aerial view of Cagliari in Sardinia

Cagliari Sardinia: Must-See Things to Do (2024)

Cagliari is a vibrant and exciting destination that offers visitors plenty to do, from its picturesque beaches and historical sites to its bustling nightlife. From ancient monuments to modern shopping malls, you will find something to enjoy while exploring this stunning Italian island.

While it might not be as popular to the average tourist as the rest of Italy, Sardinia is a gem in plain sight, especially during the summer. Many have already discovered the beauty of this island with pristine beaches and paradise-like settings. While there are many things to do on the island, there are many delightful things to do in Cagliari, Sardinia’s capital city.

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Why you should visit Cagliari

When visiting Cagliari, taking in the city’s old-world charm and unique culture is part of the experience. The historic center of Cagliari offers plenty of sights to admire, such as the 16th-century towers, churches, and chapels that make up the Piazza del Carmine. You can also visit the impressive Basilica di San Saturnino or stroll along the cobblestone streets of Castello. The Castello district, one of the most important places in the city, is a must-see for its ancient ruins and historical buildings.

overview of cagliari with the sea in the background

Cagliari also offers plenty of outdoor activities, including stunning beaches. From Poetto Beach to Chia Beach, there’s something for everyone when it comes to lounging in the sun or participating in water sports. You can explore the beautiful coastline by boat or stroll along the beach.

If you’re looking for exciting nightlife, Cagliari is home to some of Italy’s best bars and clubs. From lively pubs and cocktail bars to underground discos and dance clubs, there’s something for everyone when it comes to experiencing the nightlife of Cagliari.

Food lovers won’t be disappointed either — Cagliari has delicious restaurants serving delectable Sardinian cuisine. From traditional dishes such as bottarga and fregola to freshly caught seafood, you’ll find something to satisfy your taste buds. Plus, try some of the city’s renowned local wines. Don’t miss the catch of the day at the San Benedetto Market for the freshest fish.

Where is Cagliari, Sardinia?

Cagliari is Sardinia’s capital city, located in the south of the island. Home to stunning white sand beaches and crystal clear waters, it’s the perfect destination for those exploring the Mediterranean Sea. The city is surrounded by two mountain ranges, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking and biking. Nearby, the Santa Gilla Lagoon and the Molentargius City Park are great places to spot pink flamingos and black-winged stilts.

A brief history of Cagliari

Cagliari has a long and fascinating history dating back to the ancient Phoenicians. Much like Rome, the city was built on hills and is located on the beautiful Bay of the Angels (Golfo degli Angeli). This strategic position has made Cagliari a vital port city that has played a significant role in the Mediterranean Sea for centuries.

While the Phoenicians turned Cagliari into a thriving Punic city commercial port, the Romans used it as a military base and added their architecture and style. In the Middle Ages, various dynasties ruled here, including the Pisans, Genoese, and Aragonese. The history of ancient Caralis is rich and layered with influences from these periods.

a rooftops of a city

The Pisans fortified the town before it passed hands to the Catalans, Austrians and eventually the Piedmonts. It was during this time that the city underwent urban development and renewal. Sardinia became part of modern-day Italy after the unification in 1871.

Today, Sardinia is one of five autonomous regions of Italy, and Cagliari’s port is one of the biggest ports and its economic and industrial hub. Here, you’ll find a combination of the African feel of palm trees and yellow limestone with distinctly Western architecture. Discovering all these cultures is one of the best things to do in Cagliari.

Things to do in Cagliari

With its rich history and unique geographical locations, Cagliari offers plenty of activities. It all depends on how much time you have to spend here. You should spend a few days here before exploring the rest of the island.

Bastione di San Remy/Bastion of Saint Remy

Located in the heart of the city, the Bastione di San Remy was a defence fortification built in the 19th century on ancient city walls that date back to the early 14th century. This impressive white limestone with an ornate façade has a wide-open terrace and an intricately covered walkway. You can access the top by the stairs on Piazza Costituzione or take the elevator from the Giardino Sotto Le Mure. The elevator is free and runs 24/7.

bastion saint remy

The Bastione Saint Remy is another must-see sight in Cagliari. This 17th-century fortification offers excellent views of the city and a panoramic view of the bay. The bastion also has an interesting museum that provides insight into the region’s military history. On certain days, there are also guided tours that allow you to explore some of the underground chambers that housed troops during battle.

Castle District/Il Castello

The Castle district is Cagliari’s oldest and most iconic neighbourhood. Once a walled Medieval city, this part of the city dates back to pre-Roman times and contains some of the city’s oldest buildings. The iconic Pisan towers in the district remind us of the people who once lived here and their fortifications against enemy attacks. Be sure to explore the many narrow streets in the area for some beautiful views. It’s also a great way to discover the past and marvel at the architecture from the past.

a city with a wall and buildings

When Cagliari was a Roman city, the Castello was self-contained with churches, residences, and government buildings. Today, you’ll find many restaurants and bars popular with tourists and locals. It’s one of those things to do in Cagliari that you might stumble upon even if you’re not looking for it.

The Royal Palace/Palazzo Regio

Located in the historical city center and overlooking the Piazza Palazzo, the Palazzo Regio is worth adding to your things to do in Cagliari list. During the 18th century, the palace underwent several extensive renovations and additions. It was also the seat of the royal family of Savoy between 1799 and 1815.

It served as the official residence of the Savoy royal family and the viceroy’s seat since 1337. The viceroy represented the king of Sardinia during the Aragon, Spanish and Savoy domination. This beautiful building is now a government office and a city hall, and you can visit some of the spaces, as the rest is a private residence of the magistrate. On the first floor, you can see the portraits of all the viceroys who had a seat there and the frescoes by Domenico Bruschi.

a building with palm trees and flags

Santa Maria Cathedral/Cagliari Cathedral

The beautiful cathedral of Santa Maria is quite the sight as you make your way up in the Il Castello district. A stop by the church is worth adding to your list of things to do in Cagliari. The original church dates back to the 13th century. Today, it’s a fusion of architectural styles, including Pisan Romanesque, Catalan Gothic, and Baroque styles.

While the original was simple in design, further expansion and improvements in later decades by the Aragon and Spanish reigns elevated the church’s appearance. These improvements included an intricate facade, soaring bell tower, and intricate chapels with stunning frescoes. The marble façade shimmers almost pink at sunset. You can also enjoy the views of the city around you. It’s a popular spot, so expect a gathering of locals and visitors.

cathedral of cagliari

Church of San Michele/Chiesa di San Michele

The Church of San Michele is a beautiful church in the Il Castello district of Cagliari. The Jesuit church’s striking blend of Catalan Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance styles is a testament to the island’s historical connections with various cultures. Inside, you’ll find opulent frescos and ornate carvings that reflect the dedication and craftsmanship of Catalan and Genoese artists that went into its creation.

Santa Maria del Monte 

The oldest church in Cagliari, Santa Maria del Monte (or San Saturnino), is believed to have been established by the Romans in the 3rd century. Perched atop the city’s highest hill, Santa Maria del Monte offers a spiritual haven and panoramic views that will take your breath away.

The first records of this church go back to 1264. It has undergone various renovations and expansion works throughout its history. Today, it stands as one of the city’s most beloved churches. It’s decorated with over 200 ancient fragments, including a magnificent 12th-century mosaic floor and a unique fresco of 15th-century Italian painter Pietro Cavalli in the apse.

Santuario and Basilica Di Nostra Signora Di Bonaria/Bonaria Basilica

A complex of buildings includes the Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria, and a monastery. The original cathedral, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, dates back to the 14th century. Bombings during World War II destroyed the original frescos inside the basilica. Faithful restoration after the war has restored them to their glory. If you like churches, these are worth adding to your list of things to do in Cagliari.

a white facade of a church with a statue on the side

Cittadella dei Musei (Citadel of Museums)

Also in the historic city center is the Citadel of Museums. This museum complex, once the site of the Regio Arsenale (Royal Arsenal), resulted from extensive restoration after WWII. This picturesque area offers treasures from different epochs as well as fantastic views of the city and the coast.

There are several museums here, including the National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari, the National Art Gallery, the Clemente Susini Museum of Anatomical Waxes, and the Siamese Civic Art Museum. The Museo Archeologico Nazionale houses a large collection of artifacts from Sardinia’s past, including Greek-Roman ceramics, coins, sculptures and jewelry.

Parco di Monte Urpinu/Monte Urpinu Park

One of the first municipal parks in Cagliari and a former military base, Monte Urpinu is a nice reprieve from the city’s bustle. These 284,000 square meters of land are a treasure trove of wildlife, with a wide range of trees and shrubs, from pine trees, myrtle, and juniper to oaks, olive, and carob trees.

Piazza Monumenti

Piazza Monumenti is an interesting place to explore when you visit Cagliari. It has many monuments and statues from the city’s history, from the obelisk of King Vittorio Emmanuel to the statue of Eleonora d’Arborea. It is a great reminder of the city’s rich past.

Marina Piccola

Marina Piccola is a great spot for visitors to enjoy some outdoor activities and take in the spectacular views of the waterfront. With plenty of restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops nearby, this bustling area has something for everyone. There are also plenty of boats offering sailing trips around the bay if you’re looking for a bit of adventure.

Gnomo Park

Gnomo Park is a unique little park located in Cagliari’s city center. It’s filled with fantastical sculptures and brightly colored buildings, making it a great spot for fun photo ops. The park also has an array of different activities, such as paddle boats, mini-golf, and a small zoo, to keep the little ones entertained. It’s definitely worth a visit to see this quirky part of Cagliari.

an old amphitheater in a cagliari

Roman Amphitheater

A list of things to do in Cagliari can’t be complete without a visit to the Roman amphitheatre. Dating back to the 2nd century AD, the amphitheatre is near the northern entrance to Il Castello. Carved partially into the Buon Cammino hill, the arena could accommodate up to 10,000 spectators in its heyday.

As you look at what remains of the Roman amphitheatre today, you can almost imagine the gladiators battling each other and wild animals in front of crowds. Much of the splendour is now gone, having been hacked apart over the centuries for building materials.

Tuvixeddu Necropolis

Delving into Cagliari’s ancient past, the Roman necropolis (Tuvixeddu Necropolis) offers a glimpse into the island’s pre-Christian and pre-Roman eras. Carved into the rugged landscape, these ancient tombs hold stories of a bygone era. Walking through this archaeological site, you’ll feel a connection to the island’s ancestors and the passage of time.

architecture in cagliari

Torre dell’Elefante (Elephant Tower)

Built in 1307 by the Pisans as a defence against the invading Aragons, the Torre dell’Elefante (Elephant Tower) looms above all the other structures. Named after the elephant decorating it, it frequently displayed severed heads. Cagliari’s Spanish rulers frequently adorned the tower with severed heads of prisoners, leaving them on display for years.

Not as ghoulish today, it’s a marvellous study of Cagliari’s medieval past. You can climb to the top for spectacular views of the city.

Explore the waterfront

As a port city, Cagliari has a well-developed waterfront. You can stroll along the tree-lined promenade and admire wonderful views of the harbour, boats, and even cruise ships. On the other side of Via Roma, you’ll find numerous shops, bars, and restaurants where you can sit and people-watch or enjoy the sunset. If you’re planning on taking the train, bus, or boat from Cagliari, this is where you’ll also buy tickets.

a street with cars and buildings

Day trips from Cagliari Sardinia

For a small island, Sardinia is known for some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and has a well-connected public transport network. You can do a number of day trips from Cagliari, or take the train to other parts of the island. You can do a number of day trips or a few longer ones, depending on how much time you have.

Poetto Beach

Poetto Beach is located just south of the city of Cagliari and stretches 7 km along the coast. Poetto is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, offering a wide range of activities from swimming and sunbathing to kite surfing and volleyball tournaments.

If you crave some beach time, head to Poetto Beach about 15 min by bus from the centre. Despite the title being a city beach, Poetto is a nice stretch of clean, sandy beach with unspoiled views of the sea. You can easily rent chairs and umbrellas for the day right on the beach.

a beach with boats and a body of water

There are a number of bars and restaurants to choose from along the beach. For an extended stay, rent a room at one of the numerous hotels and villas. Italians tend to spend most of August on the beach, so keep that in mind if you’re visiting during that time. Expect higher prices and less choice when it comes to accommodations.

Parco Molentargius – Le Saline

Molentargius Natural Park is just outside the city center and covers over 1,600 hectares of marshland. Here, you will find fresh and saltwater basins, a memory of Cagliari’s once-dominant salt industry. The park is also home to a visitor center, where you can learn about the park’s history and the unique bird species that live there.

The park is a haven for wildlife, with more than 250 species of birds inhabiting its grounds. You can take guided tours through the park or explore it independently on foot or by bike. The center has interactive exhibits, audiovisual presentations, and educational activities for kids. Bring your own binoculars to admire the pink flamingos that live here.

Sella del Diavolo (Devil’s Saddle)

Also near Poetto Beach and overlooking the Gulf of Cagliari, is a picturesque hilltop with an unusual name. The legends say that demons led by Lucifer were so taken by its beauty that they wanted to claim it. That didn’t sit well with the god who then sent his own army of angels to fight them.

During the battle, Lucifer or his saddle fell down and petrified, leaving the hilltop we see today. This probably explains the name Gulf of Angels. Sella del Diavolo is accessible by bus from the city center or the nearby Poetto beach.

Culinary Adventures

Sardinia’s food is influenced by the different cultures of the past. It is full of exquisite dishes based on a land and sea diet. From the many varieties of pasta, fresh fish, meat, beans, and grains, a culinary adventure awaits you.

Cagliari has a robust food culture and a great selection of restaurants, bars and cafés that offer fantastic flavours of the island. When it comes to things to do in Cagliari, culinary exploration is definitely a great option.

San Benedetto Market

Also on your list of things to do in Cagliari, there should be a stop at the Mercato di San Benedetto. It offers two floors of Sardinia’s gastronomical treasures and foodie heaven. The ground floor is dedicated to the treasures of the sea. You’ll find fruits, vegetables, meat, and everything else on the second floor. It’s an experience for the senses and a great opportunity to sample some local cuisine.

a red pot with cheese and basil on it

Traditional Sardinian cuisine

For a truly unique experience, why not sample local delicacies such as culurgiones, fregola sarda, and porceddu. Culurgiones are handmade ravioli stuffed with potatoes and cheese. Fregola sarda is a type of pasta made from semolina flour, which resembles couscous. Porceddu is the traditional spit-roasted suckling pig. All of these are typical Sardinian specialties and very popular in the region.

For a taste of local sweets, don’t forget to try seadas, a round pastry filled with sheep milk cheese and drizzled with honey. Another must-try is gattò di patate, a potato-based tart filled with jam, candied fruit, and pine nuts.

traditional sardinian cuisine

Cagliari is full of surprises when it comes to food – there’s something for everyone! Whether you want to sample traditional Italian dishes or explore local specialties, you’ll surely find plenty of exciting culinary options in this city.

Restaurants and cafes

If you’re looking for a cozy cafe or restaurant, Cagliari has plenty to offer. From Italian-style trattorias to gourmet restaurants and traditional Sardinian eateries, there’s something for every taste. Whether you’re looking for a good coffee shop or a restaurant serving traditional food made using only local ingredients, there are many culinary options that will make your mouth water.

Take a guided tour

For a unique experience, join one of the many food tours available in Cagliari. The locals will guide you to their favourite restaurants and cafes where you can sample delicious local dishes. You’ll also learn about traditional Sardinian cuisine and get an insider’s view of life in this beautiful city. Recommended tours:

Vibrant events and festivals

Cagliari is a vibrant city with plenty of cultural events and festivals to explore. The annual La Festa della Sardegna is an event you don’t want to miss. Celebrate the region’s heritage with music, dancing, and traditional dishes prepared by local chefs. Check out the lively street markets which take place every summer in Cagliari. Here, you can buy traditional crafts, sample local produce, and get a glimpse into the daily life of this vibrant city.

a street with a clock and palm trees

Cagliari is also home to some of Italy’s best music festivals, showcasing international talents and local bands. Whatever your taste in music, you will surely find something that will suit your interests.

Climate and best time to visit Cagliari Sardinia

Sardinia’s mild weather makes this an all-year destination, perfect for a weekend city break or a more extended holiday. It all comes down to your preference for things to do in Cagliari and the island itself. Summers usually last from June to August, with July/August being the hottest months. The summer is perfect for a beach holiday. These are, however, the most expensive months to visit and the most crowded.

a building with palm trees

Travelling off-season means lower prices, milder temperatures, and fewer crowds. Winter in Sardinia is not too extreme and is a perfect time to explore the local museums, churches, architecture, towns, and events. Between December and February, temperatures average around 10°C (50°F). Spring and fall are the best times to visit, as temperatures can reach 20-25°C (68-77°F). The sea is almost always warm enough for swimming during these months.

How to get to Cagliari Sardinia

Cagliari has an international airport, Elmas Mario Mameli. It is located 7 km from the city centre and is easily accessible from other Italian and European cities. There is both a bus and train connection between the airport and the city centre. You can also take the train to other major cities in Sardinia. With an extensive transportation network, finding out things to do in Cagliari is a breeze.

You can also access Cagliari by ferry from major ferry ports in Italy, mainly Rome Civitavecchia, Naples and Palermo in Sicily. It is also a popular spot for cruise ships, especially during the summer months.



Operator timetable/fees




Twice a week, on Monday and Friday


13 hours


Twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday


13.5 hours


Once a week on Saturdays


12 hours

Visiting Cagliari – where to stay

Choosing the right accommodation is key to making your Cagliari stay enjoyable. If you’re looking for a luxury hotel, there are plenty of options in the heat of the Marina district and around the city. For a more affordable solution, look into bed & breakfasts and Airbnb apartments located closer to the center. No matter your preference, make sure to book in advance to ensure the best options are still available.

Getting around Cagliari Sardinia

Cagliari city centre is the heart of all travel activities. Here you can take the bus, train or ferry to other destinations. Buses depart or pass by Via Roma and the train station and are easily marked with where they are going. You can get the timetable from the tourism office, train station or the bus stop. You can also download the official app CTM Bus Finder.

a flag with black heads and red cross

Is Cagliari worth visiting?

Yes, Cagliari is a fantastic place to explore and worth adding to your list. Sardinia is a beautiful island with a lot of history, charm, and stunning views. While most people tend to travel to the major Italian cities, not many make the trip to Sardinia. There are many free things to do in Cagliari to keep everyone happy. It’s also a great place to start a road trip around the rest of the island.

Our trip to Sardinia turned out amazing. We discovered a new favourite Italian city and explored centuries’ worth of history. While there are many other things to do in Cagliari, I felt that this post would give you enough of a taste to go and check it out for yourself.

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