With a holiday to Alghero, you can pair unwinding on flawless beaches with visiting sights like the walled old town and the stunning Neptune’s Caves.
As Italy’s most westerly point, Alghero has strong ties with neighbouring Catalonia – the region of Spain that’s home to Barcelona. It spent several centuries under Catalan rule and, to this day, local residents still consider themselves more Catalan than Italian. They nickname the city Barcelonetta – AKA little Barcelona – and even speak the Catalan dialect.
In polls of the world’s best beaches, Sardinia regularly comes out on top. Alghero is no exception. The shoreline here consists of fine, white sand lapped by gin-clear waters. The beaches come in all different shapes and sizes, too. There’s everything from long stretches with easy-to-reach restaurants to small, hidden-away bays with nothing for miles around.
The Coral Coast
The Alghero region is dubbed the Coral Coast because of the large number of bright red reefs that cling to its shores. Coral crafting is an important trade, with many shops selling jewellery and trinkets made from the stuff. There are whole museums dedicated to it and it’s even the main feature on Alghero’s coat of arms.
Cliffs and caves
One of the hilliest points on Alghero’s rolling coastline is Capo Caccia, a jagged promontory that curves out from the mainland. Admire it from afar and you’ll notice how the shape of the cliffs looks like a sleeping giant. Or, drive there to spend a day exploring the grottos carved into the rock by the sea, like the famous Neptune’s Caves.
Things to See and Do in Alghero Area
The city beach
You don’t need to leave the town for some time by the sea. San Giovanni Beach, also known as The Lido, is right on the doorstep. It’s lapped by shallow waters, and offers up more than a kilometre’s worth of white sand to spread out on. For when lunchtime rolls around, there’s a good selection of bars and restaurants dotted along its length.
The forest-backed beach
Maria Pia Beach is a 10-minute bus ride out of the city but, because it’s backed by a fragrant pine forest, it feels really out of the way. Wooden boardwalks lead right to the white sand – ideal if you’ve got a pushchair in tow. And a clutch of picnic tables is nestled within the trees. If you don’t fancy bringing a DIY lunch, there’s a café for drinks and snacks.
The child-friendly beach
Bombarde Beach is at the opposite end of the bay to the city. Although it’s a little smaller than Alghero’s other sandy stretches, it’s got great facilities for children. Right by the shore, there’s a playground, sports courts for tennis and basketball, a handful of snack bars, and boats for rent. A 10-minute walk inland, you’ll also find an amusement park complete with kids’ bumper boats, trampolines and a mini go-karting track.
The streets on the edge of the old town, next to the Giuseppe Manno Park, are ideal for picking up edible souvenirs. Wander through these alleys and you’ll come across delis for pasta and olive oil, sweet shops, and markets where local wines and cheeses are laid out ready for pre-purchase tasting sessions.
Alghero’s main shopping area spreads across the old town’s Via Carlo Alberto, Via Roma and the Piazza Civica. The city’s most famous fashion designer, Antonio Marras, has his own store on the Piazza Civica. It’s housed in one of the city’s oldest Medieval buildings and stocks a stylish range of clothes, shoes and handbags.
The Alghero region’s sheer quantity of coral – found within nearby underground caves – has earned it the nickname of the Coral Coast. Skilled jewellers transform it into beautiful earrings, necklaces and other trinkets. To pick yourself up one of these unique mementos, browse the boutiques along Via Roma in the old town.
For a low-key night out, Poco Loco is just the ticket. At this popular bar on Via Gramsci, you can play a game of bowling while listening to a live band. They have a good selection of beers on tap and serve pizza by the metre. Alternatively, head to the Spaggia di San Giovanni to spend an evening sipping cocktails within earshot of the sea, before a nightcap at Piazza Civica’s Café Costantino.
A 15-minute cab ride out of town, La Siesta is the biggest nightclub along the coast. It comes with four dancefloors – three indoors, plus an al fresco one surrounded by sofas and palm trees. Both DJ-spun chart tunes and live music performances are on the bill. Hang around until sunrise and you’ll be able to enjoy the views as well. The club sits on the top of a hill overlooking the sea.
Lobster might be seen as a rare treat in other parts of the world, but for Sardinians it’s an everyday ingredient. Their favourite way to serve it is as Lobster Catalan. This dish consists of boiled lobster mixed with tomatoes, onions, extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
The Algherese love sea urchins so much that they have an annual festival dedicated to them. These spiky molluscs are all over the city’s menus, especially in the winter months as this is when it’s the best time to harvest them. Try them within a pasta dish or eat them like the locals – raw on bread with a glass of wine.
Each Italian region lays claim to its own variety of pasta. Shell-shaped malloreddus is the trademark in Sardinia. The seafood version comes with fresh scampi, asparagus and a creamy dressing. If you’re more of a meat-eater, opt for malloreddus alla campidanese, which comes with a tomato and sausage meat sauce.
Gelato & granita
In Alghero, ice-cream is available in every colour and flavour you can think of – from mint choc chip to liquorice. You’ll find it in hole-in-the-wall gelaterias on almost every street corner. For an ice-cream alternative, try granite, a traditional Italian crushed ice dessert.
As you’d guess from the name, Crema Catalana is a product of Alghero’s Catalan heritage. Similar to crème brûlée, this creamy, custard-based dessert comes coated with caramelised sugar.
Places To Stay In Alghero Area View all places to stay »
Alghero, in north-western Sardinia, is one of the island’s most seductive towns. It was ruled by the Spanish between 1400 and 1700 and this influence is writ large in the old quarter, called Barcelonetta, or Little Barcelona. The cobbled streets here still have a distinctive Catalan character and, to this day, the locals speak a Catalan dialect. The new town spreads out on the other side of the 16th-century walls, and offers easy access to a royal flush of white, sandy beaches.
Taking its name from the granite rock resting just off its shoreline, Isola Rossa – or Red Island – isn’t an island at all. It’s in fact a tranquil fishing village on the north-west coast of Sardinia, looking out to the Bay of Asinara. The fishermen still cast off from the harbour every morning, but there’s a growing number of hotels, a vibrant watersports scene, and one of Sardinia’s biggest waterparks on its doorstep.
Think of picture-postcard Sardinia and chances are you’ll be thinking of somewhere like Badesi Mare – a sleepy village teamed with a perfect beach and rolling countryside. This place occupies a spot on Sardinia’s north coast where, on clear days, you can spy nearby Corsica on the horizon.
Things To Do View all »
The impressive Nuraghe di Palmavera ruins were left behind by the Nuragic people, who lived in Sardinia from the Bronze Age…View details »
Adventurous children will be in their element at this tree-top adventure park, where high-wire trails, rope ladders and wobbly…View details »