Welcome to the port of Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy)!
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (after Sicily) that has played a major commercial role for over 2.500 years due to its favorable strategic position in the central part of the Mediterranean. Nestled along the island’s south coast, the port of Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia and one of the largest seaports in Italy.
In this article, read about:
- Cagliari cruise port (Cagliari cruise terminal, getting around)
- Top things to do in the port of Cagliari & Cagliari shore excursions
Port of Cagliari
Cagliari is the main cruise port on the island of Sardinia and a very busy one due to its ferry connection to the mainland (Civitavecchia, Naples) and Sicily (Palermo). The port also features one of the largest container terminals in the Mediterranean and highly developed port facilities and infrastructure.
Cagliari cruise terminal is located 800 meters or a 15-minute walk from downtown. Cruise ships dock at Molo Rinascita and the port authorities normally provide a complimentary shuttle bus to the roundabout at Piazza Matteotti, the square from where you can walk into the old town of Cagliari. The town is hilly, so get ready to walk uphill and wear comfortable footwear.
The port of Cagliari consists of two docks measuring 480 and 450 meters in length that can accommodate the world’s largest cruise liners. Next to the terminal, you’ll find a Guest Information Center (GIC) kiosk where you can get all necessary information on train/bus timetables, city attractions, etc. Here, you can also purchase Cagliari souvenirs, rent a bike/car, book tours and get city maps.
- The currency in Italy is EURO (€). Local currency and credit cards are widely accepted. See the currency converter
- The best way to get around Cagliari is on foot, however, you should be able to walk on hilly and uneven surfaces involving lots of staircases.
- Cagliari bus station (known as Stazione ARST) is adjacent to the Cagliari railway station and both are located at Piazza Matteotti. For buses, find more information on the ARST website http://www.arst.sardegna.it/, and for train timetables and fares, check out https://www.trenitalia.com/
- Cagliari also has a two-line metro system known as MetroCagliari. The trains depart from Piazza Repubblica and the two lines serve the town of Cagliari and a part of its metropolitan area. Find more info on http://www.arst.sardegna.it/
- City Tour Open Bus provides sightseeing tours of Cagliari. The buses depart from Piazza Yenne, located 550 m from Piazza Matteotti, at the end of the notable Largo Carlo Felice avenue. Check out the timetables and fares on the official webpage http://www.citytourcagliari.com/
- Poetto beach is the most famous beach located a 15-minute drive from Cagliari cruise port. Local operators (including City Tour Open Bus) provide round-trip transportation to the beach for the price of approximately 10€ per person. You’ll see many of these operators at Piazza Matteotti and around the port area. Keep this price in mind as the cruise lines normally offer transfer options to the beach at a higher price.
- Taxis are available at the cruise terminal.
- Cagliari Elmas Airport (Aeroporto di Cagliari-Elmas) is Cagliari’s international airport located 8.5 km/5 miles (a 15-minute drive) northwest of the port of Cagliari.
- Shopping in Cagliari is the best in the old town area that starts at Piazza Matteotti. It is centered around Largo Carlo Felice Avenue, Via Giuseppe Manno, Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, Via Alghero, Via Roma (this street lines up the waterfront), and others. This is where you’ll find the majority of hotels, cafes and eateries as well.
- Check out the best hotels in Cagliari
Top Things to Do in the Port of Cagliari
The island of Sardinia is known for its scenic beaches, numerous natural attractions and a long 2.500-year-old history that has left its traces in archeological ruins, fortifications, old churches and castles that you can find in Cagliari and its surroundings.
Before I share with you the best things to do in Cagliari, I invite you to subscribe below and get my exclusive, insider SHORE EXCURSION GUIDE for FREE!
1. Castello District (Old Town)
Quartiere Castello, Cagliari’s historic district, preserves the most important remains of the Middle Ages. With its impressive walls and towers, Castello (or “the upper castle”) lies on top of a hill overlooking the Gulf of Cagliari. Two of the most striking towers include an early 14th-century limestone Torre di San Pancrazio and the Torre dell’Elefante, typical examples of Pisan military architecture.
In this historic quarter, at a stone’s throw from Torre dell’Elefante, you’ll come across the spectacular Bastione di Saint Remy with its staircase leading to Terrazza Umberto I, a vast plaza with outstanding city and sea views.
Castello is a must-see place in Cagliari if you are looking for an authentic local experience. You can wander around its narrow streets, admire colorful facades, indulge in Italian gelato or visit other Castello landmarks including:
- Cagliari Cathedral (known as Duomo of Cagliari and Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta e Santa Cecilia) – With its elegant Neo-Romanesque façade, the cathedral originally dates from the 13th century and is the seat of the archbishop of Cagliari.
- Royal Palace (Palazzo Regio) – Also known as Viceregio (Viceroyal palace), the 14th-century opulent palace is a former royal residence that nowadays hosts exhibitions, concerts and public visits.
- Antico Palazzo di Città – Another beautiful palace housing a museum featuring temporary exhibitions.
- Palazzo Arcivescovile
- Church of Saint Lucia ‘in Castello’
2. Bastione Saint Remy
The iconic Saint Remy Bastion is one of the most majestic monumental structures in Cagliari located in the heart of Castello District, within a short walking distance from the port. Built in the Classic style between 1896 and 1902 on the site of the old city bastions, the imposing structure nowadays consists of an ornate limestone arch with pillars, a wide terrace known as Umberto I Terrace and an exhibition space for cultural events. From the terrace, you can enjoy the spectacular views of the city and port.
3. Museo Archeologico Nazionale
The National Archeological Museum is the most important Cagliari museum as it holds an impressive archaeological collection with over 4.000 artifacts telling Sardinia’s long 7000-years-old history. In this fantastic archeological complex, you’ll discover Punic, Greek and Roman artifacts, relics, coins, jewelry, pottery, statues and other archeological findings from different parts of the island.
The National Museum of Archaeology is located north of the Castello district, a 20-minute walking distance from the port of Cagliari (1.3 km/0.80 miles).
4. Roman Amphitheatre of Cagliari
Only 650 meters northwest of Museo Archeologico Nazionale, you’ll come across another impressive archeological site – the ruins of the 2nd-century AD Roman amphitheater half-carved in the rock, while the rest was built in local white limestone. The amphitheater could house up to 8.000 spectators and used to host gladiator contests, cultural performances and even public executions.
Today, the amphitheater hosts concerts and a variety of performances and is open for visits. It takes a 20-minute walk to get to the Roman Amphitheatre from the port.
5. San Benedetto Market
Mercato di San Benedetto is one of the liveliest, busiest and most colorful areas in Cagliari. If you want to feel the local vibe, delight in local specialties and shop for fresh produce, the San Benedetto market has it all! It is the largest indoor food market in Italy, offering practically everything, from all kinds of cheese, fish, meat, to veggies, fruits and wines.
The market is located in the San Benedetto district, 2 km/1.2 miles (a 30-minute walk or a 10-minute drive) northeast of the port Cagliari.
6. Santuario di Bonaria
Santuario di Nostra Signora di Bonaria, also known as The Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria, is a part of the larger 14th-century complex that includes the Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria and the monastery.
Located on the top of the hill, the Sanctuary boasts an elegant white facade and is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is known for holding a revered, wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, the Patroness of Sardinia, originally created in the 14th century. Next to the basilica, you’ll find the Monumental Cemetery of Bonaria and an open-air art gallery.
Santuario di Bonaria is located 1.8 km/1.1 miles (a 25-minute walk or less than a 10-minute drive) southeast of the port of Cagliari, along the waterfront and Marina di Bonaria-Su Siccu.
7. Basilica di San Saturnino
The Palaeo-Christian Basilica of San Saturnino is dedicated to Saturninus of Cagliari, the patron saint of the city, a martyr killed under Diocletian’s reign. The basilica is the island’s oldest paleo-Christian sanctuary dating from the 5th century and is known for its controversial and thousand-year history. It is located a 10-minute walk from Nostra Signora di Bonaria and a 20-minute walk from Piazza Matteotti.
8. Parco di Monte Urpinu
Surrounded by lush mountains and rolling hills, some of Cagliari’s green areas have been transformed into public parks including Parco di Monte Urpinu, the most popular city park. The park is situated on a hilltop overlooking the city, a 15-minute drive northeast of the Cagliari cruise port.
It is a quiet, peaceful place ideal for those looking to avoid the hustle and bustle of the historic center. Within the park, you’ll find wildlife species including foxes and various bird varieties and for those of you who like hiking, you can take one of a few challenging trails up. Parco di Monte Urpinu also offers magnificent panoramic views of the city to one side and the saline lakes and Poetto beach to the other.
9. Botanical Garden
Orto Botanico di Cagliari is located near the Castello District, at the bottom of the Roman Amphitheater, about 15 minutes walk from Piazza Matteotti. This wonderful green oasis is home to an enormous variety of trees, plants and rare species from all over the world. Spanning over 5 hectares within the university of Cagliari grounds, the gardens also include ancient Phoenician and Roman cisterns, now fertile breeding zones for water lilies and papyrus.
10. Poetto Beach
Cagliari’s most famous beach is located 7 km/4.3 miles or a 15-minute drive east of the cruise port. The long stretch of beautiful sandy beach is lined with lively seafront bars and eateries and dotted with sunbeds and umbrellas that you can rent for an ultimate beach experience.
Cruise lines normally offer round trip beach transfers to Poetto beach, however, these can be quite expensive. Instead, outside the cruise terminal, you’ll find many operators and taxis offering transfers for less money (around 10€ round trip). In case you’re traveling in a group of 3 or 4, sharing a taxi is the most convenient and the cheapest option.
11. Parco Naturale Molentargius Saline
Molentargius – Saline Regional Park is located near Poetto Beach, less than a 10-minute drive from the port. The vast natural park extends across 1.600 hectares and is a wetland with fresh and saltwater ponds that were once used to harvest salt. Nowadays it is home to a wealth of birdlife including flamingoes, who feed and breed on the huge lakes.
12. Su Nuraxi di Barumini
Su Nuraxi di Barumini is Sardinia’s UNESCO World Heritage Site located approximately 63 km/40 miles (a 50-minute drive) north of Cagliari port. Developed on the island of Sardinia, “nuraghi” were a special type of defensive fortification dating back to the Bronze Age, more precisely to the 2nd millennium BC. This fascinating prehistoric archeological site consists of a network of circular defensive towers in the form of truncated cones built of dressed stone, with corbel-vaulted internal chambers.
The best way to visit Su Nuraxi di Barumini is on a guided tour, due to the distance from the port.
13. Archeological Site of Nora
Last but not least, the ancient city of Nora was one of the largest metropolia on the island located at Capo di Pula, about 37 km/23 miles (a 35-minute drive) southwest of Cagliari port.
The site was the first Phoenician city in Sardinia dating from the 8th century BC and was later fully developed under the Punic rule in the 4th century BC. In 238 BC, Nora was conquered by the Romans who contributed to the development of the infrastructure of the city by building villas, baths, temples and neighborhoods only a few meters away from the sea.
Nowadays, visitors can take a glimpse of Nora’s ancient splendor on a guided tour and enjoy the breathtaking panorama with the iconic Torre del Coltellazzo in the background.
Whether you choose to spend your day at the beach, explore the old town or the island’s natural treasures, an unforgettable day in Sardinia is guaranteed. Make sure you plan your day ahead to get the most out of this beautiful Italian port of call!
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