Last updated on January 7th, 2024 at 02:10 pm

Our feet were eager to discover every hidden alley as we walked around the Old Town, our eyes struggling to adjust to the constant change of light which alternated from the bright sunshine of a summer day to the dark shadows cast by the imposing medieval buildings.

That was Bergamo Alta, the historic centre of one of Northern Italy’s gems. We spent 24 magical hours there and that was enough to capture the essence of this often underrated Italian city. Without further ado, here’s our guide on how to spend one day in Bergamo, the splendid walled city of the Italian North.

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This is a panoramic view of Bergamo Old Town shot from the Civic Tower in Piazza Vecchia. We can see the Palazzo Nuovo with its exquisite white facade as well as the castle and the Gombito Tower soaring above a see of quaint red rooftops.
Bergamo Old Town

Travel Resources To Help You Plan Your Trip In Bergamo

Why spend at least one day in Bergamo

Bergamo is home to Italy’s third-largest airport. This doesn’t say much about the city’s popularity, though. The thing is that it is usually cheaper to fly to/from Bergamo Airport than other airports in Northern Italy.

Therefore, more often than not, travellers who use Bergamo Airport head straight to their destinations (Milan, Venice, Verona etc) without even bothering to spend some time in Bergamo itself. What a huge mistake they are making. Especially considering how super easy it is to check out all Bergamo highlights in just one day.

That’s what we did when we travelled to Trento via Bergamo. After spending a few days in wonderful Trento, we spent one day in Bergamo as we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to explore another Italian city.

If you are a small group travelling on a tight schedule, this guided tour with admission tickets included, will show you around the Upper Town of Bergamo in just 3 hours, leaving the rest of the day free for you to enjoy la dolce vita – and the mandatory aperitivo hour – in one of Northern Italy’s prettiest cities.

This is a photo of Maria leaning against the wall of Palazzo della Ragione while marvelling at the facade of Cappella Colleoni. We loved our one day in Bergamo!
Taking in the beauty of Bergamo Old Town.

Bergamo consists of two parts. The Lower Town or Città Bassa and the Upper Town or Città Alta. The Lower Town is the modern part of Bergamo whereas the Upper Town is the fortified historic centre built within the embrace of seven hills. Just like Rome. If you plan to spend 24 hours in Bergamo and don’t want to rush things, you will most probably spend all your time in Bergamo Alta.

That’s what we did in the hopes that we’ll get the chance to explore the charms of the Lower Town in a future trip. In the heartbreaking event that you have less than a day to spend in Bergamo, head over to the city’s official tourism website. There you can find ideas on what to do in a few hours, including an amazing 6h Bergamo itinerary.

On the other hand, if it’s not your first time in Bergamo or if you have more time to spare and want to explore the surroundings of Bergamo, then this e-bike tour with admission tickets included is perfect for you.

This is a photo of the building that houses the Bergamo City tourism board. It is a mansion set among lush greenery.
One of Bergamo’s Tourist Info Points

Where is Bergamo

Bergamo is a city in the region of Lombardy in Northern Italy. Its close proximity to Milan, the Italian Lakes and Switzerland renders Bergamo an ideal base from where to explore the beauties of this extended area.

How to get there and around

Bergamo Airport lies just 5km from the city centre, to which it is connected by public bus. As with the rest of the Italian cities and towns, you can also reach Bergamo by train. Bergamo is very small and you can get everywhere on foot. That said, the walk from the Lower to the Upper Town is uphill and quite steep.

Not to mention that when in Bergamo, you MUST ride the amazing cable cars. So, the best deal is to grab a 24-hour tourist ticket. It’s valid for unlimited rides on all means of public transport, including the bus to and from the airport. For all available ticket types, click here.

This image shows the red cabin of the San Vigilio cable car as it descends the hill towards the station.
The San Vigilio funicular

12 things to do in Bergamo in one day

We have limited our list of top things to do in Bergamo in one day to the Upper Town. If you are spending more time in the city though, you should definitely add the Lower Town to your itinerary as well.

1. Stroll along the Venetian Walls

Bergamo Alta is totally enclosed within strong defensive walls which the Republic of Venice commissioned in 1561. They are more than 5km long and there are four gates along their perimeter. The walls are the natural border between the Lower and the Upper Town.

They enjoy UNESCO World Heritage Status since 2017 alongside other 16th and 17th Venetian fortifications that are scattered across Italy. A walk along the almost intact Venetian walls is one of the best things to do in Bergamo. Suffice it to say that the views throughout this walk along Viale delle Mura are simply stunning.

This image shows the walk along the Venetian walls in Bergamo. There is a paved path pn the grass, lined by tall trees on both sides. In the background, views to the city beyond.
Walking along the Venetian Walls.

2. Take in the beauty of San Giacomo Gate

San Giacomo Gate is hands down the prettiest and most impressive of all four gates that lead to Bergamo Upper Town. Made of local white marble, this gate used to be the entrance for those coming from Milan. The stone bridge and the winding path that starts from the beautiful gate only add to its overall romantic ambience.

This image shows the splendid Porta San Giacomo, the most impressive gate that adorns the city walls. The facade is made of white marble and there is a stone bridge that leads to it.
Porta San Giacomo

Don’t miss the chance to walk down this stone path towards the Lower City. You will soon find yourselves descending the steps of the marvellous Salita della Scaletta, among lush greenery. Don’t worry, you won’t have to climb back up. Your feet will eventually take you right to the doorstep of the Città Alta funicular station. This brings us to the ultimate must-do in Bergamo.

This image shows Maria descending the cobblestone steps of the Salita della Scaletta.
Walking down the Salita della Scaletta.

3. Ride the Bergamo City Funicular

The most comfortable and exciting way to get from the Lower to the Upper Town is the city’s vintage cable car. Ever since 1887, the two super cute coaches go tirelessly up and down the hill offering passengers the most stunning, otherwise impossible to admire, views. It only takes a few minutes to get to Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe in Bergamo Alta, the starting point of one’s stroll around the city’s historic centre.

This image shows the red cable car descending towards the station of Citta Alta. It is just about to pass below an arch covered in thick greenery. It's so picturesque and the best way to move from the Lower to the Upper Town.
The vintage cable car of Bergamo Old Town

4. Visit the Campanone and the Palazzo del Podestà 

The heart of Bergamo Old Town beats at La Piazza Vecchia, the Old Square. Complete with a central fountain around which architectural marvels serve as the perfect backdrop for lively cafés and restaurants, the square represents the Italy we know and love. One of the square’s most impressive buildings is the Palazzo del Podestà. The latter houses an interactive 16th Century Museum as well as excavations dating back to Roman times.

This is an image of Piazza Vecchia with the Civic Tower soaring above the square.
The Campanone dominates Piazza Vecchia.

The adjacent Campanone or Civic Tower is the best place to visit for breathtaking panoramic views of Bergamo and the surrounding countryside. The best part is that the top of the 53m bell tower is accessible by lift.

This image shows the Cappella Colleoni and the Santa Maria Maggiore church in Bergamo Italy from above. The photo was shot from the top of the nearby Civic Tower.
View of Santa Maria Maggiore and Cappella Colleoni from the top of the Civic Tower

5. Marvel at the Piazza Duomo

Piazza Duomo, the Cathedral Square, is right next to Piazza Vecchia and it feels rather cramped by Italian standards. The size and splendour of the buildings that adorn Cathedral Square are inversely proportional to the surrounding space. Not to mention that Piazza Duomo feels as though it’s squeezed to the side by the more airy and spacious Piazza Vecchia. Yet its treasures are captivating.

First and foremost, the Duomo boasts a magnificent white facade. However, it is the Romanesque Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore next door that remains the locals’ favourite church up to this day. Don’t look for a door that leads from the square to the church’s interior, though. The basilica lacks a main entrance and only features side ones.

This is an image of the white facade of Bergamo Duomo.
The Duomo

In terms of architecture though, the Cappella Colleoni is by far the most impressive edifice of all. With a facade crafted of red and white marble, the chapel is regarded by locals themselves as the most beautiful building in Bergamo. Last but not least, the octagonal Baptistery has a very interesting story to tell. Initially built inside the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, the Baptistery was relocated several times before ending up in its current and final (?) position facing the Duomo.

This is a close up of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore as seen from the Duomo.
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

6. Climb La Rocca di Bergamo

This fortress occupies the Sant’Eufemia Hill and it’s a pleasant stroll from Bergamo Alta. Overlooking the plain of the River Po, La Rocca di Bergamo is in essence a park which comprises large green areas, historical buildings and magnificent views. What more could we ask for?

This image shows Maria with her back turned to the camera gazing at the view from Bergamo Castle.
Admiring the view from La Rocca di Bergamo.

7. Get lost in the mysterious alleys of Bergamo Old Town

The historic centre of Bergamo has a distinct aura of mystery and darkness about it that is captivating. This is most evident while wandering around its narrow streets which are almost always in the shadows because of the tall buildings that line them.
These are a couple of the most enchanting streets in Bergamo Alta:

  • Via Gombito: With its 52m high Tower and the beautiful medieval buildings, this is a seriously enchanting street and highly representative of Bergamo’s dark ambience.
  • Via Corsarola: This is the main street of the Upper Town and its official name is Via Bartolomeo Colleoni. Via Corsarola, as locals prefer to call it, is lined with some of the best cafés and eateries and is a lively hub for visitors and locals alike. The street eventually leads to Piazza Cittadella, a lovely open space which used to be yet another defensive fortress that protected Bergamo from potential enemies.
This is an impressive shot of Gombito Tower taken from its foot and facing the sky.
Gombito Tower

8. Eat gelato stracciatella at its birthplace

Just outside the walls of the old citadel, lies La Marianna. The latter is a vintage pastry shop famous for inventing the stracciatella ice-cream flavour back in 1961. By the way, this ice cream flavour is the most popular one throughout Bergamo.

If you want to learn more about the historic cuisine of Bergamo, this excellent gastro-tour with lunch and alcoholic beverages included will give you the opportunity to taste traditional dishes at five stops along the route, while exploring the city’s centre.

9. Admire the view from San Vigilio Castle

Apart from the city funicular we talked about earlier, there is also another cable car that leads to the castle built atop San Vigilio Hill. Walking around the ruins of San Vigilio Castle is an utterly pleasant pastime, especially around sunset. If you are in a super romantic mood, you can have dinner at one of the restaurants near the funicular station on the hill. They are not cheap but the views are gorgeous.

This image shows the view from San Vigilio Castle at sunset. There are many trees in the area and everything is covered in fresh green grass. In the background, views to the red rooftops of Bergamo.
Sunset at St Vigilio Castle

10. Enjoy a fantastic aperitivo

There are many many things we love about Italy. Aperitivo is one of them. This tradition of having a drink alongside a light meal before dinner is just amazing. We have come to notice that aperitivo is more of a big deal in the North rather than the South of Italy. Therefore, Bergamo couldn’t possibly be an exception. For a huge Aperol Spritz and a buffet filled with mouthwatering goodies head over to Caffè Corsarola after 18:00 and you can thank us later.

Already had many aperitivos in Italy? Then a cooking lesson with a three-course meal, Italian wine and espresso coffee is the next experience to enjoy!

This image shows the entrance to Caffe Corsarola. There is a chalk board outside that reads: Aperitivo & Buffet €9 dalle 18:00.
Aperitivo time!

11. Try Polenta e Osei

This is the typical dessert of Bergamo. It is a cake-like, marzipan-based treat which is yellow in colour and adorned with small chocolate birds on its top.

This is a close up of a store window with many polenta e osei cakes on display. The cakes are yellow with dark chocolate birds on top.
Polenta e Osei

12. Be at Piazza Vecchia at 22:00

It is imperative that you spend the night in Bergamo Alta. This is the only way to experience the unique ambience of the dimly lit medieval town. Whatever you do during the day, just make sure to be at Piazza Vecchia a little before 22:00. Take a seat under the romantically lit arches of the all-white Palazzo Nuovo and wait. Soon you will hear the bells of the Campanone sound.

They will do so 100 times filling the otherwise tranquil night air with their chimes and creating a unique atmosphere not to be missed. This is a centuries-old tradition that used to signify the closing down of the four city gates for the night.

This is a wonderful evening shot of the Palazzo Nuovo dimly lit and contrasting with the dark street that leads to it.
Palazzo Nuovo
Piazza Vecchia looks fabulous in the evening.

Where to stay in Bergamo

If you’re only spending one day in Bergamo, then there is no time to waste on useless comings and goings. Therefore, it only makes sense to splurge on a fantastic room right in the heart of Bergamo Old Town. During our short trip to Bergamo, we had the immense pleasure of staying at one of the most picturesque hotels in the historic centre. Gombit Hotel, as its name suggests, is adjacent to the Gombito Tower, one of Bergamo’s landmarks.

Yet this is hardly the main reason why one should choose this specific hotel over all the others. A member of Design Hotels, Gombit features rooms which are smartly decorated, impeccably clean and utterly comfortable. You can read the reviews on TripAdvisor here.

This is the room we stayed at in Bergamo. There is a large double bed, a desk with a chair and a closet. The room is decorated in grey with some touches of orange. If you are spending one day in Bergamo, Gombit Hotel is an excellent accommodation choice as it boasts a fantastic location in the heart of the Old Town.
Our room at Gombit Hotel

What we loved most about this hotel though is that it is renovated and inclusive of all modern amenities without compromising the building’s historical character and value. Furthermore, the location of the hotel is literally everything.

It is situated just a stone’s throw from the splendid Piazza Vecchia. Last but not least, breakfast at Gombit Hotel is prepared with top-quality ingredients and has a wide selection of sweet as well as savoury treats.

This image shows the buffet at the Gombit Hotel during breakfast. There are cold cuts, cheese, fruit, yoghurt and cake.
Breakfast at Gombit Hotel

The only thing we didn’t like about our stay at Gombit Hotel was that it was painfully short. We wish we had more time to spend in our gorgeous room taking in the beauty of the medieval wonder that is Bergamo from the comfort of our balcony.

Book your room in the medieval heart of Bergamo here!

This image shows Maria and Katerina relaxing on the sofa at their room in Gombithotel. They are going over the pages of a book about the city.
Relaxing at Gombit Hotel

So, that’s all about our short trip to Bergamo. If you’re planning to spend one day in Bergamo soon, we’re sure that you are going to like this medieval gem of a city a lot. Are we right? Let us know in the comments! Arrivederci!

From darkness to light.
Or from Bergamo’s dark alleys to Ostuni’s dazzlingly white streets.
Read our full guide to Italy’s White City now!

Disclosure: We were guests at Gombit Hotel but, as always, we express nothing but our honest opinion about the experience we had.


  1. Dear Maria and Katerina,
    thank you very much for the great review and inspiration!

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hi Victoria! We love Italy, too! You should add Bergamo to your itinerary if you have time. You will like it a lot!

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