Author name: Cserica

eastern sicily itinerary 5 days mount etna

The Ultimate Eastern Sicily Itinerary, From Catania in 5 days

Eastern Sicily is one of the most interesting areas to explore in Italy. Amazing natural wonders like the majestic Mount Etna or Alcantara Gorge are part of an incredible region that has so much to offer also under the cultural aspect. We planned our road trip on a 5 days stay, and this is our exact itinerary. You won’t find many beaches as we preferred climbing the slopes of an active volcano to a quiet day at the beach, fools aren’t we?!

Disclosure: is reader-supported. When you make a reservation through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission, at no extra cost for you. That will help me keep the blog up and running. Thank you!

In This Article

Eastern Sicily Road Trip

Before we start

I’m all for slow travel. I know it can be time and budget consuming, but I don’t really enjoy exploring a destination in a rush way (to give you and idea it took me 3 full days to visit the British Museum). With that said you could easily squeeze this itinerary in 3 days if you realize that you’re out of your budget.

Day 1 – Alcantara Gorge and Taormina

Over millennia Alcantara River created a canyon in the basaltic flows of Mount Etna. While exploring the gorge and admiring the view you can go up the river among the beautiful basalt columns. For a small fee you can also visit Alcantara Gorge Geological and Botanical Park. The best part of getting the access to the park is that you can admire the gorge from the natural terraces above the river.

If you want to learn more about exploring Alcantara Gorge check out our dedicated travel guide including how to get to there and the activities you can do.

alcantara gorge guide alcantara river basalt columns

Alcantara River runs nearby one of the most beloved destinations in Sicily : Taormina. Nestled on top of a promontory Taormina is ideal to spend half a day exploring. There are many excellent restaurants where you can eat and shops. If your budget allows it you may even spend the night there but be aware that Taormina can be pretty expensive.

Check out our best things to do in Taormina for planning your visit.

what to do in taormina greek roman theatre

Day 2 – Mount Etna’s North

When we decided to visit Eastern Sicily we chose Mount Etna to be the focus of our trip and spent two days there (check out our itinerary complete with tips and tricks). Honestly it was the best decision we could take not only as photographers but also as nature lovers. Mount Etna has a very unique landscape and we immediately fell in love with the environment.

Past this brief introduction, the second day of this Eastern Sicily itinerary is dedicated to Mount Etna’s North. Kick off your day by visiting Monti Sartorius. These hills are solidified lava flows from the late 19th centuries that are now partly covered with birches, at the right time you can find porcini mushrooms.

After Monti Sartorius get to Piano Provenzana and take the 4WD tour that will take you to 9500 ft/2900 mt. The best option for this excursion is the sunset 4WD tour. Honestly it is an unmatched experience I’ve felt that magic ambiance only a few times during my wanderings !

silhouettes against sunset on etna north summit craters
Sunset from Mount Etna’s summit crater in the North.

Day 3 – Mount Etna’s South

The southern area of Mount Etna is the tourist’s favorite and it has access to the highest point tourists can get to on Mount Etna at 3000 mt (9800 ft). Of course you will need a guided tour to get there as you may easily get lost and don’t forget that Etna is an active vulcano!

To get to the summit you will need to reach Sapienza Refuge, a nice area you can explore. For the faint of heart (literally) who cannot access the summit you can admire the inactive craters close to the cable car.

walking on the black lava dunes of mount etna

Day 4 – Baroque Tour in Noto and Ortigia (Syracuse)

After two days of outdoor adventures lets discover two beautiful baroque jewels: Noto and Ortigia (Syracuse’s island). Unless you are visiting during Noto famous flower festival, l’Infiorata, you can easily get the best of Noto in half a day.

Syracuse on the other hand is larger as there is the Neapolis Archaeological Park that showcases the ruins from the Hellenistic period. But if you are touring only Ortigia, half a day to discover the island is enough.

view of a baroque church at the end of a stair san nicolo cathedral in noto
San Nicolò Cathedral in Noto.

Day 5 – Catania and Aci Trezza beach

Last day or half day if you are taking the plane in the afternoon/evening you can wander in Catania chaotic streets. Catania is not a tourist city, you will probably perceive it as less appealing, and you are absolutely right, but it’s also more authentic than the other cities or towns on this itinerary.

Catania is an insight into Sicilian lifestyle, from the grey walled buildings (from Mount Etna’s ashes) to its markets, everything is less instagrammable but also real.

If you still have time check out Aci Trezza pebble beach nearby Catania, one of the most beautiful along the eastern coast.

cliffs on the coast nearby catania aci trezza

How to get to Eastern Sicily

Situated in the center of the Eastern coast, Catania airport is connected to several European cities including the two Italian international airports of Milan Malpensa and Rome Fiumicino. To check the best fare go on skyscanner and insert from “Catania Fontanarossa (CTN)” to “Everywhere” you will have all the companies and fares.

From there you can easily rent a car (check the best rates on Discovercars), or get around with public transports, although personally I’m less fan of this option in a region like Sicily.

Remember to don’t get to the airport last minute. Traffic can block the road to the airport, especially at 7-8 AM or 4-5 PM and of course during summer.

Where to stay

Because of its central position on the Eastern coast, I highly recommend staying in Catania or in one of the villages close by. If you have a car look for an accommodation on Etna slopes as it’s outside Catania’s chaotic traffic. If you chose to organize yourself with public transports and guided tours staying in Catania is very important as bus, trains, and tours start from there.

silhouette standing on a mountain with two other silhouettes far away on violet and orange sky monti sartorius at dawn mount etna
Mount Etna slopes at dawn.

Bring your sunscreen a good windy jacket and GO!

I haven’t mentioned it yet but Mount Etna can be quite cold and windy even during Summer, so don’t forget a warm jacket for your trekking. By the way don’t forget to check out the things to know before exploring Mount Etna it will help you plan your outfits.

Have you liked our Eastern Sicily itinerary? Sharing is caring!

The Ultimate Eastern Sicily Itinerary, From Catania in 5 days Read More »

view of promenade at sunset ortigia island walk to maniace castle

Discovering Ortigia: A Traveler’s Guide to Sicily’s Hidden Gem

Nestled off the coast of Sicily and less than an hour away from Catania, lies a hidden treasure worth discovering: Ortigia. Technically part of Syracuse, Ortigia is the oldest area of the city and the most interesting to see. What really “hit” me while visiting was the variety of the different buildings and architecture, they are almost like the pages of a book telling the city’s story. But Ortigia is also the delicious food and Sicilian culture that you can savor like the delicious torrone they sell on the streets.

Disclosure: is reader-supported. When you make a reservation through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission, at no extra cost for you. That will help me keep the blog up and running. Thank you!

In This Article

Planning a trip to Sicily?
Save money and time with the best companies!

✈️ Find the best flight deals on Skyscanner.
🏨 Looking for an accommodation? Booking is the place to go!
🎡 Add more emotions to your trip with GetYourGuide and Viator.
🚗 Need a car for your trip? Book the best one with Discover Cars.
📱 Avoid losing your connection by buying an eSim from Airalo.

How to get to Ortigia?

Most of the time I’m all about being independent and renting a car, but Ortigia can be quite difficult to reach especially during the high season so depending on the month you are visiting my advice will be:

  • From June to September if you are planning a day trip (from Catania for example) invest in a guided tour from there. They often include Noto as well and you won’t bother with finding parking for your car. In case you are planning to stay a full day or more look for accommodations that have parking slots or consider parking outside Ortigia and reach the old town on foot. Another less expensive option can be the train. The train station isn’t far from the bridge that connects Ortigia to the mainland.
  • From October to May there are less tourists, Italian schools are still open as well, and getting to Ortigia can be easier. But I don’t recommend getting with your car on the island, there are several LTZ and you will get a fine before you know it! Instead leave you car in the big parking called Molo Sant’Antonio in Bengasi street or nearby, Ortigia is only 5 minutes on foot. Price is 1,50€ (1,60$) or 17€ (18$) for the full day (updated April ’24).

Remember that during high season finding parking can be very difficult!

Things to do in Ortigia

Ortigia is rather small and distances aren’t very long, but if you need help navigating effectively the island I’ve prepared an helpful map so that you can get straight to the point. Although if you have time I also recommend getting lost around and savor la dolce vita Siciliana.

Admire the Ruins of the Temple of Apollo

Once you have crossed the bridge connecting Ortigia to the mainland you will find yourself into a tree-lined avenue where there are many kiosks preparing the famous granita siciliana.

Continuing straight ahead you will be facing the ruins of the once imposing Temple of Apollo, the oldest West Greek Doric temple dating back to the VI century BC. If you want to learn more about the temple and see a simulation of how it once was you should visit the Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi. The museum is very interesting to understand the origins and evolution of Syracuse through the centuries.

view of ruins of an old temple invaded by vegetation in the middle of a city temple of apollo on ortigia island

Stroll through the Historic Centre

After a few meters you will arrive to Archimede Square and Diana Fountain. From there on you will be in the bustling pedestrian area where the fun happens!

Food, souvenirs, clothes, and artisan shops await for tourists to empty their wallets (yes those are definitely tourist traps), but of course yielding to temptation isn’t always bad while traveling. And even if you won’t be buying you still can attend the exhibitions of culinary art. My favorite? The preparation of Sicilian torrone (see the picture below), one of my guilty pleasures during our trip.

hands cutting a long torrone made of pistachio and nuts torrone siciliano manufacturing in ortigia

Visit Syracuse Cathedral once the Temple of Athena

Syracuse Cathedral is an elegant Baroque church that has a very interesting story. In fact the cathedral hides the Greek temple of Athena built in 480 BC to celebrate the victory over Carthage. You can see the ancient columns of the temple inside the church’s walls.

Following the fall of the Greek civilization the temple became a byzantine church, a mosque during the Arab’s domination, and finally a catholic church.

Foodie’s tip: Try the granita siciliana al pistacchio (pistachio flavor) at one of the several bars in front of the cathedral. It was completely worth the wait, one of the best things I’ve tested in Sicily!

baroque cathedral side view of the portal Syracuse Cathedral once the Temple of Athena on ortigia island

See the Legendary Arethusa Spring

Last stop before the promenade is a place that gave life to several myths and legends: Arethusa Spring. Besides the legend what makes the source unique is the fact that it’s a freshwater source a few meters from the Ionian Sea. The location is very quiet and can be a great spot for admiring sunset.

The legend of Arethusa Spring

Alpheus, son of Oceanos, fell madly in love with Arethusa while he saw her bathing naked. To escape Alpheus advances Arethusa took refuge on the island of Ortigia where in order to help her, Artemis transformed her in a spring. Alpheus was heartbroken, so Zeus turned him into the river that feeds the source.

view of a large pool with trees inside it and high walls around ortigia arethusa spring eastern sicily

Enjoy the Promenade and Maniace Castle

Ortigia’s promenade is a rather narrow pedestrian street lined with bars and restaurants. I highly recommend enjoying an aperitivo while admiring sunset.

But first head to Maniace Castle at the end of the promenade. The 13th century castle is strategically situated on the last stretch of land of Ortigia. The castle was built under the domination of Frederick II and named after the byzantine commander Giorgio Maniace (998-1043).

Quite surprisingly the castle stayed a military area until the 2000s. Nowadays you can visit it everyday (except for Sunday) from 8.30 AM to 4.30 PM.

Photo by Misterchry82, license.

Things to do nearby Ortigia, in Syracuse

Even though Ortigia is the most important and touristy part to visit, I recommend visiting also Neapolis Archaeological Park. The park covers a vast area and you can admire the ruins of ancient Greek buildings. Down below you will find my top recommendations if you are on a schedule and don’t have full time to visit.

Ear of Dionysius

This artificial cave was created by the extraction of the stone used to build the temples and theatre nearby. The cave is 75 feet (23 mt) high and from 16 to 22 feet (5 to 7 mt) large.

The name Ear of Dionysius was given by the Italian painter Caravaggio when he learned that Dionysius I of Syracuse used the cave as a prison to listen to the prisoners talk from afar.

Legend or not the cave has an impressive acoustic and you can hear many people enjoying themselves singing and shouting. The cave can be dark inside because of the lack of illumination, you may need your phone’s flashlight.

cave in a rock wall ear of dionysius syracuse
Photo by Isiwal, license.

Greek Theatre

After seeing Taormina’s Greek Theatre you may be disappointed, but eve, if it’s less well preserved, Syracuse Greek Theatre is still very interesting and during summer there are several events hosted there.

FAQ about Ortigia

Is it worth visiting Ortigia?

Absolutely! Strolling among the narrow streets of Ortigia is a MUST of Eastern Sicily. It could be because the artisan shops, the Baroque buildings, or the delicious treats, Ortigia is truly surprising, especially if you think that the island is only about 0.600 miles (1 km) long and less than a half wide.

view of a square with baroque buildings

How many days should I spend in Ortigia?

One day is more than enough. As I said distances aren’t long and you can easily go through all the viewpoints of our list in half a day including a lunch or aperitivo pause. You can even couple Syracuse island with Noto as a day trip from Catania.

Exploring Eastern Sicily

Are you planning a trip to Eastern Sicily? From the basaltic columns of Alcantara Gorge to the majestic heights of Mount Etna there is a WORLD to discover! Check out our 5 day itinerary for more ideas.

We also write about Italy’s other region, check them out on our dedicated page.

Have you liked our Ortigia Travel Guide? Sharing is caring!

Discovering Ortigia: A Traveler’s Guide to Sicily’s Hidden Gem Read More »

catania monastero san niccolo larena monastery

The Best Things to do in Catania

Unlikely many other coastal cities, you may find Catania less appealing than Siracusa or Palermo. For this reason the visit to the second largest city in Sicily can be easily done in a day. With that said, I honestly appreciated visiting Catania because of its authenticity. Unlike Taormina or Noto, Catania doesn’t live on tourism, therefore I find it more revealing of Sicilian culture. So without further delay let’s see which are the best things to do in Catania!

Disclosure: is reader-supported. When you make a reservation through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission, at no extra cost for you. That will help me keep the blog up and running. Thank you!

In This Article

Planning a trip to Sicily?
Save money and time with the best companies!

✈️ Find the best flight deals on Skyscanner.
🏨 Looking for an accommodation? Booking is the place to go!
🎡 Add more emotions to your trip with GetYourGuide and Viator.
🚗 Need a car for your trip? Book the best one with Discover Cars.
📱 Avoid losing your connection by buying an eSim from Airalo.

Visit Sant’Agata Cathedral and Admire the View

Situated in the city’s center, Sant’Agata Cathedral is a jewel from the Baroque period. The interiors are richly decorated and absolutely worth admiring.

For a small fee I highly recommend going on top of the Cathedral to admire the 360° view. You can see the city, the coast, and of course the majestic Mount Etna.

catania view of sant'agata cathedral

Sit by the Elephant Fountain in Duomo Square

In front of Sant’Agata Cathedral stands the Elephant Fountain. The monument takes its name from the elephant statue made from lava stone that supports an obelisk.

The origin of the statue is mysterious to this day. The first testimonies of the statue are from the 11-12th century, and in 1239 the elephant officially became the symbol of the city.

After an earthquake the fountain was renovated and the obelisk was located on the elephant’s back. The origin of the obelisk is unknown as well, even if people says it was probably from an ancient Roman Circus.

Why is the elephant the symbol of Catania?

There are several myths and hypothesis around the choice of this animal. One of them says that the elephant became the symbol of Catania when the Libyan army was defeated in a battle and their elephants were captured.

catania elephant fountain piazza duomo

Explore the Fish Market

While getting to the fish market from Duomo Square, take a moment to appreciate the Amenano Fountain. The fountain was created in 1867 by Tito Angelini using the water of the underground river Amenano in one of the few spots where it’s on the surface.

The fish market (pescheria) is one of the busiest and most colorful area in Catania. I’d couple it with a visit to the markets nearby to buy some of the delicious Sicilian food, especially if you visit on your last day.

The fish market is open from Monday to Saturday and from 8 AM to 2 PM.

catania fish market pescheria

Visit the Monastery and the Church of San Nicolò l’Arena

Today the beautiful monastery built in the 16th century hosts the University of Catania. You can visit the decorated interiors and the cloisters. The cover picture is the interior of the university.

Next to the monastery you’ll see a bizarre building. I dare say bizarre because Saint Nicolò l’Arena Church is unfinished! Its front facade has half built columns and the roof is clearly missing. But don’t let the exterior aspect fool you. Inside, it houses a large collection of art and beautifully decorated rooms.

For a small fee you can climb on top and enjoy the view on Catania.

catania chiesa san niccolo larena church

Villa Bellini and its Gardens

A green oasis in the center of Catania, Villa Bellini has one of the most beautiful gardens in the city. When visiting you can’t skip the gazebo with a view on Mount Etna.

The park is very popular and often crowded, but it’s absolutely nice for a walk. Fun to see: there is a large hedge that is cut in form of the current year and month.

view of a park with stairs villa bellini
Photo by Matthias Süßen. License.

Take a Street Food Tour

Arancini, panelle, sfincioni, and many more! If you are a foodie don’t miss the opportunity to take a street food tour. Taking place nearby the market, thanks to the street food tour you will have the chance to learn more about the delicious Sicilian cuisine while also eating it.

Looking for a food tour? On Viator and GetYourGuide there are several. The one I recommend you is this one from Streaty that has the best reviews on both sites and TripAdvisor.

colorful umbrella hanging on a street full of restaurants in catania street food tour

A few extra things to do close to Catania

Catania is strategically situated and if you rent a car (we always rent ours on Discover Cars) in no time you can visit one of the places below. For those of you who don’t want to drive, I’ll put the links for the guided tours at the end of each activity.

Enjoy the Sea in Aci Trezza

A few kilometers in Catania’s North, you will find the three Aci’s town (Aci was the name of an ancient river in the area): Aci Castello, Aci Trezza and Acireale. In the last few years Aci Trezza, a fishing village, has become an important seaside tourist location.

What I loved the most about the beach were the cliffs! The legend says that the eight large rocks were thrown by Polyphemus while trying to kill Ulysses when he managed to escape from his cave.

Legend or not, the charm of this coastal trait is undeniable and if you can visit it during sunset that’s definitely a plus, I mean just look at the colors down below!

cliffs on the coast nearby catania aci trezza

Go Hike Mount Etna

Towering on Catania with its threatening smoke, the majestic Mount Etna was the best part of our trip. I loved exploring its gentle slopes and craters, and walking amid its black dunes was one of my favorite experiences.

Exploring Mount Etna is one of the most exciting activities in Sicily, for this reason I highly recommend taking two full days to explore it, and you can find our detailed guide to plan your trip here. But if you don’t have the time, check out one day/half day tours from Catania on Viator and GetYourGuide. Or if you have a car you can check out our one day on Mount Etna program here.

mount etna north summit

Explore Alcantara Gorge

Alcantara Gorge is an impressive canyon carved by the Alcantara River, in the middle of the basalt rocks that Mount Etna expelled during the centuries. In some traits the canyon walls go up to 100 ft (30 mt) creating an impressive landscape.

On Viator and GetYourGuide there are a few tours that combine Mount Etna with Alcantara Gorge, I honestly don’t advise you to choose those tours as I think that both visits in a day are rushed. I wrote a detailed guide that will help you plan your trip including the fun activities you can do (river trekking, body rafting).

alcantara gorge guide view from terraces alcantara river

FAQ about Catania

How long should I stay in Catania?

You can easily see all the best Catania offers in a day and even half a day. It’s a comfort visit to kill time before catching planes, or an ideal base to explore the surroundings, especially if you are traveling by car.

Is Catania worth visiting?

This is a tough question because I don’t like diminishing the value of a city, but I’m also always brutally honest. So let’s say that Catania’s center is nice to visit if you have an half day before catching the plane to occupy.

Otherwise explore the amazing natural wonders around Mount Etna and Alcantara Gorge and the cute cities and villages nearby Siracusa, Noto, Taormina.

Explore Eastern Sicily

I loved exploring Eastern Sicily. People, culture, food, and landscapes are incredible. For those of you who like slow travel you will love it! It’s simply another jewel in Italy, by the way are you planning a trip to Italy? I’m a native from Tuscany and if you are searching for more inspiration to discover my amazing country check out our italian itineraries and guides!

Have you liked our selection of things to do in Catania? Sharing is caring!

The Best Things to do in Catania Read More »

person standing in front of mount etna crater emitting smoke

Visiting Mount Etna, the Ultimate Guide

Mount Etna is the most active stratovolcano (conical volcano like Fuji and Vesuvio) in the world! In fact it produces so much lava and rocks that in 2021 its height increased by 100 ft (30 mt). Now as you can imagine, planning a trip to visit a volcano that is so active can be tough. You may be unlucky (or lucky, depending from your point of view) and find yourself in the middle of an eruption with limited access to the mount. Even in that case I think it will be an awesome experience as you will witness lava flows from afar. So let’s what to expect when visiting Mount Etna and how to perfectly plan your experience!

The itinerary I present is perfect for a 2 days trip during the period from May to October.

If you only have one day skip to “the best of Mount Etna in one day”. Between November and April there is often snow on the summit and many tours and excursions are unavailable. On the other hand you can ski!

Disclosure: is reader-supported. When you make a reservation through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission, at no extra cost for you. That will help me keep the blog up and running. Thank you!

In This Article

Where to stay?

It depends. If you are renting a car (as we did with Discover Cars), you can stay in one of the many villages on the volcano’s slopes, for example Pedara, Viagrande (where we stayed), or Zafferana Enea. This was the best choice for us as we wanted to be autonomous and get there at dawn. As a photographer I can’t recommend enough visiting in the early hours as the colors and atmosphere are absolutely magical, but I’ll let you judge from my photos!

In case you prefer to travel with public transports, you can choose an accommodation in Catania. There are buses doing the route to Rifugio Sapienza (Hut Sapienza) daily, and the guided tours from Viator and GetYourGuide often start from there also.

Check out the best accommodations in the area on

mount etna rifugio sapienza

Things to know before visiting Mount Etna

Dress for an expert-type-of hike

I know you’re probably thinking I’m packing for Sicily right? Flip flops, sunscreen, and a hat. And yet don’t forget:

  • Good hiking boots, possibly high ankle, they will protect you from gravels entering in your shoes.
  • A hat to protect you from the sun. Ideally a boonie hat that will not fly away with the wind. Note that when taking a guided tour you will have an helmet when acceding to a certain altitude.
  • Dress warmly and comfortably. You don’t need to bring your Artic jacket but remember that it’s chill.

Good to know: rent a jacket.

When you are visiting the Northern area in Piano Provenzana, you will find several souvenir shops, many of them also rent jackets and trekking equipment.

At Rifugio Sapienza (Etna’s South gate) you can rent a fleece lined jacket, boots, and socks. I rented their jacket and it was very clean warm and comfortable. Check their website for more info and prices.

silhouette standing on lava black dune on mount etna

Bring high calorie snacks and stay hydrated

You’ll spend a great amount of energies on these treks, so forget about your strict diet and treat yourself with some chocolate, energy bars, granola, etc… You’ll need the energy boost!

Also don’t forget water in quantity. If you have a refillable bottle you can ask for tap water at the refuges.

On a side note, use the restroom whenever you have the chance. There won’t be many chances to have pit stops past 6500 ft (2000 mt).

Don’t underestimate the altitude

Inexperienced hikers will find it very difficult to keep up with the tour guides. Don’t be afraid to ask a break or rest a little. Try to save your energies the best that you can, especially during lunch breaks. I would have loved to explore a bit during this time, but I’m glad I chose to rest instead.

Also and most important, if you are visiting the summit you have to cope with low oxygen levels in the particular atmosphere of the volcano. I don’t mean to discourage you, but listen to your body.

mount etna north summit

If you are visiting autonomously

There are a few areas that you can visit and hike on your own. Although to visit the summit, you must take part into a guided tour. When you are exploring on you own respect the signalization and panels, even if you may see other people (and I saw a few myself) not respecting the restrictions.

Also take into account distances, on the map everything seem so close and easily attainable, but it will take you much more in reality because of the elevation gain and sometimes even the weather can be unhelpful.

Visit Mount Etna by area: the North

Monti Sartorius

Start very early in the morning if you want to catch dawn from Monti Sartorius, to get there from the villages on the Etna’s slopes will take you about an hour. From Zafferana Enea reach Milo municipality and take road Mareneve (lit. Sea snow). There is a parking area where you can leave your car and go on the trail.

Monti Sartorius are relatively new to the landscape as they created during Etna’s eruption in 1865. Birches cover some areas creating a small forest where you may even find porcini!

The loop trail is very easy, it will take you about an hour and a half to get to the starting point, and you will be gifted with amazing views of the surroundings (Taormina, Ionio Sea, Calabria coast).

silhouette standing on a mountain with two other silhouettes far away on violet and orange sky monti sartorius at dawn mount etna

Rifugio Citelli and the Big Bench

Back on the road have a stop by Rifugio Citelli (remember the use the restroom tip?), there is a large selection of excellent sandwiches for your lunch, and you can have breakfast if you have followed my advice of getting up before dawn.

Our next stop is Piano Provenzana, but before getting there you can stop at the Big Bench to take a picture in the middle of the volcanic landscape (these are the coordinates). The bench is just few meters after the detour to Piano Provenzana.

red big bench in piano provenzana on lava fields

Piano Provenzana

There are several trails starting from Piano Provenzana. You can find more info about each trail including the caves in the area in this website on Piano Provenzana. The area is very nice to explore, but with limited time I highly recommend to take a guided tour on the impressive 4WD buses.

Tours on Etna’s summit are possible only with special buses, that will bring you to 9500 ft (2900 mt). The landscape is insane, otherworldly! From May until mid October you have the possibility to take a sunset guided tour.

unimog 4WD buses piano provenzana mount etna

4WD Bus Tour to Etna North summit

First stop of the adventurous 4WD tour are the craters created from the eruptions of 1809 and 2002. Besides admiring the amazing view you can also walk on the craters border, it’s completely safe.

Then you’ll get at 9500 ft/2900 mt where the Volcano Observatory is situated. Overlooking Valle del Leone (Lion’s Valley), the observatory rise above centuries of different lava flows in a landscape that reminds sea as if it was sculpted on stone.

In front of the observatory you can admire the active South-East crater that it’s always emitting smoke, and if you are very lucky you may safely witness an eruption of lava.

Check availability/book the 4WD tour

volcano observatory on etna north

Sunset optional excursion

It’s slightly more expensive, but I absolutely recommend you to take the sunset tour to admire the sunset from the summit. We took this tour and never regretted the extra money, just like at dawn, the atmosphere is simply magical!

The tour below isn’t rated yet on getyourguide but it’s the one we took and it’s a 100% worth it!

Check availability/book the sunset 4WD tour

silhouettes against sunset on etna north summit craters

And this would make it for a very exciting and long first day. I can guarantee you that you won’t have any problem sleeping unless you have cramps, maybe stretch a little bit before going to bed. 😉

Etna South

Valle del Bove

Kick off the day with an easy trekking called Schiena d’Asino (Donkey’s back). The trek will give you access to Valle del Bove (Ox Valley) one of the few areas of Mount Etna where you can see very ancient lava flows mixing with new.

If you prefer to save your energies for the challenging hike to the summit, there is a panoramic point, close to the parking, where you can admire part of the valley.

valle del bove lava flows on mount etna north

Rifugio Sapienza

Rifugio Sapienza is the gate to Etna South. There are the meeting points of many tours, several restaurants, and quite surprisingly even two hotels! If you are on a budget Rifugio Sapienza Hotel, have simple and clean rooms. While for treating yourself consider the beautiful Corsaro Etna Hotel and Spa.

Why am I mentioning hotels? If you are spending a full day on Etna South, this can be a nice alternative to staying in Catania or on Etna’s slopes. Although don’t forget it takes time to get up there.

Crateri Silvestri and Crateri Silvestri Superiori

Created after an eruption that lasted 6 months, Crateri Silvestri are one of the most crowded areas on Mount Etna as they can easily reached from Rifugio Sapienza.

There is a second series of craters called Crateri Silvestri Superiori, that you can reach in about 30 minutes. I really loved the short walk as there are some yellow bushes dotting the black ground.

crateri silvestri on mount etna

Cable car

The cable car is a 15 minutes ride to the Bar Etna’s Cable Car. The price is 50€ (54$) for adults and 30€ (32$) for children from 5 to 10. You can find more info about the opening hours on Funivia Etna official website.

From there you can either hike to the craters (only with a professional guide) or take a 4WD to get to 3000 mt (9800 ft).

Summit craters

READ THIS CAREFULLY: The excursion to the summit craters is highly discouraged for people who are not fit, who have health problems and especially heart problems.

With that said the final hike to Etna’s summit is quite extraordinary! The landscape as you can imagine is unique. The guides who are trained professional have a quick pace and you have to keep up with them to listen the explanations about Mongibello (Etna’s nickname).

Remember to bring food, or you can also buy it at Rifugio Sapienza before taking the cable car.

Check availability/book the summit tour

mount etna south summit crater emitting smoke

ATV Tour

From Rifugio Sapienza you can rent an ATV for a 1 hour and a half / 2 hours tour. You’ll be driving mostly on the paved road, don’t expect to go a lot higher than Rifugio Sapienza. It’s still a nice and fun activity, but I’d recommend it less than visiting the summit craters.

Check availability/book the ATV tour

atv at rifugio sapienza

Piano Vetore

After taking the cable car back to Rifugio Sapienza you can visit Piano Vettore and explore the area of lava flows covered by vegetation. If you are exploring on your own be careful, getting lost there it’s easier than it may seem!

The Best of Mount Etna in one day

In case you are on a tight schedule and have only one day for Mount Etna I recommend you to rent a car and dedicate your morning to the exploration of Rifugio Sapienza surroundings and Crateri Silvestri, including the superiors.

While on the second part of the day head to Piano Provenzana and take the sunset 4WD tour. This is an ideal day even for less fit travelers.

walking on the black lava dunes of mount etna

Planning a trip to Eastern Sicily?

Visiting Mount Etna was one of the highlights of an unforgettable trip to Eastern Sicily. Need an idea for your itinerary? Couple the two days with exploring Alcantara Gorge, and visiting Taormina, Siracusa, Noto, and Catania.

Have you liked our Mount Etna guide? Sharing is caring!

Visiting Mount Etna, the Ultimate Guide Read More »

what to do in taormina greek roman theatre

What to do in Taormina, Ionio’s Pearl

Taormina is without a doubt one of the most beautiful seaside villages in Italy! Strategically located, you can get in no time to Catania, Messina and enjoy and adventurous trek on mount Etna or the mesmerizing landscape of Alcantara Gorge (my favorite!). The village has a lot to see and do for every type of traveler, so let’s see which are the best things to do in Taormina.

Disclosure: is reader-supported. When you make a reservation through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission, at no extra cost for you. That will help me keep the blog up and running. Thank you!

In This Article

Planning a trip to Sicily?
Save money and time with the best companies!

✈️ Find the best flight deals on Skyscanner.
🏨 Looking for an accommodation? Booking is the place to go!
🎡 Add more emotions to your trip with GetYourGuide and Viator.
🚗 Need a car for your trip? Book the best one with Discover Cars.
📱 Avoid losing your connection by buying an eSim from Airalo.

Visit the Greek Theatre

I’ve seen many ancient theaters around the Mediterranean Sea, including the nearby of Syracuse, but with certitude I can say that Taormina’s Greek theatre is probably my favorite. Why? Because of the beautiful view on the Sicilian coast and of course mount Etna.

The theatre was built around the III century BC, then Romans restored it a few centuries after. Nowadays the location has preserved its undeniable charme and is definitely a must see when visiting eastern Sicily.

Our tip? Come admire the sunset from there. The ancient ruins with mount Etna behind and the sun setting behind makes it an unforgettable experience!

what to do in taormina greek roman theatre

Explore the Village

Surprisingly Taormina’s center isn’t on sea level. Very close to the Greek Theatre, it’s where the magic happens, artisan shops and typical restaurants are only a part of the charm of this lovely burg.

Even though tourism in Sicily is often associated with summer for its wonderful beaches, Taormina lives of autonomous life. Thanks to its beauty and worldliness, the village is very popular throughout the year.

If you are spending the night in Taormina you will have also many chance to find a good hotel there.

what to do in taormina seen from the greek theatre

Stroll in Corso Umberto I

Where the magic happens! Corso Umberto I is the lively and colorful street that connects Porta Messina to Porta Catania, the burg’s gates. It’s where you will find all the shops and restaurants (have I mentioned the artisan gelato yet? We loved it!).

Along this road you will also find many of the must-visit attractions in Taormina, let’s see them!

Admire Piazza XXV Aprile

Celebrating the end of WWII, Piazza 25 Aprile (Square April 25) is the beating heart of Taormina. Situated along Corso Umberto I, the square is framed by iconic buildings: the baroque church of San Giuseppe, the clock tower, and the former church of Saint Augustine that now hosts a public library.

I haven’t mentioned its strength yet: the panoramic terrace that has a breathtaking view on the surroundings.

what to do in taormina piazza 25 aprile clock tower

See the Duomo di Taormina

The very imposing Duomo of Taormina may look more as a fortress than a church. Built in the 12th century, during the century it has been renovated many times. The beautiful entrance dates back to the first half of 1600.

Some historians say that the Duomo has a piece of the Greek theatre. In fact the six columns sustaining the nave were probably taken from the theater of Taormina. When exploring the duomo search for the Byzantine Madonna, a beautiful Eastern-Orthodox-style oil painted icon.

The thing I loved the most about this church? Even though the duomo is in a tourist location, there are many religious services taking place there, and if you are lucky enough you may witness a fabulous Sicilian wedding.

what to do in taormina duomo

Visit Isola Bella

Did you know? Isola Bella literally means Beautiful Island in Italian. This little promontory is connected to mainland by a short stretch of land, which is one of the most famous beaches in the area. Although I won’t recommend it if you are visiting the area from June to September (yes I know that’s a long period), but there are many many locals and tourists and finding a spot may be difficult.

On the island there is a villa that you can visit for a small fee and get the access to the panoramic terraces, the view is very nice from up there.

what to do in taormina isola bella

Wander in the Public Garden

Taormina’s public gardens are in a beautiful area nearby the Greek Theatre. The shadowed walk is a nice break after a day spent at the beach or a getaway from the crowded center of Taormina.

The gardens have beautiful views on the Southern coast and mount Etna. It’s another great spot to admire the sunset.

what to do in taormina public garden
Photo of the beehive house inside the public garden by Merlijn Hoek.

Visit Alcantara Gorge and Mount Etna

I highly recommend visiting Mount Etna and Alcantara Gorge (the links are to our specific guides) on two separate days and on your own so that you have more time to truly appreciate these incredible natural wonders.

With that said if your time on the Eastern cost is limited there are some excursions from Taormina, that will let you briefly see both locations. This full day Mount Etna and Alcantara Gorge tour includes an excellent lunch and wine tasting in addition to picking you up from the hotel you’ll be staying.

alcantara gorge guide alcantara river basalt columns

Sail on a boat tour

The crystalline waters of the Ionian Sea are full of sea creatures (like dolphins) and the landscapes are amazing. Sailing on a boat tour to explore the natural caves, snorkel amid the fishes, or simply taste good wine and food can be an excellent idea to see the coast from another point of view.

As I mentioned above, Taormina is perched on a hill. The meeting points of the boat tours are either in nearby Giardini di Naxos (see the dolphins tour or the White Lotus tour) or on the beaches in the North of Taormina (check out this 3 hours tour with wine and food tasting), just remember that when you’re booking.

Take a Cooking Class

Italian cuisine is often considered one of the best in the world. But did you know it’s very regional? Sicilian cuisine is a stratification of all the different cultures that over the centuries crossed the island.

Learning to cook some of the traditional dishes is a great experience to also connect with locals while having fun. Which dish would you like to cook?

pasta fresca cooking class

Go on a Shopping Spree

I just can’t end this post without talking about the colorful local shops selling sweets, food, and traditional crafts. Whether you are buying souvenirs or not they are a joy for the eyes, or the mouth!

My favorite food to try? As an Italian I can safely say that Sicilian sweets and pastries are among the best (and most caloric!) in the world, just try cannoli siciliani, you’ll thank me later! 😉

A worth buying souvenir? If you have enough place in your luggage I absolutely loved the ceramic Moorish heads and the legend related to them. Another great idea may be an object crafted from lava stone.

In short – The legend of the Moorish Heads

The legend tells that a Moore merchant coming to Sicily fell in love with a girl. Their love was very passionate but the Moore had a family waiting for him back to the East. When the girl found out she cut her lover’s head and used it as a vase for basil.

Watered by her tears the basil grew so strong that the girl’s neighbors started being jealous. Ignoring the real origin of the vase they asked ceramists to replicate the wonderful head-shaped vase.

FAQ about Taormina

How long should I stay in Taormina?

A full day is enough to visit the main attractions and enjoy Taormina’s lifestyle, unless you want to spend more time on the neighboring beaches. The village is ideal to explore Sicily’s Eastern coast because of its central position, in no time you can be in Messina, Mount Etna, or Catania. Although accommodations might be more expensive than in other neighboring locations.

Is Taormina worth visiting?

I really understand all the hype for this charming village, it’s one of the cutest in Sicily, and I’m a sucker for the views! So yes, it is worth visiting even just for the ancient theatre and a stroll on Corso Umberto.

One last word about the Ionio’s Pearl

That’s right Taormina’s nickname is la perla dello Ionio (Ionio’s Pearl) one more reason to visit it right? Are you planning a trip to Eastern Sicily? Steal our 5 days itinerary! And don’t forget to check out our Travel Guides about Italy, we divided them by region to make your research easier.

Have you liked this post? Sharing is caring!

What to do in Taormina, Ionio’s Pearl Read More »

alcantara gorge guide tourist walking in alcantara river

Alcantara Gorge, Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting

Alcantara gorge is one of the most astonishing places I’ve visited in Italy! I immediately thought of the Giant’s Causeway (in Northern Ireland) because of the basaltic walls where the river runs its course. And yet this otherworldly landscape is just a few kilometers away from Catania in Eastern Sicily. Exploring this wonderful canyon is one of the highlights of a trip to Sicily. But how do you prepare your visit and what should you expect? Don’t worry I’ve got you covered with this helpful travel guide.

Disclosure: is reader-supported. When you make a reservation through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission, at no extra cost for you. That will help me keep the blog up and running. Thank you!

In This Article

Planning a trip to Sicily?
Save money and time with the best companies!

✈️ Find the best flight deals on Skyscanner.
🏨 Looking for an accommodation? Booking is the place to go!
🎡 Add more emotions to your trip with GetYourGuide and Viator.
🚗 Need a car for your trip? Book the best one with Discover Cars.
📱 Avoid losing your connection by buying an eSim from Airalo.

How to get there?

The easiest way to get there is with a car (we rented ours on Discover Cars). Whether you are traveling from the national road SS114 or the highway A18, also called E45, take the exit Giardini di Naxos (Naxos Garden) from there go on SS185 towards Motta Camastra. The two gates to the river and the different guided tours and activities are along the road.

With public transport you can get to Naxos by train from Messina or Catania, there are 3 main bus companies doing the journey to Motta Camastra, the stop to the gorges. You can find their time schedules and buy the tickets online on their websites: Etnatrasporti, AST and SAIS (their website is also in English).

alcantara gorge guide alcantara river

Two ways to Visit Alcantara Gorge

There are two different ways to visit the Alcantara Gorge: the Geological and Botanical Park (entry fee) or the communal access from the beach (small entry fee).

Alcantara Gorge Geological and Botanical Park

Website: Gole Alcantara.
Opening hours: the park is open all year long from 8.30 AM to 7 PM.

When visiting the park, you can choose among many formulas let’s see them:

  • Basic, you can visit the MOL (Museum of Land) and learn more about the origin of this canyon. Then you can take the lift to the beach and go up the river for a trait among the beautiful basalt columns.
  • Walking, includes the access to the botanical park and the terraces from where you can observe the gorge from above. As a photographer I absolutely loved this formula and many of the pictures in the article were taken during this walk. Obviously after the park you can also take the lift to the beach and go up the river just like the “Basic” formula. This itinerary is pretty easy and you can enter/exit multiple times in a day.
  • Shuttle tour, similar to the Walking tour but instead of walking there is an electric shuttle that brings you through the botanical garden.
  • River trekking, after getting dressed in a waterproof overalls you will explore the gorge with guides. Note that you can easily go up the river without this particular equipment or the guides.
  • Body rafting, this is one of the funniest activities, but you must be in a good physical shape. Guided by professional rescuers you will go up the river equipped with an helmet, a wetsuit, a life jacket, and neoprene shoes. To go back to the entry you will let the river waters carry you among rocks, rapids, and waterfalls.

Our choice? I highly recommend to visit the Park and take the Walking Pass. The botanical garden is very pleasant and there are many view points to admire the Alcantara Gorge from above.

alcantara gorge guide view from terraces alcantara river

The communal access from the beach to Alcantara Gorge

The final part of Alcantara Gorge is accessible also from a stair that has a moderate difficulty. To get the access there is an entry fee of about 2$, about 1/4 of the ticket price to access from the lifts.

From the beach and going up the river you can admire the last part of the gorge that is over 30 meters high.

Tours and Activities on the Alcantara River

Body rafting

Body rafting is a fun and adventurous activity you can try while discovering the Alcantara river. If you are not familiar with this activity you are basically canoeing among the river rapids but without a canoe! It’s less dangerous than it sounds. 😉

The equipment needed (helmet, wetsuit, neoprene shoes, and life jacket) is provided by the activity sellers. And your guides are professional rescuers.

You can either do this activity with the body rafting formula of the park or with one of the many providers nearby.

alcantara gorge guide body rafting alcantara river

The advantage of booking with an external company is that they have the transport to Alcantara river included if you haven’t rented a car. But of course it’s more expensive than if you were booking from inside the park.

You can book your activity upon arrival or online, but I highly recommend to book in advance as during the tourist season you may find everything booked. On getyourguide there are three different body rafting experiences:

  • Alcantara Gorge body rafting I think is best one for testing this experience. You are inside Alcantara Canyon among the basalt walls. The activity lasts about an hour and costs 53$.
  • Alcantara River body rafting takes part in another point of the river outside the canyon. There are large lava stones but the scenery is less spectacular than inside the canyon. The activity lasts about 2 hours and costs 49$.
  • A third option includes body rafting on the Alcantara river (outside the canyon) and lunch with wine. This option is very costly due to the transport included from Taormina, Messina and Catania. The cost of this tour is 273$.

ATV Tour

The ATV tour runs along the river side and will let you discover natural landscapes and admire the river from view points. There are two options: with the first one you will drive for about 50 minutes escorted by a guide (81$). The alternative is a 2 hours drive (142$).

alcantara gorge guide alcantara river basalt columns

Things to Know Before Visiting Alcantara Gorge

The most important thing to know when planning to visit is considering the season. During rainy weeks (mainly in Winter), the beach disappears and going up the river get very difficult. Winter season is also when most of the activities aren’t available.

Walking in Alcantara Gorge is an amazing experience, just remember that the water is very cold all year long. I got used to the temperature after a couple minutes but after one hour my feet and legs were freezing!

Personally I went barefoot and even if it’s completely doable, consider bringing neoprene shoes. I got used to pebbles but you may prefer having your feet protected. Naturally if you are doing a guided visit in the canyon, the shoes and equipment is provided.

Where to Stay?

When visiting Catania I highly recommend go trekking on Etna, Sicily’s active volcano. In this case you can stay in one of the accommodations on Etna’s slopes, don’t worry it’s completely safe! On booking search for Etna (or click on the link and you’ll get there), and zoom in the northern area above Catania closer to Etna.

Alcantara river is closer to Taormina (in the city’s South) so you can look for accommodations in Pedara, Viagrande (where we stayed), or Zafferana Enea that are closer to the trek on the volcano.

If you don’t want to go on mount Etna look for accommodations in Taormina, one of the loveliest seaside villages in Italy.

alcantara gorge guide basalt columns alcantara river

One last word about Alcantara Gorge

Even though it’s not as famous as some of the most beautiful basalt columns around the world, Alcantara Gorge has nothing to envy to these most famous landscapes. And one of the things I loved the most about it is that you get to explore it while walking in the river’s water. Quite unique! Are you planning a trip to Eastern Sicily? We stayed for 5 days and loved everything about it!

Have you liked this post? Sharing is caring!

Alcantara Gorge, Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Read More »

buda castle funicular most instagrammable places in budapest

The 30 Best Places to See in Budapest (Sorted by Area)

There countless charming locations and lovely places to see in Budapest. Art nouveau buildings, parks, castles, and bridges just to name a few. In this practical guide I’ll give you the most famous and unmissable locations to visit divided by geographical area: Buda, the hills on the western part of the Danube, Pest on the other side, the area around Park Varosliget, and the 7th District the Jewish quarter. Along with a few must mention areas that are outside the above mentioned.

Disclosure: is reader-supported. When you make a reservation through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission, at no extra cost for you. That will help me keep the blog up and running. Thank you!

In This Article

Buda Hill

Chain Bridge

Also known as Széchenyi Chain Bridge, to honor count Istvan Széchenyi, one of the main supporters to the construction, Chain Bridge was opened in 1849. During WWII it was destroyed by the German forces like all the other bridges in Budapest. It was rebuilt in 1949.

Chain Bridge is considered one of Budapest landmarks. The beautiful iron decorations and the majestic lions protecting it, make it one of the best photo locations in Budapest.

chain bridge and the parliament


Once you have crossed the Chain Bridge you will find yourself in a large square which crosses Buda’s hill. That’s where you will find the old funicular to reach Buda Castle.

Pro tip : During the touristy periods it’s very crowded and you may end up squeezed inside a wagon without enjoying the view. If you notice the crowd lining for the funicular take the stairs instead. The view is great and there are even two bridges passing on the railroad where you can benefit of a nice view on the funicular.

Opening hours : Every day, from 7.30 AM to 10 PM.

funicular and chain bridge budapest

Buda Castle

Step out the funicular and attend te changing of the guard, every hour outside Sandor Palace (except for the last Saturday of the month, when it takes place only at noon).

The castle has beautiful gardens you can freely explore. While if you want to enter inside you will have to book the tickets for the National Gallery, and in that case I strongly advise you to pay to go on top of the dome that has an amazing view on the city. History lovers will also appreciate Budapest History Museum or Széchényi Library.

Opening hours : TUE to SUN from 10 AM to 6 PM.

Matthias Church

Dating back to the 13th and 15th century the most important catholic church in Budapest is without a doubt Matthias Church. During its eventful storyline the church was also converted into a mosquee for 150 years.

By the end of the 17th century it became a catholic church and was the location of several coronations. What we can admire nowadays is a splendid Neogothic architecture following the renovations in the second half of 1800.

Opening hours : Every day 9 AM, Sunday 1 PM.

matthias church and fisherman's bastion

Fisherman’s Bastion

Budapest’s most famous landmark (together with the Parliament of course!), is the fairy tale looking Fisherman’s Bastion. And it’s easy to see why. Built between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century Fisherman’s Bastion has 7 conic towers that symbolise Hungary’s founder tribes.

When exploring I had princess vibes feeling especially if you are going early in the morning and you have the place by yourself. Another reason to set the clock early? The entry to the upper balconies it’s free during fall and winter months and from 7 or 8 PM to 9 AM during spring summer. Check out the complete schedule on the official website.

Opening hours : It’s always open.

fisherman's bastion

The Labyrinth

Lying underneath Buda Castle, the Labyrinth is a series of caves and tunnels that dates back to the Middle Age when it was used a shelter. Following the events the maze became an harem under the Turkish control and an hospital during WWII. Nowadays the Labyrinth is a suggestive location welcoming sculptures, fountains, and frescoes.

Fearless adventurers will love the nocturnal experience! After 6 PM you can visit the Labyrinth only guided by your flashlight, they say the place is infested with ghosts (just kidding).

Check out prices for the guided tour, or for the Buda Castle night tour.

Opening hours : Every day 11 AM to 2 PM, and from 3 to 7 PM.

The Hospital in the Rock

Also situated under the hill of Buda Castle, the hospital was very important both during WWII and the revolution of 1956. During the Cold War it was converted in a nuclear bunker. Since 2008 the bunker has become a museum where every piece has been brought back to life.

Thanks also to the presence of mannequins posing as real patients or doctors the place is really immersive and I highly recommend visiting it to have a better comprehension of how difficult life was under the bombardments. The ticket to the hospital comes with a guided tour and no photos are allowed inside.

Pro tip : Bring Hungarian Forints for the ticket the conversion is better than in Euros. 😉

Opening hours : Every day 10 AM to 7 PM.

the hospital in the rock budapest
Photo by Hospital in the Rock Marketing. No photos are allowed inside. License.

The Citadel and Liberty Statue

The Citadel and consequently also the Liberty Statue are currently closed due to undergoing renovations.

Even so, you can still enjoy a pleasant walk on the hill that has some of the best views on the city. There are two different ways to get on top of the hill:

  • From Buda Castle the walk is longer but the uphill is easier. You can also take the bus to the stop Philosophers Garden, where there are many statues of some of the greatest thinkers of our history.
  • From Gellert Bath there is a short staircase that connects the iconic thermal complex to the Citadel but I’ve found it harder especially after a long day of walking around.

Gellert Thermal Bath

Among all the thermal complex we visited in Budapest Gellert’s were my personal favorites. The beauty of the Art Nouveau interiors is undeniable and will capture your attention when visiting. Moreover they are less crowded than the famous Szechenyi Bath, which makes them also more enjoyable.

Besides two outdoor pools you will find 4 thermal pools, 2 immersion pools, saunas and Turkish baths. The complex is open from 6.30 AM to 7 PM. Saturday until 1 PM and Sunday it’s closed. With the entry ticket you can stay inside for 3 hours.

For more informations and booking your tickets check out the official website.

gellert thermal bath in budapest travel guide

Eastern Side of the Danube

The Parliament

The only way to visit the Parliament is via a guided tour that you can book via the official website, (I highly recommend purchasing the tickets as soon as possible as the spots get fully booked quickly!). The tour is very interesting allowing to learn more about Hungarian history. You can also book the tour with audioguides which I personally recommend. The visit lasts overall two hours.

Important to know : You must print the tickets as you will need them to get past the controls.

Built between 1884 and 1902 the Parliament has 691 pieces and is 268 meters long and 118 meters high. You can take photos freely inside the building except for the room of the crown jewels.

parliament interiors budapest

Shoes on the Danube bank

Situated amid the Parliament and the Chain Bridge, the Holocaust Memorial is one of the most touching and evocative memorial that I ever had the chance to visit. Between December 1944 and January 1945, about 20.000 Jews were executed on the Danube banks and imported by the river leaving the only valuable thing they had, their shoes.

The monument is a serie of shoes facing the river’s waters as they were left from their owners.

Inaugurated in 2005 the installation attracts regularly locals and tourists alike bringing candles or flowers to commemorate the victims.

Saint Stephen’s Basilica

The end of 1800 and the beginning of 1900 was probably one of the most important architectural revolutions in Budapest. St. Stephen Basilica is one of the many examples.

The Basilica, which is the largest building of the country, was completed in 1905 and is dedicated to the first Hungarian King, Stephen (975 – 1038). Inside you will find an important relic, Stephen’s right hand.

Pro tip : I highly recommend to pay the small fee to climb to the top of the right tower and enjoy a beautiful view of the city.

Opening Hours : MON 9 AM to 4.30 PM, TUE to SAT 9 AM to 5.45 PM, SUN 1 to 5.45 PM.
Official Website : Szent István Bazilika

saint stephen's basilica

Váci Promenade

Paris has Champs Elysées, Barcelona Las Ramblas, and Budapest has Váci Promenade. Shops, bar, and restaurants, Váci is one of the places to be in Budapest. During day as well as during night.

What you shouldn’t miss? Gerbaud Pastry! One of the oldest in the city it sells deserts that are made with the original recipes from the 19th century. Although careful to the bill, the prices are quite high!

Food lovers should also try the famous chimney cakes Kürtőskalács, which can be tasted in one of the many bakeries in the area.

The Central Market

The story of the Central Market is quite interesting: inaugurated in 1897 it was severely damaged during WWII. Completely abandoned and forgotten after the war, in 1991 it was declared in ruin. But three years later renovation works brought it back to its previous splendors making it one of the most iconic buildings in the city.

The elegant iron structure is very interesting for taking photos. Inside you will find several shops selling many different products but mainly food.

Opening Hours : MON 6 AM to 5 PM, TUE to FRI from 6 AM to 6 PM, SAT 6 AM to 3 PM, it’s closed on Sunday.

budapest central market

Liberty Bridge

Situated between the Central Market and Gellert Thermal Bath, the Liberty Bridge is probably the most elegant and photogenic in Budapest because of its iconic green paint. The one you will see is a reconstruction of the oldest one, demolished by the German soldiers in 1945.

Why do I love this bridge so much? Besides the undeniable aesthetic beauty the Liberty Bridge has a well hidden (but well known) statue of King Franz Joseph made by Ukrainian artist Kolodko. To find it you will need to look on the Parliament side. The tiny sculpture is only about 20 cm long! If you like hidden statues or simply are looking for the most iconic in Budapest, check out our dedicated blog post.

liberty bridge budapest

Andrassy Ut and Varosliget Park

Andrassy Promenade (Andrassy Ut)

Andrássy út connects the city center to Varosliget Park and it’s considered one of the most beautiful streets in Budapest. In 2002 it has been declared Unesco World Heritage Site.

It will take you about 30 minutes to cross it all.

Opera House

The Opera House is halfway through Andrássy út and is one of the most important Neo-renaissance buildings in Hungary. The building’s facades are decorated with sculptures of famous musicians and composers.

I highly recommend booking the guided tour (in English of course) that lasts an hour every day at 1.30, 3, and 4.30 PM. Make sure you reserve the spot at least one week before. Tickets are available on the official website.

budapest opera house

House of Terror

The House of Terror is a museum about communist dictatorships featuring underground prisons, documents and many objects.

Opening hours : Every day 10 AM to 6 PM, closed on MON.

Heroes Square

Is one of the most important squares in Budapest. The square is decorated with statues of the seven leaders of the Hungarian tribes. On one side of the square you will find the Art Museum featuring a large collection of Egyptian, Italian, Spanish, as well as other nationalities artifacts. While on the other side you will find the Expo Palace.

Varosliget Park

Varosliget is a green oasis inside Budapest and one of the most beloved locations by locals. Anciently it was a hunting terrain for the nobility in the area.

Inside the parkyou will find a beautiful castle, a statue to Anonymus and the House of the Music, a modern building inaugurated in 2022.

varosliget park

Vajdahunyad Castle

Initially built in wood for the 1896 Expo, it was then completely rebuilt in stone. The design is very interesting as it mix and match many other styles. Inside you may visit the agriculture museum and a church in romanesque style.


Would you like to fly in the middle of the Hungarian capital in a hot air balloon? Then Ballonfly may be the perfect experience for you! The experience is quite expensive comparing to other but it’s still worth it to see Budapest from new heights.

The flight lasts about 5 minutes and the balloon goes up to 150 meters. You will have a nice view of the park and Szechenyi Baths.

Official Website (in Hungarian) : BalloonFly

budapest ballonfly

Szechenyi Baths

Visit the largest baths in Europe! Szechenyi Baths were built in 1900 and it has in and outdoor pools with different temperatures.

The complex is a must see for sure, but even though we loved the outdoor pools there are other baths in the city that were cleaner and overall more enjoyable to enjoy thermal baths, notably Gellert’s.

If you want to visit the baths remember to bring flip-flops, swim cap, swimsuit, and towel. Check out the official website for opening hours and buying the tickets.

District 7

New York Cafè

New York Café is one of the most beautiful bars in the world! The Art Nouveau interiors are some of the finest in Budapest. You can enjoy a coffee with pastries but careful to the bill. Also don’t be surprised to wait in line before being able to sit. But the wait is worth it!

new york cafè

Grand Synagogue

Budapest has the largest Synagogue in Europe and the forth in the world. The Grand Synagogue can welcome up to 3000 people. The tickets gives access to the Synagogue and the Jewish Museum. On getyourguide you can buy a skip the line ticket.

Remember, when visiting religious places to dress properly. Men will be given the traditional kippah to wear, a head covering that every men must wear inside Synagogues as a sign of respect.

Opening hours : Check out the opening hours on the official website.

Ruin Bar

Among all the places to see in Budapest, ruin bars are certainly one of the most fascinating. There are several of them in the District 7, but the one you must see is Szimpla Kert. Urban explorers will love to explore the rooms with written walls, and old objects.

The area is ideal also to enjoy many different types of street food. Bars are open until very late in the night.

szimpla kert

Street art

Street art lovers Akacfa ut is for you! Graffiti and modern art have invaded the area which is also where you can find the Instant another famous ruin bar.

Other places to see in Budapest

Margaret Island

Margaret Island is one of the greenest areas inside the Hungarian capital. Situated in the middle of the Danube it is 2,5 km long and 500 meters large. A musical fountain, a Japanese garden, and an aquatic center are only a few of the highlights on the island.

Pro tip : we loved exploring the island with rental bikes! Otherwise there is also a small tourist train. How to reach Margaret Island? Via the bus line 26.

margaret island budapest

Memento Park

Is a cemetery for the statues from the communist period that once decorated the most famous squares. For historian and art lovers it’s a must visit!

How to get there? With the bus lines 101B, 101E and 150 from Kelenfold metro M4, or with the shuttle from Deak Ter square.

Opening hours : Every day May to October 10 AM to 6PM, November to April 10 AM to 4 PM.
Website : Mementopark

Children Railway

The children railway is an unusual service connecting the most beautiful locations among Buda hills. Established since the Soviet period the railway is managed by students, for ticket control. In case you are wondering the train is driven by adults. 😉

Website : Children’s Railway

Which attraction have you liked the most?

My personal favorites were visiting Buda Castle at night and enjoying Budapest’s nightlife in Szimpla Kert, in addition of course to tasting all the hearty and delicious Hungarian dishes! If you are looking for more travel inspiration and travel tips from Budapest check out our Hungary page. Otherwise you can find more destinations on our Destinations Page.

Have you liked this post? Sharing is caring!

The 30 Best Places to See in Budapest (Sorted by Area) Read More »

Scroll to Top