Padova is a delightful university town that combines impressive art, beautiful Medieval architecture and a buzzing historic center. It will make for a great side trip during your stay in Venice.
Having rockstar Venice as a neighbor doesn’t really help. One gets automatically ignored. But there are plenty of reasons to visit Padova. It’s one of the oldest cities in northern Italy, home to an illustrious university, a famous saint, stunning artistic treasures and magnificent piazze.
I’ve put together an itinerary with all the best things to see in Padova that you can cover in one day, just like I did. At the end of the article you’ll find a map summarizing all the places mentioned in this article.
Here’s what you can see in Padova in one day
The Scrovegni Chapel
This is one of the highlights of any visit to Padova. It’s a private chapel belonging to the Scrovegni family, a rich local family, that contains an artistic masterpiece realized by the Tuscan master Giotto: a huge depiction of the Last Judgement. The walls of the chapel are covered in 39 sequential frescoes illustrating the lives of the Virgin Mary and Jesus that culminate withe the grandiose Universal Judgement on the wall opposite to the altar. The great realism and the emotional narrative of the scenes will mesmerize you!
It is recommended to book the visit at least one day in advance, but I turned up on the day and got a spot on the first tour available that day. I guess I was just lucky, so it’s better to be safe and make your booking – you don’t want to miss this jewel!
- Address: Piazza Eremitani, 8
- Tickets: €13, including entrance to the Eremitani Civic Museum (which I didn’t visit, though).
- Further info: visit the Scrovegni Chapel website
Just a few steps from the Scrovegni Chapel you’ll find the Eremitani Church, which may seem fairly simple at first glance but pretty impressive inside. This huge and peaceful building was once one of the most important churches of Padua, but was badly damaged during WWII – the church had the misfortune of being located right next to Padova’s Nazi headquarters. Almost all of the beautiful frescoes realized by Mantegna in one of the chapels were destroyed. You can pay a small fee to turn the lights on and admire the puzzle-like pieces that have survived.
- Address: Piazza Eremitani, 9
- Tickets: free entrance
Caffè Pedrocchi is an historic cafè opened in central Padua in 1831. In its heyday, it was the meeting place for illustrious intellectuals, artists and writers such as D’Annunzio, Balzac and Stendhal. It later became a major gathering point for patriots during the 1848 riots against the Habsburg monarchy.
It’s located in a stunning building that doesn’t look at all like a standard cafè (in fact, it took me a bit to realize it was it!) and features a series of elegant rooms and meeting venues, the most famous being the Green, the White and Red, representing the colors of the Italian flag.
Although you can dine here, I suggest to visit only for a drink or coffee. Not to miss is their famous caffè Pedrocchi, a mint-flavored coffee. I’ve also heard that the tiramisù is delicious, but I haven’t tried it
- Address: Via VIII Febbraio, 15
- Prices: €5 for a Caffè Pedrocchi, €6 for a slice of tiramisù
- Further info: visit the Caffè Pedrocchi website
Palazzo Bo and Anatomic Museum
Palazzo Bo is the seat of the university of Padua, founded in 1222. It is one of the oldest European universities and the second oldest in Italy. Illustrious figures studied here, including Copernicus, Erasmus from Rotterdam, the poet Torquato Tasso and Eleonora Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, the first woman in the world to receive an academic degree.
The inner courtyard and the Aula Magna are covered in coats of arms, portraits and other interesting memorabilia. The complex houses also the oldest surviving permanent anatomical theatre in Europe, built in 1594 to carry out anatomy studies.
Palazzo Bo can be visited with guided tours only, which include also a visit to the anatomical theatre.
- Address: Via 8 Febbraio, 2
- Tickets: €7
- Further info: University of Padua website
Palazzo della Ragione
Just a couple of minutes walk from Palazzo Bo is Palazzo della Ragione, a stunning medieval palace dating back to the XIII century that was once the seat of the local law courts. The interiors are a treasure trove of stunning frescoes on astrology and interesting items such as a giant wooden horse (commissioned in the XV century for a public carnival), the reproduction of the Foucault’s pendulum (an homage to the connection between Padova and the scientific world) and the stone of shame (used to punish insolvent debtors). The open loggia on the second floor is the perfect place to watch the local street life.
Underneath the vaults of Palazzo della Ragione there’s a gallery called “Sotto il Salone”, Padova’s 800-year-old covered market, with a fantastic array of artisanal food and wine shops.
- Address: Piazza delle Erbe, entrance via the staircase “Scala dei Ferri”
- Tickets: €6
Piazza dei Frutti and Piazza delle Erbe
Palazzo della Ragione sits between Piazza della Frutta and Piazza delle Erbe, the beating heart of Padova’s social life. They are home to bustling markets by day and a lively cafe scene after dusk. Pretty coffee shops and restaurants line their perimeter.
Piazza dei Signori and the Clock Tower
Piazza dei Signori is another important piazza in Padova. Perhaps a bit austere compared to the previous two, it is lined with elegant buildings and nice eateries and bars. Overlooking Piazza dei Signori is the imposing astronomical clock tower that dates back to the XIV century and is one of the oldest in the world.
Dome of Padova
Only a few steps from Piazza dei Signori is the Dome of Padova. It didn’t particularly impress me, as it’s fairly plain and unadorned. Particularly interesting is the Romanesque Baptistery next door, whose interiors are decorated with a series of beautiful frescoes depicting scenes from the Old and New Testament.
- Address: Piazza del Duomo
- Tickets: free, but you’ll have to pay €3 to visit the Baptistery
Old Jewish Quarter
Just south of Piazza delle Erbe is the old Jewish Ghetto, founded in 1603 and then abolished in 1797. Here you can visit the interesting Museum of Jewish Padova and take a guided tour that brings you also to the synagogues.
I found this part of town particularly charming, with its little porticoed and cobblestone streets and the cute little shops.
- Address: Via S.Martino e Solferino
- Tickets for the museum: €8
- Further info: visit the Museum of Jewish Padova
Basilica of Saint Anthony
This is Padova’s most important religious site and a much revered pilgrimage site, since it houses the tomb of Saint Anthony, the patron saint of the city and a key religious figure known for his kindness towards children, the poor and the sick.
Pilgrims gather to pray and place their hands on the marble slab covering the tomb of Saint Anthony, and then reach the Treasury Chapel to venerate the relics of the saint. Here you can see, among other things, the saint’s tongue and his vocal apparatus, symbolically witnessing his work of evangelization. Visiting this basilica is a truly profound and unforgettable experience, even for non-believers.
- Address: Via Orto Botanico, 11
- Ticket: free entrance
- Further info: visit the Basilica of Saint Anthony official website
The Botanical Garden of Padova is the oldest university botanical garden still in its original location. It was founded in 1545 and is a UNESCO world heritage site since 1997. The garden serves as a repository for botanical knowledge and hosts about 7,000 precious plant and flower species, including a huge oriental plane that was planted in the garden in 1680.
The Botanical Garden is a nice hidden corner of town where you can take a refreshing walk under the shade of the trees especially in warm summer days. The place is dotted with benches where you can pause to admire the plants.
- Address: via Orto Botanico, 15
- Tickets: €10
- Further info: visit the Botanical Garden website
Basilica of Saint Giustina
The Basilica of Saint Giustina is the second most important pilgrimage site in Padova after the Basilica di Saint Anthony. It is huge indeed and contains some interesting paintings and artworks. The church is dedicated to Giustina, the other patron saint of Padova, and houses the tomb of Luke the Evangelist.
- Address: Prato della Valle
- Tickets: free entrance
Prato della Valle
Prato della Valle is one of Padova’s landmarks. It sits at the very end of via Roma, the town’s main street, and is therefore the perfect spot to end your walk around Padova. With its 90,000 square meters, Prato della Valle is the biggest square in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. At the center of the square there is a grassy park surrounded by a water ring dotted with 78 statues of famous citizens, which makes it truly unique.
Prato della Valle is a favorite gathering spot for the locals and during the warm months people flock here to sunbath, play football or simply chat under the shade. Quick tip: on Saturdays the square hosts a huge market and you’ll hardly be able to take decent photos and enjoy the beauty of the place.
How to get there
Traveling to Padova from Venice is easy and cheap. The train trip from Venezia Santa Lucia or Venezia Mestre to Padova takes about 30-45 minutes. Remember that with Trenitalia you can choose between two types of trains: the regional train costs €4,25, while the Frecciarossa high speed train will cost you €18 and would save you just about 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can catch a train with Italo prices are currently €10 for a 30-minute train ride . Of course, you can reach Padova very easily also from Milan, with trains departing regularly from the Central Station.
- I suggest to buy a PadovaCard. It costs €16 and allows you to visit all key sites for free or at a reduced rates (including the Scrovegni Chapel) and to use the public transports for 48h
- I had a delightful lunch at Caffè della Piazzetta in the old Jewish quarter, while for dinner I tried Nane della Giulia , an old-school trattoria serving delicious traditional food in a cozy ambience.
- If you are planning to stay overnight (and I highly recommend it), a good place is Hotel S. Antonio in via S. Fermo, an excellent location within walking distance to the heart of the historic center. Rooms are simple and clean, the staff is great and rates are really good, check it out on Booking.com
Until next time,