Bologna is one of Italy's best cities for families, thanks to many fun places to take the kids. You can find excellent museums that organise workshops to engage small children and introduce them to the language of art and science. Little travellers can discover not only paintings and sculptures, but also dinosaurs and prehistoric animals. 

    There are ample spaces for spending a day in nature, whether it's lawn games, educational walks, or open-air theatre shows for young audiences. Even the city streets provide opportunities for kids to have fun and engage in their trip. Read on for our guide to the best things to do with kids in Bologna.

    1

    San Luca Express

    A fun ride through the heart of Bologna

    The little red San Luca Express train bus has headphones on every seat that you can use to guide you through the tour. The ride from downtown and up to the basilica takes around half an hour. Some parts of the route are bumpy and others are very steep, which simply adds to the thrill of the ride. While romantics and grownups can enjoy the scenic forested uphill walk to Bologna’s Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, families with kids may opt for this more exciting and convenient way. 

    Location: Piazza Maggiore, 1, 40128 Bologna, Italy

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +39 349 347 1214

    2

    Carpigiani Gelato Museum

    Delightful emporium of sweet treats

    The Carpigiani Gelato Museum is clearly all about gelato, offering an interesting tour through the past and current of the world-famous Italian dessert. The showroom showcases various exhibits such as historical apparatuses used in making gelato, up to modern machines using the latest technology, alongside multimedia presentations and historical photos. Guided tours and pre-booked “gelato lab” workshops are available. Museum tickets include a small cup of gelato with a mix of flavours.

    Location: Via Emilia, 45, 40011 Anzola dell'Emilia, Bologna, Italy

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +39 051 650 5306

    Map

    photo by #inEmiliaRomagna (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    3

    Museo Geologico Giovanni Capellini

    Discover prehistoric beasts in Italy's largest geology museum

    Museo Geologico Giovanni Capellini is great for anyone fascinated by prehistoric animals. Almost a million objects, including rocks and fossils, discovered over the course of 500 years are exhibited in the museum's 19th-century glass exhibits.  

    An interesting exhibit for children is on the first floor, where you can check out a Proboscidean mastodon skeleton and a giant mammoth, as well as a model of a 26-metre-long and 4-metre-tall Diplodocus dinosaur. The ground level has a collection of Pliocene whales, Eocene fish, Jurassic-era plants. 

    Location: Via Zamboni, 63, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 9 am to 1 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +39 051 209 4555

    Map

    photo by Mattes (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    4

    Zoological Collection of the University of Bologna

    Delve into nature through dioramas and historic collections

    The Zoological Collection of the University of Bologna displays over 18,000 preserved animals, collected by Italian naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi. Known as one of the largest zoology museums in Italy, exhibits mainly consists of wild animals from Africa and findings from the 19th and 20th centuries. 

    There are 2 large dioramas of Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo (National Park of Abruzzo) and Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso (Gran Paradiso National Park). A large atrium houses a preserved ocean sunfish that was found on a beach in Romagna during the 1940s. 

    Location: Via Francesco Selmi, 3, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy

    Open: June–August: Tuesday–Friday from 10 am to 1 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm. September–May: Tuesday–Friday from 9 am to 1 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +39 051 209 4960

    Map
    5

    City Red Bus

    Fun open-deck bus ride through Bologna

    The City Red Bus is operated by the same company behind the San Luca Express train bus, similarly fitted with headphones that you can put on to guide you through the historical sites and areas along the route. The top open deck allows for great photo opportunities, with uninterrupted views of Bologna’s landmarks and gardens. Be ready with appropriate sun protection and drinking water in the summer. 

    Location: Via di Saliceto, 3, 40128 Bologna, Italy

    Phone: +39 366 616 1319

    6

    Giardini Margherita

    Bologna’s green oasis

    This public park south of Bologna’s Piazza di Porta Santo Stefano offers families a cool escape away from the traffic and busy city scenes. The 26-hectare park features a beautiful lake surrounded by vast green lawns, cypress and oak groves, and tree-lined pathways. There’s plenty of space where the kids can freely run and play, and they can have fun spotting tortoises in the lake and birds in the trees throughout the park. Both locals and visitors can enjoy picnics with ample shade. 

    Location: Piazza di Porta Santo Stefano, 40136 Bologna, Italy

    Map

    photo by Lorenzov79 (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    7

    Toy Soldier Museum

    Classical childhood memories

    Housed in a historical villa that’s now also a public medical centre, the Museo Storico del Soldatino (Toy Soldier Museum) takes you back in time through its exhibits of old and rare scale models and toys, dominantly showcasing toy soldiers. The museum is within a half-hour drive south from downtown Bologna, and is free to visit. There are well over tens of thousands of small pieces, made from various materials known in history ranging from paper, wood, metal, and plastic. Some toy sets originate from as far away as France and Russia. 

    Location: Villa Mazzacorati, Via Toscana, 19, 40141 Bologna, Italy

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 8.30 am to 12.30 pm, Sunday from 10.30 am to noon

    Phone: +39 374 385 7021

    Map
    8

    Orto Botanico di Bologna

    One of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe

    As one of the green oases in the heart of Bologna, Orto Botanico di Bologna at the University of Bologna offers families a relaxing walk while admiring nature’s artistry. The gardens are free to enter, and can be a good place to escape from the summer heat. Kids can explore the tropical rainforest house with its unique herbs, as well as a cactus house and one with carnivorous plants. Some herb specimens even date back to the 16th century, during the establishment of the gardens by Bologna’s Civic Senate. 

    Location: Via Irnerio, 42, 40126 Bologna, Italy

    Open: Monday –Friday from 8 am to 3 pm, Saturday from 8 am to 1 pm (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: +39 051 20 91280

    Map

    photo by Carlo Pelagalli (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    9

    FICO Eataly World

    A world of gastronomical delights

    Bologna is best known as a food destination, and this “theme park” epitomises just that. FICO Eataly World is Italy’s largest food-themed exhibition space, spanning 10 hectares, and often requiring an onsite rentable bike to get around conveniently. Agricultural exhibits showcase the production of foods and drinks, and, for kids, there are 6 educational rides and multimedia displays themed around food sustainability and how famous dishes are made. While mum and dad check out the fine wines, youngsters will find the dessert sections and pizza-making demos irresistible.

    Location: Via Paolo Canali, 8, 40127 Bologna, Italy

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 12 am

    Phone: +39 051 002 9001

    Map
    10

    Capriolandia

    Enjoy thrilling rides and nature trails

    Capriolandia is an outdoor amusement centre just outside central Bologna. The 70,000-square-metre space has a wooden castle, slides, and climbing frames. Adventurous kids can tackle a parkour trail or a 300-metre-long zip line which takes you from one hill to another. 

    Parents can be assured that all activities are safe and assisted by trained staff. You can explore a botanical route among vegetable gardens and orchards, a nature trail through the woods, and enjoy a biodiverse adventure along a waterway. Capriolandia also has tables and gazebos for picnics, as well as a food truck if you didn’t bring food.

    Location: Via di Ravone, 25/4, 40135 Bologna BO, Italy

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 5 pm to 10 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 10 am to 11 pm (hours may vary)

    Phone: +39 335 823 4040

    Map
    11

    Biblioteca Salaborsa

    Bologna’s fun public library

    Formerly a stock exchange, this public library at the corner of Bologna’s town square is an interesting deviation from sightseeing. Warm, welcoming, and naturally quiet, Salaborsa is free to visit, and can be a good go-to spot to beat the heat with fancy seats and plenty of stuff to read. As you enter its immense hall, look up to admire its amazing ceiling, which itself is easily worth the visit. Uniquely, you head downstairs to discover an archaeological site that’s filled with ancient Roman ruins. 

    Location: Piazza del Nettuno, 3, 40124 Bologna, Italy

    Open: Tuesday – Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm, Mondays from 2.30 pm to 8 pm, Saturdays from 10 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +39 051 219 4400

    Map

    photo by Lorenzo Gaudenzi (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    12

    Museum of the History of Bologna

    Events of the past explained with a modern approach

    The Museum of the History of Bologna is a modern exhibition of the city's history, culture and transformation that uses cinematic effects and interactive content. This fascinating approach will interest even small children, thanks to 3D animation with Lucio Dalla narrating important events and anecdotes of Bologna. There are even performances by great Italian actors like Giorgio Albertazzi and Alessandro Bergonzoni. 

    The Museum of the History of Bologna is inside Palazzo Pepoli, a 14th-century building and former residence of one of the Middle Ages’ most influential families. The ancient courtyard also houses the glass-and-steel Torre del Tempo (Tower of Time).

    Location: Via Castiglione, 8, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +39 051 1993 6370

    Map

    photo by Paul Hermans (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    13

    Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna

    An art gallery that sparks children's creativity

    Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna (MAMbo) is an art museum that organises initiatives for kids to discover their artistic side. Its extensive art collection is split across 8 themed areas, presenting masterpieces from the late 1800s to the modern day. Along with its permanent exhibition, you can check out many temporary exhibitions and a broad collection of art books. 

    Expert staff can take families on guided tours of MAMbo. The museum aims to provide knowledge and necessary tools for interpreting the language and message of art. Younger children can take part in workshops that help stimulate their creativity and develop artistic sensitivity.

    Location: Via Don Giovanni Minzoni, 14, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy

    Open: Tuesday–Wednesday and Friday–Sunday from 10 am to 6.30 pm, Thursday from 10 am to 10 pm (closed Mondays)

    Phone: +39 051 649 6611

    Map

    photo by Velthur (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    14

    Opificio Golinelli

    A great place to learn about the world of science

    Opificio Golinelli is a centre of knowledge, innovation and culture in Bologna. The cultural venue often hosts workshops, classrooms, offices, and exhibition and events in its modernised industrial space. Exhibitions, conferences and seminars are aimed towards uniting art, science and technology. 

    Opificio Golinelli also focuses on the next generation, with dedicated spaces and workshops promoting science education and creativity in youngsters. Visit on Thursdays so your kids can discover scientific disciplines like botany and physics. The cultural centre has excellent transport links from Piazza Maggiore and the Bologna Centrale railway station..

    Location: Via Paolo Nanni Costa, 14, 40133 Bologna BO, Italy

    Open: Monday–Friday from 9 am to 5.30 pm (closed on weekends)

    Phone: +39 051 092 3200

    Map
    15

    Portico del Pavaglione

    Take a stroll among ancient fossils

    Portico del Pavaglione is a 139-metre-long arcade with many high-end shops, but it's also where you can keep the kids amused by hunting for shells. It's worth spending a few hours strolling this historic landmark – the portico covered with around 30 elegant arches, making it great for rainy days in Bologna. 

    The portico's red-stone floors have thousands of fossil shells, mostly spiral ammonites brought in by local artists during its construction. You can find Portico del Pavaglione on the southern side of the Archiginnasio complex, behind the Basilica di San Petronio. 

    Location: Piazza Galvani, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy

    Map

    photo by Fabio Marseglia (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    16

    Finestrella di Via Piella

    A small window overlooking Bologna's historic canals

    Finestrella di Via Piella is an unassuming spot that lets you peek at Bologna's historic canals. The tiny window reveals a world where houses and buildings seem to float on water – something you'd usually see in Venice. 

    This hidden section of Bologna is what’s left of a time when waterways were a key feature of the cityscape. As the city developed and grew, most of the canals and streams were buried towards the end of WWII. Large cast-iron and stone manholes on the city streets that were once used to drain melted snow are now relics of the underground water network.

    Location: Via Piella, 5, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy

    Map
    17

    Teatro Testoni Ragazzi

    Where children and teens take centre stage

    Teatro Testoni Ragazzi is a theatre company that hosts live shows suitable for kids and teens. It also hosts workshops for families, as well as conferences, meetings and exhibitions year-round. Most of the theatre's activities are run by Baracca, which has been operating since 1976.

    With over 200 productions for children yearly, the theatre is one of Bologna's best live venues. Located in the city centre. Teatro Testoni Ragazzi is just 500 metres north of the Bologna Centrale railway station. 

    Location: Via Giacomo Matteotti, 16, 40129 Bologna BO, Italy

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 4 pm to 7 pm, Saturday from 11 am to 1 pm and from 3.30 pm to 6 pm, Sunday from 9 am to 12.30 pm and from 3.30 pm to 6 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +39 051 415 3700

    Map

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