One day in Cagliari: Your guide to sightseeing

We didn’t know much when we decided to go to Cagliari, Sardinia. All I really knew was that is is an Italian island and it has its own vibe and culture. I knew cruise ships like to stop by during high season, but I really didn’t know anything about the island, the city of Cagliari, the food, or the history.

Jess Marco Polo Guide

There is so much more to Sardinia than Cagliari, but for this post, we are working with Marco Polo and their Sardinia guide to sponsor this one day guide to Cagliari. Their book is created for those who want to explore the whole island, and let me tell you — after spending a week in Cagliari and taking a day trip to the middle of the island — we will be going back and using the book to its fullest! But, for this trip, we used the Marco Polo Sardinia guide to make the most of our time in the capital of Sardinia.

Without further ado, here is what we did on our first full day in the city and what we highly recommend for you, as well.

Disclaimer: this post will contain affiliate links. More information can be found in the sidebar.

Recommendation: don’t do this day on a Monday! Many places are closed. If you are in Cagliari on a Monday, think about taking a day trip or a guided tour like this one we took on an e-bike to see flamingos!

Start your day in Cagliari at the Orto Botanico

It’s not huge, but this botanical garden is a great place to start your day since it opens up at 9am. Not gonna lie, it seems pretty bland when you first walk in but give it time! Keep walking and you’ll find a bunch of fountains and other water features. Serenity can be found here by letting the feeling of relaxation come from being around greenery. I could almost go as far as to say that it was meditative.

water feature
lush surroundings at the botanical garden

The cacti and succulents were the most photogenic but don’t underestimate the large trees and the views from the tops of the hills. Take an hour or so as a treat to yourself and slowly wind your way through the paths. Might even be a good spot for a new profile photo!


Hours: Tuesday-Sunday: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm (April – October) & 9:00 am – 2:00 pm (November – March)
Price: 4 Euro

Order your Marco Polo guide to Sardinia here.

Walk uphill to the National Archeological museum

Not usually one for museums, I wasn’t keen on visiting the Museo archeologico nazionale. However, people kept mentioning that it was a must-do when in the city. My first thought is, “If that’s a must-do, guess there isn’t much to do in the city!”

I was wrong because that couldn’t be farther from the truth. And, the museum was super cool!

Sign for museum

You get to see the evolution of the culture and the people through the times. What I find so fascinating is how an island can have so much rich history. Think about the technology we have today. Would you decide to start a new community on an island? How did they do it thousands of years ago?

Cagliari archeological museum

Oh, and there are some epic views from this museum. I have put this visit here as the second thing to do for the day due to the route, but if you want to be up here for sunset, that is also a perfect time to go! Below is our picture from sunset. Not sure why we did it last (probably because we weren’t sure if we really wanted to go), but I’m glad we did. However, I would do this order if we did the day over again.

View from archeological museum

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm (last entry at 7:15 pm)
Price: 7 Euro

DISCOVER: Love history? Take a half day trip to the only UNESCO heritage site in Sardinia.

Visit the Cathedral of Saint Mary

Being part of Italy and formerly part of the Spanish empire, it has a strong Catholic history which makes this a place worth visiting. It’s directly downhill from the museum, so it’s a pretty easy walk. Just watch for cars and bikes on the tiny roads!

You’ll find a lot of baroque styling from the interior to the crypt, which you can also visit. Sean is a big fan of churches and their designs. Who can blame him when these places of worship feel so epic from the inside, out?

If you walk down the stairs in front of the cathedral and cross the street, you’ll see a little neighborhood built on a little square. There’s something about this spot that feels so local — like you are getting a peek at real, authentic everyday life. It’s definitely worth a stop for a minute.

Hours: Monday-Friday: 8:00 am – noon, 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00 am – 1:00 pm, 4:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Price: Free or donation

Get picture-perfect views on top of the Bastione di San Remy

Continue downhill on the road in front of the Cathedral and you’ll come across an epic piazza that overlooks everything. The iconic view of the Bastione was under construction when we were there, but there are still plenty of ways to get to the viewing platform on the piazza. The Marco Polo guide mentions three elevators…can you find them?

View of Cagliari

If you are below, just find a way to go up hill and you’ll see it! But if you are following this path, it couldn’t be simpler since the road you’ll be on goes right past it.

another view of Cagliari

My favorite part about this space is how the locals use it. Sure, there are tourists up there snapping away over by the walls to get the perfect shot. But then there are residents sitting along the side having a snack, playing with their dog or kicking the soccer ball around with their kid. It felt a bit magical.

Hours: It’s an open and public outside space, available any time.

READ: You might also like to take an e-bike tour just outside the city to see dolphins and flamingos.

See the ancient Basilica of San Saturnino

This religious site is incredibly important to the island but also one of the most important sites in the Mediterranean. It was built between the 5th & 6th century, which, let’s be honest, is impressive enough. But its significance also comes from a young man who refused to give up his Christianity and became a martyr on this spot.

Jess at Basilica of San Saturnino

Not only is it a beautiful place in an unassuming neighborhood, but history is important to comprehend before visiting because it gives so much more context. There’s also a large plaque to the right side of the building before you go in with a lot of helpful information (Yep! In English as well). It’s just crazy that this building, full of incredibly history, just sits across from local shops and apartments. Obviously, I don’t think people should be in awe everyday, but as an American, being around things so old on a daily basis is incredibly foreign. I try to remember this as I walk around Amsterdam, as well. Don’t take it for granted, be inspired, be impressed.

Hours: Vary
Price: Free or donation

Get your Marco Polo guide on Amazon

Discover the famous Santa Maria de Bonaria

The walk to this church is uphill (again!) but worth it when the world opens up in front of you with the water to your right and the church to your left. This is a walkable destination, but from the Basilica, you’ll walk a ways down a major road (don’t worry, there are sidewalks) and you can peek into a huge cemetery that is almost 200 years old — seems so young compared to other notable spots in this city! After the cemetery, you’ll make a left and head uphill until you reach it. There is no way you could miss it.

This church is grand in every way. You can see it from the water as it’s perched atop a hill and then once you go inside, there are two large areas with very different stylings. Sean got a bit of a tour from the caretaker and loved every second of it!

The story is that a ship in distress threw an image of the Virgin Mary overboard and it landed here…there was a miracle involved. Read the whole story on their website.

Hours: Vary
Price: Free or donation

Sean and Jess Basilica

That’s a pretty full day right there! But you’ll see a good chunk of the main sightseeing stops so the rest of your days in Cagliari can be spent wandering around and finding the essence of the city. Take a bike tour out to the old salt flats. We took this tour and on the way we saw dolphins, flamingos and other cool birds along with an incredible view from the top of a hill just outside the city center.

There are also plenty of day trips from Cagliari, so if you are like us and want a base, you can still experience a ton of culture and meet amazing people. If you want more posts from our Cagliari series, check them all out.

If you go to Cagliari, we hope you have the most wonderful time! We certainly did. Thanks to Marco Polo for helping us find these great spots to experience for our first day.

Wishing you joy and travels!

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Jessica Cutrufello wearing a green floral dress, glasses and pink lipstick

Hi! I’m Jessica, an American who made Amsterdam her home in 2014. I share European gems through food and memorable experiences. Want to know more? Head to my about page or check out my YouTube channel.

Travel with us - Tuscany October 2022