The historic city of Padua is worth visiting at least for the day when you are in northern Italy: it is an easy day trip by train from Venice, Verona, or Bologna. Read on to discover the best things to do in Padua in just one day!
Padua is an ancient city: among the oldest cities in northern Italy. It was a wealthy city during Roman times.
From the early part of the 15th century, Padua was under Venetian rule for about 400 years. Thereafter, it came under the rule of Napoleon, and then Austria, before coming under the Kingdom of Italy.
You’ll find beautiful art and architecture to admire in Padua, as well as the opportunity to sample some of the region’s excellent food and wine.
Not on the heavily-trodden tourist trail, Padua is both refreshing and engaging.
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THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN PADUA: 1-DAY ITINERARY with Map
Also known as Padova, Padua is located on the Bacchiglione River in the Veneto region. Home to the second-oldest university in Italy, Padua is a vibrant town, with lively piazzas and cafes.
Wandering around the centro storico is a joy, with beautiful buildings everywhere! We spent about eight hours in Padua, on a day trip from Verona, and felt we had adequate time to cover the major sights without feeling rushed.
In one day in Padua, you can admire the Scrovegni Chapel, visit the Basilica of Saint Anthony, stroll the botanical garden of Padua, and wander the historic core of the city.
Here, then, are the best things to do in Padua in one day:
#1 Gaze in awe at the Scrovegni Chapel
Your first stop in Padua should be the Scrovegni Chapel. The chapel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and admiring the frescoes here is one of the best things to do in Padua.
The chapel is dedicated to Santa Maria della Carità. The exterior of the church is modest, but inside you’ll find Giotto’s fabulous frescoes, completed in the early part of the 14th century.
Commissioned by the wealthy banker Enrico Scrovegni, the chapel was completed by Giotto with the assistance of over three dozen painters. All the walls, and the ceiling, are painted, making for a magnificent interior.
The fresco cycles depict the life of the Virgin and the life of Christ, as well as the Vices and Virtues and the Last Judgment. Scenes are arranged chronologically in each horizontal cycle.
The vaulted ceiling shows a starry sky, with paintings of Christ, Mary, and the Prophets.
Giotto is considered the pre-eminent Italian painter of the 14th century. His frescoes here are considered revolutionary, and influenced many important painters to come.
Admission is restricted to a limited number per timed slot. Before you enter the chapel, you have to spend some time in a special dehumidifying chamber, where you will watch a movie about the frescoes.
Book your ticket for the chapel online, to be assured of the date and time you want to visit. Pre-booking is mandatory. Tickets are non-refundable but you can book as late as the day before your visit.
The Padua Card (minimum validity 48 hours) is a great deal, because for a nominal additional amount you get free entry to several other attractions in town.
If you are an art enthusiast, you may wish to book a private walking tour of Padua that includes the Scrovegni Chapel. This highly rated tour lasts 2 hours and 30 minutes and provides an excellent overview of the town plus a guided experience at the highly acclaimed chapel.
#2 Admire the Basilica di Sant’Antonio di Padova
The Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua is enormous. Known simply as “il Santo,” the basilica is a renowned place of pilgrimage. We happened to visit on the Feast Day in June, and there were hundreds of pilgrims in town for the celebration.
Built largely in the 13th century, the structure is dominated by its Byzantine domes, reminiscent of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. The exterior is Romanesque. Its architect is unknown.
The interior is Gothic, with multiple chapels and art works of significance. The magnificent Baroque Chapel of the Relics is from the 17th century. It features six beautiful statues and several relics.
The ornate main altar contains Donatello’s bronze Madonna with Child, along with six statues of different saints, also completed by the master sculptor.
#3 Tour Palazzo Bo at the University of Padua
Palazzo Bo, in the centro storico, is the historical seat of the University of Padua. It can only be visited on a guided tour. The tour is available in Italian and in English. Admission is discounted with the Padova Card.
The University of Padua is the second oldest university in Italy, after the University of Bologna, and was, in fact, established by a group of academicians and students from Bologna in search of more academic freedom.
Palazzo Bo houses the 16th century Anatomy Theater and the Hall of the Forty, which contains the portraits of famous alums and the original chair used by Galileo, who taught here.
The architecture is gorgeous and the history fascinating, so do not miss this tour when you visit Padua! Call the previous day to confirm a spot in the tour you wish to join.
#4 Stroll through the markets of Padua
In the heart of the historical center of Padua, there are a series of piazzas that run into one another. Here, in the Piazza delle Erbe, you’ll find a lively open market, which is held every weekday morning and all through the day on Saturdays.
The market has reportedly been operating for over eight centuries! Isn’t that amazing? The colors, sights, and sounds of a bustling open market are an irresistible draw for me!
We saw stalls featuring beautiful fresh seasonal vegetables, fruit, herbs, and small live plants. Fresh flowers, eggplant, and strawberries provided bursts of color. We also saw stalls selling beans and soup mixes.
In the basement of the Palazzo della Ragione, you’ll find a closed market offering meats, cheeses, and prepared foods. The shops were doing great business, with locals shopping and chatting.
Stroll to the two neighboring piazzas: Piazza della Frutta and Piazza dei Signori, where you can browse stalls hawking clothing, and knick knacks.
#5 Step into the Duomo di Padua…
The Padua Cathedral is located in its own square, much quieter than the square where the Basilica di Sant’Antonio is located. There are a couple of restaurants on the periphery, and the square is a nice place to sit and rest your feet for a few minutes.
The third structure built at the site, the cathedral has a modest incomplete facade, with grey topped dome and bell tower. Sadly, it was closed when we visited, so we could not go in.
#6 …And into the Battistero
The Baptistery building is next door to the Duomo. It is richly decorated with frescoes, created in the 14th century by Giusta de Menabuoi, and well worth stepping inside.
Restoration work was in progress when we visited, but we were able to go in and view the frescoes. Most of the walls, and the ceiling, are covered with frescoes.
#7 Tour the gorgeous Palazzo della Ragione
Located on the Piazza delle Erbe, the Palazzo della Ragione is gorgeous. Built in the 13th century, it functioned as Padua’s town hall and palace of justice until almost the end of the 18th century.
The upper floor of the building is one vast hall. It is, in fact, one of the largest such halls from the middle ages. But even before you enter, prepare to be enthralled by the beautiful ceiling of the passageway outside.
Inside the hall, most of the wall surface is covered with frescoes. There are hundreds of them! They depict the astrological theories of Pietro d’Abano, a professor at the University of Padua in medieval times.
There is a huge wooden horse on one side of the hall. It is based on Donatello’s Gattamelata, which stands in the Piazza del Santo. On the opposite side is a cool version of the Foucault Pendulum.
On the bottom floor is a closed market, where shops and delis sell local foods. We bought small chunks of a variety of cheeses to nibble on and they were all delicious!
#8 Gape at the size of the Prato della Valle
Padua is home to the largest piazza in Italy: the Prato delle Valle. The oval-shaped plaza has an island in the middle, and a moat around the island. On the periphery of the plaza is a double ring of statues.
The plaza is lined with palazzos, and on the bright summer day when we visited, it appeared to be a popular place for locals to relax or stroll in the sunshine.
#9 Visit the Orto Botanico
Dating back to the mid 16th century, Padua’s botanical garden is one of the oldest in the world. It is a beautiful garden, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Home to over 7,000 specimens and 3,500 different varieties of flora, the garden aims to protect biodiversity. Its size is deceptive: it is actually quite a bit larger than we expected.
The greenhouse and water garden are lovely. Water lilies were in bloom when we visited. The Hortus cinctus, with its collection of herbs, medicinal plants, and poisonous species, is a fascinating stroll.
The garden also has a collection of insectivorous plants, and preserves rare and endangered species from the region. We thoroughly enjoyed our walk through the garden!
#10 Step into history at the Caffè Pedrocchi
A unique building with a unique history, the Caffè Pedrocchi is a must-visit when you are in Padua. We had coffee and cake here at the end of our day in Padua. The coffee was excellent and the cake delicious. If you sit outside, you can people watch as well.
The cafe opened in the 18th century, and is famous both for its architecture, with an eclectic mix of style in its different rooms, and because it quickly became a meeting place for famous literary and artistic figures as well as political activists.
Until the early part of the 20th century, the cafe never closed: and it had no doors, so patrons could come in at whatever hour of day or night they chose.
If you visit the museum on the upper floor, you’ll see a portrait of Antonio Pedrocchi, the son of the founder and the second-generation owner-manager of the cafe.
#11 Take a boat trip on the Padua canals
Many cities in the Veneto region boast a network of canals, created in medieval times to enhance trade. Canals built centuries ago connect Padua with Venice, and were used to transport people, and merchandise, back and forth.
Now, with the trains having taken over the function of transportation, the canals in the Veneto region are used for pleasure trips for tourists.
From Padua you can take a boat trip along the Brenta River to admire the beautiful Villas of the Veneto, or along the Bacchiglione River to Selvazzano, or even from Padua to Venice during the summer months.
On a day trip, you likely will not have time for a river cruise, but you can still snap photos of the beautiful canals. And if you are in the region for longer, definitely consider the full day cruise from Padua to Venice, with stops at some beautiful villas en route!
#12 Visit the Chiesa degli Eremitani
Very close to the Scrovegni Chapel, you will find the historic Chiesa degli Eremitani. Built towards the end of the 13th and start of the 14th centuries, the church was richly decorated with frescoes.
Sadly, the church was a victim of bombing during WWII. It has been restored and you can admire its beautiful wood ceiling and the remains of the original frescoes.
Among the frescoes still viewable are fragments by a young Mantegna, painted in the mid 15th century.
#13 Wander the historic center
Padua has a picturesque historic core, with lots of large beautiful piazzas and stunning architecture. Allow some time to just wander the streets to take in the vibe of the charming university town, and don’t forget to keep looking up at all the beautiful facades.
We are always on the lookout for great gelato wherever we gtravel in Italy, and Padua did not disappoint in this respect. In the historic center, you’ll find delicious gelato at Mami Gelato al Volo, so pop in if you pass it on your wander!
Getting into Padua
Most visitors to Padua will arrive here from Venice, Verona, or Bologna. Padua is doable as a day trip from any of these destinations, so if you enjoy art and history, make sure you add it to your itinerary for northern Italy!
If you have a car, you can drive to Padua. The driving distance to Padua, and the driving time in normal traffic, is as follows:
Venice to Padua: About 26 miles, around 40 minutes
Verona to Padua: About 56 miles, approximately one hour and 10 minutes
Bologna to Padua: About 73 miles, around one hour and 30 minutes
You could do Padua as a day trip from Milan, but it would be a long day. The distance is about 152 miles, and it will take you around 2 hours and 45 minutes to drive from Milan to Padua in normal traffic.
If you drive, park in one of the city parking lots and then explore on foot.
Looking to book a car rental for your Europe trip? When we’ve looked for car rentals in Europe, we have found great deals on Discover Cars. They offer cars from all the major providers.
A fast train from Verona to Padua takes about 44 minutes. Regional train times vary, but you can pick one of the faster choices, which takes about 58 minutes. There are multiple departures each day in both directions.
A fast regional train from Venice to Padua takes about 28 minutes. There are numerous departures in both directions each day.
You can get from Bologna to Padua by direct fast train in about one hour, with multiple departures each day in both directions. A regional train takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes, but is much cheaper.
A fast train from Milan takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes to get to Padua.
It will take you about 10 minutes to walk from the train station in Padua to the Scrovegni Chapel, and another 15 minutes to get to the historic center. You can also take a bus or a tram to get into the city center. They run frequently and go to all the major sights.
To book bus (and train) tickets for Europe in advance, consider Omio. I found the booking experience easy and hassle-free. They do charge a small service fee but I thought it was well worth the convenience!
Getting around in Padua
You can walk to all the major sights in Padua, because they are not very far apart from one another, and strolling the streets of the city center is fun.
But Padua has a very efficient bus and tram network if you do not enjoy walking or have mobility issues. And it has a bike sharing service as well, with 24-hour service and more than 2 dozen stations.
The best time to visit Padua
From a weather perspective, spring and fall are ideal times to visit Padua. Daytime temperatures are pleasant, making wandering outdoors a joy.
Summer daytime temperatures tend to be hot, and humid as well. And winters are quite cold, so you’ll want to bundle up if you visit then.
The Padua Card
The Padova Card is available for 48 or 72 hours. If you plan to visit several of the sights on my list, you’ll find that the 48-hour card is convenient and saves you money, even if you are visiting for the day.
Although you can buy the Padua card online in advance, especially if you want to reserve your slot at the Scrovegni Chapel ahead of time, you can also buy it on the day of your visit.
So there you have it: the best things to do in Padova on a day trip! If you have not yet visited Padova, I hope I have inspired you to consider adding it to your itinerary for your next trip to northern Italy!
Planning a visit to Italy? It’s one of our favorite destinations in Europe, and we’ve visited multiple times! Check out my Italy guide for lots of ideas on where to go and what to do, or our itinerary for spending three weeks in Italy on your first trip to the country.
From large historic cities like Florence and Rome to small towns like Siena and Orvieto, we’ve covered quite a bit of Italy. You’ll find detailed insights on what to see and do, itineraries, and suggestions for where to stay and eat.
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