Alghero, Sardinia is a charming historic town in the northwestern part of the island.
Even though it’s Sardinia’s 5th largest city, Alghero has kept its medieval charm and small-town atmosphere. That’s what makes this city so special and why it needs to be part of every Sardinia itinerary.
The former Catalan enclave attracts thousands of tourists every year. That’s really not surprising with such a picturesque old town and the interesting mix of architectural cultures.
Latter is the outcome of a 400-year rule of the Catalans who invaded the town in 1373 and stayed there until 1720.
To understand how Alghero became the city as we know it, it takes a closer look at its unusual history:
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A Brief History of Alghero, Sardinia
The city’s history dates back to the 11th century when the Genoese Doria family decided to transform the small fishing village into a big port with great importance.
Especially for business in the Mediterranean area, it became more and more of a significant trading hub.
However, Alghero’s popularity and excellent geographical position had certain disadvantages.
Due to its central location, the city was easily open to attack and the Genoese needed to defend the city against hostile takeovers many many times.
Then in 1353, the Catalans arrived in Alghero, defeated the Genoese and forced the locals to flee to nearby villages.
The Catalan rule lasted until 1720 when the Savoy reconquered the city. In 1943, it fell victim to bombing attacks and it took almost 20 years for the tourism industry to recover.
Today Alghero is a magnet for tourists who come to experience the lovely ambiance, taste local food and discover the remains of the Catalan domination.
A Stroll Through The Historic Center of Alghero
Along The City Walls
One of the best things to do in Alghero is to go for a walk and explore the historical center. The first thing you’ll notice are the walls (also called “bastioni”) surrounding the old city center.
Built in the 16th century, they helped protect the city against various attacks during the following century.
The walls run from a gate known as “Porta a Mare” to “Piazza Sulis” where the famous Sulis Tower is located.
While walking along the bastion, keep your eyes open to find the other three watchtowers called “Torre di San Giacomo”, “Torre della Polveriera” and “Torre di Sant’Elmo”.
Plus, make sure to climb on the latter to admire Alghero’s harbor in its full glory.
Try to go there in the evening to experience some epic sunset views and/or have dinner in one of the many great restaurants lined up along the walls and bastions of Alghero.
Time For a Shopping Tour
Alghero is also a great place to do some shopping. From sparkling, hand-made jewelry to small boutiques selling Italian fashion and the typical souvenir shops, there’s almost nothing you won’t find there.
The city’s also the birthplace of the well-known Italian designer Antonio Marras who still has his atelier in Alghero, right next to Porta a Mare.
No Place For Boring Street Decoration!
Something else you’ll quickly notice is the unique kind of decorations the inhabitants of Alghero use to decorate their city. It’s immediately clear they’re not into boring art at all!
Right after entering the city through Porta a Mare you find yourself on one of the main streets leading through the historic center. Direct your eyes upwards to spot many small cages hanging above you.
If you then take the first narrow street to the left you’ll find yourself wandering beneath creative, hand-made lamps with a lovely pattern.
The people of Alghero also love flowers in different shapes and colors. Thus it’s not surprising to see them at almost every corner.
However, the most fascinating street decoration – and my personal favorite – is the row of plastic canisters colorfully painted and turned into flower pots.
Isn’t this such a great way to reuse them? Plus they’re real eye-catchers too!
Trying to find all the hidden gems in Alghero can make one really hungry. Luckily, the city is full of amazing restaurants offering excellent Italian food.
We got to try quite a few of them and here are my top three places with good, authentic Italian cuisine:
1. Al Refettorio
Al Referrorio is a traditionally furnished trattoria in the heart of Alghero, just a few minutes from the bastion and Civic square. It offers regional dishes, open-air dining and a wine bar with a wide selection of Italian wines.
Their vegan pasta was just out of this world and I can highly recommend it to anyone – vegan or not.
They do have tons of other options tho such as seafood, pizza and any other traditional Italian dish you may think of.
2. Trattoria Da Mirko
Trattoria Da Mirko is a small but lovely restaurant offering fresh and tasty local products. Every dish is cooked with love and the staff is super friendly and helpful.
On the menu, there’s even an entire page with 100% vegan dishes, definitely a plus point for me!
3. Al Vecchio Mulino
Al Vecchio Mulino is a family-run, cozy trattoria with an old brick vault. The staff is very attentive, helpful and the food is reasonably priced and plentiful.
Definitely try the Spaghetti Arrabiata or a homemade pizza.
Where to Stay Near Alghero Sardinia
If you’re looking for the perfect place to stay near Alghero, I highly recommend Hotel El Faro which is only a 10-minute car drive away.
The 4-star hotel is situated in a small bay surrounded by crystal-clear water. It offers salt-water pools, a private sunbathing area with lots of sunbeds and direct access to the sea.