Top things to do in Verona, Italy
Verona, Italy is jam-packed with stunning sights and attractions, and so many cool and fun things to do. Read on to find out what you can’t miss in Italy’s city of love!
“Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona where we lay our scene…” – William Shakespeare (Prologue to Romeo and Juliet)
Verona is a tragic love story. Here, you will fall in love when you arrive and will be heartbroken when you leave.
Verona is an open-air museum packed with romance and antiquity. As you walk along its quaint cobblestone streets, you imagine the trudging of Roman Legions that once traversed them. You are captivated by its glorious architecture from a bygone era. With its Old World charm, Verona is a city for lone trailblazers and star-crossed lovers alike.
Without further ado – here are some top things to see and do, tips and tricks, and other information to help you maximize your time in Verona, Italy.
Best things to see and do in Verona, Italy
Walk, shop, and savor the Centro Storico
The Centro Storico (“Historic Center”) is the vibrant center of Verona. This authentic, pedestrian-friendly area contains the city’s top attractions, sights, and landmarks.
Known as the Old Town, the Centro Storico is filled with photogenic piazzas, narrow streets, and historic monuments. Many of its top sights and fun things to do are succinctly detailed in the sections below.
The Centro Storico is also home to Verona’s upscale shops and restaurants. Take a stroll down the Via Mazzini, Verona’s main shopping street, which contains many high-end designer stores and cafés. This narrow street connects the Piazza Bra with the Piazza delle Erbe, two of Verona’s most popular squares. Each piazza offers a variety of dining options, which are covered towards the end of this article.
Whether you’re a history buff, shopaholic, or both, Verona’s Centro Storico has got you covered.
Arena di Verona
The Arena di Verona (“Verona Arena”) is a massive Roman amphitheater that is equally as impressive, yet better preserved than its doppelgänger, the Colosseum.
Built in 30 AD, the Arena di Verona once accommodated nearly 30,000 spectators and was a venue for gladiator games. Today, the Arena di Verona still holds up to 15,000 people. Each summer, the Roman arena holds the Verona Opera Festival. The outstanding acoustics inside are a testament of the arena’s symmetry.
Among the top things to do and see in Verona, the Arena is best seen right before sunset when the ancient walls glow and gleam. This Golden Hour harkens you back in time to the Roman days.
In addition, not far away is the Palazzo Barbieri, a Neoclassical-style palace that now serves as the town hall.
The Castelvecchio (“Old Castle”) is a castle and bridge tucked between the Centro Storico and Adige River. As you roam its medieval walls, you’ll feel as if you stepped back in time. Originally built as a royal palace, it was converted into an urban fortress soon after its construction.
Built in the 14th century, the Castelvecchio served as a strategic military fortification during the Middle Ages. There was once a moat surrounding the castle, and a drawbridge that opened and closed over it. Inside, there is a courtyard that was used as an army garrison until the 19th century.
Today, the Castelvecchio contains an art museum full of relics, paintings, and sculptures. The Castelvecchio’s red-brick walls and Gothic façade are a sight for sore eyes.
Piazza delle Erbe
Since Roman times, the Piazza delle Erbe has been the heart and soul of Verona.
The Piazza delle Erbe (“square of the herbs”) is the oldest square in the city and was once a Roman forum. It lies in the Citta Antica, the historic center of Verona. As its name suggests, this marketplace is where you can buy herbs, as well as food and souvenirs.
The Piazza delle Erbe is dotted with beautiful brick façades and ancient monuments. The most famous, among them, is the Madonna Verona Fountain. This fountain has stood in the piazza since 1368. The Roman statue that sits on top dates back to 380 AD.
The Piazza delle Erbe is home to other top things to see and do in Verona, including the Torre dei Lamberti and Pallazo della Ragione.
This pretty piazza is also a great spot to enjoy a cup of coffee, glass of wine, or even a pizza! Definitely add this to your Verona itinerary!
Torre dei Lamberti
Built in 1172, the Torre dei Lamberti (“Lamberti Tower”) towers over Verona’s historic city center. At 275 feet (84 meters) tall, the Torre dei Lamberti is the tallest historic building in the city and offers an excellent vantage point of Verona’s most beautiful sights.
During the Middle Ages, Verona was dotted with tall towers like this, which were built as residences for noble families and watchtowers.
Inside the Torre dei Lamberti, there are two big bells. One was used for signaling the end of the workday and for alerting the city of fires; the other, for summoning Verona’s citizens in case of a war.
For some of the best views of the city, climb 368 stairs or take the elevator to the top.
Given its grand stature and impeccable views, the Torre dei Lamberti is one of the top things to see and do in Verona.
Pallazo della Ragione
The Pallazo della Ragione (“Palace of Reason”) is a palace and monument that once occupied Verona’s City Hall. Built in the 12th century, this palace was the nexus of Verona’s political power for hundreds of years.
Inside the Pallazo della Ragione, you’ll be enchanted by its Gothic staircase and elegant wedding chapel. It’s worth taking a peek inside when you’re in the vicinity of the Piazza delle Erbe.
Be sure to wander through its charming courtyard as you mentally prepare for the climb up the adjacent Torre dei Lamberti!
Piazzale Castel San Pietro
The Piazzale Castel San Pietro (“St. Peter’s Castle”) is a hilltop fortress that lies on the northern bank of the Adige River. As the site of an ancient Roman fortress, the Castel San Pietro was built in 1398 and demolished in 1801. Though the castle’s interior isn’t open to the public, there are terraces and cafes beside it that offer sweeping vistas of Verona.
Within reach of Verona’s castle are other intriguing attractions, including a quaint medieval church and the Teatro Romano di Verona, a Roman theater from the 1st century BC.
You can either walk or take the funicular to the top of the Piazzale Castel San Pietro. Though the stairs are pretty steep and tiring, the incredible views from the top make the trek worthwhile.
Just east of Verona’s city center is the Giardino Giusti (“Giusti Garden”), a 16th century, Italian-style garden.
Inside the Giardino Giusti, you’ll find a potpourri of trees, fountains, and statues. One cypress tree is said to be 600 years old, and was treasured by Mozart and Goethe when they visited in the 1700s.
Among the top things to see in Verona, the Giardino Giusti is a well-kept secret, providing a breather from the bustling city center.
Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore
The Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore is a Romanesque basilica that was originally constructed in the 9th century. After being damaged from an earthquake, the basilica was rebuilt in its current complexion in 1138.
Located on the outskirts of Verona, the Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore is an architectural masterpiece that honors the city’s patron saint, San Zeno. This brick and stone basilica is adorned with a giant rose window and bronze doors.
Though a slight detour from the Centro Storico, the Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore is a must-see attraction in Verona.
Piazza dei Signori
Just steps from the Piazza delle Erbe is a smaller, quieter square called the Piazza dei Signori. It is one of the most beautiful piazzas in Verona, often overshadowed by the Piazza Bra and Piazza delle Erbe.
Once upon a time, the Piazza dei Signori was the center of power in Verona. Former government buildings, including the Palazzo delle Ragione and Loggia del Consiglio, surround the square.
The Piazza dei Signori also contains the Dante Alighieri Statue, dedicated to the acclaimed 14th century poet who wrote the Divine Comedy.
With its historic significance and striking architecture, the Piazza dei Signori is deservingly one of the top things to see and do in Verona.
Duomo di Verona
The Duomo di Verona (“Verona Cathedral”) is a Romanesque and Gothic-style cathedral built in 1187. Though only a 5-minute walk from the Piazza delle Erbe, this cathedral is fairly tucked away and quiet.
The inside of the Duomo di Verona is coated with red marble and Renaissance artwork. Additionally, this cathedral contains an ancient library and bell tower.
As one of the most beautiful churches in Verona, the Duomo di Verona is one of the top things to see and do in the city.
Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s House and Balcony)
Your trip to Verona wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t see Juliet’s balcony, right? Well, I hate to break you the news, but this famous balcony did not belong to the Juliet. Why? Because Romeo and Juliet were merely a figment of Shakespeare’s imagination.
Yet every day, hordes of tourists from around the world descend on Juliet’s fictitious home to partake in this epic fantasy. It’s probably the most visited attraction in all of Verona. Even during off-peak hours, you’ll likely be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other tourists beneath Juliet’s balcony.
Though I feel it is worth stopping by to pay tribute to Shakespeare’s literary masterpiece, there are plenty of other houses and balconies in Verona that are much prettier (and more historically significant). As such, I think that the Casa di Giulietta belongs at the end of this list of the top things to see and do in Verona, Italy.
Other things to see and do in Verona, Italy
If you have the time, be sure to do a few day trips from Verona! Here are some of my favorite spots.
Day trips to Lake Garda from Verona
One of my highlights from my trip to Verona was my day trip to Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake. Many charming villages straddle its shores, and are conveniently located only a 1-2 hour bus ride away from Verona’s central station, Verona Porta Nuova. Renting a car is also a great option to discover all the lake has to offer. If you’re interested in a day trip or weekend getaway to Lake Garda, I recommend visiting the following villages:
Sirmione is a picturesque resort town on the southern shores of Lake Garda. This lakeside village is home to pristine beaches, Roman ruins, and a magnificent 13th century castle. I recommend spending a full day here if time permits.
Limone sul Garda
Limone sul Garda is a tiny village nestled between Lake Garda and rugged mountain terrain. Until 1932, this town was only accessible by mountain or lake. Today, it’s one of the most authentic towns in Northern Italy.
Malcesine is a scenic village touching the eastern shores of Lake Garda. It is well-known for its Old Town and medieval castle. Additionally, quaint shops and cafes line its waterfront. On a nice day, consider taking a cable car to the top of Monte Baldo, a 7,277 feet (2,218m) mountain.
Getting around Verona
If you are planning to visit Verona for at least 2 days, I highly recommend getting the Verona Card. The Verona Card costs €18 for 24 hours or €22 for 48 hours, and can be purchased at the Tourism Information Offices. The price covers the entrance fee for most of Verona’s top sights, museums, and attractions. Additionally, this card includes bus access around Verona.
As the city is so compact, it is definitely possible to navigate Verona by foot. Most of the top things to see and do in Verona are within close proximity to one another. The Centro Storico is about a 20-minute walk, 10-minute bus ride, and a 5-minute cab ride from the central train station (Verona Porta Nuova). If your time is limited and you’re willing to pay extra for convenience, Verona also has a hop-on hop-off bus.
Where to stay in Verona
There is no shortage of hotels and Airbnbs in Verona. If availability and prices are favorable, I recommend staying in the Città Antica (“Old City”). In particular, I’d encourage you to seek an accommodation within a 5-10 minute walk of the Piazza Bra or Piazza delle Erbe.
Verona has fairly reasonable hotel/Airbnb prices compared to Venice and other major Italian cities. If you book well in advance, you’ll find that accommodations near the historic center can be quite affordable (July and August excluded).
Given how close together most of Verona’s top sights and attractions are, you won’t go wrong staying near the Piazza Bra or Piazza delle Erbe.
Where to eat in Verona
Piazza delle Erbe
There are several cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating in the Piazza delle Erbe. Given that this is a touristy area, you won’t find the most authentic dishes in town. However, the reasonable prices and spectacular ambiance sure make up for it.
One of my fondest memories in Verona was having dinner and a glass of wine at the Casa Mazzanti Caffe. The service was decent, and the atmosphere was second-to-none. A pizza costs €9 and a glass of house wine costs €4.
Verona’s Piazza Bra is lined with vibrant cafes and restaurants that are just a stone’s throw away from the Arena di Verona. A couple of “prime real-estate” options include Mamma Mia Bistro and Pizzeria Sorrento. Though these eateries are certainly touristy, there is plenty of outdoor seating with nice views of Verona’s largest square. Most places serve typical pasta and pizza dishes.
For an authentic, off-the-beaten path café experience, I recommend walking a couple streets away to the Caffe Al Teatro. The ambiance isn’t super special, but the food, drinks, and service are excellent.
What to eat in Verona
If you’re willing to venture off the beaten path, there are many local eateries that serve authentic dishes. I recommend checking out TripAdvisor to find the right food joint that aligns with your tastes and preferences. Consider finding a place that serves the following local Verona/Veneto specialties:
- Vialone Nano Veronese – a type of rice dish that is grown in Verona
- Polenta – a porridge dish made from boiled and dried cornmeal
- Bigoli – a thick, Veneto spaghetti made from buckwheat flour and eggs
- Amarone – A dry red wine specific to the Veneto region
If your budget permits, a food walking tour is also a great way to get acquainted with the local delicacies. As they say, when in Rome!
Fast facts about Verona, Italy
- Verona has a population of 258,108, and is the second largest city in the Veneto region of Italy.
- Verona is approximately 65 miles (105 km) west of Venice
- The city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.
- In addition to the Arena di Verona, there are several other sights in Verona that still stand from 2,000 years ago:
- Arco dei Gav – stone arch that was used as a gateway into the city (est. 1st century AD)
- Ponte Pietra – a stone, arch bridge that crosses the Adige River (est. 100 BC)
- Porta Borsari, Porta Leoni – Roman gates made from white limestone (est. 1st century AD)
Cool things to see and do in Verona, Italy
Simply put, Verona is Venice without the crowds and canals. Verona is a city jam-packed with history, charm, unique attractions, and so many cool things to see and do. Ideally, you’ll want to spend at least 2-3 days here to explore all the sights and attractions that Verona has to offer.
From riveting history to delicious cuisine, Verona is an underrated city that should be at the top of your 2020 bucket list.
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