Are you looking for the best things to do in Bari for an upcoming trip to Puglia? Don’t worry, this guide’s got you covered!
The best place you can base yourself in Puglia is Bari (in my opinion). The city has such a personality and you can find so many cool things to do from enjoying a seaside cocktail to taking a pasta walking tour of the city.
I have been lucky enough to visit Bari more than once, and if you’re looking for what to do in Bari as a first-time visitor, this guide will help you plan your trip!
Did we miss any of the best things to do in Bari? Let us know your favorite Bari attractions in the comments!
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Best Things to Do in Bari, Italy
1. Take a Pasta Walking Tour of Bari (& Try Orecchiette!)
Every region or city in Italy tends to have its own types of pasta and thankfully, Bari is no exception! In Bari, you will find Orecchiette pasta, translating roughly as the little ear because it kind of looks like a little ear (I guess).
In the mornings as you walk around the old town, particularly in the streets close to the castle, you will find that local women have set up shop in the doorways and are making and selling fresh Orecchiette.
If you have a kitchen at your hotel in Bari, I highly recommend buying some fresh pasta from the ladies and cooking your own dish.
Alternatively, you can head to a restaurant and try Orecchiette alla Barese, which is a pasta dish with broccoli rabe or turnip greens.
If you want to gain more information about Bari’s pasta scene, you can take a fun and interesting walking tour all about Bari and its famous pasta.
2. Explore Bari’s Beautiful Old Town
There are many impressive old towns throughout Italy, each with its own characteristics and charm.
Bari Old Town is a maze of winding streets and historic buildings that reflect the city’s multicultural past. It’s easy to spend hours getting lost wandering the narrow alleyways and streets.
As you walk through the streets and pass through darling piazzas, stop and grab a coffee in one of the many cafes to take a break and watch people pass by as they live their daily lives in this vibrant city.
During the night, the old town comes to life with workers coming in to enjoy some wine and charcuterie to relax after a hard day’s work.
To make the most of the old town and to learn all about its fantastic history, you can take a guided walking tour of the historic city center.
3. Take a Bari Street Food Tour
I love Italian food, and I also love street food, so what could be better than a tour of Italian street food in Bari? Take a tour through Bari, trying some of the best street food in the city.
As you walk around, your guide will take you to many of the most important sights in the city, along with some of the best little eateries.
I am obsessed with learning more about the regional food of Italy, so if you’re like me, this is a great way to learn from an expert. You will learn how to make the Bari classic of Focaccia Barese in a charming little bakery.
After visiting a delicatessen to try cheese, salami, and local wine, you will then head to taste Bari’s most classic street food, Sgaglioza.
The dish is a simple fried polenta dish in the shape of sticks and is seemingly out of place, as polenta tends to be found in the north of Italy, not the south.
You will also try another great friend snack, the Panzerotti, like an empanada or a miniature calzone, which is stuff stuffed with mozzarella and tomato sauce. The tour will finish with the Italian classic, gelato, while exploring the modern French district.
4. Take a Day Trip to Matera
There are few countries in this world that have a richer history than Italy, and despite the turbulence, the country has done a fantastic job of preserving this history.
One of the best examples of preserved history is in the city of Matera just outside of Bari. It is believed that Matera has been continuously populated for 12,000 years, which would make it one of the oldest settlements in the world.
The city is renowned for its cave dwellings, referred to as the Sassi.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site is the perfect little getaway from Bari, where you can spend time wandering amongst the cave dwellings and religious buildings that have been carved into the rock.
One of the best ways to visit Matera from Bari is on a guided tour from Bari, where a minivan will pick you up and take you around the caves.
5. Check Out Piazza Mercantile
Piazza Mercantile has been an important commercial hub in Bari since the early 14th century. The ornate square is surrounded by beautiful palaces, like Palazzo Sedile, and it feels like one of the city’s historic treasures.
Located towards the edge of the old town, the square is one of the most common places where local people arrange to meet their friends before spending time in the city together.
Along the edges of the square, you will find cute cafes and gelato shops where you can get an espresso or enjoy a cooling gelato on a hot summer’s day.
The square remains pretty busy from morning until night, meaning you can experience the full range of the Italian way of life. Checking out Piazza Mercantile is one of the essential things to do in Bari when you’re there.
7. See Castello Normanno-Svevo
In the center of Bari, you will find Castello Normanno-Svevo, a large Norman-era castle that was built at the end of the 12th century and towards the end of Norman rule in the region.
About 20 years after the castle was built, it was destroyed by the then-king of Sicily.
The castle was then rebuilt in the 13th century and continued to grow and change over the years as new rulers came in and took over the city.
After being used as barracks and a prison, the castle is now used as an exhibition center.
For a small fee, you can enter Castello Normanno-Svevo and explore the grounds and the buildings themselves, with various exhibitions throughout the building.
Castello Normanno-Svevo is in a brilliant state, and as you walk around, you really can gather the sense of occasion behind it, with the vast rooms sparking your imagination about what daily life in the castle would have been like.
8. Stop by the Bari Cathedral
The Bari Cathedral is rather overshadowed by the Basilica San Nicola, but then I guess it’s hard to compete with the relics of the real-life Santa Claus.
The Bari Cathedral was completed in the last part of the 13th century after the previous cathedral had been destroyed by William the Wicked when he ransacked the city.
The cathedral’s exterior is an incredible example of the region’s take on Romanesque architecture, with simplistic designs on the facade, including a beautiful rose with some small intrinsic details.
Over the years, the interior of the church was altered and adorned with many different artworks and statues to fit with the more baroque-style churches.
However, it was decided to strip the church back, remove the added features, and return to how the cathedral was intended to look.
Underneath the church, you will find the Museo del Succorpo della Cathedrale, an incredible museum where you can see the remains of ancient Christian churches and some other relics from the Roman Empire.
Address: Piazza dell’Odegitria, 70122 Bari BA
9. Go to One of the Beaches in Bari
Take a break from exploring and spend some time relaxing on the beach. In the city, you will find a couple of Bari beaches where you can lie in the sand and enjoy the tranquil waters of the Adriatic Sea.
In the center of the city, you will find the large public beach, Pane e Pomodoro, a spacious and sandy beach where you can find a spot to relax without having to travel out of the city itself.
On the weekends, this beach does get incredibly crowded, so it may not be as enjoyable or relaxing as a weekday visit.
Alternatively, you can head out of the city and enjoy one of the many beaches that litter Puglia’s rugged coastline.
It is important to note that some of the beaches along the coastline have a fee to enter; these are generally referred to as Lidos.
10. Taste Focaccia Barese
Bread is delicious, and Italians happen to make some of the best breads in the world—it is one of the top things Italy is known for! With plenty of different kinds of bread, it is often hard to choose a favorite.
However, in Bari, there is only one choice you should make: Focaccia Barese. The delightful snack is easily found at pretty much any bakery and street food vendor throughout the city.
The dough of the bread is much like a pizza base, although often mashed potatoes are blended into the dough mixture. It’s then topped with tomatoes, olives, oregano, and olive oil before being baked.
Normally eaten as a snack on the go, it can be used for a more filling meal, with locals stuffing the finished product with mozzarella and mortadella ham to make a more wholesome meal.
For the real experience, eat a slice as you walk through the old town of Bari.
The best place in the Old Town for Focaccia Barese is Panificio Fiore.
11. Visit Castel del Monte
Castel del Monte is another fascinating day trip from Bari. The small castle is located on top of a hill, and for years it mystified historians who could not work out its purpose.
Built in the 13th century by Frederick II, it has long been debated whether the building was an elaborate hunting lodge or a defensive building. Recent excavations have discovered a further defensive wall, meaning it is likely that it was intended as a citadel.
The mysterious building was probably never used for its intended purpose and, over the years, was used as a prison and a sanctuary from the plague.
At some point, it fell into disrepair and was eventually looted of pretty much anything valuable, including all the marble used within.
Around the castle, you will find a prestigious winemaking region that produces a range of regionally protected wines.
From Bari, you can take a guided tour to the castle, where you will be picked up and driven to it. Once at Castel del Monte, a local guide will walk you through the history of this fascinating building.
12. Check Out the Old Harbor in Bari
Along the waterfront and next to the majestic theater, you will find the picturesque old harbor of Bari.
The boats are still in use today by local fishermen, and if you wait by the harbor in the mornings, you can see them returning to port with nets full of the freshest fish.
The Bari harbor provides a great backdrop to the city, as the water and boats contrast perfectly with the city behind it.
For early risers, take the opportunity to head down there and watch the sunrise over the Adriatic and douse the boats and water in the first light of the day.
13. Visit Santa Claus at Basilica San Nicola
One of the biggest draws to Bari is the Basilica San Nicola, a large and imposing church that sits in the center of the old town.
Completed in the 12th century to house the relics of Saint Nicholas, the church took over 100 years to build and is a must for any Puglia itinerary!
The relics of Saint Nicholas, the saint who inspired Santa Claus, were brought to Bari from what is now modern-day Turkey in 1087 to ensure they would be kept safe due to their religious significance.
The interior of the church is stunning and home to an 11th-century bishop’s throne. Each year, thousands of people pilgrimage to the church to visit the relics and pay their respects to the saint.
On the 6th of December, there is a huge feast to celebrate Saint Nicholas, where they take myrrh out of his tomb and send it all around the world.
Address: Largo Abate Elia, 13, 70122 Bari BA
14. Stroll the Lungomare Nazario Sauro
One of the best things to do in Bari is to take a long walk along the seafront on the Lungomare Nazario Sauro. The lengthy promenade stretches the entire length of the city and makes for a great walk no matter the time of the day.
During the day, enjoy a gelato as you take a gentle stroll while taking a look at the interesting architecture that lines the seafront.
You will see everything from ancient buildings to those that were built during the Mussolini era.
In the evening, bars and restaurants fill up, and the atmosphere becomes lively and fun as people relax and enjoy the warm, southern European nights.
15. Eat Fresh Seafood at a Restaurant in Bari
One of the culinary highlights of Bari is the incredible seafood that is on offer. Every morning, the fishermen bring in their daily catch, which they sell at the large fish market next to the old harbor.
The catch is so fresh that locals eat the seafood raw, and at the market, you can purchase a range of seafood such as octopus, sea urchin, and oysters to eat there and then with a squeeze of lemon juice.
If you are not wanting to try Italian-style sushi and happen to have a kitchen, I recommend grabbing some of the fresh seafood and taking it back to put together a stunning dish at home.
Alternatively, you can head to one of Bari’s spectacular seafood restaurants and try the fresh fish cooked by professionals.
Five of my favorite places to eat in Bari were:
- Mamapulia (absolutely my #1 – discovered on my second trip)
- Ristorante Black And White
- La Tana del Polpo (another top choice.. but it is a bit pricier than others)
- Biancofiore Restaurant (went there because I couldn’t get into La Tana del Polpo)
- La Cantina dello Zio (a cheaper option that is open all day long)
If you go to La Tana del Polpo, you must make a reservation. That place gets packed. And rightfully so. It was incredible.
16. Go Shopping in Bari
Italy is a powerhouse when it comes to fashion and is home to some of the world’s most prestigious brands. Although most people associate Milan with the Italian fashion scene, pretty much every city is a great place to go shopping.
Bari is the second-largest city in southern Italy, and you can find many of the big Italian brands as you walk around the quaint little streets.
Along with the big brands, you can find plenty of little locally-owned boutiques where you can track down original items designed by local designers.
17. Visit the Museo Archeologico di Santa Scolastica
If you are a fan of history, the Museo Archeologico di Santa Scolastica is one of the most interesting museums in the city.
The museum is located in a 16th-century bastion and displays artifacts from throughout Bari’s history, with objects from ancient Greek rulers through the Roman Empire and onwards to subsequent rulers.
On the grounds of the museum are the ruins of a 15th-century church that has been partially excavated.
The museum is located on the edge of the old town, and it is advisable to check the opening times online for the day you plan to visit.
Because the building is old, at some point some of the displays may not be on display as they undergo renovations. If you’re looking for what to do in Bari and it is open, I highly suggest going there!
Address: Via Venezia, 73, 70122 Bari BA
18. Grab a Coffee at Caffe Cognetti
Italians love their coffee, and while you can find amazing espresso bars pretty much ubiquitously throughout the country, specialty coffee shops are a little more challenging to come by.
Caffe Cognetti is a micro-roastery in Bari that is situated along the main street in town in front of the Petruzzelli Theater.
It opened in 1997 and later transformed (2017) into the micro-roaster that it is today!
I love this place and have been there several times. It is a family-owned establishment that sells its own beans, so you can take them home as a souvenir!
19. Marvel at the Russian Church
Throughout Italy and Bari, you will find many extravagant churches and cathedrals built in classical Italian styles. However, in Bari, you will also interestingly find a Russian Orthodox Church in the center of town.
Built in honor of Saint Nicholas, the church was constructed to house the number of Russian pilgrims coming to visit the relics of Saint Nicholas.
The interior of the church is fantastic and ornate, with a huge, golden altar.
The saint is an important figure in the Russian Orthodox Church, and many Russians have undertaken pilgrimages to Bari over the years to visit the relics. They even spent a short time on loan to Russia.
Because of this, the city has enjoyed a close relationship with Russia as a whole. It is important to note that if you wish to go into the church, you will need to be dressed conservatively, and women will need to have their heads covered.
20. Learn to Cook the Barese Way
One of the best things you can take away from a trip to Italy is the knowledge of how to cook regional dishes. When I travel, there are few things I enjoy more than taking a home cooking course.
I recommend taking this market tour and private Italian home cooking class where you will head to the local food market to purchase seasonal fresh produce.
After your trip to the market with your guide, you will go to their home and learn to cook three local dishes in the relaxing comfort of a real Italian home.
After preparing the meals, you will eat them while pairing them with local Puglia wines.
Things to Do in Bari (On a Map!)
Where to Stay in Bari
There are many options for where to stay in Bari, but I am only going to list two of the top places I stayed while there. They are both apartment rooms and are on a mid-range budget.
Casa De Rosas
I returned to Bari in July 2021 and stayed at Casa De Rosas near the train station. The apartment was located in a quiet neighborhood a 10-minute walk to the train station (and about a 25-minute walk into the old town).
It has a brand-new bathroom, a queen-size bed, a terrace, a small fridge, a couch, and a desk. I loved my stay there, and it was affordable and extremely clean! Highly recommended for one or two people!
–> For current rates and availability click here
De Rossi Holiday loc. tur.
The second place I stayed in Bari for a few nights was De Rossi Holiday loc. tur, an apartment close to Bari Old Town.
I enjoyed staying here because the rooms had a colorful vibe, and mine was decorated in a tropical style, giving the place a bit of personality. The location was also great.
The room, like the first one, was private but had a shared bathroom. Everything was clean and superb, and I highly recommend staying here if you’re looking for good Bari accommodation.
–> For current rates and availability click here
This guide to things to do in Bari was based on what I did and some of the popular sights, so if you have suggestions of places to see in Bari, please drop them in the comments!
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- One day in Polignano a Mare
- Hotels in Polignano a Mare
- Why you should visit Trani
- Matera from Bari
- Monopoli from Bari
- Polignano a Mare from Bari
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Megan is a travel blogger and writer with a background in digital marketing. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now splits her time between Frankfurt, Germany and Arctic Finland after also living in Norway, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. She has a passion for winter travel, as well as the Nordic countries, but you can also find her eating her way through Italy, perusing perfume stores in Paris, or taking road trips through the USA. Megan has written for or been featured by National Geographic, Forbes, Lonely Planet, the New York Times, and more. She co-authored Fodor’s Travel ‘Essential Norway’ and has visited 45 US states and 100+ countries.