Sassari is the second largest city in Sardinia with a population of 122,000; it is also one of the oldest settlements in the city and has a great deal of history and important cultural establishments. Located in the north west region of Sardinia, this city is actually the firth largest municipality in Italy and has a large economy based on tourism and the services industry.
Although findings have dated settlements in Sassari to the Neolithic age, the main settling of the city occurred during the Middle Ages. Throughout this time period, ruling of the city changed hand numerous times as conflicts raged throughout Sardinia. As time progressed, Sassari developed and grew in size and now stands as the main city in the northern region of the island.
As a tourist destination, Sassari has a great deal of historical buildings and monuments, but it also benefits from a great location and is an idea base from which to explore northern Sardinia. From this city, you can visit the coastal regions, find some simply stunning beaches, and see beautiful coastal towns such as Alghero and the abandoned town of Argentiera.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Sassari:
1. Piazza d’Italia
In the centre of the historic old town is the marvellous Piazza d’Italia – this square is one of the main public space in Sassari and has played an important role in the history of the city since its creation.
The architecture surrounding this square is beautiful and several important buildings can be found here including the Palazzo della Provincia and the Palazzo Giordano.
In the centre of the square is a large monument surrounded by palm trees, and you can also find a fantastic range of shops, restaurants and cafes here too.
The Piazza d’Italia is a great starting point from which to explore Sassari, and it is also in close proximity to the Piazza Castello and the Giardini Pubblici.
2. Porto Ferro Beach
If you are looking for a secluded coastal retreat then look no further than the sublime Porto Ferro Beach.
Located approximately 30 minutes to the west of Sassari, this quiet beach is a true paradise.
Beautiful soft and golden sands stretch for around 500m in a horseshoe and the gentle Mediterranean waters lap the beach.
Furthermore, the coastline features a series of dramatic rocky cliff faces and shallow rock pools that are perfect to explore at low-tide.
The idyllic landscape, beautiful Sardinian weather and gorgeous beach make Porto Ferro a must-visit location during a trip to Sassari.
3. Cattedrale di San Nicola
As the main church in Sassari, the Cathedral of Saint Nicolas holds an important place in the history of the city and is a truly gorgeous building.
The front façade of this cathedral features a Romanesque style, but the structure also features other design elements including Gothic and Baroque.
Originally constructed in the 12th century, the cathedral was not truly finished until the 18th century, hence the wide range of architectural styles.
Aside from the impressive exterior, the interior of the church features some beautiful stained glass windows, several ornately decorated chapels, and a host of traditional religious iconography.
4. Visit Asinara National Park
Asinara is the third largest island in Sardinia and is located on the northern coast.
Covering an area of 746km, this island has historically served as a prison camp, but is now a protected area and a national park.
The rugged and rocky landscape of Asinara is perfect to explore and the island features a myriad of hiking trails to test your endurance and abilities.
Aside from the hiking opportunities, Asinara is also home to some stunning beaches that hug the rugged coastline and the crystal clear waters are perfect for snorkelling and diving.
Don’t forget to look out for the endemic Albino Donkey or the various species of bird that frequent the region.
5. Chiesa di Santa Maria di Betlem
Located on the western outskirts of the old town centre, the Church of Santa Maria di Betlem is another fine establishment that features a large ornate basilica dome and a Neoclassical design that was restored in the 18th century.
The front façade of this church features a typical large circular stained glass window and an ornate wooden door.
Inside the church there is a series of small decorative chapels dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and a beautiful ornate golden altar piece that dominates the main aisle.
6. Visit the historic town of Alghero
Sardinia has a plethora of historic coastal towns and one of the most famous is Alghero – this charming town is located 30 minutes to the west of Sassari and offers a fantastic location for a day trip.
Nestled on the coast of this town is the historic old centre that has an array of narrow cobbled streets and the remnants of the defensive fortifications.
Several of the round crenulated towers still stand in perfect condition, as do several of the fortification bastions.
Walking along the promenade you can admire this stunning 16th century network of defences and even climb some of the towers to view Alghero from up high.
7. Basilica di Saccargia
If you travel to the south east of Sassari along the E25 and head onto the SS729, you will eventually stumble across the amazing Basilica di Saccargia.
This wonderful church is literally located in the middle of nowhere and was abandoned during the 16th century.
Despite being abandoned, it remains in fantastic condition and is considered a true marvel of Romanesque architecture.
Created entirely out of local stone, the church and bell tower feature a striped design and an ornate portico with black and white arches.
The interior of the church is just as decorative and features a main altar that is covered in a colourful fresco depicting the twelve apostles.
Although this church is out of the way, it is a must see during any trip to Sassari.
8. Lampianu Beach and coastline
Another hidden gem, the town and coastline of Lampianu offers some sublime landscapes to delve into.
The charming village of Lampianu can be found on the western coast of Sardinia and lies 30 minutes from Sassari.
Like Porto Ferro Beach, Lampianu offers a retreat from the crowds and is a great place to relax in the sun.
Several small beaches and covers line this region of coast with the most popular being the Spiaggia di Rena Majori which is just 5 minutes to the north of Lampianu.
Taking a day trip here will provide an abundance of possibilities – maybe you can simply sunbath on the beaches, or maybe you will hike through the coastal trails and explore the hidden caves and coves?
9. Explore Capo Caccia
The north western coast of Sardinia is simply wonderful and it features a range of golden beaches and sublime cliff formations that are waiting to be explored.
One particular part of this coastline is the Capo Caccia and the Parco Naturale Regionale di Porto Conte.
Right at the edge of the coast is a large promontory called Capo Caccia.
This impressive cliff formation offers sweeping views of the Rada di Alghero bay and has a number of roads and trails to explore.
Furthermore, it is also known for its series of coastal caves and grottos such as the amazing Neptune’s Grotto.
10. Giardini Pubblici
Sassari has a plethora of stunning buildings, but it also has a selection of beautiful public parks; the Giardini Pubblici is the largest and the most popular of these open spaces.
You can find this delightful park in the town centre, only a 5-10 minute walk from the Piazza d’Italia.
In the centre of the park is a circular pond and fountain, surrounded by some gorgeous exotic trees that provide shade.
Furthermore, there is a series of footpaths that wind through the grounds and plenty of benches and lawns to relax on.
The Giardini Pubblici offers respite from a busy day of sight-seeing and is the perfect place to escape the city for a while.
11. Enjoy a fine meal at the il Vecchio Mulino Restaurant
Sassari has a selection of fine restaurants that serve authentic Italian and Sardinian cuisine and the il Vecchio Mulino is one such establishment.
Located in the old town on Via Frigaglia, this restaurant is only a short walk from the main squares and the public garden.
The rustic interior of the restaurant is truly inviting with exposed wooden beams and white washed stone walls.
The menu consists of a selection of traditional Italian pastas and meals and most of the choices use locally sourced ingredients.
Enthusiastic waiters will make your meal that little bit more special, and the prices are reasonable too!
12. Piazza Castello
Located adjacent to the Piazza d’Italia, the Piazza Castello is the second largest square in Sassari and features several prominent landmarks.
This square is named after the Castello Aragonese that once stood here and indeed part of this castle can still be visited today.
Although little of the original structure remains, a seletion of the walls and foundations can still be accessed and are open to the public.
Aside from the castle remains, the square also features several beautiful iron statues and a seating area shaded by trees.
When walking through Sassari, be sure to visit both the Piazza d’Italia and the Piazza Castello for a look at the city’s history.
13. Fountain of the Rosello
Although only small in size, this ornate fountain is actually considered to be the symbol of the city and is revered throughout the region.
Constructed in the 17th century by Genoese craftsmen, the fountain was used to deliver water to the inhabitants of Sassari.
The fountain features various design elements such as four statues representing the four seasons and the passage of time, and 12 mouths representing the months of the year.
Located to the north of the town centre, the fountain is a must-see attraction and is only a 10-15 minute walk from the Piazza Castello.
14. Visit the abandoned town of Argentiera
Argentiera is a strange place but it considered something of a shrine for the locals due to its history.
Located on the western coast of Sardinia, Argentiera is approximately 30 minutes from Sassari and is an interesting place to visit.
Up until the 1960’s, Argentiera was a lead and zinc mining town and it prospered greatly.
Once the metal deposits had dried up, the town was abandoned and it was not until recent years that it was occupied.
When visiting Argentiera, you can still see the remains of some of the mine buildings, and various other abandoned structures dotted around the town.
15. Museo Nazionale Sanna
The Museo Nazionale Sanna is Sassari’s Civic museum and is housed within an ornate building approximately 10 minutes walk from the large Piazza dItalia.
If you are interested in history and archaeology then this museum will keep your entertained for house.
The displays and exhibitions centre on the history of the northern region of Sardinia and the people that live here.
Each display is beautifully maintained and the artefacts and relics on show date as far back as ancient Greek times.
Here you can admire ancient pottery and ceramics, paintings, earthenware, jewellery and a selection of bronze and iron work.
For a fascinating look at the history of Sassari, there is no better place to visit.