Bolzano is a special place that combines the spirits of both Northern Europe and the Mediterranean in a single city. The capital of the South Tyrol region, this city of 100,000 inhabitants has a long history of connecting Italy and Germany, both in their present forms and as the empires they once belonged to. Bolzano’s long cultural and artistic legacy is apparent in its old medieval town center with Gothic and Romanesque buildings and lovely pastel row houses. The city is also known as “The Gate to the Dolomites,” as the nearby world-famous mountain chain is visible even from the town’s main square.
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1.Abbazia di Muri-Gries
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Much of what makes Bolzano and the entire region of Northern Italy special is the preservation of many of its older architectural gems, which give the city its Old World charm. The Abbazia di Muri-Gries, or Muri Gries Abbey, is one such building located on one edge of Gries Square. The monastery’s first inhabitants were Augustine monks, who settled here in 1406. Later in the next century, the massive stone complex was heavily damaged because of peasant uprisings and fallout from the Napoleonic wars. Eventually, the buildings were given to Benedictine monks in the 19th century. The abbey includes a castle, baroque-style church, and the heaviest bell in the South Tyrol region.
Piazza Gries, 21, 39100 Bolzano BZ, Italy, Phone: +39-04-71-28-22-87
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The Arcades are one of the most famous sites in all of Bolzano. They are located along Via dei Portici and start on the western side of Town Hall Square. The shops that sit in the arcades are known for their impressive architectural and design features. They include fascinating wooden shutters and baroque-style floral plaster decorations. One by one, these shops come together to form the city’s most lively commercial district, which combines classic and modern in a single location. The gorgeous structures are as old as the city of Bolzano itself, as the Via dei Portici was the town’s first street, built in approximately 1180 AD.
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3.Assumption of Our Lady Cathedral
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The Assumption of Our Lady Cathedral is the city of Bolzano’s main architectural highlight, sitting centrally on the town’s main piazza, Walther Square. The large stone church is a fine example of both the Gothic and Romanesque design styles, a look it was given in several iterations over the 15th and 16th centuries. In addition to its impressive architectural forms, the Assumption of Our Lady Cathedral presents other beautiful visual works, such as the frescos on its interior walls. The church is also home to a treasury museum, which contains one of the most extensive collections of baroque and medieval sacred artifacts in the entire Tyrol region.
Piazza della Parrocchia 27 - 39100 Bolzano, Italy, Phone: +39-04-71-97-86-76
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4.Barbianer Wasserfalle - Cascate di Barbiano
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In addition to the captivating architectural, historical, and cultural attractions to be found in Bolzano, the town and its surrounding region also teem with natural landmarks. One such landmark is the Barbian Waterfalls, which is formed by the falling of the 6-kilometer-long Ganderbach stream. The waterfalls are divided into an upper and a lower section. Trails are marked between the two for easy hiking from one to the other. Although visitors are permitted to traverse the territory around the falls on their own, guided informational tours are available during the summer season for a more educational look at this natural wonder.
39040 Bolzano, Italy, Phone: +39-04-71-65-44-11
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5.Base Camp Dolomites
© Base Camp Dolomites
Base Camp Dolomites furnishes a number of useful services and tours to make a stay in Tyrol adventurous, relaxing, and enjoyable. On the practical side of things, Base Camp Dolomites provides space for luggage storage, vehicle and bicycle rentals, and airport transfers as well as sporting equipment rentals. In terms of excursions, the company has a large offering of tours through the Dolomites and the surrounding area. These range from guided bicycle tours to days out at local wineries, festivals, and Christmas markets to gourmet programs targeted towards food connoisseurs. Visitors can explore the mountains, the Castle of Presule, and the lakes at Montiggl, among other scenic landscapes and sites.
Piazza Stazione 1, 39100 Bolzano, Phone: +39-04-71-97-17-33
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Cantina Bolzano is a new winery, founded just recently in 2001, that adheres to a long tradition of grape growing and wine production in Italy’s Tyrol region. In fact, this facility is the marriage of two historical wine producers from the area. The cantina utilizes a painstakingly detailed aging process in its cellar, and the entire enterprise is closely monitored by its staff wine experts. Cantina Bolzano specializes in two regional wine varieties, St. Magdalener and Lagrein. The winery creates an idyllic countryside setting for visitors to enjoy. On site, there is a retail wine shop and guided informational tours of the cellar, while specialty wine tastings are available upon request.
Grieser Platz 2, I-39100 Bolzano/Bozen (BZ), Italy, Phone: +39-04-71-27-09-09
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Castel Roncolo, or Runkelstein Castle, is a massive medieval structure located just outside the city of Bolzano. The castle, which was built in 1237, is an imposing sight that sits atop an awe-inspiring rocky peak. Like many medieval buildings, Castel Roncolo has a storied past in which its ownership was passed down among various royal and wealthy families. Although it has been damaged on several occasions throughout the centuries, the building was restored in 1893 and given to the city of Bolzano. A particularly special feature of the castle is the collection of literary frescos that covers both its interior and exterior walls, an attribute that has earned it the nickname “The Illustrated Castle.”
Sentiero Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Weg, 39100 Bolzano, Italy, Phone: +39-04-71-32-98-08
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© Krippenmuseum Muri-Gries
Krippenmuseum is the German for crib museum, an accurate descriptor of this exhibition within the Muri convent in Bolzano. The exhibit is located inside the Romanesque tower of the Gries Castle, which forms part of the Muri-Gries abbey building complex. The display cases within the crib collection depict diorama images from both the Christmas and Passion stories. More than 40 religious figurines are used to construct these still lifes. The artifacts found in the display come from throughout the South Tyrol region of Italy, and the pictures span the centuries, with some dating all the way back to the 1700s.
Piazza Gries, 21, 39100 Bolzano BZ, Italy, Phone: +39-04-71-28-11-16
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Maretsch Castle is a lovely medieval residential castle located in the heart of Bolzano’s town center. The oldest portion of the castle was built in the early 13th century and was occupied by the Maretsch family, who were important aids to the sovereign of Tyrol at the time. In 1477, the Romer family took over the castle and modified it into a more Renaissance style. These Renaissance elements have remained to this day, giving Maretsch Castle its unique appearance when set against other medieval castles in the region. Many of the castle’s rooms are still decorated in their traditional form, although modern touches have been added to make the space more functional. Guided tours and castle rentals for private events are available.
Via Claudia de' Medici, 12, 39100 Bolzano BZ, Italy, Phone: +39-04-71-97-66-15
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The Mercantile Museum is a treasure trove of exhibits on Bolzano’s commercial history. In its exhibits, which are placed in the city’s Mercantile Building, one can track the history of economic activity in the town in a beautiful, well-curated setting. Among the exhibited items are documents, furnishings, and paintings. The building itself is a beautiful specimen, with many of its interiors preserved to look as they did in the past. Some highlights of the Mercantile Museum are its hall of honor, grand staircase, interior courtyard, and two loggia, or open-sided galleries. The stories housed within the museum describe Bolzano’s rise as an economic center, prime commercial geographic location, and role in the events of World War II.
Via Dei Portici 39, 39100 Bolzano, Italy, Phone: +39-04-71-94-57-02
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11.Messner Mountain Museum MMM Firmian
© Messner Mountain Museum MMM Firmian
Given its prime location near several mountain ranges, it is fitting that Bolzano has a museum dedicated to the world’s towering natural peaks. The Messner Mountain Museum actually has six different locations, and its Firmian branch focuses on man’s relationship to the mountains. The museum is housed in Sigmundskron Castle, which overlooks the Etsch and Eisack Rivers. Sigmundskron is a fortified stone structure and one of the oldest of South Tyrol’s castles, with records of its existence dating back to the year 945. Inside, exhibits and artwork trace humanity’s treatment of mountains, with installations on their religious significance, modern mountaineering and alpine tourism, and their use in orienteering.
Sigmundskronerstr. 53, I-39100 Bozen, Phone: +39-04-71-63-12-64
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Museion is the place to go in Bolzano to enjoy works of modern art. Museion is located in an open, contemporary building that takes the form of a cube and has a number of convertible spaces that house artistic exhibits, studios, and rooms for workshops and master classes. Emerging from Museion are beautiful views of the nearby mountains and several wavy bridges that contrast the stark geometric shape of the museum itself. Museion has about 4,250 works of art in its collection, with a special focus in its pieces on the relationships between art and text and between art and history. The museum features both international and local artists.
Piazza Piero Siena 1, 39100 Bolzano, Italy, Phone: + 39-04-71-22-34-13
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Muster-Gasse is the Broadway of the city of Bolzano. This wide street has held many names, including Herren-Gasse and Archduke Rainer Gasse, but today it has its original Muster-Gasser moniker. Although in Bolzano’s early history this street played a very small role, by the 18th century, it had become Bolzano’s most prestigious thoroughfare and the favored neighborhood of nobles and merchants. The residences along the way were known as palais and were decorated first with beautiful baroque and then with classical ornamentation. Following World War I, Muster-Gasse began to decline, and today, the ornate homes of the past are occupied by companies and shops.
Via della Mostra, 39100 Bolzano BZ, Italy
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© Naturmuseum Sudtirol
The Museum of Nature South Tyrol is conveniently situated centrally in old Bolzano. It brings together a comprehensive collection of natural specimens from the South Tyrol region. This area is known for its beautiful landscapes and flora, and the museum provides a trip through history, giving visitors a full tour of the development of these wonderful, picturesque mountains and valleys. The permanent exhibition focuses on the geology and habitat of South Tyrol, presenting them through interesting diorama presentations, games, and models. Additionally, the museum features a number of rotating exhibits, which spotlight fascinating topics, as well as a 9,000-liter aquarium.
Bindergasse 1, 39100 Bozen/Bolzano, Italy, Phone: +39-04-71-41-29-60
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Piazza Walther is the absolute center of Bolzano, sitting right in the heart of its old town. The piazza sees millions of visitors every year, with the largest crowds making their appearances during the yearly Christmas Market and Flower Market. Piazza Walther was built in 1808 on the site of a former vineyard, which was the property of the Bavarian royal dynasty. In the center there stands a statue of Walther von der Vogelweide, a famous regional poet. Near Piazza Walther, one can find a number of shops and banks, the arcades, and the local cathedral and train station. Despite the many years that have passed, the square has maintained its beautiful medieval look.
Piazza Walther, 39100 Bolzano BZ, Italy
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16.Private Ski Tour in the Dolomites - The Sella Ronda
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The staff at ItalyDolomites are truly in love with the Dolomites, and they have devoted their lives to sharing that passion with visitors to these stunning mountain peaks. This company has countless tours throughout the Dolomite region that vary based on season and preference—some involve playing in the mountains, others tour the city, while another group indulges in the local culinary scene. But perhaps the most famous bespoke excursion offered by ItalyDolomites is its Sella Ronda ski tour. This tour is 40 kilometers long and includes 26 kilometers of trails. It covers four mountain passes and four valleys, allowing visitors to take in all the breathtaking beauty of these snow-covered beauties.
Via Novacella, 34 39100 Bolzano, Italy, Phone: +39-33-56-04-06-40
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17.Puez-Geisler Nature Park
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The Puez-Geisler Nature Park is so spectacular in terms of its landscape and geology that it was added to the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in 2009. It includes every type of rock stratum that one can find in the Dolomites, making it a rich treasure trove of rocks, deposits, and sediments. The area, which is located entirely in the South Tyrol region and has special protections, can be divided into two sections. The north is covered in striking, jagged peaks, which are often referred to as the white mountains, while the southern landscape features a sprawling plateau lined with meadows and dark rocks.
Santa Maddalena, 114/a, Bolzano, Italy, Phone: +39-04-72-84-25-23
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© Salewa Cube
The Salewa Cube is a mountain climber’s dream, all in a space of 1,850 square meters. This venue is an indoor-outdoor climbing and bouldering center and Italy’s largest climbing hall. It includes more than 180 climbing routes and space for 200 climbers to take on the walls and challenges simultaneously. The Salewa Challenge Area provides an excellent platform for climbers to improve their skills in preparation for difficult climbs like the Dolomites and the Lake Garda area, while a separate bouldering area provides a venue specifically for this type of climbing. The cube has group and private lessons for beginner and intermediate climbers, and equipment rental is available on site.
Via Waltraud-Gebert-Deeg, 4, 39100 Bolzano BZ, Italy, Phone: +39-0-47-11-88-14-32
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© Südtiroler Archaologiemuseum
The South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology is a wonderful collection of regional natural and historical items. The museum features a permanent exhibition as well as a rotating themed collection and active research efforts. The permanent exhibits include information and items about Otzi the Iceman, a completely preserved relic from the late Stone Age, also known as the Copper Age. Otzi was found in 1991 and immediately gained international fame. He is shown off along with his personal effects, which also make up a large and interesting part of the permanent collection. Guided tours are available for adults and school groups.
Via Museo 43, 39100 Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy, Phone: +39-04-71-32-01-00
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The Victory Monument on Vittoria Square is an interesting historical landmark that was personally ordered by Benito Mussolini and which represents the history of the city of Bolzano during its time under the fascist regime and Nazi occupation. The monument itself takes the form of a large gate of victory dedicated to “the martyrs of World War I.” It includes a Latin inscription that rings of the history of the Roman Empire. Today, the monument is accompanied by an educational exhibition entitled “BZ '18–'45: one monument, one city, two dictatorships.” This installation elaborates on the landmark’s history and its unique context within the fascist power structure that held power in the region at the time.
Piazza della Vittoria, 39100 Bolzano BZ, Italy, Phone: +39-04-71-99-75-88
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The Xsund rope park in Terlano is an all-in-one center for adventure and holistic wellness. The elevated rope courses are of varying heights, ranging from 3 to 20 meters above the ground. Moving from platform to platform is a real challenge that requires concentration and self-awareness. An easier children’s course is available for the little ones to enjoy, while adults can choose from among several paths of differing difficulty levels. Xsund offers several other attractions besides its rope park; these include the leisure facility at its wellness club, a complete bow and arrow challenge, and the Sensofit barefoot trail, which is meant to sharpen the senses of those who walk it.
Via Principale, 4, 39018 Terlano, BZ, Italy, Phone: +39-04-71-25-79-44
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Vacation in the Alps: 21 Best Things to Do in Bolzano
- Abbazia di Muri-Gries, Photo: Courtesy of gabriffaldi - Fotolia.com
- The Arcades, Photo: Courtesy of GoneWithTheWind - Fotolia.com
- Assumption of Our Lady Cathedral, Photo: Courtesy of Scirocco340 - Fotolia.com
- Barbianer Wasserfalle - Cascate di Barbiano, Photo: Courtesy of claudiuslower82 - Fotolia.com
- Base Camp Dolomites, Photo: Base Camp Dolomites
- Cantina Bolzano, Photo: Courtesy of Sergione - Fotolia.com
- Castel Roncolo, Photo: Courtesy of lamio - Fotolia.com
- Krippenmuseum Muri-Gries, Photo: Krippenmuseum Muri-Gries
- Maretsch Castle, Photo: Courtesy of LianeM - Fotolia.com
- Mercantile Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Steve Lovegrove - Fotolia.com
- Messner Mountain Museum MMM Firmian, Photo: Messner Mountain Museum MMM Firmian
- Museion, Photo: Museion
- Muster-Gasse, Photo: Muster-Gasse
- Naturmuseum Sudtirol, Photo: Naturmuseum Sudtirol
- Piazza Walther, Photo: Courtesy of Klaus Eppele - Fotolia.com
- Private Ski Tour in the Dolomites - The Sella Ronda, Photo: Courtesy of Jag_cz - Fotolia.com
- Puez-Geisler Nature Park, Photo: Courtesy of Patrik Stedrak - Fotolia.com
- Salewa Cube, Photo: Salewa Cube
- Südtiroler Archaologiemuseum, Photo: Südtiroler Archaologiemuseum
- Victory Monument, Photo: Courtesy of LianeM - Fotolia.com
- Xsund, Photo: Xsund
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of luzicat - Fotolia.com