Parma Travel Guide

What to See and Do in Parma

parma cathedral photo
James Martin

Parma, in northern Italy, is famous for its art, architecture, cheese and ham, but few tourists come to appreciate its considerable charms. Parma is an elegant city with a compact historic zone and its Romanesque cathedral and 12th century Baptistery are stunning.

Parma is in the Emilia Romagna Region between the Po River and the Appennine Mountains, south of Milan and north of Florence. See this Parma map for a closer look at its location and how to tour a cheese producing facility.

Food Specialties in Parma:

Wonderful ingredients come from the Parma region, including Parma ham called Prosciutto di Parma and the famous cheese called Parmigiano Reggiano. Parma has good pasta dishes, food markets, wine bars, and many excellent restaurants.

For a good introduction to the cuisine, take the half-day food tour from Viator, where you'll visit a cheese factory to learn out how Parmesan cheese is made, see how they produce Parma ham, sip local wines and finish the excursion with a three-course Italian lunch.

Where to Stay in Parma

Find Parma hotels on TripAdvisor.

Parma Transportation:

Parma is on the train line from Milan to Ancona (book your tickets in advance in raileurope.com). By car, Parma is reached from the A1 Autostrada. There is also a small airport. Parts of Parma, including the historic center, have traffic restrictions but there are pay parking lots nearby. There are also free parking lots outside the city, connected to the city by a shuttle bus.

Parma is served by a good network of public buses, both in the city and to outlying areas.

What to See in Parma:

The tourist office is at Via Melloni, 1/a, off Strada Garibaldi near Piazza della Pace.

  • Parma's Cathedral is a great example of Romanesque architecture. The Cathedral was completed in the 12th century and has an octagonal dome unusual for that time period. Lions guard the porch and the bell tower is topped by a gilt copper angel. The inside is heavily decorated with beautiful frescoes.
  • The Baptistery, dating from the 12th century, is built of pink marble in an octagonal shape. Construction began in 1196 and was completed in 1307. The low part is decorated with bas-relief sculptures and the doors are all elaborately decorated. Inside are sculptures depicting the months, seasons, and Zodiac signs.
  • The Diocesan Museum displays items from the Middle Ages.
  • The Stuard Gallery, housed in an old Monastery, has art work from the 14th to 20th centuries.
  • You'll see many people in the huge Piazza della Pace, peace square, in front of the Palazzo della Pilotta housing the Farnese Theater.
  • The Palazzo del Govenatore, Governor's Palace, in Piazza Garibaldi, has a beautiful facade that dates from 1760. The bell tower has a fascinating astronomical clock.
  • The Ducal Park, dating to the 16th century, is a nice place for a stroll and a visit to the Ducal Palace with its outstanding frescoes.
  • Parma has a number of cultural events including theater, music, and opera. Teatro Reggio di Parma is a beautiful, neoclassical theater with a schedule of concerts and opera. See the schedule or buy tickets on Select Italy.

Public Toilets in Parma:

There are public restrooms near the Ducal Park, on the east side of the river near G.

Verdi and Mezzo Bridges, and by San Paolo Garden.

Near Parma - Castles, Villas and Mountains:

Between the Po River and the Appennino mountain range south of Parma lie a series of wonderfully preserved castles from the 14th and 15th centuries, well worth exploring if you're traveling by car. There are also some villas open to the public. The nearby Appennine Mountains provide lots of opportunity for hiking, outdoor activities, and beautiful landscapes.