The simplified answer is: yes. You can spend a week anywhere without a car… at risk of limiting your to-see and to-do list. Seaside Alghero town invites both grounded and sea-faring crowds, its heritage town brimming with dated landmarks, archaeological sites, and open plazas. But are you planning on staying within Alghero’s enclosed borders the entire trip?
Let’s take a look at what Alghero has to offer.
Based north-west of Sardinia is a medieval town that is robust, picturesque and unapologetic of its mixed heritage. Settled in since pre-historic times, the land of Alghero has held strategic naval importance due to its position on the Mediterranean Sea. Yet, it was only in the early 12th century that the city received its name, and post-World War II, developed into the tourist resort of today.
Having been a colony of Catalonia, its centuries-long reign has left both architectural and linguistic marks on Alghero. Although Catalan now persists as a minority language, replaced by Italian and Sardinian, many city folk living around the old quarters still recognize their Catalonian ancestry, coining the town’ Barceloneta.’ You’ll find a similar blending of Catalan and Sardinian cuisine.
Things to do
A fortified port town, Alghero is fenced in by honeyed brick walls, and squat buildings colored beige and yellow. Wider spread residences narrow in around the historic center, a knit of cobbled lanes and piazzas that houses busy restaurants, open cafés, and boutique shops. Along the coast, the marina welcomes in yachts and salt-coated boats, beaches spanning in sandy lengths. And scattered throughout are historical monuments and structures that reveal Alghero’s colonial story.
9km from the heart of Alghero
Trace history of this settlement all the way back to the Bronze Age! A complex of towers fallen to ruin, this archaeological site and surrounding village reveal a lot about early construction.
Walk along the sea walls
Stretching across Alghero
Lap up the calm waters stretching to Capo Caccia at any one restaurant or bar lining the coastal walk. Erected in the 16th century, the gold-toned sea walls are a historical highlight that runs from Piazza Sulis to Porta a Mare. Bookended by defensive towers, walk through the gateway of Porta a Mare to reach the historic center.
9km from Alghero
One of the more popular beaches along the coast, Bombarde beach is flooded with people come August. Rent umbrellas and sunning beds ahead of time to establish your space, or risk squeezing between masses of people. Still, the small vendor stalls and eager visitors make for an energetic environment.
Necropolis of Anghelu Ruju
9.5km from the center of Alghero
Sign on for a guided tour of the Necropolis of Anghelu Ruju, it’s series of excavated tombs, artifacts and carvings dating back to pre-Nuragic Sardinia. Accidentally stumbled upon in 1903, this archaeological site turned out to be one of the most significant discoveries in the area.
Forte della Maddalena
2km from the center of Alghero
Cattedrale di Santa Maria
At the heart of Alghero
Spiking up from the heart of Alghero’s historic district is the pyramid spire of Campanile. This 16th-century landmark is another remnant of Catalan architecture; elegant and straightforward, its Gothic design spirals upwards to gift you with stunning views.
You might not have come across a cathedral quite like this one – a hybrid of different periodical influences and add-ons. Where its facade is primarily neoclassical, a 19th-century expansion that sits strangely against the older surrounding streets, the interior tends towards the Renaissance style with baroque decor of late 18th century.
Public Gardens of Alghero
Giardini Giuseppe Manno, Central Alghero
Its rather matter-of-fact name might not suggest exciting things about this public garden, but its verdant lawns act as a gateway between the medieval center and modern district of Alghero. Created in the 19th century, this recreational space ushers all paths towards a center circle which is frequented by local youths and street sellers.
Museo del Corallo di Alghero, Via XX Settembre 8, Central Alghero
Alghero has been harvesting the rare red coral for centuries, building a reputation for its coral crafts and jewelry. The Coral Museum showcases the ancient practice through photos of equipment and old boats, explaining the significance of red coral plays in Alghero’s identity. You will learn that red corals are more than simply trade goods; they hold religious connotations as the blood color signifies life.
The protected Capo Caccia juts out like a sentinel over Alghero, a series of rocky outcrop that falls within the Porto Conte Park ecosystem. Featuring scenic hiking trails, diving sites, and archaeological remains, it is a world of its own. Sink down the 600 steps leading to Neptune’s Grotto for impressive seafront caves with stalactite-hung lakes.
Eat, eat, eat
Food makes or breaks a great vacation – but don’t worry, Alghero doesn’t disappoint. Settle in at any café lining the piazzas of the old town or a restaurant along the sea walls to get the best of taste and sight. The mix of Catalan and Sardinian cuisine will have your taste buds crying in delight.
These attractions are just a taste of what Alghero has to offer! Many heritage sites are clustered within or around the medieval quarters, modern restaurants and bars mingling around the piazzas to provide rest spaces.
Public transport within and from Alghero
Just 12 kilometers away from Alghero Fertilia Airport, it is no wonder that visitors come in droves. Alghero itself isn’t big enough to warrant complex transportation systems. You can get around by public bus, train or on foot but be warned that it is not the most efficient.
The bus company, A.R.S.T, offers five bus routes that cover every grid. They run from:
A.F Alghero – Osphedale Marino – Fertilia
A.P Alghero – Pietraia
A.C Alghero – Carmine
L.V Linea Verde
Al.F.A – Alghero – Fertilia- Airport
Purchase tickets at either the G. Manno Public Gardens ticketing office, or at retailers such as newsagents, or pay extra to buy on board. A single-ride ticket is valid for 90 minutes, costing 1 euro. If you are hopping between attractions around town, it is worth investing in a Day ticket for 2.50 euros instead, which is valid for the entire day of purchase.
Some buses extend out of main Alghero town to significant attractions around its borders, including:
Alghero – Porto Conte – Capo Caccia
Alghero –Sella & Mosca (Necropolis of Angelu Ruju) – San Marco
Alghero – Fertilia – Zirra – Porto Ferro – Villa Assunta
Intercity buses are available as well, taking you from Alghero to other cities such as Sassari, Porto Torres, Bosa, Uri, Ittiri and more.
The public train station located in Pietraia doesn’t traverse through Alghero but connects it to Sassari, where you can transfer to lines that go around the island. This train passes by Punta Moro, Mamuntanas, Olmedo, Arcone, San Giorgio and Molafa on the way to Sassari. It costs 2.20 euros for a Single ticket, and 3.80 for a Return ticket.
Visitors staying a few short days will find Alghero’s public transport more than enough; it is cheap, direct and great for lazy walkers. But for those staying a week or longer, consider traveling freer by renting a car.
Why rent a car?
Driving your own transport means you can get from Point A to B with little waiting time, and a much looser itinerary as a result. It is also more convenient to cross-town borders, opening access to wilder areas. Want to day trip to another city? Entirely possible and in fact, recommended.
There are a few car rentals in town, but the best move is to book ahead of time and drop in at the airport desks for pick up. Some of the more popular rental brands include Sicily by Car, Europcar, Firefly, Viten Group, and Locauto; you should research which brand best fits your needs and budget.
If you had to choose between taking public transport and renting a car, car rentals would win hands down. While the bus and train systems are developed enough to ferry you around major attractions, driving is time-saving, hassle-free and ultimately grants you access to areas untouched.
Beyond Alghero borders
Given Alghero Airport’s close proximity to the town center, it should come as no surprise that the nearest attractions are mere minutes away. The Necropolis of Anghelu Ruju is a ten-minute drive, and Capo Caccia slightly further at half an hour. Without planning any route and commute, that is an archaeological site and plunging cliffs at the tip of your fingers already.
Slide away from Alghero and follow the coastline for some wild, rugged scenery! In contrast to Alghero’s medieval enclave of narrow streets and shaded corners, the drive out opens to clear skies and panoramic views. You can head for the colorful village of Bosa, or turn the other direction to reach Sardinia’s most north-west tip, which persuades with sweeping sandy bays and crystalline waters.
Tanneries of Bosa
Leading Sardinian trade in the 17th century (but dating back to ancient Rome), Bosa’s tanning industry has left vestiges in the form of ancient tanneries. Silent specters beside rivers, these stone structures, and their wooden roofs now house overgrown greenery. Visit the Museo delle Conce in a repurposed 18th-century tannery to learn more about this historical business and its creation process.
Another Bosa native is the Malaspina Castle which dominates atop Serravalle hill. Dating back to the 12th century, it was once the center of a medieval village, wrought with tales of jealousy and other legends. It is also the perfect viewing platform over Bosa, the houses along river Temo a bright palette of colors.
Santissima Trinita di Saccargia
Head out of town for this mystical church, its unique black and white striped exterior created from limestone and basalt ashlars a striking contrast to surrounding greens. It is majestic, it is ancient, it is a rising tower that equally spooks and fills you with awe.
Drive to one of Sardinia’s, in fact, Italy’s for that matter, most beautiful villages, and shoreline, where cliffs of red trachyte loom over cream-colored strips of sand. The town proper is a network of steep, narrow lanes, historical buildings stacked uphill. Cresting the peninsula is the medieval Castle Doria, built for the family who founded the village in 1102.
Located within Porto Conte Park are the vast limestone caverns of Grotta Verde. Tracing back to 200 million years ago, its moniker of ‘Altar’ is derived from evidence of what used to be lived-in rooms, later frequented as both a place of worship and burial site. Unlike the Grotto of Neptune which levels at sea level, Grotta Verde descends from a height of 75 meters to underwater caves.
Sitting at the tip of the Stintino peninsula is the grounded Falcone tower, ravaged by the winds and waves that batter at Capo Falcone. A 200-meter spur of rugged rocks, it offers the sparkling views of the Isola Piana and coast stretching between Castelsardo and Capo Caccia.
Sounds tempting right? Alghero may be beautiful, but the rest of Sardinia has just as much to offer.
Can you survive a week in Alghero without a car?
Well, yes, but it is a waste of travel potential. Instead of relying on the public transport network which runs on mainstream routes only, rent a car for more itinerary flexibility. Alghero might have plenty to keep tourists occupied, but three days is more than enough to explore the town center.
Take your explorations out of town for Sardinia’s beautiful natural parks and coastal-scapes. Sandy beaches and private coves are best enjoyed outside tourist-heavy cities, and you can revel at the lingering architectures of smaller villages. Raw, unfiltered Sardinia exist beyond borders – let Alghero paint the base colors of this picturesque region, and fill in the details with the scenery that surrounds it.