A Guide To The Beaches In Cagliari And Its Surroundings

A Guide To The Beaches In Cagliari And Its Surroundings

There are a few beautiful beaches in Cagliari, and some incredible ones in the immediate surroundings. They are worth going to in any season. However, they are an absolute must if you visit Sardinia in the summer.

Cagliari is one of the most underrated Mediterranean destinations. Though I feel that people visiting Italy are missing out by not coming to Cagliari, in a way I feel that the fact it is still relatively unexplored contributes to its charm. People who visit are immediately captured by the incredible atmosphere and gorgeous setting, including the incredible Cagliari beaches.

Indeed, one of the things that make Cagliari an incredible place to visit is that it is right by the sea. We locals enjoy Cagliari beaches year round, whether it is to go for a walk on a warm afternoon during the winter; for a run or to bike during the spring; or even better to spend a few hours relaxing in the sun and swimming in the summer.

We are lucky, because we don’t have to make too much of an effort (or to spend a lot of money) to get in vacation mode. All we need to do to relax for a day or even just a few hours at the end of a work day is heading to the beach.

In this post, I highlight the nicest beaches in Cagliari and a few ones in the immediate surroundings, and share some tips so that you can make the most of them.

Before I go on to highlight Cagliari beaches, one word of warning: never take any sand from Sardinian beaches. In fact, never take any sand or rocks or shells from anywhere in the world. To become a more responsible tourist, check out these few tips.

For more things to do in Cagliari, make sure to read my post “A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Cagliari.” And if you are planning a longer trip around Sardinia, head over to my post A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia.”

beaches in Cagliari

There are some lovely beaches in Cagliari

Guided Tours That Go To Cagliari Beaches

Guided tours aren’t the best way to enjoy the beaches in Cagliari. After all, they are really easy to reach by public transportation. However, there are a few interesting things to do and places to visit that are right by the beach and you may want to join a guided tour to make the most of them. These are some good options:

If you’d like to get out of town towards one of the beaches in Cagliari’s immediate surroundings, your best bet is to hire a car so that you can be completely independent. Alternatively, you can join a guided tour. Keep in mind the following don’t necessarily go to the beaches I mention below.

beaches in Cagliari

Poetto is the main beach in Cagliari

7 Beautiful Beaches In Cagliari And Its Surroundings

Poetto

Locals love Poetto. It may not be the best beach in Sardinia, but for an urban beach it’s actually one of the most beautiful you will see in the world. This Cagliari beach is a whopping 8 km long stretch of fine sand that starts in Sella del Diavolo (Devil’s Saddle), one of the landmarks of Cagliari, and goes all the way to Quartu Sant’Elena. It is extremely photogenic, which is why I argue it is one of the best beaches in Sardinia.

Looking for more beaches in Sardinia? Read my post The Ultimate Guide To The Best Beaches In Sardinia.” 

What you will love about Poetto is the incredible setting. On one side you will get the gorgeous Sella del Diavolo. Right behind it the lagoon of Parco Molentargius, where you can go observe pink flamingoes and other bird species. Along Poetto, you will find a running and biking lane. Of all the beaches in Cagliari, this is a local’s favorite to exercise throughout the year.

The water at Poetto is clear and very shallow, so it is ideal for families with children who can safely play there.

Poetto is a very well serviced beach. You can easily get there by bus from several locations in town, and once there you can find various places to rent umbrellas and sun beds. There are life guards on duty; children entertainment; small restaurants and kiosks where you can get a light meal or a drink. Dogs are welcome in designated areas – so it is perfect if you are traveling with your furriend.

Among Cagliari beaches, Poetto is the one that gets most crowded during the summer months. Go in the early morning to find a good spot near the waterfront if you want to spend the whole day at the beach; or in the late afternoon for a quick swim and a drink in one of the kiosks.

LOCAL TIP: Poetto is very exposed to the wind. Unless you are not bothered by it, I’d strongly recommend not going when the mistral is blowing: chances are you’ll be covered in sand in now time. Alternatively, head to Calamosca or Cala Fighera for a more protected location.

LOCAL TIP: If you are into surfing, Poetto can get good waves during the winter months, on very windy days and after storms. Check out my guide on 11 Amazing Surfing Spots in Sardinia.”

How to get to Poetto

Poetto can be easily reached by bus from the center of Cagliari. Hop on either PF or PQ to get there. There are various stops along the beach. Some are more crowded than others. For a less crowded bit, get off at the 6th stop or at Ospedale Marino.

Cagliari beaches

Calamosca is a popular beach among locals

Calamosca

I admit I don’t visit Calamosca beach nearly as much as I should. It’s a pity, as this is one of the most scenic beaches in Cagliari. It really is a small cove, with two promontories protecting it on each side: on the western side, you’ll see the famous Sella del Diavolo (on the other side of which there is Poetto); on the eastern one you’ll find Capo Sant’Elia with its ancient lighthouse.

Calamosca is characterized by very fine, white sand and beautifully transparent waters. As opposed to Poetto, is protected from the strong winds so a good option on a windy day. As the water is very shallow, it’s a good beach for families with small children.

Right on the beach there is an old hotel and behind it some historical buildings – these actually add to the charm. If you continue walking from the main entrance to the beach, you will get to “Le Terrazze” – a place where you can rent beach equipment but, most importantly, enjoy a drink with the most beautiful sunset view.

Calamosca is a well serviced beach with a small kiosk where you can enjoy a light lunch, gelato or a drink.

LOCAL TIP: Taking the road on the left of the parking lot, you’ll reach the starting point of a well marked trail that goes to Sella del Diavolo. It’s an easy hike that should take you no more than two hours (there and back) but which will afford you incredible views over the Gulf of Cagliari, Poetto beach and Molentargius Park. You’ll need hiking boots.

For more incredible hikes in Sardinia, read my post Hiking In Sardinia – 14 Incredible Trails.”

How to get to Calamosca

You can easily get to Calamosca beach by getting bus 5-11 from the center of Cagliari. There are bus stops along Via Roma.

beaches in Cagliari

Cala Fighera is one of the loveliest small beaches in Cagliari

Cala Fighera

Cala Fighera isn’t just one of my favorite beaches in Cagliari – it may well be one of my favorite places in Sardinia. I never tire of going and of admiring the incredible views of the sea from above.

This tiny rocky cove isn’t the most comfortable of places. It’s all pebbles and rocks, so not really suitable unless you are a fan of rocky beaches and definitely not a good place for families with children. Having said that, it’s very well protected from the wind, and the water is transparent and the rocks create a fantastic habitat for marine life.

Cala Fighera is a nudist friendly and gay friendly beach. There is a kiosk there where you can rent umbrellas and sun beds, and right above it there is La Paillote, one of the nicest restaurants in Cagliari (good food and absolutely unbeatable location).

How to get to Cala Fighera

There is no public transportation to get to Cala Fighera. However, you can take bus 5 – 11 to Calamosca and then walk or bike from there. Alternatively, opt for a taxi. It’s a short ride from the center, and there hardly is any traffic, so it won’t be expensive. Once you are at the end of the road, it is a short hike down to the beach.

beaches in Cagliari

Sant’Elia has a nice beach that should be better preserved

Sant’Elia

Sant’Elia is one of the least popular beaches in Cagliari, yet it is lovely. Locally known as Cala Diga, this small beach is located very close to Sant’Elia stadium, the old stadium of the city of Cagliari, and right by the Levante del Porto pier.

The beach is characterized by very fine white sand and clear waters, but unfortunately it is not very well kept (think about the odd plastic bottle here and there). It’s a pity, because it’s otherwise very beautiful and in a gorgeous setting.

It is not a serviced beach – there are no lifeguards on duty and there is no kiosk. It’s mostly a local beach so the chances of meeting other tourists there are slim.

LOCAL TIP: Not far from Sant’Elia beach you’ll find the beautiful Torre del Prezzemolo, from where you’ll get incredible views of the sea. Another nice walk in the area is that to the Fortino di Sant’Ignazio, which however can be accessed from Viale Calamosca, on the way to Calamosca Beach.

How to get to Sant’Elia beach

The easiest way to get to Sant’Elia beach is by car. Follow the directions to Poetto beach and take it right towards San Bartolomeo / Sant’Elia. Follow the signs to the Lazzaretto and from there take it left to go towards Ristorante Lo Scoglio. It’s shortly after that. There is a small parking lot.

Cagliari beaches

Cala Regina is one of the nicest beaches in Cagliari’s immediate surroundings

Cala Regina

At less than 30 minutes drive from the center of town, Cala Regina is one of the nicest beaches in Cagliari and its immediate surroundings. It is a really tiny cove, very well protected from the wind and as such an excellent choice on a windy day. It is surmounted by a promontory with a Spanish watch tower, from where you can get incredible views of the coast.

Cala Regina is pebbly, and the very transparent water is almost immediately deep – so not a good choice for families with children. On the other hand, if you like snorkeling it’s an ideal place, as hidden in the rocks you will find a lot of marine life.

This is not a serviced beach – there are no places to rent any sort of equipment and not even a kiosk or a lifeguard on duty. It’s almost as wild as it gets.

How to get to Cala Regina

From the center of Cagliari, follow the directions to Poetto and continue straight until you get to the end of the beach and a very large roundabout. Take it right to follow the directions towards Villasimius – you will be driving on SP17. You’ll find a sign on your right pointing towards Cala Regina. The speed limit along SP17 is 50 Km per hour so you won’t have trouble seeing the sign.

Cagliari beach

Mari Pintau has tremendously inviting waters

Mari Pintau

Whenever I am in need of a tropical quick fix, I head to Mari Pintau. The name literally translates as “painted sea” and it is easy to understand why this small beach was given this name, once you see it. It is simply wonderful, and one of the nicest beaches in Cagliari and its surroundings.

Mari Pintau is a pebbly beach, so if you want to be a bit more comfortable make sure to take a chair or sun-bed with you. Planting an umbrella is a bit tricky and requires a bit of patience, but it is doable.

The pebbles soon give way to a fine white sand in the water, which is transparent and of an incredibly turquoise color. Although kids can’t play in the sand, since the water is shallow this is a good place for families with children.

Here, you’ll find mostly locals and the occasional tourist. It is a well serviced beach where you’ll find a kiosk on the trail that leads to the beach, toilets and hot showers (for which you’ll have to pay a very small fee) and a place to rent umbrellas and chairs.

LOCAL TIP: Mari Pintau is one of the few nudist and gay friendly beaches in Cagliari. To be fair, I have never noticed any nudist: they all head to the very far right of the beach. Check out Nomadic Boys post about the nicest gay friendly beaches in Italy.

How to get to Mari Pintau

Mari Pintau is a bit further down on the same road that goes to Cala Regina (in fact, I sometimes swim from one beach to the other). Just continue driving along SP17, and you’ll eventually see it on your right. There is no real parking lot so you’ll have to park along the road and then head to the beginning of the trail that leads to the beach.

Cagliari beaches

Nora is at an easy drive from Cagliari – photo courtesy of Trinchetto (flickr)

Nora 

Nora is one of the nicest beaches within easy reach from Cagliari. It’s not very big, but truly special as it is located right by Nora archeological site, which is beautiful and well kept.

On one side of the beach you’ll spot a promontory surmounted by Coltellazzo tower. Right on the beach you’ll also find the tiny church of Sant’Efisio: it’s not uncommon to see weddings being celebrated there during the summer months. Behind the beach there is a lagoon populated by pink flamingoes.

The bay is well protected from the wind so ideal when the mistral is blowing. As opposed to many other beaches in Cagliari, this never gets too crowded.

Nora beach is well serviced with a kiosk and places to rent umbrellas and sun-beds. It is accessible to disabled.

LOCAL TIP: Make sure to pay a visit to Nora archeological site as a nice add on to a day at the beach.

How to get to Nora

From Cagliari, drive along SS195 towards Pula. Take the first exit to Pula and follow the directions to Nora, continuing along until you get to the parking lot. You’ll have to pay a small fee to park your car.

Cagliari beach

It’s always a good time to enjoy Poetto

Practical Information For Your Trip To Cagliari

Where to stay in Cagliari

There are a bunch of excellent places to stay in Cagliari, scattered around town, for any budget and any taste. You can pick a hostel, a small boutique hotel, an apartment or a hotel proper. This is just a selection:

Here is a more detailed guide on where to stay in Cagliari.

Where to eat and drink in Cagliari

Cagliari has a great variety of restaurants for all tastes and budgets, and a great selections of bars to have pre-dinner or late night drinks. The ones I mention here are my go to places – so you can trust they are local!

Framento is my favorite pizzeria in the world – it even won a prize for the best 50 pizzas in Italy! They only use local ingredients; the dough is made with natural yeast and so fragrant and moist. Make sure to make reservations.

My two favorite gelaterie are Cremoso, right off Largo Carlo Felice, and Gocce di Gelato e Cioccolato, in Piazza del Carmine.

The best area in town if you are looking for seafood is La Marina. There you will find La Stella Marina di Montecristo, a trattoria style kind of place where for a reasonable price you’ll get a very good meal. It’s nothing fancy, but the food is really good. Ristorante Italia is one of the best restaurants in Cagliari. Osteria Kobutta is one of the up and coming places, that does a lot of fusion. Sabores is the best place in town to try local specialties such as prosciutto and Sardinian cheese, all accompanied by local wine. Lo Scoglio is one of the best seafood restaurants in town, in a lovely location facing the sea.

The best burgers are at Bombas in Via Università. They are prepared using only local ingredients.

Libarium is my favorite place in town for pre-dinner drinks. The sunset views from the terrace are simply stunning. Antico Caffé is an all day kind of coffee shop and also good for quick meals. It’s one of the most historic coffee shopps in town. De Candia makes good cocktails and serves good craft beers. Caffé dell’Elfo is in a great location, right by Largo Carlo Felice which is a main local hang out.

Soon I will be writing a complete guide to Sardinian food and one on the best restaurants and bars in Cagliari.

things to do in CagliariThe view of Poetto beach and Molentargius Nature Park from Sella del Diavolo is simply stunning

How to get to Cagliari, Sardinia

Cagliari is well connected to the rest of Italy via ferry, with rides from and to Civitavecchia, Naples and Palermo (all of them take around 13 hours), and it is also a cruise port so the best cruise companies all get here.

Check the timetable and get a quote for a ferry ride to Cagliari from Civitavecchia, Naples or Palermo here. 

However, the best, cheapest and quickest way to travel to Cagliari is by plane. There are regular and budget airlines flights to Cagliari from various locations in Italy and Europe.

The airport is well connected to the city center. 

By train

Traveling to the center of Cagliari from the airport takes only 7 minutes. The station is right outside the terminal and takes you to the heart of Cagliari, by the harbor.

By taxi

There are plenty of taxi right outside the arrivals terminal. Depending on the time of day or night, you will be paying between €17 and €20 for a ride to anywhere in Cagliari – it’s a flat rate.

By private transfer

If you are worried about having to juggle a taxi in a different language and just want to have it easy, you can even book a private transfer with an English speaking driver. The price is more or less the same. You can book it here.

How to move around Cagliari

Cagliari has a good public transportation system. If you plan to only stay in the city and just visit Cagliari beaches, you can rely on the buses that leave from the city center. They are cheap and easy to use. If, on the other hand, you plan on traveling around a bit more and hitting some of the beaches that are outside of town, I recommend renting a car – unless you want to opt for guided tours. You can get a quote for car rental here.

When to visit Cagliari

If you care to enjoy the beaches in Cagliari at their best, I suggest to visit in the summer months – between June and September. Having said that, any time is a good time make the most of Cagliari beaches. Locals go there year round to run, bike, walk, get a breath of fresh air or just meet friends for a coffee. Depending on your travel plans, I recommend spending between 4 and 6 days in Cagliari to make the most of it!

Other useful information

As always, I recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip – no matter the length of it. Make sure to read why I do so in my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.” Get a quote for a good travel insurance here

Have you ever been to Cagliari, Sardinia? What are your favorite among the beaches in Cagliari?

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Discover the unmissable beaches in Cagliari Sardinia Italy - via @clautavani

A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Cagliari

A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Cagliari

There are many more things to do in Cagliari than you’d expect – so many, that even locals hardly get to do them all.

Sardinia is one of the hottest holiday destinations in the summer, with people crowding its gorgeous beaches. What most ignore is that even the cities are beautiful. Cagliari, the capital, is a fantastic place to visit any time of the year, and one of the best places in Sardinia to get a good understanding of the island’s history, culture and spirit.

Check out my post “The Best Places In Sardinia To Discover Its History, Culture And Traditions.”

No matter what your tastes in travel are, and regardless of the time of year you visit Cagliari, this city has something for you and you are bound to fall in love with it. The same happened to D. H. Lawrence when arrived here in 1920. He found it to be “…strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy.”

Cagliari, whose name comes from the Punic Karel or Karalis (rocky place), has a long history: founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC, it saw Roman, Punics, Arab, Pisans and Aragonese dominations, among others.

In Sardinian language, however, Cagliari is called Casteddu, which means castle, a name that refers to the walled medieval city where the doors were closed every night. Cagliari is beautiful, and quite unique too. Facing the Mediterranean Sea but with mountains at its back; on the hills yet right by a big plane; mixing a variety of architectural styles and layers and layers of history, this is a city worth discovering.

Cagliari is the perfect destination for a city break, and a great starting point for your Sardinia holidays. In this post, I will highlight some of the many things to do in Cagliari, and will share some tips on how to make the most of my beloved hometown.

These are some of the best guided tours of Cagliari:

things to do in Cagliari

A walk around Castello is one of the nicest things to do in Cagliari

30 Fabulous Things To Do In Cagliari, Sardinia

Take a walk around Castello

Walking around Castello is one of the things to do in Cagliari. It’s a beautiful hilltop citadel with domes, towers and palaces that used to be home to the local aristocracy. This is the medieval part of the city – the one that gives it its local name, Casteddu.

Castello is a maze of narrow, cobbled alleys and crumbling buildings – much to the locals dismay. It is packed with interesting places to visit, and several viewpoints to different sides of the city – some perfect for sunset, others for sunrise. There’s also a few interesting cafés and bars where to have a good drink.

TIP: Don’t skip Via Stretta! It’s a narrow alley where residents have placed beautiful flower and plant pots outside of their doors to adorn the street.

These are the best tours of Cagliari that also go to Castello:

Walk up the Torri

O of the nicest things to do in Cagliari to get fantastic views is walking up one or both of the two Pisan towers that dominate the city. Torre dell’Elefante and Torre di San Pancrazio were both built at the beginning of the 14th century by the Aragonese rules, for protective reasons. Walking up is not what to do in Cagliari if you are afraid of heights. If you manage to get over your fears, you’ll be rewarded with splendid views.

It costs €3 to get in each of the towers.

TIP: You may want to opt for the “Biglietto Integrato Beni Culturali Cagliari” which gives you access to one of the towers, the Roman Amphiteather, Santa Restituta Crypt and Villa di Tigellio. This costs €6 for one day, and €8 for seven days.

TRAVEL WARNING: At the time of writing both towers are closed to public for restoration works (you can still walk under them and around them). 

things to do in Cagliari

The beautiful Cathedral looks even prettier at night

Visit Cattedrale di Santa Maria

One of the unmissable things to do in Cagliari is visiting the beautiful Cathedral, in Piazza Palazzo. It dates back to the 13th century, and its interior is a fantastic example of Baroque style. To the side of the altar there is ta beautifully decorated crypt where the tombs of the members of the Savoy royal family are located.

The Cathedral is open every day from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 4:00 to 8:00 pm.

TIP: One of the nicest sights in Cagliari is that of the Cathedral at night. Make sure to go for a walk around Castello to enjoy it!

Then go to Palazzo Viceregio

Right next to the Cathedral, Palazzo Viceregio is where the headquarters of the provincial assembly are located. It used to be the residence of the Spanish and Savoy viceroys. Exhibits and concerts are often held there, and it’s possible to visit throughout the year. It’s open every day, from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm in the winter months, and from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm in the summer months. Guided tours are held each hour, and cost €5 per person.

Visit the Archeology Museum

Since one of the best things to do in Cagliari is learning about the history of Sardinia, make sure to visit the Archeology Museum. It has an incredible exhibit of artifacts displaying millennia of history, with a collection of bronzetti (bronz figurines), providing insights into the nuragic civilization of Sardinia, and a few of Mont’e Prama Giants (the rest are on display in Cabras’ Museo Civico), enormous stone statues that date back to the 8th and 9th century BC.

The Museo Archeologico Nazionale is located in Piazza dell’Arsenale. It’s open every day (but make sure to check the website for national holidays and days of closure) from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm and the ticket costs €7. The combined ticket for the Archeology Museum and the Pinacoteca costs €9.

TIP: The Museo Archeologico Nazionale is in Castello, so it’s a nice add on to your walk around the area.

And the Pinacoteca Nazionale

The Pinacoteca Nazionale is right next to the Archeology Museum, and has an incredible collection of art dating between the 15th and the 17th century, with works of Catalan and Genoese artists, as well as Sardinian ones. Visiting is one of the things to do in Cagliari for art lovers.

things to do in Cagliari

Via Stretta is one of the most iconic alleys in Cagliari

Walk around the Ghetto degli Ebrei

One of the nicest things to do in Cagliari is walking around the Ghetto degli Ebrei, between Via Santa Croce and Via Stretta in Castello. Little remains of the area where the Jewish community lived until it was expelled in 1492. The Santa Croce church in Via Santa Croce has been built on top of a synagogue.

Enjoy sunset from Via Santa Croce  

If you are a fan of the golden hour, one of the things to do in Cagliari is heading to the terrace of Via Santa Croce in time for sunset. The view of the roofs of Stampace and that of the coast is breathtaking. There is a very popular bar, called Libarium, that’s also a fantastic place to sit and have a drink.

things to do in Cagliari

One of the best things to do in Cagliari is admiring the sunset from Via Santa Croce

Take in the views from Bastione

Speaking of views, one of the best things to do in Cagliari is heading to Bastione di San Remy, which was built between 1899 and 1902 . In the summer months, it is a gathering point as there are a couple of good bars on the terrace. There is a staircase that from Piazza Costituzione takes up to Bastione, but it’s been under renovation for several years now. The best way to get there is thus from Via Università, in Castello. 

Visit the Roman Amphitheater

One of the unmissable things to do in Cagliari is visiting the Roman Amphitheater. This is located in Viale Sant’Ignazio, and it dates back to the 2nd century AD. It’s been entirely carved out of rock. At the height of the Roman empire, it would hold up to 10000 people. Until a few years ago it was regularly used for concerts and shows in the summer months.

It’s open every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, and entry costs €3 – it’s also part of the €6 biglietto integrato circuit.

Check out my post on the things to do in Rome.

Explore the Botanical Gardens

Not many people know, but the Botanical Gardens in Cagliari are among the most famous in Italy. They were first opened in 1858 and there are more than 3000 species of flora. Going for a walk through these beautiful park is one of the most relaxing things to do in Cagliari. Inside, there also is a Punic cistern and a Roman quarry.

The Botanical Gardens are open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm in the winter, and from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm in the summer. Admission costs €4. 

Visit Villa di Tigellio

One of the nicest things to do in Cagliari for lovers of Roman history is visiting Villa di Tigellio, which dates back to the 1st century BC and was the residence of Tigellio Ermogene, famous Sardinian poet and musician. The Villa can be visited every day and admission tickets are €2 – it’s also part of the €6 biglietto integrato as well.

ITINERARY TIP: Walk your way down Viale Sant’Ignazio, and visit the Roman Amphitheater first, then the Botanical Gardens, and lastly Villa di Tigellio.

things to do in Cagliari

Visiting the historical cemetery of Bonaria is one of the quirkiest things to do in Cagliari

Visit Basilica di Bonaria and the annexed cemetery

The Basilica di Bonaria is one of the most impressive churches in Cagliari. In the Sanctuary right next to it there is the relics of a wooden statue of Virgin Mary and Christ, which according to legend has saved a 14th century Spanish ship during a terrible storm.

At the base of the church there is a beautiful historical cemetery, no longer used as a burial ground in 1968. It can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday, and there occasionally are guided tours which cost €8 and have to be booked in advance. More information can be found on the website of Cagliari Tourism Board. If you are in town on one of the days when tours are organize, I highly recommend it – it’s one of the quirkiest things to do in Cagliari! 

things to do in Cagliari

Among the things to do in Cagliari, there’s visiting the many churches – this one is San Giacomo

Visit the other beautiful churches

If you have some extra time, one of the nicest things to do in Cagliari is visiting more churches, as they are examples of different architectural and artistic styles and places to admire fine arts. Among the nicest ones there is the Chiesa di San Michele, in rococo style; the nearby Chiesa di Sant’Efisio, which holds the statue of the Saint Patron of Sardinia, and from where the famous Sant’Efisio Parade departs every 1st of May. San Saturnino Basilica is one of the oldest churches in Sardinia, built over a Roman necropolis.

what to do in Cagliari

Castello di San Michele is an actual castle, from where there are gorgeous views of the city

Go to Castello di San Michele

Visiting Castello di San Michele is one of the nicest things to do in Cagliari. It’s located on top of a hill from where there are beautiful views of the city. It dates back to the 10th century and in the 14th century it became the residence of the Carroz family. Nowadays, it hosts art exhibits. There is a nice park around it.

The castle is open from Tuesdays to Sundays and it costs €3 to get in. To get there, you have to take bus n. 5 to the final stop. Alternatively, you can join this tour. 

things to do in Cagliari

Villanova is one of the nicest areas in Cagliari

Walk around the historical center

Cagliari historical center is roughly divided into four main areas, and walking around them is one of the nicest things to do in Cagliari. One of them is Castello, which I have already mentioned. Stampace used to be Cagliari’s medieval working class district; Villanova has recently become one of the trendiest areas in Cagliari; and La Marina is the heart of Cagliari nightlife. Each of these quarters hides some of the nicest gems in town. In Stampace, you’lll find Santa Restituta crypt, which has been used since pre-Christian times and became the home of the martyr Restituta in the 5th century. 

These are the best tours of Cagliari that also go to the 4 historical districts:

Explore the area of Via Roma

The most beautiful view of Cagliari is the one you’ll get from the ferry either docking or leaving the harbor. Via Roma is one of the nicest streets in town, and walking along is one of the nicest things to do in Cagliari. This is where the Palazzo Civico – aka the City Hall – is located. This beautiful palace built between 1899 and 1913 holds the works of various Sardinian artists. It can be visited on Saturdays, when the on-site guide will take you around, or else you may have to take an appointment.

Explore underground Cagliari 

One of the quirkiest things to do in Cagliari is visiting its undergrounds. It’s a fantastic way to learn about the many civilizations that followed one another in ruling the city, and appreciate its complex history. There is no way of doing this independently – you have to source a guide and even then tours are not held regularly. Still, I recommend looking into it if you are a fan of off-beat places. 

things to do in Cagliari

Admiring every day life in one of the many squares is one of the things to do in Cagliari

Enjoy the airy squares  

If you want to catch a bit of local action, spending some time in one of the many, beautiful, airy squares is what to do in Cagliari. Piazza Yenne is possibly the most popular hang out place in town, thanks to the many lovely cafés and bars. Other beautiful squares are Piazza del Carmine and Piazza San Domenico, in Villanova.

Go to the market

Visiting the markets is what to do in Cagliari to learn more about the food culture in Sardinia. The recently renovated Mercato di Santa Chiara is located right behind Piazza Yenne, so it makes for a nice stop for food on your wanders though the city. Mercato di San Benedetto is one of the best fish markets in the Mediterranean. It’s open Mondays to Saturdays, from 7:00 am to 2:00 pm.

These are some of the best market tours in Cagliari:

Go to Sant’Efisio Parade

If you happen to be in town on 1st of May, one of the ultimate things to do in Cagliari is following Sant’Efisio Parade. This is a beautiful parade of traditional Sardinian costumes from various villages around the island, in honor of Sant’Efisio, the Saint Patron of Sardinia.

For more unique things to do in Sardinia, check out my post A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia.”

what to do in Cagliari

Poetto is one of the beaches in Cagliari – from there, you can see Sella del Diavolo

Go to one of the beaches in Cagliari

Cagliari is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia. They can all be easily reached from the center of town and are great places to hang out. Going to the beach certainly is one of the best things to do in Cagliari, and locals love it!

Poetto is the most popular of the urban beaches in Cagliari. It is a long stretch of white sand with clear waters. There is a bike and running lane, and several small cafés and restaurants where you can have lunch or a drink.

Calamosca is smaller, located on the other side of the Sella del Diavolo. It has white sand and clear waters, and there is a small kiosk too.

Cala Fighera is a bit of a hike to get to, but one of the most beautiful, hidden beaches in Cagliari. It’s a famous nudist beach: if you don’t mind that, it’s a lovely place with incredibly clear and clean waters.

Check out my post on the best beaches in Sardinia and make sure to read my post A Guide To The Beaches In Cagliari And Its Surroundings.”

Hike up Sella del Diavolo and Fortino S. Ignazio  

Hiking is one of the nicest things to do in Cagliari, and what makes me truly love my hometown. I love the fact that I don’t have to go far to get that refreshing out of town feeling. The best urban hike is that to Sella del Diavolo (Devil’s Saddle), one of the local landmarks, from where there is an incredible view of Poetto beach and Molentargius Lagoon. It’s a nice and easy hike, lots of people go there regularly to train, or for trail running. You can access the trail from Calamosca beach.

Another easy walk that starts more or less in the same area is that to the Fortino di Sant’Ignazio, a fort that dates back to 1792. Close by there also is a lighthouse and a watchtower, from where you’ll get yet another incredible view.

Sella del Diavolo and Fortino di Sant’Ignazio are among my favorite photo locations in Sardinia. Discover what the others are in this post. If hiking is your way of having fun, make sure to read my post Hiking In Sardinia – 14 Incredible Trails.”

If hiking is not your thing, and you are more for water sports (did you know Sardinia is great for surfing and windsurfing?) you can even kayak around Sella del Diavolo. You can even book a kayak and trekking tour at Devil’s Saddle.

Check out my post on the best surfing spots in Sardinia. 

things to do in Cagliari

Hiking up Sella del Diavolo and Fortino di Sant’Ignazio is what to do in Cagliari to get an out of town feeling

Go to one of the many city parks

Cagliari is packed with beautiful parks. The most unique one is the necropolis of Tuvixeddu, which is the largest of its kind in the Mediterranean basin. Other nice parks are Monte Urpinu, a beautiful pine grove with a small pond and several animals; Terramaini, one of the newest ones and a favorite of locals; Monte Claro, located on a beautiful hill from where there are nice views of the city, and often used for concerts and events; and Parco della Musica, a smaller park in the center of town.

Admire pink flamingoes in Molentargius Nature Reserve 

Cagliari and the surroundings are nesting spot for pink flamingoes and other species of birds. Going to Molentargius Nature Reserve is what to do in Cagliari for great chances to see flamingoes from a close distance. The best access point to Molentargius is Poetto beach. The park is open daily from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm in the summer, and from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm in the winter. Admission is free but you may want to rent a bike to explore it.

There even are guided tours that to all the way to Molentargius. Here are some of them:

Go to an art exhibit  

Cagliari has a thriving cultural life. If you are a fan of art, one of the things to do in Cagliari is heading to either Ex Ma, the former abattoir, which often hosts exhibits and cultural events. Another place is the Lazzaretto. This is in Sant’Elia, in a lovely location overlooking the sea and in a beautifully restored building that used to be a leper hospital.

Go to a soccer game 

One of the most fun things to do in Cagliari is going to a soccer game to support the local team, which plays in Serie A. It’s a nice way to spend a couple of hours and to mingle with the locals. You can buy tickets in advance online, or directly at the kiosk. You need to bring your ID card. 

things to do in Cagliari

You can go on an easy day trip out of Cagliari to explore the gorgeous beaches

Get out of town

The surroundings of Cagliari are beautiful, and getting out of town is what to do in Cagliari if you want to explore a bit more of the region. You have several options. Lovers of wine should head to Serdiana and Dolianova, two lovely villages around 20 minutes drive from Cagliari where there are several incredible wineries.

These are the best wine tours departing from Cagliari.

San Sperate, famous for its murals, is at just 15 minutes drive from Cagliari.

These are the best tours of San Sperate departing from Cagliari:

The surroundings of Cagliari have several unique archeological sites. Nora is home to a gorgeous Roman site; whereas the Nuraxi di Barumini is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sardinia. Both of them can be visited as day trips. Another option is to visit the beautiful mines of the area of Sulcis.

These tours all depart from Cagliari and go to the nicest archeological sites in the area:

If you are into hiking, can join a guided hike alone one of the nicest trails in the region.

These are some of the best hikes:

Last, but definitely not least one of the top things to do in Cagliari is going to the beaches nearby.

If you’d rather join a guided tour to take away the hassle of driving, these are some good options:

Try local food

Food in Cagliari is fantastic, and you’ll find some specialties that you won’t see in the rest of Italy. The first one that comes to my mind is pizzetta sfoglia, which you’ll find in any good coffee shop and bakery and is a common thing to have for breakfast. It’s a pastry (similar to filo) filled with tomato sauce, oregano, capers and at times also anchovies. A food tour is what to do in Cagliari to discover the local specialties, and if you want to go a step further, you can even opt for a cooking glass.

These are the best food tours and cooking classes in Cagliari:

things to do in Cagliari

T Hotel has one of the nicest lounges in town

Jump into the local nightlife

Cagliari comes to life at night, when the locals head out for a drink – it’s one of the fun things to do in Cagliari.My favorite places are Vinvoglio, a tiny jazz club in Via Lamarmora, in Castello, with regular live music. Muzak, also in Castello in the narrow Via Stretta, is a small, quirky bar.

Florio is in Villanova, and attracts a good crowd all week long. Babeuf is a nice wine bar, also in Villanova. B Flat is not in the the city center, in Via del Pozzetto. They have live music every weekend. Reservations are encouraged.

De Candia and Caffè degli Spiriti are both on Bastione and they are great places to have a drink. The best cocktails in town are at Libarium, in Via Santa Croce in Castello, and at Biffi American Bar, a rather retro place in Via San Giovanni, Villanova.

Practical Tips For Your Trip To Cagliari

Where to stay in Cagliari, Sardinia

Cagliari has a very good selection of places to stay, scattered around town, for any budget and any taste. This is just a selection:

Here is a more detailed guide on where to stay in Cagliari.

Where to eat in Cagliari, Sardinia

One of the nicest things to do in Cagliari is eating. My go to places are all in the city center.

Framento makes the best pizza: only local ingredients, incredibly fragrant dough made with natural yeast. Reservations are recommended.

The best gelato is at Cremoso, right off Largo Carlo Felice and at Gocce di Gelato e Cioccolato, in Piazza del Carmine.

The best seafood places are all in La Marina. La Stella Marina di Montecristo is a good local eatery where for a reasonable price you’ll get a full meal – it’s delicious, but nothing fancy. You have to reserve in advance. Ristorante Italia is one of the best known restaurants in Cagliari. Sabores is a great place if you want to try local cheeses and cold cuts, accompanied by great wines.

For amazing burgers prepared with strictly local ingredients go to Bombas in Via Università.

Stay tuned as I will be writing more about the best restaurants in Cagliari.

things to do in Cagliari

The view of Poetto and Molentargius Nature Park from Sella del Diavolo is simply stunning

How to get to Cagliari, Sardinia

Cagliari is well connected via ferry, with rides from and to Civitavecchia, Naples and Palermo (all of them take around 13 hours), and it is also a cruise port.

Cagliari also has an airport. There are regular and budget airlines flights to Cagliari from various cities in Italy and Europe.

Reaching the city center from the airport is easy.

By train

It only takes 7 minutes to get from the airport to the center of Cagliari by train.

By taxi

You’ll find plenty of taxis outside the arrivals terminal. A ride to the city center should cost between €17 and €20, depending on the time of day.

By private transfer

Another option is to book a private transfer which for the same price of a taxi ride will take you anywhere you want. You can book it here.

How to move around Cagliari

Public transportation works quite well. If you are staying in the city center, one of the best things to do in Cagliari is walking, anyways. If you are planning to use Cagliari as a base to visit other places in Sardinia, you may opt for guided tours or prefer to rent a car. You can get a quote for car rental here.

When to visit Cagliari, Sardinia

Any time is good to visit Cagliari. Winter is usually mild. Fall, winter and early spring are the rainiest times of the year, but also the best times to experience Sardinian culture and festivals. Summer is hot and it can get very busy but you can go to the beach to cool down!

The length of your stay in Cagliari is a matter of choice. With all the things to do in Cagliari, I think you should spend a minimum of 4 days here – longer if you want to get truly acquainted with the local spirit and explore more in depth!

Have you ever been to Cagliari, Sardinia? What are your favorite things to do in Cagliari?

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Discover all the things to do in Cagliari, the beautiful capital of Sardinia, and get a local's tips to make the most of the city | Cagliari Sardinia Italy | Cagliari Italy | Cagliari Sardinia #sardinia #italy - via @clautavani Discover all the things to do in Cagliari, the beautiful capital of Sardinia, and get a local's tips to make the most of the city | Cagliari Sardinia Italy | Cagliari Italy | Cagliari Sardinia #sardinia #italy - via @clautavani