As a hub for many budget flights into nearby Milan, many visitors to Northern Italy tend to overlook the prospect of spending one day in Bergamo and opt for the bigger, glitzier city in the region. However, this is a mistake. With so many flights coming to and from Bergamo airport each and every day, it is well worth planning a bit of a Bergamo itinerary in order to explore this underrated city.
Bergamo is a strikingly beautiful city, compact enough to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time but with enough to do that you won’t be bored. These facts make it ideal for either a Bergamo day trip from Milan or ever for longer stays should that suit your fancy.
So if you’re looking for a smaller city to visit in Lombardy that is conveniently located close to a major airport serving countless European destinations, then consider spending one day in Bergamo – you won’t be sorry.
How Many Days in Bergamo?
Though many treat Bergamo simply as a gateway to Milan, the city itself is very much worth visiting. But how many days in Bergamo is sufficient to see and enjoy the city?
Well, as I’ve mentioned already – Bergamo is the kind of city with a lot to see and do but not an overwhelming amount to see and do. This means that you can get a good feel for the city even if you only spend one day in Bergamo.
The best way to spend one day in Bergamo is to plan to spend a night in the city. This will ensure you have enough time to see the sites but also chill out and enjoy yourself a bit. Conversely, you also could easily do a Bergamo day trip from Milan – the cities are located quite close to each other and it will still allow you to get to Bergamo relatively early and even leave after dinner should you want.
If you have more time, spending 2 days in Bergamo will allow you to take in the sites at a more leisurely pace and to really soak up all of the history and culture of the city. If you happen to visit on a day when some sites are closed, you could use the second day to see them, as well.
Bergamo can even be used as a base to explore some parts of the region. It serves as a great jumping-off point to explore places like Lake Como or Lake Garda. In fact, if you’re planning a longer Lake Como trip, then Bergamo is an excellent starting off point due to its location.
Getting To & Around Bergamo
Getting to Bergamo is easy from a number of different aspects. In fact, it is often the first point of entry for those travelling to Milan via a budget airline like Ryanair – this is because the Bergamo airport is often labelled as Milan (Bergamo).
So getting to Bergamo from an array of European destinations (and even some destinations further afield) is relatively easy by air, provided you want to subject yourself to the whims of Ryanair, Wizzair et all.
The Bergamo airport is located quite close to the city centre and there is a frequent city bus that can shuttle you there for an affordable price. Bus 1 from the airport goes to a number of stops in the Citta Bassa and from there, it is easy to get anywhere in the city centre.
The airport bus is €2.40 per person (this includes luggage), however, you can also opt to purchase a travel card that is valid for both the airport bus plus all other public transit – including the funiculars!
Bergamo is also easily accessible from Milan by both train and bus. Because it does tend to operate as a Milan-area airport, the links between Bergamo and the Lombardy capital are frequent and affordable. If you want to book a bus transfer between Milan and Bergamo Airport, you can book online in advance here.
Alternatively, it is also possible to book trains and buses from Milan city centre to Bergamo city centre. Milan is located about an hour by both bus and train from Bergamo, so it is a quick trip no matter how you end up getting there. You can view schedules and book here.
Once in Bergamo, you will find that the majority of the city is pretty simple to navigate on foot. However, there is a lower and upper part of town that is far more pleasant to reach (especially uphill) if you choose to go by funicular.
As mentioned previously, there are travel card options that can be cost-effective if you plan to take the funiculars a few times and/or plan to use the airport bus.
If you don’t choose to go on your Bergamo day trip independently, you can also book an organised tour to the city. If you’re coming from Milan, this half-day tour can be a fantastic option. Alternatively, you can book this full-day tour to Bergamo that also includes a visit to Franciacorta and Lake Iseo from Milan should you want to visit from another place.
One Day in Bergamo Itinerary
Without further ado, this is how to spend one day in Bergamo!
Coffee in Citta Bassa
If you’re arriving from Milan, another Italian city or from the Bergamo Airport, your first stop in the city is going to be in the Citta Bassa, or the lower city. This is a more lived-in and cosmopolitan side of Bergamo, but it is no less charming (or grand) than the upper city. Before making your way to the Citta Alta, take the time to have a coffee (and maybe even a pastry) in the lower city!
We can personally recommend grabbing a coffee at Caffe del Largo, which is a small cafe with a bit of outdoor seating only about five minutes walking from the funicular to Citta Alta, so it makes for a convenient place to get caffeinated before sightseeing!
Funicular or Walk to Citta Alta
After you’ve fueled up on coffee, it’s time to make your way up to the Citta Alta or upper city. This is effectively the Old Town of Bergamo and there are two options of how you could opt to reach this part of town. The first, and easiest, is to take the funicular. The second is to walk.
If you opt to take the funicular, know that it can get very busy so it is best to get there as early as possible if you want to avoid waiting in a long queue behind tour groups and eager day-trippers. The funiculars come frequently (every five minutes or so), so you likely won’t be waiting too long, but for those who are impatient and up for a bit of cardio, it could be a better option to walk up.
Obviously, the funicular exists for a reason and the walk up to the Citta Alta is steep, but it is also quite lovely, leafy and will take you along the Venetian Walls of the city.
It also is only about ten minutes, so even though the path may be steep, it won’t last too long! If you are interested in this walk it may make more sense to take the funicular up and then to walk down if you don’t want to break too much of a sweat — you’re going to be walking plenty in the Citta Alta itself, anyway!
While wandering through the Citta Alta, you cannot miss Bergamo’s main square – Piazza Vecchia. Like many piazzas in Italy, this one is lined with cafes and is overlooked by the Campanone – or the civic clock tower. This is a wonderful place to people watch and get your bearings before exploring the town a bit more.
Many roads in the upper town lead to Piazza Vecchia so you will definitely be back here before your one day in Bergamo is up, but it is a good idea to enjoy the views of the square early in your itinerary in order to get a bit of peace and quiet before a lot of the tourist crowds arrive.
Funicular to Castello di San Vigilio
Just because you made it up to the Citta Alta does not mean that you’re through with funiculars during your Bergamo day trip! In fact, there is another funicular that goes up to the Castello di San Viglia – a fortification situated on a hill above the upper city where you can get the best views of Bergamo below.
This funicular isn’t nearly as busy and popular as the one from Citta Bassa to Citta Alta, however, it comes about as frequently and you can use the same public transit ticket. Once at the top of the hill, you will be graced with some of the most spectacular views of the city and the surrounding area.
The castle itself isn’t necessarily anything to write home about – it isn’t open for visitors so you can only walk around it. However, it is worth strolling down the hill rather than taking the funicular down because you can get even more wonderful views of the city on your way down – again, it only takes about 10 minutes to reach where the funicular takes off from.
Near the Castello di San Vigilio Funicular entrance you will see signs to the Bergamo Botanical Garden, and this makes for a lovely next stop on your itinerary. Located on the hillside, you’ll need to walk up a bit of a hill to get to the entrance, but the pathway through the gardens is a leisurely stroll back down.
The gardens are free to enter and include a number of different plants, ponds and benches to relax in. It’s an incredibly peaceful place to visit and not nearly as popular or full of tourists as other areas of the city, despite being absolutely lovely to wander through.
After a busy morning, it’s time to refuel by enjoying a hearty Italian lunch! There are plenty of great restaurants in central Bergamo so you’re not going to struggle to find a good meal, but there are some places that may be better than others.
If you’re looking for a tasty sit-down lunch for a good price, then make sure to visit Circolino Citta Alta. They have a couple of different set lunch menus for affordable prices and high-quality food. If you’re wondering what to order, you cannot miss the local stuffed pasta, casoncelli, which is often served in a butter and sage sauce with crispy pancetta!
If you’re looking for something quick or a takeaway lunch menu, consider heating to Polentone – a polenta stand located close to the Citta Alta Funicular. You can get a number of different polenta dishes here for affordable prices. Another popular place is Il Forno, which is a deli serving lots of dishes – including delicious Sicilian-style pizza.
If you’re interested in learning more about the local culinary specialities of Bergamo, consider booking a guided food tour of the city. And if you’re after a dessert, then you can’t go wrong with grabbing a gelato at Carmen (they also have a location in Citta Bassa).
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore & Duomo di Bergamo
After a long and leisurely lunch, it’s time to visit some of the top attractions in the city, the town’s major churches of Bergamo. These include the Duomo di Bergamo (Bergamo’s Cathedral) and the imposing Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.
These two churches are situated right next to each other and are absolutely spectacular. The grander of the two, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, boasts a beautiful Romanesque exterior and Baroque interior.
The Duomo di Bergamo is the main cathedral of the city and is constructed with a lovely neo-classical style.
Looping back to the Piazza Vecchia, you may have noticed the tall bell tower looming over the square. Now it’s time to go to the top of it! Open every day except for Monday, the Campanone (or Torre Civica) costs €5 per person to enter and also includes a museum outlining the history of Bergamo. It’s worth noting that the majority of the museum is completely in Italian so it may be difficult for non-speakers to really get a lot from it.
The entry fee is worth it when it comes to the views from the tower, however, even if you can’t enjoy the museum to its fullest. If you want to work up a sweat, you can climb the stairs to the top of the tower or you could simply take the lift – there is no extra fee.
The view from the top is spectacular and provides excellent views over the Piazza Vecchia and of the Basilica and Duomo along with the Citta Bassa. It’s an excellent way to round out your day in the upper town.
Before meandering down to the Citta Bassa to conclude your Bergamo day trip itinerary, take the long way down and wander along the Venetian Walls. These city walls are consecrated as a Unesco World Heritage site and you can very much enjoy the views from them if you choose to walk down from the Citta Alta rather than hopping on the funicular.
You will also have the opportunity to walk through the main gate of the city (Porta San Giacomo) before making your way down the pathway to the lower city. This gate and bridge is absolutely beautiful and really puts a lot of Bergamo into perspective.
Aperitivo in Citta Bassa
End your Bergamo itinerary in the lower town, enjoying aperitivo hour in one of the many streetside cafes in the area. There are countless bars and restaurants where you can enjoy a drink and a large plate of food for around €6 per person – but keep in mind that this is a very popular activity and places may be busy!
If you want a great option, we recommend heading to Wood, which makes an excellent Aperol Spritz (along with other cocktails!).
And if you want an ice cream rather than a drink (or along with!), we recommend getting a delicious gelato at La Romana or the Citta Bassa location of Carmen.
If you want to stay for dinner, there are tons of wonderful restaurants in this area to enjoy, as well. La Scagna is a popular choice, serving up local dishes at good prices. Taverna del Gallo da Salvatore is another excellent dinner option in the area.
Where to Stay in Bergamo
If you’ve determined to spend the night rather than simply go on a Bergamo day trip, then you’re going to need to find a great place to stay. Fortunately, there are plenty of lovely accommodation options in the city, including these top suggestions:
Petronilla – If you’re after a luxury stay in Bergamo, then this plus hotel in Citta Bassa is an excellent choice. They have a number of luxe rooms available, they allow pets and they even have a restaurant and bar on site. Click here to see their availability
B&B Entro Le Mura – An excellent mid-range option located close to all of the top sites in Citta Alta, this bed and breakfast is a great choice. They have a range of clean and comfortable rooms available, a central location for exploring the city and there is breakfast included each morning. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental – If you’d like your own place in Bergamo, then a private rental is a great option. There are plenty of places to choose from in the city — such as this historic home in Citta Alta — that can suit all kinds of visitors. Click here to browse Bergamo private rentals
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Bergamo hotels!
Planning to spend a day in Bergamo is never a bad idea, as this overlooked city has quite a lot to offer visitors. Not only is it absolutely beautiful, but there are plenty of things to do, see and enjoy in this lovely Lombardy city.
Are you planning a day trip to Bergamo? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!
Thank you! I am planning an overnight in Bergamo in November and this was very helpful. I especially look forward to Carmen Gelato!
Hope you have a great time, Claire!