Alghero is a city full of character. Colorful, graceful and diverse. It combines the charm of a rustical, medieval city with sandy beaches and nature reserves like no other place in Sardinia. The capital of the coral coast is small, yet experience-rich, offering a variety of things to do in Alghero. From strolling through Alghero’s old town with cobblestone streets and gothic-catalan style palazzi, cooling down on Bombarde beach to indulging in the local culinary, Alghero has a lot to offer.
If you’re thinking of visiting, and wanna know about the best things to do in Alghero, here’s a taste of the diversity of experiences.
Things to do in Alghero, Sardinia
Stroll along the golden shore walls
Wandering along the meter thick seawalls guarding the historical center from the Mediterranean, you can perfectly capture Alghero’s atmosphere. Towers and bastioni bear witness of the city’s history. Alghero was built between 1102 and 1112 by the Doria family, the first fortifications were raised a few decades later. The beautifully kept walls run from the Piazza Sulis in the south to the Porta a Mare and the marina in the north. Porta a Mare, meaning door to the sea, serves as one of the entrances to Alghero’s old town, connecting the sea with the city’s medieval old town.
Walking the pedestrian walkway on top of the walls, you’ll have striking views to the Mediterranean and Capo Caccia, the promontory with characteristic steep white cliffs.
Grab a seat at one of the benches overlooking Alghero’s coast, take in the sea breeze and la dolce far niente.
Get lost in Alghero’s old town and browse through boutiques
Alghero’s old town with its narrow streets, balconies decorated with flowes and pastel colored houses, is tiny but immensely charming. Making your way through the centro storico, the Spanish legacy becomes visible. Buildings in Catalan-gothic architecture, restaurants serving paella, people speaking the local Catalan dialect, it all adds to Alghero’s diversity.
Stroll the streets and browse in the little boutiques offering local delicacies and coral jewelry. Alghero’s old town is refreshingly quiet, and even in the hot summer months it donates shade. If you encounter a crowd of tourists, take a turn or two, and you’ll happen to find another quiet place.
Further along the way, you’ll stumble accross Torre di San Giovanni, one of seven well-preserved medieval towers from the 16th century, nowadays, artfully decorated with a „net“ of corals. It leaves a mighty impression and, as a remain of past times, proves evidence of Alghero’s history.
Make your way up to Campanile
Campanile towers over Cattedrale di Santa Maria and is one of Alghero’s signature landmarks and a beautiful example of Catalan gothic.
Climbing up the bell tower Campanile, you’ll be rewarded with grand views of Alghero from afar. If you’re looking for a place to have a picnic, this is it.
How to get there?
The way to Cattedrale di Santa Maria is accessible through a gothic doorway in Via Principe Umberto.
Have a typical breakfast with views over the Mediterranean
Start the day with a Sardinian breakfast in one of the plenty cafés lining the seawalls. Sardinians usually go for an espresso and a brioche (croissant). Grab a seat with views of the coral coast, take in the morning sun and the serene atmosphere amidst locals and tourists.
Try local seafood: one of the best things to do in Alghero
Alghero’s culinary traditions, influenced by Spanish Catalunia, center around fish and seafood. Having a seafood diner in Alghero is an exceptional experience to get to the Sardinian cuisine. Also, you won’t find fresher seafood anywhere throughout Sardinia.
Some recommended dishes?
Aragosta alla catalana – lobster served on a bed of cherry tomatos and sliced onions dressed with oil, vinegar and black pepper.
Paella algherese – the local take on the Spanish dish, rice is replaced by fregola, the Sardinian wheat pasta in couscous shape.
Agliata – a dressing that is generously added to fried or boiled fish. It’s of garlic, dried tomatoes, parsley and chili pepper with the addition of tomatoes, salt and vinegar. What’s special about it? It captures the essence of Alghero’s fishermen simple cuisine; something from remote times in which garlic was the most effective and tasty way to extend the food’s freshness.
There are numerous restaurants lining the shore walls, the marina and the old town. I’ve been to Alghero a few times, and I found it’s basically impossible not to eat well. The harbor city comprises trattorias, maintaing old Sardinian traditions and new ristoranti aspring to keep old traditions in a respectful way.
Tip: For the weekend, I recommend to make a reservation as it gets busy in the summer months.
Trattoria Cavour – a cozy and warm-hearted restaurant in Alghero’s old town with blond-wood decor and low sandstones arches. Choose between one of the seafood dishes or other local, seasonal delicacies.
Il Pesce d’Oro– traditional restaurant, popular among locals, with a bright, friendly interior serving pizza and seafood dishes.
Unwind on Alghero’s beaches
North of the marina from Via Garibaldi, you’ll encounter long, sandy beaches, such as Spiaggia di San Giovanni and Spiaggia di Maria Pia. The pebble beach at the foot of the bastions also comes in handy for a quick dip in the sea. Have a swim in the azure Mediterranean and take a break from the city hustle.
Even more beautiful are the beaches north-west of Alghero near the village of Fertilia. A 20-minute drive from Alghero you’ll find Bormbarde beach of golden sands, transparent water and volcanic rocks surrounded by a pine wood forest and maccia.
Close to Bombarde beach, there’s Lazaretto beach with views of Alghero in the distance and Torre del Lazzaretto to the right, an ancient tower built of local limestone in the 16th century. It’s a romantic, small cove with exposed rocks and the characteristic emerald water.
Tip: As it’s a smaller beach it gets crowded during high season, come earlier (before 11 a.m.) or in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.
Visit a traditional festival
If your visit happens to fall within the period of a Sardinian festival, this is a chance to witness Sardinians expressing traditions. People dance, sing to folk music and wear traditional costumes. Mingle with the locals and find out about beliefs and customs.
Carnevale – As part of carnival festivities, on carnival Tuesday the effigy of a French soldier is burnt.
Sagra del Bogmari – Locals honor the sea urchin (riccio di mare) by eating large quantities. The concrete date varies, it usually takes place between February and March.
Ferragosto – On 15th August Alghero celebrates Assumption Day with fireworks, a boat race and traditional music.
Have a sundowner in one of the harbor bars
Alghero has numerous bars, wine bars, elegant cafés and pubs. Much of the action takes place in the old town, however, those bars located around the harbor impress with sunset views over the coral coast. Opt for a Cannonau di Sardegna, the local red wine, or an aperitif and mingle with locals and tourists. It’s a lively, serene atmosphere and a perfect way to finish a long day of exploring.
Which bars to seek?
Chez Michel – café located in the first row around Piazza Sulis. Great place to witness the sunset and observe people wandering by.
Café Latino – upscale bar in the promenade with views of the marina, offering a variety of snacks and drinks.
Things to in Alghero when it rains?
In case you’re catching a rainy day, those are the best things to do in Alghero when it rains.
Visit the Coral Museum and discover the traditional craft
Making your way to the Coral Museum is an opportunity to learn about the red corals to which Alghero ows its fame as Capital of Riviera de Corallo. Corals play an important role in Alghero; they’ve long been harvested in the waters off Alghero’s coast. As stocks continued to fall, the government restricted the coral diving industry. The Coral Museum is located in a lovely Art Deco villa and a great way to find out more about the precious coral jewelry and and its importance for the region’s trade and handicraft.
Join a home cooking class in a farmhouse
Interested in finding out about the Sardinian cuisine and gusto? Consider a home cooking class in a farmhouse in the Sardinian countryside. Experiencing a cooking class by a Sardinian chef is an excellent opportunity to immerse in culinary traditions and get in touch with locals. You’ll prepare a lunch or dinner menu by using products stemming from the island, try the locally produced wine and learn about the Sardinian diet, likely to contribute to peoples’ longevity.
Things to do in Alghero and its surroundings?
Hike through Porto Conte and climb down 654 stairs from Capo Caccia
If you’re longing for a break from the city hustle, plan a trip to the nature reserve Parco di Porto Conte. It comprises 60 km shorelines, forests and wetlands and is one of the most diverse and beautiful regions within Sardinia. Capo Caccia is the nature reserve’s most southern point and offers with 150 meter high limestone cliffs, dropping vertically to the sea, fantastic panoramic views. Nowhere else in Sardinia you’ll find so many grottos and caves. The most famous and easiest accessible one is Grotta di Nettuno, a cave with stalagmites and stalactites.
How to get to Capo Caccia / Grotta di Nettuno?
You can either go by car (one hour drive from Alghero) and climb down 654 stairs on the vertical Escala del Cabirol to the Grotta di Nettuno. Alternatively, there are excursion boats starting from the marina. Tours to the cave are operated each full hour, lasting 45 minutes.
Visit Santa Maria del Regno
Approaching Alghero by car, make sure to stop at Santa Maria del Regno in the island’s interior. The Romanesque church located in Ardara, in the province of Sassari, ows its names (meaning Black Cathedral) to its dark rust colored masonry.
Drive the panoramic road to picturesque Bosa
A one hour drive from Alghero, you’ll find Bosa, one of my favorite towns in Sardinia. A colorful old town, a river flowing through the village and the remains of a Medieval castle. It’s one of those towns in Sardinia embracing the local and laid-back charm without being overrun by tourists.
The panoramic route from Alghero to Bosa deserves a shout out of its own. Winding on mountainous roads, the coastal route leads high above the sea. To the left, you’ll find towering rock formations, to the right, cliffs sloping down to the sea. Stop here and then for wide views over the Mediterranean and lonely coves beneath you.
The 108 km long drive passes by spots for a dip in the sea. One is located south of Torre Argentinia, 4.5 km of Bosa, another one is Spiaggia Speranza, a rocky beach south off Alghero.
Essential Travel Information
If you’re looking for further resources considering Alghero’s culinary traditions, have a look at those articles:
- The Cuisine of Alghero on the Island of Sardinia
Also, check out my other posts about Sardinia.
- Sardinia: 6 Gems to Discover in the South West
- Sardinia’s East: 8 Best Things to Do, See, Taste and Experience
- An Authentic Travel Guide to Sardinia’s North
- How to Live to 100: Sardinians’ 6 Secrets For a Long and Healthy Life
When to visit Alghero?
Alghero is charming all year, however, a lot of cafés and restaurants are closed during off-season (October – April). I recommend, visiting in spring or during the summer months (Mai to September).
Whereas in May, June and beginning of July it won’t be too crowded, August, with Italy’s most important public holiday (15th August, Ferragosto), is busy and hot. September is also great for visiting, it’s still warm and localities are opened.
How long to spend in Alghero?
One to two days would be fine to visit Alghero properly. However, as there’s a lot to discover in the surroundings, you won’t be disappointed to stay longer and explore from here.
How to explore Alghero?
In order to get to the sights in the surroundings, I recommend renting a car. When it comes to the city center itself, go by foot. Most of the old town is closed for cars. Also, by walking, you can discover different layers of Alghero’s history and culture and the captivating personality the harbor city holds.