Insider Tips: Planning a trip to Cagliari
Claudia Tavani is the mastermind behind Strictly Sardinia, a Sardinia focused blog where she shares all her knowledge about her beloved island.
What should I do on my first trip to Cagliari?
If it is your first time in Cagliari, you definitely need to explore the beautiful historic center. Start exploring from the area of Castello. This is one of the four historic districts of Cagliari and where many attractions - including the Cathedral and the Museum of Archeology - are located. From Castello you can make your way down the hill to visit the lovely Stampace district, where you can see the Santa Restituta Crypt and the Botanical Gardens, and then to La Marina, home of several nice churches and the interesting S. Eulalia Museum. It's a short walk from there to Villanova, the quaintest of the historic districts.
What are some hidden gems to see in Cagliari?
Cagliari is beautifully located on the hills but overlooks the sea, so you can find a number of easy hiking trails that offer unique views. Hike to the Sella del Diavolo promontory (it can be accessed from Calamosca Beach) for views over Poetto Beach and Molentargius Nature Reserve (a nesting spot for pink flamingoes). Calamosca is also the starting point of a walk to the S. Ignazio Fort, a favorite sunset spot for locals.
How much time should I spend in Cagliari?
You need a minimum of 3 days to appreciate everything that Cagliari has to offer, and more if you intend to do some day trips to the coast or to the nearby archeological sites or wineries. Cagliari proves to be an excellent base to explore southern Sardinia.
What food is Cagliari known for?
There are all sorts of local specialties. You will definitely enjoy a bowl of fregola con le arselle (fregola with clams): the texture of the pasta is similar to cous-cous, and if made right it is heavenly. The best place to have it is Bistrot 100. If you are looking for a quick snack, grab a pizzetta sfoglia. It's not even remotely similar to pizza as it is made with phyllo pastry, and it's only a Cagliari thing!
What is the best way to get around Cagliari?
If you are staying in the city center, you can easily explore Cagliari on foot and use the good public bus system to go to the local beaches. The city center is easy to reach by train from Cagliari Airport. However, if you are planning to do some day trips it's better to have a car.
What are the best months to visit Cagliari?
Any time is a good time to visit Cagliari. The spring is particularly beautiful as days are longer and you can enjoy a nice walk at the beach or in Molentargius Nature Park. If you visit in the summer, you can mingle with the locals as they sunbathe in Poetto Beach but will have to bear with the sometimes impossible heat,
What are the best neighborhoods to visit in Cagliari?
If you visit only one of the historic neighborhoods of Cagliari, it has to be Castello. Once the heart of the political and economic elite of the city, the fortified Castello is home of two protective towers and of the beautiful Cathedral, and several museums and art galleries. The Santa Croce Bastion is the best sunset spot in town. Sit down for a delicious cocktail at Libarium Nostrum café overlooking Stampace district below and admire the sun as it goes down and the changing colors.
What are the best neighborhoods for food?
Locals head to Stampace for some of the best restaurants in the area, but if you want to see produce you should actually plan to visit San Benedetto Market, in the heart of San Benedetto district. It's a feast for the senses!
What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?
Via Manno and Via Sulis, in the Marina district, and Via Garibaldi in the neighboring Villanova district are locals' favorite shopping streets, but you will find nice shops and boutiques in many other areas in Cagliari.
What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Cagliari?
Stampace is probably where to stay in Cagliari if you don't plan to rent a car. There are no actual hotels but lots of guest houses and you will have walking access to all the main attractions, restaurants and the main transportation hubs in the city.
What are 4 best tips for a person traveling to Cagliari?
Give yourself enough time in Cagliari: the capital of Sardinia may be lesser known compared to other cities in mainland Italy but it's packed with things to do.
Bring your hiking boots and swimsuit: There are trails near the beach in the city, and you will want to swim if you visit in the summer months.
Get a car if you plan on getting out of town and avoid the frustration of dealing with (slow) regional buses. Book your restaurant in advance for dinner: locals love eating out and the best restaurants get booked up during the weekend.
What should people avoid doing in Cagliari?
Do not expect everyone to speak English. Things have greatly improved over the last decades and anyone in the tourism industry speaks a good level of English, but not everyone you'll meet in the street will be able to fluently speak English to point you in the right direction if you are lost. Be patient though: locals are very kind and will be glad to help you.
What are your top 5 favourite GetYourGuide experiences in Cagliari?
Cagliari: walking tour through the alleys of Castello
Cagliari: Underground Cagliari Walking Tour
Cagliari: Boat Tour with 4 Swim Stops at Devil's Saddle
Cagliari: Guided Kayak Excursion in the Gulf of Cagliari
Cagliari: Bike Tour in the Flamingo Oasis
What is one thing that surprised you about Cagliari?
I often say Cagliari is like a small version of Cape Town. It's incredibly colorful, surrounded by pristine nature and unique wildlife, and there are gorgeous views throughout
What is the best family-friendly thing to do in Cagliari?
A boat tour around the Devil's Saddle! If your kids enjoy swimming, they will love the chance of jumping on and off the boat.
What is the best thing to do in Cagliari for solo travelers?
Cagliari is a very safe place to visit for solo travelers. Enjoy a guided tour of the historic center and book yourself a sunbed at one of the local lidos for a relaxing day at the beach.
What is the best thing to do in Cagliari for couples?
Go to La Paillote for a romantic dinner overlooking the Bay of Cagliari.
What are the best annual events in Cagliari?
Sant'Efisio Festival is celebrated every year on May 1. It's a massive parade where people from various villages in Sardinia parade in traditional costumes to celebrate the saint that liberated Sardinia from the plague in the 17th century.
What are the best things to do around Cagliari?
You actually don't need to leave Cagliari to get outdoors! Go for a walk at the massive Molentargius Nature Park to admire bird life; spend a day at Poetto or Calamosca beach; hike to the Devil's Saddle.
What are the best beaches around Cagliari?
Cagliari's favorite beach is Poetto. It's a very long stretch of sand with clear waters. A word of warning though: the quality of the water can vary a lot from year to year and even from day to day based on the wind. Another popular beach is the smaller and more sheltered Calamosca. Both are easy to reach by bus from the center of Cagliari
What's a local recommendation for Villanova?
Go for a walk in Villanova at night and you'll see a significantly more local side of Cagliari. Sit at Florio for a drink and mingle with the locals.
What are the best food/drink spots in neighborhood Cagliari?
In the center of La Maddalena, Puffer Fish is an easygoing fish and seafood restaurant with quick service and locally caught fish. In front of it, you will find L'Alternativa, a great steakhouse perfect for meat lovers. The best cocktails are at the Punta Tegge kiosk. Grab a pillow and sit on the rocks as you enjoy a wonderful sunset.
Which neighborhood has the best nightlife?
Stampace and La Marina are definitely the best neighborhoods for nightlife in Cagliari. It's where you'll find the highest concentrations of bars and pubs.
Which neighborhoods are best for families?
Stay in Villanova to get more of a local feel. It's the kind of place where children can be still seen playing outside, so your kids can make local friends! Otherwise, Poetto is perfect in the summer as they can run and bike and enjoy the beach too.
Which neighborhoods are the most budget-friendly?
Generally speaking, Cagliari is quite budget friendly. You will have more luck finding cheaper accommodation outside of the historic center. I recommend San Benedetto, which is very central too.
Which neighborhoods should you visit if you'd like to splurge?
Via Sulis in Villanova is home to luxury shops and various fine dining restaurants.
Which neighborhood should couples add to their list?
Castello is probably the most romantic neighborhood as it offers a lot of gorgeous views over the city.
What are some fun facts/history behind neighborhood Cagliari?
Stampace was named after the saying "stai in pace" (go in peace) with which people would be sent on their way outside of the walls of Castello (where the elite would stay) every night during the Middle Ages.
How easy is it to travel between the different neighborhoods?
Cagliari is very walkable if you stick to the historic center of town and all historic neighborhood are connected one to the other. You will need to get the bus or drive if you want to go to the beach.