We spent the first days of our Northern Italian road trip in the South Tyrolean town of Merano. And what a place to start with. This utterly charming, pastel-colored town captivated both Jan and me in only a few minutes. A beautiful, colorful environment with majestic mountain ranges on the horizon, impressive architecture, a cozy atmosphere and delicious cuisine. What more could I wish for? That’s why I would like to take you on a journey along the the best things to do in Merano.
A little bit more about Merano!
Merano or Meran is a region in the north of South Tyrol, not far from the capital Bolzano. The region consists of the charming town of Merano and the surrounding, imposing mountain landscape.
After a turbulent history, the city of Merano became very popular in the 19th century for its beneficial effects thanks to a healthy climate and medicinal thermal baths.
Many intellectuals and important heads of state from Europe traveled there. Merano was even the favorite winter spa of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, better known as Sissi.
This resulted in the development of a real cultural centre with impressive Art Nouveau buildings and beautifully landscaped pedestrian promenades. This way Merano became a major tourist attraction. Today you can still experience the glory of the Belle Époque here.
How to get to Merano?
Since Merano was a destination on our Northern Italian road trip we traveled there by car from Belgium. Prepare yourself for a few hours of meandering on narrow mountain roads, but don’t forget to enjoy the spectacular views.
Of course you can also travel there by plane. The nearest airport is located in Bolzano. During the winter season you can you can easily fly to Bolzano with the airline skyalps from Antwerp in Belgium. In just 2 hours you are in beautiful South Tyrol.
From the airport in Bolzano you can choose to rent a car. It’s best to book one online before you leave. But of course you can also use public transport such as the train or bus. With the Südtirol ‘to go’ app, both for IOS and Android, you can easily check the timetable of public transport.
If you travel by car, I advise you to book a stay with a parking area. The public parking facilities in the center of Merano are pretty expensive. You can easily move around the city on foot. For sights that are slightly further away, you can use your car or public transport.
When is the best time to visit Merano?
Merano is charming during all seasons. During the winter months, Merano is covered in snow. But this makes this town extra cozy. Around the Christmas period you can enjoy the famous Christmas market.Besides, it’s also an excellent base for ardent winter sports enthusiasts who will certainly find what they are looking for in the nearby ski area of Meran 2000.
From spring to autumn you can enjoy the beautifully landscaped promenades with the most fragrant and colorful flowers and plants. Each season has its own scents and color palette. With an average of about 300 sunny days, the climate here is extremely favorable for different types of vegetation, allowing you to admire the most unique and colorful scenes. This way you can dream away under a waving palm tree with a front row view of the surrounding mountains.
We were there in September and we had such a wonderful stay. We enjoyed the pleasant late summer weather and the many beautiful colors.
Where to stay in Merano?
Since I already told you a bit about the history of Merano, it will probably not surprise you that you can stay here in most luxurious hotels & resorts.
The most famous hotel in the heart of Merano is of course Hotel Therme Meran. This is located right next to the famous Merano Terme Spa. It’s also connected through an underground tunnel.
And even better, there are also a couple impressive mountain resorts. They are a bit further from the city center. Besides all the luxury and wellness facilities they also offer a dazzling view of the surrounding mountain landscape. Interested? Then be sure to check out Hotel Ansitz Plantitscherhof or Prinz Rudolf Smart Hotel.
Would you like to spend the night in a beautiful castle in the mountains? Then Relais & Chateaux Hotel Castel Fragsburg is definitely the perfect spot for you! This place is already on my bucket list.
The best things to do in Merano
Wander around in the city centre of Merano
One of the best things to do in Merano is a visit to the historic city centre. Here you still find various traces of history. The oldest date back to the Middle Ages. Such as the city gates, the impressive St. Nikolaus Church or Duomo di Merano and the surrounding Steinbach district. The Duomo di Merano is by the way one of the oldest Gothic buildings in South Tyrol!
Make some time for a stroll along the famous Laubengasse shopping street or Via Portici. This is a beautiful 18th century street with arcades where you can find many authentic boutiques and tasty, local restaurants. If you can, try the local specialty dumplings or enjoy a delicious strudel for desert.
Via the city gate Bozner Tor you literally walk from one era to another. From the cozy medieval town to the stunning Art Nouveau area that is located along the river Passer or Passirio.
From the Postbrücke you have a great view over the river, the surrounding mountain landscape and some Art Nouveau gems such as the Kurhaus.
The Kurhaus dates from the 2nd half of the 19th century and has stunning spaces where today events are regularly held. The Kurhaus is unfortunately only accessible during these events.
Be sure to stroll further through the magnificent, covered winter promenade. An Art Nouveau gallery where you can’t only admire a stunning piece of architecture, but also the artwork of local artists.
The famous promenades of Merano
Merano is also sometimes referred to as a garden city. As I mentioned earlier, due to its favorable climate, this city is the mecca for a variety of colorful flowers and plants. Numerous walking trails leave from the city centre to discover the beautiful city and its surroundings. There is the Passer promenade along the river, the Kur promenade along the Kurshaus, the Sommer promenade across the covered Winter promenade on the other side of the Passer.
For those who would like to see something more than just the city centre, there is also the Tappeiner trail and the Sissi path. The Tappeiner trail is a 4 kilometer long walk on the flanks of the mountain with beautiful views over Merano and the surrounding area. Highly recommended!
Along the way you will also pass some cozy eateries, so a perfect walk to start just before lunch.
The Sissi path is about 3 kilometers long and takes you past the Empress Elisabeth aka Sissi’s favorite places in Merano with the Trautmansdorff Gardens as the final stop.
You can obtain a map for these walking trails at the tourist office in Merano.
A day of relaxing in Merano Terme Spa
When you visit a city known as a spa, it goes without saying to plan a day of self-care. This is possible at Merano Terme Spa.
From a beautiful setting with a view of the impressive, surrounding mountain landscape, you can enjoy the healingl effects of the thermal baths. There are no fewer than 15 swimming pools here, each with its own characteristics.
You can also opt for a ticket including access to the various saunas. And if you really want to go all out? Take a look at the extensive range of beauty treatments and massages.
In short, a paradise for the modern wellness enthusiast.
Explore the lush Trautmansdorff gardens
Traveling to Merano between April and October? Then I highly recommend visiting one of its most beautiful sights, the stunning Trautmansdorff gardens. For all lovers of plants, flowers, art and panoramic views, this is the place to be.
Discover the landscaped paths between the most diverse plants and colorful flowers. Feast your eyes and enjoy. Don’t forget to hike to the peak for the most spectacular views. And pay a visit to ‘the garden of lovers’, by far my favorite spot in the Trautmansdorff gardens.
The Trauttmansdorff Castle is now a tourist museum where you can discover more about the history of tourism in South Tyrol.
You can easily reach the Trautmansdorff gardens from the centre of Merano on foot via the 3 km long Sissi hiking trail. But of course you can also use public transport. Take bus 4 or 1B at Merano train station.
Are you going by car? Then you can park a full day in the provided parking for 4 eur. A visit to the gardens and the castle costs 15 eur per person.
More things to do in the neighbourhood of Merano
Admire the waterfall of Parcines/ Partschinser Wasserfall
When you stay in Merano, make sure to plan some time to visit the most beautiful and also the highest waterfall in South Tyrol.
This beautiful natural phenomenon is about 20 minutes by car from the centre of Merano. On the way past the village of Parcines you will come across several parking lots. You can choose to park there and take the shuttle bus to the waterfall. But you can also continue along a steep mountain road to the nearest parking lot. This one is located near Gasthaus Birkenwald. There you can enjoy a cup of coffee or tea on the cozy terrace.
From here you can also take a shuttle bus to the waterfall which is located even higher. The bus stops approximately in the middle of the waterfall. From there you can climb to the top of the waterfall, but also descend back along a super cool, winding hiking trail between the woods. Personally, I found the descent a bit more spectacular, because from there you have a full view of the impressive waterfall than when you climb to the top and can only see the waterfall up close.
One more tip, there are also amazing hiking trails to the waterfall from the mountain station and the valley station of the Texelbahn cable car
Experience an adrenaline rush on the toboggan run Alpin Bob
Can’t a little adventure be missing from your trip? Then the 1.1 km long, winding toboggan run of Alpin bob is just what you are looking for. It is also a super fun activity for the whole family.
Alpin Bob is located in the Merano 2000 ski area. It is best to drive to the Falzeben parking by car. That is a 30-minute drive from the centre of Merano. You have to pay for the parking, but I don’t know the exact price. Since we arrived in the early evening, we were allowed to park for free.
From here you can take the cable car to the top of the mountain where Alpin Bob is located. A return ticket is 22 euros per person, but from 2PM the price decreases to 15.5 euros per person.
Arriving at the top of the mountain, it is best to take some time to enjoy the spectacular views. Prepare yourself mentally for a hellish ride and buy your ticket at the cash register. A ride costs 5 euros per person, for children under 10 years it’s free.
Of course you can do other fun activities in this ski area such as hiking, mountain biking, climbing and even paragliding.
Go for the most adventurous multiple day hike in South Tyrol: the Meraner Högenweg
Thanks to its excellent location at the foot of the Texegruppe Natural Park or Parco Naturale Gruppo del Tessa, Merano is also the perfect base for active travellers. There you can take one of the most beautiful and adventurous mountain hikes in South Tyrol: the Meraner Höhenweg. This is an almost 100 km long hiking trail with views of the mountain landscape of Merano, the Vinschgau and, in good weather, the Dolomites and the Ortler Massif. This challenging hike for experienced hikers consists of several days, and is also offered with guides. Along the way you will pass several huts where you can stay overnight.
On the Meraner Höhenweg there are several entrances and exits that make it possible to make shorter trips. These access points are easily accessible by cable cars, public transport or car.
The best time to do this hike is from June to September.
How beautiful is this place? We were able to enjoy the best things to do in Merano for two full days. Moreover, we were very surprised by the versatility of this city. This is the ideal holiday destination for both culture and nature lovers, not to mention foodies and bon vivants!
Which things to do in Merano are already on your bucket list? Let me know below in comments.
Want to read more about Italy? Be sure to check out these blog posts as well.
Thanks for reading!
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