Bari Italy is unlike any other city in Italy due to its long and rich history of diverse people, religions, and cultures. Due to the city’s beneficial location for major shipping routes, ownership of this city has changed hands multiple times throughout history. Once part of the Roman Empire and at one time even an independent Arab emirate.
The result of such diversification is a melting pot of cultures, people, buildings and cuisine. Bari is one of the biggest cities in Italy and has lots to offer backpackers traveling through.
Explore the beautiful Old Town (Bari Vecchia), visit historic buildings, taste the incredible food, lie on the beach and swim in the Adriatic sea. With so much to do here, we have narrowed it down to the 10 top things to do in Bari, Italy.
Bari Old Town (Bari Vecchia)
A good starting point in any big city is to visit its old town (Bari Vecchia). It’s a great way to introduce yourself to a new city and get a feel for its history and culture. Bari is no exception, offering visitors a beautiful and quaint maze of cobbled streets with cafes, bars, and restaurants galore to be discovered.
You will notice that the Bari old town is very different in architecture from its modern areas, here you will get insight into what life may have looked like in the past. This is a great place to start your Bari adventure, we suggest walking around and just getting lost in the atmosphere and who knows what you may discover.
The Basilica of San Nicola
Nestled within the center of the old town you will find the stunning Basilica of San Nicola. Constructed in 1197, this church is known for its stunning architecture, grandiose interior and one of the most important places for Roman Catholics in Europe.
The basilica is dedicated to Saint Nicolas and is also a Romanesque-style church well worth visiting whilst in Bari Italy. However, when visited by day expect crowds of people trying to get photos of the impressive front facade which has a number of small intricate details and sculptures.
Visitors are allowed inside between the hours of 7.15 am and 10.30 pm to see the beautiful gold ceiling and exquisite painted artwork. Also inside is the tomb of Saint Nicolas himself with a number of sculptures and mosaics celebrating his life.
Lungomare Nazario Sauro (Bari Promenade)
Welcome to Bari’s stunning promenade which lines the beautiful coastal city. Here you can expect to find 1000m of scenic walkways. Through these paths are a plethora of quaint cafes, restaurants, and bars. By day it’s a great place for views over the pristine waters of the Adriatic sea and by night the place comes alive with locals and tourists alike enjoying the nightlife.
The whitewashed buildings line beautifully down the entire promenade and make for some great photo opportunities. Lungomare Nazario Sauro is also a great spot for a sunset whilst enjoying some of the local food and wine.
European cities are well known for their squares and Bari does not disappoint with the Piazza Mercantile. You may also feel like you just stepped back in time with the surrounding buildings and old clock tower dominating the area. This is a slice of the quintessential Italian city and a great place to wander around during the day.
Locals also still live in the square. Here, you will also see all the different colored shutters of their apartments above with their laundry hanging out to dry. Life in Bari to this day is still simple and laid back, no doubt you will feel at ease in this peaceful square.
During the day, you will find many people enjoying food and drinks in the outdoor seating areas of various restaurants located here. A great place to enjoy a bottle of the popular Olive Garden Moscato; a fine Italian wine from the region of Lombardy.
Lido San Francesco
Soak up some rays on Bari’s main beach, Lido San Francesco. The beach stretches far down the coast of the Adriatic sea with beautiful white sand and warm turquoise waters to enjoy plus many activities available on the beach such as watersports.
Sun loungers are available for a small fee for those serious about tanning. You can get drinks and food throughout the day too. There are many beaches to explore in Bari. However, Lido San Francesco has the best sand, atmosphere and it’s located just east of the old town.
Backpackers who really enjoy the beach may want to consider staying in the accommodation that lines the coast here. There are a number of great hotels, boutique hostels, and B&Bs to choose from.
The Church of San Sabino
The stunning church is dedicated to the Saint of Sabinus of Canosa during the 11th century. You will find the Church of San Sabino within the old town not far from the Basilica of Saint Nicola. The church is well worth visiting offering backpackers a great example of Apulian-Romanesque architecture.
The simple facade is a beautiful piece of work and the bell tower tall and elegant rising to a height of 63 meters. Head inside for some visually striking decorations. Many locals consider this the most important church in Bari but the Basilica of Saint Nicola remains the most famous. Backpackers can visit 8am-7pm Monday to Saturday, 8-10am & 11am-7pm on Sundays.
Bari Italy Seafood Market
Bari is a great location on the Adriatic Sea for seafood. Thus, the local seafood market is a great experience for any seafood lovers. Head down to the market to buy a plate full of fresh seafood including squid, oysters, fish, and even sea urchins.
A fully loaded plate will cost you around €5 ($5.60) and it’s normal to wash it all down with a bottle of Peroni, Italy’s favorite beer. This a fantastic place to enjoy the scenery over the Adriatic sea and enjoy some incredible food. Markets are always a great insight into a city’s personality and the Bari seafood market does not disappoint. Make sure you arrive early!
Bari Castle dates back to the 12th century, originally constructed by King Roger II. Originally, it would have been a Byzantine-Romanesque building but was reconstructed by Frederick II in 1233 to a Norman building. The stunning castle was then re-purposed as a palace in the 16th century by Bona Sforza, Queen of Poland and Grand Duchess of Lithuania.
The castle is very traditional in design with a central courtyard, four guard towers, and surrounding moat. Despite its age, the castle remains in good condition to this day. It now features a museum with a number of interesting sculptures and artifacts for visitors to discover. There are also art exhibitions held here on a frequent basis. Tickets to the castle cost €9 ($10) and are open daily from 8 am to 7 pm.
Parco Nationale Alta Murgia
Time to get out of the city? Why not head to the local national park, the epic Parco Nationale Alta Murgia. You will find this park just South of Bari covering a huge 667 square kilometers. It allows backpackers to take in some of the best rural Italy has to offer.
Here, you will discover forests, meadows, rocky outcrops and even old abandoned villages. Hiking trails are well marked and more information can be found at any tourist shop in Bari city center. There are also a number of cycling trails and the chance to rent a bike.
Additionally, guided tours can also be booked if you want a guide along the trails. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife that lives here including gray wolves, wild boars, and kestrels!
Day Trip to Altamura, Bari Italy
Just an hour away from the city of Bari, you will discover the quaint and beautiful town of Altamura. This town allows visitors to step back in time for a slice of ancient Italy. They show it through narrow cobbled roads, romanesque architecture and dominating cathedral. The original walls of the town still stand today with the main attraction being the main cathedral dating back to the 13th-century, built by Frederick II.
This is a truly wonderful place to spend the day roaming the streets taking in the sights, sounds, and smells. The cuisine here is also very good so take the opportunity to dine in one of the small restaurants for some wonderful Italian food.
In fact, Altamura is known in Italy as the ‘city of bread’. So, backpackers can expect to find a plethora of freshly baked bread all across the town of Altamura for a small price. Don’t miss the focaccia bread and the local mushrooms too! Buon Appetito!