Last updated on March 26th, 2024 at 11:59 am

Port cities, in general, are fiercely underrated and Puglia’s capital is no exception but this guide is here to show you what to do in Bari and why this charming city is absolutely worth visiting. Keep reading for the best things to do in Bari and all the practical information you need to plan the perfect trip.

The second-largest city in Italy’s South after Naples, vibrant Bari is not only the perfect base from where to explore the stunning region of Puglia but also Italy’s all-time gateway to the East, from ancient times to the Roman Empire and beyond. Frequent ferries that arrive at and depart from Bari Port connect Italy to some of its closest neighbours such as Greece, Albania, Croatia and Montenegro.

Sadly, the fact that Bari has always been one of Italy’s major ports is a curse for the city. Visitors tend to overlook Puglia’s capital while nearby towns and cities flourish. But with so many amazing things to see in Bari, it turns out that planning a trip there is one of the best things to do in Italy. So, here’s what to do in Bari for a trip to remember.

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If you’re headed to Rome, check out our complete Rome Travel Guide and 4-Day Itinerary!

This photo shows an open space in Bari Old Town. There are buildings around it and some scooters parked next to pots of plants.
Bari Vecchia

Travel Resources For Bari

How Many Days & What To Do in Bari

Home to one of the busiest passenger ports in Europe and an international airport alike, Bari is the entry point to Italy for a lot of travellers. That said, not many of them choose to spend time in the city itself. That is a great shame if you ask us.

If you’re wondering what to do in Bari, you should know that not only is the city itself worth spending as much time at as possible but Bari is also the ideal base from where to explore one of Italy’s most authentic regions: Puglia. Therefore, make sure you spend at least 2 days in Bari for the city’s charms alone, adding a week or two if you’re planning to see the best of Puglia as well.

This is a photo of The ruins of Santa Maria del Buonconsiglio in Bari Old Town. There used to be a church on this site but it was demolished in an effort to excavate and preserve the Roman ruins that lay underneath. Nowadays, the ruins are utterly romantic and they are also the playground for local kids who use the site as a football field.
The ruins of Santa Maria del Buonconsiglio in Bari Old Town

As far as the city itself is concerned, you only need to explore two districts if you want to check out the top things to do in Bari. First and foremost, you have the medieval Old Town which is built on a peninsula overlooking the Adriatic Sea.

Then, there is the Murat Quarter (Borgo Murattiano). Built in the 19th century, this is the heart of modern Bari and the city’s main shopping district. Murat is located south of the Old Town of Bari. It extends from the promenade to Bari Centrale, the city’s main railway station.

This photo shows a splendid fountain lit up in bright pink in the foreground. In the background, the building of Bari Centrale, the main railway station in the city.
The fountain at Piazza Aldo Moro and the Bari Centrale train station building

Top 15 Things To Do in Bari Italy

1. Get Lost in The Old Town’s Quaint Alleys

Walking aimlessly around the enchanting narrow streets of the Old Town definitely and indisputably tops the list of best things to do in Bari. Although we travel extensively across Italy and have fallen in love with many a quaint Italian Old Town, there is something about Bari that makes it stand out from the rest.

This is an image of a narrow alley in Bari Old Town. There are two men walking and there are balconies filled with plants and flowers above them. If you're wondering what to do in Bari, you should definitely walk around Bari Old Town.
Walking around the quaint streets of Bari Vecchia

Built between the city’s two ports (the modern and the old one), Bari Vecchia, as locals call the historic centre, is a maze of narrow alleys lined with beautiful buildings that have remained the same since the medieval times when the city was constructed.

While strolling around Bari Old Town, you’ll be impressed by the countless small yet ornate shrines on the city’s walls. Far from being neglected, these shrines are decorated with fresh flowers and they give the city a very special touch.

This image shows a beatiful shrine on a wall in Bari Old Town. It is painted in sky blue and it's decorated with fresh flowers.
One of the countless shrines in Bari Vecchia

What we love about Bari Vecchia the most, though, is its authentic ambience. All across the city, there are children playing football in picturesque piazzas while people of all ages engage in lively conversations from makeshift living rooms right outside their front doors. To be honest, nothing feels more nostalgic than this.

Check out the best of the city’s attractions in just 2 hours with this tour!

This image shows men sitting and chatting on plastic chairs and tables on one of the main pedestrianised streets in Bari Vecchia. This isn't at all uncommon and it adds to Bari's overall charm.
People chatting in the middle of the street is a common sight in Bari

2. Step Inside The Basilica di San Nicola

One of the best places to visit in any city is usually its Cathedral. Yet, in Bari’s case, the Basilica of San Nicola is the church that steals the Cathedral’s thunder. For good reason.

Built in the 11th century to provide shelter to some of the relics of Saint Nicholas of Bari, the Basilica is an important religious site for both Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of Bari and legend has it that he was a fan of secret gift-giving. Does this ring a bell? Exactly! We’re talking about Saint Nick himself aka Santa Claus!

This is a photo of the facade of Basilica San Nicola. The latter is perhaps the city's most important church. There are quite a few people outside the church.
Saint Nicolas of Bari

3. Visit The San Sabino Cathedral

Although overshadowed by the Basilica of Saint Nicholas and the legends that go with it, Bari Cathedral is worth a visit all the same. Situated at the quaint Odegitria Square, Bari’s Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Sabinus. Constructed between the late 12th century and 13th century, the Cathedral is a fine example of Apulian Romanesque Architecture.

Other beautiful places in Puglia, such as Ostuni and the coastal towns of Otranto and Trani, are also home to gorgeous Cathedrals built according to the same architectural trend.

Visit the Cathedral of San Sabino and any other major tourist attraction in the city on a bike tour!

This photo shows the facade of San Sabino Cathedral at Odegitria Square in Bari. There are many people walking around the square or sitting at the church's steps.
Bari Cathedral

4. Say Hi To The Sweetest Ladies at Orecchiette Street

The word orecchiette means little ears in Italian. Yet, in Puglia, orecchiette always refers to a kind of handmade pasta that is typical of the region. This pasta is shaped like, you guessed it right, small ears.

Orecchiette Street or Strada delle Orrechiette is located directly across from the entrance to Bari Castle. However, this isn’t the picturesque alley’s official name. But why would a street be named after pasta?

If you walk along Orecchiette Street from about 10 AM to 5 PM (probably earlier in autumn and winter) every day, you will stumble upon the sweetest local women who set up tables outside their front doors and make fresh pasta while chatting with neighbours and passers-by.

This image shows a local lady making pasta and other treats in Orecchiette Street.
Late afternoon at Strada delle Orecchiette

Yes, this is how magnificently stuck in the past Bari is. And, yes, you MUST buy fresh pasta from these local ladies. Apart from orecchiette pasta, the ladies also make cavaletti (yet another of Puglia’s signature pasta types) and tarallini, Puglia’s go-to snack that can become seriously addictive.

By the way, the street’s actual name is Arco Basso. It takes its name after the low arch that marks the entrance to the alley. Arco Basso is only one of fifty medieval passageways of this kind that are scattered across Bari Old Town.

Join the most amazing pasta experience walking tour!

This is a snapshot of Arco Basso or Orecchiette Street. There are stands with ladies selling fresh pasta.
Arco Basso

5. Stroll Along Bari’s Splendid Promenade

Bari is a coastal city. As such, it’s home to a gorgeous promenade with jaw-dropping views of the Adriatic Sea. Most guides will tell you to walk along Lungomare Nazario Sauro which has a total length of about 1 kilometre.

However, keep in mind that, although Lungomare Nazario Sauro is indeed the best part of the entire promenade, it is still just one part of Bari’s long promenade. The latter, according to Google Maps, takes up a different name every 1000 metres or so.

This image shows a part of Bari's promenade. It's a cloudy afternoon. In the background, we can see the Bari Ferris wheel.
Bari’s splendid promenade

We would recommend walking all the way from Piazza del Ferrarese to Pane e Pomodoro Beach, covering a total of about 3 kilometres, so that you can admire some of Bari’s landmarks along the way.

The first building you will come across if you follow this route is the superb Teatro Margherita, a former theatre that now operates as a small museum. Right next to this magnificent building, you can walk along the Old Port of Bari where local fishermen hang out next to Bari’s iconic blue fishing boats.

This image shows the iconic blue fishing boats in the Old Port of Bari. In the background, the beautiful Teatro Margherita.
The Old Port of Bari with Teatro Margherita in the background

Walking past the San Nicola Pier, you will soon reach Bari’s Ferris Wheel. Keep walking but try to take your eyes off of the sea every now and then. This way you’ll get to admire the fabulous architecture that lines the other side of the promenade.

End your stroll at Pane e Pomodoro Beach so that you get a glimpse of what the city’s beaches look like. Admittedly, it’s not one of the most beautiful beaches you’ve ever seen, but it’s ideal for a relaxing walk. Nearby Torre Quetta Beach is a lot more pleasant but you’ll have to walk an extra one and a half kilometre to get there.

This is a close up of the building that houses the region of Puglia offices in Bari.
The Region of Puglia building along Lungomare Nazario Sauro

6. Ride The Bari Ferris Wheel

Riding the Ferris wheel is one of the top Bari activities you can try while in the city. The Bari Ferris Wheel reaches a maximum height of 55 metres, allowing you to marvel at Bari from above. It’s open every day, from 10 AM to late at night. Yet sunset is hands down the best time to enjoy a ride.

This is a close up of the Bari Ferris Wheel.
Bari Ferris Wheel

7. Eat Focaccia Barese

No trip to Bari is complete without eating your body weight in focaccia barese. You’ve probably tried focaccia elsewhere in Italy or even in other countries as well. Yet nothing’s quite like the real thing. And by the real thing, we mean the absolutely scrumptious version made in Bari and the rest of Puglia.

You can taste focaccia barese at any bakery in the city. During our short trip to Bari, our personal favourite focaccia place was Diana at Piazza del Ferrarese.

Read our guide to the best local food in Puglia!

This is a close up of focaccia barese which looks (and was) outrageously delicious. The focaccia is topped with fresh tomato and green olives.
Focaccia Barese

8. Mingle With Locals at Piazza Mercantile & Piazza del Ferrarese

To be honest, it took us a while to realise that Piazza Mercantile and Piazza del Ferrarese were actually two different squares. It’s hardly a 200-metre walk between the two and, well, it feels as though it’s just one and the same square. One way or another, this is the perfect place to go if you want to be among locals. Especially in the evening and at night.

Early in the evening, grab some freshly made gelato from Sandrino and follow in the locals’ footsteps as they enjoy their quintessentially Italian passeggiata, past the unassuming Colonna della Giustizia. At night, head back to the two squares where locals flock, drinks in hand, to catch up with their friends and loved ones.

This is a panoramic shot of Piazza Mercantile. There are many beautiful old buildings and people of all ages, mostly locals, hanging around. Spending time at this square is a fantastic way to blend with the locals and one of the best things to do in Bari Italy.
Piazza Mercantile

9. Spend an Evening At Largo Albicocca

We can safely say that this tiny square hidden in the maze of streets that comprise Bari Old Town took our breaths away and helped Bari find its way to our hearts and stay there for good. This formerly neglected open space in the historic centre is now turned into an urban garden of sorts that comes alive with laughter and animated conversation every evening.

This image shows Largo Albicocca at night. There are people standing or sitting and there are lines of lights hanging above. The ambience is unique.
Largo Albicocca at night

Apart from its inescapable charm, Largo Albicocca is an essential stop in Bari for yet another reason. This romantic square is a great place to taste the city’s most delicious street food. By the way, if you thought that street food in Puglia is all about the focaccia and nothing but, you couldn’t be more wrong.

At Largo Albicocca, you can taste two of Puglia’s most popular street food dishes. The iconic panzerotto and the sgagliozze. The panzerotto is the Pugliese take on calzone. Think of mouthwatering pizza dough filled with tomato and mozzarella and then deep-fried to perfection. This is the panzerotto and Pizzeria di Cosimo in Largo Albicocca is a great spot to try it in Bari.

This is a close up of Maria's hands holding two delicious panzerotti. In the background, there are many people standing outside the Pizzeria di Cosimo.
Panzerotto time in Largo Albicocca

On the other hand, sgagliozze are slices of polenta that are deep-fried and seasoned with salt. Simple though it may sound, this is a very popular snack in Bari and some of the most delicious food you can try in the city.

Taste the city’s scrumptious treats while cycling around the city!
Book the best street food tour by bike now!

10. Check Out Castello Normanno-Svevo

Built around 1132, the Norman Swabian Castle of Bari is an impressive construction encircled by a moat on almost all of its sides. One of the best attractions in Bari, the Norman castle became a centre for the arts in the 16th century. It now serves as an exhibition centre and events venue. For more information about the opening hours and admission fees of Castello Svevo di Bari, visit the official website.

This image shows the moat of Bari Castle or Castello Svevo di Bari. It's covered with green grass and adorned with red chili peppers. We're assuming that was some kind of installation or exhibition.
The moat of Bari Castle

11. Walk Along Via Sparano da Bari

Do you like to shop till you drop during your travels? If so, you will absolutely love the shiny Via Sparano, the main street for shopping in Bari. If you don’t care about shopping, you should take a stroll along Via Sparano anyway. The street’s unique vibes and wonderful architecture are definitely unmissable.

This image shows Via Sparano da Bari in the evening. The street is full of people. In the background, the gorgeous Palazzo Mincuzzi.
Palazzo Mincuzzi at Via Sparano da Bari

Sparano Street is lined with historic buildings such as the ornate Palazzo Mincuzzi. The latter was built as a luxury department store at the beginning of the 19th century when commercial architecture flourished.

Another construction not to miss while walking along Via Sparano is the imposing San Ferdinando Church, which is a superb example of Italian Rationalist architecture and one of the most beautiful churches in Bari.

This is an image of the imposing facade of San Ferdinando church on Sparano Street. The church occupies an entire block. There are people walking along the street outside the church.
San Ferdinando at Via Sparano da Bari

12. Admire Teatro Petruzzelli

It was in 1903 that Teatro Petruzzelli, the largest theatre in Bari and the fourth-largest in Italy, opened its gates to the public for the first time. The theatre hosted countless performances and eminent artists like Luciano Pavarotti and Frank Sinatra throughout the decades that followed before a fire destroyed it completely in 1991.

This is a close up of the bright red building of Teatro Petruzzelli in the evening.
Teatro Petruzzelli

Nowadays, Teatro Petruzzelli is restored to its former glory. It hosts concerts and ballet performances. It also serves as the city’s opera house. If you don’t have time to attend a live show, you should at least join a 30-minute tour that will take you on a journey across the theatre’s rich history.

13. Get in The Depths of Castellana Caves

If you’re wondering what to do in Bari in case you’re spending more than a couple of days there, you should know that there are countless amazing things to see in Puglia and Bari is the optimal base from where to explore the surrounding region.

Among the best places to visit on a half-day trip from Bari are the impressive Castellana Caves. This massive complex of underground chambers was first explored in 1938. However, it’s estimated that it has been around for more than 90 million years.

You can visit Castellana Caves on a guided tour only. There are two itineraries available. The complete itinerary covers a distance of three kilometres and lasts for about two hours.

Alternatively, the partial itinerary covers a distance of one kilometre and lasts for 50 minutes. It goes without saying that we highly recommend the 3-kilometre tour. During that, you’ll get the chance to marvel at the best chambers, including the impressive White Cave.

The complete itinerary starts from the so-called Grave. This is a huge chamber that features an opening on its roof through which bright sunlight enters the cave and illuminates its walls in the most fantastic way.

This photo shows the Grave which is the first chamber to visit during a guided tour of the Castellana Caves. There is a hole on the cave's ceiling which illuminates the stairs directly below it.
The Grave

Then a magical journey through chambers and corridors begins. Throughout the tour, you’ll get to marvel at beyond-words gorgeous natural masterpieces while your knowledgeable local guide narrates stories related to the stalactites, stalagmites and other formations you come across along the way.

Our personal favourite part of the tour was walking along the Desert Corridor. The latter is a dark 500-metre-long passageway that feels as though you’re inside a canyon somewhere in the desert.

This image shows a narrow corridor with stalactites in Castellana Caves.
One of the corridors inside Castellana Caves

The complete itinerary ends at the White Cave. The latter is regarded as the most impressive chamber of the Castellana complex and the brightest cave in the world. Words can’t really describe the impossibly white stalagmites and columns that adorn this chamber. As if that wasn’t enough, the contrast between the shining White Cave and all the other chambers that are dark and dimly lit is utterly fascinating.

Castellana Caves are open all year long. Keep in mind that, inside, there’s a constant temperature of 14°C to 18°C so dress accordingly. Also, be aware that the floor is quite slippery so wear trainers or hiking boots. Check out ticket prices and opening hours and get ready for a unique experience!

This image shows the impressive stalactites that hang from the White Cave's ceiling. There is also a huge column at the left part of the photo.
The White Cave

14. Take a Day Trip To Polignano a Mare or Monopoli

When it comes to amazing yet easy day trips from Bari, the sky’s the limit. Yet the most obvious choice is to head to either Polignano a Mare or Monopoli. Or both.

Polignano a Mare and Monopoli are probably the most enchanting seaside towns you have ever laid eyes on. They are both less than 40 minutes from Bari either by car or by public transport.

You can read our guide about what to do in Polignano a Mare in one day here!

If you google Puglia and press the Images tab, Polignano a Mare will most probably be the first result to pop up. Actually, it’s no wonder that Polignano a Mare is among the most photographed places in Southern Italy. The coastal town is utterly mesmerising. This is why it attracts hordes of visitors, especially at weekends and public holidays.

With a stunning Old Town perched on a dramatic limestone cliff and a fantastic beach below, Polignano a Mare and its charms will definitely make you regret you didn’t spend more time there than just a day. That’s how we felt for sure.

This is a panoramic view of Polignano a Mare as seen from the Terrazza Santo Stefano. It is a cloudy day and there are some people hanging out on the beach.
Polignano a Mare

Equally charming but with fewer crowds, Monopoli boasts a compact historic centre and a glorious promenade. Yet the ultimate highlight in this small town on the Adriatic Coast is the Old Port with its postcard-perfect blue fishing boats.

Although Monopoli is very compact, don’t underestimate the amount of time you’ll need to enjoy it. Make sure you spend a full day soaking up its unique ambience and unparalleled beauty.

This image shows the old port of Monopoli with the iconic blue fishing boats. If you're wondering what to do in Bari during a longer trip, you should definitely take a day trip to Monopoli.
Monopoli

15. Explore Valle d’Itria

Itria Valley is probably the most quintessentially Apulian part of the entire region. This is the very land which is dotted with countless trulli. The latter are the iconic and utterly charming buildings with conical roofs that are unique to the Puglia region. Moreover, Valle d’Itria boasts spectacular countryside where century-old olive groves and vineyards are abundant.

This is a panoramic view of Alberobullo and its trulli rooftops. This type of building with a conical roof is unique to Puglia.
The complex of trulli buildings in Alberobello is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

There is yet another thing that renders Itria Valley absolutely irresistible. This is no other than the picturesque towns that are scattered across the area. If you’ve ever dreamt of visiting Alberobello, Cisternino, Locorotondo or Martina Franca, you should know that they are all within a short distance from one another and, at the same time, conveniently located about an hour drive from Bari.

This photo shows the whitewashed buildings of Cisternino, a picturesque town which is about an hour's drive from Bari.
Cisternino

After Bari what? Continue your trip across Southern Italy!
Check out our complete guide to Matera!

Bari Guide

How To Get To Bari

You can get to Bari by plane from many European cities. Bari International Airport is situated a mere 8-kilometre drive from the city centre.

Alternatively, you can get to Bari by ferry from Greece, Albania, Croatia and Montenegro. The ferry is the optimal way if you’re planning a road trip across Puglia to check out all of the region’s picture-perfect villages and some of the best beaches in Puglia, just like we did.

Last but not least, Bari connects to countless destinations within Italy by frequent train service. Train travel is one of the best ways to see Italy anyway.

Find the best deals for your flight with cashback to Bari here. Alternatively, if you prefer to travel to Bari by ferry, you can buy your tickets here.

If you are on a train trip across Europe, you can buy your one-month Italy rail pass here. On the other hand, if you are on a longer trip across Italy or Europe, Flixbus is a great way to get to Bari.

This photo shows the sunset from the ferry on our way to Bari.
Sunset on board the ferry to Bari

Parking in Bari

If you’re driving around Puglia, as we did, keep in mind that you won’t be needing your car within Bari. While you’re spending time in the city itself, it’s best to leave your car at a safe parking space and only drive when you want to travel outside Bari. The area of interest for all Bari visitors is quite compact and best enjoyed on foot.

For the entire duration of our trip to Bari, we parked the car at Saba Parking and we can’t recommend it enough. This parking lot is very close to the port as well as within easy walking distance from Bari Old Town. It’s open 24/7 and you can check its rates here.

Where To Stay in Bari

Hands down the best place to stay in Bari is the city’s charming historic centre. Not only is this area the most beautiful part of the entire city but it’s also the one that feels the safest of all. As a port city like Marseille, Bari does have a few sketchy neighbourhoods which might make you feel uncomfortable, especially at night. To avoid that, make sure you choose one of the hotels within Old Town Bari.

This image shows a narrow alley in Bari Old Town.
Bari Old Town

Are You Now Convinced That Bari Is Worth a Trip in Its Own Right?

Now that you’ve made it to the end of our guide on what to do in Bari, Puglia’s charming capital, we hope that you are convinced that it’s worth spending at least a couple of days in the city itself.

If you choose to add this fascinating medieval gem to your Puglia itinerary, you certainly won’t regret it. Although not a popular destination by Italian standards, Bari is a great city with loads of well-kept secrets waiting patiently to reveal themselves to you.

Bari was the city from where our 2-week road trip across Puglia started.
Read here everything you need to know to start planning your Puglia road trip.

WORDS & EDITING: Maria
IMAGES: Katerina

Disclosure: Castellana Caves kindly offered us the 3-kilometre tour on a complimentary basis to assist us in writing this guide on what to do in Bari Italy. However, as always, we express nothing but our very own and honest opinion about the experience we had.

6 Comments

  1. Pingback: Easy day trips from Bari: Alberobello and Monopoli In Southern Italy - Unusual Traveler

  2. Pingback: How to Spend 10 Days in Puglia - Full Itinerary to Southern Italy | highlands2hammocks

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