This City in Northern Italy Is Known As the Gateway to the Dolomites — With Outdoor Adventure, an Archeological Museum, and Traditional Alpine Food

Here’s what you need to know to plan the perfect trip to Bolzano, Italy.

<p>Giacomomo/Getty Images</p>

Giacomomo/Getty Images

Travelers flock to Italy for its rich culture, incredible gastronomy, and stunning landscapes. While tourism darlings like Florence, Rome, and the Amalfi Coast habitually wow, the boot-shaped nation also has some less obvious locales that fall outside the regular tourist route and deserve a spot on your itinerary, like historic Ravenna. Another destination worth the detour? Bolzano.

This city in the South Tyrol province of northern Italy, not far from the Austrian border, is known as the gateway to the Dolomites and the departure point for many outdoor activities and excursions through the Italian Alps. Besides providing access to the most beautiful mountains in Europe, this cross-cultural alpine escape puts on a show for visitors with art, architecture, and history galore. The South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology houses an ancient mummy named Ötzi, also called the Iceman. Other significant sights include Bolzano Cathedral and Runkelstein Castle. Many consider Bolzano to be the Italian capital of Christmas due to its holiday markets and festive atmosphere. And foodies will be impressed by the delicious traditional cuisine.

Scroll on for the best things to eat, see, and do in Bolzano, Italy,  according to local experts.

Related: 12 Best Small Towns in Italy

<p>LuisPinaPhotogrpahy/Getty Images</p>

LuisPinaPhotogrpahy/Getty Images

Best Hotels and Resorts in Bolzano

Parkhotel Laurin

Established in 1910, Parkhotel Laurin is a historic home base in the heart of the city that’s upscale and very close to the train station. “It also has an excellent restaurant that’s well regarded for its fantastic interpretations of Mediterranean and South Tyrolean mountain cuisine,” says ToursByLocals’ Bolzano-based guide Alessandro Scacchetti.

Castel Hörtenberg

Regarded as an exclusive retreat set inside a renovated Renaissance castle, Castel Hörtenberg appeals to luxury lovers with an elegant atmosphere, exemplary service, and a mix of historic and modern refinement that reads as regal yet discreet. “The sleek spa offers saunas and treatments ranging from hot stone massages to wine facials,” adds Scacchetti.

Hotel Greif

Travelers rave about the welcoming ambiance, aesthetically pleasing rooms, and wonderful breakfast at the family-owned Hotel Greif, a member of Design Hotels. The artsy interiors blend tradition and contemporary creativity. That looks like custom-made Italian fabrics paired with bespoke furnishings from different eras. Plus, you can’t beat the walkable location right by Piazza Walther.

Parkhotel Luna Mondschein

ToursByLocals’ Bolzano-based guide Gianlucca Crocco recommends checking into the Parkhotel Luna Mondschein, a boutique hotel in the center of the city. “You will have a pleasant stay in a great location that tenders many possibilities for sightseeing, dining, and shopping.” 

<p>Olena Malik/Getty Images</p>

Olena Malik/Getty Images

Best Things to Do in Bolzano

South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

History-loving visitors to Bolzano should bucket ample time to explore the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology. “The most fascinating and famous artifact on display is the preserved body of Ötzi, a mummy that’s believed to be older than the Egyptian pyramids,” reveals Scacchetti.


During the spring, summer, and fall, the forested mountains surrounding Bolzano beckon travelers to lace up their boots and go for a hike. There are trails of varying difficulty, from nature walks for families with young kids to intense high-altitude treks with a payoff of eye-popping alpine panoramas.


When the snow falls, the Dolomites and the Ortler Ski Region transform into a winter sports destination. The Province of Bolzano has dozens of ski resorts within poles’ reach — that means tons of fresh power and shreddable terrain. Arguably the most popular, Val Gardena boasts runs for every skill level and the longest ski slope in South Tyrol.

Runkelstein Castle

One of the most important attractions in South Tyrol, Runkelstein Castle is a splendid medieval fortification that’s situated on a rocky outcrop on the outskirts of Bolzano. “I highly suggest visiting to see the largest secular fresco cycle of the Middle Ages,” says Scacchetti.

Christmas Markets

Bolzano wears its “Italian capital of Christmas” moniker with pride. From November to January, the city gets into the yuletide spirit when Piazza Walther transforms into a fairy-tale winter wonderland complete with twinkling lights, decorations, bands playing festive music, and a holiday market where vendors sell everything from strudel and mulled wine to crafts from inside traditional wooden houses.

<p>Wolfgang Gafriller/Getty Images</p>

Wolfgang Gafriller/Getty Images

Best Restaurants in Bolzano


Vögele is considered an institution in Bolzano. “Diners can sample elevated local dishes, such as roast and homemade pasta, as well as wine from the region while enjoying the backdrop of traditional Biedermeier-style furnishings,” explains Scacchetti.

In Viaggio - Claudio Melis

Acclaimed fine-dining restaurant In Viaggio - Claudio Melis earned a Michelin star for its creative, contemporary tasting menus with five, seven, or nine courses that delight diners' eyes and taste buds in equal measure. The artful plates spotlight seasonal ingredients from the Alps and look almost too pretty to eat. And the quiet, upscale setting lets the gastronomy shine.


Have a hankering for traditional Tyrolean fare? Sink your teeth into crispy schnitzel, dumplings, and apple strudel at Franziskanerstuben. The friendly service and cozy vibe match the comforting cuisine. It all feels very warm and homey — exactly what you’d want in a meal after a day of skiing or trekking through the mountains.

Castel Flavon

Castel Flavon supplies stunning views and superb food. Crispy pork belly, homemade tagliatelle with fresh chanterelles, and saltimbocca are just a few of the standout menu items. (Though, keep in mind the gourmet offerings change with the season.) The fine selection of wines elevates the experience.

Konditorei Klaus Pasticceria

Craving something sweet? Crocco favors the pastries and desserts that are made from scratch every day at Konditorei Klaus Pasticceria, a local favorite pastry shop. “You can really taste the love in the decadent cakes, croissants, carnival donuts, and panettone.”

<p>saiko3p/Getty Images</p>

saiko3p/Getty Images

Best Time to Visit

April through June is prime for outdoor adventures in the Dolomites. Wine lovers are partial to the fall harvest season. Snowbirds flock to Bolzano in the winter for skiing. And, of course, the “Italian capital of Christmas” shines as a yuletide destination during the holidays.

How to Get There

The most convenient way to reach the “gateway to the Dolomites” from within Italy is by rail. Trenitalia operates daily service between Rome, Florence, Bologna, Verona, and Bolzano. Travelers coming from other European destinations or the United States will need to fly into Valerio Catullo Airport (VRN) outside Verona and then either drive 90 minutes or hop on the shuttle to Verona Porta Nuova and take the train from there.

How to Get Around

Because Bolzano is such a compact, pedestrian-friendly city, it's easy to get around by walking or biking.

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