Here’s a list of the 15 best things to do in Bari in Italy, along with famous landmarks, museums, and other points of interest.
Bari is one of the most underrated cities to visit in Italy in my opinion with lots of history. It’s an important economic center with a major port, known as “Europe’s door to the Balkans”.
The city is situated on the Adriatic Sea and has around 750,000 residents in its urban area and 1,3 million in the metropolitan area of Bari. In this article, I’m sharing some of the best places to visit in Bari as well as interesting facts and attractions that shouldn’t be missed.
The Castello Svevo, also called Bari Castle, was built in 1132 by the Norman King Roger II. The castle is characterized by its unique Norman Swabian design. Today, Puglia’s Directorate for Cultural and Landscape Heritage is housed in the castle.
The castle is also used as a venue for art exhibitions and other events. Some ornamental sculptures and plaster reproductions can be found here as well.
The Basilica of San Nicola
The Basilica of San Nicola represents a great example of Pugliese-Romanesque architecture and dates to the 12th century. It is often used as a pilgrimage site for members of the Catholic and Orthodox faith.
The remains of San Nicola are ensconced in a beautiful shrine, located in the vaulted crypt of the basilica. The wooden ceiling is also a remarkable feature of the Basilica of San Nicola.
The Piazza Mercantile is one of the most popular squares of Bari. It represents the heart of the commercial and administrative center of the city and hosts the city market.
The Piazza Mercantile serves as an important meeting point for residents and is often used as the steppingstone to trips through the many shopping streets of Bari.
The restaurants lining the square are some of the most romantic and lively places to have a delicious dinner. The choice of restaurants is fantastic. All food-lovers will find exactly what they are looking for on the Piazza Mercantile.
Make a day trip to Altamura
Around 50 kilometers south of Bari is the picturesque, historic town Altamura. The heart of the town is its Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. This 13th-century cathedral is known for its ornate stone carvings.
Most of the old town streets are very well-preserved and feel like a time capsule, apart from the popular squares and main streets you will find the city very peaceful and tranquil. This is a place where you can experience historic Italian streets without mass-tourism.
The ruins of the Ancient city of Egnazia are a popular destination for day trips from Bari. The excavation site is located around 50 kilometers to the south-east of the city. Traces of a settlement from the 15th century BC can be found here.
In the 8th century BC, the city of Egnazia grew and became an important trading hub for the Roman Empire. Highlights of the Ancient city are the acropolis as well as the many fortification walls that are still present today.
Not far from the ruins is the beach of Egnazia and a water park. Perfect for cooling down in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea during a hot day of sightseeing.
Cattedrale di San Sabino
The Cattedrale di San Sabino was built at the site of a former Byzantine cathedral during the 12th and 13th centuries. The Cattedrale di San Sabino doesn’t get as many visitors as the famous Basilica of San Nicola which makes your visit here a more peaceful experience.
There are no crowds here and you get plenty of time to enjoy this great building. The front façade of the church features white stone and boasts many ornate windows and sculptures. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Sabinus, a former bishop of Canosa. His remains can be found in the large altar of the crypt.
The Teatro Petruzzelli is the fourth biggest theater in Italy and acts as the main venue for operas in Bari. The initial construction of the theater ended in 1903. Due to an arson attack, the theater burned down completely in 1991.
It took 18 years to rebuild the theater due to many legal issues that plagued the reconstruction efforts. Today the Teatro Petruzzelli is once again restored to its magnificent original state and is proud to host a large number of operas and other events.
If you aren’t interested in witnessing an opera or concert, experienced guides can lead you around the facility as part of a guided tour.
Museo del Succorpo della Cattedrale
This museum is located beneath the cathedral of Bari and displays well-preserved remnants of Roman ruins such as a 2nd-century road and the floor mosaic of a Christian basilica.
Furthermore, fish and plant motifs, as well as elements of a Byzantine church from the 9th century, can be found here. A great place to get a glimpse into the interesting history of the city.
Strada Arco Basso
The Arco Basso street is a tranquil side-street of the Fossato Castello. Despite its proximity to the castle, the Strada Arco Basso remains a sleepy street that is inviting for a walk.
The street feels very private and due to the Italian lifestyle, it almost seems like you are walking through the living room of its inhabitants. Some smaller family-run craft stores and groceries line the road. A good chance for some peaceful shopping outside the world of mass-tourism.
Eat Focaccia Barese
Italian cuisine is very regional. The Focaccia Barese is the local specialty and shouldn’t be missed when visiting Bari. Due to the popularity of potatoes in Puglia, the Focaccia Barese is prepared with mashed potatoes and is then topped off with tomatoes, oregano, and olive oil.
Polignano a Mare
Polignano a Mare is located on the Adriatic coast, 35 kilometers southeast of Bari. The Grotta Piana and the Pietra Piatta observation deck located on the cliff are some of the biggest attractions of the lovely town.
The water in the Grotta is a beautiful mix of turquoise, blue and green. Many residents use the Grotta for a refreshing swim during the summer months. Polignano also features a historic old town, which is a great place for an atmospheric dinner or shopping for souvenirs.
Pane e Pomodoro
Pane e Pomodoro is the most popular urban beach in Bari. The beach is not the prettiest or most tranquil, but it is a great option for some relaxation and unwinding after going sightseeing in Bari.
The refreshing Adriatic Sea is very inviting in the hot summer months. During the summer nights, many young residents of Bari come here to party. Live music is often played here and the atmosphere is fantastic.
Bari Ferris Wheel
The Ruota Panoramica, as the Ferris wheel is known locally, is located on the shore of the Adriatic Sea and offers fantastic views over the city and the water.
Many of the most popular sights of the city can be seen at the highest point of the Ruota Panoramica. Making use of the Ferris wheel during sunset is a great way to spend romantic moments with loved ones.
The 20th century Palazzo Mincuzzi is located at the famous Via Sparano and has become a true landmark of Bari. The Palazzo is built in an impressive Liberty-style of architecture and offers a great shopping experience.
The inner balconies overlooking the full-height open space of the palace are very impressive. Since its construction, this building has been one of the most elegant shopping houses in Europe.
Make a day trip to Matera
The ”Stone City” Matera is a unique town located 65 kilometers south-west of Bari. The popularity of Matera can easily be explained, the town offers a unique cave system which makes it a popular destination for day trips.
Matera is one of the oldest settlements in the world and looks like it was dug out of a rock. The “European Capital of Culture” is home to many rupestrian churches that were carved into the rocks.
Don’t miss the ancient old-town Sassi, the area feels like a time capsule that sends you back to the mystical biblical times. Unsurprisingly Matera is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Interesting facts about Bari
- Barium is the Latin name for Bari
- Bari is the capital city of the Apulia region
- A local citizen of Bari is called Barese
- There are around 330,000 people living in Bari, making it the most populated city on the Adriatic Sea.
- The city was most likely founded by the Peucetii, a lapygian tribe.
- S.S.C. Bari is the local football team, currently playing in Serie C.
- Bari is the second-largest economic center of southern Italy, after Naples.
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