Top Things to Do in Bari Italy | A Perfect Stay in Puglia’s Capital
Discover Bari, Puglia’s capital in Italy and plan your itinerary with these top things to do in Bari. Keep reading for more.
Bari is one of the finest cities in Puglia and southern Italy. A transport hub for the region, you’ll most probably find yourself here for a short time when visiting Puglia. Most people come to Bari either for the weekend, visiting the city as a destination in its own right, or because they’re starting or finishing a Puglia road trip. We fell into the later camp. Whichever team you fall into spending some quality time in Bari is a very good idea.
Full of winding, narrow alleys, historic cathedrals and ruins that date back to the 12th century, grand public piazzas and some pretty good restaurants, there are many things to do in Bari that’ll keep you busy for a day or two.
If you’re looking for what to do in Bari or things to do in Puglia, keep reading to find out more and start planning your bucket list trip today.
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Getting to Bari
If you’re just beginning a Puglian road trip itinerary or you’ve decided to come to Bari for the weekend your first port of call will probably be Bari Karol Wojtyła Airport. It’s located about 8km from the city center and there are many different transport links that will take you to the center.
You can opt for the train– the station is located right outside Bari arrivals terminal- and take the train direct to Bari Centrale. You can also take the airport bus that goes to Bari Centrale Station just south of the historic center or Bari Vecchia. Both are super easy to use.
Taxi’s can also be flagged right outside the arrivals terminal and take you directly to your hotel in Bari. The journey takes about 25 minutes and costs around €20.
If you’re starting a trip around Puglia, it’s here that you’ll want to pick up your rental car. I highly recommend using Auto Europe to rent a car in Italy. We used Leasys through Auto Europe and had a great experience. They have some of the best rates, especially in the summer high season.
Find a rental car with Auto Europe here.
You probably don’t need a rental car if you’re just in Bari for the weekend as public transportation is good enough.
Where to Stay in Bari
Bari has quite a few different places to stay for all budgets. I recommend staying in the historic center or near it to be able to get the most out of your time in the city. Staying in the center means that pretty much everything you’ll need or want to see is close by. Bari doesn’t seem to have all that many hotels, it has mainly B&Bs and rentals. Here are my personal favourites.
Hotel Imago Plus – A lovely little design hotel located near Bari’s central hub and within walking distance to the old historical center. With a beautiful lobby and cafe, perfect to grab morning coffee before exploring, the hotel here is very modern, minimalist and clean. Rooms are super minimalist and are mainly white with natural elements. The perfect stay for any design-focused traveller. Check rates and availability here.
Al Pescatore – B&B – A wonderful, modern B&B with a great breakfast, comfortable, clean and luxury rooms and friendly staff. It also has a brilliant location right in the heart of the historic center in Bari. Check rates and availability here.
B&B Murex– Swoon-worthy design with natural and modern elements, exposed stone walls, friendly staff, comfortable beds, great location and a brilliant breakfast. What else would you need from a B&B? Check rates and availability here.
Palazzo Calò – A newly renovated palace in the historic center, it makes the perfect stay during your time in Bari. Beautiful rooms, high ceilings, modern bathrooms and one of the best roof terraces in the city perfect for sunset spritzes. Located just three blocks north of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. Check rates and availability here.
Best Things to Do in Bari Italy
Stroll Around the Old Town
Bari’s Centro storico is full of historic piazzas, Baroque churches and narrow alleyways with laundry hanging down from balconies and Vespas parked in doorways. It’s a Bari must see! The best way to start to get to know Puglia’s capital is just to start strolling around and seeing where this leads you.
Strolling around the city will mean that you’ll soon come to most of the things to do in Bari in this guide, probably without really realizing it. As you do so you’ll also see locals going about their day, nonnas on their balconies, and groups of local men meeting for chats in piazzas.
If you’re only passing through Bari for a day or even just a few hours while on a Puglia road trip, doing a guided Bari walking tour might be the best idea so that you can get the most out of your time. Check out this great Bari Guided Walking Tour here.
Buy Fresh Pasta on Strada delle Orecchiette
For a glimpse into local food traditions, what to eat in Bari and to get your hands on some local orecchiette (ear-shape pasta famous in Puglia) to take home make sure to weave this gorgeously narrow alley into your itinerary. Orecchiette Street or Stada Delle Orecchiette is a lovely local street on which you’ll find local women making and selling fresh orecchiette right outside their homes.
You’ll be able to watch their fast-rolling and cutting techniques as well as choose from a selection of different colours and sizes which you can buy and take home. There’s also the cutest little fruit and vegetable stand with local produce so if you’re staying in an Airbnb and self-catering you’ll get all the local basics here.
Relax in Largo Albicocca- Piazza degli Innamorati
Right around the corner from Strada delle Orecchiette is one of the most local and atmospheric squares in old town Bari Italy. It’s here that you’ll find scenes like locals sitting on balconies enjoying the morning sun, laundry hanging from every available spot, locals meeting for a chat as well as a few different restaurants, cafes and bars.
There’s a famous pizzeria here, Di Cosimo, as well as the opportunity to grab some gelato and relax in the square, savouring the completely Italian atmosphere.
Walk the Lungomare
You’ll find a lungomare in most Italian seaside cities and Bari is no different. One of the best things to do in Bari, especially early in the morning or at sunset is to walk along the seafront promenade- the lungomare– more specifically Lungomare Nazario Sauro in Bari.
The promenade follows the seafront for the entire length of the city making it the perfect spot for a long and leisurely walk, or even an evening jog. You’ll be able to spot quite a few different buildings, both old and new while walking along including Il Fortino di Sant’Antonio, one of the oldest forts in the city and the Museo Teatro Margherita.
Visit Basilica San Nicola
The most popular basilica in Bari, the Basilica of Saint Nicholas is a grand Romanesque-style church that was completed in the 12th Century. It took over 100 years to build by the Normans who occupied Puglia at the time. The church was built to house the relics of Saint Nicholas, the saint who inspired today’s Santa Claus, as they moved from present-day Turkey to a safer place in Bari.
Today you can visit Santa Claus or the relics of Saint Nicholas in the crypt of the basilica.
Inside the castle-like Norman church, you can also see a number of those interesting artworks from sculptural works from the late 11th Century, mosaic floors and some 12th-century candelabras in the Basilica’s museum. It’s well worth a peek inside as it’s one of the top things to see in Bari.
Check out the Teatro Margherita
Built between 1912 and 1914, Teatro Margherita was designed in the Art Nouveau style and was one of the first buildings in Bari to be built from concrete- everything else was built from wood at that time.
The building is almost completely surrounded by water, connected to the ‘mainland’ via a pier- very unique in Europe at that time. While the building originally functioned as a theatre, today it’s a contemporary art museum so make sure to drop in and see what’s on during the time of your visit.
For another pretty incredible theatre, make sure to walk just down the road to Teatro Petruzzelli which still functions as a theatre today.
Shop for Design at Spazio Murat
Right in the centre of town, you’ll find this studio, design store and showroom showcasing some of the best from local Puglian designers and artists. Along with the former Teatro Margherita, it constitutes the heart of contemporary art and culture in Bari.
Inside you’ll find the Puglia Design Store, a space to show the latest artistic homewares by a wide range of local designers. We found a lot of colourful, vibrant homeware, glassware and other smaller items fit for taking home. It’s a great place to come and window shop too.
If you feel like leaving land altogether and fancy doing something a little more adventurous than just walking around, consider going on a sailing trip for a few hours. Discover a few different viewpoints from the water and sail around this part of the Puglian coastline for a few hours while snacking on local foods and drinking wine.
You’ll also get the chance to sail the boat yourself, take a dip in the sea (time of year permitting) and even potentially spot some local dolphins.
Click here to find out more and book a half day sailing trip from Bari for the ultimate adventure.
Watch Locals at Piazza Mercantile
One of the unmissable things to do in Bari is to spend time in Piazza Mercantile, Bari’s most significant public square. Surrounded by beautiful palaces, a clock tower and commercial buildings, this square has been the hub of Bari commercial life since the 14th century.
Today the square is a common meeting point for locals and serves as a great place to walk through and people-watch. There are many spots where you can grab an espresso or gelato or even a spritz in the evening and just absorb the quintessential Italian atmosphere.
Read more: A Complete Guide to Monopoli Puglia
Visit the Basilica Cattedrale Metropoltana di San Sabino
Known commonly as just Bari’s Duomo or Bari Cathedral, this vast metropolitan cathedral stands tall amid all of Bari’s historic narrow alleyways. Built in the 12th Century, this Romanesque church is actually older than the Basilica of Saint Nicholas but nowhere near as popular.
Inside you’ll find a space divided into three aisles of sixteen, classically-inspired columns. While the structure is very much Romanesque you’ll quite a few Baroque additions, added through the ages.
Visiting the Museo del Succorpo della Cattedrale located beneath the cathedral will allow you to see the crypt and the relics of Saint Sabinus in the larger alter that were bought to Bari in 844 from what is now the Middle East. The museum also holds some other fascinating Christian and Roman archaeology that’s worth a look.
Visit Castel del Monte
One of the best half-day trips from Bari, visiting Castel del Monte is a historical highlight on any Bari itinerary. UNESCO World Heritage Site Castel del Monte is a hilltop 13th Century castle and citadel located one hour west of Bari.
It was built in 1245 by King Frederick II, most probably as a citadel but since then has served as a prison and as a refuge during the plague.
The castle has an octagonal shape with eight bastions around it that are 26 metres high. Visiting the castle today you’ll be able to explore the stone structure, the intricate arches and the lovely throne room.
The castle makes a great half-day trip from Bari or a stop for those heading north or northwest on their Puglia. road trip.
Take a Ride on the Bari Ferris Wheel
Dominating the lungomare you’ll find the Bari Ferris wheel, a fun way to get a bird’s eye view of the city and the coastline.
Standing at a high of 55 meters tall, you can pretty much see the whole city from the top as it turns around slowly. It also offers a great spot for some photography.
Spend a Day at the Beach
There’s no need to go far to experience Bari beaches and to enjoy the warm, clear blue waters of Puglia and the sunshine, especially in summer.
One of the best beaches to head to in the city of Bari is Pane e Pomodoro, an almost resort-like area with a park, exercise area and beach bar. It’s not a quiet, peaceful escape, especially at the weekend but it is a decent spot for a swim and people-watching.
If you continue south there’s also Spiaggia Torre Quetta, an alternative, an almost quieter strip of sand and sea. Further north of the centre there’s also Lido San Francesco which offers paid loungers and parasols for the day.
Bari is, however, a big city, so the beaches right next to the center aren’t the nicest. In fact, the further you decide to go away from the city, the better the beaches get. The beaches in Polignano a Mare and Monopoli for example are quite a bit more relaxed and beautiful.
Go on a Bari Street Food Tour
Puglian food is good. Really good. I’m really not sure why isn’t as popular internationally like its more northern Italian counterparts. If you’re a foodie, there’s no way you can pass up going on a street food tour around the capital of Puglian cuisine.
You’ll learn about Puglian culture and cuisine, the main ingredients and the typical dishes of the region so you can then continue your trip and taste them all. A guide will take you around to all the best, local spots to eat some classic dishes like the famous Barese focaccia, panzerotti, sgagliozze and homemade gelato.
Click here to sign up for the best street food tour that also combines local sights.
See the Castello Normano Svevo
In the center of Bari, you’ll find this huge Norman-era castle with quite a history. It was first built in the 12th century only to be destroyed by the King of Silicy 20 years later. It was rebuilt in the 13th Century and continued to grow throughout the years.
Today the castle is an exhibition center so it’s worth going to have a look to see what’s on. It’s also a great place to discover Bari’s past.
Try Typical Puglian Cuisine
If you’re just in Bari for the weekend then make sure to take the time to try the typical Puglian cuisine. It’s very different from the rest of Italy yet has its own fair share of delicacies. Many of the local restaurants will serve local Puglian food so you don’t need to make the biggest effort to seek it out.
Here are some of our favorite dishes to try:
–Orecchiette di Cime di Rape – ear-shaped pasta typical of the region with turnip tops
–Focaccia Barese– Typical focaccia from Bari with roasted tomatoes- Grab it from Panificio Santa Rita
–Grilled Octopus and Seafood
–Taralli– Ring-shaped crispy dough bread
–Burrata and Mozzarella– Burrata and Mozzarella from Puglia are just delicious
–Panzerotti– The Puglian empanada- deep-fried dough pockets filled with tomato and mozzarella
Go on a Day Trip to Polignano a Mare
Perched precariously on the edge of staggering sea cliffs, whitewashed, stone alleyways, incredible sea views and the beach- the smallest in Italy, surrounded by high limestone cliffs with crystal clear, turquoise water lapping at its shores. This is Polignano a Mare, probably Puglia’s most famous resort town.
Located just 35 minutes along the coast from Bari, Polignano is easily reachable as a day trip from Bari. The town has plenty to do to fill a day or two with splendid restaurants, beaches and a beyond picturesque old town. Check out our travel guide for Polignano a Mare here to plan your day out.
For day trips from Bari that head further afield, Monopoli, further down the coast is a lovely seaside town worth visiting as well as the beautiful Alberobello, Locorotondo or Ostuni in the Itria Valley.
Located in the neighboring region of Basilicata, Matera is the perfect place to visit for the day. It takes just one hour to drive here.
Matera is the world’s third oldest continually inhabited city in the world, composed of caves and stone alleys that have been lived in since the Stone Age and up until the 1950s. While many other parts of Italy developed through the centuries and living conditions became better and better for most, Matera hid a society living in squalor and extreme poverty. People lived amongst their animals in caves rife with disease and malaria.
In the 1950s the government relocated the population into modern housing in what is now the ‘new’ Matera. The Sassi lay abandoned for many years until finally developed into what we see today.
The Sassi of Matera are a fascinating place to visit to learn about the local history and feast your eyes on the unique cityscape.
Where to Eat in Bari
There are plenty of options for where to eat in Bari from fast sandwich joints to upscale dinner restaurants. Most restaurants here specialize in classic Puglian cuisine but you’ll also find a few that provide in their own, modern take on it.
Unfortunately plant-based and gluten-free eating is pretty difficult in Bari so you might have to settle for a vegan burger or enquire in some of the following spots for their plant-based options.
Riva Restaurant – One of the best more upscale dinner spots in Bari, this restaurant serves creative, delicious food in an atmospheric setting, the perfect place for trying modern creative takes on Puglian cuisine. They have a few vegetarian options too including orecchiette with almond pesto.
PerBacco– A beautiful, local osteria serving spectacular Puglia food. It’s small so best to make a reservation. The entrance is non-descript and always closed, ring the bell to be let in.
Osteria La Arpie– Wonderful local osteria, full of locals-perfect for a slow, Puglian lunch.
Mastro Ciccio – One of the best spots in Bari for classic, mouthwatering, Italian sandwiches, perfect for those wanting something quick. They also have salads and bowls but these guys are really just famous for their sandwiches.
Flower Burger – One of the only plant-based restaurants in the city, they specialise in burgers and potato wedges. Not particularly heathy, but if you’re in need of something fast, filling and plant-based this is one of the best options.
Frulez – For Hawaiian Poke and Japanese-inspired dishes head here for their delicious, healthy options. Opt for a poke bowl, veggie moussaka, vegan tofu domburi bowl or even some fresh veggie sushi. This spot is great for those looking for a healthy option and a break from Italian food.
Read more: Unmissable Wineries in Puglia for Your Next Trip
Ready to plan what you’re going to do in Bari, Italy? Let me know your questions and comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
Planning a trip right now? These are just some of my favourite websites I use to book everything from hotels to rental cars!
Rentalcars.com and Auto Europe for quick and easy car rentals worldwide
Booking.com for great deals on hotels
Agoda also for great deals on hotels
Get Your Guide and Viator for tours and adventures around the world
Related posts you might like:
A Weekend in Polignano a Mare, Puglia: The Definitive Guide
Polignano a Mare Beaches: Uncovering the Resort Town’s Top Beaches
A Complete Guide to Monopoli Puglia
Unmissable Wineries in Puglia for Your Next Trip
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