10 Best Things to do in Catania, Sicily 10 Best Things to do in Catania, Sicily

10 Best Things to do in Catania, Sicily

In the shadows of the powerful Mount Etna, full of culture and liveliness, lies the second-largest city of Sicily – welcome to Catania. The moment you step into this bustling metropolis, you’ll be greeted by a captivating blend of history and the irresistible charm of Sicilian life. Explore the winding streets in the lovely old center, where colorful markets come alive with the scents of freshly brewed espresso, citrus fruits, and delicious street food. From the stunning Cathedral of Sant’Agata to the lively piazzas where the locals gather, take a day to discover the versatile city of Catania in Sicily, Italy.

Things to do in Catania, Sicily

Situated on the island’s eastern coast, Catania makes a great starting point for a Sicily road trip. With its rich architectural heritage, the city stands proudly against the backdrop of the majestic Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano. It’s a bit gritty but packed with interesting history and personality.

Soak up the vibrant atmosphere of Sicilian hospitality and the warm Mediterranean sun as you make your way through the city. You’ll come across beautiful Roman remains, baroque architecture, and incredible terraces where conversations fill the air. Discover all the best things to do in Catania, Sicily.  

Did you know? Catania is also known as ‘the black city’, as the soot and ashes of the volcano blacken the buildings. Though it’s been destroyed in the past, the city always rises from the ashes, becoming more beautiful each time.

1. Cathedral of Saint Agatha

In the vibrant center of Catania, you’ll find the stunning Cattedrale di Sant’Agata. This grand cathedral serves as the heart of the city. Designed in a beautiful Baroque style, it’s the main centerpiece to look at. Despite its turbulent history of destruction, the current building standing dates as far back as 1711.

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10 Best Things to do in Catania, Sicily

Inside, you’ll be greeted by a blend of luxurious designs. Though the cathedral’s main hall is rather subdued, the apse and side chapels are covered in beautiful paintings and details. Besides its beautiful architecture, the cathedral has a special meaning to the city as it’s where the patron saint of Catania met her martyrdom.

Chiesa della Badia di Sant’Agata

Next to the grand cathedral, you’ll find a church bearing the same name. Apart from its architecture, it’s also an incredible viewpoint, offering 360-degree vistas of the entire city and Mount Etna. Because of this, it’s a lovely spot to visit during sunset. Climb up halfway to be struck by the breathtaking views. Or, head up even higher through a small staircase to get to the absolute top. 

2. Fontana dell’Elefante

Begin your journey through Catania by immersing into the vibrant atmosphere of the Piazza del Duomo. This is the city’s main square and beating heart of the historic center. Join the locals, and take in the peaceful atmosphere amidst the impressive buildings that line the square. From the stunning Palazzo dei Chierici to the Catania Cathedral, there’s a lot of Sicilian Baroque architecture to marvel at here. 

At the center of it all, you’ll spot the elegant Elephant Fountain, an iconic city symbol that graces the square. Listen to the streams of water as you relax at one of the many lively cafes on the square. This is a beautiful spot to grab a refreshing drink or dive into local Sicilian specialties.

3. Ursino Castle

Venture south and discover another facet of Catania’s interesting past – the impressive Castello Ursino. This striking medieval fortress, built in the 13th century as the royal castle of the Kingdom of Sicily, bears witness to the city’s historical stories. Enduring many natural disasters and the test of time, Castello Ursino still stands proudly today. Inside the formidable walls, you’ll now find the Civic Museum of Catania. 

Step inside to take in the collection of the beautiful historical collection of weapons, sculptures, and incredible paintings. 

4. Catania Fish Market

Nestled just a stone’s throw away from the picturesque Piazza del Duomo awaits the Catania Fish Market. This is a bustling spectacle where locals of all ages passionately sell their fresh catch (open daily till 2 PM). It’s an impressive and somewhat chaotic scene that really shows the city’s essence. 

From small shrimps to massive swordfish, there’s plenty of seafood around, proudly presented in the stalls. As you stroll the streets and market, you’ll witness locals and visitors join in with the vibrant ambiance of the place.

We recommend having breakfast before heading to the market, as the smells are sometimes quite pungent. Besides fish, you’ll also find plenty of cheeses, fruits, and other delicious treats that you can get for lunch.

5. Bellini Gardens

Located along the charming Via Etnea in Catania, Sicily, the Bellini Gardens make another location to get away from bustling city life. The ornate gardens of Villa Bellini, the oldest public park in Catania, are an incredible to-do. Make your way through the enchanting green oasis and take some time to relax from all the sightseeing downtown. 

The Chiosco Bellini Park is a great place to unwind, with many walking paths and picnic spots. Bring a pastry and coffee to-go from the renowned Pasticceria Savia, and make your way through the freshly trimmed hedges. While you stroll through the garden, an elegant staircase will lead to the park’s centerpiece – a beautiful fountain with a floral clock. From there, you’ll be greeted lastly by the stunning pavilion crafted from iron.

6. Botanical Garden: Orto Botanico dell’Università di Catania   

A natural haven full of luscious flora lies within the city, tucked between the darkened buildings. This idyllic oasis showcases the region’s rich biodiversity and makes a great escape from the urban bustle. Stroll along the meandering paths between the greenery while you soak up the tranquil atmosphere.

From towering palm trees swaying gently in the wind to vibrant and beautiful flowers, the Botanical Garden is one of the best things to do in Catania. Each one of the species here shows the diverse flora of Sicily and beyond. Stroll past the ponds adorned with water lilies and watch as colorful butterflies make their way amidst the flowers.

7. Roman Amphitheater Catania

Head back in time to 300 B.C. by exploring the remarkable remains of the Roman Amphitheater in Catania, Sicily. This ancient theater is one of the city’s highlights, offering a small glimpse into the island’s rich history. Step through a small museum and get transported back in time to an arena that once accommodated up to 7,000 spectators. 

Wander through the rows of seats, explore the outer hallways, and catch a glimpse of the neighboring Greek Odean. This one is much smaller but adds to the historical site’s allure, showcasing the diverse groups that inhabited Sicily over time. 

8. Monastero dei Benedettini di San Nicolò l’Arena

As you venture uphill away from the charming Via dei Crociferi, you’ll encounter the Monastery of San Nicolò l’Arena, one of the architectural gems of Catania. This 16th-century monastery, now part of the University of Catania, exudes grandeur and has quite a historical significance. While it may have transformed over the years, the building’s beauty remains intact and makes it a must-see when visiting Catania. 

Inside, wander through the halls and explore the stunning marble cloister, the centerpiece of the construction. Watch as the monastery comes to life with students studying in what is now the library. Though the beautiful building is easily explored by yourself, consider joining a guided tour if you’d like to learn more about the monastery’s history.

Tours & Tickets 🥾View all

9. Trip to Mount Etna

Just one hour’s drive from Catania stands the incredible Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe at 3300 meters. Hike to the summit for incredible views over the whole island, and explore the volcano’s craters, lava fields, and ice caves. Best of all, some of the most delicious wines in Sicily are produced in this area, making it great to combine the hike with a winery tour and tasting on your way back to Catania.

Mount Etna Tour

There are multiple tours available depending on your time and budget. Keep in mind that it’s quite expensive, as you have to go up the mountain with a guide for safety reasons. However, it’s more than worth it! Tours usually include transport up the volcano, return tickets for the cable car, and the cost of a 4×4 van, which drops you off at the summit trailhead. 

You can explore Mount Etna by yourself; however, only up to 2900 meters. The best time to do this tour is during spring or autumn when there are fewer tourists, and it’s not too cold. Make sure to book in advance, as it’s one of the best things to do in Catania, Sicily. Note that many of the tours to Mount Etna start from the neighboring town of Taormina.

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Getting to Mount Etna

From Catania, it’s a one-hour drive to the car park at Rifugio Sapienza (also known as Etna South), located at 2000 meters high. Here, you can park your car for free and walk in the visitor’s center. Then, you can walk or take the cable car up, which costs 35 EUR (38 USD) for a return ticket. 

Once you get up, walk to Torre Del Filosofo (40 minutes) to start the summit trail or take a 4×4 (30 EUR / 32.55 USD return). Make sure to check your tour details, as some don’t include these additional transport costs.

10. Trip to Taormina 

The picturesque clifftop town of Taormina is one of the most beautiful and luxurious places on the island of Sicily. With its pastel-colored houses, ancient churches, palazzos, and panoramic views overlooking the sea and Mount Etna, it looks as if the town could come straight off a postcard. 

Once you’ve explored the historical center of Catania, neighboring Taormina makes the perfect next stop on your Sicily road trip. Spend your days exploring the narrow alleyways and tiny staircases, enjoying fresh seafood on the beach, and cooling off in crystal-clear waters.

The center is mostly car-free, adding to the ‘dolce vita’ atmosphere and making it a very relaxing place to stroll around. Discover cute cafes and Sicilian ceramics as you make your way through town, taking in the stunning views on every corner. 

Best Restaurants and Cafes in Catania

Discover the flavors and aromas of delicious and traditional Sicilian cuisine as you make your way through the city. In the historical center, you’ll find plenty of bars and restaurants that bustle with a vibrant atmosphere of locals and visitors. Try the Catania street food specialty ‘Arancini’, fried rice balls with ragout and mozzarella, while you navigate the lively streets. Some of our favorite restaurants were:

  • A Putia Dell’Ostello (in a lava cave)
  • Morgana Lounge Bar (picturesque cocktail bar)
  • Vinicolo cocktail bar
  • Plante Lab
  • Vuciata
  • Trattoria U Fucularu
  • Deliziosa
Find all locations in our Google MapsFind in our Google Maps

Where to Stay

Catania offers a range of accommodation options for every budget, from beautiful B&Bs in the historical center to hotels with seaside or mountain views.

Stay in or near the old piazza to be only a stone’s throw away from all the best things to do in Catania, Sicily. This way, it’s just a short walk to the city’s highlights and best restaurants, and you’ll be amidst all the beautiful architecture. 

How Many Days in Catania?

The gritty city of Catania makes the perfect starting point for a Sicily road trip. Most of the highlights lie inside the old center, so you can easily explore everything for a day. However, if you’re looking to tour Mount Etna, staying for two is recommended. 

How to Visit Catania, Sicily

Just like Palermo and Trapani, Catania has an international airport with flights from all over Europe. From the airport, it’s just a 20-minute drive to the city center.

Find flights to Catania ✈️

By Train

If you’re traveling the island of Sicily by train, you can also make your way to Catania. From Palermo, it’s about a 4-hour journey, and about 1 hour from Syracuse and Taormina. Trains are a comfortable way of getting around the island, driving through the beautiful countryside and along the coast. 

If you’re flying into Catania airport, you can also hop on the train just outside that takes you to Catania Centrale station. 

By Car

As the second-largest city on the island, Catania also makes a great starting point for an incredible Sicily road trip. Explore the city first, then head out to see all the other beautiful locations, such as Taormina and Cefalù

Keep in mind that parking in Sicily can be an issue. Like many other Italian towns, Catania has ZTL zones, especially around the old center, making parking difficult. Because of this, we recommend renting a car in Sicily after exploring the city.

Getting Around

Catania is a very walkable city, with many of the main sights close to each other in the city center. Most of the area is also prohibited from vehicles. This is great as you can peacefully explore all the historic streets and side alleys. 

How Much Does Catania Cost?

Like many other places in Sicily, Catania is a reasonably-priced city, especially when it comes to the activities and food to try. If you’re traveling on a budget, opt for cheaper accommodation and visit the street food markets for a good (and affordable) lunch. 

Costs of Traveling in Catania

Travel on a budget in Catania, from $220 − $380 USD weekly per person, mid-range $640 − $1290 USD, and high-end from $1180 − $1650 USD. However, costs depend on factors like accommodation, transportation, and activities. We did not include flights. Check flight prices here

* Average daily costs
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The Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Catania, Sicily, is during the late spring or early autumn. From mid-March to June (or mid-September to November), you still have nice weather but get to avoid the peak tourist crowds. 

Best
Good
Mixed
Poor
🌧️
13°C
Jan
🌦️
14°C
Feb
🌦️
14°C
Mar
🌤
17°C
Apr
☀️
21°C
May
☀️
26°C
Jun
☀️
30°C
Jul
☀️
31°C
Aug
☀️
26°C
Sep
🌤
22°C
Oct
🌦️
18°C
Nov
🌧️
15°C
Dec

During this time, accommodations are often lower priced, but attractions might also have shorter opening hours.

30/12/2023 https://www.saltinourhair.com/italy/catania-sicily/
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