Weekend in Alghero
However, the history of Alghero goes even deeper into the darkness of centuries: the ancient tower-nuraghe complexes in Palmavera (a few kilometers northwest of the city) and in Sant’Imbena (even further northwest) testify to this. Of particular interest are the burials of the Donuragic culture, called here “domus de Janas” (“houses of witches” or “houses of fairies”), in Santo Pedro and Angelo Rouge (north of Alghero); here one can see the ochre-red rocks, which in prehistory were used for rituals related to the blood and rebirth.
In the Capo Caccia – Isola Piana Marine Reserve, there is the magnificent Neptune’s Grotto with its many stalactites and stalagmites. The Mare Nostrum Aquarium, where you can discover the wealth of marine and freshwater fauna, as well as the coral museum, is also worth a visit. Alghero cherishes its stunning history and magnificent nature.
Let’s take a closer look.
When in 1102, the Genoese nobles of the Doria family built fortifications in Alghero to secure their possessions in northwestern Sardinia, the city immediately became a coveted trophy for many conquerors. The Republic of Pisa was the first to try to recapture this beachhead from Genoa. In 1283 the Tuscans were successful, but the following year the city returned to Genoese rule. The old town (“Alguer Vella”) has almost no traces of that era, as the next milestone in its history radically changed the face of Alghero.
On June 15, 1354, the King of Aragon, Pedro IV, with a fleet of ninety ships, sailed into the harbor near Alghero and, after a siege of months, took it. The Catalans expelled the original inhabitants of the city by resettling people from the Iberian Peninsula. From this moment began a five-century (XIV-XVIII centuries) Catalan history of Alghero. The walls and fortifications of the city play a major role in this history.
The citadel of Alghero played a key role for the Catalan-Aragonese crown, providing the link between Sardinia and Catalonia, which is why it was fundamentally important to keep it: these walls had to be protected, strengthened and preserved. This is why there were successive decrees that regulated the access and stay of indigenous Sardinians and other peoples inside the walls. One of these edicts expressly forbade all but the Catalans to stay there overnight.
The city was entered through the gates of Pourtal Reial (now Porta Terra) and Porta a Mare (now Porto Salve). Since then, Alghero, sheltered by its impregnable walls, has been a kind of island of Catalonia on the island of Sardinia. And even today, despite the fact that these walls have not fully survived, they still remain a material embodiment, a symbol of the peculiarity of local culture. It is in the old town, between the sea and the ramparts, that you can make out the soul of Alghero.
What to see
Alghero, fortress city
You can start your stroll through the city at the Torre di Porta Terra, where travelers arriving in Alghero by land entered the city. The tower has a multimedia exhibition illustrating the history, culture and traditions of the city from its founding to the present day. From Porta Terra you can walk to the Torre di San Giovanni Tower, where temporary exhibitions are held these days, and on to the Torre dello Sperone (“Asparó Reial”). This mighty structure, twenty-two meters high and better known as the “Tower of the Sulis”, makes perhaps the strongest impression in the entire system of fortifications. The tower dominates one of the city’s main squares, piazza Sulis.
It is the center of the city’s nightlife; it is also home to some of the oldest and most famous establishments of the first tourist boom, when, in the 1960s, Alghero earned itself the title of “Golden Gate of Sardinian tourism”. Since then, the square has been redesigned and new fashionable places have appeared, and today it is still an important point of reference for locals and tourists alike.
Then you can walk along the bastions of Christopher Columbus to the octagonal Torre di San Giacomo, after which begin the Bastions of Marco Polo, one of the most original areas of the old city. It is a line of houses and buildings facing the sea, forming an architectural contour in a true Mediterranean spirit.
The promenades on the bastions, where locals and tourists alike can be found, are one of the favorite places for leisure, entertainment and walks: on these long promenades you can enjoy magnificent panoramas of the whole bay. Outdoor cafes and restaurants bring life here, where you can sip a leisurely aperitif or sample traditional local cuisine flavored by the gentle sea breeze.
At the northern end of the bastions of Marco Polo two towers meet: on the right is the cylindrical Torre della Polveriera and on the right the Garita Reial or Torre della Lanterna, which once served as a lighthouse for ships in the bay. A few meters further on is the Torre di Sant’Elmo, known as the “Madonna” (after the statue that crowns it). After walking to the end of the last of the bastions, which overlooks the town overlooking the tourist port and which in summer is filled with stalls and street performers, we reach the stairs that lead us through Porta a Mare (Porto Salve) to the main square of Alghero, Piazza Civica. Here you will find the buildings that once housed the various organs of local government: the Catalan-Gothic palazzo de Ferrera was often the residence of the viceroys and royalty who came to Alghero for official celebrations, the Casa de la Ciutat was where the town council met and the building of the Royal Customs (Duana Reial) was where the admirals who anchored in the Bay of Alghero lived.
The city’s shopping is not to be missed, either. In Piazza Civica you will find some of the city’s best ateliers and stores. For example, the renowned stylist Antonio Marras chose this very square for his boutique, placing his collection in an interior made up of antique furniture and antiques. They tell the story of travel, people and cultures, and this is very characteristic of Alghero and Sardinia in general.
But Alghero is not only about history: in the surroundings you can find some of the best beaches in Sardinia.
Lido San Giovanni
Lido San Giovanni can be recognized as one of the most spectacular beaches of the entire coast of Alghero. It is a wide, sandy stretch, separated from the town by palm trees, with the finest white sand, washed by a sea of magnificent shades of azure.
The beach at Lido San Giovanni is much loved not only for its beauty and proximity to the city, but also for the fact that it has all the necessary infrastructure. Lovers of relaxing on the sea can spend here at least the whole day, renting a sun lounger and an umbrella.
The beach in Punta Negra is one of the most unusual on the coast. The sand here is light and fine, the bottom is also covered with sand, although sometimes there are stones. Around the beach there are rocks, overgrown with Mediterranean shrubs. The sand is so fine that it feels like you’re walking on a cloud of talcum powder and the water is clean and clear; part of the beach is owned by the hotel of the same name, located immediately behind it.
It is one of the most beautiful beaches in the area of Alghero. It owes its name to the tower that dominates the bay. The beach is nestled among the sandstone rocks and the green area that separates it from Bombarde beach. Its beauty attracts many tourists every year, and the services available here in large numbers to make the holidays as comfortable as possible.
Cala Dragunara Cove
The beach of Dragunara is dominated by the cape of Capo Caccia, which closes the bay of Porto Conte from the west. It is covered with fine gilded sand. At certain points, the sea, incredibly clear and transparent, is colored from azure to emerald green.
There is a small pier, where the ships that go to the nearby Neptune’s Grotto stand, as well as a small convenient parking area. The bottom here is rich with mysterious gorges that snorkelers love. The beach is easily accessible to the disabled. At the bay, you can rent a deck chair and umbrella, as well as a snack.
Cape Capo Caccia and Isola Piana
The sea area around Cape Capo Caccia is characterized by calcareous cliffs dotted with grottoes and gorges. You can get here by following the road along the coast from Alghero to Fertilia: drive to Porto Conte Bay, turn left at the fork and continue to the square where you can park. Ptolemy called Porto Conte the “Port of Nymphs” for the purity of its waters and the cape of Punta del Giglio and Capo Caccia itself are located nearby. After Mugoni Bay, you will find a stretch of coast rich in capes made up of karst rocks.
On the east side of Capo Caccia opens the “Grotta Verde” (Green Grotto), closed to the public but accessible by special permit. Its name comes from the layer of moss and lichen that covers the rocks at the entrance and it owes its fame to the evidence of prehistoric civilization in Sardinia: it is believed that 7,000 years ago the dead were buried in this grotto.
The coast around Punta del Giglio and Capo Caccia is a paradise of underwater grottoes. Under the breakwater of Capo Caccia lurks the Grotto of Neptune, which can be reached by sea or by land, through the Escala del Cabirol (elevation 110m); it has stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Another grotto is dedicated to another sea god, Nereus, and is underwater; it consists of a series of passageways and caves. It is the most famous underwater grotto in Sardinia. Here grows coral that branches into red colonies, which can already be discerned at a depth of 5-6 meters. To the north, behind the calcareous cape of Capo Caccia, there is Punta Cristallo which is home to the peregrine falcon and the vulture, while the cliffs overhang majestically over 300 meters above the sea.
The cuisine of Alghero, with its refinement and rich flavors, reveals Spanish and Catalan influences, which are superimposed on the local Sardinian tradition. The most famous dishes in Alghero are undoubtedly the fish dishes which tell a lot about the culinary traditions of this ancient seafaring town.
Lobster (Llagosta). The lobster, known in Alghero since ancient times, is a basic ingredient of the local cuisine, the taste of which is appreciated all over the world. Its traditional dishes are Catalan lobster, Alghero lobster, spaghetti or linguine with lobster.
Sea urchin (Bogamarì) This is another indispensable component of the cuisine of Alghero. Its red flesh, the taste of which is unmistakable, is best preserved when eaten raw, with fresh bread and a good glass of local wine. At the beginning of each year there is a holiday here – sagra sea urchin, when all guests are treated to this delicacy. It is also used to make spaghetti with sea urchin.
Fish soup (Copatza o cassola de peix). This is one of the traditional dishes that once formed the diet of the fishermen, but today it has enriched the repertoire of local chefs, both in its traditional form and in a more sophisticated way. It is served with oven-roasted croutons or traditional galettes. The excellent shellfish and seafood broths are also worth a try.
Garlic Sauce (Allada). “Allada” is Alghero’s signature sauce. The main ingredients are sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and vinegar. Fried or boiled fish is often served with this sauce. The most famous dishes with allata are octopus allata, boiled or fried stingray allata, feline shark allata, and fried fish allata.
And finally, desserts. “Manjare in bianco” is a cream of condensed milk with wheat or rice starch and lemon zest for flavor. “Catalan cream” is a complexly composed dessert with cinnamon and caramel.
There are also many wines; many of Sardinia’s brightest flavors can be tasted in Alghero: these include Cannonau, Vermentino, Monica, and, of course, the ancient variety Cagnulari, which is grown only in a limited area of northwestern Sardinia.
Also of note is Torbato, whose flavor holds a piece of Catalan history. It was brought to Spain by Phoenician merchants and to Alghero by the Catalans themselves in the 14th century.
Finally, it is also worth mentioning the Sella y Mosca ethnographic museum, which is located in the winery of the same name. Among the most famous wines produced here are Angela Ruja (an aged Cannonau) and Vermenino di Sardegna.
How to get there
The international airport of Alghero “Riviera del Corallo” is only 10 km from the city center. It can be reached in a few minutes by car, cab or shuttle bus. There are direct flights from major Italian and many European airports.
The closest passenger port to Alghero is Porto Torres (about 40 km), which in turn is accessible from Barcelona, Genoa, Marseille, Civitavecchia, Tolone, Ajaccio and Propriano.
Information on the website of Alghero Turismo
The Alghero Turismo marina is open all year round and has all the modern facilities required to anchor yachts of all kinds up to 60 meters in length.
Information on the website of Alghero Turismo
Tourist office: Piazza Porta Terra, 9
15 reasons to go on holiday in Alghero, Sardinia
Alghero in the northwest of the island of Sardinia is one of the most popular holiday destinations for many Europeans. And no wonder! After all, it’s inexpensive, but incredibly beautiful resort town. Moreover, only 30 minutes from the city there is the airport of Alghero (AHO, Fertilia), where there are cheap direct flights from Milan, Verona, Pisa and Bologna – find flight tickets from 10 euros here.
Streets of Alghero
Unlike the mega-touristy Porto Cervo and the Costa Smeralda, hotels in Alghero are cheap, prices are reasonable and the local beaches with blue water and white sand are especially created for a leisurely holiday. The old part of town has a unique Sardinian atmosphere – no matter how many times you come here, you’ll never have enough time to see everything. I will tell you what you can’t miss in this city, why people return here even in the off-season and why tourists love Alghero.
The hotels in Alghero are cheap, and you should definitely consider getting a room with a view of the sea.
Looking out to sea every day and catching a glimpse of the city at night is the best way to experience the beauty of Alghero. For a taste of Alghero, stay in the local skyscraper, the Hotel Catalunya.
Alghero, Sardinia. In the photo: from the upper balconies of the local “skyscraper” you can enjoy spectacular views of the sea and the old town
Or stay in the center, close to the old town at the cozy B&B Panorama, a budget mini hotel where you can sit on the terrace with a glass of local wine in the evenings.
View from the terrace of Hotel Panorama
For those interested in mainly beach holidays, we recommend Hotel El Faro – a hidden gem of Alghero – which is close to the beach and offers wonderful views of the Mediterranean and Cape Capo Caccia from the rooms. The hotel has its own pool, parking and spacious family rooms. The price includes breakfasts, which are served on the terrace overlooking the sea.
At Hotel El Faro.
Book a room with a private terrace, where you can sunbathe during the day and spend the evenings gazing at the stars and listening to the sound of the waves:
El Faro Terrace Room
В Альгеро много вариантов недорогого жилья – от гостевых домов до современных апартаментов – смотрите здесь >>
2. The beaches of Alghero – not only for sunbathing and swimming, but also for enjoying the view
Spiaggia di Maria Pia beach in Alghero, Sardinia
Sardinia has gorgeous beaches. Many consider it to be the best beaches in Europe. The beaches of Alghero are good because they are right in the city.
Holidays in Alghero. In the photo: beach Maria Pia, near Alghero
If you do not want to explore all the beaches of north-west Sardinia, you can do without the two best beaches of Alghero. These are the town beach of Spiaggia del Lido and the beach of Spiaggia di Maria Pia a couple of kilometers to the north. The beaches are clean, the water is emerald, there are cafes and bars nearby. A few days of excellent beach relaxation are guaranteed!
3: Relax at the famous La Pelosa beach in Stintino
If the beaches of Alghero aren’t enough, you can take a trip to one of the best beaches in Sardinia, the mesmerizing La Pelosa.
La Pelosa beach in Sardinia
To get from Alghero to La Pelosa beach you can rent a car. However, this beach is easily accessible by buses: from Alghero go to Porto Torres (1 hour, price 2.50 euros). For example, at 12-50 from Bia Catalunya. Then in Porto Torres we change to a bus to Stintino, for example at 14-10 (1 hour, price 3.10 euros). The return last bus goes from the beach at 20-00. It is better to buy tickets at once in Alghero at the bus station Bia Catalunya, there and back.
Advice: Buy tickets for the bus in Alghero at the ticket office of Bia Catalunya. You can also buy tickets from the driver, but it will be 2-3 times more expensive.
When you get tired of sunbathing and swimming, discover the beautiful places nearby – here’s what to see in Alghero:
4. Visit the Grotto di Neptuno
Few tourists in Alghero can avoid visiting Neptune’s Grotto. The place is really picturesque and definitely worth seeing.
On the photo: Descending to Neptune’s Grotto. Alghero, Sardinia
You can visit the peninsula and the grotto either by sea with an excursion by different ships from the port of Alghero, or by land (by car or bus). However you get there, remember that there is a charge to enter the cave itself (13€) and the charge is not included in the boat ticket to Neptune’s Grotto.
To get from Alghero to Grotta Neptúpa on your own: the bus leaves from Bia Catalunya at 9:15 to Capo Caccia, drive 50 min to the bus stop, the ticket price is 1.30 euro (one way) – buy tickets there and back at the ticket office. The same bus will be at the terminus until 12-00. The best way to go back to Alghero is by this bus, because you will spend 2 hours at the Grotto, which is enough to see everything. There are more buses to the Grotto in August and September, and the schedule can be found at Bia Catalunya.
5. Looking at the yachts in the port of Alghero
Pictured: yachts in the port of Alghero, Sardinia
Both in-season and out-of-season, the port of Alghero is packed with very curious ships. Take time out to observe the life of yachtsmen of all stripes:)
6. Listening to the bells
At 12-00, the bells of Alghero Cathedral don’t just ring, but give off a nice music over the city.
7. Walking in the evening in the old city
On the photo: a walk through the historical part of Alghero.
Alghero’s historic quarter, despite its increased “souveniriness,” is a very cozy and atmospheric place, especially if you wander there in the evenings.
8. Watching the sunset from the terrace of one of the restaurants on the fortress wall
One of Alghero’s attractions – sunsets
Sunsets in Alghero are fantastically beautiful! Choose one of the small restaurants on the Bastioni Marco Polo promenade and go there with your loved one an hour before sunset.
In the photo: Dinner with a view of the sunset.
Get comfortable at a table outside and enjoy the food, wine, and beautiful sunset!
9. Listen to a street musician.
If you’re lucky, as you stroll by the city wall, you’ll come across another Alghero landmark – the popular Sardinian musician Soleandro (listen on youtube here), who sings right outside.
Pleasant melodies seamlessly complement the atmosphere of Alghero. You can sit down and enjoy the sea, the music and the wonderful atmosphere. Then you can buy a CD with the music and immediately get an autograph of the musician. Do not miss it!
10. See the antique cannons on the seafront
On the photo: a trebuchet on the waterfront in Alghero.
11. Take a ride in a rented electric car
Pictured: Electric car on the promenade in Alghero
A ride around town in a silent electric car is a normal desire of a normal tourist in Alghero. Especially if the price is comparable to renting a scooter:) Clarify in advance, by the way, how long the battery will last.
For those who are serious about riding in Sardinia, you need to rent a bigger car.
12. Walk through the stores
Pictured: Coral jewelry store, Old Alghero
In the old part of town, it is impossible to pass by the small colorful stores. By the way, Alghero is a coral Riviera and coral jewelry is made here. Expensive unique items are sold in the shop-museum Agostino Marogna, and in simple souvenir shops you can buy inexpensive but very nice memorabilia jewelry.
13. Taste Sardinian wines
On the photo: white wines in Sardinia more known to tourists
For the newcomers I recommend to remember two names: “Sella&Mosca” and “Cannonau”. For some inexplicable reason tourists like white wines in Alghero better than red.) Nevertheless, many mainland Europeans go to Alghero for a few sessions with red wine “Tanca Farra”.
If you prefer beer instead of wine, however, try the local brand Ichnusa (read “Ichnuza”), unfiltered.
Sardinian beer Ichnusa.
14. Take a day trip to the town of Bosa
Pictured: Tour of Bosa
Just an hour’s bus ride south of Alghero is the wonderful, colorful town of Bosa, with colorful houses and a fortress on a hill. If you have time, spend half a day there. Climb the mountain to the old fortress and walk the narrow, ancient streets. How to get to Bosa: the bus leaves from Bia Catalunya at 11:50am, takes an hour and costs 7.40€ (return trip per person). You can leave back on a 17-hour bus from the same stop you arrive at.
Other excursions in Alghero:
15. Go to one of the restaurants with local Sardinian cuisine
Alghero’s most popular restaurant serving traditional Sardinian food and local wine, Trattoria La Saletta, is a favorite dining spot even for locals, so it’s best to reserve in advance.
La Saletta restaurant in Alghero
I recommend the “Degustacione menu” for 20 euros, which includes appetizers, wine and “Crispy pork” (pork in a crispy crust, served with a side dish).
Traditional Sardinian dish at La Saletta
By the way, the high season in Alghero is August and September. And the best months for those who do not like the crowds of tourists – the end of April, May and October – the day weather is ideal for a beach holiday, and in the evenings it gets cool and so nice to walk through the streets of the old town. All the photos in this post are of Alghero in mid-October.
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