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Is Bari Worth Visiting? 7 Reasons to Visit Bari, Italy

You’re likely familiar with Italian cities Rome, Florence and Venice, but there’s an unassuming gem along the country’s southern coast that deserves some attention for its authenticity and coastal charms – Bari.

Located in the southwest of Italy, Bari is a bustling port town and capital of the Puglia region (the heel of the boot!).

Although Bari is the third largest city in southern Italy (after Naples and Palermo), it remains one of Italy’s lesser-known destinations, and receives a fraction of the tourism that cities such as Cinque TerrePisa or Rome do.

But is Bari worth visiting?

If you enjoy discovering hidden gems in Europe, Bari might just be the perfect place for you to visit.

Here are just some of the reasons to visit Bari, Italy.

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Is Bari Worth Visiting?

Bari at a glance

Italy is one of the most visited countries in the world, but if you’re imagining Bari to be a bustling tourist town, think again.

Bari offers a respite from the well-trodden paths of its more famous counterparts, offering an authentic Italian experience.

In Bari, you’ll find a place where life unfolds at its own pace.

You’ll find a city where the azure Adriatic Sea plays a supporting role to the lively street markets, and where the scent of freshly baked focaccia competes with the salty breeze.

Want to know more?

Here are some more reasons why Bari is worth visiting.

fresh fruit for sale in bari
Fresh fruit for sale in Bari

7 Reasons to Visit Bari

1. An authentic Italian experience

As you navigate the narrow lanes of Bari’s Old Town, Bari Vecchia, you’ll find yourself in a time warp.

Whitewashed buildings with worn shutters adorned with laundry give you a true sense of Italian life.

Here, the air is infused with the aroma of fresh seafood, sun-ripened fruits, and the unmistakable scent of freshly baked goodies. 

bari vecchia
Bari is Queen of Shabby Chic

If you venture down a side street, you’re sure to stumble upon Italian nonnas sitting outside their homes expertly rolling fresh pasta, and a wander down the port will lead to weathered Barese fishermen selling their daily catch right from their boats.

Bari is, in every sense of the word, a real Italian town.

bari vecchia
Bari, Italy

As you meander through the narrow alleys, each turn reveals hidden gems – charming chapels, stunning piazzas, and rustic trattorias.

Bari doesn’t try to pander to foreign tourists. It is a little grungy, and you won’t find any tacky souvenir shops or rip-off restaurants.

It simply exists, as it always has.

bari old town
The quiet streets of Bari Vecchia

2. Coastal charm

The turquoise waters of the Adriatic paired with the rugged beauty of Puglia’s coastline are a sight to behold, especially at sunset.

Take a stroll along the tree-lined promenade of Lungomare (which was built by Mussolini) and pay a visit to the Old Port (Porto Vecchia), where you can admire the blue fishing boats and watch the locals haggling for the best fish.

The main beach in Bari is called Pane e Pomodoro (Bread and Tomato!), and is a nice golden strip of sand where you can sun yourself for hours.

If you want to go a bit further afield, Poligano a Mare is a gorgeous seaside town surrounded by limestone cliffs.

I especially recommend talking a stroll down Lungomare in the evening, which is when you’ll find the locals taking their passeggiata and enjoying an aperitivo.

Bari has bags of coastal beauty

3. Gastronomic delights

Not just a feast for the eyes, Bari offers gastronomic delights that attract foodies from all around the world.

Seriously – Barese food culture is so rich that I wrote a whole article about it!

One thing you must do is to try a freshly-baked Barese focaccia from one of the tiny bakeries in the old town.

You should also try a panzerotto, a deep-fried turnover stuffed with mozzarella and tomato, and some sgagliozzi, deep-fried cubes of polenta.

Of course, Bari also has fantastic seafood (be sure to buy some fresh oysters from the fishermen!), and delicious pasta dishes like Orecchiette alla Barese, which is orecchiette pasta served with broccoli rabe, Italian sausage and tomato.

For a deeper experience, why not take a street food tour in Bari, or a cooking class in a local’s home?

orecchiette bari
A Barese nonna making fresh pasta on the street

4. Timeless architecture and rich history

If you have an interest in history and an appreciation of timeless beauty, you’ll love Bari.

At the heart of Bari Vecchia stands the Basilica di San Nicola. Built in the 11th Century, this important pilgrimage destination is dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of Bari. The intricate frescoes that adorn the walls depict scenes from the saint’s life, while the crypt houses his relics.

The Norman-Swabian Castle (Castello Normanno-Svevo) is perched on the edge of the sea. Built in the 12th Century, the castle provides panoramic views and is a display of medieval grandeur.

Another Bari landmark to visit is the 13th-century Romanesque-style Cathedral (Cattedrale di San Sabino).

Of course, the best place to appreciate Bari’s ancient architecture is in the old town, where every cobbled alleyway tells a story

roman ruins in bari
There’s history around every corner in Bari

5. Exciting Nightlife

While Bari is by no means a party destination, it’s still somewhere that comes alive when the sun sets, with the promenade filling up with young locals sipping cocktails.

Whether you’re drawn to elegant wine bars, live music pubs or huge nightclubs, you’re sure to find something you like.

When I visited Bari with my friend, we particularly enjoyed Joy’s Irish Pub.

6. Vibrant festivals and events

As with all Italian cities, Bari has a lot of festivals and celebrations throughout the year.

One standout celebration is the Festa di San Nicola (Saint Nicholas – Santa!) honouring the patron saint of Bari.

There’s also the Bari In Jazz festival, which is a scattered festival that takes place over the course of a whole month across the city.

6. Bari is budget-friendly

Bari is incredibly budget-friendly, and you really don’t have to splurge to have a great time here.

Many of the best things to see in Bari are free, eating and drinking out won’t cost you a fortune, and there are also tonnes of affordable accommodation options, from as little as 30 EUR per night.

Bari isn’t as cheap as, say, Eastern Europe, but it’s definitely more affordable than other Italian city breaks.

7. It’s the perfect base for exploring the area

Bari is the perfect place for exploring the surrounding area, and the region of Puglia as a whole.

Whether you want to take a road trip through Puglia, or visit the famous Alberobello with its UNESCO-listed trulli houses, you won’t be stuck for ideas when it comes to day trips from Bari.

My personal highlight of my Bari trip was visiting the mesmerising city of Matera, in the nearby Basilicata region.

Matera is breathtaking

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Matera is renowned for its ancient cave dwellings, known as ‘Sassi,’ and more recently for featuring in the opening sequence of Daniel Craig’s last James Bond film, No Time To Die.

These troglodyte settlements are fascinating to observe, wandering through the labyrinthine Matera is like stepping into a living history book.

One word of advice?

Don’t get lost in the winding streets – this happened to my friend and I when we decided to split up, and we nearly lost each other forever (or it felt like we could have!).

Looking out onto the Sassi in Bari

Getting to Bari

Bari is well-connected and super easy to reach. The Karol Wojtyła Airport is just a 20-minute taxi ride or bus journey into the city, and most budget airlines in the UK fly directly to Bari.

The city also serves as a bustling port, welcoming ferries from various Mediterranean destinations including Greece, Croatia, and Albania.

The ferry terminal is well-connected to the city centre, ensuring a smooth transition from sea to land.

Where to stay in Bari

Choosing the right accommodation sets the tone for your Bari stay. 

The Old Town offers an enchanting array of boutique hotels and charming bed and breakfasts, placing you within strolling distance of historical wonders. 

If you prefer modern amenities, the contemporary hotels in the newer part of the city might be more suitable for you, although I’d always recommend staying in the Old Town.

Bari FAQ

Where is Bari?

Bari is in southern Italy, on the east side of the country. It is at the top of the ‘heel of the boot.’

How many days in Bari?

I would recommend at least 2 full days in Bari itself, and more if you plan on doing day trips to the surrounding areas.

When is the best time to visit Bari?

Bari is a year-round destination, but there are certainly some things to bear in mind. Although Bari is lovely in the summer, it will be crowded and expensive, compared to the shoulder months like May-June/September-October. Christmas in Bari is a special time, especially if you want an authentically Italian experience.

Is Bari safe?

Despite its past links to organised crime, Bari is a very safe city for tourists. As you would anywhere, exercise caution (especially with your belongings), and don’t do things that you wouldn’t do at home.

Is Bari Worth Visiting? | Final Thoughts

So, is Bari worth visiting?

Without a doubt.

Its authenticity, gastronomic delights, and the sheer absence of tourist hordes make Bari somewhere very much worth visiting in Italy.

That’s all for today’s post, but as always, please do reach out in the comments section if you have any questions!

More Italian City Guides

Foodie Guide to Bari

Italy Landmarks You Need to Visit

Guide to Barga, Tuscany

3 Days in Rome Itinerary

Guide to Rome in Winter

Western Sicily Itinerary

Things to Do in Trapani

Guide to Erice

Guide to Favignana Island

Best Things to Do in Cinque Terre

Guide to Cefalu

Guide to San Vito Lo Capo

Things to Do in Catania

Things to Know Before Visiting Italy

Guide to Palermo

Is Pisa Worth Visiting?

Guide to Matera

Until next time,


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