It’s incredible how a place as small as Alghero, in northeastern Sardinia, can offer so much to see and do. This is one of the island’s best preserved Medieval cities; and one of the most popular tourist destinations – 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 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.
In this post, I will provide information on what to see and do in Alghero, Sardinia and on how to plan your trip there.
Quick Historic Notes
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, who 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 visiting in the 1960s that the city became better known, and was restored to its past glory.
23 Things To Do In Alghero, Sardinia
Walk along the beautiful Bastioni
The historic center of Alghero is surrounded by beautifully kept walls (bastioni) built by the Aragonese in the 16th century. They run from Porta a Mare (literally meaning “door to the sea”), the second of Alghero’s gateways, to Piazza Sulis (where you will also find Sulis Tower).
Along the Bastioni you will see various towers – including 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, or to dine al fresco – the Bastioni Marco Polo is home to some great restaurants.
GOOD TO KNOW: Another nice place for a walk is the Lungomare – AKA Alghero waterfront.
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. The interior is in Renaissance and Baroque styles.
Go up the bell tower
The Campanile, or bell tower, is annexed to the Cathedral and can be accessed via a Catalan Gothic doorway that is located in Via Principe Umberto. Luckily, it hasn’t undergone the series of unfortunate renovations that the Cathedral went through. You can go up and from there enjoy great views of the city.
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. 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.
GOOD TO KNOW: Other churches to look for are St. Michael Church, which has a pretty, colorful dome, and St. Barbara Church, the oldest one in town.
Hang out in Piazza Civica
The nicest square in Alghero is located right by Porta a Mare. In Medieval times, it was 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.
Visit the Coral Museum
The Museo del Corallo is a cool place to learn more about this traditional local craft. It’s located inside a Liberty-style villa and has a special focus on the history of the Mediterranean Sea.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday – opening hours vary depending on the day. Admission is €5.
Known as the capital of Riviera del Corallo (Coral Coast), in Alghero you’ll find many 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, stop by Boutique Marras. Antonio Marras is a famous Italian designer 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.
Fish and shellfish rule in Alghero, Sardinia. This part of the island is famous for its lobster, served “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 restaurants can get really busy.
These are my favorite restaurants in town:
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 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 seadas, 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 is Tenute Sella e Mosca, founded in 1899 and which offers wine tasting tours lasting between 2 and 3 hours and ranging 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 Alghero. These are the ones you may want to visit:
LE BOMBARDE – North of Alghero on the way to Porto Conte, it’s a small cove with incredibly clear waters, fine sand and surrounded by a forest of Mediterranean pines where cicadas live and sing very loudly.
IL LAZZARETTO – It’s located right next to Lazzaretto and quite similar to it.
MUGONI – In the area of Porto Conte, it’s a thin stretch of very white sand lined with pine trees and with clear waters and gorgeous views of Capo Caccia.
LIDO SAN GIOVANNI – Alghero’s main city beach.
MARIA PIA – A bit outside Alghero, towards Fertilia, this beach is famous for the beautiful sand dunes.
SPIAGGIA DI PORTICELLO – One of the perks are the views over Porto Conte Natural Park.
PORTO FERRO – North of Alghero, this beach is beautifully surrounded by mountains and overlooked by three Aragonese towers.
The area of Alghero is one of the best in Sardinia for diving, and there are several companies that organize 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 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-These caves are a masterpiece of stalactites and stalagmites, with large rooms that look like concert halls, underground lakes and beautiful lighting.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: 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 depart at regular intervals from Alghero tourist harbor and 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.
Alternatively, you can reach Neptune’s Cave 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 – the views are incredibly rewarding.
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 magnificent coastal views. It’s best done in spring or autumn, as it is very exposed to the sun during the summer.
Explore Porto Conte Nature Park
One of the nicest places to explore near Alghero is the area of Porto Conte. That’s where you’ll find Mugoni beach and Capo Caccia, mentioned above. It’s a great place to hike and bike.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Porto Conte is easy to reach from Alghero if you have a car. Admission fee is €5 for cars and €3 for bikes or pedestrians. For guided tours that also include transportation from Alghero, click here.
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.
Visit Nuraghe di Palmavera
Sardinia is famous for its nuraghe and one of the best kept ones is not far from Alghero. This 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.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Nuraghe Palmavera can be visited every day from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. Admission is €5; if you also include the necropolis of Anghelu Ruju, it will be €8. A guided visit is an extra €2 per person but must be booked in advance. Audio-guides cost €3.
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.
Spend a day in Bosa
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 (Castello dei Malaspina) 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 idea.
Make sure to read my post “A Complete Guide To Bosa Sardinia.”
Sassari isn’t the most popular place to visit in Sardinia, but if you are in Alghero it may be worth going there for half a day or so. The second largest city in Sardinia, it has a well kept historical center where you will find all the main sights: the beautiful St. Nicholas Cathedral and its bell tower, St. Anthony Abbot Church, the Civic Theatre and Piazza Italia, one of the biggest and most impressive squares in Sardinia. Not far from it, Museo Sanna – the Archeological Museum – is incredibly well curated and worth popping in.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Sassari is at about 40 minutes drive north of Alghero. You can get there by car or also bus.
Go to La Pelosa Beach
About one hour north of Alghero, La Pelosa is acclaimed as one of the best beaches in Sardinia and a real slice of paradise on earth. In order to protect its beauty, access to the beach is limited to only a restricted number of visitors daily so if you intend to go during the peak season – June to September included – you will have to book your stay with a specific local app. It’s 100% worth the hassle of booking in advance and of driving there.
Don’t ride the horse pulled carriages
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
How long to stay in Alghero
One day will be enough to visit Alghero proper, but if you are planning on exploring the surroundings, you won’t regret booking a week stay there. Having said that, you can visit on day trips from other places in Sardinia. I recommend joining this guided day trip to Alghero from Cagliari.
Where to stay in Alghero
The choice of accommodation options 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.
- 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.
- B&B La Bouganville is close to San Giovanni, one of Alghero’s city beaches. Click here for the latest rates.
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.
Check out my post “How To Get To Sardinia: Routes From Italy And Europe.”
How to move around Alghero, Sardinia
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, Sardinia
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 days with the beautiful sunsets.
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
- Hiking In Sardinia – 14 Incredible Trails
- 11 Amazing Surfing Spots in 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 Local’s Guide To Costa Rei, Sardinia
- A Complete Guide To The Island Of Asinara, Sardinia
- All The Sardinian Food You Should Try
- 17 Reasons To Visit Italy As Soon As Possible