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Padua (or Padova) is a thriving and historically rich university town that’s well worth visiting for at least a full day. Why should you dedicate time to Padua in comparison to other Italian cities? Well … Padua is home to several stunning churches, colorful frescos, vibrant piazzas, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and so much more.
Not to mention, Padua is a very close train ride to Venice, so it’s an accessible city for most tourists visiting Italy, particularly northern Italy.
To tell you the truth, I personally think a visit to Italy’s Veneto region isn’t fully “complete” without going to Padua.
As a travel destination, Padua is primarily famous for its association with Saint Anthony, and while plenty of pilgrims stop here to see the relics (which are amazing), Venice overshadows Padua and draws away most visitors, which is a shame.
Now I’m not knocking Venice. Actually, I highly recommend Venice for solo travel in Italy, because it’s so beautiful and accessible for visitors.
However, Padua is truly a special gem that deserves just as much love as more popular Italian cities. I wanted to write this post all about the terrific things to do in Padua in one day to convince you to visit this wonderful place too.
As a side note, Padua is also much easier on the wallet than its showier neighbor, so this destination is also perfect for someone who is looking to visit Italy on a budget. I wasn’t exactly frugal with my credit card here, and still managed to stay under the budget that I set for myself, haha.
Without a doubt, you will find plenty of things to do in Padua in one day and I wanted to share my favorite sites in this guide.
11 Amazing Things to Do in Padua in One Day
I want to give you a quick word of warning, however. Padua might be a smaller city, but like everywhere else in Italy, it packs a significant punch.
What I mean is that while it’s possible to see all of these things to do in Padua in one day, but it will be a … very busy 24 hours if you’re a slower traveler who is more accustomed to a leisurely pace.
And if you’re like me and visit Italy in summer, then you need to take some time in the afternoon to cool down and relax.
So feel free to omit some of these activities if they don’t “float your boat.”
The Art of the Aperitivo
Padua has plenty of scenic piazzas (more on them later) where you can relax at cafe and drink an aperitivo. This pre-meal drink is a cultural ritual in Italy. In smaller cities, such as Padua, I absolutely love finding an outdoor seat and ordering an aperol spritz, before watching the world whizz by me.
For example, people-watching in the early evenings, particular in the summer months, is an attraction in and of itself.
And like I already mentioned, trying to see all of Padua in one day is exhausting even for experienced travelers. So it makes sense to set aside some time to drink a refreshing spritz and admire the beauty that surrounds you.
Do a bit of research ahead of time and plan your own “aperitivo” crawl throughout the city. You might even have the opportunity to make new friends if you’re willing to strike up conversations with locals. Be open to people.
The Basilica of Saint Anthony
The Basilica of Saint Anthony is one of the main reasons visitors come to Padua. The basilica is a place of pilgrimage by people from all over the world. On your own visit, you will see many pilgrims, as well as stands selling rosaries, prayer cards, and other religiously important items.
Inside, you will spend a moment at the Tomb of Saint Anthony who died in 1231. Even if you’re not religious, standing at the tomb is an overwhelming experience, especially looking at the photos of loved ones and other offerings that surround this shrine. You will also have a chance to see the relics which include the saint’s tongue, vocal cords, and jaw.
As a word of warning, make sure you’re appropriately dressed to enter the basilica. I saw quite a few people wearing shorts who were turned away at the entrance.
After the basilica, take a stroll to nearby Prato della Valle which is the largest public square in all of Italy.
Food Shops at Ragione Palace
Obviously, one of the best reasons to travel to Italy is the country’s amazing food. To enjoy the best food, though, you’ll want to eat local cuisine. Each region is unique.
Ragione Palace is an incredible medieval market hall that is home to several food vendors, selling fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and so much more. Just be sure to bring some euros with you. Not all vendors accept card payments.
If you want to save some money, shopping at Ragione Palace and putting together your own picnic is the perfect way to eat a high quality meal for a reasonable price. Win/win.
Musei Civici Eremitani
Tired yet? I’m not even close to running out of things to do in Padua in one day! This city is also home to some wonderful museums that are packed with fascinating history.
Musei Civici Eremitani is a complex of museums located right next to Scrovengi Chapel. It’s possible to include access to all museums on the same ticket.
There are a variety of museums to choose from. As for me, my personal favorite museum in this complex was Museo Archeologico. You’ll see very impressive collections of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman artifacts.
Inside the museum is perfect for cooling down in the middle of a summer afternoon, too.
Padua’s 800 Year Old Market
I love European markets. But sometimes timing my visits is challenging if I want to see a particular market. I had no such worries in Padua, though. Every day (except Sunday) is market day in Padua.
Fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers, spices, dried fruits, and more are on every street corner. Don’t be afraid to throw yourself into the scene and buy yourself some delicious treats.
Are you visiting Padua on a Saturday, though? Then don’t miss out on the city’s bustling weekly market where vendors sell non-food items, such as handbags, clothing, and shawls. You’ll never know what gems you’ll discover.
Oh god, where to even begin with Caffe Pedrocchi and their incredible cappuccinos and cakes? My stomach is growling at the mere memories, haha.
Caffe Pedrocchi is the oldest cafe in Padua at 200 years old. You will feel really classy sitting on the elegant patio with your perfect Pedrocchi coffee — which is mint coffee that will make you melt into a puddle of happiness. Seriously, Pedrocchi coffee is some of the best coffee that’s ever touched my tastebuds.
The mint and chocolate cake is … a gift from heaven, too. I wanted to have en entire cake shipped back to New Jersey, haha.
Stop at Caffee Pedrocchi. You won’t regret it. I promise.
Palazzo Bo & The University of Padua
The University of Padua is the second oldest university in Italy and gives this city a youthful, fun vibe throughout all months of the year. In particular, visitors will want to see Palazzo Bo, which is open to the public throughout the year.
Palazzo Bo was the original site for the university’s medical school. You can admire the public art, or sign up for a guided tour here. Tours are conducted in both English and Italian. If you decide to take the tour, one of the highlights is seeing the world’s oldest anatomical theater. Be sure to check times in advance.
Without a doubt, a visit to Palazzo Bo made me indulge in my “study abroad” fantasies, haha.
Piazza dei Signori
Another stunning square in Padua is Piazza dei Signori. In particular, Piazza dei Signori is dominated by its famous and brilliant blue clock tower: Torre dell’Orologio.
Torre dell’Orologio is a glorious astronomical clock that was finished in 1430. In particular, this beautiful clock has zodiac references, and the bright colors make it feel like this masterpiece was designed only yesterday. It’s worth coming to this piazza just for the clock alone.
In Piazza dei Signori, you’ll also see the Winged Lion of St. Mark, which serves as a reminder that Venice is not too far away.
Another one of the most popular attractions in all of Padua is Scrovegni Chapel. Honestly, if you can only do one thing in Padua, then I highly recommend a visit here.
The interior of the chapel contains breathtaking 14th-century fresco cycles by Giotto, an Italian painter from Florence who’s considered one of the earliest Renaissance masters.
You will need to carefully plan your visit to Scrovegni Chapel. These frescos are delicate. Obviously, huge crowds entering the chapel at once would irreparably damage the artwork.
Therefore you need to purchase timed tickets at least 24 hours before your visit to Scrovegni Chapel. From what I know, same day reservations aren’t possible. So book in advance to avoid problems. You also cannot bring big bags into the Chapel, but the staff is great about providing free lockers for your belongings.
Shopping, Shopping, Shopping
Padua has a lot of wonderful shopping options. I was actually surprised at the number and diversity of shops in Padua. You will find multinational chains, such as Sephora and H&M, high-end luxury stores, such as Prada, and many small and local businesses that you won’t see anywhere else in the world.
As a visitor, you can still benefit from Padua’s shops even if you don’t have a ton of money to spend. The elegant and tempting window displays are free to enjoy. I especially loved looking at the window displays for super high-end Italian fashion. The decor is so thoughtfully chosen that you feel like you’re viewing a masterpiece painting at an art museum.
There are a lot of things to do in Padua in one day. But don’t forget to take time for yourself and shop.
University of Padua Botanical Garden
Last but certainly not least is a botanical garden of historical proportions. I’m not even kidding about this.
Without question, another one of the coolest things to do in Padua in one day is to visit the world’s oldest botanical garden at the university. The Orto Botanico di Padova is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and upon visiting this luscious green wonderland, it’s easy to understand why this place is culturally significant.
This exquisite botanical garden was first created in 1545 on the property of the Benedictine monks of St. Justina. Today it maintains it’s original layout, allowing you to step backwards in time.
Padua Travel Tips
In addition to writing all about the things to do in Padua in one day, I wanted to include a couple of tips for how to get around Padua, as well as where to stay in this delightful city.
Fortunately for you, a small city like Padua doesn’t have too many logistical challenges!
How to Get Around Padua
Mostly likely, you will arrive in Padua by train. Padua’s train station is very accessible to the historical city center. I actually was able to walk to my bed and breakfast without needing to take any of the other public transportation options.
Padua also has an efficient tram system for navigating the city. This system has an app for iOS phones to help you determine wait times and tram stops to effectively see everything this city has to offer.
Even if you don’t use public transit at home, I highly recommend trying it in Italy. Both trains and trams are comfortable and clean, and usually (key word) operate on time.
Where to Stay in Padua
Last but not least, I wanted to include some suggestions for your 24 hours in Padua. For a smaller city, Padua has several fantastic options, especially when it comes to bed and breakfasts.
Personally, I love staying in bed and breakfasts in Italy, because I have a better chance to connect with locals and hear their insider recommendations.
- B&B Casa Camilla: If you want a quieter stay, then you will love this tranquil bed and breakfast located in one of Padua’s low key residential areas. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Casa Giotto: Want to splurge a little bit and treat yourself? This highly-rated luxury bed and breakfast is right in the middle of town, offering easy access to all the sites. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Scrovegni Room & Breakfast: I absolutely loved staying at this simple and friendly bed and breakfast. The rooms were comfortable and air-conditioned, and the hosts were incredibly sweet. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
I hope you enjoyed reading about all the great things to do in Padua in one day. You will absolutely fall in love with this gem of a city! As always, feel to reach out to me with your experiences in Padua! I would love to hear about your adventure!