Padua (Padova in Italian) is a prosperous place with a charming old town, lovely parks and some great cafes and restaurants. It really is a shame that so few tourists ever discover this gem and those that do only seem to visit the incredible chapel.
There is only one hotel that I can recommend, it is the
The Belludi is a small family run hotel right in the heart of Padova.
Everything about the hotel is excellent and it is very reasonable too.
I don't know what it is but eveyone working here seems to absolutely love what they do. Well done to the Belludi family for a really lovely little hotel.
If you can't get into the Belludi then the Hotel Giotto is a great alternative.
The first is the university, which was founded in 1222 and which is one of the oldest in the world. Its location here gives the town a pleasant student town feel.
The other huge attraction is the 14th century Scrovegni Chapel featuring famous frescoes by Giotto. These frescoes have been increasingly damaged over the years by air pollution and a major project of restoration is being undertaken at present. The frescoes remain open to the public.
Many tourist who do come to Padua only come for a quick trip to see the chapel. It's definitely worth coming all the way here for but why not see a little more while here? My advice is to spend a night here.
The chapel is so popular with tourists that you should ideally book in advance – particularly during the summer months of July and August. You can do this through the official Chapel site.
The Monselice Castle, built in the 13th century is most definitely worth a visit and so are some of the museums in Padova and its surrounds.
I particularly like the museum of river boats. River boats have played such a big part in the history of this area and I know nothing about boats so the museum was an interesting learning experience.
The Glass Museum features some beautiful pieces and if you have kids, like me, then I suggest that you take them to Butterfly World where they can walk amongst 400 of the world’s most beautiful butterflies.
They claim it is one of the biggest butterfly parks in the world - can't say if that is true though. The other Veneto butterfly park in Santorso claims the same thing.
The 13th century Il Santo church, officially the Basilica di Sant'Antonio da Padova, is the main church to see in Padua and it is gorgeous. I reckon it's worth coming to Padua just to see this one church.
There's also a fabulous botanical garden, a great outdoor market next door to the magnificent 12th century Palazzo della Ragione and the Prato delle Valle. Not sure how to describe the Prato delle Valle, it's sort of a huge piazza/park with 78 statues of famous people dating back to the 18th century. A lovely spot to relax and watch the world pass by.
Details of all these places and useful maps of Padua can be found at the local tourist office, next to the main station. For more photos of the city click here.
Padua has a good public transport network and if you are spending more than 48 hours in the town get the Padova Card which costs from €16 upwards, depending on how long you want it for. The card allows you unlimited use of public transport and free entrance to the Scrovegni Chapel and twelve museums in the town. You can get it from the tourist office or from most hotels.
One last thing, or two, to do…
Take a boat trip up the Brenta, not that cheap but it is an interesting and enjoyable day out with plenty to see plus you get a discount if you have the Padova Card.
Then of course there are the famous spas near here so why not go in for a little pampering? Have a look at our spa guide for more.