Things to do in Syracuse

Things to do in  Syracuse

Sicily, old and new

With its ancient ruins, baroque squares, and medieval lanes lined with time-worn palazzi and hip cafès, Syracuse embodies the allure of Sicily past and present. The Duomo and Neapolis Archaeological Park, home to the largest Greek theater on the island, top the list of sights to tour in Syracuse, but visitors also gravitate towards Ortygia, the peninsular old town where the city was founded almost three millennia ago. Here, trendy wine bars and chic artisan boutiques vie for space with nonna-filled markets and fishermen mending their nets along the waterfront.

Top 14 attractions in Syracuse

Ortygia (Ortigia)

The captivating former Greek and Roman city of Syracuse wasn’t actually founded on Sicily, but on a tiny island just offshore called Ortygia. Connected by two bridges to the mainland and modern expanse of the city, Ortygia is where you’ll find Old Town highlights such as the Duomo, Temple of Apollo, and Fountain of Arethusa.More


On the southeastern coast of Sicily, the pretty limestone town of Noto—part of a sprawling UNESCO World Heritage Site—is a masterwork of the Sicilian baroque style. Architecture buffs love to stroll the Corso Vittorio Emanuele III and marvel at the grand St. Nicholas Cathedral and other baroque structures.More

Syracuse Greek Theater (Teatro Greco)

Syracuse’s Greek Theater (Teatro Greco) was one of the largest in the world when it was constructed, able to seat up the 16,000 spectators. Hewn directly from the side of the Temenite Hill overlooking the Sicilian countryside, the stone theater is a highlight of the UNESCO-listed Neapolis Archaeological Park.More

Syracuse Cathedral (Duomo di Siracusa)

The ornate 17th-century facade of Syracuse Cathedral (Duomo di Siracusa) is typical of many Sicilian baroque churches, but belies the unusual interior of this former Greek temple. Built in the fifth century BC and dedicated to the goddess Athena, the building was converted into a Christian church over a millennium later.More


One of Sicily’s prettiest baroque cities (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site besides), Scicli is rich in elegant architecture, religious landmarks, and charming restaurants and cafés. The city’s hilltop San Matteo Church is its most recognizable monument, and other popular attractions range from its grand town hall to pretty palazzi.More

Ear of Dionysius (Orecchio di Dionisio)

The Neapolis Archaeological Park outside of Syracuse is home to important Greek and Roman ruins, but the most unusual sight is an ancient limestone cave known as the Ear of Dionysius. Its unique tapered shape produces acoustics so precise that the tyrant Dionysius is said to have imprisoned enemies here to better eavesdrop on them.More

Neapolis Archaeological Park (Parco Archeologico della Neapolis)

The Neapolis Archaeological Park (Parco Archeologico della Neapolis) is home to many of Syracuse’s most important Greek and Roman ruins, including the Greek Theater dating from the fifth century BC, a third-century-BC sacrificial altar, second-century Roman amphitheater, and a limestone quarry that provided stone for the ancient city.More

Nicolaci di Villadorata Palace (Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata)

The historic center of Noto is a treasure trove of Sicilian baroque architecture, and the Palazzo Nicolaci is among the finest examples of this 18th-century style in the city. With ornate balconies and whimsical carvings adorning its facade, the palace—together with a number of equally sublime baroque churches—is a highlight of Noto.More

Church of Santa Chiara (Chiesa di Santa Chiara)

Home to one of the most sublime historic centers in Sicily, Noto is a baroque treasure and the Chiesa di Santa Chiara, officially known as the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, one of its many gems. The church’s refined exterior is just an amuse-bouche to the glory of its interiors, a triumph of decorative stucco and gilding.More

Basilica of San Salvatore (Basilica del SS. Salvatore)

The UNESCO-listed town of Noto is a treasure trove of Sicilian baroque architecture, and this basilica is one of the city’s headliners. Standing at the top of a monumental staircase, the 18th-century church has an ornate facade that will delight any architecture aficionado and is one of the most impressive interiors in Noto.More


On the remote southeastern tip of Sicily, Marzamemi is one of the most picturesque fishing villages on the island. Once the seat of a thriving tuna industry, these days, locals and tourists alike descend each summer to swim at the pretty beach and soak up the town’s authentic ambiance.More
Church of San Domenico (Chiesa di San Domenico)

Church of San Domenico (Chiesa di San Domenico)

Noto is best known for its UNESCO-listed clutch of churches and palaces built in the sumptuous Sicilian baroque style, and the 18th-century Church of San Domenico is considered one of the town’s architectural treasures. Admire its ornately carved facade before stepping inside to marvel at the exuberant stuccowork.More
Tellaro Roman Villa (Villa Romana del Tellaro)

Tellaro Roman Villa (Villa Romana del Tellaro)

Set in the Sicilian countryside outside of Noto, the Roman Villa of Tellaro is home to a number of striking mosaics dating from the fourth century that depict intricate hunting scenes and stories from Greek mythology. Ancient history buffs will especially enjoy a visit to this carefully preserved site with its spectacular original floor.More
Tecnoparco Archimede Museum (Tecnoparco Museo di Archimede)

Tecnoparco Archimede Museum (Tecnoparco Museo di Archimede)

An open-air science and technology museum, the Tecnoparco Archimede Museum (Tecnoparco Museo di Archimede) is dedicated to the of the Greek mathematician Archimedes. Explore the third-century inventor’s technological innovations, and learn how they are used today.More

Top activities in Syracuse

Noto Walking Tour

Noto Walking Tour

Cavagrande del Cassibile nature reserve

Cavagrande del Cassibile nature reserve

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All about Syracuse


People Also Ask

What is Syracuse known for?

Syracuse is known for ancient ruins and the Island of Ortigia, the historic old town. The Archaeological Park Neapolis houses a Roman amphitheater, a Greek theater, and a limestone cave named the Ear of Dionysius. The Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi holds Greek and Roman archeological finds from around Sicily.

Is Ortigia worth visiting?

Yes, Ortigia is worth visiting. The island is Syracuse’s historic old town and is home to baroque churches, including the Cathedral of Syracuse, which was built atop a Greek temple dedicated to Athena. The Mercato di Ortigia assembles fruit, spice, and fish vendor stalls next to the sea.

Which is better: Syracuse or Catania?

Both Catania and Syracuse are popular travel destinations. Syracuse is celebrated for its ancient Roman and Greek ruins and the Island of Ortigia, the historic old town with baroque churches. Catania is a larger transportation hub with an airport—and is much closer to Taormina and Mount Etna.

Do you need a car in Sicily?

It depends. Sicily isn’t as well-connected by trains as mainland Italy, though the northern stretch from Palermo to Catania comes close. Elsewhere, regional trains and buses are serviceable but not always efficient. Cars are advised for trips across or around the island, exploring the interior, and visiting smaller towns.

What is the best time of year to go to Sicily?

Visit Sicily during spring from late April to June, or fall from late September to November. These months skip summer’s sweltering heat and clamoring crowds while still offering sunny days to enjoy the marvelous beaches. If you visit during summer, do attend an evening outdoor opera or theater performance.

Is Syracuse, Sicily, safe?

Syracuse is generally a safe place, especially so for southern Italy. Visitors are more likely to find hospitable Sicilians than true safety issues. With that said, travelers should take the usual precautions, such as holding valuables tight and keeping an eye out for pickpockets or petty thefts.

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