Nestled along the Adriatic Sea, Bari (Italy) is a charming harbor town well worth a visit. With some of Italy’s most picturesque beaches nearby and a stellar food scene, you’re sure to enjoy this hidden gem in the Puglia region. This guide to Bari provides a basic history and essential information about the city, along with a list of must-see sights and things to do in Bari (Italy).
How to get to Bari
There are several ways on how to get to Bari:
- By plane: Bari has an international airport, Bari Karol Wojtyla Airport, which is served by several airlines. From the airport, you can take a taxi or a shuttle bus to reach the city center.
- By train: Bari is well-connected to the Italian rail network, and there are several trains that run to and from the city. You can take a train from major Italian cities like Rome, Florence, Milan,Venice and Naples to Bari.
- By bus: There are several bus companies that operate routes to Bari from other Italian cities. You can also take a bus from other European cities like Paris, Berlin, and Munich.
- By car: Bari is connected to the Italian highway network, and you can reach the city by car from major Italian cities like Rome, Florence, Milan and Naples.
Where to Stay in Bari
The Basics About Bari, Italy
Bari has a population of some 320,400, making it more manageable than mega metropolises like Rome. Don’t equate its smaller size with lack of importance, however: Bari is the capital of Italy’s Puglia region (Apulia) and second-largest economic center in the Italian south, after Naples.
Bari’s old town is nestled around the harbor, a thriving point of imports and exports. It’s located across from Dubrovnik, making it possible to hop on a ferryboat and make your way to Croatia from here.
History of Bari
Bari was part of the Roman Empire, serving as a gateway to the Adriatic Sea. As the Roman Empire grew, Bari became increasingly essential, and leaders competed for the city’s ownership. This resulted in turmoil like the Bari Civil War of 1117 and the Siege of Bari in 1071.
Today, however, Bari is a peaceful place. The local economy includes textiles, agriculture, and all manner of import-exports. The Bari old town features fantastic historic architecture, while the newer parts of town offer contemporary shops and dining.
Must-See Sights in Bari, Italy
Bari combines old world and modern sights and offers something to suit every traveler’s style. Here are our top ten highlights.
1. Lungomare Nazario Sauro
The Lungomare Nazario Sauro is Bari’s main promenade along the sea. Go for a nighttime stroll for beautiful views of the lit-up coastline or plan your walk for the day, when you can soak up the Mediterranean sun. The walkway is about 1,000 meters (about .62 miles) long. It’s lined with beautiful architecture, including small cafes and bars where you can stop for a drink or snack.
2. The Old Harbor
Bari’s working port is a chaotic scene full of ferries leaving for Croatia, Greece, Albania, and beyond. Skip the mayhem and head to the city’s old harbor instead. This is where you’ll find traditional fishers selling their catch of the day straight off the boat. From the old port, you can check out Lungomare, the imposing seafront resort built by Mussolini.
3. The Basilica of San Nicola
This monumental church is located in Bari’s center. It features an opulent interior and a Romanesque style facade. Constructed in 1197, this church is dedicated to Saint Nicolas. You can find his tomb inside.
Fun fact: The Saint Nicolas relics were initially housed in modern-day Turkey but later stolen and brought to Bari. Today, the Basilica remains an important pilgrimage destination for Roman Catholics in Europe.
4. Stroll Through the Bari Vecchio
This walled part of the city sits on a small peninsula overlooking the old harbor. Step inside the walls, and you’ll discover a labyrinth of cobbled streets, small piazzas, and twisting alleyways. This little part of town includes 40 churches and the Basilica of San Nicola.
5. Soak Up the Sun On Bari’s Beaches
You can’t spend time in the seaside town of Bari, Italy, without a trip to the beach. Take a trip to Beach Lido San Francesco. This stretch of sand is set east of the old town center. You’ll find clear blue water and golden sand. Rent a sun lounger and watch the action, from ball games to kids building sandcastles. There are also many restaurants, beach bars, and shops nearby.
6. Visit the Bari Cathedral
Although less famous than the Basilica of San Nicola, the Church of San Sabino is well worth visiting. Constructed in 1292, this is another example of Romanesque architecture. The cathedral’s front facade features a design similar to San Nicola’s, featuring imposing white stone, ornate sculptures, and carved windows. Inside, you’ll find an elaborately decorated crypt.
7. Museo del Succorpo Della Cattedrale
While you’re at the Cathedral of San Sabino, set aside time for a visit to Museo del Succorpo Della Cattedrale. This archeological excavation is located underground. You’ll find ancient Roman ruins dating back as far as the second century. If you want to know more about Bari’s history, this is a must-visit attraction.
8. Get Your Culture Fix at Bari Provincial Art Gallery
Set on the Lungomare promenade, the provincial gallery (“Pinoteca,” in Italian) provides you with a selection of art ranging from the 11th to the 19th centuries. The building itself is noteworthy, featuring impressive archways and ornate detail. You’ll find artwork from the Apulian school alongside pieces from notable Italian artists like Paolo Veronese and Tintoretto.
9. Do Some Shopping on Via Sparano
Had enough culture for the day? Head to Via Sparano for some retail therapy. This is in the newer part of Bari and is lined with all kinds of modern shops, from Armani, Gucci, Max Mara, Benetton and so many more. In addition to stores, you’ll find trendy bars, cafes, and restaurants, perfect for refueling if you need to rest during your shopping spree.
10. Hike to Bari Castle
This castle has been standing for hundreds of years yet remains impeccably preserved. Reportedly built by King Roger II, the castle features a traditional Norman design, with a central courtyard, four guard towers, and a moat on three sides. It’s set in an elevated spot in the old town center, making for a great viewing point.
11. Take a Day Trip to Altamura
If you’re up for a short trip beyond Bari’s city limits, head to Altamura. Located about one hour inland from Bari, this town is renowned for its unique architecture, the beautiful cathedral, and fantastic churches. It’s also famous for its bread, so make sure to visit a bakery while you’re here.
The Final Word
Bari, Italy is well worth a visit if you’re planning to travel to the south of Italy. This bustling port town offers an impressive mix of old-world charm and modern flair. As the list above makes clear, you won’t be at a loss of sights to do and things to see when you’re there. We hope that our simple guide on what to see in Bari will help you plan your visit to this wonderful town. For more tips and advice on places to visit in Italy check our blog list here.