Visit Taormina: Top Things to Do
Taormina is a city that I particularly like. Indeed it is the third time that I went in this city in 2 years. The city is welcoming and beautiful, thanks to its small pedestrian streets, incredible view of Mount Etna, the view of the turquoise blue sea. Taormina is located at 200m altitude. This city is nicknamed as “Saint-Tropez Sicilian”. The city is also famous thanks to its film festival.
Even if the city is very well visited alone, I recommend you to opt for a guided tour of the city that will offer you the advantage of having many explanations on places sometimes difficult to access alone. These tours are offered in French and include the entrance to the Taormina Theater which I am talking about just below.
1. Taormina Theater
Let’s start with the unmissable Taormina theater. This magnificent theater dates from the third century BC It has, over the years, been modified many times, including by the Romans in the third century. This theater has been partly renovated but remains very well preserved. It can accommodate nearly 5,000 people, it is, still today, occasionally used for concerts or plays. Although its dimensions are smaller than the theater of Syracuse which I will talk about soon, they remain quite impressive, 109 m in diameter.
You will also have the opportunity to visit a small museum.
The tour will take about 30 minutes, but it is nice to enjoy the view of Mount Etna.
2. Corso Umberto
In addition to visiting the Taormina Theater, it is pleasant to walk around the city, getting lost in its narrow streets. You will move on the main street of Taormina, Corso Umberto, this street is dotted with shops on both sides, clothing shops, souvenirs, but also pastries where you can enjoy cannoli, Sicilian specialties.
While walking along this street you will probably be tempted to take a small perpendicular street to get away from the crowd on the main street. By moving away from it you may fall on small squares or cafes that will offer you a breathtaking view of Mount Etna and the sea.
You may fall on Babilonia, the Italian language school, which has a beautiful garden. Taormina has some churches worth visiting.
3. ISOLA BELLA
To visit Taormina is also to visit Isola Bella. Isola Bella or the beautiful island, is a tiny island located a few meters from the beach of Taormina. This island becomes even a peninsula when the tide is favorable.
The history of this island is rather atypical since the island was, in a first time, offered in 1806 to the mayor of Taormina. After changing owner several times it was sold, in 1954, for the equivalent of 20,000 euros to two rich brothers whose company was bankrupt a few years later.
The island was auctioned off and did not find a buyer until 1990 when the island was sold to the Assessor of Cultural Property. As the island became a nature reserve, it was managed by various organizations such as the WWF, and more recently by CUTGANA, the environmental protection center of the University of Catania.
It is possible to visit this island (if you are not afraid to get your feet wet).
It will cost you a few euros depending on the type of visit you choose, with or without a museum. As said above, the island is today a nature reserve with several species of rare plants. During our visit, part of the island was under construction and we did not have access to it.
On the island is a villa, part is turned into a museum, the other part seems a little abandoned. Having visited the island in February, we did not cross tourists, the island breathes serenity and calm.
4. Piazza IX Aprile
Your path will take you straight on to Piazza IX Aprile, an unmissable place of interest in Taormina, with a huge panoramic terrace overlooking the bay below and Mount Etna. This is the place to make beautiful pictures, especially at sunset .
Also enjoy its typical atmosphere with musicians, acrobats, painters.
You will also see a small church that adds to the charm of this small square, the Chiesa de San Giuseppe. Its baroque facade is very beautiful but the interior is nothing special.
5. Public Garden – Villa Comunale
To get away from the crowds, do not hesitate to visit the Villa Comunale which houses a large public garden. This villa belonged to a rich Englishman, passionate about birds and who decided to build there many structures such as feeders or nesting boxes.
The view of the bay is beautiful and it is the ideal place to enjoy a picnic in the shade of vegetation.
6. Greek Theater
The most famous monument of Taormina remains its Greek theater. It dates from the 3rd century BC and is remarkably well preserved. It can accommodate more than 5,000 people and gives theatrical performances and concerts. Know that if you visit a day of concert, you will be entitled to a huge platform planted in the middle, which takes a little magic of the place.
The entrance is 10 €, which is a bit expensive, especially if you consider that the visit is quickly made without any explanatory panels or brochures. Barely thirty minutes to take some pictures but again, it is especially for the view that we go there. Despite the price, the Greek theater remains a place of interest to see absolutely in Taormina.
7. Chiesa Madonna della Rocca
For those who still have a little energy, go to the via circumvallazione. From here, a staircase of more than 300 steps and without any shade (plan a good bottle of water), will bring you on the heights of Taormina in about twenty minutes on foot. You can enjoy panoramic views of the city and the Greek Theater.
See also: the sanctuary of the Madonna della Rocca, a small chapel partly dug into the rock.
8. Isola Bella
You could not miss it, it is the small island that can be seen at the very bottom of Taormina, the postcard decoration par excellence.
You can reach it on foot in half an hour from the top of Taormina (but know that then the ascent will be tough) or by car (good luck to find a parking place nearby).
This cove is simply sublime with its pebble beach and crystal clear waters. On the spot many activities are offered to you: snorkeling, diving, ballad in boat, hiring of jet ski or simply idleness!
Located 5km from Taormina, the small village of Castelmola is worth a visit for its ruined medieval castle and its narrow streets. In the village and from the castle many points of view on the valley below and Etna. Do not forget to taste the almond wine, a specialty of the village.
10. Gorges of Alcantara
Located a 50-minute drive from Taormina, this site is a geological curiosity. The gorge of Alcantara has high walls of more than 25 meters for only 2 to 4 meters wide.
The peculiarity of this narrow canyon lies in the formation of its walls born from various lava flows from the north side of Mount Etna. This volcanic material has cooled in contact with the waters of the river and has drawn original forms. Beware this place is not necessarily made for swimming because the water is very cold.
There are several possible paths to access the gorge. The first is paid and indicated by an entrance and a large car park that will allow you to park your car easily. You will then descend to the gorge in elevator and will be entitled to a guided tour, but count a minimum of 15 €.The 2nd possibility (which I advise you) is to continue a little further down the road, you will find a hut on the right side of the road that sells tickets for access to the gorge only 2 € per no one. At this price you will go down the communal stairs but can enjoy the gorge in the same way for a much lower price.
From Taormina, many tours offer day trips to Mount Etna. They will take you to the foot of the volcano, provide a guide and equipment, and organize the climb in 4 * 4 to the crater. Without doubt the best security level option.
The unmissable number 1 around Taormina is, without a doubt, a hike on the famous volcano Etna. Located near the city, it is possible to easily reach the volcano, either by car if you have a car or by renting a car in Taormina or by booking a day trip from Taormina. Several excursions are possible, the most common being that of the morning. Departing from Taormina around 8:30 am, take the direction of Etna for a morning hike.
It is also possible for you to go for the day to discover the volcano but also the famous Alcantara Gorge. These tours are available in French.
Excursion to Etna from Taormina
What to do around Taormina
If most of your stay takes place in Taormina, then you will be able to make several visits to places of interest located around the city.
The surrounding cities:
In addition to visiting Taormina, you can discover two of the main cities of Sicily located nearby. For that you have the choice between you to go to about fifty kilometers in the North of Taormina, in Messina. A very pleasant town where you can see the Italian boot or head 50 kilometers to the south to discover Catania, a city rich in history that I highly recommend.
Syracuse is a city that particularly marked me and I greatly appreciated. Its historical park is beautiful and the Greco-Roman remains are surprising. Syracuse is about 120 kilometers from Taormina, the city is easily accessible by train.
A short tour on the Aeolian Islands:
Although a little further, the Aeolian Islands are relatively easy to reach from Taormina. A short hour drive will take you to Milazzo, the starting point for boats to the islands. It will be possible, for example, to visit an island like Vulcano on the day and come back at night. It is also possible for you to plan a trip to Stromboli, but you will have to plan to stay on the island.
How long to stay in Taormina?
The time you spend in town will depend on what you want to visit, but I recommend you spend at least 2 days in Taormina. This is for me the minimum to enjoy the activities to do in the region.
Visit Taormina in 1 day
Here is a small itinerary of one day in Taormina, to miss nothing to see:
- Visit the old city in the morning and climb to the Madonna della Rocca sanctuary to enjoy the view
- Go back down and lunch break
- Swimming at the beach of Isola Bella in the afternoon and visit the Greek theater of Taormina
I recommend you visit the Greek theater at the end of the day, it is at this moment that the light is the prettiest! But if you are in a hurry, nothing prevents you to visit it in the early afternoon and then down to the beach (and so not having to go back to Taormina ).
Visit Taormina in 2 days
For your 2 days in Taormina, take the 1st day mentioned above, and then:
- Start with an excursion to the village of Castelmola, which offers a magnificent 360 degree view of the entire region. To do absolutely!
- Eat on the spot
- Then head for the Gorges de l’Alcantara for a refreshing moment in the shadow of its walls made of basaltic organs with improbable forms.
Visit Taormina in 3 days
If you have 3 days in Taormina, I highly recommend going on an excursion to Etna, it’s an unforgettable moment during a circuit in Sicily !
Beach lovers will also want to go back to Isola Bella. If you like snorkeling, you can go to Azzurra Grotta d’Isola Bella. Just pay attention to the boats, as there are organized trips to this place.
Where to sleep in Taormina?
The city of Taormina is divided into two parts. The upper town and the lower town. Both are accessible by road, including by bus, or by a funicular. Hotels in the lower city will generally be a bit cheaper.
Sleep in Taormina at a lower cost:
Our first hotel will be the Taormina Garden Hotel, located at the bottom of the city this hotel offers very affordable rates with a wonderful terrace. The hotel is located a few hundred meters from Taormina beach and not far from the funicular.
The second hotel in our selection is Hotel Victoria. Located in the top of the city just 300 meters from the theater. The hotel has an ideal location and a great value.
Hostel Taormina : Hostel located in the heart of Taormina. Bed in dormitory from 22.5 €. Free WIFI. Breakfast not included. Little more: a large panoramic terrace.
The Elios Hotel is a 3 star hotel, also located a few hundred meters from the theater, in the city center of Taormina. The particularity of this hotel is undoubtedly its panoramic view of the bay and Etna. The ideal hotel to stay cheaply and visit Taormina.
Casa La Via del Mare : Located halfway between the beach and the historic center of Taormina. Modern and bright room from 80 € per night. Breakfast included. Plus: Free parking (a must in Taormina!)
Medea Residence : Located 2 steps from the main street of Taormina. Apartment with kitchen, modern and bright. Quiet. Outdoor pool. Free WIFI. Paid private parking: 10 € per day. Minimum of 3 nights rental for 210 € or 70 € per night.
For more comfortable budgets:
For the budgets a little more comfortable, you will have the embarrassment of the choice. First of all your choice will be towards the hotel Ariston and Palazzo Santa Caterina. The property is located in the middle of the Mediterranean Park near the funicular which will allow you to reach the beach of Taormina. The hotel has a swimming pool and a remarkable view.
The Hotel Méditerranée is a 4-star hotel offering great value for money. The hotel is perched on the heights of the city and offers, also, a breathtaking view of the bay and Etna. All rooms have a large terrace and the hotel also has a swimming pool.
Let me introduce you to an exceptional hotel in Taormina. The Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo. A 5-star hotel of the most luxurious. The hotel is located right in front of the Greek Theater Taormina surrounded by a large park. The hotel has a swimming pool, spa, gym, massage service and a terrace with one of the best views of the city.
Hotel Villa Diodoro: Located 5 minutes walk from the historic center. Spacious and bright double room from 190 € per night, breakfast included. Pros: free private parking, the location, the hotel park, the view, the lovely staff. This is also our recommendation for a luxury stay in Taormina.
How to get to Taormina?
To get to Taormina, you have to fly to Catania first.
From Catania Airport:
- By car : 1 hour drive via A18 and E45
- By bus : A bus every hour from Monday to Saturday and 2 on Sunday; 1h30 drive; € 5.60
- By train : The train is not recommended because the railway station is 2 km downstream from Taormina and you will then have to take a bus to get to the city.
Check the price for plane tickets now with our flight comparison engine : It’s the solution to find the best deal for your flight to Sicily!
When to visit Taormina
Sicily and especially Taormina, enjoys a very favorable climate. The weather is very mild in winter, unlike the summer, where it can be very hot. Another very important advantage, Taormina is a very touristy city, to visit it the winter allows you to avoid the crowd in the streets.
So, when are you leaving for Taormina? 🙂
Are you going to Sicily? Read also
Discover all our articles on Sicily: All our articles about Sicily are listed here.
- Top 25 Things to Do in Sicily – Ultimate Guide!
- Cheap Travel to Sicily: 1,2 & 3 days Itinerary + All our advices!
- Top 15 things to do in Palermo