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

Padova_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 

Eremitani Church

Padova_Eremitani Church

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

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

Padova_Palazzo Bo

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.

Palazzo della Ragione

Padova_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

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

Padova_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

Padova_Duomo

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

Padova_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

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.

Botanical Garden

Padova_Botanical Garden

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.

Basilica of Saint Giustina

Church 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

 

Padova_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.

USEFUL TIPS

  • I suggest to buy a PadovaCardIt 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,

37 replies
  1. Hendrik
    Hendrik says:

    I have been to Verona and Tuscany a couple of weeks a go, a shame that I missed this beautiful spot! Padova looks truly beautiful and reminds me to some other spots I have seen in this area. From your recommendation it seems really to be the perfect spot to be explored on one day. Especially the Botanical garden looks truly inviting as well as the Scrovegni chapel with its beautiful and colorful paintings. I will put this on my next North Italy road trip list!

    Reply
  2. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Gosh, this sounds lovely. I’ve never heard of Padova but it looks amazing. Although, I’d love to visit Venice, all the tourist crowds and cruise ships have put me off but Padova looks charming. Thanks for introducing me to it.

    Reply
  3. Kate werthmann
    Kate werthmann says:

    This really makes it seem like the Italians really cared and knew how to make a building! Not only is the outside art of which I’ve rarely ever seen But the insides are always so spectacular I could cry.

    Reply
  4. Navita Deshpande
    Navita Deshpande says:

    I have realized I have started to enjoy destinations which have great architecture and historic feel. So glad I stumbled upon this post. There are so many things to see in Padova and for 1 day, loved your recommendations. But your pictures share a story that I would love to cover them on our slow travel. Thanks for the useful tips to enable planning including the overnight stay suggestion for hotel.

    Reply
    • admin
      admin says:

      I agree with you, the more time you have the better but I’ve noticed that Padova is usually visited in 1-2 days max and I wanted to sow that it’s feasible to cover pretty much all the main sights. It makes for a fantastic side trip from Venice!

      Reply
  5. Eric Gamble
    Eric Gamble says:

    I totally flaked when I first started reading this. I was like, I have never heard of Padova where the heck in Italy is this? Then I realized that I know it as Padua where the famed St. Anthony of Padua is from. I cant believe I have never been there before! I am definitely adding this to my return trip to Italy! I love all the amazing art everywhere from the churches to the walkways. Also there is something truly amazing about an Astronomical Clock to me! I could just sit in the square staring at it for hours!

    Reply
  6. Kristie
    Kristie says:

    I adore Italy. I’ve been there three times (even got married there…in Florence), but I have not been to Padova. I agree with you that the less touristed cities are often so much more enjoyable. I definitely feel this way about Verona (though it gets a fair amount of tourists, too). I can’t imagine going to such a beautiful university as Padua!

    Reply
  7. Daniel James
    Daniel James says:

    I love coffee and so used to drinking it in Latin America that I’ve not had time to miss it. Cafe Pedrochi sound AMAZING and would definitely have to try one of those mint flavoured coffees. At 5 euros, though, i’d have to take midget sips to endure the flavour.

    Reply
  8. WhodoIdo
    WhodoIdo says:

    What a charming city! How have I not heard of this stunning city and it’s only a 30 min train ride away from Venice. This is a great day trip to take from Venice to get away from the tourists. Padova is filled with beautiful arts, architecture and many cafes. Looks like I’ll need to visit the Caffe Pedrocchi and sample the famous tiramisu!

    Reply
  9. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    I think the question is where in Italy isn’t there a beautiful town!?? I loved the photos and the description of what there is to see and do. I would definitely love to visit the gardens and walk the streets, eating of course! It is too bad not more is done to encourage tourists to Venice to spend time in Padua, especially when the tourists put such a strain on Venice.

    Reply
  10. Amar singh
    Amar singh says:

    Posts like these show us new places. I had never heard of Pedova also before this. The architecture is very close to that of Venice specially the square. Palazzo Bo looks seasons and a great place to stroll around. Keeping in mind easily accessible from Venice makes it a great place to visit if you going to Venice. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Val
      Val says:

      Thanks Amar! My purpose is exactly this – to show you guys all the beauty of Italy, which is much more than just Venice-Florence-Rome, and I’m really happy when I receive comments like yours! 🙂

      Reply
  11. Medha
    Medha says:

    A small town with a bunch of lovely places to see! You’re right, I’ve never heard of Padova and that’s probably because all the spotlight is on Venice and its smaller (probably even more charming) neighbours obviously get ignored! I love the Scrovegni Chapel, the depiction of the Last Judgement is truly an artistic masterpiece! Also, Prato Della valle looks like the sort of place I’d love to enjoy a walk! Such a lovely town, thanks for highlighting it.

    Reply
  12. Blair Villanueva
    Blair Villanueva says:

    I think in Italy, aside from museum hopping you can also so church hopping. Their church structure are magnificent that still stands nowadays, and survived many earthquakes and nature disasters.
    It would nice to have a bicycle and roam around the city 😀

    Reply
  13. federica
    federica says:

    Padova is a real gem and too often ignored because of its vicinity to Venice. I am grateful for this post that will help more foreigners to get to know this wonderful city and discover its stunning art treasures.

    Reply
    • Val
      Val says:

      Thanks Federica! I myself am one of those who’s been ignoring Padova for so long and what a mistake! It’s a truly charming town to explore!

      Reply

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