The Best Things To Do In Catania Sicily
Catania is a city with a rich history and culture. Located on Sicily’s eastern coast, it is the second-largest city in Sicily and home to many attractions. I call Catania the city of baroque churches because of its beautiful architecture. Baroque stuccoes have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are worth seeing.
You can explore Catania’s churches and monuments or visit museums like the Museo Civico Castello Ursino or the Museo Belliniano di Catania, to name a few. With its picturesque and colourful scenery, vibrant culture, and exciting food and nightlife, there are so many things to do in Catania, and it’s no wonder solo travellers add Catania to their Sicily Itinerary.
When is the best time to visit Catania?
The best time to visit Catania and Sicily is late spring April to the end of May, or early autumn September to the end of October, when temperatures are milder and lesser crowds. I wouldn’t plan a trip to Catania in July or August as it’s peak season and overcrowded. I would choose springtime as the best, and May is the best month to visit the best places in Sicily.
13 Best Things to Do in Catania
Being close to Mount Etna and Taormina, it’s the ideal starting point for any Sicilian Trip itinerary. Even on a short trip, I would at least allocate two full days to Catania and its surroundings. Here are our picks for the best things to do in Catania and places to visit on day trips.
1. Mercato Del Pesce (Pescheria)
Let’s start with the famous Mercato Del Pesce: A Piscaria, as the locals call this special place, an iconic fish market and one of the main attractions of Catania. It is also one of the world’s most popular and famous fish markets. It is in the heart of Catania’s historic centre, just past the loud Amenano Fountain, a.k.a. “Acqua o Linzolu”, Mercato del Pesce or “A Piscaria” in Sicilian slang, offers an array of fresh seafood caught daily from the Mediterranean Sea. This is not just a fish market. It’s a sensory experience.
An experience that embraces all senses: smells, sounds, colours, touches and tastes. It opens early every morning from 5.00 am till around midday. On Sundays, it’s closed. You can explore a variety of stalls selling everything from fresh fish to shellfish, octopus, and squid or even prepared dishes like fried calamari and grilled swordfish. And you can taste fish on the go: try the fresh oysters and anchovies (Masculini in Sicilian) with fresh lemon. They are delicious! The market is also home to some of the best restaurants in town, where you can enjoy a delicious seafood meal while savouring the lively and buzzing market atmosphere. This is one of those places you can return to every morning, as it is never the same.
Check this link if you want to stay near the Catania Fish Market.
2. Catania Street Art
Catania is becoming famous for its street art, with many works of national and international artists adorning the streets. The San Berillo district is a great place to start exploring the city’s vibrant street art scene, with its numerous pieces of graffiti and murals that depict the history and myths of the city. The Port area also has some stunning Silos artworks, including a 10-story tall mural by Vhils. Other places to explore include Librino, Squib, Martina Spampinato, and Demetrio Di Grado in Via San Michele. The best way to discover Catania’s street art is to get lost in long walks around the city and capture the beauty with your smartphone.
3. Piazza Del Duomo: Catania’s City Heart
Piazza Del Duomo is located in the Catania city’s heart and serves as a gathering place for locals and tourists. The first thing that will attract your curiosity is the peculiar Fontana Dell’Elefante or Fountain of the Elephant. This black basalt statue with a white obelisk on the top and a marble pedestal sticks out as you will wonder what the statue means. It’s been the official symbol of Catania since 1239, and among the many legends, it’s believed it was built to protect Catania from the Etna Vulcano eruptions.
Take your time to look around the piazza and marvel at the baroque-style buildings surrounding the square; they have earned a UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Besides the Duomo (Saint Agatha Cathedral), the Piazza del Duomo’s main attractions are the Palazzo Degli Elefanti (City Hall). On the nearby roads, you can sit at cafes and restaurants serving traditional Sicilian cuisine while soaking in this historic square’s vibe and beauty. You can also find boutique stores selling local handicrafts and souvenirs. From Piazza Del Duomo, walk 200 meters the from there. You can walk to the Piazza Bellini to visit the Teatro Massimo Bellini (Opera House).
4. The Duomo: The Saint Agata Cathedral
The Catania’s Duomo, or the Cathedral of Saint Agata, is an impressive architecture preserving different styles such as the Normann and Neoclassic. Vaccarini entirely rebuilt it in the Baroque style after the earthquake in 1693 in baroque style. While its façade has plain grey colours, inside, you can find a variety of artworks, including frescoes and sculptures from the 17th century.
You can also explore the crypts beneath the church, which contain tombs and monuments dedicated to various saints. The cathedral is open daily for visitors to admire its beauty and learn more about its ancient history. The Fest of Sain Agataha is held in August, and it’s a fantastic procession dedicated to Saint Agatha, Catania’s patron.
5. Catania’s Baroque Churches
One of the best things to do in Catania is to explore the Baroque churches on Crociferi Street. This street is home to some of Sicily’s most beautiful and ornate churches. The road is lined with seven Baroque churches, each more stunning than the last. From the Church of San Francesco Borgia to the Church of Santa Maria dell’Itria, visitors can marvel at the intricate architecture and detailed sculptures that adorn these churches.
The Church of San Giuliano is impressive, with its grand façade and two bell towers. Visitors can admire frescoes and stucco work from some of Sicily’s most renowned artists. Last and not least, the Church of Saint Benedict is on the corner to Via Greco. This is probably the best Baroque church in Catania for the frescos’ splendour and inside baroque decorations. Another must-see baroque church is Basilica Della Collegiata In Via Etnea corner Via Collegiata.
6. Ursino Castle
The Ursino Castle is an icon of Normann’s presence in Sicily. Built between 1239 and 1250 by Frederick II, King of Sicily and Holy Roman Emperor, the Ursino Castle was part of a defensive system for the East coast of Sicily. The castle is rectangular, with round towers on each corner, surrounded by a moat. You can enjoy the stunning views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea from the castle’s towers and explore the castle’s gallery of local art and Civic Museum, which houses artefacts from Catania’s past. There are also guided tours available which provide more information about the history and architecture of the castle, which is only 10 minute walk from the Piazza del Duomo.
7. The Roman Theatre of Catania (Teatro Romano di Catania)
While strolling through the streets of Catania, Sicily, one of the best things to do is walk around the Roman Theatre of Catania. This ancient theatre had seats for 7000 visitors, was built by the Greeks in the 2nd century AD, and is one of Catania’s most impressive archaeological sites. The theatre has been carefully preserved and has original seating, stage, and decorations. Walking around it gives you an insight into what life was like in ancient times. The theatre also offers stunning views of Mount Etna and the underground Amenano river, making it an excellent spot for breathtaking views.
8. Window-Shopping on Via Etnea
The Via Etnea is where life pulses in Catania, connecting the Piazza del Duomo with the Northern part of the city. This vibrant shopping street is mostly pedestrian and packed with boutiques and international department stores alongside myriad cafés, bakeries, and bars. You can find designer names, vintage leather goods, and items like handmade jewellery or local delicacies while admiring the buildings’ unique architecture along the street.
Shops opening times are from Monday to Sunday, 8.00 to 1.00 pm and 4.00 pm to 8.00 pm. Every Sunday morning (8.00 am to 1.00 pm) is also a great time to explore Catania as some shops open their doors early for shoppers looking for last-minute deals. Don’t forget to try out a superb gelato at Pasticceria Spinella, an iconic patisserie in Catania for the Cassata Siciliana and Cannoli Siciliani.
9. Sunset from Church Della Badia Of Saint Agata
Located just steps from the cathedral, this Baroque church offers a unique vantage point of the city. One of the best things to do at Chiesa Della Badia di Sant’Agata is to watch the sunset from its terrace. The terracotta rooftops will be illuminated by the warm glow of the setting sun, creating a breathtaking sight that will stay with you long after your visit.
Inside the church, you can admire works such as Ignazio Marabitti’s “Crocifisso” and marvel at the architectural masterpiece created by Vaccarini. The best time to go is between 6 pm and 7 pm to enjoy the incredible sunset view of Catania.
10. Th Black Colosseum: Catania Underground Remains
Located beneath the city, The Black Colosseum is a fascinating network of underground remains that date back to Roman times. It was discovered in 1858 when workers were digging a well. It was found to be an ancient Roman amphitheatre, which had been buried by lava from Mount Etna’s eruption in 1669. The site has since been excavated, revealing a complex network of tunnels and chambers used for gladiator fights and other entertainment events during Roman times. Today, you can explore the ruins, learn about the history of Catania and its people, and get a glimpse into what life was like during this period.
11. The Bellini Gardens (Giardini Bellini)
Giardini Bellini is the oldest urban park in Catania and offers stunning views of Mt Etna. The park features lush greenery, colourful flowers, tall trees, a pond, and a playground for children, making it a perfect spot for a picnic or to sit back and enjoy the scenery. Several statues throughout the park pay homage to some of Italy’s most famous figures. You can also explore the nearby Villa Bellini, which houses a museum dedicated to Bellini’s life and works. You can stroll in this beautiful garden and continue your sightseeing exploration of Catania on Via Etna.
12. Catania’s Best Local Food
Catania is a city that loves its street food, and Plebiscito Road is the best place to sample it. This lively street, located in the heart of Catania, is full of vendors selling delicious local specialities such as arancini (rice balls), Panelle (chickpea fritters), and Sfincione (Sicilian pizza).
If you like meat, head to Via Plebiscito to test some of Catania’s specialities like horse meatballs: “polpette di carne di cavallo” or la cipollata (onion wrapped up in pork meat). You can have it on the go as street good with the unique “salamarigghiu” bread soaked with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and oregano. There are more places to find the best local restaurants. The main areas are Via San Filomena and San Berillo, San Michele. Here below see the best places to eat in Catania.
Best Places To Eat In Via Plebiscito
Although Catania is on the sea, it has a long tradition of horse meat, pork meat and meatballs. For the best meat restaurants, try these places Via Plebiscito:
Trattoria da Achille e Davide
Re Carlo V.
Best Places for Seafood in Catania
MM Trattoria in Via Pardo
Osteria Antica Marina in Viad Pardo
Ristorante Da Antonio Via Castello D’Ursino
Best Places To Eat In Via San Filomena Catania
La Polpetteria in Via San Filomena for all kinds of “polpette” meat, veggie, and fish balls.
Arancineria Espresso Serafino In Via Musemeci 90 for the best takeaway place for arancini.
Scirocco Sicilian Fish Lab: near Il Mercato del Pesce in Catania is the best takeaway for fresh fish, meat, and vegetables, all served freshly prepared in a typical “cartoccio” (paper cone).
Oasis Frutti di Mare da Nitto is a top-notch takeaway and on-site restaurant 3 km from the city.
13. A day trip from Catania to the Beach: Aci Castello and Aci Trezza.
Located just 10 km from Catania, these twinned towns are easily accessible by car, bus or train. The beautiful beaches of Aci Castello and its neighbourhood Aci Trezza are popular summer destinations for locals and tourists, offering a stunning seaside experience with plenty of activities for visitors. You can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, snorkelling, and exploring the area’s many attractions. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes to enjoy the local cuisine. For those looking for a more active experience, try dolphin watching, boat tours, or visit the Castello Normanno in Aci Castello, which offers stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea.
How to Get To and Around Catania
If you’re flying into Catania, Fontanarossa Airport (CTA) is the city airport. You can take a taxi or bus to the city centre from there. The bus shuttle Alibus runs every 20 minutes, and for 5 Euro, it takes through the city with several stops.
There are also several car rental companies at the airport if you’d prefer to have your vehicle. Once you’re in the city centre, there are several options for getting around. The most popular way is by foot, allowing you to explore the narrow streets and alleyways that makeup Catania’s unique character.
However, if you need to cover more ground quickly, buses and trams run throughout the city centre with tickets costing 1 euro for a 90-minute journey and taxis with an airport fee of + € 5.00. For buses, check out the bus network.
Where To Stay in Catania
Catania is a beautiful city in Sicily, with many historic attractions and stunning architecture. If you’re looking for the best place to stay in Catania, the historic centre is the way to go. The best areas to stay are Piazza Del Duomo, Via Garibaldi, Via Etnea, and the San Berillo District. You can also explore the many restaurants, cafes, and shops that line the streets, and plenty of hotels are in these areas.
Our Recommendations for the best places to stay in Catania
Budget Stay (offers single rooms): Hotel San Demetrio
Boutique Stay: Hotel Romeo
Luxury Stay in San Berillo: Quattro Canti Suites
Luxury Apartment (4 people): Manganelli Suite
Luxury Relax with Terrace right in the city centre: Duomo Suites & Spa
Content by RockyTravel.net and published in March 2023