There are many lovely cities in Sardinia.

Despite being a rather large island, only about 1.6 million people live in Sardinia, the majority around the main hubs of Cagliari and Sassari, and the rest scattered in some lovely small towns and villages which have made it a point to retain their original character and work hard to protect their culture and traditions. 

A famous summer destination thanks to its incredible beaches and clear waters, Sardinia is worth visiting throughout the year. Regardless of the time of your visit, make sure to explore at least a couple of the nicest cities in Sardinia. 

Colorful, perched on the hills, facing the Mediterranean sea, offering unique experiences, you will definitely enjoy visiting them. 

In this post, I highlight the most interesting and beautiful towns in Sardinia. 

Sardinia cities

20 Beautiful Small Towns And Cities In Sardinia

Cagliari 

Cagliari is the most obvious starting point during a trip to Sardinia. Despite being one of the largest cities in Sardinia, and in fact its capital, by Italian standards it still is a relatively undiscovered place. When tourists are struggling to find a spot to visit the Colosseum in Rome, those who decide to visit Cagliari will find a very welcoming, beautiful city that is still very much local – on any given day or night, the vast majority of the people you will be seeing in the streets or enjoying a drink at a bar are going to be residents. 
 
You will find an incredible range of places to visit in Cagliari. Make sure not to miss the Roman Amphitheater, which is conveniently located in the center of town. Walk around the historic district of Castello, where you will find the well curated Museum of Archeology, the two watchtowers, the Cathedral and various viewpoints – the best one is that of Via Santa Croce, where you should plan to go for sunset. 
 
From the center of town you can easily access Poetto Beach, a fantastic urban beach perfect for sunbathing and swimming, and brimmed with bars, small restaurants and with a great lane for running or biking. From Poetto you can also access Molentargius Nature Park, a nesting place for pink flamingoes. 
 
Head to Calamosca Beach and hit the trail all the way to the top of Sella del Diavolo, the promontory that surmounts Poetto Beach. The views from there are incredible. 
 
Check out my post 15 Great Things To Do In Cagliari, Sardinia for more things to see and do.
 
If you fancy joining a guided tour of Cagliari, these are some good options:

Dolianova

Dolianova 

At about 20 minutes drive from Cagliari, Dolianova is one of the nicest small cities in Sardinia. With its 10000 inhabitants, is the main town in the Parteolla region, which is famous for its wine and olive oil (olia means olive in Sardinian) production. It was founded in 1905 from the fusion of two smaller villages – Sicci San Biagio and San Pantaleo that had been existing for a long time. 

Olives are such an important part of the life of Dolianova that the city has even dedicated a museum to it – you will find it in Villa Boyl, which dates back to the 17th century. 

The main landmark is the beautiful San Pantaleo Cathedral, built in the 13th century and around which you will also find some traditional buildings. If you fancy exploring a bit outside the city, you will find the Nuraghi of Sa Dom’e S’orcu, the Tomb of Giants of Su Tiriaxiu and the Nuragic complex of Sant’Uanni. 

Finally, remember that as the region of Parteolla is famous for the production of wine, here you will find a bunch of good wineries where you can go wine tasting – the main one is the Cantina Sociale di Dolianova, which you will spot from the hill on your way from Cagliari. They make an excellent Nuragus.

Santa Maria di Sibiola

Serdiana 

I have a soft spot for Serdiana as my mom is from there and that’s where part of my family still lives – so I go quite often. This is one of the smallest cities in Sardinia, located at about 20 km from Cagliari, that you can easily visit on a day trip – in fact, it is located right next to Dolianova so you can hit them both on the same day. 

Serdiana is mostly famous for its wine production – there are at least 5 good wineries here – make sure to visit Argiolas, where you can have a great tour around the winery and a wine tasting experience, and Cantine Pala and Audarya – they are the same family, so I guess they know what they are doing. If you happen to visit at the end of May, make sure not to miss Cantine Aperte-Wine Day for a day of wine tasting and other great experiences. 

You can book your wine tour experience from Cagliari here.

Other places to visit in Serdiana include the beautiful main church, the small Santa Maria di Sibiola church, a countryside Romanesque church that dates back to the 12th century, and Su Stani Saliu, a salt-water pond where pink flamingoes live and nest.

Pula

Pula

*Contributed by Daniel James of Urban Abroad

When looking for small cities in Sardinia, be sure to head over to Pula. A trip to this small Italian town makes a perfect day trip from the island’s capital, Cagliari. On arrival by bus from Cagliari you will find Pula to be one of the most charming little towns that you will visit on your trip to the island.
 
Filled with quaint alleys and cobblestone paths, you can explore here for the best part of a day without getting bored for one second. Note that depending on what time of year you plan to arrive, you may need to book your accommodation weeks in advance due to the influx of demand.
 
Arriving during the low season, though, you can expect the area to be almost shut down, however, this is no reason not to visit. The main attraction is the nearby archeological site of Nora, a Phoenician / Punic / Roman site facing the sea, in a beautiful location. If you’d like to join a guided tour, this Archaeological tour of Nora is a great one. Otherwise, you will find guided on the site.
 
In the summer months, Pula is by far one of the most popular meeting places for many locals and tourists visiting the island. There is a selection of boutique shops, restaurants and some fine places to drink an espresso.
 
Renown for its history and local delicacies you’ll need more than a couple of days in Pula to be able to explore its beaches and get involved with any scuba diving or snorkeling actives that are on offer. Two things you can’t afford to miss whilst here is trying a pizza or one of the local seafood specialties at the S’Incontru restaurant and if it’s a hot summer day then, of course, some gelato. The best one is at Gelateria Artigianale which is right beside the restaurant.
 
All in all, Pula should be at the top of anyone’s list who is looking for small towns to visit in Sardinia and want to have more local experiences.
 
Carloforte

Carloforte

This small town is located on San Pietro island – in fact, it is the only town there. It has Ligurian and Tabarkine (Tabarka is a Tunisian island) roots, and in fact if you do speak Italian you will notice people have an accent that is much distinct from that of the rest of Sardinia. 

The village is a maze of beautiful alleys and colorful buildings. Hardly visited throughout the year, this becomes one of the most visited cities in Sardinia in June, when the Girotonno Festival takes place – it’s a weekend of fishing, eating tuna in any possible way, singing, concerts and much more. 

Other than that, Carloforte is one of the best locations for diving in Sardinia, and you will find a series of very beautiful beaches. 

Check out this guided tour of San Pietro Island – it also goes to Carloforte. You can book it here.

Make sure to read my post A Complete Guide To Carloforte And Isola Di San Pietro, Sardinia.

Sant'Antioco

Sant’Antioco 

I love Sant’Antioco and consider it one of the prettiest cities in Sardinia. This small town of no more than 12000 people is located on the island that has the same name, and which is the biggest in the region of Sulcis – you can actually get there by car as it is linked to the mainland by an isthmus. 

It used to be a Phoenician-Punic colony; but as many others in Sardinia it was turned into Roman City. You will find many colorful buildings, small local restaurants right by the waterfront, some nice shops and a fantastic local atmosphere. As the main activity there used to be fishing, you will be able to spot many traditional wooden boats on the small harbor. 

The surroundings are scattered with nuraghe and you will also find some excellent wineries. The best is Tenuta La Sabbiosa, where you can try an excellent Carignano del Sulcis.

Check out this guided tour of San Pietro Island – it also goes to Sant’Antioco. You can book it here or here. You can also opt for bike rental to move around. Book it here.

Day trips from Cagliari - Calasetta

Calasetta

Calasetta is one of the most charming cities in Sardinia. It is located on the Sulcis Archipelago and was founded 1769 and much like Carloforte it has a strong influence from Liguria and the Tunisian island of Tabarka, so once again you will be hearing the mixed language of Tabarkian and Ligurian throughout the town.

The town is lovely – white buildings, colorful balconies, flowers and narrow alleys make it simply picture perfect. There is a Museum of Contemporary Art (called the MACC) and not far from town you will find a few beautiful beaches such as Grande, Sottotorre and Le Saline, and the cliffs this part of Sardinia is famous for. And if you are looking for photo opportunities, go to the viewpoint from where you can see the Mangiabarche lighthouse – on a windy day, when this rock formation is hit by the waves, the scenery is spectacular! 

Much like the rest of Sulcis, Calasetta is also famous for the production of Carignano wine. And don’t forget to try the famous local bread – gallettine.

Check out my post A Complete Guide To Calasetta, Sardinia.

Check out this guided tour of San Pietro Island – it also goes to Calasetta. You can book it here or here.

Oristano

Oristano

Not many people visit Oristano during their trip to Sardinia, but they should. This is one of the most interesting and unique cities in Sardinia, and while until a decade ago its city center wasn’t well kept, the recent administrations have worked wonders to restore it and it now is a pleasant place to walk around and visit the nice churches, the archeology museum, and to sit down in a café and observe local life. And local it is! This is one of the truly lesser visited cities in Italy. 

Except during Carnival, on Mardi Gras and on the last Sunday of Carnival, when the Sartiglia festival takes place – and has been taking place since the 13th century. You will be able to see beautifully decorated horses parading down the streets of the city with kings in traditional costumes, but the most adrenaline filled part of the show is the spear chase of the star. 

If you intend to visit, make sure to book tickets in advance via the official website of Sartiglia, as it can get very crowded. You can find tickets here.

Sardinia cities

Santu Lussurgiu

*Contributed by Margherita of The Crowded Planet

When thinking about small cities in Sardinia, most people only consider coastal towns, forgetting there’s a world of cool small towns and villages in the interior of the island. One of my favourites is Santu Lussurgiu, in the heart of the volcanic Montiferru region in the province of Oristano, which is also fun to visit if you are in Sardinia in winter
 
The town is surrounded by forests and located on a hilltop, with beautiful views all around. You can visit as a day trip, to enjoy a delicious meal at Antica Dimora del Gruccione, or choose to stay to spend one (or more) nights in an Albergo Diffuso, a unique hospitality concept with rooms spread all over town in different buildings. 
 
Santu Lussurgiu is also a good place to see a performance of cantu a tenore, a traditional Sardinian type of polyphonic singing that is also included in the UNESCO immaterial heritage list. And if you’re looking for a unique souvenir from Sardinia, you can pick up an excellent handmade knife – Santu Lussurgiu is famous for its knife makers.  

Sardinia cities

Nuoro

Nuoro is one of the lesser visited cities in Sardinia – but I find it is worth going. Located at 550 meters above sea level, this is one of the main cultural centers of the island, and a city that although small is actually very culturally active and much focussed on the protection of the island’s traditions and identity. 

Hometown of Grazia Deledda, Nobel Prize Winner for literature in 1926, in Nuoro you will breathe culture. One of the places you should visit in town is Caffè Tettamanzi, a literary café established in the late 19th century and which is as good a place for coffee as it is for spotting local life and discuss local politics. 

Nuoro is also where you will find some of the best museums in Sardinia. The Ethnographic Museum will be the one to visit if you want to learn more about local culture and history; whereas MANN is a very well curated contemporary art gallery. 

Atzara

Atzara

Often mentioned as one of the nicest small cities in Sardinia, Atzara fully lives to its name. At about 90 km north of Cagliari and just 45 from Nuoro, this small town founded in the Middle Ages is rich in history, traditions and architectural delights. 

The center of town has a medieval quarter where you will see many low granite structures which are called domos de pedra (literally stone houses) and magasinos (storage houses). You will also find several beautiful churches such as the Parish Church of Sant’Antioco, which is a good example of Catalan-Gothic architecture, and the Romanesque Church of Santa Maria Bambina. There also is a nice but interesting Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. 

Finally, like many other places in Sardinia, Atzara is famous for the production of wine. Surrounding the town there are several beautiful vineyards of Mandrolisai grapes – if you visit in May, make sure to attend the wine festival. It is purely a local affair!

Fonni

Fonni

Fonni is one of the most interesting cities in Sardinia. First of all, it is located at the foothill of Gennargentu mountain chain, at 1000 meters above sea level. This means that when the rest of the island is suffering the heat, the air is nice and pleasant there – on the other way though, winter is a serious thing here and you may get snowed in if you visit even in March! In fact, this is Sardinia’s only ski resort. 

Among the places you should visit in Fonni, there are the late-Gothic church of San Giovanni Battista, the basilica of the Vergine dei Martiri, and the oratory of St, Michele where you will also find an underground sanctuary. The Museum of Pastoral Culture, located in a building that dates back to the 1800s, will give you a good idea of what life used to be like here not so long ago. 

Fonni is also famous for its murals, which you will find scattered around town, and for being the best access point to many hiking trails in the mountains of Sardinia. 

Check out my post Where To Find The Best Street Art In Sardinia (Including Orgosolo Murals).

Festivals and celebrations in Fonni are a serious business. One of the locations of Autunno in Barbagia (a series of village festivals spread out over the course of fall in the Barbagia region of Sardinia), attend a wedding here and you will know what a proper Sardinian celebration is: 3 days of singing, dancing and most importantly eating – because food in this part of the island is simply delicious! Make sure to try the local pane carasau (Sardinia’s crispy flatbread) and the local version of Savoiardi cookies. They are both delicious.

Orgosolo

Orgosolo

Also located in Barbagia, at about 20 km from Nuoro, Orgosolo is famous for the many murals scattered around town and that make it look like an open air museum. They are now are part of its cultural heritage. Murals portray all sorts of scenes – from daily life to cultural events to political messages, usually of protests. Most of them were painted in the 1960s. 

Although the city had a reputation for banditry, it actually now is one of the most welcoming cities in Sardinia and your visit will be pleasant. Not to mention, it hardly is a popular tourist spot, so chances are you will be roaming the streets alone (with the locals). 

Orgosolo is also one of the towns that keeps the tradition of Canto a Tenore (Polyphonic folk singing) alive. 

The surroundings offer fantastic hiking opportunities – make sure to head to the Gorropu Gorge, the deepest canyon in Europe, for some great trails and also for climbing!

Check out this guided tour of Orgosolo

Alghero

Alghero

Alghero is one of the most popular cities in Sardinia and a fantastic tourist destination. This small Catalan enclave on the northwestern coast of Sardinia was founded in the 11th century by the Genoese, and conquered by the Catalans in 1353, which forced all its inhabitants to move to the nearby Villanova Monteleone. It was in 1720 that the city fell to the Savoy. 

Surrounded by walls and with a beautiful bastion right by the sea, Alghero is a great place to spend a few days wandering the cobbled alleys, browsing the many shops selling jewels made with coral (this is the main city of what is known as the Riviera del Corallo, Coral Riviera), visiting the churches. Once you are done you can head to one or more of the beautiful nearby beaches, such as Le Bombarde or Il Lazzaretto. And if you want a more local one, head to Mugoni. 

Another must-see is the Neptune Caves, which are located a bit outside of town. You can get there on a boat trip or if you are up for the challenge walk down the 600+ steps (which you will have to climb back up at the end of the visit). Capo Caccia is an incredible place to catch sunset, so make sure not to miss that. 

Make sure to read my post What To See And Do In Alghero Sardinia.

Check out this guided day trip from Cagliari to Alghero. You can view it here.

Bosa Sardinia

Bosa

If you are looking for one of the most charming, colorful cities in Sardinia head straight to Bosa. It’s close to Alghero, so you can visit on a day trip from there, but I wholeheartedly recommend spending a night or two in town to take in the lovely atmosphere. 

This small town of no more than 8500 inhabitants is located along the coast and right by the banks of Temo River. It was founded during Phoenician times and prospered during the time of the Roman Empire. But the Middle Ages, when it regularly got plundered by the Arabs, were not good times.

Tired of the invasions, the Malaspina family who was ruling over the city decided to build a castle on top of a hill. To date, not much remains of the castle other than the watchtower and the beautiful frescoed chapel, but the views from there are stunning. Another thing you should not miss are the former tanneries established by the Savoy in the 19th century – they currently only host exhibits. Finally, not far from Bosa you will find many beautiful beaches, such as Cumpultittu.

Check out this guided day tour from Cagliari to Bosa. You can book it here.

Make sure to read my post What To See And Do In Bosa Sardinia.

Cuglieri

Hardly known to international tourism, Cuglieri is one of the most unique small cities in Sardinia. It stands in a place where, in the 2nd century BCE, there was the Roman settlement of Gurulis Nova. It is perched on the hills, overlooking the sea, and the views from it, and even of it as you approach it by car, are simply splendid. 

The main place to visit in Cuglieri is the Basilica di Santa Maria ad Nives, known to be the first minor basilica in Sardinia. It can be visited daily, which can’t be said of the rest of the attractions in town which are only open for special events such as Monumenti Aperti (open monuments).

Considering that, is it still worth visiting? I think so! If you have a car (and if you travel around Sardinia, you really should rent one), you can drive to many nearby beaches, and even get to the beautiful arch formation of S’Archittu. You will enjoy the fact that you will be one of the few tourists around (or, if you go in the winter months, easily the only one), and locals are truly friendly. If you don’t fancy spending a night there, just drive there for a few hours. It’s at just 30 minutes from Bosa.

Stintino

Stintino

Contributed by Pauline of BeeLoved City
 
Located in the north west of the island, Stintino is mainly known for being home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia. 
 
The most popular beach is La Pelosa. If you love white sandy beaches and turquoise water, it will be your paradise! You will recognize it very quickly thanks to the tower emerging from the water, the Torre della Pelosa. 
 
Stintino is blessed with many other white sandy beaches. If you want to escape the crowds, you can head to Le Saline (pictured above) or Ezzi Mannu. It’s also a very good spot to go snorkeling, windsurfing or dolphin watching! 
 
The beaches in Stintino are a must do but the town itself is also worth a visit. As you get to the center, you will discover one of the most authentic and traditional cities in Sardinia. If you head to the market square, you can even find yourself immersed into a typical local market! It’s the ideal place to get fresh products and do your shopping if you want to bring back Sardinian cheese or salami!
 
There are also many restaurants and they serve amazing food. You will come across some by the beach and on the main street. Best of all, they are actually pretty cheap! 
 
If you are a foodie, you will love Stintino and honestly, nothing beats Sardinian food.
 
Finally, Stintino is located near the Asinara National Park, making it a great place to stay if you want to explore northern Sardinia. 
 
Sassari

Sassari

Too often overlooked, Sassari is one of the largest cities in Sardinia and in fact the main financial and cultural center in the north of the island. It is a sophisticated place that has yet to be discovered by tourism, despite the many attractive points. It never really gets mentioned in posts about the places to visit in Sardinia but I dissent – my sister lives there, I regularly visit, and each time I find a place that is lively, with a nice historical center and some beautiful churches. 

The main landmark in Sassari is Piazza d’Italia, a very large square bustling with people any day of the week. The Cathedral of San Nicola di Bari and the Park of Monserrato, which is actually a bit outside of the city center, are also nice to see. 

If you happen to visit Sardinia in May, go to Sassari for the Cavalcata Sarda, a parade of traditional costumes. Yet, the most heartfelt festival in the city is the Candelieri, which takes place every 15th of August. This is a parade of massive wooden candles carried along the streets (on shoulders) to express gratitude to the Virgin Mary who saved Sassari from the plague.

Sardinia cities

Castelsardo

*Contributed by Pauline of BeeLoved City
 
If you are looking for a picturesque town, Castelsardo will be perfect for you! This lovely village is ideal for visitors who want to get both panoramic views and history! 
 
Located in the north of Sardinia, Castelsardo is perched on top of a cliff. It’s somehow very similar to Rocamadour, in South West France, but facing the beautiful Mediterranean sea: absolutely stunning, and easily one of the best small cities in Sardinia.
 
Castelsardo has always held a very strategic position and that’s why it became so important through the centuries. Nowadays, the inhabitants might not be looking at the sea to see if invaders are coming their way but history is still all around.
 
You can visit the Museo dell’Intreccio Mediterraneo where you will find wonderful insights into Mediterranean civilizations and go up to the Cathedral of Sant’Antonio Abate. You can also see remains of nuragic walls.
 
Finally, last but not least: the castle! Castelsardo means “Sardinian Castle”. This name came from the beautiful Castello dei Doria. Visiting it is a must-do in Castelsardo! It’s beautiful, culturally fascinating and offers stunning views over the sea and village.
 
The town itself is very colorful, making it a very popular Instagram spot in Sardinia! It’s full of narrow and winding streets, adding to the authentic vibe!
 

Santa Teresa di Gallura

One of the nicest small cities in Sardinia is located all the way to the north of the island, and from there you will get easy access to the incredible beaches of Costa Smeralda, to La Maddalena Archipelago (which you can visit on boat tours that you can book your tour here) and even Corsica and its Bonifacio.

Make sure to read my post A Complete Guide To La Maddalena, Sardinia.

Yet, is Santa Teresa in and of itself worth visiting? I say so! This colorful small town of around 5000 people located right in front of Bonifacio Streit gets quite an influx of tourists during the summer months, but has managed to retain all of its local character and where the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. The village was founded 1808 by King Vittorio Emanuele I of Savoy where once stood the village of Longosardo. He named it after his wife Maria Teresa. The most interesting sight in town is Longosardo Tower. 

Check out my post A Complete Guide To Santa Teresa Di Gallura, Sardinia.

Further readings about Sardinia

Make sure to read my other posts about Sardinia:

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Discover the best cities in Sardinia - via @c_tavani

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