Parma: The Complete Guide
Parma’s early history as a Roman colony along the Via Aemilia has left little visible trace in the city today. The province of Parma, in Emilia-Romagna is known for its grand palaces, elegant squares, and its role as the seat of the powerful Farnese dukes. The city also bears a French legacy due to its ownership by Napoleon’s wife, Marie Louise. For food enthusiasts, Parma is renowned as the home of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and a popular activity is to visit a dairy to witness the skilled cheese-makers turning milk into this famous cheese.
The 15th-century painter Antonio Allegri, known as Correggio, lived and worked in Parma, and his artworks can still be admired in the city’s churches and museums. Parma also boasts a musical heritage, with two famous native sons: opera composer Giuseppe Verdi, born in the nearby village of Roncole in 1813, and conductor Arturo Toscanini, born in Parma in 1867.
A great starting point to explore Parma is Piazza Garibaldi, where the 18th-century façade of the Palazzo del Governatore features an intricate astronomical clock. You can soak in the local atmosphere by grabbing a table in one of the cafés that line the square and enjoying a cappuccino while observing daily life in Parma.
Exploring Parma on foot is a delightful experience, given that many of the attractions are clustered around Piazza Duomo and Palazzo della Pilotta. The convenience is enhanced by the fact that these sights are easily reachable on foot from the train station, making it a seamless and enjoyable walking exploration of the city. You can either use our Complete Walking Tour of Parma with Maps & Tips or for an in depth tour, with a local guide I recommend this 2 hour guided tour of Parma.
Visiting Parma 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 Parma on the first visit. Top help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!
This website uses affiliate links which earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
This complete guide to Parma 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 Parma and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!
Piazza Garibaldi, Parma
The beating heart of Parma can be found at the very center of the city, in the form of Piazza Garibaldi. This square is not only Parma's central point but its essence, serving as a place for civic activities and gatherings of the townspeople. It is built atop the ancient Roman Forum, and remnants of this history are still visible in nearby monuments, such as the Roman Bridge to the west, recognized by its visible arches from below, and the Roman theater and amphitheater to the south.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Piazza Garibaldi, Parma!
Address: Piazza Garibaldi, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Distance: 0.01km
Basilica Santa Maria della Steccata
A prime example of the Renaissance in Parma, the Basilica Santa Maria della Steccata features a Bramante-style Greek cross central plan. Construction of this basilica, designed by Bernardino and Giovanni Francesco Zaccagni based on an unknown project, took place between 1521 and 1539.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Basilica Santa Maria della Steccata!
Address: Basilica di Santa Maria della Steccata, Strada Giuseppe Garibaldi, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Hours: Daily from 7.30 to 12.00 and from 15.00 to 18.30. Functions from Monday to Friday at 8.00, 9.00, 10.00, 16.30 (except July and August); Saturday at 8.00, 9.00, 10.00, 16.30; Sunday at 8.00, 9.30, 11.00, 16.30. | Price: Free | Website | Distance: 0.13km
The Regio Theatre, located in Parma, Italy, is a magnificent neoclassical opera house with a rich history. Commissioned by Maria Luigia and designed by architect Nicola Bettoli, the construction of the theater took place between 1821 and 1829. It was built on the site where the Benedictine convent of St. Alessandro once stood.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Regio Theatre!
Address: Teatro Regio, Strada Giuseppe Garibaldi, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Hours: from Tuesday to Saturday 9.30am – 12.30pm / 2.30pm – 5.30pm; Sunday 10am – 4pm. Starting of the tours every 60 minutes. Duration 30 minutes. | Price: € 7,00 | Website | Distance: 0.19km
The pink marble Baptistery in Parma is a remarkable example of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic art in Italy. This octagonal baptistery is constructed from Verona marble and features four tiers of open loggias crowned by a row of blind arches and pinnacles.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Baptistery, Parma!
Address: Baptistery of Parma, Piazza Duomo, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Hours: Open every day from 10am to 6pm* (* last admission 5.30pm) | Price: € 12,00 Diocesan museum & Baptistery | Website | Distance: 0.27km
Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral, Parma
The Cattedrale di Parma, located in one of Parma's main squares, has a rich history. Construction of this massive cathedral began in 1059 under the supervision of Bishop Cadalo and was consecrated in 1106. Over the centuries, it has been adorned with Romanesque sculptures and masterpieces from the Parma School of Painting.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral, Parma!
Address: Cattedrale di Parma, Piazza Duomo, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Hours: Baptistery and Diocesan Museum open every day from 10 am to 6 pm | Price: Free | Website | Distance: 0.32km
Diocesan Museum, Parma
The archaeological excavations carried out for the 2000 Jubilee on the Cathedral square and at the Bishop's palace yielded remarkable insights into the urban development of the northeastern part of the city during the Romanesque and Middle Ages. These discoveries were particularly significant for shedding light on the historical evolution of this area.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Diocesan Museum, Parma!
Address: Museo Diocesano, Parma, Vicolo Vescovado, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Hours: Open every day from 10am to 6pm* (* last admission 5.30pm) | Price: € 12,00 Diocesan Museum and the Baptistery | Website | Distance: 0.33km
Chamber of St. Paul and Cell of St. Catherine
Visitors can now explore two rooms within the ancient Benedictine nuns' monastery, rebuilt in the late 15th century. Access to these rooms, which once belonged to Abbess Giovanna da Piacenza, is gained through a tree-lined path.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Chamber of St. Paul and Cell of St. Catherine!
Address: Camera di San Paolo e Cella di Santa Caterina, Strada Macedonio Melloni, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Hours: Opening hours: Monday, Thursday and Friday from 9.30am to 5.30pm (last entry at 5pm); Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 9.30am to 6.30pm (last entry at 6.00pm); closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Opening during public holidays for Easter and Easter Monday, 25 April, 1 May, 2 June 2023. Open on Tuesday 15 August and 31 October 2023. | Price: €8.00 | Distance: 0.38km
Monastery and church of San Giovanni Evangelista
The monastic complex of San Giovanni Evangelista comprises the Church, the Cloister, and the Library of San Giovanni.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Monastery and church of San Giovanni Evangelista!
Address: San Giovanni Evangelista, Piazzale San Giovanni, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Distance: 0.38km
Museums & the Pilotta palace
The Pilotta Palace, located in Parma, Italy, is a monumental complex that houses several remarkable cultural institutions. Originally commissioned by the powerful Farnese family, this palace is now home to the Archaeological Museum, the National Gallery, the Farnese Theatre, and the Palatina Library, offering visitors a rich and diverse cultural experience.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Museums & the Pilotta palace!
Address: Piazza della Pilotta, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Hours: Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10.30am to 7pm (last entrance at 6pm). | Price: € 16.00 | Website | Distance: 0.39km
Teatro Farnese is an exquisite Renaissance theater located within the Palazzo della Pilotta in Parma, Italy. Its construction was completed in 1618 under the direction of Giovanni Battista Aleotti. The vision for this grand theater originated from Ranuccio I Farnese, the Duke of Parma and Piacenza. Tragically, during World War II in 1944, the theatre suffered extensive damage from an Allied air raid. However, it was subsequently painstakingly reconstructed and reopened to the public in 1962.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Teatro Farnese!
Address: Teatro Farnese, Piazza della Pilotta, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Distance: 0.41km
The intricately designed green landscape of the Ducal Park was initially conceived in 1560 and later expanded during the 18th century. It features decorative sculptures by J.B. Boudard and was subsequently adapted to follow the French style of landscaping.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Parco Ducale!
Address: Parco Ducale, Largo Luca Ganzi, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Hours: November to March every day from 7am to 8pm. From April to October every day from 6am to 12am. | Website | Distance: 0.82km
The tourist season in Parma typically commences at the end of March and extends through October, attracting visitors during this period, except for August. Parma also draws tourists during the Christmas holidays, with festive decorations and a grand Christmas tree in the central square.
Visiting Parma in Winter (December – February):
In December, Parma comes alive with colourful Christmas illuminations, celebrating the significant day of December 8, a major feast day in Italy. The spirit of Christmas permeates every street, and Christmas markets offer traditional dishes from various countries, running until the year’s end. In January and February, Parma sees fewer tourists due to its lack of winter landscapes and infrequent snow, which usually melts within a couple of days.
Visiting Parma in Spring (March to May):
The tourist season in Parma begins in late March, making it an excellent time to explore the city. Spring in Parma features sunny and warm weather, providing ideal conditions for visiting the city and its surroundings. May is the prime month to visit Parma, as it offers pleasant temperatures without the intense summer heat and fewer crowds.
Visiting Parma in Summer (June – August):
Summer is the peak tourist season in Parma, characterized by hot and humid weather. On the hottest days, it’s advisable to venture outside the city, such as to the Hundred Lakes park, where the sun is less intense, and the scenery is delightful. Many residents go on vacation in August, resulting in some closures of restaurants and bars. While this may lead to a quieter experience, it’s also a time when some places of interest may be less accessible.
Visiting Parma in Autumn (September – November):
In the first half of September, Parma hosts the Festival of Ham (Festival del Prosciutto), offering free visits to ham production facilities and tastings of the renowned Prosciutto di Parma. However, from mid-October, Parma experiences increased rain and fog, and the tourist season effectively winds down. Therefore, it’s advisable to avoid visiting Parma in November.
Average Temperatures in Parma
- January 10°C 50°F 7
- February 13°C 55°F 10
- March 18°C 65°F 8
- April 21°C 70°F 10
- May 26°C 79°F 13
- June 32°C 89°F 10
- July 35°C 95°F 8
- August 34°C 92°F 9
- September 29°C 84°F 10
- October 24°C 74°F 10
- November 15°C 59°F 13
- December 10°C 50°F 8
Getting to Parma via Plane
Parma is conveniently accessible via several major airports such as Bologna (approximately 1.5 hours by car from Parma, covering a distance of 100 km), Milano Linate (about 2 hours by car from Parma, with a distance of 120 km) and Milano Malpensa (approximately 2.5 hours by car from Parma, spanning 170 km).
Getting to Parma via Train
The train station, located just a 10-minute walk from the historical centre on the Eastern bank of the river, is well-connected. Numerous trains arrive daily from both northern and central Italy, as well as some European cities. The train is often regarded as the most convenient and comfortable means of reaching Parma. You can check the timetables and train categories on the Trenitalia website. It’s advisable to purchase tickets in advance for long-distance trains (Intercity or Freccia) to benefit from lower costs. Tickets for regional trains are available for purchase at any time, and you can obtain them at the station ticket window between 6 am and 9 pm, with automated ticket machines also available.