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Top Things to do in Sardinia

Sardinia is a large island located in the Mediterranean Sea. It is the second in size after Sicily. The island is 200 km from the mainland of Italy, 200 km north of the coast of Africa, 12 km from the French island of Corsica and its capital is Cagliari. The island of Sardinia is a fascinating place to visit and explore, especially in the summer, where there are beautiful beaches and the clearest waters you will ever see as well as its many archaeological sites. 

Things to do in Sardinia:

Visit some of Sardinia’s beautiful cities and be blown away by their history and culture. With plenty to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

  1. Cagliari:

A great place to start your journey in Sardinia would be the capital city of Cagliari. It is located in the south of the island and there are many attractions to visit in Cagliari like the beautiful cathedral, and you can start your day by climbing from Piazza Della Costituzione to Bastione San Remy. In the southern part of the island, there are ancient streets, tall bastions, and the ruins of the ancient city of Nora which was a trading centre for the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Romans. In the east of the city, there are fabulous beaches which are considered some of the best beaches in Europe. There, you’ll also find many stunning resorts like Forte Village Resort which is a group of hotels that have a great view of the beach, water sports, swimming pools, and playgrounds. 

The rooftops of Cagliari, Sardinia
The capital city of Sardinia, Cagliari is filled with history, beautiful architecture and stunning beaches. (Image Credit: Laura Lugaresi)

  1. Alghero:

Located on the northwest coast, Alghero is known as the coral city. The city is made up of a fortress on the sea with great bastion walls, narrow cobblestone streets, a fascinating square, a cathedral that dates back to the 14th century, and some amazing shops. The landscapes are spectacular where you will see the charming sea, rugged mountain ranges, beautiful bays, white sandy coves and you can go for a picnic to watch the sunset over the Mediterranean. Alghero is a great place to begin excursions from and one of the famous attractions to visit the stalactites and stalagmites in Neptune’s Cave. It is one of the best cities to visit in Sardinia.

  1. Bosa:

One of the most beautiful villages in Italy, Bosa is located in northern Sardinia and it is a small village crossed by the river Temo. The interesting thing in the village that makes it famous is the colourful houses in pastel colours, the wrought-iron balconies, and the narrow paths of the old town. There is an ancient village called Sa Costa which is located on the Serravalle hill where you can explore the Malaspina castle. The castle was built in the 12th century and contains 900 years of history, inside the castle, there is a chapel where you can see a 14th-century fresco. There are many magnificent beaches to visit in Bosa it like Bosa Marina, S’abba Druque, and Cumpoltittu. 

  1. Sassari:

It is the second-largest city in Sardinia and is well-known as a cultural centre. You can take a walk in the city and explore its old buildings that are perfect examples of Catalan Gothic, Baroque, and Neoclassical styles, or walk through the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and you will enjoy the old porticos and windows on homes from the region’s Spanish period.

One of the nice attractions in Sassari is the Sanna National Museum that contains archaeological collections, such as Nuragic bronze figures and jewellery, as well as Roman artefacts. While there, you should visit the Duomo and admire its façade of 17th-century ornament styles that were created by stone carvers from Milan. Another famous church there is about 12 kilometres south of Sassari, where you can see the black and white striped tower soars above the church and ruined cloister of Santissima Trinità di Saccargia which is one of the best examples of architecture in Sardinia.

rock formations near body of water in sassari
The cultural centre of Sardinia, Sassari is the second largest city on the island. (Image Credit: Filiz Elaerts)

Famous Attractions to Visit in Sardinia

  1. Nuraghe Su Nuraxi:

It is just one hour by car from Cagliari, Nuraghe is a stoned fortress that is surrounded by smaller hive-shaped buildings and remaining defensive walls. This structure dated back to 1500 BC to the Punic Wars in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and there are the exterior towers that were built in the 11th century. UNESCO is cited as one of the best restorations anywhere in the Mediterranean. When you visit this attraction, you will be able to climb to its upper dome made of dry stones, which consists of three stories that are connected by spiral stairways inside its wall which is 1.8 meters and you will be fascinated by the engineering and workmanship these prehistoric people achieved. After visiting the towers, make sure to visit the Casa Zapata Museum.  

  1. Nuraghe Losa:

Nuraghe Losa is considered one of the best three nuraghes in Sardinia. It is lighted from inside by recessed lamps. Once you enter, you will be able to see details of its stacked stone thalos domes. It is a large tower with three outer towers forming a triangular bastion and you can walk through a maze of stone passageways that spiral up inside its massive walls. There is a large central room of the main tower that was built between the 12th and 14th centuries and is still in great condition and more refined in its construction than most others. While you visit, you will find a small museum that contains ancient bronze bracelets and other artefacts found there.

  1. Arzachena Prehistoric Sites:

This is one of the famous Stone and Copper Age attractions in Sardinia and is only a few kilometres from the Costa Smeralda resorts. It contains six notable sites in one place, including nuraghi, burial sites, and giant graves. One of the tombs there is the tomb of Coddu Vecchiu which dated back to the 18th century BC and its façade consists of flat stones, and another tomb is of Li Lolghi with a similar entrance and with 3.5 meters standing stones. 

There is the necropolis of Li Muri which contains stone graves that were built inside circles of flat standing stones. Also, there is the Nuraghi Albucciu, with an oval shape and one side formed by a large stone outcrop. One of the last things that were excavated is Nuraghe La Prisgiona, a central tower with two side towers and the remains of a village. You can also explore many cottages of Tenuta Pilastru in Sardinia that is decorated with locally crafted furnishings and art, and enjoy the lovely view from the terrace and have a delicious meal from the restaurant there.

  1. Asinara National Park:

A beautiful natural place to visit and explore, it is located in the northwestern region of Sardinia. The park is stretched over 50 square meters inside the region of Porto Torres which was isolated for over a century. There, you can walk, hike, watch the birds, ride bikes and even relax on the beach.

  1. Santa Cristina Nuraghe and the Holy Well:

It is located in a place not far from Oristano and is one of the most wonderful attractions in Sardinia. The interesting thing there is the “holy well” that is well preserved from 1200-1100 BC. There is also the Nuraghe Tower where you can climb to its roof to look down onto the prehistoric stone village that surrounds it. Another thing that you can see is the group of tiny stone pilgrim lodgings, former monks’ cells, between the well and the nuraghe that surrounds a 12th-century church, and pilgrimages still come here in May and October.

  1. Nuoro and the Gennargentu:

Nuoro is a city located in the centre of Sardinia at the top of a steep mountain ridge. The city has a small lovely square with the 19th-century cathedral of Santa Maria della Neve. From Nuoro, you can start exploring Gennargentu, which is known as Sardinia’s most fascinating interior mountains and remote villages. One of these villages is Mamoiada and the towns in the surrounding area cling to steep mountainsides and local customs that still ring the ancient past. 

If you are going there by car you should be careful because of the narrow roads and steep with hairpin turns over sheer drops, without railings. There is also the museum of Sardinian Traditions where you can know more about villages and their often strange customs and art, you can also visit the National Archeological Museum that has collections excavated from the Neolithic sites, as well as fossils.

  1. Tharros:

A famous rocky point in Sardinia containing some stone remains of Phoenician, Carthaginian, and Roman cultures. While walking there try to imagine how things looked like in ancient times and now you will see only foundations, doorsteps, and also columns from the baths still standing along with parts of the temples with a fantastic view of the sea.

Visit the Giovanni Marongiu Civic Museum in the town of Cabras to see carved stone stele, funerary urns, and many other interesting artefacts. The Antiquarium Arborense Museum which is located in the small city of Oristano displays many treasures discovered in that place. There is also the Duomo of Santa Maria in Oristano which dates from medieval times but was renovated during the Spanish rule of this part of Sardinia in the 18th and 19th centuries.

archaeological area of Tharros, San Giovanni di Sinis, Cabras, Italy.
(Image Credit: Leonard Cotte)

  1. Valle Dei Nuraghi (Valley of Nuraghi):

This beautiful valley is surrounded by cones of ancient volcanoes, a wide and flat valley, scattered with eroded rock formations, and the famous one of them is the 16-meter tall Nuraghe Santu Antine. Santu Antine was built in the 16th century BC, it is a lovely place to explore where you can climb the stairs of the central tower to the second and third floors, and follow a corridor from the west to the north towers. At the top, you can see several other nuraghi and a wonderful view from there.

  1. Grotta di Nettuno (Neptune’s Grotto):

Located in the amazing cliffside of Capo Caccia, you can take a cruise from the Banchina Dogana, the harbour in Alghero, or go on foot through via Escala del Cabirol, a set of 660 steps right on the side of the cliff. There, you’ll find an underworld of cave formations and a system of saltwater lakes almost 2.5 km in length. You can admire the cave’s golden embroidery of striking stalactite and stalagmite formations, which only add to the magical aura of the caves.

  1. Costa Smeralda:

Costa Smeralda or the Emerald Coast, where you can find the world’s most beautiful beaches and the world’s celebrities come in their yachts and waterfront villas to this mesmerizing location for their vacations. It was developed by the Aga Khan in the 1960s into a series of resorts for the uber-wealthy and many resorts were built to be like Greek islands and the Riviera. There is also Porto Cervo, which is a resort village and marina for private yachts built in the 1960s. 

  1. Duomo (Cathedral):

A magnificent place to visit in Cagliari, where the original Romanesque façade was replaced in 1722 with more fashionable Baroque decoration. The unrestored 13th-century walls to the left and on the campanile show parts of recycled pre-Christian and carved Roman tombs. Inside the Duomo, there are the two halves of a pulpit from Pisa Cathedral, a masterpiece of 12th-century sculpture that was presented to Cagliari after it was replaced. A lot of treasures fill the cathedral, among them exquisite silver in a small Gothic chapel and two crypts containing nearly 200 early Christian martyrs excavated from the old San Saturno church and identified as saints.

  1. National Archaeological Museum:

The National Archaeological Museum is a great choice for nature lovers in Cagliari. The museum contains a huge collection from the Neolithic to the Roman period and Nuragic civilization. It is a nice place for the family to spend the day there, so you can know more about Sardinia’s history. One of the lovely things to see in the museum is a series of colossal figures known as the Giganti di Monte Prama and an excellent collection of bronze that is related to the Nuragic culture.

  1. Molentargius Saline Regional Park:

Another natural beauty in the south of Sardinia is the Molentarguis Saline Regional Park, located between Urpinu Hill and Poetto Beach, where you can spend the morning in the park relaxing at the beach. The park consists of a wetland of shallow pools home to many birds. The protected area includes ancient salt mines since Roman times and the pond in the park is where the birds always hang out. The best way to explore every bit of the park is by bike, so take your time and spend the day there.

  1. Saint Remy Bastion:

Saint Remy Bastion is one of the famous landmarks in Cagliari that date back to the Middle Ages. When you visit the place, you can go through the staircase and see a fantastic view from the Umberto I terrace, where you will see coloured rooftops, a wonderful ocean, and the curve of the mountains. While you are there in summer, sit at the café and enjoy live music until the city lights up magnificently.

a shot of the front of the saint remy bastion in Cagliari
Gateway from the Villanova quarter to the fortifications of Castello in the heart of the old city, the bastion that owes its name to the Baron of San Remy, the first Viceroy of Piedmont. (Image Credit: Laura Lugaresi)

  1. Torre del Elefante (Elephant Tower):

It is a tower located near Piazza Yenne that is the large square at the upper end of Largo Carlo Felice. The Elephant Tower was part of fortifications that were built in haste to protect Castello from the Aragonese, who were invading Sardinia from Spain. There you will find the coats of arms of old families that include the powerful Visconti from northern Italy.

  1. Roman Amphitheater:

The Roman Amphitheater was built at the end of the first century and it is located in a natural curve in the hillside’s rocky slope. This attraction is one of the important Roman remains in the city of Cagliari and it is used for concerts and performances most of the time.

  1. Santuario di Bonaria:

At the hilltop in the southeast of the city of Cagliari, you’ll find the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria. In the church, there is a statue that is said that it had stopped a storm in time to save the crew of a Spanish vessel shipwrecked in the Gulf of Sardinia in the winter of 1307. The church was built in the 14th century and the larger neoclassical basilica was built in the 18th century.

  1. Il Castello:

It is the main street of the old town, the streets look like a warren of arched passageways, steep lanes, and flights of steps. In the street located the cathedral of Santa Maria which was built by the Pisans in 1312 and when you go higher in the street, there is the Palazzo Arcivescovile and the Palazzo Reggio, where the Savoy royal family lived after Napoleon captured Turin. You can have a tour in the streets for 2 hours by Cagliari Segway Tour and it takes you through the Bastione San Remy, the cathedral, the Marina district, the Public Gardens, and the Castello neighbourhood.

  1. Via Santa Croce:

This is the perfect place to see the beautiful sunset in the city, walk through the streets around the Church of Santa Croce down Via Santa Croce, and onto the elegant terrace. Also, visit Libarium Nostrum and have a drink while enjoying the fantastic view from there.

  1. Marina:

The Marina where cruise ships dock in the middle of the city, near of it is the ornate City Hall and beside it, tree-shaded Largo Carlo Felice rises at a gentle incline to Piazza Yenne. At the top, there is the Castello quarter and Via G Manno, a shopping and commercial street popularly known as the Costa leading to the Piazza Della Costituzione. Also, there is the beautiful Viale Regina Elena that descends to the Maritime Station.

  1. Mercato di San Benedetto (San Benedetto Market):

A lovely place to visit to sample delicious seafood. It is one of the largest and best fish markets in Italy. Also, you can see in the market the seasonal products of Sardinia and look for the sheep cheese that is famous in Sardinia as well as the pasta shops.

  1. Villanova Neighborhood:

It is one of the 4 historical quarters of the city which was established in the 13th century. You can explore the neighbourhood’s narrow streets and alleyways. There is the street of San Giovanni that is decorated with a spectrum of blossoming flowers. The popular places to see are the churches of St. James and St. Dominic and you will come across small artisanal shops along the way.

  1. Pizzetta Sfoglia:

This small puff pastry stuffed with tomatoes, oregano, and capers and then baked to golden perfection is a must-try. You can have it during breakfast, for an aperitif and in almost any bar you come across in Cagliari. It is a lovely local snack and you can experience and a great way to get a snippet of local life.

  1. Poetto Beach:

For relaxation and having a good time, Poetto Beach is a great choice where it is one of the longest beaches in Sardinia and Italy and it extends for 7 km. There are many activities to do there and you can find bars, restaurants, beach clubs, food and drink vendors, and sun loungers. In the summertime, the beach is always crowded as much of the city’s youth hurry over to bake in the sun and party on the beach. If you want to go to Poetto Beach take the bus from Piazza Matteotti.

  1. Arcipelago de la Maddalena (Maddalena Islands):

Maddalena Islands are one of the famous attractions to visit in Sardinia due to its lovely views and history. You can reach the island by ferry from the port of Palau and from there you can drive to the beaches on the main island of Maddelena and the island of Caprera and they are connected by a causeway. The islands are well-known for their pink sand on the southeastern shore of Budelli. 

  1. Nora:

Not far from Cagliari, about 32 kilometres south of the city, you will find the remains of the Phoenician settlement of Nora that was taken over by Carthaginians and then by the Romans. When you visit it, you will see the baths, temples, streets, walls, villa foundations, and well-preserved mosaic pavements. The Roman amphitheatre is so well preserved that it is still used for concerts and the festival of St. Efisio from 1 till 4 May every year.

a shot of the ancient city of nora with the watch tower
The first Phoenician city in Sardinia, excavations of Nora began in 1889. (Image Credit: Sardegna Turismo)

  1. Capo Carbonara:

It is about 48 kilometres from Cagliari, located in the far southeastern point of Sardinia where you can find the beauty of nature and the magnificence of history. In Capo Carbonara, there is the old fort that was built in the 17th century, and the beaches there are wonderful with white sands and turquoise water so tourists love to go there because the beaches are not crowded.

  1. Costa Sud:

In the Southwest of Cagliari, the Costa Sud is a coastline of headlands where you can find lovely sandy beaches that are stretches of fine sand backed by dunes and have activities for water sports, including paddle boarding and kiteboarding. There are also other beaches which are Spiaggia Sa Colonia and Spiaggia Su Portu, and another beach there for kids is Spiaggia Sa Colonia where you can find a place to relax even in August when all beaches are the busiest.

  1. Capo Testa:

This wonderful place is located between the Maddalena Islands and the Costa Smeralda. The beaches there are public and easily accessible by land. Capo Testa has amazing water, soft sand, and backings of rock outcrops and cliffs. There is also Santa Teresa Gallura that contains three beaches: Rena Bianca, Rena di Ponente, and Rena Levante. Rena Bianca is a beautiful stretch of white sand sloping gently into the green water. Reparata beach is best for windsurfing and snorkelling.

Places to Stay While You Visit Sardinia

  1. Hotel Villa Fanny:

The hotel is located in a quiet neighbourhood and near the Roman Amphitheater. It is a 4 stars hotel and has a wonderful garden view.

  1. Hotel Flora:

It is located near the train station and the airport, and also the Torre dell’Elefante and botanic gardens.

  1. The Contemporary T Hotel:

It is a 15 story glass tower with views over the city and the sea, with a business centre.

 The Italian city of Sardinia has amazing, world-class museums, unique culture, and fresh and delicious foods and wines. You can easily go there by plane, as the island has three main airports near Alghero, Olbia, and Cagliari. The other option is the ferry, where you will find this service in Cagliari on the south coast, Porto Torres on the north coast, and Olbia, Golfo Aranci, and Arbatax on the east coast. There are a lot of magnificent places to visit in Sardinia, and you will definitely have an enjoyable time exploring this enchanting Italian city and its magnificent landmarks.

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