Looking for things to do in Bari, Puglia? Want to know where to stay, how to get there - or just trying to work out whether it's somewhere should visit on your own Puglia road trip? Then this guide to Bari should have you covered!
If you’re visiting Bari, you’re going to fall into one of two camps.
Either you’ve decided that this delightful Italian city will make a great weekend break (it totally would by the way), or it’s just the first stop on a much bigger Puglia road trip. After all, most travellers from the UK will be flying into Bari Airport to start your holiday in this wonderful region in the south of Italy.
Whichever camp you fall into, there’s a handful of things to know that will make your stay (even if it’s just one day in Bari) all that better, including knowing the best things to do in Bari, where to stay, what to eat, how to find the best beaches, and how to use it as your road trip start point.
And that’s where this post comes in - here’s our guide to Bari, the gateway city to Puglia.
Things to do in Bari
Like many of Puglia’s small cities and towns, the majority of what interests visitors to Bari lies within the walls of the old city, or as it’s known here, Bari Vecchia. Narrow stone-lined streets of fading pastels and white, wrought-iron balconies and, of course, those beautiful shuttered windows. If you did nothing but wander, camera in hand, you would still capture the best of what makes Bari such a lovely city. However, there are a few attractions that should be on your list too:
| Visit Castello Normanno-Svevo. This ancient castle, originally built by the Normans in the 12th century, is one of Puglia’s most interesting fortresses and a fascinating example of medieval construction. For more information, including opening times, see here
| Eat seafood straight from the sea. Every lunchtime, as the fishermen return from the sea with their daily haul, tables will be set up upon the lungomare (sea shore) for the most incredible raw seafood lunch. Oysters, calamari, sea urchins, prawns, octopus, mussels; a plate will cost 5 Euro, and you can choose any mix you like, alongside bread and lemons. Everyday, down by the sea, in front of the Margherita Theatre.
| Head on a bike tour. Covering Bari Vecchia and the coast, on this two hour bike tour you’ll visit the main sites of the city as well as the local beaches and the fish market. You’ll even get to sample some local treats. The tour costs € 25, for more information click here.
| Take a ride on the Ferris wheel. Impossible not to feel a little like a kid when you board a carriage that takes you up, up, up and away. Located at the water’s edge, a ride in the Ferris wheel provides spectacular views over Bari.
| Enjoy all the street food. Focaccia, panzerotti, sgagliozze… Puglia’s street food game is strong and you could easily survive without having a proper sit down meal! If you fancy combining your Bari explorations with delicious street food, consider this tour. € 45 gets you a three-hour tour and lots of treats.
| Head to the beach. If your visit falls during the hot summer months, a visit to one of the city’s beaches may be just what you want. Scroll down the page for all our Bari beaches recommendations.
| Stroll along the Lungomare Promenade. Blue and white fishing boats bobbing in the still water, and tranquil views out to the horizon; no trip to Bari would be complete without a walk along the promenade. Enjoyable at any time of the day, but especially lovely at golden hour, and a wonderful way to build up an appetite for dinner!
| Take a cooking class. The type of pasta you eat in one Italian region to the next is very specific; in Puglia orecchiette (translated as ‘little ears’) is the one type you absolutely have to try and if you wander around slowly, you will still see elderly woman at their windows and doorways preparing it. You’ll find orecchiette on the menu in every restaurant you visit, but to really understand how it is made, why not join an authentic cooking class. See this link to find out more.
| Visit Spazio Murat in Piazza Ferrarese. If, after enjoying everything the old town has to offer you’re craving a little of the new, head to Spazio Murat, Bari’s premier contemporary art space - and don’t forget to pop into its concept store, the Puglia Design Store. The exhibitions is closed on Mondays but otherwise open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.
The Best Beaches in Bari
You may be wondering why we’re talking about beaches here, but the truth is, one of the most common questions we get asked by our readers is for a recommendation of some of the best beaches to visit from Bari. It therefore only seemed fitting to create this little section, and point all the beach-lovers in the right direction of some sandy (or as is common in the region, pebbly) loveliness.
The first thing to know, if you’re still very much in the planning stages for your Bari / Puglia holiday, is that the very best beaches of the region are not in Bari. The city has a couple in and around it, but if you’re craving Italian sun, sea, and sand in summer, then your best bet is to use a cheap flight to Bari as an access point to the region and take a Puglia road trip to some wonderful beaches and coves. We’ve shared more info on how to do this in the next section, but all you need to know right now is that a road trip really is the best way to discover all that Puglia has to offer.
Pane e Pomodoro
Whilst this is certainly not Bari’s prettiest beach, it’s definitely its closest, and an ideal option for those that want to feel the sand between their toes but not have to travel far from the city centre. Just be warned that if you visit on the weekend, you’ll be fighting with other people for space as this beach can get incredibly crowded.
Facilities | Lockers, restaurants, toilets, kids play area.
How to get there | Around a 15 minute walk from Bari city centre, or you can hop on a local bus.
Lido San Francesco alla Rena
Just a little further out of town you’ll find the wide beach of Lido San Francesco alla Rena. As it’s ‘lido’, this beach has a fee associated with it (up to €20 in high season), which secures you two sun beds and an umbrella (this type of arrangement is standard at ‘lidos’ in Italy).. Beach quality is comparable to Pane e Pomodoro, but having to pay to enter means that it tends to be a little less crowded.
Facilities | Sun loungers and umbrellas, pizzeria.
How to get there | Take bus number 22 or 27 from Bari centrale. It’s also possible to walk but do note that if you plan to visit during the heat of a summer’s day, that it’s a 4km walk!
Cala Paura (Lama Monachile)
Whilst technically in pretty Polignano a Mare, at only thirty minutes from Bari, Cala Paura definitely deserves a mention. Though it’s pebbles rather than sand you’ll find here, the spectacular view of limestone cliffs, aquamarine waters and white-washed houses more than make up for that. For more information on Polignano a Mare and its Insta-famous beach, see this guide.
Facilities | No facilities exist on this small beach, but as it is in the centre of Polignano, everything you need is right there!
How to get there | Drive or take a train. More information about transport options from Bari to Polignano is available here.
Spiaggia di Porto Cavallo
Located 3 km north of Polignano a Mare, Porto Cavallo is a lovely little sandy beach with crystal clear water. As it is quite small, it can get pretty packed but is a wonderful alternative to the pebble beach of Cala Paura.
Facilities | Parking. If you need food or an umbrella, it’s advisable to bring your own.
How to get there | Accessible by car only.
Beginning Your Puglia Road Trip From Bari
As one of only two airports in the Puglia region, if you’re planning on embarking upon your very own Puglia road trip, there’s a good chance that you’ll be flying into Bari airport - in fact, during our two visits to Puglia, this has been our entry and exit airport.
On our first visit we chose to have a night in Bari, and then head back to the airport to pick up our rental car (tip: this wasn’t the smartest choice), the second time, we visited here on our way back for a day and night, and parked in the city.
You may choose to go straight from Bari airport onto your first stop, spend one day in Bari or a couple of nights before moving on, or save your time in the city for the last days of your road trip - it really is up to you and your travel style!
We found and rented a car each time we travelled in Puglia via AutoEurope.
Car Parking in Puglia
If you’re hiring a car from the airport and spending a couple of days in Bari before heading off on your road trip - and a little anxious about driving through and parking in Bari’s tiny streets - consider the Parcheggio di Porto. This multi-storey car park near the port is well located and less than 10 Euros for overnight parking.
Useful Posts to read next
14 Things to Know Before a Puglia Road Trip (includes top tips for first time drivers in Italy)
Where to Stay in Bari
Imbriani Guest House | This is our budget pick for Bari, with doubles going for as little as £47 per night! Excellent location in a quiet neighbourhood, this modern guest house is tastefully furnished with all the amenities one would expect. For more information or to check prices and availability, click here.
Travel B&B | Family owned and run, this cute little B&B is all about the cool and quirky design with good sized rooms, some with terraces overlooking Piazza Aldo Morro. Excellent location opposite the central station is ideal for those looking to do day trips. Doubles from £70 a night. For more information or to check prices and availability, click here.
Hotel Imago | We love the aesthetic of this 4* hotel - white walls, minimal, sleek design and an amazing roof terrace. Good breakfast, great location and helpful staff. Doubles start from £91 per night. For more information or to check prices and availability, click here.
B&B Murex | This is such a cute little place to stay, run by a young couple. Just outside the walls of the old town, the hotel is located in an old building that has recently been sensitively but stylishly restored. Also has terrace with delightful views. Doubles start from £70 a night. For more information or to check prices and availability, click here.
If luxury is more your thing, then check out Vittorio's Luxury Suites. Rooms start at £120 per night, but they are beautiful.
Bari, somewhat unsurprisingly, is absolutely bursting at the seams with Airbnb options. Which is why we’ve put together a post on ‘The Best Airbnbs in Bari’. So, head on over there! (Pssst, it’s coming, promise).
Bari has not yet developed the stylish hostel scene that you find in other important European cities, but a couple have opened in the last couple of years; this is our pick.
Olive Tree | Just a seven minute walk from the train station, this popular hostel has bright and spacious rooms, a large sunny terrace and guest kitchen. The also arrange tours to the surrounding region. Dorms start from £17 a night. For more information and to check availability, click here.
How to Get to Bari
Puglia’s massive uptick in popularity over the last few years means that there are plenty of flights now arriving into this relatively small airport on a daily basis (click here to check flights from your local airport), and getting into the city is cheap and straightforward.
Bari Airport Train
The quickest way into central Bari, taking just 13 minutes and leaving every 45 minutes. Do note that the airport is a stop between Bitonto to Bari Centrale therefore trains will not wait on platform for long.
Bari Airport Bus
Airport Shuttle Bus | Run by the company Autostradale, the shuttle bus runs every half hour from the airport to the central train station in Bari. The cost is €4, and the buses depart from the front of the departures terminal
Local Bus | The cheapest way to get to Bari city centre involves hopping on the No. 16 bus which passes through the airport and terminates at Piazza Moro. The first bus departs at 5.10 a.m., the last at 9.35 a.m., and it costs €1 each way. Full timetable can be found here.
Taxi From Bari Airport
Taxi services are available 24 hours a day from outside arrivals and should cost no more than €20 for the journey into Bari city centre. Note: Use one of the reputable services companies (EuroTaxi, Radiotaxi or Taxi Apulia) as unofficial drivers have been known to inflate prices once you arrive at your destination.
Onward travel with public transport
Buses and trains depart central Bari to various spots along the coast, the rest of Puglia and elsewhere in Italy. If you're using public transport to travel in Puglia, then check out Omio which is a fantastic free app for anyone travelling independently in Europe. It gives train and bus times, designs the easiest or cheapest route from A to B, and lets you book tickets centrally and easily in your own language.