Catania travel guide

Catania is the second largest city in Sicily. At first glance the city doesn't look very attractive, but once you're in the city center you'll definitely think differently.
The picturesque streets, beautiful buildings and the delicious Sicilian food are always overshadowed by the most famous landmark of Sicily: Mount Etna. This makes Catania the best base for exploring this volcano (and the nearby Taormina). Two days in this city, I think, is enough. From Catania you can easily take the train to Palermo. Do keep in mind that this takes several hours.

Catania city park

There are plenty of city parks in Catania, but I liked the Giardino Bellini the most.

  Average costs in Catania

Stay – Hostels are the cheapest accommodation in the south of Italy. Here you pay between €12 and €23 per person for a bed in a dormitory. If you’re traveling with two, it’s actually cheaper to book a private room. After all, a budget room costs only €25 to €30 and can sleep one or two people.
Since it’s not so expensive here, you can of course also pamper yourself. A three-star hotel costs almost the same as one with two stars. On average, prices start at €45 per night. A hotel with four stars can already be booked for €70.

Eat – A quick bite in Catania – a pizza or an arancino – doesn’t cost much more than €3 to €4. If you go to a restaurant you pay a little more of course. For a fresh pasta, at least €10 to €12 is charged, for a piece of fish or meat you pay at least €14. Do you also want to spoil yourself with a typical Italian dessert? Then count on €5 extra. Wine doesn’t cost very much either, often only €3 for a glass. But don’t forget that you can buy a bottle of (tasty!) wine for almost the same price.
Always remember that on top of your food and drinks, a ‘coperto’ is charged. A sort of mandatory tip which costs about €1.5 to €3 per person.

Transport – Catania may well be the second largest city in Sicily, but it’s not really gigantic. I don’t think you really need public transport. But if you still want to take the bus, you pay €1 for a ticket. You can buy these at small grocery stores, some bars or cafes, in the public transport shop in the city center or at some newspaper kiosks.
Everything is easy to do on foot, but of course you may still prefer to explore the city by bus. Would you like to commute to Etna by public transport? Then read this article.

Excursions – Catania is the perfect starting point to explore Mount Etna. A half day to this impressive volcano will cost you between €50 and €60. For the same price you can also visit Etna and Taormina in a full day. If you have enough time, I recommend to book an excursion to Agrigento. That is also possible for €50.
There are many more excursions or tours that depart from Catania. Curious? Check out the possibilities at GetYourGuide and / or Viator.

etna from catania

From Catania you can easily visit Mount Etna. This is somewhat feasible with public transport, but an excursion is much more comfortable.

 Saving money in Catania

Drink tap water – It can get very hot in Sicily. It’s therefore important that you drink enough water. Instead of buying new drinks every time, you can just fill up your bottle again. The tap water from Catania is perfectly drinkable and this is also better for the environment.

Stand up for coffee – Like everywhere in Italy, it’s cheaper to sip your coffee while standing up. Keep waiting at the bar until your coffee is ready and drink it there. Often you only pay €1. If you have a coffee addiction you can easily save dozens of euros!

Don’t stay too long – Catania is a nice stopover, but I don’t recommend staying there for a long time. Actually, two days are more than enough. You have certainly seen the city and its sights in half a day, and you don’t need much more than a half or full day to visit Mount Etna.

piazza universita catania

Once you see the Piazza Universita popping up, you have arrived in the center of the city.

  Things to do in Catania

Climb Mount Etna – Catania is only an hour away from Mount Etna. This allows you to plan a fun day trip to this active volcano from. The landscapes are phenomenally beautiful, and a climb on the black gravel makes for breathtaking panoramas of Sicily. Those who are not such great climbers can also get on top with the help of a jeep or the cable car, so you have no excuses to miss this attraction!

Taormina – The picturesque Taormina is often combined with a full-day excursion to Mount Etna. This small village is very cozy, but it’s especially the (huge!) Greek-Roman theater that is worth visiting. During the summer, outdoor concerts are organized here, but even if there are no performances, it’s nice to visit. You get a beautiful view of the sea that surrounds Sicily.

Giardino Bellini – There are several city parks in Catania, but the most beautiful (and the biggest one) is the Giardino Bellini. Especially in the weekends many locals come here to enjoy the peace and tranquility. In the middle of the park you’ll find a manicured hedge that represents the current month and the year. In the upper part of the park you can find a beautiful square with a pergola and a few benches. Sit yourself down and take in the Sicilian sun and get a nice tan.

Teatro Romano – The Roman empire has left many more amphitheaters than just the Coliseum of Rome! Hidden between houses, churches and walls are the remains of a small amphitheater. It’s a bit of a a search, but once you found the entrance, one of the most beautiful sights in Catania awaits.

La Pescheria – From Monday to Friday you can visit one of the nicest markets of Sicily in Catania. La Pescheria is an authentic fish market where hundreds of fish are being sold, all freshly caught. Even if you’re not a fan of fish, it’s still fun to walk around here. You just have to see those screaming salesmen and all of the locals with your own eyes!

The Cathedral of Catania – The Cathedral of Catania is undoubtedly the most beautiful building in Catania. This richly decorated building stands on one of the nicest squares in the city. Here you also see some other interesting sights of Catania (an elephant!), But the crowd pleaser remains the cathedral. Don’t just stare at it from the outside! Go in and see the excess.

Panoramic view from the Chiesa della Badia di Sant’Agata – The best view and the most beautiful sunset over Catania you get from the roof of this church. Also stop and take a look at the inside of this church, because it is quite charming too. There are two floors from where you can see Catania, but it’s mainly the top floor that gives the most beautiful panoramas.

Are you looking for more things to do in Catania? Then also read this article (with pictures!).

teatro romano catania

There is even a Roman theater in the middle of the houses, shops and squares! The Teatro Romano of Catania.

  Things not to do in Catania

Staying too long – Of course there are some things to see in Catania, but I wouldn’t stay much longer than two or three days. There is much more to see in Sicily and Catania isn’t very centrally located… After you have explored the city and climbed Mount Etna I would move on to your next destination.

Driving a car – I rented a car in Sicily, and I can recommend everyone to do the same. But… Avoid Catania! The drivers drive here are truly crazy!

Not planning your trip to Mount Etna – Mount Etna is a particularly popular attraction in Sicily. Whichever season it is. If you plan a trip by yourself, keep in mind that there is only one bus a day to and from Mount Etna. This bus is often crowded, so be on time.
If you prefer a little more comfort, then I recommend an excursion. But here too some planning applies: arrange your trip at least one or two days in advance to avoid disappointment.

catania churches

In the center you’ll find dozens, maybe even hundreds of churches!

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