The city of Alghero can be found in the northwest of Sardinia, and is part of the Sassari province. One of the most beautiful and interesting destinations on the island, it still preserves its distinct medieval charm, with the famous strong city walls, the stunning heritage of the historical center, the charming beaches and seascapes nearby or its special Catalan legacy. The town of Alghero has around 40,000 regular inhabitants, while the summer months can double or even triple its population with tourists and visitors. Due to its amazing cultural and natural heritage, the year-round mild climate and the warmth of its people combined with a character of authenticity, it has become a very popular travel destination. The history of Alghero goes back for many centuries and has always been linked to the sea, a trait still very visible today.
Through the centuries, the stronghold of Alghero has been disputed among the great maritime powers of those times, the influence changing from the Genoese to the Catalans and back to the House of Savoy. Settled from pre-historic times according to archaeological evidence, the area of Alghero has also known the rule of Phoenicians, until the Genoese family Doria built a sea stronghold in 1102, increasing its importance as a strategic spot. After a short period under the rule of Pisa, Alghero was conquered by the Crown of Aragon in 1353, remaining under its influence for several centuries, a period when the local population was massively expelled and replaced by Catalan colonists. This has left a deep mark on the city, much of its architecture, language, gastronomy and other areas being influenced by the Catalans. Through time, Alghero was also known as Little Barcelona, sharing with the big city a strong connection to the sea.
The strong walls of Alghero have been carefully maintained and reinforced through the centuries, becoming an almost impregnable fortress by the sea, heavily defended by the house of Aragon. At one point in time, outsiders did not even have the right to stay inside the city overnight, the entrance being regulated and only possible through the two main gates which can still be visited today: Porto Terra and Porto Salve. It was only in 1720 that Alghero and the entire island passed under the rule of the House of Savoy, beginning a long voyage marked by transformations and tragedies, leading to the city that is today, one of the most important and fascinating places on Sardinia and an remarkable destination in Italy. With its strong Catalan heritage, many of the people of Alghero still speak a Catalan dialect specific to the city, together with Sardinian, Italian and Catalan. Beautiful Alghero has always been in touch with the sea, protected inside a lagoon by the northern peninsula which today features a protected marine area containing the famous Neptune’s Grotto.
Alghero – Getting There
Arriving in Alghero is fairly easy; the city being serviced by an airport located about 10 km outside town. Flights from big cities of Italy and several European capitals land on the Alghero Airport. Another option would be to fly to Cagliari International Airport and catch a bus or rent a car to reach Alghero. Within the island itself, there are mainly two options of getting around, driving or renting a car and by using the trains. A local train runs to the provincial capital of Sassari, while the public national trains offer connections to Cagliari. Within the city of Alghero, it is fairly easy to explore and get anywhere on foot, and although driving is also an option, parking places are scarce in the tourist season.
Things To See in Alghero
There are certainly many things to see and experience while visiting Alghero and its surrounding area. The best place to start exploring is in the charming and atmospheric center, or centro storico, as it is known locally. The small and narrow pedestrian cobblestone streets of the old city meet in small squares or open up by the strong defensive wall by the seaside. They are flanked by shops, cafes and restaurants and can become very crowded during the summer evenings. Most of the attractions of Alghero can be found in its historical center, starting with splendid medieval monuments, museums and churches. Towards the interior, the old walls have been demolished and the new city starts beyond the Public Gardens.
Towards the sea, the massive and imposing ancient walls can now be explored by walking along the charming route, offering stunning views of the sea and the nearby peninsula. The old gates of the city can still be visited today, although not in their former magnificent form. The old Porta Terra is represented today by the Porta Terra Tower, which offer the opportunity to watch multimedia displays about the past and people of old Alghero. On top of the tower, a panoramic terrace offers beautiful views of the city below. To the south, another major tower guards the entrance to the old city. Known as the Torre Sulis, it is located by the Piazza Sulis, also marking the start of the promenade along the sea wall known as the Towers and Ramparts of Alghero.
Other historical monuments include the Torre San Giovanni with temporary art exhibitions, Bastioni Marco Polo with its distinct architecture, Torre di Sant’Elmo with its Virgin Mary statue, Porto a Mare which is the old entrance into the city through the port and others. In the large Piazza Duomo, the massive St. Mary Cathedral presents an interesting architecture with neoclassical façade and Doric columns, the result of several modifications and additions. One of the most beautiful churches of Alghero is Chiesa di San Francesco, with a charming mix of Catalan Gothic and Renaissance styles, as well as enchanting interior features.
The impressive Piazza Civica used to be the meeting place of aristocrats in the past centuries, today being a tourist hotspot with stupendous architecture and the fascinating Palazzo d’Albis, former residence of Spanish emperor Charles V. Other interesting highlights include the Palazzo della Dogana, Palazzo Guillot, the Misericordia Church, Madonna del Rosario Church, the Museum of Diocesan Sacred Art, the City Archaeological Museum and many other churches and palaces. A unique attraction can be visited at the Coral Museum, with impressive displays of corals from the Mediterranean Sea around the city.
Things To Do in Alghero
One of the most popular destinations in Sardinia, Alghero offers travelers plenty of options to stay active and discover the magnificent area. The resort town has all the amenities necessary to cope to massive numbers of tourists during the high season, with many high quality hotels and restaurants, but also leisure opportunities. The beaches and coast to the north and south of Alghero provide fascinating sights and a wide array of possible activities, being one of the best places to experience sailing, surfing, kayaking, diving and other water sports. The best known and most popular beaches include Lido di Alghero, Maria Pia, Calabona, La Speranza, Porto Ferro, Tramriglio and many others, perfectly equipped to welcome tourists.
Away from the sea, the interior around Alghero is also filled with special sights and activity opportunities, like exploring the amazing archaeological trails to discover the ancient past of the area or hiking and mountain biking along the enchanting nature trails. One of the most famous and popular destinations close to Alghero is the stunning Neptune’s Grotto, or Grotta di Nettuno. Only reachable by boat cruise or a picturesque scooter trip, the sea grotto can be accessed through 600 steps down to the wonderful and mysterious world that waits below, with impressive stalactites.
Other highlights nearby include the important archaeological sites of Anghelu Ruju and Nuraghe Palmavera, or the abandoned mining town of Argentiera. All of these are completed by other small medieval towns and fishing villages, accessible by following the charming roads filled with idyllic landscapes of Sardinia. For those who wish to find more entertaining ways to spend time in Alghero, the city is also a great shopping and nightlife destination, as well as being renowned for its delicious and affordable cuisine.
Overall, Alghero is a truly fascinating destination, a town that bestows its special charm and character to whoever visits. Offering an inspiring and insightful experience, Alghero has something for everyone, from amazing historical and cultural sights to splendid landscapes and natural wonders. With enchanting beaches and a thrilling nightlife, it has become one of the most spectacular travel destinations of Sardinia and Italy.
Sardinian Beaches Near Alghero
There are several sardinian beaches to explore near Alghero. Just click on a link below to find out more!
From Alghero, drive north-west for about 4 kilometers and you’ll find Fertilia beach, located in between Maria Pia beach and the small village named Fertilia. Backed by a pond, Fertilia beach has a length of 1 kilometer and faces south, offering nice views over the shallow light-blue waters and Fertilia’s small shipyard. This beach consists of clear sand and some rocks that arise on its outskirts. The seabed consists of sand and some small rocks, and the water is always crystal clear and pleasantly cool. There a diving school nearby.
Learn more about Fertilia, how to get there, and where to stay.
Lido beach can be found just a few hundred meters north of Alghero. It has a length of nearly 1.5 kilometers, and mostly faces south-west, featuring views of a harbor named Marina di Sant’Elmo to the south, and a small island named Isola della Maddalenetta that’s situated 1.5 kilometers off the coast. This Alghero beach is a favorite spot among both tourists and locals because, in addition to being an attractive beach, one can easily reach both the marina and the old town, along the Via Lido, either on foot or by bicycle.
Learn more about Lido Beach, how to get there, and where to stay.
Drive north-west from Alghero for about 15 kilometers, and you’ll discover Mugoni beach. The main – and widest – part of Mugoni is about 1.5 kilometers long, though the beach continues for a few hundred meters at its outskirts. Mugoni is almost completely sheltered by cooling pine tree forests, and offers extraordinary views of the Parco Naturale Regionale di Porto Conte headlands and the mountainous region near Tramariglio.
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Maria Pia Beach
Head north-west from the center of Alghero for just a few kilometers, and you’ll discover Maria Pia beach (Spiaggia di Maria Pia). It is one of the best beaches near Alghero. It is 1200 meters long and faces south-west, featuring excellent views of the Alghero bay. Maria Pia is backed by beautiful dunes and a cooling pine forest that can give you some shade during the hottest hours of the day. The waters at Maria Pia are shallow at first and get deeper gradually, so it’s a good beach for families with children. This beach is also easily accessible with wheelchairs, it has a wooden pathway. The parking space is close to the beach. Highly recommended when in Alghero!
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Porto Palmas beach is a small cove just north of Argentiera in north-west Sardinia, and belongs to the group of westernmost coves you’ll find on the island.
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Located less than a kilometer east of Lazzaretto beach, Le Bombarde beach is another popular beach of the Alghero area and the Riviera del Corallo.
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Lazzaretto beach, on the Riviera del Corallo, is located near the villages of Fertilia and Lido San Giovanni, and close to Le Bombarde beach.
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La Speranza beach is located in north-west Sardinia, 8 kilometers south of Alghero. La Speranza beach is one of the best beaches of the Alghero area.
Learn more about La Speranza, how to get there, and where to stay.