What to see in Siracusa, Sicily: best things to do

What To See In Siracusa, Sicily: 12 Best Things To Do

Today I’m going to share with you all the information about what to see in Siracusa.

Exploring the ancient city of Syracuse, otherwise known as Siracusa in Italian, is like taking a journey back in time.

Once considered to be a rival of Athens, Syracuse is the legendary home of Archimedes and a vibrant mix of art and culture.

The fascinating story of Arethusa, a Greek nymph changed by Artemis, comes alive in Ortigia’s Fountain of Arethusa -originally transformed from Artemis herself.

It was to Artemis, goddess of the hunt and protector of women, that an extraordinary temple was dedicated that is now incorporated and still visible within the imposing walls of the Cathedral.

However, Syracuse has origins that go beyond Greek mythology.

It is a place where greek mythology and christian religion are intertwined.

Syracuse is known for being the site of the first Christian church in the western world and is the birthplace and final resting place of one of Italys best-loved saints, Santa Lucia.

Her extraordinary story, full of devotion and martyrdom, reverberated through the streets of Syracuse.

The church of Santa Lucia alla Badia houses Caravaggio’s masterpiece, a poignant reminder of her divine presence.

But Syracuse contributions go beyond mythology and religion.

It was also the birthplace of the great inventor Archimedes, whose scientific achievements and talent continue to resonate through the ages.

Its believed that his final resting place is in the Neapolis Archeological Park.

What to see in Syracuse, Sicily

What to see in Siracusa, Sicily: The island of Ortigia

I visited Syracuse during a short trip to the eastern part of Sicily and was mesmerised by this enchanting place.

If you plan to visit this charming destination, you should know that the city is divided into two areas: the historic centre on a small island called Ortigia and the mainland. 

The Island of Ortigia is linked to the mainland by two bridges and cannot be reached by car, but it is easily accessible on foot.

Visiting Ortigia, you will encounter incredible sites such as the Cathedral of Syracuse, the famous Fountain of Arethusa, the Fountain of Diana and the fascinating underground tunnels of Syracuse.

On the other hand, Mainland is where you will find the Archaeological Park.

It lies outside the city centre and hosts magnificent Greek and Roman ruins, as well as the stunning Latomia, the notorious quarry that made Syracuse a formidable opponent in ancient times.

Let’s see now what you shouldn’t miss when you visit Siracusa.

What to see in Siracusa: Visit the island of Ortigia

What to see in Siracusa, Sicily: Stroll through the beautiful alleys in Ortigia
Beautiful alley in Ortigia

Start your visit in Ortigia, the historic centre of Syracuse, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005.

Connected to the mainland by two bridges, Ortigia is surrounded by ancient defensive walls and the magnificent Maniace Castle, overlooking the sea.

The perimeter of the island is mostly a pedestrian zone, allowing you to explore freely.

As the first thing to do in Syracuse, I recommend getting lost in its charming, narrow, and winding streets.

Along the way, you’ll find a number of architectural wonders, from the ancient Temple of Apollo to the magnificent Cathedral of Syracuse, which incorporates the ruins of a Greek temple into its structure.

Pro tip: Syracuse may not be a large city, but it’s bursting with rich history and vibrant culture. It would be such a shame to rush through it, even if you only have one day to spare.
If you find yourself short on time and can only spend a single day in Syracuse, I highly recommend considering a guided tour.

It’s the perfect way to soak in the city’s captivating historical and cultural essence.
You’ll absolutely love this private tour, led by a knowledgeable local guide. It is highly recommended for an unforgettable experience in Syracuse.

Explore the Temple of Apollo and the Syracuse Market

What to see in Siracusa, Sicily: The Apollo temple
Apollo Temple

Crossing the bridge at the entrance to the island of Ortigia, you will come across the Temple of Apollo which is the oldest in Sicily.

Unfortunately, not much is left today, as it has undergone transformations throughout history, becoming a mosque and then a Christian church.

While exploring the area, you won’t want to miss the Syracuse Market, held every morning. 

It offers an excellent opportunity to learn about local traditions and taste delicious local food, so bask in its bright colours and captivating aromas.

What to see in Siracusa: The Fountain of Diana

What to see in Siracusa, Sicily: The fountain of Diana on the Archimedes Square
The Fountain of Diana

A little further on, you will find the Fountain of Diana (also known as the fountain of Artemide), located on Piazza Archimede.

This fountain tells the enchanting story of the nymph Arethusa, transformed into a fountain by the goddess herself.

Arethusa was a Greek nymph and Alphaeus loved her so much.

However, she refused his offer and asked Artemis for help.

In response, Artemis transformed Arethusa into the beautiful Fountain of Ortigia.

Alphaeus, not wanting to leave her, begs the gods to turn him into a river, so that he can be with his nymph forever.

The Arethusa Fountain is a big body of water where papyrus has always flourished, and it is Europe’s sole location.

It’s located on the west coast of Ortigia and is the ideal place to admire the sunset.

Visit the Piazza and its Cathedral

What to see in Siracusa, Sicily: Piazza Duomo in Ortigia
Piazza Duomo

As you stroll along the charming, almost labyrinthine lanes of Ortigia, prepare to be pleasantly surprised when Piazza del Duomo suddenly unfolds before your eyes.

This large pedestrian-only area is bordered by several baroque buildings crafted from a light-colored stone, which takes on a delicate pink hue as the sun sets.

Within this picturesque setting, you’ll find an array of remarkable structures,

palazzo Beneventano, the town hall and the Archbishop’s Palace (“Arcivescovile palazzo”), the church “Chiesa di Santa Lucia alla Badia” and 

the Cathedral of Syracuse (Il Duomo).

What to see in Siracusa, Sicily: The Cathedral in Piazza Duomo
The Cathedral

Known as the Cathedral of Ortigia (Il Duomo), this majestic structure proudly stands as the most prominent feature in Piazza del Duomo, and quite possibly in all of Syracuse.

Take a moment to admire its beauty and the details that adorn its exterior.

Once within the cathedral’s sacred space, you’ll be struck by the sight of the highly unusual Doric columns, a surprising find within a place of worship of this nature.

In fact, the present cathedral was ingeniously built on the plan of the ancient temple of Athena.

Even the Madonna statue positioned outside has replaced the once-golden figure of Athena, which served as a guiding landmark for seafarers navigating the vast expanse of the Mediterranean Sea.

To plan your visit accordingly, I recommend checking the official website for the cathedral’s opening hours and ticket prices, which are approximately €2.

This is also a good time to enjoy a drink on one of the numerous piazza restaurant patios.

Visit Santa Lucia alla Badia Church and Caravaggio

The charming little church of Santa Lucia alla Badia is just a stone’s throw away from the magnificent Duomo di Ortigia.

It might not grab your attention at first, considering the grandeur of the Duomo, but this humble church has held a special place in the hearts of Syracuseans for generations.

It’s closely tied to the remarkable story of Saint Lucy, who was actually born here in Syracuse and met her unfortunate fate in the year 304.

Stepping inside, you’ll find a simple and unadorned interior, reflecting the monastic style that has evolved through countless modifications over time. But despite its modest appearance, this little church has a rich history. Originally, Saint Lucy’s remains were laid to rest in its catacombs, but they were then transferred to the shrine dedicated to her in Venice.

Even though the physical presence of her remains is no longer here, the spirit and legacy of Saint Lucy still resonate within these walls.

Now, let me share with you a fascinating tale.

In 1646, Syracuse was gripped by a severe famine, causing distress and despair among the people.

It was during this desperate time that prayers and invocations to Saint Lucy were fervently offered.

And you know what? It’s said that a miraculous event unfolded, the famine was miraculously brought to an end.

According to popular belief, two ships laden with precious cereals arrived at the port of Ortigia, providing sustenance and relief to the starving population. It’s no wonder that the people hold such deep admiration for Saint Lucy and the profound impact she had on their lives.

But wait, there’s more to this enchanting place!

The chapel of Santa Lucia alla Badia boasts a captivating masterpiece, the final canvas painted by the artist Caravaggio.

After his time in Malta, Caravaggio returned to Siracusa, seeking protection from the accusation of being a murderer, and created a poignant depiction of Saint Lucy’s funeral.

This extraordinary artwork was meant to grace the church’s altar, a testament to the profound connection between the saint and this sacred space.

Explore Castello Maniace 

What to see in Siracusa, Sicily: the Castle Maniace
Maniace Castle

As you take a leisurely stroll through Ortigia, you’ll find yourself arriving at Castello Maniace via the delightful Alfeo promenade.

This charming pathway is a pedestrian area and offers breathtaking views, although I must admit that during the summer months it can get a bit crowded.

The promenade’s proximity to the sea is enchanting, and it’s amazing to see how cafes and restaurants have thrived in what used to be a strip of fishermen’s cottages.

On this particular side of Ortigia, you can witness the most magnificent sunsets.

As the day comes to a close, the sky puts on a mesmerising show, providing absolutely spectacular views in the evening.

As you reach the end of the promenade, you’ll come face-to-face with Castello Maniace, a fortress named after the remarkable Byzantine leader who captured Syracuse in 1038.

Throughout the centuries, this fortress has served as a residence for Sicilian monarchs and queens, but it has also fulfilled other roles such as a prison, a powder magazine, and even a barracks for the Italian Army.

Today, you can explore what remains of the original construction, which has undergone various changes over time.

One particular highlight is the majestic hall adorned with Gothic pillars, an architectural marvel that demands your attention.

Quartiere della Giudecca (Giudecca District)

Strolling around Syracuse’s charming alleys is much more pleasurable in the evening, when the streetlights illuminate the surroundings.

What makes it even more delightful is that the locals go the extra mile to decorate the streets with inviting tables, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Among all the districts in Syracuse, there’s one that truly stands out, and I highly recommend it if you’re in search of a fantastic dining spot: the Jewish Quarter.

Not only is it conveniently located near Piazza del Duomo, but what sets it apart is the unique characteristic of many houses in this neighbourhood having spaces and zones beneath the street level.

To fully appreciate the hidden treasures of this neighbourhood, I suggest paying a visit to the remarkable Giudecca Hotel.

Here, you can uncover the secrets of the past as you venture 20 metres underground to witness an ancient Jewish miqweh, a ceremonial bath.

Explore the Archaeological Park of Neapolis

The Neapolis Archaeological Park is an open-air museum that houses some of the most significant ancient Greek and Roman ruins in all of Sicily.

Your exploration begins at the park’s entrance, which is situated on Viale Paradiso on the northern outskirts of Syracuse.

Once inside, a trail unveils itself, running alongside the limestone quarry that once served as the source of stones for the city’s construction.

Interestingly, this same quarry later became the confinement site for approximately 7,000 Athenians who suffered defeat against Syracuse.

Shortly after, your attention will be drawn to the Grotta dei Cordari, named after the rope producers who occupied its rooms until 1984.

It serves as a fascinating reminder of the human activities that once thrived within these ancient walls.

What to see in Siracusa, Sicily: The ear of Dionysius in the Neapolis Archeological Park
The Ear of Dionysius

Just beyond lies the Ear of Dionysius, an awe-inspiring 20-metre-high cave. This magnificent limestone cavern resides within the Latomia del Paradiso, another quarry that provided the building materials for numerous ancient structures in Syracuse.

Legend has it that the tyrant of Syracuse, Dionysius, utilised the incredible acoustics of this spot to eavesdrop on the conversations of his imprisoned captives.

No wonder Caravaggio bestowed this natural wonder with such an evocative name.

What to see in Siracusa, Sicily: The greek Theatre
Ancient ruins of the Greek Theatre in Neapolis Archeological Park

As you continue your visit through the park, you’ll meander through fragrant citrus orchards and arrive at the Greek Theatre, majestically hewn into the white limestone that characterises this part of Syracuse.

To further elevate your experience, venture up the Via dei Sepolcri, just above the theatre, and savour the breathtaking vistas of the boundless sea stretching before you.

What to see in Siracusa, Sicily: The Roman Amphitheater in the Archeological Park of Neapolis
Ancient Amphitheater ruins in Neapolis Archeological Park

Finally, following the clear signposts, you’ll reach the Roman Amphitheatre, distinguished by its darker rock in contrast to the Greek Theatre.

This splendid structure served as the arena for thrilling gladiator battles, igniting the imaginations of onlookers throughout history.

Even today, the amphitheatre remains a vibrant venue, hosting a variety of events during the summer season.

San Giovanni Catacombs and the Crypt of San Marciano

The Catacombs of San Giovanni, together with the church of the same name, are among the hidden gems of Syracuse, yet not all tourists venture to explore them.

Located near the Neapolis Archaeological Park, a fascinating open-air basilica awaits, its roof absent, inviting you to descend into one of Syracuse’s oldest treasures: the Greek aqueduct.

Repurposed by the Romans into catacombs, these underground chambers served as resting places for individual or family tombs.

The expansive Decumanus Maximus, a long basement, takes centre stage, while ten side streets, known as Cardines, lead to four circular chapels that were originally cisterns: Antioch, Marina, Adelphia, and the Sarcophagi.

The Marina rotunda, once the mausoleum of Bishop Siracosius, bears distinctive Christian symbols like the stormy boat and the fish (known as Ictus).

In the Adelphia rotunda, an extraordinary marble tomb adorned with intricate engravings of 62 biblical characters was discovered.

This tomb was probably the resting place of Adelphia, the wife of Proconsul Valerius (4th century.)

Today, you can admire this sarcophagus on display at the ‘Paolo Orsi’ regional museum in Syracuse.

Another rotunda, referred to as the ‘cubiculum of Eusebius,’ served as a temporary grave for Pope Eusebius in 310 AD before his remains were eventually relocated to Rome.

Throughout the centuries the catacombs, much like the church above ground, have faced desecration and plundering at the hands of various conquerors.

As we make our way back to the surface, another sight awaits us: the Byzantine Crypt.

It is believed that Saint Marcian, the first bishop of Syracuse, established the initial Christian community in the Western Hemisphere within these sacred walls.

The remnants of the original pavement, columns, and Ionic capitals stand as testament to the historical significance of this place.

Furthermore, the Normans left their mark by adding four magnificent marble capitals adorned with depictions of the Evangelists.

The frescoes they commissioned still grace the crypt, offering a glimpse into the artistic beauty of the past.

Discover Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum

Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum is a hidden gem that houses almost all of the archaeological treasures discovered in and around Syracuse.

This museum is dedicated to Paolo Orsi, an archaeologist who played a pivotal role in uncovering the primary archaeological sites in Syracuse.

Step inside the Paolo Orsi archaeological museum, also known as “Museo archeologico regionale Paolo Orsi” in Italian, and prepare to be enthralled by its impressive collection of statues, sculptures, ceramics, and various artifacts spanning from prehistoric Sicily to the era of Greek colonization. Located just 500 metres away from the Neapolis Archaeological Park, it serves as the perfect conclusion to your park tour.

To make the most of your visit, I recommend purchasing a combination park and museum ticket for 13.5 euro, allowing you to save some money. Alternatively, if you’re only planning to visit the museum, the admission charge is a mere 8 euro.

Please note that the museum is closed on Mondays.

Admire Madonna della Lacrime Sanctuary

Another must-see attraction in Syracuse is the Madonna della Lacrime Sanctuary, an awe-inspiring shrine that dominates the city’s skyline and can be spotted from afar.

It’s truly a sight to behold, especially due to its unique external architecture. As you make your way back to Ortigia on foot from the Neapolis Archaeological Park, be sure to pause and marvel at the beauty of the Santuario Madonna delle Lacrime.

Syracuse Beaches and Surroundings

What to see in Siracusa, Sicily: Beaches in Ortigia
Beach in Ortigia

If you visit Syracuse in the spring and summer, the temptation to dive into the pristine Sicilian seas becomes irresistible.

If you’re looking for a direct route, take the steep steps down from the Ortigia promenade to reach the beaches below.

On Ortigia Island itself, you’ll find a beach where swimming is permitted, offering a convenient option without leaving Syracuse.

Along the beach, you’ll discover various pontoons that provide quick access to the refreshing waters.

What to see in Siracusa, Sicily: Soak up the sun on Ortigia Beach
Beach in Ortigia

If you’re seeking clearer waters and larger beaches, Fontane Bianche Beach, located 16 kilometres away, is an excellent choice.

Its name derives from the abundant freshwater springs that contribute to its crystal-clear allure.

If you’re willing to venture a bit further (45 kilometres), consider visiting the Vendicari Reserve.

What to see in Siracusa, Sicily: Beach in Siracusa

This nature reserve includes Vendicari Beach, a historic saltworks, and a tuna fishery.

Within the reserve, you’ll also find the picturesque Calamosche, a hidden gem surrounded by unspoiled nature that offers tranquilly and a serene escape from bustling city life.

If you’re travelling with children and looking for family-friendly sandy beaches, Avola beaches are the ideal destination.

The renowned “Gallina” beach is particularly suitable, as the water remains shallow for quite a distance, providing an excellent environment for water play.

Finally, let me share with you a real gem in the vicinity: the Parco Marino del Plemmirio.

Just a stone’s throw away from Syracuse, this tranquil paradise boasts several delightful and secluded coves.

It’s the perfect place to unwind and enjoy the calm.

Enjoy Sicilian Cuisine

Sicilian cuisine is a delightful fusion of flavours influenced by the Greeks, Arabs, and Spaniards.

Ortigia is a food lover’s haven, brimming with charming restaurants and trattorias.

Start your culinary journey through the city’s vibrant street food scene, savouring a scrumptious scaccia.

This is a baked focaccia filled with juicy aubergines, tomatoes, and sausage.

What to see in Siracusa, Sicily: Pasta alla Siracusana
Pasta alla Siracusana

Indulge in traditional pasta dishes like pasta alla siracusana, a pasta dish pan-fried with oil, breadcrumbs, and anchovies.

Another mouthwatering choice is cavatelli with bottarga sauce, cherry tomatoes, and almonds.

A must-try is the exquisite matalotta, a fish soup bursting with flavours of mackerel, squid, clams, mussels, tomatoes, capers, olives, and bread. Alternatively, give the lolli with broad beans a try—a unique form of elongated handmade pasta that’s delicious.

Of course, the seafood in Sicily is a must-try, and Ortigia will spoil you with its locally caught treasures.

Treat yourself to the renowned tuna alla ghiotta, a mouthwatering dish that showcases the flavours of the sea.

Grouper alla matalotta with olives and capers will delight your palate, as will the flavoursome fish soup that captures the essence of Sicilian coastal cuisine.

If you appreciate meat dishes, purpetti (meatballs) served with caponata and a variety of vegetables are a true delight.

No proper lunch or dinner in Syracuse would be complete without dessert.

Treat yourself to a classic cannolo with its crispy shell and luscious cream filling.

Or perhaps indulge in the delightful cassata, a heavenly combination of flavours and textures. Cassata siracusana differs from the traditional one because it’s covered with sponge cake rather than frosting.

What to see in Siracusa, Sicily: Taste the local sweets, bucellati

And let’s not forget about buccellati, those almond-based iced biscuits adorned with candied pistachios or orange peel.

They’re the perfect way to end your meal on a high note, and trust me, they’re absolutely unforgettable.

To accompany your culinary adventures, explore the wide array of wines available from Syracuse PDOs (Protected Designation of Origin), including Syracuse and Erolo.

Don’t forget to visit the bustling daily market in Ortigia, where you can find fresh produce and local delicacies.

Restaurants in Siracusa, Sicily: Where to eat

When it comes to dining, Sicilians have their own favourite rituals, and I’ve got you covered with both simple, no-frills restaurants and delightful street food experiences.

If you find yourself near the Foro Siracusano, make sure to visit “Osteria Bazan.

This charming family-run restaurant on Viale Montedoro is a gem where you can indulge in classic Sicilian cuisine and more.

What sets this place apart is their commitment to using basic and real ingredients, ensuring that every dish bursts with authentic flavours.

You must try their Pasta alla Siracusana, homemade spaghetti pasta seasoned to perfection with anchovies, olive oil, and pan-fried breadcrumbs – what a delicious combination of flavours!

Now, if you’re craving the taste of Sicilian street food, head over to Paninoteca da Antonio e Daniele on Via Senatore Gaetano Moscuzza. Trust me, this place knows how to satisfy your street food cravings.

Gelato (Ice cream) in Ortigia Sicily

When it’s time for an aperitif or some delicious ice cream, make your way to “Bar Gelateria Bianca.”

They serve up refreshing and flavorful drinks that are perfect for a pre-dinner treat.

And as for their ice cream, well, let’s just say it’s arguably the tastiest in town. You won’t be disappointed!

Best Hotels in Siracusa Sicily: Where to Stay

Siracusa offers a range of hotels to suit different preferences and budgets. For a luxurious experience, consider the Palazzo Salomone Luxury Suites, located in the heart of the historic center, offering stunning views of the sea. If you prefer a boutique hotel with a charming atmosphere, Caportigia Boutique Hotel is an excellent choice, situated 1km from Neapolis archaeological Park, not on Ortigia Island.

If you’re seeking a beachside retreat, Hotel Ortigia Royal Suite may be your choice, it’s not far from Cala Rossa beach.

If, on the other hand, you prefer to stay in an apartment, I recommend the “Krokos Ortigia”, a cosy flat located in the heart of Syracuse, close to the beaches of Arethusa and Cala Rossa.

Pro tip: in general, sleeping on Ortigia Island is preferred to sleeping in Syracuse; the rates are not necessarily higher, and the setting is far more pleasant.


In a Nutshell

Siracusa is a captivating destination that blends ancient history, stunning beaches, and delicious cuisine.

Immerse yourself in the city’s rich historical heritage, explore its magnificent landmarks, and bask in the sun on its picturesque beaches.

As the day comes to an end, treat yourself to a delightful meal in one of the charming restaurants, savouring the authentic flavours of Sicilian cuisine.

Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

I’d love to hear about your favourite discoveries and memorable moments during your visit.

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And if you’re planning your trip, make sure you read my complete guide on how to plan your perfect trip to Italy!

Ciao e Buon Viaggio!

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I'm a freelance travel designer and writer, and I absolutely love what I do. Writing has always been a passion of mine, and traveling is the ultimate source of inspiration for me. In fact, I became particularly drawn to planning travel experiences in Italy back in 2015, and I've been hooked ever since! I'm what you might call a "slow traveler" - someone who likes to take their time exploring new places and soaking up different cultures. And when I started writing about my travels a few years ago, I was blown away by the incredible opportunity it gave me to share my experiences with others and learn from them in turn. It's truly an amazing thing!


  • Lucy

    Hi Joram,

    Thanks for reaching out!

    When I visited Syracuse, I booked a private tour with Livtours and really enjoyed it.

    Our guide was so knowledgeable and brought the sites to life.

    You can check it out at http://www.livtours.com.

    Unfortunately, I don’t arrange tours myself. I’m just a travel blogger sharing experiences.

    Livtours did a great job when I went, but I can’t guarantee your guide’s gender. You may want to contact them directly to check availability and options for October 14th. They offer private and small group tours.

    I hope you and your girlfriend have a wonderful time exploring the beautiful city of Syracuse.

    Let me know if you need any other travel tips or recommendations once you’ve booked your tour.

    Safe travels and have fun!

  • Joram Hirsch


    My girlfriend and I will arrive on October 14th in Syracusa on a cruise ship.

    We are looking for an 8-hour private tour with a lady tour guide if possible.

    What can you offer us?

    Thanks & kind regards,