While Sardinia is a fantastic holiday destination, it is also well-known for being one of the more expensive parts of Italy to take a vacation. However, there are plenty of free things to do in Sardinia so you can enjoy your time on this beautiful island without breaking the bank. To make the most out of your time in Sardinia, check out this guide to free things to do on the island.
Let’s take a look at some free things to do in Sardinia
Take a stroll around Castello, Cagliari
As the capital of Sardinia, there is plenty to see and do in Cagliari. One of the best things – which is also completely free – is to take a walk around the Castello, the hilltop citadel. This district, with its labyrinth of cobblestone alleyways, domes, palaces, churches, and towers, is a fantastic place to take a stroll. Here you can see magnificent buildings such as the Palazzo Archivescovile, the Palazzo Reggio and the Cathedral of Santa Maria. The cathedral is free to enter, and it is well worth heading inside. Dating back to the 13th century, inside you will find lots of exquisite frescoes and altars, as well as the intricately decorated crypt, where the tombs of the Savoy Royal Family lay.
As well as the stunning architecture, it is also a lively area with plenty of colorful buildings locals milling around. Be sure to check out Via Stretta, a tiny alleyway which the inhabitants have adorned with lots of flowers and plant pots.
Enjoy the views from Bastione di San Remy
One of the most beautiful structures located in the Castello, the Bastione di San Remy is one of the most important fortifications in Cagliari. Built-in the 19th century upon the remains of the ancient walls, the Bastione di San Remy features a double staircase and a triumphal arch which lead to an impressive covered walkway and a large terrace. The covered walkway is a splendid enough reason on its own to visit, with its white and yellow limestone columns and Corinthian capitals built in the Classical style. However, for excellent panoramic views of the city and surrounding area, you should also head to Umberto I terrace. From here you can see the Gulf of Angels, Monte Urpinu and Bonaria Hill. The terrace is also a popular meeting point, so it is a great place to do some people watching.
Relax on the splendid beaches
Of course, Sardinia is famous for its fabulous beaches. With their gorgeous white sand and crystal clear sea, it is not hard to see why so many people love the beaches of Sardinia. The best thing about the beaches here is that almost all of them are entirely free for the general public; only a handful of highly protected beaches require a small fee to use. If you are coming to Sardinia to enjoy the sunshine and relax, the beaches will be one of the best free activities you can do.
There are, of course, many beaches which are great to spend the day, but here are some of the best:
Poetta: located in Cagliari, Poetta Beach is extremely popular, both with tourists and locals. As well as being a great place to relax and swim, there is also a pleasant waterfront ideal for walking and running.
Cala Pira: situated in south-east Sardinia, Cala Pira is not only breathtakingly beautiful, but it is also within a small cove, making it an excellent beach to visit if the weather is windy. It is also an excellent place for snorkeling. To the north of Cala Pira, there is an old Spanish watchtower where you can enjoy beautiful views of the beach.
Punta Molentis: located in the protected area of Capo Carbonara, Punta Molentis combines an idyllic beach, which is divided into a variety of smaller coves, with swathes of Mediterranean vegetation such as cacti. It is another fantastic place for snorkeling, plus the impressive rock formations provide a pleasant backdrop for holiday photos.
Take a swim in the natural pool of Cane Malu in Bosa
Swimming is one of the best things to do in Sardinia, with its sparkling blue sea. Close to Alghero is the village of Bosa. In addition to its many beaches, Bosa has many natural pools set within rock formations. The most marvelous of these is Cane Malu. Many people find the climb to the pool quite tricky; it takes quite a while to get there.
Furthermore, the path that takes you, there is not the easiest one to walk along, but if you make an effort, you will be astounded by the pool’s beauty. However, you should not just come here for the views. These natural pools are particularly fun for jumping into, so they are enjoyable as well as free.
Visit the flamingoes at Parco di Molentargius
Right behind Poetta Beach is the Parco di Molentargius which is well worth a visit if you are in Cagliari. A beautiful nature reserve covering an area of approximately 1,600 hectares, the park was established in 1999 to protect the site and its inhabitants of a variety of bird species. The Parco di Molentargius is unique in that it contains both saltwater and freshwater reservoirs. At present, 230 different bird species have been identified within the park, although it is one in particular that most people come here to see – the pink flamingo. A huge number of pink flamingos nest here and they are a wondrous sight.
Hike up Sella del Diavolo
Hiking is a popular activity in Sardinia; after all, it has some of the most stunning scenery in the entire world, and what better way to appreciate it than to walk amongst it? One of the best places to hike in Sardinia is Sella del Diavolo – or Devil’s Saddle – which is just as exciting a spot as it is beautiful. This spot overlooks the Golfo degli Angeli – the Gulf of Angels – in Cagliari, legend has it that the Devil fell in love with the area, and decided to make it his home there, gathering an army of followers to achieve his aim. In retaliation, God commanded an army of angels, and a mighty war broke out in the skies. During the battle, the Devil fell from his horse, and his saddle fell with him, landing on the ground and shaping the field as we see it today.
Hiking to the top of Sella del Diavolo will reward you with fantastic views over Poetta Beach and Cagliari. However, there are also lots of historical sights to see as you explore the area. Here you will come across caves which were inhabited as far back as the 6th century BC, a Roman cistern and a fortress from the Second World War, among many others.
See where the locals shop at San Benedetto Market
It is always fun to experience a piece of local life when vacationing in a new country, and one of the best ways of doing this is by visiting a local market. There are plenty of markets in Sardinia, but one of the biggest – not only in Sardinia but in Italy itself – and best is San Benedetto Market in Cagliari. A vast covered market consisting of two floors and even spilling out onto the streets outside, there are well over 200 vendors in San Benedetto who offer the most beautiful produce on the island.
On the lower floor, you can walk among stalls selling fish, shellfish, and crustaceans; this is perhaps the most important part of the market. Upstairs a vast array of cheese, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, sweets and wines are available for sale. Of course, it is not necessary to buy anything – this is a list of free things to do, after all – but it is still a great place to wander around and soak in the beautiful Sardinian atmosphere.
Walk the city walls of Alghero
Cagliari is not the only place where you can enjoy Sardinia’s long and rich history. The island’s fifth-largest city, Alghero, also has plenty of beautiful buildings for visitors to admire. One of the best things to do for free in Alghero is taking a wall around the city walls. The sea walls run from Porta a Mare in the north down to Piazza Sulis in the south, and as you make your way down the pedestrianized promenade, you will pass towers, bastions and also examples of military weapons, such as catapults and cannons. Combined with the lovely sea views, this walk is a splendid way to spend an hour or two.
Take a walking tour of the Orgosolo Murals
The city of Nuoro attracts many visitors due to its importance as a cultural center – it is the birthplace of many artists and writers – as well as being home to several historical sights and museums. However, located just 13 kilometers away is the village of Orgosolo, which shows another artistic side to the province. Once the stomping ground of thieves and bandits, the town is now famous for its murals which can be found all around the village.
The first mural emerged during the late 1960s, painted by Dionisio, an anarchist theatrical troupe, who were questioning the role of Sardinia within the Italian government. A few years later, when the economy crashed due to the first oil crisis in 1973, more murals began to appear as a way of expressing discontent with the social system. Over the years, more and more murals have been added around the town in reaction to various global incidents, including the Tiananmen Square protests that took place in Beijing in 1989 and the attack on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11th, 2001.
Nowadays the murals make for an exciting day trip, effectively turning the village into an open-air art museum. Although there is one main street featuring the main murals, do not forget to veer off into the side streets as you can also find them along these too.
Enjoy the beauty of the Sos Molinos Waterfalls
Hidden away one kilometer south of Santu Lussurgiu is the beautiful Sos Molinos Waterfalls. Named after the many mills which were once in the area, these waterfalls drop an astonishing 30 meters and make a charming half-day trip. The walk to the waterfalls is pretty steep, but there are plenty of handrails and rest points along the way. Once you arrive at the falls, you will be able to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this beautiful spot.
Marvel at Elephant Rock in Castelsardo
The pretty coastal town of Castelsardo has lots to enchant tourists, but the main reason why people come here is to see Elephant Rock. This unusual rock formation sits by the side of a road just outside the town and is a fascinating curiosity. Made of trachyte stone, the rock was initially part of a more significant complex of stones at Monte Casteddazzu before it broke off and rolled down the valley. Over the years the foundation succumbed to erosion and eventually took the shape that we see nowadays – the form of an elephant with its trunk facing the road. Due to its unusual shape, Elephant Rock has become a big tourist attraction, and it should be part of any Sardinia itinerary.
Discover Cagliari’s history and culture for free
If you happen to be visiting Sardinia in May, you will get the opportunity to discover Cagliari’s monuments, both old and new, entirely for free. This initiative, known as Monumenti Aperti, was started to connect the city’s residents with Cagliari’s history and culture; however, there is no reason why tourists cannot take part as well. Taking place over two days, you will be able to visit a Phoenician necropolis, the botanical garden, an old slaughterhouse and Second World War air-raid shelters along with the usual churches, historical sites, and museums.
Sardinia is, as we all know, a fantastic destination. It has so much to offer, from fascinating historical sights to swathes of natural beauty. And with all of these free things that you can do during your time on Sardinia, it can even be a wallet-friendly one too.