The 10 Best Things to do in Cagliari (All Highlights)
You’re planning to visit Cagliari during your next trip to Sardinia?
In order to help you plan your stay, if I have prepare this guide of the best things to do in Cagliari.
In addition to the must-see attractions, I will give you itineraries to visit Cagliari in 1, 2, 3 or 4 days as well as a list of the best accommodations depending on your budget.
So, what are the best places to visit and where to stay in Cagliari?
- The 10 Best Things to do in Cagliari (All Highlights)
- Visit Cagliari: The 10 Must-See Attractions and Points of interest
- The 3 Best things to do around Cagliari
- How many days to visit Cagliari?
- 1 day in Cagliari
- 2 days in Cagliari (and around)
- Visit Cagliari in 3 or 4 days
- Where to stay in Cagliari
- Where to eat in Cagliari
- Cagliari tourist map
- You’re traveling in Sardinia? These articles will help you!
Visit Cagliari: The 10 Must-See Attractions and Points of interest
1. Il Castello
Let’s start this city guide with the district of Il Castello, the oldest of Cagliari.
As one of the 4 historic districts, it regroups the main places to see in town, such as Cagliari Cathedral or the Saint Remy Bastion. I will tell you more about them a bit further in the article.
This district located on a hill used to house Sardinian nobles and wealthy people. Fortified over time, notably by the Pisans, Aragonese and Spanish, it has served as the headquarters of military, religious and civil authorities. After the Second World War the premises of the main institutions of Sardinia were transferred there.
Discovering its narrow streets on foot is very pleasant (car access is resident only). As the districts overlooks Cagliari and the sea, you will be able to enjoy nice viewpoints along the ramparts.
You will also find numerous cafes and restaurants for your lunch break.
The best things to see in Cagliari Castello district (in addition to the places I will talk about later):
- The Elephant tower and the San Pancrazio tower, 2 Pisan towers built in the 14th century. You can climb to the top to admire the view, but it may be closed during your visit due to renovation.
- Piazza Palazzo: the Royal palace, Episcopal palace and Cathedral are located there
- The royal palace or Vice Regio palace used to be the Sardinia viceroy’s residence and is today the seat of the prefecture. For € 1.50 only, you can visit some of the rooms.
- The Giardino Sotto Le Mura: located below the ramparts, it’s a great place to rest a bit in the shades. From there, you can also take the elevator to Saint Remy Bastion.
In the northern part of the Castello district, you will also find 2 other places to visit in Cagliari: a Roman amphitheatre with 10,000 seats and the botanical garden. With more than 2,000 plant species from all around the world, it’s one of the best known in Italy.
2. The Cathedral di Santa Maria
Another Cagliari must-see attraction: the Cathedral di Santa Maria.
The monument built in the 13th century was gradually deteriorated back in time. However, the facade redone in the 1930s kept the original Pisan style .
Inside, the Baroque style dominates with many frescos and sculptures. In the crypt, you will see the relics of the 179 martyrs found during excavations near the San Saturnino Basilica as well as some tombs belonging to the House of Savoy.
I recommend you to visit the Cathedral Museum (“Museo del Duomo” in Italian) located nearby, on Via del Fossario. The most famous piece of the museum is for sure the triptych of Clement VII.
In Cagliari, you can also visit other churches besides the Cathedral:
- The chiesa di San Michele built in honor of Charles V
- The chiesa di Santa Anna in the Stampace neighborhood
- The chiesa di Sant’Efisio dedicated to the patron saint of Cagliari
- The chiesa di Sant Sepolcro
- The chiesa di San Lucifero in the district of Villanova.
3. The Palazzo di Citta
As the Palazzo di Citta is on the same square as the Cathedral di Santa Maria, you can go visit it right after.
Built in the 14th century, It used to house the town hall and serves today as a small museum. The permanent exhibition presents a collection of Sardinian objects, textiles and paintings and the temporary exhibitions are usually dedicated to contemporary art or photography.
The museum is open every day except Monday, from 10 am to 9 pm in summer and closes at 6 pm in winter. The entrance fee is around 5 €.
4. The National Archaeological Museum and the Citadel of Museums
If you love learning more about history, the National Archaeological Museum is a must do in Cagliari !
As the main archaeological museum in Sardinia. It houses a huge collection of objects from the Neolithic to the Roman period, including of course the Nuragic civilization whose famous nuraghes are emblematic of the island.
There, you can also see the famous 2 meters high Giants of Mont’e Prama statues: they represent archers and warriors. Around 400 hunters, warriors and goddesses bronzes are also exposed.
The museum is really a great place to learn more about the history of Sardinia over centuries. Recently restored, it’s very well done. Explanations are available in English and Italian.
The National Archaeological Museum is part of the Citadella dei Musei, a complex of 4 museums.
Other museums to visit in Cagliari’s Citadel:
- The Pinacoteca Nazionale: an art museum with a rich collection of paintings including some made by Sardinian artists
- The Museo d’Arte Siamese: an amazing museum dedicated to Asian art mixing Chinese porcelain, Thai weapons and Burmese sculptures
- The Collezione delle Cere Anatomiche di Clemente Susini: Its collection of 80 statues revealing all the human body details (made by a famous anatomist) is impressive! A very surprising and original museum to visit in Cagliari.
5. Saint Remy Bastion
The Saint Remy Bastion is one of the most popular place in Cagliari.
Built to connect the lower and upper part of the city at the beginning of the 20th century, it quickly became the symbol of the old town.
To get the most spectacular view of Cagliari, head to the Umberto I terrace. Take a break on one of the benches and enjoy the view! You can also have an drink in one of the trendy bars located there.
To go there, you will have 2 choices:
- Take the elevator located at the Giardino Sotto Le Mura (literally “Gardens Under the Wall”).
- Take the stairs located at Piazza Costituzione
6. The San Benedetto Market
If you visit Cagliari, you should take advantage of it to discover the Sardinian gastronomy. What’s better than a market tour to discover the local flavours?
The best one in town is for sure the San Benedetto Market, located on Via Coccu Ortu.
It’s simply the largest food market in Cagliari. You will find all kinds of local products including cheeses and cold cuts. As always in Sardinia, local people are very kind and friendly. They will let you taste the specialities and will make you a nice package if you want to bring things back home!
The market is also renowned for its large number of fish and seafood stalls: it takes an entire floor. If you like it and can cook during your stay in town, you will find there the freshest and most affordable.
The San Benedetto Market is open every day except Sunday, from 7 am to 2 pm
7. The Poetto Beach
Don’t forget to relax at Poetto Beach during your stay in Cagliari! It’s the closest to the city.
You can take your car to get there, parking spaces are available along the beach. (the further you get from the beginning of the beach, the more likely you are to find a place).
You’re other option is to take the bus from Piazza Matteotti: it will take you there in a few minutes.
Poetto beach, with its length of 7km, is one of the longest beaches in Sardinia and Italy. You will find everything to spend a relax day there: bars, restaurants, vendors of all kinds and private beach clubs to rent sunbeds and umbrellas.
The place is families favorite thanks to its many equipment and shallow waters.
At the end of the beach, you will find the Sella del Diavolo, a small rocky cape: perfect to go for a 2 hours walk (round trip). It’s really nice to walk there and the view of the bay is amazing!
The 3 Best things to do around Cagliari
To help you plan your trip around the city, here are the 3 best places to visit around Cagliari.
8. The nuraghe Su Nuraxi (in Barumini)
The nuraghe Su Nuraxi the largest and most famous nuraghe of Sardinia. It’s located in Barumini, about an hour drive from Cagliari.
This archaeological site is the only one listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sardinia. There, you can discover the large central tower with smaller ones surrounding it. The walls and fortifications are also clearly visible: it’s the only nuraghe of Sardinia that have been fully excavated.
A small Nuragic village of about 50 houses is built around it.
Guided tours take place daily from 9 am until 1 hour before sunset. They start every half hour.
Price: 11 € for adult and 7 € for children.
Nora is another archaeological site to visit around Cagliari.
Located south of the city, towards Pula, it’s about 50 minute drive away.
Nora is a former trading post founded by the Phoenicians. It then became a Punic city before becoming the Roman capital of the island. It was among the most wealthy cities in Sardinia!
Today, only ruins of this ancient city remains.
You will be able to see a Roman theatre, Roman baths and beautiful mosaics. It’s also a great place to take a walk by the sea.
The tours are guided only and the guide speaks English very well. The entrance ticket costs 7€50.
If you prefer to spend a day on a beautiful beach, you should go to Villasimius and Capo Carbonara.
It takes about 1 hour to reach Villasimius from Cagliari.
There, you will find some of the most beautiful beaches of Sardinia. You shouldn’t miss Spiaggia Simius and Spiaggia di Porto Giunco.
And if you’re looking for less touristic places places to swim, head to Capo Carbonara: there are a few beautiful small coves there! It’s also the ideal place for hiking.
How many days to visit Cagliari?
A day is enough to visit Cagliari on foot and see most points of interest. If you want to visit all the museums, you can plan 2 days in Cagliari.
Spending 2 days or more in Cagliari is also a good choice if you want to visit the surroundings.
If you’re planning a 1 week trip in the South of the island, you should have a look at my 6-7-8 days itinerary in Sardinia starting from Cagliari. I give you all my best tips to make the most out of your stay!
1 day in Cagliari
If you only have one day in Cagliari, I recommend you the following itinerary:
- Start at the San Benedetto Market
- Discover the Castello district
- Then go to the Saint Remy Bastion and enjoy the view over Cagliari
- Lunch break
- Go to the Cathedral di Santa Maria
- then head to the Palazzo di Citta
- Visit the National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari
- End your day at the Poetto beach
2 days in Cagliari (and around)
You plan to spend 2 days in Cagliari? You should definitely go out of the city and explore the surroundings. In addition to the 1st day mentioned above, you can add:
- A trip to Nuraghe Su Nuraxi, if you want to learn more about the nuragic civilization.
- A visit to Nora archaeological site
- Beach and relaxation at Villasimius and Capo Carbonara
Visit Cagliari in 3 or 4 days
If you have planned to visit Cagliari in 3 or 4 days (without doing a complete itinerary in Sardinia), I highly recommend you to take the SP71 panoramic road, from Chia to Teulada (about 25km).
It’s one of the most beautiful place in Sardinia, and it’s totally worth it to rent a car just for 1 day to do it!
You can find more info about this road in my article: The 25 best things to do in Sardinia.
Where to stay in Cagliari
- Birkin Castello: Located in the Castello district and 50 meters away from the Cathedral. A very cozy and comfortable double room from 60 € per night, breakfast included. Pros: the location, the rich breakfast, the helpful staff.
- Budget Rooms Cagliari: Located in the old town. A well decorated and warm double room from 85 € per night. Pros: the location to visit Cagliari on foot, the friendly staff.
- Hotel Villa Fanny: Located 1 km from the centre of Cagliari, 15 minutes walk away from the harbour. A double room with refined and luxurious decoration from 130 € per night, breakfast included. Pros: the kindness of the staff, the calm, the perfect bedding, the excellent and varied breakfast. This is my recommendation for a luxury stay in Cagliari!
Where to eat in Cagliari
- Da Cesare: Located on Via Charles Darwin in the Cesar Hotel. The appetizers and dishes are very good and of excellent quality. A nice place with a friendly staff who speaks English.
- Bombas Hamburgeria Sarda: Located on Via Universita 37. You guessed it, you will find burgers here! Hearty and made of good quality meat, they are delicious and served with home made potato chips. It offers great value for money.
- Panino Rustico: Located in Piazza San Rocco, next to the San Benedetto Market. Ideal for quick lunch, this restaurant offers panini with fresh local produce and original recipes. They are all very tasty. Try them with a good local beer!
Cagliari tourist map
I have created for you a tourist map of Cagliari, listing all the must see attractions and points of interest I have talked about in this article. You can display the map legend by clicking on the top left button, the one with a little arrow on it.
And you, what do you plan to visit during your stay in Cagliari?
Sardinia travel Guides
- Buy the Lonely Planet Sardinia guide on Amazon.com or on Amazon.co.uk
- Buy the DK Eyewitness Sardinia guide on Amazon.com or on Amazon.co.uk
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