I know, I know, Catania sounds like some fictional town in “Game Of Thrones,” but it’s actually a real place! While it’s not as mystical as it sounds, there’s definitely something enchanting about it.
Located on the North East coast of Sicily, Catania commands captivating views of the Mediterranean sea as well as the magnificent Mount Etna, which happens to be one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
It is a city with an ancient past and you can feel it from it’s historic baroque style buildings to it’s century old churches. And like most old cities, there’s never a lack of intricately woven back alleys to explore and get lost in.
Aside from the ideal view and anachronistic architecture, Catania is defined by it’s it’s people. Like most Sicilians, Catanian’s are warm, helpful, yell furiously as a display of affection, and love good food. But what really sets Cantanians apart is their love for partying.
Finally, like much of Sicily, Catania is relatively inexpensive, which makes it a great city for budget backpackers.
In the following guide, you’ll find a review of the best places to stay and things to do on a budget.
How To Get To Catania
Getting to Catania isn’t as hard or expensive as you might think. These days Norwegian Air offers insanely cheap flights from Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen, and even Gatwick airport for as low as 54USD direct during the low season, which usually ranges between mid Sept to mid April. And once you arrive it’s just a 20minute 1 euro bus into downtown Catania.
Where To Stay In Catania
Catania has loads of budget hotels and hostels but many of them tend to be completely booked during the high season. I once walked around the city from 10pm to 2am in early May just trying to find anything with vacancy. So be sure to book in advance.
Agora hostel is one of the cheapest but also most popular backpacker hostels in Catania.When you envision a cool laid back hostel full of backpackers from around the world, this is it. It’s ideally located not far from the main piazza and has a great bar/nightclub right next door. But if you’re tired of partying this isn’t the hostel for you. On another note, the owner and reception is extremely welcoming and chilled out. They even offered me a couch to sleep on for free when I couldn’t find another hotel. For more info, check out Agora Hostel.
City In Hostel B&B
City In Hostel is clean, quiet, has a modern kitchen, courtyard, and even provides breakfast. Although it costs a bit more than Agora at 24 euro a night for a dorm, the breakfast with fresh croissants makes it worth it. The dorm is nice but the beds tend to creak a bit too much. If you’re traveling with a friend, I would definitely recommend a private for between 40-50 Euro/night. The owner is a nice guy who’s always at reception, so be sure to haggle. For more info, check out City In Hostel B&B.
Top 5 Things To Do In Catania
Catania offers just as many adventures in the day as it does by night. With so many medieval churches and even Greco-Roman ruins it’s a history lovers locale. And with so many night clubs, bars, and late night restaurants, it’s a party packed paradise.
Below you’ll find the top 5 things to do on a budget in Catania.
1) Grab A Coffee At Duomo Square
Duomo Square sits at the end of Via Etna. It’s defined by it’s Elephant statue constructed from lava rock from Roman ruins. It’s surrounded by baroque style buildings and the Norman Cathedrale dedicated to St. Agatha. The best thing to do in Duomo Square is to simply head to a cafe, grab a coffee and people watch. Although it’s flooded with tourists in the day, at night it’s a local hangout.
2) Walk Via Etna
Via Etna is the broadway of Catania and stretches 5 kilometers through the heart of the city. It begins in Duomo Square, takes you into University Square and then past boutique shops, cafes, and the commercial section. When you finally reach the top of the hill, the city below is beautifully outlined by the azul blue of the Mediteranean.
3) Check out the Roman Amphitheater
The Roman Amphitheater is located in the heart of Catania at the Piazza Stesicoro. It’s one of the best preserved Amphitheater in Sicily. Another site worth seeing is the Greco-Roman theatre Odeon located just a few blocks west of Duomo Square.
4) Eat Fresh Oysters At Catania’s Fish Market
If you love seafood, the fish market is where it’s at. Although oysters are pricey, they’re definitely cheaper here than any sit in restaurant. And when you’re done shoveling down oysters, try and find the hole in the wale antique shop about 300 meters north of the entrance to Duomo Square.
5) Party Hardy
Catania is known world wide for it’s night life. Although I spent most of my nights trying to break my friend out of the immigration center (Operation African Asylum), I did hang out at the bar/club outside of Agora Hostel one night. They played some great beats and the crowd was the perfect blend of backpackers and locals. While I didn’t get a chance to go, I heard good things about Mercati Generali.
If Sicily is on your list, you can’t pass up Catania. It’s just big enough to support a hopping local nightlife and just small enough where you can explore everything worth seeing by foot. Plus the price of food and drinks is relatively cheap compared to other big cities, which makes it a great choice for backpackers on a budget. In terms of Sicilian cities, Catania, Siracusa, and Palermo are my top 3.