Bari, the stunning coastal city in the Puglia region of Italy, bathed by the Adriatic Sea, was an incredible discovery for me. I never imagined I would have so many things to do in Bari to experience in just 1, 2 or 3 days.
In this guide, I show you 13 amazing activities in Bari, highlighting the authentic places and experiences the city offers.
From the visit to the Basilica of Saint Nicholas, with the curious tradition that involves single girls who wish to get married, to the walk on the Lungomare, the seaside promenade, as well as the incredible Bari Vecchia, the historic center of Bari, there is a long to see and do in this city.
I have to say that I completely fell in love with this place and what it has to offer.
Discover where to try sgagliozze, i.e. crispy fried polenta, and what the unique votive altars in Bari are.
Additionally, you will learn about the production of orecchiette in Strada Arco Basso, the traditional fresh pasta, and where to try authentic Focaccia Barese.
I cannot fail to mention Bari’s theaters, such as the Petruzzelli, the Margherita and the Teatro Piccinni, which enrich the city’s cultural life.
In other words, throughout this guide, I share with you my personal experiences and relevant information to make your visit to Bari equally fascinating and unforgettable.
Come with me on this journey of discovery and be enchanted by everything there is to see and do in Bari.
Best Things To Do in Bari, Italy
Visit the Basilica of Saint Nicholas and Leave a Message for the Saint
The Basilica of Saint Nicholas (Basilica di San Nicola), also known as the Pontifical Basilica of Saint Nicholas, was constructed in 1087 to house the remains of Saint Nicholas.
Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of Russia, and that’s why many Russians make pilgrimages to Bari and the basilica.
In fact, the statue of Saint Nicholas in the courtyard, located in front of the Basilica, was a gift to the city from Putin.
Key highlights of the Basilica of Saint Nicholas include the crypt, featuring 26 Byzantine columns, the cathedra (bishop’s throne) once belonging to Bishop Elias, and the ceiling adorned with gilded woodwork.
The basilica has its share of interesting stories, such as the legend of the bulls and marriageable girls.
There was a debate about where to build the basilica, they released two bulls in Bari, and the church was to be constructed where they came to a halt.
So, you can spot two bull statues on the main entrance.
Furthermore, Saint Nicholas is regarded as the patron saint of single girls seeking marriage.
In the crypt, there’s a spot where unmarried women leave small pieces of paper with prayers. It is said that those looking for a husband would circumnavigate the saint’s column, known as the magic column, three times, while interested men waited at the crypt’s entrance to identify potential partners.
In recent years, due to the high number of people circling the column, a fence was erected to manage the phenomenon, but the notes continue to accumulate in the crypt.
Entrance to the Basilica of Saint Nicholas is free.
Explore Bari Cathedral, Also Known as the Cathedral of Saint Sabinus
Bari Cathedral, officially named the Cathedral of Saint Sabinus (Basilica Cattedrale Metropolitana Primaziale San Sabino), has a rich history dating back to the 12th century.
Saint Sabino, the bishop of Canosa, a town located approximately 70 km from Bari, has his relics preserved in the cathedral’s crypt.
The interior of the cathedral is remarkably beautiful, characterized by three spacious naves separated by grand columns. While medieval frescoes adorn the left side of the main altar, the most captivating frescoes are concealed within the crypt.
The crypt presents a stark contrast to the cathedral with its intricately gilded carvings on the ceiling and walls adorned with a profusion of frescoes. The sheer amount of art can be overwhelming at times.
Beneath the cathedral, on the left side of the crypt, well-preserved ruins have been discovered. These ruins feature arches and frescoes on the walls, but the true marvel lies in the mosaics believed to date back to the first millennium.
While entry to Bari Cathedral is free, a ticket is required to explore the Roman ruins.
Take a Leisurely Stroll along Lungomare, Bari’s Seaside Promenade
Lungomare, the picturesque seafront promenade, is an absolute must-visit location in Bari.
The limestone monuments lining the promenade along the Adriatic Sea take on a breathtaking luminance as they reflect the deep blue hues of the sky and the expansive sea stretching before them.
In fact, the Lungomare di Bari is renowned as one of Italy’s most scenic coastal routes, underscoring its unique charm.
While some visitors prefer a leisurely walk by the sea, others opt to relax on one of the benches, taking in the serene views.
You may even spot local fishermen casting their lines along the coast or adventurous swimmers enjoying the waters near the promenade.
What’s particularly appealing about this area is its bustling atmosphere, both during the day and at night. Many people from the historic center come here after dinner to savor a post-meal stroll along the seaside.
Discover Bari Vecchia (Historical Center)
Bari Vecchia, also known as Old Bari, represents the historical heart of the city, where many residents still call home and resist the urge to relocate.
Walking through the labyrinthine streets of this old quarter and witnessing people dining with open doors is an experience that cannot be valued in monetary terms.
The houses here are compact, and it feels as though the street seamlessly extends into their living spaces. With doors and windows wide open, the tantalizing aromas wafting from the kitchens are impossible to miss.
It’s challenging to find a more authentic and local experience anywhere else!
As I ventured deeper into the tourist-frequented zones of the historic center, the residential houses gradually gave way to charming shops and restaurants equipped with inviting outdoor terraces.
Every available nook on the streets is utilized to arrange tables and chairs, which are neatly put away at the end of each day.
Uncover the Hidden Votive Altars of Bari
Picture yourself embarking on a treasure hunt, with the objective of locating these charming votive altars scattered throughout Old Bari.
These petite relics are often nestled in narrow alleyways and dimly lit corners, where they once served the purpose of safeguarding passersby.
Much like the tradition observed in places like Hong Kong, the residents of Bari hold these altars in deep reverence, diligently caring for them.
It’s customary to find these slender altars adorned with fresh flowers and flickering candles, a testament to the affection people have for these unique features.
Witness the Craft of Traditional Pasta-Making on Strada Arco Basso (Orecchiette)
Bari’s iconic pasta variety is orecchiette, aptly named ‘little ears’ for its distinctive shape.
What sets this fresh pasta apart, aside from being meticulously handmade, is that it’s typically crafted by the skilled hands of women from the heart of Bari. For many families, selling orecchiette to local restaurants and curious tourists serves as an additional source of income.
The unique shell-shaped design of orecchiette allows it to cradle sauces perfectly, and the smaller the pasta, the greater the expertise required by the artisan.
To witness these skilled ‘nonnas’ (grandmothers) crafting fresh pasta right on the streets, make your way to Strada Arco Basso, also affectionately known as Via delle Orecchiette.
During my visit, I had the privilege of watching renowned pasta-makers like Nunzia Caputo, who even appeared in a Dolce & Gabbana advertisement shot in Bari, as well as Angela and Rosa.
What struck me was their unwavering dedication, as they continued to work diligently while sharing their insights.
The remarkable speed at which they deftly shaped the dough was truly awe-inspiring.
Indulge in Sgagliozze (Fried Polenta)
Sgagliozze, a Puglian specialty, consists of fried squares of polenta—a simple yet delicious treat.
Originally created as an economical meal for those with limited means, sgagliozze were made using only corn flour and water, offering an affordable and filling option.
Both locals and tourists eagerly line up to savor sgagliozze, and the reason is clear: they are incredibly budget-friendly, with approximately €2 buying you a serving of 10 pieces.
The exterior boasts an irresistible crunchiness, while the interior remains delightfully soft. Tasting sgagliozze while they are still warm is a one-of-a-kind experience that should undoubtedly be on your list of things to do in Bari.
Many claim that the ultimate spot to relish this quintessential Puglian delight is ‘Maria delle Sgagliozze,’ conveniently nestled in the heart of Bari’s historic center.
Explore the Museum in Castello Normanno-Svevo
Castello Normanno-Svevo, commonly known as Castello Svevo or the Bari Fortress, is a historical marvel that shares a complex relationship with the city’s residents.
This fortress has stirred a mixture of emotions, from love to resentment, owing to its intricate history. However, reconciliation seems to have been achieved when it underwent a transformation into a museum and art gallery.
Today, it is primarily tourists who have the pleasure of perusing the exhibitions displayed throughout the various chambers of Svevo Castle.
For many visitors, the experience wouldn’t be complete without taking a moment to relax by the castle’s towering walls, which stand proudly beside the ancient moat.
Here, it’s not uncommon to find people savoring delicious ice cream purchased from nearby ice cream shops.
Explore the Vibrant Piazza del Ferrarese: Bari’s Nightlife Hub
For those seeking vibrant nightlife in Bari, Piazza del Ferrarese stands as the ultimate destination.
This square acts as a seamless bridge connecting the city’s modern and historic parts, serving as the gateway to the old town from the bustling port.
Piazza del Ferrarese buzzes with energy, attracting both tourists and locals who converge at the numerous bars, cafés, and restaurants that line its perimeter.
If you’re fortunate, you might catch one of the many concerts and performances held in this iconic square, adding a touch of magic to your evening.
What sets this place apart is its unique feature—a glimpse of the Via Appia Traiana, an ancient road constructed by Emperor Trajan in 109 AD, connecting Bari to Brindisi.
This historical relic adds a distinctive charm to the already captivating ambiance of Piazza del Ferrarese.
For those desiring more historical squares to enjoy Bari’s nightlife, Piazza Mercantile is another excellent choice.
Savor Focaccia Barese at Panificio Fiore
Focaccia Barese, a distinctive variety of focaccia hailing from Bari, boasts a unique charm with its adornment of cherry tomatoes and olives, evoking an irresistible Mediterranean essence.
Locals recommend Panificio Fiore, a quaint bakery nestled in the heart of the historic center, as the ultimate destination to relish this regional delicacy.
Though you may encounter a queue when purchasing focaccia, it swiftly dissipates as many opt to enjoy their treat on the go while exploring the city.
Don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in a calzone, another specialty of this establishment.
This offers a convenient and budget-friendly way to savor local cuisine while contributing to the vitality of the local economy.
As an added treat, take a moment to admire an ancient column gracing the interior of the bakery.
Location: Strada Palazzo di Città, 38, 70122 Bari BA, Italy.
Discover the Theaters of Bari: Petruzzelli, Margherita, and Piccinni
You might be surprised to learn that Bari boasts a rich theatrical tradition showcased in its magnificent historic theaters: the Petruzzelli, Margherita, and Piccinni Theaters.
The majestic Petruzzelli Theater, opened in 1903, is the largest opera theater in Italy and one of the largest in Europe.
Its architecture, with neo-Baroque and Renaissance influences, is a spectacle in itself. Upon entering, visitors are transported to a time of artistic splendor, where operas and ballets are performed to this day.
The Margherita Theater, on the other hand, is a true jewel of the Belle Époque, designed by architect Luigi Baffa and opened in 1910.
This theater, although more intimate and welcoming, initially had as its main purpose variety presentations and popular music shows. However, nowadays it plays a different role as a museum.
The story behind Margherita Theater is curious and ingenious. At the time, according to current regulations, the city could not build any more theaters in addition to the already existing Petruzzelli. How did you solve this challenge? They decided to build the theater literally over the sea, raising it on stilts. This ingenious solution allowed the rules of the time to be safeguarded and the creation of a unique and memorable cultural space.
Last but not least, Piccinni Theater is a neoclassical style theater, built in honor of the composer Niccolò Piccinni.
Since its opening in 1854, the theater has been a prominent venue for lyrical and dramatic performances, maintaining a historic and sophisticated atmosphere.
Take a boat trip (with appetizer)
The Italian tradition of aperitivo is highly cherished, and Bari is no exception.
It’s a leisurely moment in the late afternoon when locals gather on terraces with a drink in hand.
What could be better than wrapping up your day with a boat cruise, enjoying some of Bari’s top attractions from the sea while sipping a refreshing beverage?
These cruises typically last around 2 hours and depart near Teatro Margherita. Check out more information on boat trips in Bari.
Learn how to make fresh pasta and tiramisu with a local
If you love pasta, then don’t miss the opportunity to learn how to make two types of fresh pasta, from scratch, in this Italian cooking class.
In addition, you will also learn how to make traditional tiramisu, with everything you need to know to then replicate these recipes at home.
Although this experience is not cheap, I believe it is worth it.
After all, not only the specialized class is included, but also dinner and drinks.
Best Things To Do in Bari in One Day
Exploring Bari in just one day is entirely feasible, allowing you to discover the city’s major attractions in 24 hours or less.
Start your day by dedicating approximately an hour to visiting Bari’s iconic landmarks, including the Basilica of Saint Nicholas and Bari Cathedral.
Next, immerse yourself in the historic center, spending most of the day wandering its charming narrow streets.
Don’t worry if you lose your way; all roads eventually lead to the primary entrances, whether near the port or in the more modern part of the city.
Allocate about two hours for a leisurely lunch at a restaurant, or if you’re eager to try Focaccia Barese, a quick 20-minute stop will suffice. Consider participating in a local cooking class, which may include dinner later in the day.
Finally, reserve an hour for a delightful stroll along the lungomare, the picturesque sea promenade. I hope this itinerary proves helpful for your visit.
Accommodation in Bari: Finding The Best Hotels
Bari is a highly sought-after destination for tourists, offering a wide range of hotels to cater to various preferences and budgets.
During my stay, I had the pleasure of lodging at iH Hotels Bari Oriente, a splendid 4-star hotel located just steps away from the Petruzzelli Theater.
My experience there was truly enjoyable. The hotel boasts a modern design, exceptional comfort, and a sumptuous breakfast spread that left me thoroughly satisfied.
One of the highlights of my stay was the rooftop bar, which offers one of the most breathtaking panoramic views of Bari.
If you prefer to immerse yourself in the charm of Bari Vecchia, the historic old town, you can opt for accommodations such as Suite 22 (apartment) or Palazzo Calò. Both choices promise a delightful stay.
What to Explore Beyond Bari
While Bari itself offers plenty of charm and attractions, you might find yourself with extra days to spare during your trip.
Thankfully, the region around Bari is brimming with captivating destinations waiting to be discovered.
Whether you have a rental car at your disposal or prefer to use public transportation, these nearby gems are well worth a visit:
- Polignano a Mare (37 kilometers, 22 miles) – Known for its breathtaking clifftop views and crystalline waters, Polignano a Mare is a coastal paradise that will leave you in awe.
- Monopoli (44 kilometers, 27 miles) – A picturesque coastal town with historic charm, Monopoli offers beautiful beaches, a quaint old town, and delicious seafood.
- Alberobello (54 kilometers, 33 miles) – Step into a fairytale world of trulli houses, unique cone-shaped dwellings that make Alberobello a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Fasano (57 kilometers, 35 miles) – Explore the wild side at Fasano, home to a fantastic safari park and the fascinating ruins of Egnazia.
- Matera (65 kilometers, 40 miles) – Lose yourself in the ancient caves and Sassi districts of Matera, a city unlike any other, also designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Locorotondo (68 kilometers, 42 miles) – A charming hilltop town known for its circular layout and stunning vineyard landscapes.
- Martina Franca (74 kilometers, 45 miles ) – Immerse yourself in Baroque architecture, delightful piazzas, and the vibrant atmosphere of this historic town.
- Ostuni (80 kilometers, 49 miles) – The ‘White City’ of Ostuni boasts whitewashed buildings, winding streets, and panoramic views over the Adriatic Sea.
With these destinations within reach, your journey from Bari becomes an opportunity to explore even more of Puglia.
Tours and Excursions Departing from Bari
Not everyone is a fan of group tours, but there’s no denying their convenience, especially if you’re concerned about navigating unfamiliar places or prefer a hassle-free travel experience.
Fortunately, Bari offers a variety of tours and excursions, including some with small group sizes, ensuring there’s something for every type of traveler. Here are my top recommendations:
- Alberobello and Matera Day Trip (UNESCO Heritage Sites) – Explore the iconic trulli houses of Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and venture to the breathtaking ancient cave dwellings of Matera, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, all in one day. Immerse yourself in the unique architecture and history of these remarkable places.
- Castel del Monte and Trani Visit (UNESCO Heritage Site with Wine Tasting) – Discover the mystique of Castel del Monte, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its enigmatic octagonal shape. This tour also includes a visit to the charming town of Trani and an opportunity to savor local wines through a delightful tasting experience.
- Segway Tour in Bari with Gelato Tasting – Glide through the charming streets of Bari on a Segway and experience the city’s highlights with a local guide. To sweeten the journey, indulge in delicious gelato tasting along the way. It’s a fun and delectable adventure through Bari’s culture and history.
Whether you’re drawn to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, historical mysteries, or unique culinary experiences, these tours departing from Bari offer a convenient and enriching way to explore the region’s treasures.
Traveling with Insurance: A Must for Travelers to Italy
Traveling to destinations like Italy, including the city of Bari, is a dream come true. However, ensuring your peace of mind during your trip is just as important as planning your itinerary.
While some European countries have agreements in place for medical assistance in case of emergencies, it’s crucial to understand the limitations of this system.
In Italy, visitors from some countries (i.e. European countries) have access to the Italian national healthcare system in the event of a medical emergency.
However, this access comes without special privileges or priorities. Essentially, you’ll be navigating the same healthcare facilities as the locals, which means potentially facing the waiting times typical of the public healthcare system. While this is a valid option, it might not be the most convenient, especially in urgent or unexpected situations.
This is where the significance of travel insurance, particularly from a reputable provider like IATI Travel Insurance, truly shines.
With an IATI insurance policy, activating your coverage ensures you’re directed to private medical services. Here, comprehensive coverage and affordable prices work together to prioritize your health and well-being, giving you the prompt and personalized care you may need while abroad.
Before embarking on your Italian adventure, take a moment to consider the security and peace of mind that travel insurance from IATI Travel Insurance. It’s more than just a precaution; it’s a valuable investment that ensures your journey is filled with cherished memories, no matter what unforeseen circumstances may arise.
Don’t leave your travel safety to chance. Secure your adventure and explore Italy with confidence, knowing that IATI has your back.
Get your travel insurance today, and make the most of your Italian escapade.
Everything You Need To Know about Travel to Bari, Italy
Best time to visit Bari?
The best time to visit Bari depends on individual preferences and desired experiences. However, I can share with you that my visit to Bari in June was truly exceptional.
June is a wonderful month to explore Bari and the Puglia region. During this period, the weather is generally very pleasant, with temperatures warm but not overly scorching, making it ideal for walking tours of the historic center and beach days on the city’s golden shores.
Additionally, June is a time when many cultural events and festivals take place in Bari, offering visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the authentic local life and traditions of Puglia.
However, it is important to note that, preferably, you should avoid the months of July and August, when the influx of tourists throughout Italy is greater and prices tend to be higher.
Therefore, choosing May, June, October or November provides a calmer and more accessible experience, maintaining all the magic and beauty that Bari has to offer.
How many days to visit Bari?
To fully enjoy everything Bari has to offer, I recommend reserving a visiting period of two to three days.
This break allows for a more detailed exploration of the city, giving you the opportunity to delve into the rich traditions, history and culture that Bari has to offer, without the need to rush.
During this time, you can dedicate a whole day to exploring the charming historic center, getting lost in the narrow streets and alleys, tasting authentic local cuisine and visiting iconic monuments, such as the Basilica of Saint Nicholas and the Bari Cathedral.
On the second or third day, you can extend your experience by visiting surrounding areas such as the golden sandy beaches, the impressive Castello Svevo or even take a day trip to explore the neighboring towns of Puglia.
However, if your time is limited and you can only dedicate one day to the city, don’t worry. Bari still offers a memorable experience in a day, with the opportunity to explore the unmissable highlights.
Be sure to check out our itinerary for a day in Bari, available in this post, to make the most of your visit, even in a short period of time.
Why is Bari Cathedral So Similar to the Basilica of Saint Nicholas?
In 1156, William I of Sicily, also known as “William the Wicked,” ordered the destruction of the entire city of Bari as an act of revenge against its inhabitants.
Surprisingly, the Basilica of Saint Nicholas was the only building spared from this devastation.
In the aftermath, during the city’s reconstruction, architects and builders used the Basilica of Saint Nicholas as a model for Bari Cathedral, which is why these two churches share such striking similarities in their architecture.
Where to Shop in Bari?
Shopping in Bari offers a unique experience with a variety of options to suit all tastes and budgets.
If you’re on the hunt for typical souvenirs like fridge magnets and t-shirts, the historic center is the perfect place to explore.
Its charming narrow streets are lined with shops offering traditional souvenirs not only from Bari but from the entire Puglia region.
You’ll also discover local crafts, vibrant ceramics, and authentic food products like the iconic taralli cookies, liqueurs, and olive oil.
For those with a penchant for fashion, clothing, jewelry, and accessories, Avenida Vittorio Emanuele II and Corso Cavour are the go-to shopping destinations in Bari.
These elegant streets boast a range of fashion boutiques, from renowned international brands to local designers.
In essence, it’s the ideal locale to discover sophisticated clothing, stylish footwear, and unique jewelry that you won’t typically find elsewhere.
What is the closest airport to Bari in Puglia?
Bari-Karol Wojtyła International Airport (BRI) stands as the nearest airport to Bari, a mere 11 kilometers away.
However, it’s worth noting that there’s another viable option, Brindisi-Salento International Airport (BDS), which is approximately 112 kilometers from Bari.
If you’re journeying from Europe, air travel is often the most convenient choice, and Puglia boasts several airports, with Bari Karol Wojtyła Airport and Brindisi Airport being key transportation hubs.
Numerous major airlines provide direct flights to these airports from various European cities.
For example, if you’re departing from London, British Airways, Ryanair, and easyJet offer direct flights. Likewise, if Frankfurt serves as your starting point, Lufthansa facilitates direct connections to both Bari and Brindisi.
Another avenue worth exploring is train travel. Italy boasts a robust railway network that seamlessly links with the rest of Europe.
High-speed trains can ferry you to major cities like Milan, Rome, or Venice, where you can conveniently transfer to a regional train bound for Puglia.
Consider Paris as an example. You can board a high-speed train (TGV) to Milan, and from there, catch an Italo or Trenitalia train heading to Bari or Brindisi.
Furthermore, traveling to Puglia from the USA often involves a layover in a major European city.
If you’re departing from New York, you may find direct flights to Rome, Milan, or Frankfurt, followed by connecting flights to Bari or Brindisi.
Airlines like Delta, American Airlines, and Lufthansa provide these routes. While this layover extends your travel time, it presents an excellent opportunity to explore a European city along the way.
In essence, Puglia maintains superb connectivity with multiple European and international destinations, ensuring accessibility from both Europe and the USA.
How to get from Bari Airport to the city center?
Getting from Bari Airport to the city center is a straightforward process with various options to choose from. Here’s how you can make the journey:
Bus: The most budget-friendly option is to take the regular bus, specifically AMTAB number 16. The ride may take a bit longer, around 45 minutes to an hour, but the fare is quite affordable, costing approximately €1.5. Buses operate between 5:25 AM and 10:10 PM.
Direct Shuttle: For a more direct route, you can opt for the shuttle service that runs from the airport to the city center. This option takes approximately 30 minutes and typically costs around €4. Keep an eye out for Tempesta Autoservizi buses and purchase your ticket onboard.
Train: Bari Airport has a train station that connects to Bari Central Station. Ensure you board the correct train, as some may be headed to Barletta instead of Bari. The train journey takes about 15 minutes and costs €5.20.
Taxi: If you prioritize comfort and have lots of luggage, taking a taxi from Bari Airport to Central Station is a convenient choice. Taxis offer a fixed fare of €23 for the journey.
In summary, there are several transportation options available for a smooth trip from Bari Airport to the city center, catering to various preferences and budgets.
*I traveled to Puglia at the invitation of Puglia Promozione as part of a press tour that included international journalists and travel bloggers.
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