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Planning a trip to Italy? Consider adding the charming city of Bergamo to your itinerary. Located in northern Italy, less than an hour from Milan, Bergamo has all of the culture and charm, without the crowds and high lodging prices. Don’t make the mistake of missing this gem of a city on your next European vacation.
The town is divided into two parts: the quaint cobblestone roads of the città alta, and the modern cityscape of the città bassa.
Whether you’re visiting for just a few days, or using Bergamo as your base for Northern Italy, it is the perfect stop on any Italian adventure.
Let’s dive into everything you need to know about planning a trip to Bergamo from where to stay in Bergamo, the best restaurants and bars, how to get there and fun, and easy day trips to lakes, villages and the mountains.
But first, if you’re limited on time here are some of the top-rated tours in the area:
Top-5 popular tours in Northern Italy
Is Bergamo worth visiting?
Yes, yes, and yes! We loved it so much that we started looking into apartments in the area to come back for a much longer stay.
Although it is often overlooked for its more popular neighborhoods like Milan, Lake Como, and Venice, the city of Bergamo has so much to offer tourists.
Even if you only have a few hours because you are visiting Bergamo on a layover, you can still easily explore Bergamo since the city center is only a 15 minute drive from the airport, connected by a convenient bus. Plus, if you’re visiting on a layover then you can easily store your luggage in a locker at the airport for just a few extra Euro.
Where to stay in Bergamo
- For a short trip where you’ll be staying just in Bergamo, stay in the upper city. It is more charming and picturesque and gives more of a vacation feel.
- If you’re staying for longer and want easier access to the train station for day trips, etc then the lower city is going to be more convenient. Parking will be a bit easier in the lower city as well.
- Whichever you choose, you’ll be fine because the city is small and the public transportation is great!
Here are some top rated options:
Prepare for your trip to Italy
How to get there
Bergamo actually has its own small airport that is mostly serviced by low-cost carriers like Ryanair. It is super easy (and cheap) to get to Bergamo from almost any major city in Europe.
If you are flying from the US, then you’ll likely need to fly into Milan’s main airport (MXP) instead. There is a shuttle that connects the two airports, or you can take the train to Milano Centrale (main train station) and from here it is just a 45 minute train ride to reach Bergamo.
If you’re already in Italy, or elsewhere in Europe, having a car, is an easy way to get to Bergamo and to visit the surrounding area. We found that it much easier and much more affordable to book a car in Bergamo, when compared to Milan. Even if you’re staying in Milan, you can easily take a quick train ride to Bergamo to pick up the car, which will also help you to avoid some of the city traffic.
Having a car will allow you to explore many of the nearby areas like Brescia, Verona and Lake Iseo.
Below are driving distances from popular areas:
Milan > Bergamo: 1 hour
Brescia > Bergamo: 30 minutes
Verona > Bergamo 1 hour 20 minutes
Lake Iseo > Bergamo 1 hour 15 minutes
🚗 If you are planning to rent a car, I highly recommend learning to drive a manual car (or traveling someone who knows. If you your car with DiscoverCars you’ll be able to save so much money if you book a manual car! We paid just $25/day during the high season.
Bergamo is super accessible by train, whether you’re trying to get to Bergamo from a nearby Italian city or visiting nearby cities as day-trips from Bergamo.
Tickets can be purchased in-person at the train station or ahead of time online. Typically purchasing tickets for longer train 2 weeks in advance secures the best prices.
Getting from Bergamo airport to Bergamo city center
If you arriving into Bergamo airport and trying to get to the city center, then you’re in luck. The city center is located only 15 minutes away from the airport and is super easy to reach.
If you are renting a car, then you can simply pick up your car and continue on your way. Otherwise, you’ll find a taxi stand right at the arrivals area.
If you’re looking for a cheaper option, consider the bus. The bus runs every 20 minutes and stops a number of stops throughout Bergamo city. In 15 minutes you can reach the main station, the city center 3 minutes after that, the lower funicular station 5 minutes later, and finally the Città Alta 7 minutes later.
The bus tickets costs around 2,50, but is included if you buy a 24 or 48 hour city pass.
Restaurants and cafes in Bergamo
Circolino Città Alta
Il Circolino is a must-visit for any trip to Bergamo. The formerly converted prison is now home to one of the most popular restaurants in Bergamo. The space is huge so you probably don’t need a reservation, but it never hurts to have one!
The menu is filled with 25+ different types of pizza, plus a number of local pasta dishes as well. With large pizzas starting at only 6 euro, it is a great place for a delicious traditional meal and glass of Italian wine.
Vini & Sfizi
We stumbled upon this restaurant on our final night in Bergamo when the restaurant we planned to visit was closed, and boy are we happy that we did. This is going to be one of those meals that we talk about for a long time.
The restaurant is family-run with just a few tables in the small space. The traditional, local pasta is made by hand.
Caffetteria Balzer 1850 – Bergamo
One of the oldest coffee shops in city, and a must-visit when in Bergamo. It is the perfect place to enjoy a delicious Italian coffee and pastry during the day, or a cocktail or aperitivo as the night goes on. You’ll even find a full casual dining menu.
No trip to Italy is complete without your daily intake of gelato. If you’re staying in, or exploring, the lower city then Verderosa is your spot for gelato. The gelato here is extra creamy, and so so delicious.
A wine bar with small plates and dishes. La Fiaschetteria comes highly recommended, but unfortunately they were closed for the holidays when we were in town. If you have a chance to try it, let me know in the comments below how you liked it (and what I should order).
Da Mimmo Bergamo Alta
A great spot for breakfast, lunch, or dinner in the upper city. With a decent selection of handmade pastas, you’re sure to find something you love. I tried a creamy walnut and asparagus ravioli that was phenomenal.
Gelateria Cherubino di Amboni Erica
Of course having only one gelato recommendation on this list wouldn’t fly. So if you’re in the upper city and craving a cone, head here for some of the best gelato. My personal favorites are the lemon (limone) and hazelnut (nocciola).
Il Coccio trattoria da asporto
Sometimes you’re craving something a bit healthier and traditional Italian pasta and pizza dishes just don’t cut it. Il Coccio is your spot for lunch. As the name implies, it is a great spot for takeout, but the atmosphere is actually super cozy for a dine in lunch as well. I love that you can see all of the premade options to choose from when ordering.
We ordered the salmon and lasagne, plus a side dish of couscous salad and truly everything was delicious and well-priced.
Casual focaccia style pizza by the slice. Prices are a bit high as the pizza slices are priced by weight, but a good option for a quick, casual snack.
Bars: Drinks in Bergamo
A great wine bar with small bites in the lower city. If you visit before dinner, you can expect a delicious complimentary aperitivo.
Birreria di Città Alta
A casual, local drinking spot with a full bar. Expect low prices and casual vibes for an after dinner drink.
Things to do in Bergamo
Get lost in the Città Alta
The Città Alta is by far the most beautiful part of Bergamo, and exploring this area is definitely one of the best things to do in Bergamo.
You have three options for reaching the Città Alta from the city center: by funicular (the most popular way), on foot (the hardest, but still enjoyable, way) or by public bus. Or of course you can always drive your own car. You’ll find a decently large parking lot right at the top of the hill.
I recommend dedicating at least a day to getting lost in the tiny cobblestone streets of this beautiful area.
Bergamo City Gate and ancient walls
The Venetian Walls were built in the 16th century by the Republic of Venice, when Bergamo belonged to the state. Today the walls and Bergamo’s city gate mark the entryway into the città alta.
One of the unique features of Bergamo City Gate is that you can climb to the top of the gate’s towers. This climb offers panoramic views of the Città Alta and the surrounding landscape, including the Bergamo Alps and the lower town.
Explore the Piazza Vecchia
Located in the heart of the Città Alta, the Piazza Vecchia is regarded as one of the most beautiful and picturesque piazzas in Italy. It is a great place to enjoy an espresso or small bite to eat at one of the many cafes and bars in the square.
You also have the option of climbing the Campanone for panoramic views of the city below.
Visit Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, often simply referred to as Santa Maria Maggiore, is one of the most significant and impressive churches in Bergamo, Italy, located in the upper city.
Santa Maria Maggiore is not only an architectural and artistic marvel but also a significant symbol of Bergamo’s cultural heritage. Whether you’re interested in history, art, or simply seeking a moment of tranquility, a visit to this basilica is a must when exploring the captivating Città Alta of Bergamo.
Visit the Accademia Carrara
The Accademia Carrara is a must visit for art enthusiasts, offering a rich collection of Italian Renaissance and Baroque art. This summer they even had an exhibit on the Alpi Orobie, perfect for mountain lovers.
The museum’s collection includes a vast and diverse range of artworks, with a particular emphasis on Italian art from the 15th to the 18th centuries. The collection also includes works by Lombard artists and painters associated with the Venetian School.
The Accademia Carrara is the perfect place to spend an afternoon in Bergamo.
Try local pasta – casoncelli alla bergamasca
A must-do while visiting Bergamo is trying the local pasta variety, ‘casoncelli alla bergamasca’. A great place to do that is at Vini & Sfizi. At this family-run spot the chef makes the pasta by hand. A traditional ravioli-like pasta filled with meat served with thinly sliced pork and sage.
Take a day trip to Lake Como (or lesser known Lake Iseo)
Bergamo is conveniently located close by to the popular tourist destination, Lake Como.
Lake Iseo is an off-the-beaten-path experience compared to its more famous neighbors, Lake Como and Lake Garda. This hidden gem is packed with amazing things to do, whether you’re looking to explore a charming village, swim in the cool, crisp water, or hike in the mountainous trails above the lake.
Head to the Bergamo Alps (and overnight at a rifugio)
By far one of the best parts of visiting Bergamo (or living in Bergamo) is its proximity to the mountains. In fact, Bergamo is only about a 3 hour drive from the famous Dolomites region. However, there is also a closer, less popular mountain range even closer to Bergamo.
Let me introduce you to the Bergamo alps, or the Alpi Orobie, a section of the larger Italian Alps. Located as close as a 30 minute drive from Bergamo city, there are so many incredible hiking trails to visit in the area.
We drove to Carona, located an hour drive from Bergamo. From here we hiked and overnighted at two popular rifugios: Rifugio Calvi and Rifugio Fratelli Longo.
Getting around Bergamo
If you’re visiting Bergamo, you don’t need a car to see the city, but it is a great option to have for taking day trips to nearby cities and towns. If you do have a car in Bergamo it is important to make sure that you are comfortable driving on narrow, steep hills.
There is tons of cheap and free parking available in Bergamo, as well as a few designated parking lots.
If you rent a car at the airport, it is less than a 15 minute drive into the city center.
Bergamo is a super walkable city. In fact, we didn’t actually take any public transportation during the week we stayed in Bergamo.
If you’re heading from the lower city to the città alta then you can expect at least a 15-20 minute steep walk uphill. You’ll pass some beautiful views along the way so the walk is very worth it in my opinion.
If you are not a fan of getting around on foot, there are a number of public buses that operate throughout the city, both in the upper and lower city.
I recommend checking an up-to-date schedule once you arrive in the city.
Another popular option for getting from the lower city to the citta alta is by funicular. The ride itself takes 3-4 minutes and costs 1,30€. If you’re moving around a lot in Bergamo, there is also an option to purchase a 24 hour transportation card.
🏘️ Book your accommodation
Booking.com will help you to book accommodation in advance and check availability
✈️ Book your flight in advance
To find the cheapest flight options, you can use WayAway and find the most suitable option for you
Visiting Northern Italy? Here are some other articles to check out:
- Italy Road Trip Itinerary
- Visiting Lago di Braies
- What to Know About Rifugios in the Dolomites
- How to get to the Dolomites