo city center in about 20 minutes.

Where to Stay in Bergamo

Bergamo walls
Bergamo’s 16th-century Venetian walls in springtime

Bergamo is the perfect place to visit for one day on your northern Italy itinerary, but as you’ll find out, there’s so much to do in and around the old city. You may want to spend a few extra days exploring!

I recommend staying in Città Alta, the old town, for its charm. Both B&B Entro Le Mura and Relais San Vigilio al Castello are in Bergamo Alta.

If you’re renting a car, you may want to stay in Città Bassa. You’ll find parking easier to find, and you won’t have to deal with the ZTL, limited traffic zones, of Città Alta. Learn more about rules like ZTLs in my guide to driving in Italy.

Hotel Excelsior San Marco is in Città Bassa but only a few minutes walk to the funicular up to Città Alta or the walking path.

Budget: B&B Entro Le Mura

Mid-Range: Hotel Excelsior San Marco

Luxury: Relais San Vigilio al Castello

Near the airport: Winter Garden Hotel

Things to Do in Bergamo Città Alta

If you love history, you will absolutely love Città Alta. While you can totally explore Bergamo on your own and enjoy the city, you may want to get a deeper feel for its past by doing a private walking tour with a local guide.

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

One of the first can’t-miss things to do in Bergamo is head over to Piazza Duomo and visit the city’s three big religious monuments.

What I love about the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, Cappella Colleoni, and Duomo di Sant’Alessandro is that they are in the center of the city, but are tucked behind Palazzo della Ragione. It makes the reveal of these huge and decorated churches so special. You stroll through the big open piazza and go around the palazzo to be met with stunning, sacred architecture.

This is quite a unique urban layout compared to other Italian cities, where the church is like the centerpiece of the city center.

The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is unique because its entrance and facade are not grand or even very clear. You’ll first notice Cappella Colleoni and then to the left is an unassuming door to where you enter the Basilica.

Cappella Colleoni

Domed church in Bergamo Italy called Cappella Colleoni
Cappella Colleoni is a magical building that represents the beauty of Bergamo.

Based on its outer appearance, you may expect Cappella Colleoni to be the main church of Bergamo. The facade is ornately decorated, grandiose, and frankly, humongous!

Inside, you’ll find it just as decorated as the outside, flooded with art and opulent detail.

Duomo di Bergamo

The Duomo di Bergamo is architecturally attached to a Palazzo, as you can see to the left of the photo.

The Duomo of Bergamo, or Cattedrale di Sant’Alessandro is to the left of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and the Cappella Colleoni. The church takes the name of Bergamo’s patron saint, and while it’s smaller than the basilica, it is no less impressive.

Inside are various artworks, statues, and even the tiara of a pope – Pope John XXIII to be exact, who was from Bergamo and is now a saint.


After visiting Piazza Duomo, the next things to do in Bergamo are just steps away – the Campanone and Piazza Vecchia. This 12th-century tower was constructed across from the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and offers panoramic views of Bergamo from the top.

The Campanone is a bell tower, with the largest bell in Lombardy. Centuries ago, the bell would be rung 100 times at 10 pm. This was to let residents know the gates to Bergamo were closing. It still rings as such today to preserve that tradition!

You can enter for 5 euros and read more about it for planning your visit at the tourism site, Visit Bergamo.

Piazza Vecchia

Piazza Vecchia is the heart of Città Alta and the locals who live there.

It’s everything you love in an Italian plaza. There are restaurants, cafés, lots of people, and beautiful architecture. Piazza Vecchia is not too small and not too big, so you really feel like a local.

If you come during certain times of the year, there may even be festivals occurring, such as this garden show in September.

Take the path to Porta San Giacomo

Porta San Giacomo is a grand welcome to Città Alta as you walk up the winding path.

The Porta San Giacomo is one of the ancient gates to the city. Its white facade along the Venetian fortified walls is visible from miles away. In history, it was the door to the city of Bergamo through which travelers from Milan would enter.

The path leading up to this gate, which is one of four, is a winding cobblestone walkway from which you can take a beautiful photo of the sprawling Città Bassa below.

Walk Along the Walls

Peek over the walls to see the cascading villas of Bergamo.

Along the 500-year-old walls of Città Alta, there are wide grassy parks to literally sit on top of history and take in the breathtaking views. Just over the walls, you’ll peek at the cascading villas down to Città Bassa.

Enjoy some moments at sunset on a park bench, take a jog on the paths along the walls, or simply stroll along this UNESCO World Heritage Site as you make your way to the historic center of the city.

Get Stracciatella at La Marianna

The cute pastry and gelato shop La Marianna is decorated with natural greenery and twinkly lights.

La Marianna is a famous gelateria and pastry shop in the heart of Città Alta. They invented the flavor of Stracciatella, a silky vanilla cream mixed with chocolate shavings.

While the best time to get a gelato might be the sweltering afternoons of Bergamo summers, stopping by La Marianna in the evening is even more special. The outside of the cafe and its seating area are decorated with beautiful twinkling lights.

Campanella Tower & Piazza della Citadella

When exploring Città Alta, always look up and around you to spot one of its many ancient towers! This stunning clocktower, the Campanella, is incredibly unique for its fresco-painted exterior.

The clocktower is an entrance to Piazza della Cittadella, built in the 1300s, which was used as the military center of Bergamo. Nowadays, you’ll find resident parking as well as several important museums in this piazza, like the Civic Archaeological Museum.

Shop the Main Street of Città Alta

When in the center of Città Alta, you will likely find yourself on Via Bartolomeo Colleoni/Via Gombito. This is the main street that connects the Piazza Della Cittadella to the Piazza Vecchio and then to Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe, where the Funicolare is located from Città Bassa to Città Alta.

It is the bustling street of the historic center, lined with shops, restaurants, and bakeries.

What’s wonderful about Bergamo is that it has not been overrun by tourism as opposed to other major cities in Italy. You will see far fewer tourists in Bergamo and much more character, which makes it a wonderful destination to visit!

Gombito Tower

Gombito Tower dates back to at least the 12th century in Bergamo and was an important stronghold to the noble Suardi family. It is a unique, plain rectangular shape that towers through the crowded buildings of Bergamo’s main street, Via Gombito.

Now with reinforcements to its staircase, you can climb to the top for views over Città Alta (that is, if you’re willing to climb 263 steps.)

Il Lavatoio

One of the most endearing spots in Città Alta is the Lavatoio. This romantic-looking washhouse seems to come straight from a fairytale with its marble construction and cast-iron roof.

In truth, this was where locals would do their laundry or grab a drink of water dating from the late 1800s. Nowadays, this little spot off of Via Gombito is a place for locals to sit and chat under the shade of the large trees and transport themselves back in time for just a moment.

Ride the Funicular

One of the most characteristic parts of the city of Bergamo is the Funicular (Funicolare).

This cable car, built in the late 1800s, finally connected the lower and upper parts of town. More than a convenient way to get around, it speaks to the old charm and interesting geography that’s shaped the significance of the city.

You can take the funicular from Città Bassa to Città Alta, as well as another funicular from Città Alta to the highest point of San Vigilio.

The cable car costs 1-2 euros per person, and the ticket is valid for 75 minutes. Beware that lines for the funicular get super long in the summer, so to avoid the crowds, arrive early or in the sweet spot of late afternoon.

Pro Tip: Wait to validate your ticket until the cable car arrives to pick you up and the attendant checks you in!

Castello di San Vigilio

The Castello di San Vigilio is centuries old and formerly the residence of numerous of Bergamo’s rulers.

The San Vigilio Castle is a castle at the highest point of Città Alta. Taking the funicular up to this part of town is extra exciting because so you’ll have sweeping views from the cable car.

The funicular will drop you off at a little terrace where you can take beautiful pictures of the main part of Città Alta below.

Hike a little further up the path to the right where you’re dropped off, and you’ll make your way to Castello di San Vigilio in only a few minutes.

You can enter the castle and climb the tower to reach a park at the top, with beautiful views and idyllic spots to have a picnic or midday break.

Enjoy Bergamo’s Famous Dishes, Casoncelli alla Bergamasca or Polenta

Indulge yourself in the simple but delicious Casonelli.

It’s no secret Italy’s cuisine is unbeatable. I absolutely love how every region, down to every city, has its own special dishes characteristic of the area – including Bergamo!

Bergamo’s most famous dish is Casoncelli alla Bergamasca. Casoncelli is similar to ravioli, filled with beef and coated with a light dressing of melted butter and sage.

There are also so many other foods to try here that are native to the city or the mountainous region north of Bergamo – polenta, pizzoccheri, salame alla bergamasca.

Polenta takes on many forms in a dish. It can be a simple side, the first course with other ingredients, or famously in Bergamo, a cake! Try Polenta e Osei, a polenta dessert, or the Donizetti Cake, named after famous composer Gaetano Donizetti.

Some of my favorite places to eat in Bergamo are Da Mimmo for pizza and traditional food and Goss for amazing burgers.

Good to know: If you are a total foodie, head on a traditional food tour of Bergamo!

The Lorenzo Rota Botanical Gardens

The view over the Lorenza Rota Botanical Gardens

The botanical gardens of Città Alta are truly a hidden gem place to explore! Less than a three-minute walk from La Marianna, the Lorenzo Rota Botanical Gardens is a cascading collection of all types of plants and garden setups to sneak away from the crowds and go off the beaten path.

To reach these gardens, you’ll have to climb quite a few steps and take some narrow, uneven walking paths throughout, but the peek-a-boo views of Città Alta’s skyline are unbeatable.

P.S. The gardens are free to enter!

La Rocca

Locally known as “La Rocca” but historically, and kind of mundanely, known as “the Castle,” this military fort sits on another steep climb, yet across town near the Città Alta funicular.

This castle dates back to Roman times and is a local favorite for hanging out along the walls and taking in the view. Or, if you love history, walk around the castle to see the several monuments erected in honor of military personnel from Bergamo and get an up-close look at canons at the castle’s entrance.

Hike Up To The Walls

Now, I like to stay pretty active, so I thought a 15-minute hike up to the walled Città Alta would be completely fine. But I barely reached the top, with my heart beating out of my chest!

If you are a fan of hiking and love to stay fit while traveling, then you’d love this steep climb to Città Alta.

Park near where Via Dello Statuto meets Via Fontanabrolo, then follow the brown sign pointing to Mura di Bergamo.

You’ll walk up a very steep and scenic stone path. The walk and the views took my breath away!

There are other paths that are easier to walk, leading you up to Città Alta. One is from Borgo Palazzo to Porta Sant’Agostino. Another is the path up to Porta San Giacomo from Via Sant’Alessandro in Città Bassa.

Things to do in Bergamo Lower Town: Citta Bassa & Around

Bergamo Città Alta from Città Bassa street
Bergamo’s Città Bassa is full of streets with idyllic views of Città Alta on the hilltop.

Via XX Settembre

Make your way to Città Bassa, and you experience modern Italy.

It’s the financial and working district of the city, with its bits of historic charm. I suggest first making your way to Via XX Settembre. This street is pedestrian-only and lined with shops and restaurants!

Piazza Matteotti

Piazza Matteotti is in the central part of bustling Città Bassa.

Located on Via Roma that takes you towards the entrance to Città Alta, Piazza Matteotti has great bars for aperitivo like Balzer, space for a nice stroll, and is also right behind the Largo Porta Nuova – the “doors” to Bergamo.

Gelateria La Romana

Two of my favorite flavors are Pistachio and Biscotto della Nonna!

If you are in Città Bassa craving a refreshing, creamy cone of gelato, head to Gelateria La Romana!

Grab a cone and ask for a pump of either white chocolate, caramel, or milk chocolate at the bottom. Then, choose your flavors and take a seat on a bench outside.

You’ll love the chocolate surprise on your last bite – a unique twist I haven’t seen anywhere else in Italy!


Oriocenter is a huge and modern mall just ten minutes from the city center!

It may be a bit odd to suggest going to a mall of all places when visiting a new city. However, if you have the time, Bergamo’s mall, OrioCenter is actually worth it.

It’s not only beautifully designed, but it has the most stores in a mall in ALL of Europe. It is shopping heaven!

I also find it interesting when I travel not only to visit the historical sites and natural wonders but also the places locals go to on a daily basis. I believe it opens your eyes up more to what a place is like to see not only tourist attractions!

Val Brembana

Bergamo is situated at the foot of the Italian Alps.

Just a 20-minute drive outside of the city are the openings to several different valleys, including Val Brembana. The Brembo River flows through this mountainous valley, while the snowy peaks from winter create stunning waterfalls in the spring and summer.

The town of Branzi is famous for its local cheese, while San Pellegrino Terme has a beautiful town center and luxury thermal baths at QC Terme perfect for a couple’s getaway.

You’ll need a car to explore this vastly diverse geographic area just outside of Bergamo, but it’s well worth it if you are a nature-lover and outdoors enthusiast.

Lago D’Iseo

Visit the picturesque Monte Isola for a lovely evening on Lake Iseo.

If you’ve run out of things to do in Bergamo (which you shouldn’t with this list,) then head to nearby Lake Iseo. The north of Italy is rich with lakes, and Lake Iseo is only a 25-30 minute drive from Bergamo’s city center.

Lake Iseo is smaller than other lakes but no less gorgeous. There is actually an island in the middle of this lake, Monte Isola. Discover a stunning fisherman’s town and beautiful castle, Rocca Martinengo, on the island.

I also recommend checking out Darsena 21 for aperitif. It’s a refurbished lakeside-home-turned-restaurant that has converted its dock and its gorgeous views into a bar.

Crespi d’Adda

The cotton factory in Crespi d’Adda.

Bergamo’s walls aren’t the only UNESCO site in this area. Take a quick trip to Crespi d’Adda, in the municipality of Capriate San Gervasio, just a half-hour drive away from the city center.

Crespi d’Adda is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being an outstanding example of an Industrial Age workers’ village. The town was built by cotton manufacturer Cristoforo Benigno Crespi to support the factory workers, providing them with housing and community buildings.

Today, you can tour the various structures and walk around the uniquely uniform streets.

Lake Garda

Lake Garda oozes Italian charm with beautiful historic towns and characteristic villas alongside the mountains.

Of all the things to do in Bergamo, this is the furthest, but well worth it. Lake Garda is famous for its picturesque villa towns and soaring mountain peaks. It’s the largest lake in Italy.

Lake Garda is about an hour from Bergamo, so if you are planning to stay in northern Italy for a while, I highly suggest making it out here. Small but beautiful Lake Garda towns include Sirmione and the hidden gem Lazise.

These towns are on the southern ends of the lake in the region of Veneto. If you have more time to spend, you can venture north through Lombardy and visit Limone sul Garda. You could even go to the very northern tip of the lake and enter the region of Trentino Alto-Adige, with beautiful towns like Riva del Garda at the foot of the Alps.

The SGTD Take

I highly encourage you to go off the beaten path and visit this hidden gem city! Bergamo is a special corner of Italy with so much well-preserved history and tons of things to do in and around the center.

It’s a perfect place for all kinds of travelers – particularly families, solo travelers, and couples. Make time on your trip to Italy to add a day in Bergamo!

Share with me in the comments if you have visited Bergamo before or have found something on this list that makes you want to go see it.

Italy Trip Planning Resources

  • Accommodation: For Italy, I mainly use Booking.com to search and book places to stay.
  • Booking flights: I like to search for flights through Skyscanner, but I also book direct depending on the airline.
  • Activities & experiences: For things to do that require a ticket, and for more unique trip activities, I use Musement.
  • Road trip: For renting a car, I get the best prices by comparing companies with AutoEurope. I then use ViaMichelin to estimate road trip costs and Autostrade.it to find gas stations/have live updates on traffic.
  • Transportation: Traveling by public transportation is a great way to see Italy. I use Trenitalia or Trainline to book tickets for trains and Flixbus for long-haul bus trips.
  • Accessories: I always travel with this portable charger to stay connected and with a universal adapter to accommodate Italy’s plug types.
  • Need help planning an itinerary? Fill out my form for a custom itinerary request!

Don’t forget to save these ideas for your trip on Pinterest!

I hope you enjoyed all these things to do in Bergamo and make your way over to this Italian gem soon! Buon Viaggio!




Michela is a travel writer and photographer living in northern Italy. She is passionate about helping people make the most of their travels by sharing advice gained from her personal experiences, off-the-beaten-path destinations and time-saving quick itineraries. Browse her top articles or have her help you plan your itinerary to your dream destination!

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  1. November 21, 2021 / 6:52 am

    We are heading to Bergamo for the long weekend in December and this is super useful! Thank you for sharing and I’ll keep up to date on your instagram for festive places to visit!

    • November 21, 2021 / 1:17 pm

      Hi Amy, thanks for sharing – you will love Bergamo at Christmastime! There is already a ferris wheel, carousel, and Christmas village with various vendors from Europe set up in Città Bassa – I hope you have a great trip! 🙂

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