15 Amazing Things to Do in Brescia (Italy)
The beautiful city of Brescia in Italy, with its spectacular attractions, its many historical and cultural treasures, and its romantic squares, is probably one of the most charming places in the Lombardy region. Still a real insider’s tip, you can experience a piece of Northern Italy at its most fascinating side. Brescia is always worth a visit! There is a lot to discover in the old town, and there are many spectacular destinations for day trips in the surrounding area, such as Lake Garda. Furthermore, since 2011, attractions such as the ancient Capitolium and the monastery complex of San Salvatore-Santa Giulia have been on the UNESCO World Heritage List. During a tour of the city center, you can also admire many other magnificent buildings from antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and soak up the unique flair of magnificent squares such as Piazza della Loggia.
In this travel guide, you will find all the important information and tips about Brescia in Italy. We also show you great pictures, the best things to do in Brescia, the most amazing day trips nearby and where to find great places to stay.
General Information about Brescia
The city of Brescia is located in Lombardy and with a population of 195,000 it is the second-largest city in the region after Milan. Together with Bergamo, Brescia belongs to the Cultural Cities of 2023, so you can look forward to a real wealth of interesting things to see during your trip. The city has a long and important history dating back to Roman times, which can be felt in every corner of the old town. A particular highlight are the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the center, including the San Salvatore-Santa Giulia complex and the Capitolium archaeological area. Brescia is also famous for its breathtaking squares, such as Piazza della Loggia with its astronomical clock and Piazza Paolo VI with the Old and New Cathedrals.
Brescia is also a popular destination for those who love shopping. The city center offers a wide range of stores, from exclusive boutiques with international fashion to traditional markets with local products and handicrafts. Eating in Brescia is also an experience! In the center you will find many excellent restaurants and cafés where you will be spoiled with culinary delights. Be sure to try traditional dishes such as Casoncelli Alla Bresciana dumplings and the region’s wines, such as Franciacorta, are excellent.
The Best Things to Do in Brescia
When traveling to Brescia, you can look forward to a wide range of attractions. Many of the highlights are located in the historic center and can be explored on a walking tour. To help you get the most out of your visit, we’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in and around Brescia:
The Duomo Nuovo (New Cathedral)
The Duomo Nuovo, also known as the New Cathedral or the Summer Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, is the main church of Brescia and one of the most beautiful attractions of the old town. This imposing white church, made of Botticino marble, is located in Piazza Paolo VI, just next to the Old Cathedral, and was once built on the walls of an early Christian basilica from the 5th century. The New Cathedral took about 220 years to build, from 1604 to 1825, and so you can admire different architectural styles, including Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical. Absolutely worth seeing is also the interior of the cathedral with the magnificent dome, where in the 8 side chapels are numerous valuable works of art.
Tip: Directly on the cathedral square is the beautiful Moma Café, where you can enjoy a wonderful aperitifo and soak up the wonderful ambience.
Capitolium – Archaeological Site
The Archaeological Site, also known as the Capitolium, is one of the most important monuments in Brescia and has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2011. This is located in the city center on Museum Street at the bottom of the Cidneo Hill and is therefore easily reachable on foot. It is the largest Roman archaeological site in all of northern Italy and a visit is definitely one of the best things to do in Brescia. The museum complex includes many spectacular highlights, including the entire archaeological area with the Piazza del Foro, the Capitolium, the Republican Sanctuary and the ancient Theatre. The famous Roman Basilica and the monumental complex of San Salvatore – Santa Giulia are also part of it.
Santa Giulia Museum
The Santa Giulia Museum in Brescia is part of an archaeological complex located in a former Benedictine monastery dating back to 753. Since 2011, this unique attraction has even been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Civic Museum houses a variety of exhibitions that reflect the rich history and culture of Brescia. During a visit, you will be astonished by an impressive collection of archaeological artifacts, works of art and historical exhibits. Among these are extraordinary artistic treasures such as the 11th century Desiderius Cross, one of the most famous goldsmith’s works in the world. You can also admire the imposing frescoes in the choir of the convent sisters, the Domus dell’Ortaglia, the Basilica of San Salvatore and the statue of the Winged Victoria.
Palazzo della Loggia
The Palazzo della Loggia is a beautiful Renaissance palace in the historical center of Brescia. Located in the beautiful Piazza della Loggia, it is a true jewel of Northern Italian Renaissance architecture. It was built between the years 1492 and 1570 and was originally used as the seat of the city’s administration. Today it houses the Brescia Town Hall. Absolutely fascinating is the white facade made of Botticino marble, as well as the numerous columns and pilasters with rich sculptural decorations. Moreover, there are also two beautiful marble fountains under the portico. The interior is also worth a visit, where you can take a guided tour of the Sala del Consiglio, the Sala Giunta and the historic Salone Vanvitelliano.
The Brescia Castle is located in a splendid position on the Cidneo hill and offers visitors a magnificent view of the city. Built between the 14th and 16th centuries, this imposing medieval fortress is still one of the most important landmarks in Brescia. The area of the castle can be reached in a short time on foot from the historical center or, alternatively, by car. Once at the top of the hill, there is a free entrance to the castle complex. In addition, the castle is home to a number of interesting museums, such as the Luigi Marzoli Museum of Arms, with an extensive collection of armor and historical weapons. Also unique are the Pusteria vineyards on the slopes of the castle, which are considered one of the oldest urban vineyards in Europe.
Piazza della Loggia & Torre dell’Orologio
The Piazza della Loggia, also known as Piazza Vecchia, is without a doubt one of the most beautiful main squares in Brescia and is also a popular meeting place in the city. It is an impressive example of Brescian Renaissance architecture, dating from the period when the Venetians ruled Brescia. Its history goes back to the 15th century, and as you stroll around the square, you will be amazed by the many historically significant buildings, such as Palazzo della Loggia and Palazzo Monte di Pietà, with its Roman stone tablets. A real highlight is also the tower Torre dell’Orologio with the old astronomical clock, which is a popular place for taking pictures.
Mille Miglia Museum
The Mille Miglia Museum is one of the real treasures of Brescia, and it is not only the fans of Classic cars and automobiles who will enjoy this extraordinary attraction. Everything here revolves around the Mille Miglia, the world-famous race for vintage cars. A tour of the exhibition will take you on a real journey through time and Italian racing history. Located just outside the city, in the former convent of Santa Eufemia della Fonte, the popular car museum offers an extensive collection of contemporary testimonies and historical film footage. Truly spectacular are the racing cars on display, dating from 1927 to 1957, including a number of particularly valuable rarities.
Duomo Vecchio (Old Cathedral)
A true jewel of Brescia is definitely the Duomo Vecchio more often referred to as the “Rotonda” or Old Cathedral. This impressive building is located directly in the Piazza Paolo VI, in the immediate vicinity of the New Cathedral of Brescia. It is the largest Romanesque circular temple of its kind and was built in the 11th century. Its unique circular construction is of particular interest, and the interior of this church, with its five nave crypt, is also very special. During a tour of the church, you will also be able to admire several tombs and many valuable works of art. Visiting the Cathedral is free and open to all.
Piazza della Vittoria
The Piazza della Vittoria is one of the largest squares in Brescia and is characterized by its modern appearance. This square was built only between the years 1927 and 1932, according to a project by the architect and town planner Marcello Piacentini. Today, the L-shaped Piazza della Vittoria is a popular meeting place for locals as well as tourists. It is also home to several interesting buildings and landmarks, such as the INA Tower, the National Insurance Institute, which, with 15 floors and a height of 57.25 meters, is the first skyscraper built in Italy.
A visit to the Queriniana Library is a real insider tip and definitely one of the best things to do in Brescia. It is located right in the historic center of the city and can be visited free of charge. The famous library was named after Cardinal Querini, who founded it in 1747. It is located in the historic Bishop’s Palace in Via Mazzini and is still used as a library today. Constantly expanded, it now houses over 500,000 works, including 1,158 incunabula, 8,386 early prints, and 10,000 manuscripts. Many of the books date from the 15th to the 18th centuries and are true treasures of knowledge. Of particular beauty is the ancient reading room with its frescoes, which can be admired during a free tour of the building.
Palazzo Martinengo Cesaresco Novarino
The Palazzo Martinengo Cesaresco Novarino is located in the old city center of Brescia, and it is a museum that art lovers in particular will enjoy. It was built in the 17th century by order of Count Cesare IV and once served as the police headquarters of Brescia. Today, Palazzo Martinengo can also be visited from the inside. The rooms are used for various exhibitions and temporary exhibitions, and the archaeological excavations in the basement, as well as the green garden with its numerous works of art, are really very worth seeing.
Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo
The Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo is a magnificent art museum in Brescia which has been in operation since 1851. It is based on the impressive private collection of Paolo Tosio and since 2007 it is now managed by the Fondazione Brescia Musei. The museum is housed in the historic Palazzo Tosio, and a visit to the museum will leave you amazed by the impressive paintings by regional artists from the 13th to the 18th centuries. Here, visitors have the opportunity to discover true masterpieces of regional art history and take a journey through different periods and styles. One of the most famous works in the collection is “Cristo benedicente” by Raphael.
The Teatro Grande is one of the most important theater buildings in Italy and a real jewel in the center of Brescia. It was built in 1810 to replace the Accademia degli Erranti. The most impressive part is the neoclassical hall, which enchants the visitor with its splendid loges, frescoes, gilded stucco and mirrors. If you would like to visit the theater when there are no performances taking place, you can take part in a guided tour of the Teatro Grande during the summer months!
Tip: Visit the Caffè del Teatro Grande – Berlucchi, a beautiful theater café decorated with frescoes as well as statues and classical music in the background!
Where to Stay in Brescia
Brescia in Italy offers its visitors a wide range of fabulous places to stay, both in the old town and just outside. From charming guesthouses to apartments, from agriturismo to chic hotels, everything is represented here. Here are our recommendations for the best accommodations in Brescia…It’s worth a look!
- Hotel with Parking: The Hotel Ambasciatori is a nice and cheap 4-star hotel in Brescia. The free parking and the proximity to the city center are also great.
- Charming Hotel: The Locanda delle Mercanzie is a small and charming hotel with an enchanting atmosphere and a perfect location in the very center of Brescia.
- Chic Boutique Hotel: The absolutely stylish Areadocks Boutique Hotel is a great choice for a unique Brescia holiday, with a great breakfast!
- Fantastic Apartments: The L’Altana City House offers apartments of various sizes right in the city center. The modern furnishings and the location are superb.
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