One Day in Padua, Italy: Uncovering Its Treasures

Are you wondering how to spend one day in Padua?

Then you’re in luck. As I’ve visited Padua (Padova in Italian) twice, I can share my first-hand experiences.

Ready to find out more? Whether you are taking a day trip to Padua or treating yourself to a longer stay, get the lowdown on the best things to see.

an elegant piazza in padua italy with a building with clock tower and people dining in terrace restaurants

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Is Padua Worth a Day Trip?

Padua is one of the most rewarding day trips from Verona or Venice.

In a single day, you can view the UNESCO-listed frescoes that foretold the Renaissance, walk in the footsteps of Dante and Galileo, sip an Aperol Spritz in a shaded portico or take time out in the botanical garden. 

One Day in Padua: Best Things to Do (+ Map)

Padua’s star attractions are the Scrovegni Chapel and the Basilica of St Anthony, which top-and-tail the historic city centre. Without any stops, it will take you around 20 minutes to walk between them.

If you like to map it out, here’s one I prepared earlier. Click on this link or on the image for a live map.

map of the best things to see in one day in padua italy
Best things to see in Padua in a day. Map data @ Google 2023.

1. Be awestruck by Giotto’s frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel

brightly painted frescoes in the scrovegni chapel in padua

I can never get enough of the Scrovegni chapel and it was my main reason for returning to Padua.

Painted between 1303 and 1305, Giotto’s jaw-dropping frescoes are bursting with vibrant colours and emotion and depict real people in real scenes. Think of it as a cinematic trailer for Renaissance art two hundred years before it hit its heights.

Giotto decorated the chapel’s walls with stories of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, culminating with a fresco of The Last Judgement on the rear wall. Don’t miss Il Bacio (“The Kiss”), where Judas ensures Jesus in a traitor’s kiss.

fresco by giotto of judas kissing jesus surrounded by soldiers
The Judas Kiss

You need to book ahead for the Scrovegni Chapel. Same-day reservations are not available.

360-degree tour of the Scrovegni Chapel

2. Explore Padua’s past at the Musei Civici agli Eremitani 

exterior wall of scrovegni chapel behind a rectangular courtyard

Your ticket for the Scrovegni Chapel also gets you into the city’s Civic Museums (Musei Civici agli Eremitani), adjacent to the chapel.

Archaeological artefacts from Padua’s past are displayed on the ground floor of this former monastery.

Climb the stairs to view the museum’s art collection which includes works by Titian, Tintoretto, Giorgione, Veronese, Canova and other Veneto artists. One of the star exhibits is Giotto’s painted wooden crucifix that once hung in the Scrovegni Chapel.

wooden sculpture os a woman's head
I loved this expressive wooden sculpture of Mary Magdalene by Guido Mazzoni

3. Pause for reflection in the Giardini dell’Arena 

pretty pond in a park giardini dell'arena in padua framed by pink blossom

Rather than rush to the next attraction, why not do as I did and stop for a coffee in the lovely Giardini dell’Arena next to the Scrovegni Chapel?

This was one of the first public gardens created in Italy at the beginning of the 20th Century. It was built on the foundations of a Roman amphitheatre, dating from the year 70 AD.

4. Take in the view at Ponte Molino

people walking across an old stone bridge in padua in italy

Ponte Molino is well worth a slight detour.

This five-arched Roman bridge was built across the Bacchiglione River between 30 and 40 AD. Ponte Molino (Mill Bridge) was restored in the Middle Ages and in the 19th Century.

Taking advantage of the fast-flowing water, this area had the largest concentration of mills in Padua. As many as 34 “floating mills” were once crammed under the arches of Ponte Molino.

5. Visit the baptistery of Padua Cathedral

brightly painted interior dome with christ in judgement at the centre

The Scrovegni Chapel is not the only artistic show in town.

In my view, Padua Cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta) is skippable. However, the same can’t be said for its baptistery which was once the private chapel of the Carreresi, Padua’s ruling family.

In the 1370s, they hired Giusto de’ Menabuoi, a Florentine artist, to decorate its walls. The outcome was a remarkable series of frescoes depicting stories from both the Old and New Testaments, concluding with a depiction of Almighty Christ in Paradise on the chapel’s domed ceiling.

6. Touch a saint’s tomb at the Basilica of St. Anthony

Saint Anthony of Padua is revered as a miracle worker and finder of lost things.

Following his death in 1231, work began on the magnificent Romanesque/Gothic Basilica of St. Anthony to house his relics. Today, pilgrims come from far and wide to touch the saint’s tomb and to revere his intact lower jaw and tongue.

The main altar has a glorious crucifix by Donatello, the father of Renaissance sculpture, as well as his sculptures of Mary with Padua’s six favourite saints. Although it was undergoing restoration when I last visited, there’s a mammoth equestrian statue by him outside the basilica.

main altar of padua st anthonys basilica with a large crucifix and sculptures under a domed ceiling

7. Take time out in one of Italy’s largest squares

a line of large classical statues with the domes of a basilica in the background

Padua can trace its history back to Ancient Rome and Prato della Valle was the site of a Roman theatre. It is also where St. Anthony preached.

This elliptical piazza is 400 yards long and features a central island with a canal, fountains and dozens of statues of famous Paduans.

8. Smell the roses in Orto Botanico di Padova

I love a good botanical garden and Padua has the world’s oldest.

Orto Botanico di Padova is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was established as an academic botanical garden in 1545. Thanks to the university’s reputation and the Venetian Republic’s trade and commerce links, it amassed a vast collection of exotic plants from across the globe.

9. Have coffee and cake at the historic Caffè Pedroccchi

large white stone porch with columns and 2 lion sculptures at caffe pedrocchi in padua

Even if you don’t have time for coffee and cake at the legendary Caffè Pedroccchi, the Pedrocchi building in which it is housed is worth a spot on your 1-day Padua itinerary.

It was in this Neoclassical building that the fourth Italian Congress of Scientists met during the 19th Century to stoke nationalistic fervour. You can learn more about the unification of Italy at the Museum of the Risorgimento upstairs.

10. Stock up on lunch supplies at Padua’s markets

Italy does food markets well and Padua is no exception. Fresh local produce is sold in Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta on weekday mornings and all day Saturday.

I preferred the wonderful indoor market on the ground floor of the 13th Century Palazzo della Ragione. Shops in its arcades sell all manner of cooked meats, cheeses and yummy baked goods.

people looking at stall in a vaulted covered market

11. Admire the frescoes in Palazzo della Ragione

people walking across piazza in padua lined by an elegant porticoed palazzo
Exterior of Palazzo della Ragione and Piazza delle Erbe

Also known as il Salone, Palazzo della Ragione was once home to the city’s medieval law courts. There are two reasons to pay to visit the palazzo: the view over Piazza delle Erbe from its loggia and its main hall with its gigantic, anatomically accurate horse.

The Giotto frescoes that once decorated the hall were destroyed in a fire in 1420. They were replaced by the series of 333 frescoes that you see today.

12. Explore Piazza dei Signori

ornate astrological clock on the front of a building in padua italy

Piazza dei Signori is home to another morning market, this time selling clothes, household goods and souvenirs.

A medieval astrological clock in the Torre dell’Orologio decorates the façade of the Palazzo del Capitanio on the western side of the square. This was once the palace of Padua’s ruling family

13. Take a tour of Palazzo Bo

two-level porticoed courtyard with a ball at the centre at palazzo bo in padua

Established in 1222, Padua University is the second oldest university in Italy. Its alumni include Galileo, Copernicus and Dante.

To learn more about the university and its history, I highly recommend joining a student-guided tour of its main historical building, Palazzo Bò.

For me, the highlight was the Anatomy Theatre where students once assembled to observe the dissections of convicted criminals. Constructed in 1595, it was the first of its kind in Europe.

mural of two muscular men with anatomy exposed on either side of a skeleton
Artwork in Palazzo Bò

The Padua Card (Urbs Picta)

Like many Italian cities, Padua has a tourist pass, the Urbs Picta Card.

It comes in two flavours –  48 hours and 72 hours – and gives you one free entry to each of the eight buildings collectively added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2021. These religious and secular buildings house fresco cycles created between 1302 and 1397 by different artists for different types of patrons.

You also get unlimited rides on Padua’s public transport system.

The Urbs Picta Card is unlikely to save you much money but may be more convenient than individual tickets.

You buy it online here and book your Scrovegni Chapel entry slot at the same time.

How to Get to Padua by Train

exterior of green and white trenord train in italy
A regional express train is often your best bet for a day trip to Padua

Thanks to excellent rail connections, Padua is an easy day trip from Verona, Venice or Vicenza, as well as Bologna. In my view, the journey time from Milan is too long to make this a feasible day trip.

You can choose between Italy’s two train operators, Trenitalia and Italo, and high-speed or regional express trains. From most destinations, your best bet will be a Trenitalia regional express (RV) train.

Although the journey time can be slightly longer, fares are often considerably cheaper. And as these prices are fixed, there is no need to book a ticket in advance. Simply buy your ticket from one of the self-service machines at the station when you are ready to travel.

Typical train journey times to Padua

Trenitalia high-speed trains / ItaloTrenitalia regional express trains
From Verona44 minutes58 minutes
From Venice28 minutes28 minutes
From Bologna63 minutes1 hour 41 minutes

You can check train times across both train operators here.

Padua train station lies north of the centro storico, an easy 10 – 15-minute walk from the Scrovegni Chapel.

Where to Next?

I hope that this guide helps you to create wonderful memories in Padua. If you would like to learn more about what to see if you are staying in the Veneto, take a look at these articles: