Merano (German: Meran) is the second largest town in South Tyrol with a population of about 41,000 (2019). A slight majority (50.5%) of the population is German-speaking, while the others are Italian-speaking.
Merano, with its delightfully mild climate, lovely surroundings and rich, varied vegetation, is a famous health spa resort. It is protected from the winds and bad weather by high mountains to the north, east and west and lies in a valley open towards the sunny south. 324 m above sea-level, Merano attracts holiday-makers, mainly Germans, throughout the year, with local hotels having 4,739 rooms and known for their high standards of comfort, service and good food. There are 52 romantic, old castles in and around the town, some used as hotels or museums while others are still private residences.
The name of the town of Merano, once known as Mairania, made its first appearance in history in the year 857 but, as late as the thirteenth century we know that it was little more than a village at the foot of Mount St. Benedetto, precisely where the old town houses of Steinach now are. During the Middle Ages it was governed by the Bishops of Trento, a larger town to the south, and then, later, by the Counts of Tirol. It gradually assumed a greater political importance and became quite a busy centre, as can be seen from the large number of castles and manor houses still to be visited in the surrounding area.
The counts of Tirol chose the town for their capital in 1317 but, on the death of the last member of the Tirol ruling family, the famous Margaret Maultasch, Merano was handed over to the Habsburg family. It gradually became less and less important until, in the fifteenth century, Innsbruck was named as the capital of Tirol. Even the Merano mint, where the well-known “Tirol” coins had been minted in the past, was moved to Hall near Innsbruck and Merano was no longer the home of princes but just a small and insignificant country town, surrounded by Medieval walls. Merano first earned its reputation as a health spa resort in the 1830s and its exceptionally mild climate, lovely surroundings and varied and lush vegetation all contributed to its development in this field. Members of European royal families, nobility and aristocrats were in the habit of holidaying in Merano. The Austrian Empress, Elisabeth, for example, spent many happy times in the town an there is, in fact, a statue dedicated to her in one of the beautiful parks. Merano is still today a particularly pleasant holiday resort, attracting guests throughout the year, although spring and autumn are perhaps the busiest seasons. The mountains to the north of the town, some of which are over 3,000 m high, help protect it from the cold winds and the orchard-covered Adige/Etsch river valley extends down towards the mild and sunny south.
The Merano basin is an oasis of unusual Mediterranean plants and flowers and the soil has a certain natural radioactive content. The climate of the whole area has an obviously beneficial therapeutic effect and, even before the First World War, the Academy of Science in Vienna had done some research on the radioactive spring water. Later, in 1933, when the geologist prof. Trener discovered the springs at St. Vigilio and St. Martin the town really began to develop as a famous health spa.
Merano is outside of the Brenner line and whether you want to reach the town by plane, by train, by bus or by car you have likely to reach before Bolzano and from this point Merano. Merano is located 33 km (20 miles) north-west from Bolzano.
The nearest airport is in Bolzano.
Getting to/from the airport
Many hotels offer a transfer from Bolzano airport, especially if you book through a travel agency (in this case you probably have the possibility to have a transfer from other major airports). In the airport you will find some rent-a-car agencies.
In order to get in Merano by train you have to arrive in Bolzano first and from here you can take the train to Merano (every 40 minutes). When you buy the ticket at the departure station you can have the ticket from Bolzano to Merano included, saying that your destination is Merano. The Merano Central Rail Station is close to the town centre.
Some German, Austrian and Swiss travel agencies offer direct bus connection to Merano. Normally international bus lines stop in Bolzano and from here you can take the bus Bolzano-Merano at the Bolzano Bus Station or other stops inside Bolzano (like Dominikanerplatz). Buses are run by SASA, which uses the same orange buses you can find inside cities, and SAD, with grey-coloured buses (they operate on the same line). There is a departure every hour. A fare from Bolzano to Merano costs €4 (only 2.61 with value card).
You have to exit at Bolzano South on motorway A22 and taking the modern freeway, called MeBo. It is named MeBo because it's the fastest connection between MErano and Bolzano. In Merano there are three exits: Sinich/Meran Süd, Meran Zentrum and Algund (freeway end). If you are coming from Landeck in Austria or Engadin, Switzerland, you can follow the signs along the road.
The best way in order to discover Merano is by foot, but it's covered by an excellent public transport system, which is composed by buses and a chair lift to the village of Tirol.
In Merano there are 9 bus lines (generally 06:00-21:00) run by SASA and 1 of this have also a night service (21:00-01:00). Buses pass frequently (every 15–25 minutes). Buses run always on time.
Stamp your ticket at the start of its first use (there are green - on new buses yellow - stamping machines). You have to buy another ticket if you stop and you catch a bus after 45 minutes after the printing (only with single trip ticket or spent value card). Payment is by the honor system and inspectors check for valid tickets. If you don't have one, it's an instant €25 fine (plus the fare you were supposed to have paid). All timetables and bus maps you can find free in the tourist offices or in the bus station.
All urban buses stops are request stops (except end of the line): If you want to get off press the red (in some blue) button, while if you want to get on a bus you have to wave your hand.
By chair lift
Merano is connected with the village of Tirol - located on a hill above the town - by a chair lift, which is in service between April and November.
Taxis are only on call available. Merano's taxi service is powered by Radio Taxi 24 hr calling 0473 21 20 13. or by private services called "Mietwagen mit Fahrer" Tel +39 3477523424
Merano has a good bike trail system - but not so developed as in Bolzano, though - but around the town it's excellent. Maps are available in tourist offices and online [formerly dead link].
Rentals are available in the following places:
- Rail Station
- Spa Building
- Tennis Centre
The service is available from April until mid of October (M-Sa 09:00-19:00) and it's free. You only have to pay a €5 bail - which is returned if the bike has not been damaged.
The public transportation or your own feet should be enough in order to travel inside Merano. Finding a parking in the town centre can be complicated.
In winter (from November to March) the whole city is forbidden for the EURO 0 cars in order to prevent from air pollution. In cases of high concentration of polluted substances the streets are forbidden also for EURO 1 cars.
Museums, Galleries, and Memorials
- Touriseum - South Tyrol Museum of Tourism. With Botanical Garden - admission €9.80 (students/handicapped people €7.50, over 65 €8.50, after 18:00 €5.00, children up to 6 years free) It's a very interesting highlight. The Museum hosted at Trauttmansdorff Castle reports the long history of tourist tradition in South Tyrol. The ticket includes the visit to the well-kept and quite wide Botanical Garden. The Museum is open only from the first half of March to the first half of September, considering that the Botanical Garden is closed during the cold season.
- City Museum - admission €2.00 (reduced €1.50) It's located in a former hotel, it shows interesting archaeological and historical founds.
- Princely Castle Museum - admission €2.00 (reduced €1.50) de, it [formerly dead link] Building from the 15th century in the old town with an interesting exhibition for lovers of medieval history.
- Jewish Museum - free entry. The small museum located at the only South Tyrol's Synagogue reports the history and documentation about the Jewish community in South Tyrol.
- [formerly dead link] Women's Museum Evelyn Ortner. Free entry. Unique museum about women specialized in culture of women's everyday life.
- [dead link] Meran Art - City Gallery. Free entry. Exhibitions of contemporary art, literature and architecture and other interesting features.
- Monument of Empress Elisabeth - is a statue at the Summer Promenade's entrance, which was modeled with white marble after Sissi's assassination in Geneva in 1898. The Empress of Austria visited Merano four times - the last time being one year before her death. During the fascist dictatorship it was deplaced, cutting off the statue's head. After World War II the statue was replaced and the head re-modelled. It shows an interesting parallel with the Monument of Walther von der Vogelweide in Bolzano.
- [formerly dead link] White Art Gallery. Free entry. Contemporary art gallery.
- Main Parish Church. Gothic building with Baroque features in the old town built in different periods between 1302 and the 18th century. Its bell tower is one of the highest in South Tyrol (83 metres) and it shows 7 clocks.
- Holy Spirit's Church. Gothic building built between the 14th and 15th century beyond the Passer river. A building built by Fascist Italy in rationalist style hides the church, because the Gothic style was considered to be a symbol of the German-speaking countries.
- Holy Mary's Church. Located in the district of Untermais it's an interesting Romanic building built in the 12th century.
- Thermal Spa centre
The thermal spa centre, on the opposite bank of the river Passirio, was opened during the 1970s and is furnished with the most modern equipment for therapeutic treatment. It also houses an indoor swimming-pool filled with thermal water and the natural radio-activity in this water has a most beneficial pathological effect. The spa centre is open all year round and specialises in a vast selection of curative treatments.
The horse race-course is one of the most beautiful in the world and is especially famous for the Grand Premium steeple-chase in September, which is run in connection with a rich national lottery.
There are also many public open-air swimming-pools, an ice rink, 15 tennis courts of which 4 are covered for use in winter, a horse-riding and jumping school and a mini-golf course.
The river Passirio, which flows through the centre of the town, is often chosen to host international and world-class slalom and down-hill canoe races. It was the scene of the 1971 World Championship, the 1980 European Cup and the 1983 World Championship competitions.
- The Tappeiner Walk
The Tappeiner Walk, named after the doctor who planned it and laid it out and who, later in 1892, gave it to the town, is a walk meanders pleasantly along the sides of the gentle slopes of the glacial hill of Mount St. Benedetto as far as the Gilf, a ravine on the river Passirio.
Merano is also a good base for walking enthusiasts and mountain climbers.
- Winter Sports
There are excellent winter sports facilities too nearby, with good ski-runs at Merano 2,000, on the Hirzer mountain and in the Ultimo valley. Less than an hour away by car, the Senales valley with its permanent glacier and snow field, is the ideal place for summer skiing.
- Tradition and folklore still play a significant role in the every-day life of the town and its people and visitors to Merano greatly enjoy the weekly folklore evenings of singing and dancing with all the participants dressed in local Tirolese costume. Since the beginning of this century, the golden-coated Hafling horses from the little village of Avelengo or Hafling have competed against one another is a special race for amateur local riders which opens the horse-racing season on Easter Monday and in another race, later in autumn, to celebrate the grape harvest. Their riders, usually farmers or farmers’ sons, all wear local costume, too. The celebrations for the Grape Harvest are always held on the second Sunday in October and include a procession through the town with bands, orchestras, decorated floats and lorries, folk dancing groups and displays of various traditional costumes.
- Restaurant Kallmünz, Piazza Rena 12.
- Restaurant Sissi - Andrea Fenoglio, Via G. Galilei 44.
- Restaurant & Pizzeria Engele, Via Roma 113, Merano. Excellent food, affordable prices. Local people recommend the restaurant. Walking distance from the town centre.
- Gasthaus Haashof.
- Café Forum, Via Leonardo da Vinci 11 (Postgasse). A fine cocktails and wine bar.
- Bar Rossini, Corso della libertà 19.
- Sketch Clublounge, Passegiata lungo Passirio 40.
- Café Bistro Restaurant Sieben (7), Laubengasse 232. Very good coffee, quite affordable too! Also tastefully decorated.
- 1 Hotel & Apartments Villa Freiheim (3-Star Balancehotel), Via Parini 1-4A, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 10:00-11:00. The hotel rooms and apartments are designed in wood, and there is a variety of regional and organic products at the vital-breakfast.
- Hotel Palace Merano - Espace Henri Chenot, Via Cavour 2. The best but also the most expensive hotel.
- Hotel Aurora, Passegiata lungo Passirio 38.
- Hotel Quellenhof, Pseierstr. 47.
- Hotel Europa Splendid, Freiheitsstrasse.
- Style und Spa Resort Lindenhof, Kirchweg 2, I-39025 Naturns bei Meran, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 5 stars.
- Hotel Westend, Via Speckbacher 9, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Historical art nouveau hotel right on the Passer promenade. from €50.