You know what they say; “you never know how beautiful Europe is until you visit Italy”. To cap that, you never know how hospitable or how good Italians are at cooking until you visit Ravenna. No matter what you might’ve heard about other cities in Italy, Ravenna is where you can experience how truly amazing Italy is.
Whether you are looking for the magnificence of Italian culture or tasty Italian delicacy, you will find it in Ravenna. According to most tourists who have visited this amazing Italian city, Ravenna is like a home away from home. No other place in Italy or even Europe is like Ravenna; you will be totally blown away by the magnificence of its mosaics and the hospitality of the residents will leave you breathless.
Ravenna does not only boast of great foods and good heart, they also have the most amazing history. This city was the seat of one of the most powerful sixth-century kings, Theodoric the Great. Again, Ravenna was also the seat of another influential leader; Byzantine governor. You can still see how the city was influenced heavily by the Byzantine art when you visit Ravenna.
What brought Ravenna to the limelight was their intricate mosaic work. You can see some of these mosaic works in Ravenna, especially in some building in Ravenna that forms a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Why You Should See Ravenna
Ravenna is an extraordinary little city. Though this city may not be big or famous as Naples, Rome, Venice, or even Florence but it is still one of the tourist most preferred destination in Europe. Apart from its beauty and hospitality, it boasts of 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites as well as other important cultural monuments which you must see.
Moreover, there are ancient cultures and histories which have been traced to Ravenna; after all, this amazing little city was the capital for three times of three different empires: the kingdom of Theodoric, the Western Roman Empire, the king of the Goth, and of the Byzantine Empire in Europe.
Additionally, Ravenna is a city of canals and has seaports that are connected to the sea by a canal. You will be left breathless by the old architectures along the old canals as well as in the old city center. There are hundreds of places you can explore in Ravenna such as the winding narrow streets and alleys that are dotted with cafes, and shops and great old architectures.
During summertime, you can get the richest cuisine in Europe in Ravenna; there are also beaches, amazing hotels, tour guides, excellent transportation network, and everything to make your dream vacation in Europe an amazing experience. This city is so amazing that most tourists who have visited Ravenna believed that Italy won’t be the same without Ravenna. The experience you will get by being in this city can’t be topped anywhere else in Europe.
Where to See in Ravenna
Perhaps, this is the most attractive factor in Ravenna, when it come to places you can see while you are in Italy, Ravenna boast of hundreds of places you can see and be amazed. There are architectures, cultures, arts, and even monuments dating from the 5th and 6th century you can see in Ravenna. Like we mentioned above, this city has 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites and you will have an opportunity to see them all.
To be able to see the best Ravenna has to offer, you will need to plan your visit. Plan to see Ravenna over two to five separate days.
We have compiled the list of best places and the most beautiful attractions sites in Ravenna. The list below will help you see the best Ravenna has to offer.
Here are the top places you must see in Ravenna
- Neonian Baptistery
Even if you have been to the most exotic place on earth, I bet you will still be left breathless by the beauty and the magnificent art you will behold in Neonian Baptistery. This location is the perfect place to start your Ravenna tour; it is indeed one of the most awesome places you can see in Ravenna.
Neonian Baptistery is a fifth-century brick baptistery in the heart of Ravenna. It is octagonal in shape and one of the oldest buildings in the city. This place has its splendor under the reign of Theodoric.
Neonian Baptistery is considered as the Catholic answer to the Arian heresy and it is one of the surviving early Christian baptisteries today. You will be amazed by the intricate mosaics that line the dome of this building.
Neonian Baptistery is located in Piazza Duomo 1, Ravenna. You can trek to this baptistery from the city center. Neonian Baptistery is open every day from 9 am to 7 pm and tickets are sold for 9,50€.
- Basilica di San Vitale
It is said that Italians have a thing for octagonal-shaped building and this is true, just like Neonian Baptistery has an octagonal-shaped building, this building also was designed in such an impressive way. The beauty on the outside was nothing to be compared to what lie inside; you will be completely blown away by how beautiful the interior of this basilica is.
Basilica di San Vitale was built in Ravenna in the first half of the 6th century and up till today, this building still acts as one of the most importance examples of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture in the Western Europe. The basilica has a lot of Christian symbols among which is a labyrinth that symbolizes the path of salvation from the sin to the purification.
The decoration of San Vitale is based on mosaic apart from a few Baroque frescoes that were added to the dome. You can see tons of arts and paintings inside the building. Most of these arts and paintings have the deep meaning which can be explained to you by your tour guide.
Basilica di San Vitale is located in Via Argentario 22, Ravenna. If you are staying in any hotel in the center of Ravenna, you can get to this location by feet. It opens everyday from 9 am to 7 pm and the tickets are sold for just 9,50€.
- Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
Your next stop after basking in the glory of San Vitale should be Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. This place has a simple exterior which somehow hides the wonderful mosaics and the beauty that can be seen inside. It was built by emperor Honorius who transferred the capital of his empire from Milan to Ravenna in the honor of his sister Galla Placidia.
On the low arches and the domes of the building, you will see an amazing and careful lining of fifth-century mosaics that still looks untouched. These mosaics were made of tesserae. On the door of the building is a painting of Christ as the Good shepherd and this painting was surrounded by the sheep designed with mosaics. Additionally, you will also see arts of the ox, eagle, lion, and angel that represented the four evangelists.
This building is one of UNESCO heritage site located in Ravenna, there are still more seven of such sites you can see in Ravenna. Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is located in Via Giuliano Argentario, Ravenna. You can visit this place on feet from the city center. The building is open every day for tourists from 9 am to 7 pm and the tickets are sold for just 9,50 €.
- Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
When you are in Italy, especially in Ravenna, there are many things you might miss, but one of them shouldn’t be Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. Here, you will see how men utilized their talent to do justice to this magnificent edifice. It is on the record that this chapel has the greatest cycle of mosaics in the world.
Guess who built this Basilica? It was almighty Theodoric himself during the first quarter of the 6th century. He built it as his personal cathedral. The cathedral was dedicated in 504 AD to “Christ the Redeemer”.
The walls of this building were designed and divided into three distinct strips of mosaics: the highest one represents the life of Christ, the one in the center represents the Saints and the Prophets, while the last one, which is the lowest strip represents the famous people of Theodoric.
Some of the arts on the building showing the Emperor and other characters covered with white drapes were removed when the basilica was passed down from Arian cult to Catholic Church. You can also see the portrait of the port of Classe on the opposite wall; this port serves as one of the most important Mediterranean seas during the Roman Empire.
Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo is indeed a great sight to behold, the design here will leave you speechless. It is uniquely located on Via di Roman 52, Ravenna. It is opened every day from 9 am to 7 pm and the ticket goes for just 9.50.
- The Mausoleum of Theodoric
No history of Ravenna can be completed without the mention of one of the greatest emperor of all time, the Great Theodoric himself. The legend had it that the red porphyry tub on the top floor of this mausoleum is the same place the great emperor took his last breath on earth.
According to the legend of this king who ruled Italy for 33 years and brought peace, wealth, and tolerance to the country, he was afraid of thunderstorm so he sought shelter in his mausoleum, but as he was taking his bath, he was struck by a lightning and a black horse arrived and threw him in the Etna Volcano!
The mausoleum is a monumental two-story rotunda the barbarian emperor planned for himself before his death. Today, it serves as one of the many UNESCO heritage sites in Ravenna. The architecture is truly amazing; it was built of marble and capped by a single stone that is over ten meters in diameter. This single stone weighs about 3,000 tons.
The Mausoleum of Theodoric is located on Via delle Industrie 14. It is open for tourists every day from 8:30 am to 7:30 pm. The ticket cost just €4.
- Arian Baptistery
During the time Theodoric was ruling Italy, Arian was the official religion of Italians. Thus, the great emperor built the Arian baptistery next to his cathedral. However, this place would later become an oratory dedicated to the Virgin Mary known as the Santa Maria in Cosmedin.
The Arian religion was considered by the Catholic Church to be a heresy because of their conviction that Jesus Christ was human until baptism. Today, you can still see the mosaics design on the walls of this baptistery celebrating the baptism. This image of Christ during his baptism is surrounded by the mosaic images of Christ’s 12 apostles and a throne with a cross.
Arian Baptistery is located in Piazzetta degli Ariani. You can even reach this location by foot if you are coming from the center of Ravenna. It is open for tourists from 9 am to 7:30 pm every day. No need to buy a ticket, you can come and visit for free.
- Museo Nazionale (National Museum)
The National Museum is located close to the Basilica of San Vitale. This means you can actually visit these two locations the same day while you are enjoying your time in Ravenna. This museum houses some of the most ancient of Ravenna’s art and culture. If you truly want to learn the history of this city, you must ensure that you visit this museum before concluding your tour of Ravenna.
Once inside, you can the cloisters of the former Benedictine Monastery. Additionally, you will excellent collections of textiles, icons, carved ivories, and ancient weapons from the Coptic to Renaissance periods. Another interesting thing to see in this museum is the cycle of 14th-century frescoes of Santa Chiara; this was taken from the convent church of the Poor Clares in Ravenna.
Museo Nazionale is located in Via San Vitale 17. You can visit from 9 pm to 7 pm every day.
- Dante’s Tomb – Mausoleum
Dante, who used to be a very influential Italian poet from Florence died and was entombed here in Ravenna. However, history has it that the people from his hometown of Florence were not happy about this and were even jealous of Ravenna harboring the tomb of this poet.
In 1519, hundreds of years after his death, Pope Leo X ordered that the body of Dante be brought back to Florence. However, the Franciscan monk sheltering his body returned empty coffin to them. They hid his actual body in their monastery.
Dante’s mausoleum is made of a simple marble structure with the poet’s tomb inside. The building is located Via Dante Alighieri and you can visit this place every day of the week from 10 am to 6:30 pm. The entrance is free; you don’t have to pay for any ticket.
Where to Stay in Ravenna
You probably need to book a hotel before visiting Ravenna. Fortunately, Ravenna has a cluster of 5-star and affordable hotels. You can also find guest hours to sleep if you are on a budget.
We will recommend that you choose any of the hotels in the city center. Most of these hotels come at affordable prices and they will allow you to visit any of these places mentioned above on foot. Check out our article on top hotels in Ravenna to get a good idea of the best place to stay while you are visiting Ravenna.