- The Greek Theatre
- The Roman Amphitheatre
- Cathedral of Syracuse
- Ortigia Market
- Archaeological Museum of Syracuse
- Latomia del Paradiso and Latomia dei Cappuccini
- Arenella Beach
- Euryalus Castle and Maniace Castle
- San Giovanni Crypt and Catacombs
- Temple of Apollo
- Palazzo Montalto
- The Fountain of Arethusa
How to get to Syracuse by train
You can take a regional train from Catania to Syracuse and reach your destination in just 1h 3m. The direct fast-regional train from Palermo to Syracuse takes 4h 14m, but it's a gorgeous journey cutting through the mountainous landscapes of Sicily's interior. Coming from mainland Italy, Reggio Calabria to Syracuse takes 4h 46m.
1. The Greek Theatre
The Greek Theatre has to top any list of things to do in Syracuse. Built in 470 BC, this incredible structure dug into the hillside has a diameter of 138 metres. Performances of plays from the likes of Sophocles and Aeschylus are documented here. It's not hard to imagine how it must have looked – much of the theatre is still in remarkable condition, especially the semi-circular seating area. But also large parts of the stage and scenery buildings remain.
2. The Roman Amphitheatre
Roman gladiators won't go down without a fight – sorry, we couldn't resist – and the nearby Roman Amphitheatre in Syracuse is a prime example. Although more overgrown than its Greek neighbour, this ancient arena is also incredibly well preserved. The tinge of green gives it an eerie character. You can see remains of the arched entranceways, dug straight into the rock at each end. There are also remnants of the underground rooms and passageways used by gladiators who fought here.
3. Cathedral of Syracuse
Breathtaking in both style and stature, the Cathedral of Syracuse is an unmissable sight. Its Doric columns, imposing Baroque facade, ornate statues, and stunning stained-glass window illustrate changing historical elements since its construction in the 7th century. The lively public square in front of the cathedral, the Piazza del Duomo, has been the centre of public life for millennia. Other historic buildings here include the Town Hall (Municipio), Sovrintendenza Palace, and the Church of St Lucia.
4. Ortigia Market
Nothing offers a slice of local life like a lively market. And the bustling market on the island of Ortigia offers plenty to excite the senses. From fresh seafood and vegetables to spices and traditional cakes and pastries, you'll see an amazing array of Sicily's food culture on display here. It's easy to walk to Ortigia Market from the city centre. Once you hit the island itself, veer onto Via Raffaele Lanza, and you'll quickly see the covered market stalls hugging the buildings.
5. Archaeological Museum of Syracuse
Founded by Corinthians and Teneans around 700 BC, and quickly becoming a powerful Mediterranean city-state, Syracuse has an incredibly long and rich history. The Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi, or Archaeological Museum of Syracuse, is one of Europe's leading archaeological museums. It's clearly the best place to try and get your head around this fascinating history. The museum boasts a huge collection of artefacts stretching back into prehistory. It's divided into sections focusing on the Greek, Roman, and Paleolithic periods, among others.
6. Latomia del Paradiso and Latomia dei Cappuccini
Syracuse is known for its ancient stone quarries, which have been mined since the 6th century. The most famous is Latomia del Paradiso (Quarry of Paradise), which has an impressive 60-metre long, 11-metre high underground cave. It's also the location of the famous Ear of Dionysius where, if you stand in the right spot, you can hear people whispering at the other end of the cave. Latomia dei Cappuccini is also worth visiting. This monumental quarry collapsed, revealing an intricate subterranean network of columns and caves.
7. Arenella Beach
Arenella is a favourite spot for day trips among Syracuse locals. But you don’t need to set aside a whole day to get there – it's only a 20-minute bus ride from the town centre. Ideal for families, Arenella features a 300-metre long beach with golden sand and gentle, crystal-clear water. It's great for swimming, snorkelling, or simply relaxing under an umbrella. There are several coastal walking trails to explore around the beach. And the little village of Arenella itself has a good selection of cafes and eateries.
8. Euryalus Castle and Maniace Castle
Euryalus Castle, built around 402 BC, is mostly in ruins. It has ancient underground tunnels and an on-site museum, which outlines its history as one of Sicily's most important fortifications. Maniace Castle, by contrast, is in near-perfect condition. Located at the extreme southern tip of Ortigia, it was built under Emperor Frederick II's reign in 1232. Its most impressive features are its beautifully decorated portal gate, and its superb views over the Old Town and the Ionian Sea.
9. San Giovanni Crypt and Catacombs
Basilica di San Giovanni is an eye-catching and intriguing building. Established in the 6th century, it was added to and developed over the centuries. However, a devastating earthquake in 1693 somewhat froze it in time in its current, dilapidated, and extremely photogenic state. But the really interesting attraction is underground – a vast network of catacombs, larger even than those in Rome. You can walk through these subterranean passageways for miles and miles, finding various crypts and immense columns somehow still standing.
10. Temple of Apollo
There are places fit for a king and then there are places fit for a god. The Temple of Apollo is one of the latter. Not much of it remains after nearly 2,600 years, but the rectangular foundation and the size of its remaining columns hint at how impressive it once was. Built around 570 BC, this is believed to be the oldest temple in Sicily. The Archaeological Museum displays numerous items excavated here, illustrating the temple's changing role and use over the centuries.
11. Palazzo Montalto
Erected in 1397, gifted from the Queen of Aragon to Filippo Montalto in the 15th century, and serving as a cholera hospital during the 19th century, Palazzo Montalto has had a colourful history. Today, it is one of Sicily's most important architectural monuments, displaying a largely unaltered combination of Arabic and Swabian features. If you're intrigued and want to see more of Syracuse's historical palaces, you're in luck – Palazzo Vitale, Palazzo Bongiovanni, Palazzo Lanza Bucceri, and Palazzo Arcivescovile are all within a few hundred metres of Palazzo Montalto.
12. The Fountain of Arethusa
The famed Fountain of Arethusa (Fonte Aretusa in Italian) offers a different style of history from Syracuse's other ruins, churches, and palaces. This natural, freshwater fountain overlooking the sea is, according to Greek mythology, where the nymph Arethusa returned to Earth's surface after escaping Arcadia. It is mentioned in countless literary works, from ancient Greek and Roman writers through John Milton, Alexander Pope, and William Wordsworth. It is also one of only two places in Europe where papyrus grows, and it's home to several species of waterfowl.
Well, now you know our 12 top things to do in Syracuse. If you're ready to go and see them for yourself, have a look around our Trains in Sicily page and book your train tickets with us.