Where to stay in Parma

Loger à Parme

Parma, the charms of Italy, the Po Valley and Emilia-Romagna: where to stay in Parma?

Located in the Emilia-Romagna region between Milan and Bologna, Parma is a city in north-central Italy. World-famous for its dairy products – Parmesan, Parmigiano and Parma ham, prosciutto di Parma – Parma also boasts a rich historical and cultural heritage dating back thousands of years. Of Etruscan origin, Parma was Roman from 183 BC, then Byzantine (in the 6th century), and Lombard, before becoming part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. Today, Parma has a population of 195,222, making it the second-largest city in the region after Bologna. As one of the centers of the artistic Renaissance, and one of the cradles of Italian cultural life – particularly in terms of classical music and opera – Parma was dubbed « the Athens of Italy » as early as the 18th century. G. Verdi and many other artists – writers, painters, musicians, film actors – were born here. As is often the case in Italy, sleeping in Parma will be expensive, but you can find relatively inexpensive accommodation in Parma if you plan well in advance (homestays and youth hostels).

Parma is best visited between April and September, as winters are cold and summers hot. Here’s our overview to help you decide where to stay in Parma.

Historical center

Loger à Parme, centre ville

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Parma is thought to have been inhabited as early as the Bronze Age, long before the Roman Empire. Parma became a Roman colony in 183 B.C. and grew: its current urban core dates back to Roman times, concentrated to play a role in trade with Rome, near the Via Emilia. Today’s city center is encircled by boulevards on the eastern banks of the River Parma. The main square in the historic center is, as is often the case in Italy, PiazzaDuomo. The Duomo cathedral was built in the 11th century and is an example of Lombard Romanesque art in Emilia-Romagna. In the city center, you can visit some 30 museums covering every period in the history of painting, music and science.

If you also love architecture, you’re in for a treat, as the historic center is home to an incredible architectural and cultural heritage, with buildings worth a look: the Palazzo del Governatore, Piazza Garibaldi, the Parma Baptistery, and more. Along the strada della Repubblica, you’ll find the place to go shopping: you’ll find everything here. This is the « temple » of grocery stores, cheese shops and violet sweets, shoes, perfumes (including the famous perfumer Acqua di Parma), trendy clothes, jewelry, vintage (via Garibaldi and via d’Azeglio), antiques (around Bogo Tommasini and via Nazario Sauro). If you’re looking for accommodation in Parma, aim for the area around the Parma river and Viale Mentana, for the best location: just a stone’s throw from cultural sites, stores and restaurants.

Parma’s western districts

Loger à Parme, quartier ouest

Photo credit: Flickr – Philip Malis

The left bank of the Parma torrent is a student area, home to universities and campuses. The area therefore attracts students, so choose Parma-West if you’re looking for younger neighborhoods. While the historic center may appeal to those with a taste for modern shopping districts, the western part of Parma is home to bookshops, university libraries, small local cinemas and cafés, cultural centers and, of course, restaurants. As you can see, where to stay in Parma depends on what you’re looking for, and this district will have more of a bobo-artistic-cultural soul than a tourist (on the lookout for ancient monuments) and shopping one.

Main photo credit: Flickr – Gio.april