What to see in Syracuse in one day

What to see in Syracuse in one day

Syracuse will win you over instantly. Maybe it’s because of its Mediterranean charm and fascinating history reflected in a rich and diverse, artistic, natural and cultural heritage. Maybe it’s because it’s a lively and colourful city.

To be honest, I have a real soft spot for Syracuse. So today, I would like to give you some advice on how to discover this little gem of Eastern Sicily, even if you’re travelling as a family.

Here are my favourite things to do in Syracuse in one day for your next trip to Sicily.

Ortigia Island

isola ortigia siracusa

Imagine visiting an island within an island. Ortigia is just that: an islet on which the historic city centre was built. Ortigia is connected to the city of Syracuse by the Umbertino bridge. I’d park the car there and continue on foot, as cars aren’t allowed onto the islet at all. But that’s okay because Ortigia should be explored on foot, wandering around and getting lost in the centre.

Temple of Apollo

tempio apollo siracusa

When you cross Umbertino bridge, you will enter a world where you can feel its history in every corner. The Temple of Apollo is the first relic you will come across: the oldest Doric temple in western Greece.

Syracuse market

venditore pesce mercato siracusa

The city’s historic market is just a five-minute walk away from the Temple of Apollo.

I recommend dropping by when it’s open (usually Monday- Saturday from the morning until 1pm, and on Sundays it’s closed) to dive into the colour and flavours of Sicilian tradition. A gem not to be missed is Caseificio Borderi: a shop well-known in Syracuse for its hearty, tasty homemade panini, stuffed with fresh, local produce. I would recommend trying the mozzarella with lemon panino, an odd but interesting combination.

Fountain of Diana

fontana diana siracusa

In the middle of Piazza Archimede stands the Fountain of Diana (or Artemis), created in 1907 by the sculptor Giulio Moschetti. Looking at the Fountain of Diana is like reading a mythology book: the work tells the myth of Alpheus and Arethusa, a troubled story of love and hate between a young nymph and a divine being. The fountain depicts Arethusa running from Alpheus, while Diana, with a bow and a dog, tries to rescue the young nymph from the clutches of Alpheus.

Piazza Duomo and the Cathedral

cattedrale siracusa

Unlike Catania, a “black” city built entirely out of lava stone, Syracuse is as white as the sandstone on which it was built. Piazza Duomo is a circle of white baroque buildings, known as one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. Certainly the Cathedral does not go unnoticed: built on the ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena and then turned into a cathedral, this wonderful work of art is a perfect and harmonious mix of styles from different eras.

Arethusa Spring


Syracuse is a city full of myth and legend. Every corner tells a story, and just as the Fountain of Diana tells us a part of the troubled story of Alpheus and Arethusa, the Arethusa spring tells us the aftermath of one of the city’s symbolic events.

According to the myth, Arethusa asked the Goddess Diana to help her escape Alpheus, so the Goddess turned the nymph into a freshwater spring.

The spring is a few metres away from the sea. It looks like a real lake, a green mirror in the heart of Ortigia. Plants (including papyri) and some species of aquatic birds and fish live in it.

Maniace Castle


Once you have visited Arethusa Spring, walk along the coastline until you reach Maniace Castle, one of the main remains of the Swabian period in Sicily. The Castle can only be visited in the morning (you should check the opening times on the official website), so plan your itinerary taking into account the fact that it closes at 12:30. Tickets are 4 euros, but entry is free on the first Sunday of every month. Even if you are late, it is still worth a visit to take in the magnificent view and the little beach where you can have a nice picnic or drinks overlooking the sea.

Syracuse for children: activities for little explorers

Syracuse is a city that will win over even its youngest visitors. The historic centre of Ortigia is easily accessible and can be visited in a pushchair or on foot.

Mythological tales will help you grab your children’s attention, and the route I’ve described is perfect for families: I have done it several times with my children and I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

Here are some additional activities you can also do with children.

The Archimedes and Leonardo Children’s Museum

museo archimede e leonardo siracusa

Whether you are travelling with children or not, I recommend visiting the Archimedes and Leonardo museum in Syracuse. Children have a dedicated area inside: a tactile space to explore, understand, and experiment using all senses, including touch. It’s a place to have fun and play with art and science, with the most important inventions of the great Archimedes and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Tecnoparco Archimede

tecnoparco archimede siracusa

More Archimedes and physics, but this time it’s outdoors, in a 1,700 square-metre park that has replicas and scale models of 3rd century BC instruments designed by the great Archimedes: gears and toothed wheels, catapults, cranes, and water clocks. The park has 6 thematic areas to be explored and experienced as a family.

For more information, see the park’s official website.

Syracuse Puppetry Museum

museo pupari siracusa

Children love stories, puppets, and chivalric tales. Why not experience one of the main traditions of Sicilian culture – puppetry? At the Puppetry Museum in Syracuse you and your children can discover the history of the Vaccaro and Mauceri families, who were puppeteers for many generations, and immerse yourself in the world of these extraordinary papier-mâché creatures that tell the deeds of kings, knights, and heroes.

The Museum also runs creative workshops where children can make puppets out of paper and glue and talking socks, and learn puppeteering. For more information visit the official website.

Visit the Neapolis Archaeological Park with a family-friendly guide

parco Neapolis Siracusa

Visiting an archaeological park may not be the most kid-friendly activity. But a boring visit can be turned into an engaging and playful activity for the whole family. How? Just choose the right tour guide. That’s why I recommend the tours run by a tour guide and archaeologist specialised in family visits to discover one of the main archaeological parks in the Mediterranean that contains the site of Greek Syracuse.

Note: Neapolis is two hours away, so you could visit Ortigia in the morning and Neapolis in the afternoon, or vice versa.

For more information, visit the Archaeological Park’s official website.

I hope you find this useful to plan your one-day trip to Syracuse, which is just an hour away from Catania. What are you waiting for to discover Sicily’s White City?

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