Bari: The Complete Guide

The Port Of Bari, Italy
CC BY-SA 2.0 / loloieg (Laurent Massoptier)

Although it is a leading commercial and industrial center, the bustling port city of Bari offers plenty to charm tourists who pass through on their way to Greece or ports on the eastern Adriatic. Bari serves as the gateway to Puglia’s whitewashed towns, stunning beaches, and unspoiled countryside. This charming, albeit sometimes gritty, city is well worth a visit. The atmospheric old town (Bari Vecchia) is brimming with medieval buildings and churches, offering a glimpse into both traditional and modern Italian life.

Bari is a city full of character, charm, and personality. Corso Vittorio Emanuele II divides the old and new sections of the city. While most attractions are located in old Bari, the new city hosts transport hubs and shopping precincts. Additionally, Bari boasts a magnificent promenade – one of the longest in Europe – perfect for enjoying the Italian tradition of passeggiata, a leisurely evening stroll to socialize and be seen.

Today, Bari presents itself as almost two distinct towns. The picturesque old quarter, with its historic attractions, is crowded into a maze of narrow streets at the end of a peninsula. In contrast, the new town features broad avenues and spacious layouts, stretching to the south. The busy Corso Vittorio Emanuele II serves as the dividing line between the old and new parts of the city. Around Bari, visitors can find several Adriatic beaches that are less crowded and commercialized compared to those farther north, around Rimini, offering a more relaxed coastal experience.

History of Bari

Bari, the capital city of the Apulia (Puglia) region in southern Italy, has a rich and diverse history that spans over millennia. Its strategic location on the Adriatic Sea has made it an important cultural and commercial hub throughout the ages.

Ancient History

Bari’s origins date back to the Bronze Age, around 1500 BC, when it was a small fishing village. It later became a Greek colony, known as Barium, and developed into an important port. During the Roman period, Bari flourished due to its strategic location along the Via Traiana, a significant Roman road connecting Rome to Brindisi. The city became a thriving center for commerce and trade.

Middle Ages

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Bari experienced a tumultuous period marked by invasions and changes in control. It was conquered by the Lombards, followed by the Byzantines in the 6th century. Under Byzantine rule, Bari became the capital of the theme (province) of Longobardia.

In the 9th century, Bari fell into the hands of the Saracens, who held it for about 30 years. The city was eventually recaptured by the Byzantines in 871 AD. Bari continued to grow in importance and became an archbishopric in the early Middle Ages.

Norman Conquest

In 1071, Bari was conquered by the Normans under Robert Guiscard. This marked the beginning of a period of relative stability and growth. The Normans fortified the city and initiated significant construction projects, including the Basilica di San Nicola, built to house the relics of Saint Nicholas, which were brought to Bari from Myra in 1087. The basilica became a major pilgrimage site, enhancing Bari’s religious significance.

Hohenstaufen and Angevin Rule

Bari came under the control of the Hohenstaufen dynasty in the 12th century, becoming part of the Kingdom of Sicily. Emperor Frederick II favored Bari, and the city prospered under his rule. However, after the fall of the Hohenstaufens, Bari was taken over by the Angevins in the 13th century.

Renaissance and Modern Era

During the Renaissance, Bari was ruled by the Sforza family and later by the Kingdom of Naples. The city’s port continued to be a crucial point for trade and military expeditions. Bari faced significant challenges during this period, including plagues and Ottoman attacks.

In the 19th century, Bari became part of the unified Kingdom of Italy. The city underwent modernization, with new urban development and the construction of important infrastructure. Bari’s port was expanded, and the city became an important industrial and commercial center.

20th Century and Beyond

During World War II, Bari played a significant role as a strategic port for the Allies. The city was heavily bombed, and one of the most tragic incidents occurred on December 2, 1943, when a German air raid resulted in the release of mustard gas from a sunken Allied ship, causing numerous casualties.

In the post-war period, Bari rebuilt and continued to grow. Today, it is a vibrant city with a mix of old and new, boasting a rich cultural heritage, lively markets, and a thriving port. Bari Vecchia, the old town, remains a maze of narrow streets filled with history, while the modern city offers a dynamic urban experience.

Bari’s history is a testament to its resilience and importance as a cultural and economic hub in the Mediterranean region.

Visiting Bari for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Bari on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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7 Best places to See in Bari

This complete guide to Bari not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.

This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Bari and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!

Lungomare Nazario Sauro

La Ruota Panoramica Bari
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Cinzia la fotografa
Lungomare (Seafront) is a picturesque 15-kilometer-long waterfront promenade along the Adriatic Sea. It offers stunning views of the harbor and marina, making it perfect for a leisurely stroll at any time of day, especially at sunset or early morning. Along the promenade, several seaside cafes serve fresh seafood and drinks, providing a delightful culinary experience. […]
Location: Lungomare Nazario Sauro, Bari, Metropolitan City of Bari, Italy | Distance: 1.20km
Visiting Lungomare Nazario Sauro

Castello Normanno-Svevo

Bari - Castello Normanno-Svevo
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Ysogo
Also known as the Hohenstaufen Castle, the Swabian Fortress was built around 1132 by the Norman King Roger II. The castle was destroyed in 1156 by King William I (“The Wicked”) of Sicily during his campaign in Bari but was restored by Emperor Frederick II in 1233. The castle is surrounded by a moat and […]
Location: Castello Normanno-Svevo di Sannicandro, Piazza Castello, Sannicandro di Bari, Metropolitan City of Bari, Italy | Hours: Daily 9:00 - 19:00 Closed Monday, Tciket office closes at 18:00 | Price: € 10 | Website | Distance: 1.30km
Visiting Castello Normanno-Svevo
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Cattedrale di San Sabino

Cattedrale Di San Sabino, Bari
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Berthold Werner
King William I of Sicily, also known as Il Malo (“the Wicked”), destroyed the Byzantine cathedral during the sack of Bari in 1156. This act of devastation razed many churches and public buildings, leaving the Basilica of San Nicola as the last one standing. The original church on the cathedral’s site dated back to the […]
Location: Cattedrale Metropolitana Primaziale San Sabino, Piazza dell'Odegitria, Bari, Metropolitan City of Bari, Italy | Distance: 1.30km
Visiting Cattedrale di San Sabino

Piazza Mercantile, Bari

Bari - Fontana Della Pigna
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Acquario51
Since medieval times, Ruga Francigena, the Pilgrims’ Route leading to the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Bari, has originated from Merchant Square (Piazza Mercantile). The square was connected to the port by the fortified Tower of Sant’Antonio, erected in 1440 by Prince Giovanni del Balzo Orsini. Following the devastating fire and explosions of 1601, the […]
Location: Piazza Mercantile, Bari Metropolitan City of Bari, Italy | Hours: 24 Hours | Price: Free | Distance: 1.30km
Visiting Piazza Mercantile, Bari

Basilica San Nicola, Bari

Basilica San Nicola Bari
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Claz82
Saint Nicholas of Myra, from Asia Minor (Anatolia), should not be confused with Saint Nicholas of Lyra, a 13th-century Franciscan scholar from Lyre, Normandy. Nicholas of Bari is renowned as a prolific miracle worker and is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, the unmarried, and students. Born in the 3rd […]
Location: Basilica San Nicola, Largo Abate Elia, Bari, Metropolitan City of Bari, Italy | Distance: 1.50km
Visiting Basilica San Nicola, Bari

Archaeological Museum of Santa Scolastica

Convento Di Santa Scolastica, Via Venezia 73 Bari, Actual Museu Arqueològic
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Enric
The Archaeological Museum of Santa Scolastica, formerly known as the Archaeological Museum of Bari or the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Bari, is situated in the city of Bari. The museum’s collection features artifacts and findings from the region’s indigenous civilizations, such as the Daunia, Messapia, and Peucezia, spanning periods from prehistory to the Bronze Age. […]
Location: Chiesa rettoria di Santa Scolastica da Norcia, Strada Annunziata, Bari, Metropolitan City of Bari, Italy | Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 09.00 - 19.00 Sunday and holidays 09.00 - 13.00 Monday closed | Price: €5.00 | Website | Distance: 1.70km
Visiting Archaeological Museum of Santa Scolastica

Egnazia

Egnazia
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Sailko
The ancient city of Gnatia, Egnatia or Ignati, is located southeast of Bari, traces its origins back to the 13th century BC when Bronze Age peoples first settled there. Like other villages along the Adriatic shore, Egnazia was vulnerable to numerous invasions from the east until it ultimately became a Roman city at the close of the third […]
| Hours: Summer: 8:30am - 7:30pm Winter: 8:30am - 4:30pm | Price: €3 | Distance: 50.50km
Visiting Egnazia

Best Time to Visit Bari

Spring (March to May)

Spring is arguably the best season to visit Bari. The weather is mild, with temperatures ranging from 12°C (54°F) in March to around 22°C (72°F) in May. The city comes alive with blooming flowers and outdoor activities, making it an ideal time for sightseeing. Spring also brings various local festivals and events, offering visitors a chance to experience Bari’s rich culture and traditions. The pleasant weather makes exploring Bari Vecchia (the old town) and its narrow, winding streets particularly enjoyable, without the intense heat of summer or the chill of winter.

Summer (June to August)

Summer in Bari is hot and bustling, with temperatures often reaching 30°C (86°F) or higher. This season attracts the most tourists, especially those heading to the Adriatic beaches. While the city is vibrant and full of life, the heat can be overwhelming for some. However, the long, sunny days are perfect for enjoying the beaches and taking leisurely evening strolls along the Lungomare, Bari’s scenic seaside promenade. The city’s nightlife is also at its peak during summer, with numerous outdoor events, concerts, and festivals.

Fall (September to November)

Fall is another excellent time to visit Bari, especially in September and October, when the weather is still warm, ranging from 20°C (68°F) to 25°C (77°F). The summer crowds begin to thin out, offering a more relaxed atmosphere. This season is ideal for exploring the city’s historical sites and enjoying outdoor activities without the extreme heat of summer. November brings cooler temperatures, averaging around 15°C (59°F), but it remains mild enough for sightseeing. The fall harvest season also means an abundance of fresh, local produce, enhancing the culinary experience.

Winter (December to February)

Winter in Bari is mild compared to northern Italy, with temperatures rarely dropping below 5°C (41°F). While it’s the off-season for tourism, this can be a great time to visit if you prefer a quieter experience. The city’s historical sites and museums are less crowded, and you can enjoy a more intimate exploration of Bari Vecchia. The festive season in December brings charming Christmas markets and decorations, adding a magical touch to the city. Although the weather can be unpredictable, with occasional rain, the overall mild climate makes winter a viable option for visiting Bari.

Average Temperatures in Bari

  • January 14°C 7
  • February 16°C 8
  • March 17°C 8
  • April 21°C 6
  • May 25°C 5
  • June 31°C 4
  • July 33°C 2
  • August 32°C 3
  • September 28°C 6
  • October 25°C 9
  • November 19°C 9
  • December 16°C 5

How to get to Bari

By Air

Bari is served by Bari Karol Wojtyła Airport (BRI), which has flights from major European cities. The airport is about 8 kilometers (5 miles) northwest of the city center. From the airport, you can take a shuttle bus, a taxi, or rent a car to reach the city center. The shuttle bus (Tempesta Bus) takes about 30 minutes, while a taxi or car ride takes around 20 minutes.

By Train

Bari is well-connected by train, with regular services from major Italian cities like Rome, Milan, Florence, and Naples. The main train station, Bari Centrale, is located in the city center, making it convenient for travelers arriving by rail.

By Car

Driving to Bari offers flexibility and the opportunity to explore the beautiful Apulian countryside. The city is connected by major highways: From Rome, take the A1/E45 to Naples, then the A16/E842 to Bari. From Naples, take the A16/E842 directly to Bari.

By Ferry

Bari is a major port with ferry connections to Greece, Albania, and Croatia. This can be a scenic way to arrive if you’re traveling from across the Adriatic Sea. Ferries operate regularly, providing an alternative to flying or driving.

By Bus

Several long-distance bus companies operate routes to Bari from various parts of Italy and Europe. The bus station is located near the train station, providing easy access to the city center. This option is usually cost-effective and convenient for those traveling from nearby regions.