The ancient Venetian Walls tightly embracing Città Alta were constructed in the 16th century by, obviously, the Republic of Venice. Back then Bergamo belonged to Venice. Venetians decided to erect the wall in order to protect the town from the powerful Republic of Milan as well as France when the Venice’s control over maritime trade started to decline. Today, the walls mark the territory of the Upper Town, the historic center and stand a proud reminder of its rich history. There is nothing quite like a stroll down alongside these ancient walls. Viale Della Mura, as locals call the route, stretches around three sides of the old town. Possible the best part is to the east of the Porta San Giacomo which boasts lovely trees and gives a great view of the modern part of town below. Simply take a walk and breath in the atmosphere of balancing between the past and present, the two identities of Bergamo.
The heart of Città Alta is Piazza Vecchia defined by imposing architecture, the testament to Bergamo's rich and colorful history. Full of lovely palazzos and important monuments, as well as incredible cafés, gelaterias, and restaurants, this piazza makes for a great pass time. Square’s highlights include the Palazzo Nuovo, Palazzo della Ragione, Palazzo del Podestà, and the Torre del Campanone. For instance, the façade of Palazzo dell Ragione arches are decorated with unique animal busts. The fountain at the center of the square roars with four magnificent lion sculptures. Make sure to grab a bite or coffee in one of the cafes or restaurants, they are all quality places with incredible food. So, if you are unsure about what to do in Bergamo, head to Piazza Vecchia and let the old town lead you on your exploration. It’s not often you find such a lovely place that isn’t crowded.
Sitting in the foothills of the Alps justifies Bergamo’s need and use of not one but two funiculars. Hence, no trip to Bergamo would be quite complete without hopping on the historic Funicular railway reach new heights. One funicular connects Città Bassa with Città Alta and the other one connects Città Alta with San Vigilio locality. This old railway has been transporting people in the Bergamo area for years proving to be one of the best ways to reach the higher ground of the old town. The Station in Città Bassa is on the Viale Vittorio Emanuele II and you can purchase your tickets from the sales assistants in the foyer. You can get off in Città Alta or continue up to the San Vigilio castle from where you can enjoy views of the entire area including both parts of Bergamo. Plus, a walk from San Vigilio back to Upper Town makes for a lovely stroll amongst rustic streets and houses. The funicular is without a doubt one of the iconic things to do in Bergamo.
The upper town is an enchanting walled city with strong thick roots that remember medieval times. Its tiny humble streets are lined with local shops, bars, and restaurants catering to visitors and locals alike. At its core resides Piazza Vecchia which many architects and writers described as the most beautiful square in Italy. Embraced by ancient palazzos, bell tower as well as prestigious bars and restaurants, the square makes for a perfect place to stop for a drink or bite and indulge in the quaint ambiance.
The notably more modern lower town grew on the plain below Città Alta. Though you can still come across a few 15th-century buildings, the elaborate architectural feats of the 19th and 20th centuries are quick to overshadow them. Today, Città Bassa is a vibrant neighborhood with a plethora of great hotels, shops, bars, and restaurants. Palaces, art galleries, churches, theatres, and other venues boast concerts and entertainment. Thanks to them, Bergamo enjoys engaging and culturally diverse social life.
The railway station situated in Piazza Marconi of the Città Bassa provides regular connections to Milan, Brescia, Crema, and Cremona. In summer, the connections are enriched with links to Venice and further afield. Within the region, Bergamo is only a short train ride to Lecco on Lake Como as well as Sarnico on Lake Iseo. Lake Garda resorts are also not hard to reach, usually requiring a singly train switch at Brescia.
On the other hand, Bergamo bus station offers regular coaches to resorts on Lake Iseo as well as the lovely towns in the surrounding valleys. So, whether you plan on to stay in town or use it as your base to explore and visit the rest of Lombardy, you won’t be disappointed by the things to do in Bergamo or its surroundings.