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.
20 Beautiful Small Towns And Cities In Sardinia
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.
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.
*Contributed by Daniel James of Urban Abroad
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.
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.
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.
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.
*Contributed by Margherita of The Crowded Planet
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Further readings about Sardinia
Make sure to read my other posts about Sardinia:
- What You Should Know Before Traveling To Sardinia
- 10 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Sardinia
- The 12 Best Museums In Sardinia
- The 15 Best Beaches In Sardinia
- The Most Incredible Day Trips From Cagliari
- Cagliari Nightlife: A Guide To Cagliari Best Bars
- A Guide To Sardinian Wines
- The Most Delicious Sardinian Food: Everything You Must Try
- A Complete Guide To Costa Smeralda
- A Guide To Nuraghe In Sardinia
- The Most Interesting Archeological Sites In Sardinia
- The Most Beautiful Beach Resorts In Sardinia
- A Complete Guide To Villasimius, Sardinia
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