1 Day in Cagliari: Itinerary with Top Things to Do

What to do in Cagliari

To visit Cagliari is to discover the capital of Sardinia, Italy .

If you choose to visit the South of Sardinia, you will inevitably pass there during your itinerary since the city has an airport and it is therefore the most practical way to visit this part of the island.

At the start or just before leaving, give yourself some time to see the must-see places of interest in Cagliari.

From the Castello to the National Archaeological Museum and Poetto Beach, I have prepared the Top 10 things to do and see in town.

In my guide, I also give you itineraries to visit Cagliari and its surroundings in 1, 2, 3 or 4 days. And at the end of the article, you will find my selection of the best hotels in the city.

So, what to do and where to sleep in Cagliari?

Visit Cagliari: the essentials

1. The Castle

We begin this tourist guide with the district not to be missed in Cagliari: the district of Il Castello, the oldest in the city.

It is one of the 4 historic districts and you will therefore find there the majority of places to see in town, such as the cathedral di Santa Maria or the bastion Saint Remy, which I will tell you about in detail below in the article.

Located on a hill, this district was for centuries that of Sardinian nobles and wealthy people , a place where the power of the city was concentrated . Fortified over time, notably by the Pisans, Aragonese and Spaniards, it served as the headquarters of military, religious and civil authorities. It was after the Second World War that the premises of the main institutions of Sardinia were transferred there.

The best way to discover it is to explore it on foot (in any case you won’t have much choice, access by car being reserved for residents) and to wander through the narrow streets. Dominating Cagliari, it offers several points of view on all the capital and the surroundings in particular since along the ramparts.

You will also find a multitude of cafes and restaurants for your lunch break.

To see in the Castello district in Cagliari (in addition to the places I’m talking about just after):

  • The Elephant Tower and the San Pancrazio Tower: the 2 Pisan towers whose origins date back to the beginning of the 14th century. You can usually climb to the top to admire the panorama but it may be closed during your visit due to renovations.
  • The Piazza Palazzo where the Royal Palace, the Episcopal Palace and the Cathedral are located.
  • The Royal Palace or Vice Regio Palace: once the residence of the Viceroy of Sardinia and today the seat of the prefecture. For only 1.50€, you can visit some of its rooms.
  • The Giardino Sotto Le Mura below the ramparts allows you to rest a little in the shade or take the lift to the Bastion Saint Remy.

North of the Castello district, you will also find 2 places to visit in Cagliari: a 10,000-seat Roman amphitheater where gladiator fights took place and the botanical garden. With more than 2,000 plant species from all over the world, it is one of the best known in Italy. 

Travel Tips

As I told you, the Castello district is located at the top of a hill, which necessarily implies some stairs to climb. If you want to avoid them, take the elevator located behind Piazza Yenne to go up to Bastion Saint Remy.

To visit Cagliari, go to the tourist office to get a map of the main tourist sites to see. It is in the Palazzo Civico, Via Roma. This is also where Cagliari’s town hall is located.

1 day Cagliari itinerary
The Castello district, night view in Cagliari

2. The Cathedral of Santa Maria

Unmissable tourist site of Cagliari: the Cathedral of Santa Maria.

Built in the 13th century, it gradually deteriorated and the facade had to be redone in the 1930s, but the Pisan style was retained. 

Inside, it is more the Baroque style that dominates with many frescoes and sculptures. You will also find in the crypt the relics of the 179 martyrs found during excavations carried out near the Basilica of San Saturnino. In the Cathedral there are also some of the tombs of the House of Savoy. 

To admire the treasures of the cathedral, I recommend that you visit the Museo del Duomo, located not far from there, on Via del Fossario. To see for the famous triptych of Clement VII.

The Cathedral di Santa Maria is not the only church to see in Cagliari, you can also visit the other churches:

  • The chiesa di San Michele built in honor of Charles V
  • The church of Santa Anna in the Stampace district
  • The church of Sant’Efisio dedicated to the patron saint of Cagliari
  • The church of Sant Sepolcro
  • The church of San Lucifer in the Villanova district.
1 day in Cagliari
The Cathedral of Santa Maria, in Cagliari

3. The Palaces of Citta

The Palazzo di Citta is in the same square as the Cathedral di Santa Maria. So you can go visit it right after.

Built in the 14th century, it once housed the town hall but is now a small museum. The permanent exhibition presents a collection of Sardinian objects, textiles and paintings. It also hosts temporary exhibitions dedicated to contemporary art or photography.

The museum is open every day except Monday, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. in summer and closes at 6 p.m. in winter. Count around 5€ for the visit.

The City Palace, Cagliari

4. The National Archaeological Museum and the Citadel of Museums

A visit to the National Archaeological Museum is one of the must-do activities in Cagliari.

Main museum of this type in Sardinia, it presents a rich collection of objects and remains ranging from the Neolithic to the Roman period, of course keeping a large place in the Nuragic civilization whose famous nuraghes are the best known representation on the ‘island.

You can see the famous statues of the Giganti of Monte Prama (giant statues), 2 meters high and representing archers or warriors. Nearly 400 bronzes of hunters, warriors and goddesses are also on display.

This visit is essential to learn more about the history of Sardinia over the centuries. Recently restored, the museum is also well designed and the exhibits highlighted. Explanations only in Italian or English.

The National Archaeological Museum is part of the Citadella dei Musei, a complex of 4 museums in Cagliari and located to the north of the Castello.

The other museums to visit in the Citadel, in Cagliari:

  • The Pinacoteca Nazionale: an art museum displaying a rich collection of paintings including some by Sardinian artists
  • The Museo d’Arte Siamese: amazing museum dedicated to Asian art mixing Chinese porcelain, Thai weapons and Burmese sculptures
  • The Collezione delle Cere Anatomiche di Clemente Susini and its collection of 80 statues revealing all the details of the human body made by a famous anatomist. A very surprising and original museum to visit in Cagliari.

5. The Saint Remy Bastion

The Bastion Saint Remy is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cagliari.

Built in 1900 and 1920, the Bastion was intended to connect the lower and upper part of the city  through a grand staircase It has become one of the emblems of the old town.

The Umberto I terrace,  a vast esplanade at the top of the bastion, offers the most spectacular view of all of Cagliari, the historic quarters, the hills and the sea. Here you will find many benches to take a break and admire the panorama, as well as trendy cafes for a drink on the terrace.

There are often works to get there so the lift located below, at the level of the Sotto Le Mura gardens is often the easiest solution (if it is not under construction too!). Otherwise the staircase to reach the Umberto terrace is at the level of Piazza Costituzione.

The bastion Saint Remy, in Cagliari

6. The San Benedetto Market

Visiting Cagliari is also about discovering Sardinian gastronomy and what better than to take a trip to the market to soak up the local flavors!

I recommend the San Benedetto market, located on Via Coccu Ortu.

It is the biggest food market in Cagliari. You will find all kinds of local products including cheeses and charcuterie. The shopkeepers are very pleasant and don’t hesitate to make you taste the specialties and even to vacuum pack everything for you to be able to bring them back!

The market is also renowned for its large number of fish and seafood stalls , occupying an entire floor. If you like it, this is the ideal place to buy it because the prices are really affordable.

The San Benedetto market is open every day except Sunday, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Travel Tips
If you want to buy fish, go there early in the morning to be sure to have the choice. The goods go very quickly.

The San Benedetto market, in Cagliari

7. The Beach of Poetto

During your stay in Cagliari, be sure to relax at Poetto beach, the closest to the city.

To get there you can take your car, there are parking spaces all along (the further you go from the beginning of the beach, the more likely you will be to find a space). Or you can take the bus from Piazza Matteotti which will take you there in just a few minutes.

With its 7 km long, it is one of the longest beaches in Sardinia and Italy. On the strip of fine sand beach you will find everything to spend a day: bars, restaurants, vendors of all kinds and private clubs to rent deckchairs and parasols.

Very busy, it is ideal for families with its many facilities and its shallow water.

At the end of the Poetto beach is the Sella del Diavolo, a small rocky cape where you can take a walk of about 2 hours round trip. It’s really nice to walk there, and the view of the bay of Cagliari is superb!

Cagliari 1 day itinerary
Poetto beach in Cagliari, in the place called Sella del Diavolo

What to do around Cagliari?

To help you organize your itinerary around Cagliari, here are the 3 other places to visit in the vicinity of Cagliari.

8. The Nuraghe Su Nuraxi in Barumini

It is the largest and best known nuraghe in Sardinia, to be seen around Cagliari. It is in Barumini, an hour’s drive from Cagliari.

The Su Nuraxi nuraghe can boast of being the only site in all of Sardinia to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Composed of a central tower, annex towers, a perimeter wall and fortifications, it is the only nuraghe in Sardinia to have been completely updated. A small nuragic village of about 50 houses is also built around it.

Guided-only tours take place daily from 9 am until 1 hour before sunset. Departures are every 1/2 hour. Price of 11€ per adult and 7€ for children.

nuraghe Su Nuraxi, Cagliari itinerary
The nuraghe Su Nuraxi, near Cagliari

9. Nora

Another archaeological site to do around Cagliari: that of Nora.

It is located south of Cagliari, towards Pula, 50 minutes by car.

Nora is an old trading post founded by the Phoenicians, which later turned into a Punic city to finally become the Roman capital of the island. Today, only ruins of this ancient city among the most powerful in Sardinia remain .

You will be able to see a Roman theatre, thermal buildings and some flowerbeds with very beautiful mosaics. The site also allows you to take a nice walk by the sea.

The visits are only guided and the guide speaks very good French. Count 7.50€ for the entrance ticket.

Travel Tips
Several people were fooled into thinking parking was free and ended up having to pay a fine!

Nora, archaeological site near Cagliari
Nora, archaeological site near Cagliari

10. Villasimius

If you prefer the beautiful beaches with archaeological remains, near Cagliari, I recommend that you take a trip to Villasimius and Capo Carbonara.

From Cagliari, allow approximately 1 hour to reach Villasimius.

The surroundings of Villasimius are renowned for hosting some of the prettiest beaches in Sardinia. I particularly recommend the Spiaggia Simius and the Spiaggia di Porto Giunco.

If you are looking for places to swim a little more isolated, you can also reach Capo Carbonara where you will find several small coves. The place is also ideal for hiking. 

The beach of Porto Giunco, in Villasimius

How many days to visit Cagliari?

One day is enough to visit Cagliari. The walk is very good on foot (even if there are some climbs) and allows you to admire the majority of the monuments. If you want to visit all the museums, you can plan 2 days in Cagliari.

In 2 days in Cagliari, you will also have time to explore the surroundings.

If you want to do a week-long itinerary in the South of Sardinia, I advise you to land there and plan a visit to the city at the beginning or at the end of your stay. You can check out our sample  6-7-8 day Sardinia itinerary from Cagliari to give you some ideas.

1 Day Cagliari Itinerary

If you only have one day in Cagliari, I recommend the following itinerary:

  • Take a trip to the San Benedetto market
  • Discover the Castello district
  • Join the Bastion Saint Remy to enjoy the view of Cagliari
  • Lunch break
  • Go to the Cathedral di Santa Maria
  • Walk through the City Palace
  • Visit the National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari
  • End the afternoon at Poetto beach
Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia

2 Days Cagliari Itinerary

In 2 days in Cagliari, get out of the city and explore the surroundings. Take the previous route and add:

  • The visit of the Nuraghe Su Nuraxi to learn about the history of the Nuragic civilization.
  • The discovery of the archaeological site of Nora
  • The beach and relaxation option to Villasimius and Capo Carbonara

3 or 4 Days Cagliari Itinerary

If you plan to visit Cagliari in 3 or 4 days (without doing an itinerary in Sardinia), I recommend that you go on the SP71 panoramic road, from Chia to Teulada (about 25km).

It is one of the most beautiful places in Sardinia, it is definitely worth renting a car just for a day to do this route!

You will find more info about this route in my article: The 25 things to do in Sardinia.

Accommodation in Cagliari

  • Birkin Castello : Located in the Castello district, 50 meters from the cathedral. Very cozy and comfortable double room from €60 per night, breakfast included. Most: the situation, the hearty breakfast, the available staff.
  • Budget Rooms Cagliari: Located in the old quarter. Double room well decorated and warm from 85€ per night. Most: the location to visit Cagliari on foot, the friendly staff.
  • Hotel Villa Fanny : Located 1 km from the center of Cagliari, 15 minutes walk from the port. Double room with refined and luxurious decoration from €130 per night, breakfast included. Most: the friendliness of the staff, the calm, the perfect bedding, the excellent and varied breakfast. This is our recommendation for a luxury stay in Cagliari!

Where to eat in Cagliari

  • Da Cesare: Located Via Charles Darwin in the Cesar Hotel. The starters and mains are very good and of excellent quality. Nice setting and friendly staff who speak French.
  • Bombas Hamburgeria Sarda: Located in Via Universita 37. The name says it all, here you will find burgers! Hearty and made from good quality meat, they are delicious and the chips served with them are homemade. All for a very good price / quality ratio.
  • Panino Rustico:  Located in Piazza San Rocco, next to the San Benedetto market. Ideal for eating on the go, this restaurant offers panini with good fresh and local products and original recipes. They are all very tasty. To be enjoyed with a good local beer!

Cagliari tourist map

To help you visualize the city a little better, I made you a tourist map of Cagliari, listing the places to visit that I talk about in this top 10 things to do. You can display the map legend by clicking on the top left button with a small arrow.

And you ? What are you planning to visit in Cagliari during your stay in Sardinia?

Are you going to Sardinia? Read also

Camille L.

Passionate about foreign languages, cooking and writing. I wish to share with you the places, the meetings and the gastronomic discoveries which gave relief to my travels.

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