It’s incredible how a place as small as Alghero Sardinia, can offer so much to see and do.This is one of the island’s best preserved Medieval cities; one of Sardinia’s main tourist attractions – especially in the summer season. Yet, it has retained all of its character.
With little less than 50000 inhabitants, this Catalan enclave is Sardinia’s 5th largest city. It’s a very lively place, with a beautiful historical center and lots of bars, restaurants, shops, and easy access to a number of gorgeous beaches and other natural attractions.
Called L’Alguerium (or L’Alguer in the local Catalan language) in reference to an algae that washed up the coast, Alghero was founded by the Genoese in the 11th century as a fishing village. It had a very strategic position which made it attractive to the Pisan, who briefly ruled over it in the 1280s.
It was only in 1353 that Alghero fell to the Catalan and these started settling in the area. As the local community was forced to relocate to the nearby Villanova Monteleone, Alghero started to take on its Catalan identity and thrived until 1720, when it turned to Savoy rule.
In the 1920s Alghero only counted 10000 inhabitants, that became even less when the city was heavily bombed in 1943. It was only when tourists started arriving in the area in the 1960s that the city finally got back into shape – to then become one of the nicest places to visit in Sardinia.
In this post, I will provide information on what to see and do in Alghero and on how to plan your trip to this lovely part of Sardinia.
20 Things To Do In Alghero, Sardinia
Walk along the beautiful Bastioni
The historic center of Alghero is surrounded by beautifully kept walls (bastioni) that were built by the Aragonese in the 16th century. They run from Porta a Mare (literally meaning “door to the sea”), which is the second of Alghero’s gateways, to Piazza Sulis (where you will also find Sulis Tower).
Along the Bastioni you will see various towers – among them, Torre di San Giacomo, Torre della Polveriera, Torre di Sant’Elmo. The Bastioni are the perfect place to go for a walk and catch a gorgeous sunset over Capo Caccia. The stretch called Bastioni Marco Polo is the one where you will find many restaurants, perfect for al fresco dining during the summer.
Visit Alghero’s Cathedral
Santa Maria Cathedral overlooks Piazza del Duomo. Originally built in the 16th century in Catalan Gothic style, the church went through several modifications. It has columns in Doric style and a neoclassical facade that was added in the 19th century and looks a bit out of place. The interior is in Renaissance and Baroque styles.
Admire the bell tower
The Campanile, or bell tower, is annexed to the Cathedral and it’s much more interesting to see. It can be accessed via a Gothic doorway that is located in Via Principe Umberto and it was built in Catalan Gothic style. Luckily, it hasn’t undergone the series of unfortunate renovations that the Cathedral went through.
And the Torre Porta a Terra
This tower is located near the Giardini Pubblici and it’s what’s left of the 14th century Porta a Terra, one of the two main gates to Alghero. It is 23 meters tall and it houses a multimedia museum where you can learn about the history of the city. From the terrace on the second floor you can enjoy a fabulous 360 degrees view.
Go to San Francesco Church
This church is actually much prettier looking than the Cathedral. It was originally built in Catalan Gothic style in the 14th century. Its facade was renovated in more of a Renaissance style after it collapsed in 1593. The highlight is the 14th century cloister which can be accessed through the sacristy.
Hang out in Piazza Civica
The nicest square in Alghero is located right by Porta a Mare. In Medieval times, this used to be the administrative center of the city. It is now lined up with beautiful boutiques and coffee shops – the best one is Caffé Costantino, located on the ground floor of Palazzo d’Abis, which hosted Spanish Emperor Charles V during his 1541 visit.
Known as the capital of Riviera del Corallo (Coral Riviera), in Alghero you’ll find a plethora of jewelries where you will be able to find the famous red coral. Other than that, the historic center of Alghero is shopping paradise, with boutiques for all tastes and budgets.
If you are into fashion, make sure to stop at Boutique Marras. Antonio Marras is a famous Italian designer who was born and raised in Alghero. The shop, run by his brother, is housed in a gorgeous palace and sells Marras as well as other designers’ clothes.
If you like seafood, you are in for a treat. Fish and shellfish rule in Alghero. This part of Sardinia is famous for its lobster, which here are cooked “alla catalana” – with tomato and onion. You won’t have a hard time finding a place to eat, but I recommend making reservations during the weekend, as it gets really busy.
If you would like a very local experience, you could opt for a dinner at a fisherman’s house. You can book it here.
The following are the places I recommend – they have all been tried and tested:
Nautilus – incredible location overlooking the harbor; excellent quality seafood; great, professional, friendly service. It’s not cheap, but worth every penny. Reservations are recommended. Ask for a table on the terrace.
The Kings – located on the Bastions, it serves delicious seafood in a classy setting. It’s pricey and also very popular.
Focacceria Milese – located on the waterfront, it’s the perfect place to grab a quick bite for lunch. It’s very informal and incredibly budget friendly.
Roberto Murgia Dolci In Corso – if you want to try Sardinian sweets, including the local “menjar blanc,” this is the place to go.
Quintilio – unbeatable location right by the sea; it’s a bit outside of Alghero. It only serves seafood and everything, including sebadas, is grilled. It’s not cheap.
Al Vecchio Mulino – by far the best pizzeria in the historic center of Alghero.
Go wine tasting
Sardinia is famous for its wine productions and in the surroundings of Alghero you’ll find several excellent vineyards. The most famous one is Tenute Sella e Mosca, founded in 1899 and which offers wine tasting tours lasting between 2 and 3 hours and whose prices range from €15 to €50 per person, depending on the number of tastings and on the wines tasted.
Enjoy the beautiful beaches
There are many beautiful beaches in the immediate surroundings of Alghero. The most famous ones are Le Bombarde and Il Lazzaretto, two small coves right next to each other and surrounded by a forest of Mediterranean pines where cicadas live and sing very loudly. Another lovely beach a bit further away is that of Mugoni – a thin stretch of very white sand lined with pine trees and with clear waters and gorgeous views of Capo Caccia.
The area of Alghero is one of the best in Sardinia for diving, and there are several companies that organize diving expeditions as well as diving courses. If you fancy something unique, opt for Nereo Cave – the biggest underwater cave in the Mediterranean.
Admire a breathtaking sunset
There is little doubt that Alghero, Sardinia, is one of the best places to catch the sunset on the island. A simple walk on the Bastioni will offer splendid views, but for a really breathtaking experience head to Capo Caccia. An easy trail will take you around the area and you will be able to see the sun setting behind the small Foradada Island – it’s a sight you won’t easily forget.
Go for a walk to Capo Caccia
The beautiful white cliffs of Capo Caccia, which can be seen from Alghero, are an impressive sight. But for an even better experience, make sure to go there for a walk. An easy trail takes you around the area and offers incredible coastal views.
Visit Grotta di Nettuno
Located in the area of Capo Caccia, Grotta di Nettuno is possibly the most popular tourist attraction in the area of Alghero, Sardinia – and for a good reason. These caves are a masterpiece of stalactites and stalagmites, with large rooms that look like concert halls, underground lakes and beautiful lighting.
Neptune’s Caves can be reached via sea by speed boats that regularly depart from Alghero’s harbor, or from Capo Caccia, via the Escala del Cabirol. It takes 654 steps to get to the cave – and you’ll have to walk them all the way up after your visit. But the cave and the views are incredibly rewarding.
Practical information for visiting Grotta di Nettuno
Neptune’s Cave can be visited year round. Admission is €13 for adults and €7 for children up to the age of 12. Tickets include a guided visit.
Ferries to the cave cost €16 for adults and €8 for children – the ride does not include admission to the cave, for which you’ll have to pay separately.
Go rock climbing
If you are into rock climbing, make sure to do the Via Ferrata del Cabirol. This cliffside via ferrata of medium difficulty offers splendid coastal views. It’s best done in spring or autumn, as it is very exposed to the sun during the summer.
Explore the bay of Porto Conte
One of the nicest places to explore near Alghero, Sardinia, is the area of Porto Conte. That’s where you’ll find Mugoni beach, which I have already mentioned. Another place I recommend visiting is Le Prigionette Nature Reserve, a beautiful reserve of Mediterranean scrub (macchia mediterranea) and rocky coastline with several walking and biking trails. It’s a great place for spotting wildlife.
Porto Conte is easy to reach from Alghero if you have a car. For guided tours that also include transportation from Alghero, click here.
Visit Nuraghe di Palmavera
Sardinia is famous for its nuraghe and one of the best kept ones is not far from Alghero. This nuraghic village dates back to 3500 years ago. You’ll be able to see a central limestone tower and a secondary one that was added later, and the remains of the surrounding village. You can get tickets for Nuraghe di Palmavera here.
And Necropoli di Anghelu Ruju
10 Km north of Alghero, on the way to Porto Torres, there’s the Necropoli di Anghelu Ruiu, where the remains of 38 tombs carved in sandstone – known locally as domus de janas – have been found. These date from between 3000 to 2700 BC. In some of the chambers you can still see the paintings.
If you want to make the most of Anghelu Ruju Necropolis I recommend joining a guided tour. Otherwise, you can get tickets online here. You can even get a combined ticket for Anghelu Ruju Necropolis and Nuraghe di Palmavera here.
Spend a day in Bosa
At around 45 minutes drive from Alghero, Bosa is by far the prettiest village in Sardinia. Picture colorful low rise buildings along a river that flows towards the sea; the remains of a Medieval castle on a hill and from where you can admire the most impressive views; a peaceful little town where it is pleasant to walk around – and you will get the picture. If you have a spare day while in Alghero, make sure to visit.
Make sure to read my post “A Complete Guide To Bosa Sardinia.”
Don’t ride the horse pulled carriages
This is more a thing you should not be doing in Alghero, actually. Unfortunately horse pulled carriages are still a thing even in this lovely city. Don’t ride them! Even if you have kids that wish to do so, explain them the discomfort that the horses feel when forced to walk in a city, on the pavement, among cars and noise. There are great alternatives that are way more ethical, such as the train on wheels.
If you care to read more on how to become a responsible tourist, head over to my post “The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”
Practical Tips To Organize Your Trip To Alghero, Sardinia
Where to stay in Alghero
The choice of accommodation option in Alghero is great and you are bound to find something for your taste and budget. Some places are close to the beach, others are in the city center. These are the best options:
- Aigua is a lovely guest house in the center of Alghero. Rooms even have a kitchenette. Breakfast is included in the price. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Hotel Sa Cheya Relais and Spa has gorgeous, large and comfortable rooms in an idyllic setting 5 km outside Alghero. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- B&B La Bouganville is close to San Giovanni, one of Alghero’s city beaches. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
How to get to Alghero
Alghero is well connected to Italy and to the rest of Europe via a series of regular and budget flights. Reaching the city from the airport is easy – there are regular bus services. Alternatively, you can opt for a taxi or a private transfer. You can book your private transfer here.
How to move around Alghero
Alghero itself is fairly small and easy to explore. If you are keen on exploring the surroundings and all the places mentioned in this post, I recommend renting a car directly from the airport. You can check the prices and book your rental car here.
When to visit Alghero
I find Alghero to be charming year round, but if you want to make the most of all that it has to offer I recommend visiting in the late spring and summer months. That’s when all businesses will be open and you will be able to enjoy things such as dining al fresco, the local beaches and the long day with the splendid sunsets.
Other useful information
You may find a guide book about Sardinia useful. These are some good options:
Further readings about Sardinia
For more readings about Sardinia, make sure to check my other posts:
- A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia
- An Excellent Guide To The Best Beaches In Sardinia
- The Best Places In Sardinia To Discover Its History, Culture And Traditions
- Hiking In Sardinia – 14 Incredible Trails
- 11 Amazing Surfing Spots in Sardinia
- Where To Take The Nicest Pictures Of Sardinia
- A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Cagliari
- A Guide To The Beaches In Cagliari And Its Surroundings
- A Guide To Hotels In Cagliari: Where To Stay In Sardinia’s Capital
- A Complete Guide To The Island Of Asinara, Sardinia
- All The Sardinian Food You Should Try
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