What are the best things to do in Catania?
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002, Catania, a delightful baroque city of 500,000 souls, is nestled at the foot of Mount Etna, on the eastern coast of Sicily, and embraces the lavish outline of the Ionian Sea shore, fashioned by the eruptions of the latter.
Ancient city founded around the 8th century BC JC, Catania is a seductive old lady typically southern, displaying a strong temperament: destroyed and rebuilt 7 times in its history by natural disasters, conquered and modeled by many successive civilizations, it became over the centuries a privileged space of exchanges and crossbreeding. This cultural richness is still expressed today by the nobility of its late Baroque architectural heritage, and the power of this Mediterranean commercial platform: visiting Catania, Sicily’s second largest city after Palermo is to discover the true economic engine of the island … and a leading tourist site, which takes advantage of the kindness of its inhabitants and its exceptional geographical position.
Whatever the duration of your stay on site, we have listed for you a selection of top things to do in Catania: activities of character and unforgettable treasures to enjoy without further delay!
1. Piazza Del Duomo
Photo credit: Flickr – dom fellowes
Main place of the city, it is the gateway for any visitor wishing to visit Catania and soak up his soul. Entirely pedestrian, it is the heart of the city, acts as a market place and houses in its center many historic buildings including the “elephant fountain”, built in white marble and volcanic rock, dear to the native for its reach symbolic: dating back to ancient times, the elephant would have the power to appease Etna’s burning fevers …
The statue faces the majestic Sant’Agata Cathedral, which today houses the relics of Saint Agatha and the remains of the famous composer Bellini; built in the late eleventh century in honor of the patron saint of the city, restored with taste and in keeping with ancestral techniques, it is a Baroque masterpiece and the diversity of architectural styles interspersed throughout the reconstructions testifies intense cultural mixing.
2. Duomo Di Catania
Behind the fountain is the Cattedrale di Sant’Agata, which is open for free every day of the week. Its exterior facade is very beautiful, all white marble and the interior is dedicated to St. Agatha, a young virgin who was subjected to the worst abuse when she refused the advances of a Roman prefect. Now patron saint of the city, it is the subject of a big party every 5th of February. His relics are inside the cathedral.
Another tomb to admire in the cathedral: that of the famous composer, Vincenzo Bellini. Born in Catania in 1801, he is a child of the country, famous for his many operas including his masterpiece “Norma”.
3. Via Etnea
Photo credit: Flickr – Strinopr
In the real artery of the city, this historic alley, whose layout has been modified over and over again over the centuries, warm and lively, presents on its stalls a multitude of small pleasures to be consumed without moderation; to visit Catania can not be considered without going through the slabs of lava stone paved paving the avenue, which is full of shops and stalls craftsmen, as well as many bistros showcasing the Sicilian gastronomy. Ideal to enjoy a glass of local wine, or to eat after a day full of emotion!
4. Villa Bellini
Photo credit: Flickr – Gerry Labrijn
Located on Via Etnea, the green lung of Catania invites you to relax on the large manicured lawns and cool off thanks to the many fountains that blend beautifully into this natural setting, home to beautiful centuries-old trees and many species of rare plants.
Meeting place with the family spirit, it will make you benefit from its calm and serene atmosphere or allow you to indulge in the pleasures of running!
5. Via Crociferi
Via Crociferi is the 2nd street to walk during your visit to Catania. It could be nicknamed the Street of the Churches because you will be able to admire not less than 4 all along the street. On the program: the chiesa di San Francesco (to see for its giant candelabra), the Arco di San Benedetto (raised in one night), the chiesa di San Benedetto (dedicated to Saint Benedict), the chiesa di San Giuliano, the Chiesa di San Nicolo all’Arena (certainly not the most beautiful because the construction work was never completed). For visits, be careful, most are open only in the morning.
Do not miss this street either, the former Benedictine monastery of Saint Nicolas l’Arène, which today houses the university. It is the 2nd largest in Europe. You can visit it freely or with a guide.
Visits with a guide are only in Italian but you can follow through the explanatory leaflet written in French.
If you want to see a beautiful place of interest absolutely unknown to tourists, I recommend the guided tour of the Ursino Recupero library, adjoining the monastery. Allow 1 hour of visit.
6. San Giovanni li Cuti
Photo credit: Flickr – Vincenzo De Geronimo
San Giovanni li Cuti is certainly the most famous beach of Catania. The presence of black rocks and ash resulting from volcanic activity makes San Giovanni li Cuti the most characteristic natural place in the city. In summer, the beach welcomes locals looking to escape the heat of the city to bask in the water. There are also several wooden boats that are still used by local fishermen, making it both cultural and natural.
7. Mount Etna
Photo Credit: Flickr – Gareth Williams
Volcano with legendary anger, responsible for the destruction of many ancient cities, Mount Etna is a natural site unmissable, ideal for excursions of all kinds: hiking, quad, visit 4 × 4, romantic horse ride …
Many local guides offer to take you to climb the Giant of Sicily and enjoy breathtaking panoramas, where to go down in the craters and caves millennia, dug by the lava flows!
For your excursion to Etna, we recommend you to go through Getyourguide: the guides are really top (It’s simple, they are the best French speaking guides), and in addition the price is reasonable.
Click on the button to get more info and book your tour now:
Reserve my excursion on Etna now! (53 € only)
8. Ursino Castle
A real good plan, which stands out among the things to do in Catania: the castle of Ursino, monumental fortress of the thirteenth century erected by the Emperor Frederick II of Sicily, is one of the few buildings to have resisted the devastating earthquake of 1693 Remarkably, over the centuries – and successive natural disasters – the castle, initially overlooking a cliff by the sea, is now located more than 1km inland.
Loaded with stories and anecdotes, its museum and art gallery will allow you to observe many wonders of time!
9. Catania Amphitheater
Dating back to the 2nd century AD, this amphitheater was only partially discovered through excavations in the first half of the 20th century. It is made of magmatic stones, brick and marble and has retained its elliptical shape. Whether you have a passion for archeology and antiquity or not, this place deserves to be visited, preferably under the guidance of a guide who can comment on the visit and tell you the past of the place. Portions of this amphitheater are still hidden under Piazza Stesicoro as well as in the neighboring streets via Manzoni and via Penninello.
Located a few kilometers from Catania, Acireale is a small baroque town whose lava terraces plunge into the sea. Acireale is renowned for its large number of churches, about a hundred for 60,000 inhabitants. The main ones are of course located around the piazza del Duomo. To see on the way between Catania and Taormina.
11. Aci Trezza
The main attraction of Aci Trezza, a small seaside resort, is the faraglioni or “rocks of cyclops”. These 8 rocks in basalt would have been thrown by the giant Polyphemus from Etna on Ulysses to prevent it from fleeing the island. Typical village to enjoy the sea and the sun with its many bars and restaurants.
12. More Things to Do in Catania
Photo credit: Flickr – Nuno Cardoso
- Savor “arancini”, a popular Sicilian dish
- Admire the ruins of Aci Castello
- Collect at the Monastero dei Benedettini
- Marvel at the amazing Palazzo Biscari
- Visit Museo dello Sbarco, recounting the 1943 landing in Sicily
- Monastery of San Nicolo l’Arena
- Piazza dell’Universita where there is the Palazzo dell’Universita which houses the old university and Palazzo San Guiliano
- Rent a car and explore the Baroque villages of Ragusa, Modica and Scicli
Where to stay in Catania
- City-In Hostel B & B : Located opposite Ursino Castle. Bed in dormitory from 17 €, breakfast 3 €. Free WIFI. Public parking and free. Tip: Avoid street side rooms that are a bit noisy.
- Tra Etna Il Mare B & B : Located one kilometer from the piazza duomo. Large room with refined decoration from 50 € per night. Breakfast included. Plus: Free private parking. This is our favorite for its benefit / price ratio!
- Il Giardino Di Piazza Falcone : Located about fifteen minutes walk from Piazza Duomo. Large bright room from 90 € per night. Breakfast included. Public parking at 10 € per day. Plus: a large garden with terrace, the very friendly welcome, the good breakfast.
- Duomo Suites & Spa Catania: Located just 100 meters from the Piazza del Duomo. Nice and bright double room from 190 €, breakfast included. Pros: the perfect location to visit Catania on foot, the comfort of the rooms, the view from the terrace. This is our recommendation for a luxury stay in Catania.
Where to eat in Catania?
- Canni & Pisci-Meat & Fish: Seafood and fish restaurant, nicely laid out in a vaulted room. Very calm. Typical Sicilian cuisine. Menu 25 € or 30 €, very hearty dishes and very good. Reservation recommended.
- Eat Pizzeria : Very good pizzeria. Wide selection of pizzas all excellent and plentiful. Very good value for money. Friendly atmosphere, friendly staff.
- Feelin ‘Good : Restaurant specializing in salads and burgers. You can compose your own salad. Fresh products. Good burgers for a reasonable price. Suitable for vegan.
How to get to Catania?
By plane most companies serve Catania from the big French cities, Easyjet being generally the cheapest. If you go early enough the round trip will return to 60 € (without the baggage in the hold) at certain times. The airport is approximately 7km from the city center, many buses provide the transfer (trip to 1 €, every 30 minutes).
To find a cheap flight to Catania, you can visit the website of our partner Skyscanner .
You can also rent a car on your arrival, the prices are not very high but be careful with the choices of your renter and insurance offered then, read your contract well. Prefer the agencies that offer you to return the car with the full (to do it yourself before the return) that empty (they will automatically charge you the full double fare !!).
When you pick up the car, note the slightest scratch or impact and when returning, insist on going around with the renter. The most common scam, when your flight is outside the hours of operation of the rental agency, is to tell you to deposit the keys in the mailbox and that the agency will take care of the state places. Once back home, you are debited from 300 to 900 € for fictitious damages ! It is unfortunately a scam quite common in Sicily and you will have to take your trouble to get a refund. In most cases, if you have taken the full insurance and therefore pay a little more initially, you will still be refunded. Remember to keep all the documents submitted by the agency, they will be asked to obtain compensation.
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