- 1 A Note On Visiting Bolzano at Christmas
- 2 Things to do in Bolzano at Christmas
- 2.1 Enjoy the holiday sights and sounds of the city on a walk
- 2.2 Explore the Bolzano Christmas Market
- 2.3 Walk around Piazza Walther
- 2.4 Take an opportunity to be guided through the Christmas market’s culinary delights on a walking tour
- 2.5 Grab a bite from Bolzano’s daily market in Piazza delle Erbe
- 2.6 Attend mass at the Duomo di Bolzano
- 2.7 Admire the tranquil winter scene from Santa Maria Maddalena Church
- 2.8 See the iceman at the South Tyrol Archeological Museum
- 2.9 Capture the snowy scenes on a funicular ride
- 2.10 Ice skating in Piazza del Municipio / Rathausplatz
- 2.11 Come in from the cold for a midday cake break
- 2.12 Window shop along Via dei Portici / Laugengasse
- 2.13 Visit the Franciscan Friary
- 2.14 Warm up by sampling some of the region’s wines
- 2.15 Visit the Loacker Cafe
- 2.16 Escape the cold by visiting Museion for modern art
- 3 Things to do near Bolzano in Winter
- 3.1 See one of the nearby Medieval castles, all decorated for the holidays
- 3.2 Warm up at a thermal spa right in the Dolomites
- 3.3 Encounter the world outside at the Puez-Geisler Nature Park
- 3.4 Spend your day snowshoeing in the Dolomites near Bolzano
- 3.5 Try your hand snowmobiling and sledding through the Dolomites instead
- 3.6 Or, explore more of the Dolomites from the comfort–and warmth–of a car
- 3.7 Get the whole Christmas market experience on this day trip to three other markets–two in Italy, and one in Austria
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Winter is coming, and with it comes the best of Italy’s winter activities. Found in Northern Italy’s Trentino-South Tyrol region, Bolzano / Bozen is a beautiful city with a rich history and culture blending its Italian and Germanic roots.
Breathtaking views of endless snow-capped Dolomite Mountains greet you as you turn from street to street in Bolzano. Nature lovers can enjoy the magical winter landscape by snowshoeing or sledding in the deep snow, or skating on the rink in the city center. And at the end of each year, this beautiful city is home to the oldest Christmas market in the country.
During my first winter living in Italy, I knew I needed to visit this historical region and experience Bolzano at Christmas for myself. An easy train ride brought me up to the city in December for my wintery escape, and I was immediately taken by the city’s beauty.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing escape, winter adventures, or activities like the Bolzano Christmas Market to get you into the holiday spirit, there are many fun things to do in Bolzano in winter.
A Note On Visiting Bolzano at Christmas
The Trentino-South Tyrol (Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol) region of Italy changed hands many times throughout its riveting history.
From the 9th century until 1801, the area was part of the Holy Roman Empire. From then on, it changed hands between Italy and the Austrian Empire until the area was officially made part of Italy at the end of World War I.
Due to this history, you’ll find that basically all beautiful buildings and cultural attractions in the region’s capital city have two names–one in Italian and one in German.
|Italian Name||German Name||English Name|
|Duomo di Bolzano||Dompfarre Bozen||Bolzano Cathedral|
|Piazza del Municipio||Rathausplatz||Municipal Square|
|Via Dei Portici||Laugengasse||Portici Street|
|Funivia del Renon||Rittnerbahn||Bolzano-Renon Funicular|
|Vin brulé||Glühwein||Mulled wine|
Things to do in Bolzano at Christmas
Enjoy the holiday sights and sounds of the city on a walk
Bolzano is a beautiful city throughout any season, but it’s particularly marvelous during the winter months. It feels like an otherworldly wintry escape with decorated storefronts lining the streets and the snow-capped Dolomites around every corner.
The aroma of the season fills the city as people walk along the cobblestone streets. The city is filled with the sound of carols and laughter as people enjoy the festivities. Visit the churches, wander the streets, and pop into a shop or two to find toys and trinkets for your loved ones.
My favorite time to walk around the city was at night! The streets of Bolzano come alive in the evenings, with string quartets playing festive music and twinkling Christmas lights lighting your way as you wander through the enchanting ambiance of the picturesque alleys.
Explore the Bolzano Christmas Market
Bringing in thousands of visitors each year, Bolzano’s Chriskindlmarkt is the oldest in Italy. Last winter, I visited the Christmas market in Bolzano and several others in cities all around Italy, and it was definitely my favorite by far!
You’ll find local handmade goods and crafts and a wide array of foods that are both Italian and German. Stopping at the different food stalls was my favorite part!
Local vineyards have wine tasting booths set up near the food stands, so you can sample a little bit of everything as you explore.
Throughout the many Christmas markets of Italy, you’ll always find vin brulé, mulled wine. Here in the Trentino-South Tyrol region, where people speak German as much as they do Italian, you might also find it called glühwein. This warm red wine is usually accentuated with cinnamon, cloves, and other spices to keep you cozy warm while wandering outside between the market stalls in the frigid cold.
There’s also a massive Christmas tree and nativity scene in the middle of the Piazza Walter part of the market, which is a perfect spot for that last-minute Christmas card picture.
The Bolzano Christmas Market opens each year at the end of November and runs through the first week of January. You can find more information about this year’s dates and hours here.
Walk around Piazza Walther
As the main square in Bolzano, Piazza Walther is surrounded by several historical buildings and monuments. On the southeast corner of the square, you’ll see the Duomo di Bolzano. In the town center, during winter in Bolzano, this is where you’ll find the Christmas market.
However, other than the market, the square is home to cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy a drink or sit-down meal.
And yes, this is where you can find outdoor seating in the middle of Bolzano in December, and yes, people were sitting outside relishing their meal in the cold, cold air.
Take an opportunity to be guided through the Christmas market’s culinary delights on a walking tour
If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of the best holiday foods at Bolzano’s Christmas market, consider taking this Bolzano Street Food Tour & Christmas Market Small-Group walking tour.
The 2.5-hour tour will take you on a culinary quest to experience the best Bolzano offers. You’ll learn a little bit more about the city’s history with a local guide in between your stops to taste savory and sweet treats from shops like the city’s oldest bakery to its street food vendors.
You’re sure to leave a little full and filled with information on your new favorite local foods.
Grab a bite from Bolzano’s daily market in Piazza delle Erbe
In addition to the city’s famous Christmas market, Bolzano also has a regularly running food market every day along Piazza delle Erbe, where you can also find local products.
The vibrant fruits and vegetables are a shock of color to the cloudy winter days. You can find other local foods like regional cured meats and cheeses here to purchase.
Attend mass at the Duomo di Bolzano
Like every major Italian city, Bolzano has its own beautiful Cathedral. The Duomo di Bolzano is a magnificent example of Italian Gothic architecture. It’s a large cathedral, initially constructed in the 4th century, right in the city’s heart.
The outside has a remarkable tiled roof, decorated with a beautiful green, white and yellow diamond pattern. At the same time, the interior is adorned with stone columns and an ornate main altar.
The Bolzano Cathedral is still an active parish, with regularly scheduled services on Saturdays at 6 p.m. and Sundays at 10 a.m.
Admire the tranquil winter scene from Santa Maria Maddalena Church
In Chiesa di Santa Maria Maddalena, the inside is just as beautiful as the outside. The church was first mentioned in writing in 1170 and was rebuilt by the 16th century.
Inside, the church is filled with frescos with works by famous Italian Gothic painters like Guariento and Giotto. You can enjoy stunning views of the vineyards and the surrounding countryside outside.
You need to keep walking about 750 meters beyond the Ritten funicular station to get here. Although you’ll pass beautiful vineyards on your walk, it’s a narrow street without sidewalks, and you’re climbing up a few hills.
The fantastic views of Bolzano in winter are spectacular, though, especially when the city and surrounding fields are covered in snow.
See the iceman at the South Tyrol Archeological Museum
Meeting a 5,300-year-old man frozen in ice must be the most wintery activity in Bolzano you’ve ever heard of! At the South Tyrol Archeological Museum (Museo Archeologico dell’Alto Adige / Südtiroler Archäologiemuseum,) Ötzi is the star of the show.
Ötzi is a Neolithic glacier mummy from the Copper Age, which occurred around 3500 to 2300 B.C.E.
He was found by accident in 1991 by hikers on the Schnalstal/Val Senales Valley glacier north of Bolzano, with his clothes and equipment intact.
After intensive research, his body has been displayed at the museum since 1998. That’s right, you can peek through the window into the specialized cold cell his body is kept in to catch a glimpse of this ancient man.
Capture the snowy scenes on a funicular ride
If you’re looking for things to do in Bolzano at Christmas, a must-do activity is riding the Funivia del Renon / Rittnerbahn funicular up to Renon / Ritten.
The station is on the edge of the city, past the train station and the bus station. It’s €10 for a round-trip ticket, which you’ll want to grab unless you plan on walking back down the mountain!
This was–by far–my favorite part of visiting Bolzano at Christmas! The Renon Cable Car is an excellent way to see the city and surrounding areas from above. I mean, look at these pictures–aren’t the views breathtaking?!
Your flight takes about 15 minutes, and the views are truly outstanding. Soar from the lower cable car station in Bolzano, which sits at 274 meters above sea level, while the final station towers above 1222 meters above sea level at the top of the mountain village, Renon. You’ll pass over winding roads, homes on hills, and vineyard rows, all with the Dolomites in the background.
From there, you can visit other nearby villages by train.
Insider Tip: Among your absolutely panoramic 360-degree view of the countryside and the Dolomites, keep an eye out for Fié allo Sciliar / Völs am Schlern mountain, which is featured on the Loacker logo!
Ice skating in Piazza del Municipio / Rathausplatz
There has to be an ice skating rink around as with any great Christmas market! In Bolzano, you’ll find the ice skating rink in Piazza del Municipio / Rathausplatz, right in front of the town hall.
Come in from the cold for a midday cake break
With the region’s blend of delicious Italian and Austrian cooking, you’ll love the cafes in Bolzano. Several Austrian-style cafes are scattered throughout the alpine town.
They offer everything from the traditional Italian breakfast of coffee and pastries in the morning to tea or hot chocolate with an apple strudel, lienzer torte, and other cakes made with local dairy products.
This was my favorite way to escape the chill after wandering around Bolzano’s Christmas market during the cold winter days without walking all the way back to my apartment stay.
Window shop along Via dei Portici / Laugengasse
The city’s first street is still the center of life in Bolzano. With a blend of architectural styles and art showcasing Bolzano’s mix of Italian and Austrian culture, the colorful storefronts along Via dei Portici sell everything from traditional handicrafts to fashion and art–even high-quality custom-made leather bags using hide from the local cows.
Windowshopping is very common throughout Italy, especially during the winter months as people shop for their loved ones, so you definitely need to appreciate the many shop windows.
However, you mind find other exciting things to discover inside–some of the walls still display ancient frescoes showing old market scenes. Also referred to as Laugengasse, there are a few museums to visit here too, including the Mercantile Museum, which tell the city’s economic importance history.
Visit the Franciscan Friary
The Franciscan Monastery (Convento dei Francescani) was first noted in 1237. Its Gothic church is famous for its three beautiful stained glass windows showing Saint Francis, Saint Louis, and Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. There are also 14th-century Gothic frescos, an elaborately carved Gothic alter by Hans Klocker, and 18th-century paintings.
The monastery’s nearby cloister features a Gothic design and several lovely stone arches.
Warm up by sampling some of the region’s wines
Although most vineyards will be closed for the season when you’re visiting Bolzano in winter, you can still find opportunities to sample their wines. This area is best known for its reds, from well-known styles like Pinot Noir to local specialties like Lagrein–wine from an ancient grape of the same name native to Bolzano.
You can stop into different wine shops around the city for samples or take a walking tour through Bolzano with a sommelier. They’ll take you to wine stores around the town for tastings with small bites and food pairings and teach you more about the region’s wine culture.
Fun Fact: The beautiful city of Bolzano is part of the Strada del Vino dell’Alto Adige–the Trentino-South Tyrol’s Wine Road. With 16 different towns included on this street, you’ll be sure to find a new favorite vintage.
Visit the Loacker Cafe
The famous wafer cookie company, Loacker, is intrinsically linked to the region–and Bolzano is home to its largest production facility! Right in the center of town, you can visit the Loacker Cafe to sample their cookies and enjoy a steaming cup of cappuccino di ciocolato.
It was such a fun spot to grab breakfast one morning before spending the day exploring the city and enjoying the Christmas market!
Escape the cold by visiting Museion for modern art
If you’ve had enough of history, Bolzano’s contemporary art museum, Museion, is housed in a modern, cube-shaped building surrounded by medieval architecture. Opened in 1987, you’ll find temporary shows, permanent exhibits, and a library with a regular schedule of symposiums to discuss and educate on today’s arts and culture. You’ll find many works on display created by local and international artists, who often curate the exhibits.
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Things to do near Bolzano in Winter
See one of the nearby Medieval castles, all decorated for the holidays
More than 800 castles dot the hills of the South Tyrol region, with three very close to the Bolzano city center.
Castel Roncolo was built in the 13th century and has been owned by different region rulers throughout its history. You can tour the grounds and check out the inside, adorned with 14th and 15th-century frescos of daily life scenes during the period.
Maretsch Castle is close enough to walk to from the heart of the fairytale town. Just steps from the Torrente Talvera (Talfer River,) the Renaissance-style castle is surrounded by stone walls made from river stones and 13th-century vineyards.
Castel Flavon is another gorgeous castle less than 5 kilometers from the middle of town. It’s also home to Restaurant Haselburg, a fine restaurant with an extensive wine list, excellent food, and spectacular views of the city and the mountains.
First built around 945 C.E., Firmiano Castle is only a 15-minute drive outside Bolzano’s city center. Also known as Sigmundskron Castle, it’s one of the oldest castles in the region. The ancient castle now houses a branch of the Messner Mountain Museum, which seeks to educate visitors about the relationship between humans and the Dolomites through the history of mountaineering and Alpine tourism.
Warm up at a thermal spa right in the Dolomites
In the small town of Val di Fassa, you can find a branch of the QC Terme luxury spa brand. Surrounded by the beautiful mountains on all sides, QC Terme Dolomiti is the perfect winter getaway in this area of Italy.
This spa location offers many treatments, including mud baths, massages, facials, body wraps–and a few outdoor thermal pools to swim in. They also provide accommodation options for you to stay overnight. You’ll be relaxing right next to the snow with panoramic views.
Fun Fact: QC Terme also opened a location on Governor’s Island in New York City!
Encounter the world outside at the Puez-Geisler Nature Park
The Puez-Geisler Nature Park (Parco naturale Puez Odle / Naturpark Puez-Geisler) is a haven for nature lovers. It’s located in the heart of the Dolomites Mountains, about two hours away from Bolzano by bus. You can hike and explore the park’s natural beauty and gorgeous views of the mountains and lakes by bicycle or on horseback.
Spend your day snowshoeing in the Dolomites near Bolzano
Have you ever tried snowshoeing? If you’ve always been curious about this fun winter activity, you should try this Private Snowshoeing Tour of the Dolomites from Bolzano.
On this 6-hour tour, you’ll leave first thing in the morning and be driven up to the trailhead to begin your snowshoeing journey. Take in the mountainous region while walking through the woods with your local guide, and take as many pictures as you’d like along the way.
You’ll even stop for lunch at a small restaurant, where you can purchase whatever local dish strikes your fancy and add a sled ride downhill for an extra cost.
Try your hand snowmobiling and sledding through the Dolomites instead
If you’d rather ride your way around the Dolomites, you need to try this Snowmobile & Sledding and The Great Dolomites Road Private Tour. You’ll be picked up right from a central location in Bolzano and driven to the eastern Dolomites on this 9-hour tour.
From there, it’s all sledding and snowmobiling! You’ll have plenty of opportunities to take pictures and ride around with your local guide, who will help navigate any language barriers and give you safety instructions.
Or, explore more of the Dolomites from the comfort–and warmth–of a car
As fun as being active and adventurous can be, sometimes you just want to experience the sights, sounds, and smells, without all the fuss. This Private Day Tour By Car on The Great Dolomites Road is a perfect compromise if you’re looking for things to do in Bolzano in winter.
Your 6-hour journey will take you through six gorgeous areas of the Dolomites. You’ll see stunning natural landmarks scattered throughout the area and admire the eye-pleasing views from the twisting mountain roads. You’ll also have the option to ride on the Sass Pordoi cable car.
Get the whole Christmas market experience on this day trip to three other markets–two in Italy, and one in Austria
If you’re ready for any and all Christmas markets, you need to take this One Day Christmas Markets Tour to Innsbruck, Bressanone, and Vipiteno. You read that right; on this full-day tour, you’ll be crossing the border into Austria to visit Innsbruck’s Chriskindlmarkt. Then come back to Italy for the Vipiteno and Bressanone markets.
You’ll first be taken on a guided walking tour at each stop to familiarize yourself with the market and the city’s history. You’ll then be given free time to wander around and explore independently.
If you’re interested in more Christmas markets in Austria, check out my guide to the best ones this year!
From exploring the city’s sites at Christmastime to adventure activities nearby, there are always excellent things to do in Bolzano at Christmas. And if you’re planning a trip to Italy, Bolzano is a terrific place to visit any time of year.
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