8 Best Riads in Marrakech: Curated Guide to Where to Stay [New Picks for 2024]

Planning a trip to Morocco involves a lot of components, but easily, one of the most fun parts is sifting through all the picture-perfect Marrakech riads and dreaming about which one you want to wake up in.

Riads are an indispensable part of a Marrakech trip: these historic family-run Moroccan guesthouses located in the old medinas are quite literally reason enough to travel to Morocco.

Dinner table in a marrakech riad with colorful plates set up and ready for a meal to be served

It can be utterly overwhelming to pick where to stay in Marrakech, so I’ve written this guide [and fully revamped it for 2024, picking new properties that have arisen since I last wrote the post].

My goal with this post is to show you all the best riads in Marrakech for all budgets (skipping over bigger luxury hotels) — this way, you can spend more time planning other parts of your Morocco trip, like taking a trip to the Sahara desert or deciding what to wear.

What is Staying in a Riad Like?

a charming pool in a riad in marrakech with a seating area and mosaic tilework

Morocco is a country that is largely hard to access for tourists, where culture dictates a big divide between not only men and women, but also locals and visitors.

Most riads are quite small and intimate, with a central floor plan based around an open central courtyard with plenty of lounge spaces to access, as well as a roof terrace.

Meanwhile, up above on the floors surrounding the courtyard, there are private rooms with their own en-suite bathrooms.

Since you are being hosted by a local family, often the same family who has owned the house for generations, these Marrakech riads are a special liminal ‘third space’ where you are hosted and thus get a small glimpse into the lives of locals.

Riads can range from small and humble (Shakira, Shakira) to much more luxurious, with spa and pool amenities.

Why Stay in a Riad?

Colorful palm fronds and a pool with sun loungers on a riad rooftop

So, you might wonder, aren’t there any hotels in Marrakech? Well, yes, but a riad is a much better choice.

Partly, it’s because Marrakech riads are insanely photogenic, but that’s not the real draw of staying in one (for me, anyway). It’s all about the host. Your riad hosts can make a huge difference in your stay – recommending guides, drivers, and off the beaten path spots where you won’t get ripped off as a tourist.

Unfortunately Marrakech is a bit of a viper’s den: scams are rampant and it’s a rite of passage to get taken advantage of in some way, shape, or form during your time there.

Gorgeous pink toned interior of a traditional marrakech riad with plunge pool for relaxing

But your riad host is almost like a ‘fixer’ – solving cultural and logistical problems, negotiating fair deals (though of course, not just out of good will — they’ll also get a small cut), and just generally helping you navigate the more difficult aspects of Moroccan culture for outsiders.

Since they typically only has a handful of guests at one time, as a riad is much, much smaller than your traditional hotel, they can offer you that 1:1 attention that Marrakech, quite frankly, demands.

How Much Does Staying in a Riad Cost?

Colorful interior of a riad courtyard with all sorts of stripes, patterns and bright colors

I’ve picked gorgeous and stylish Moroccan riads in each budget category for a wide selection of the top riads in Marrakech.

For the purposes of this article, I’ve generally defined budget as being generally under $100 USD a night, mid-range as $100-200 USD a night, and luxury as $200+ USD per night.

However, keep in mind that prices do fluctuate depending on room type/size available, time of year, and other variables, so use the budget categories as a guide rather than as gospel.

You may see some hotels in the luxury category for as little as $100 a night in certain low seasons (mid-summer and the dead of winter, generally), so these are really loose guidelines, but they should be helpful in getting started.

My Top 3 Picks for Marrakech Riads

This post can admittedly be a bit overwhelming, with a whopping 21 options!

If that’s overwhelming, I’ll give my top pick for each budget category below, so you can more quickly navigate this post.

#1 BUDGET PICK

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Riad Al Nour

✔️ Courtyard with orange trees, lush sitting area, and rooftop terrace
✔️Colorful design & rooms with Moroccan decor and hammam-like bathrooms

#1 MID-RANGE PICK

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Riad Adika

✔️ Courtyard plunge pool, fireplace lounge, on-site hammam
✔️ High ceilinged rooms with Moroccan lanterns and rugs

#1 LUXURY PICK

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Almaha Marrakech Restaurant & Spa
✔️ Best riad pool in Marrakech (plus second bonus pool)
✔️ Spa with Moroccan tile, hammam steam room, dry sauna, massage rooms

Best Riads in Marrakech: My Picks for 2024

Riad Les AmmonitesBook Here

Lots of greenery and cacti and a plunge pool and two tables set out in the sun at a Marrakech riad
Riad Les Ammonites | Photo Credit: Hotels.com

With a garden straight out of Eden and a nautilus-shaped small plunge pool that would make Fibonacci proud, the courtyard of Riad Les Ammonites is everything you look for in a Marrakech riad.

The room types are varied and unique, each with their own distinct personality evoking the beauty of the medina (without any of the chaos of it)

Despite being a budget-friendly property, it’s also an all-in-one destination. There’s an on-site spa with a Turkish bath (hammam) where you can also request massages and other treatments.

There’s also a delicious restaurant in-house serving homestyle Moroccan cooking.

Find Rates on Booking || Find Rates on Hotels.com

Riad Charme d’Orient Book Here

Riad Charme d’Orient | Photo Credit: Hotels.com

This captivating courtyard’s aesthetic is almost reason enough to book this charming riad. The fact that it scores a 9.7/10 on Booking, a near perfect score, almost helps seal the deal.

Similarly, there’s an on-site spa and hammam with massage services as well as a restaurant serving up Moroccan food cooked from the heart.

The big difference from other Marrakech riads? This is an adults-only property, making it perfect for a romantic, childfree escape.

The style inside the rooms may be traditional, but the rooms are quietly, modernly luxe: Tempur-pedic mattresses and Egyptian cotton sheets for all. 

Now that’s a recipe for a good night’s sleep. And with how delicious breakfast the next morning looks… you just might wake up drooling.

Find Rates on Booking || Find Rates on Hotels.com

Riad Chayma – Book Here

Courtyard and covered plunge pool
Riad Chayma | Photo Credit: Hotels.com

The courtyard of this Marrakech riad is a little unique in that the plunge pool is covered and set aside rather than being underneath the hot sun.

This is great for summertime swimmers who don’t want to burn! It has a really lovely atmosphere, too, and the courtyard is a great place to enjoy your daily breakfast.

The rooms of the riad are quite beautiful, integrating traditional wooden Moroccan furnishings with eclectic textiles for a place that truly feels personal and distinctly Marrakech.

This property is also adults-only, making it great for couples looking for some quiet R&R time without the noise of kids. There’s also a spa, as well as a rooftop terrace to enjoy mint tea and mocktails on.

Find Rates on Booking || Find Rates on Hotels.com

Riad Le RihaniBook Here

the beautiful pool courtyard area of Riad Rihani with orang trees and a large dipping pool and a palm tree and sun terrace with chairs and lounge furniture
Riad Le Rihani | Photo Credit: Riad Le Rihani

With a lovely aesthetic, the eco-friendly Riad Le Rihani is one of the most stylish and Instagrammable riads in Marrakech on this list — you’ve probably already seen photos of that pool before ever reading this post.

From the moment you arrive and are welcomed with traditional Moroccan pastries and mint tea, you’ll feel at home.

Centered around an outdoor pool, there’s also a rooftop terrace where you can relax in a canopy bed, a hotel library, a fireplace area, and a hammam offering a handful of different massage treatments.

Each room has its own individual personality, stylishly decorated with a luxe yet relaxed Moroccan aesthetic.

an interior of the riad with a yellow bed, faux fireplace, seating area, work desk, and more
Photo Credit: Riad Le Rihani

In terms of rooms, there are everything from double rooms to suites to larger 4-person family suites if you want or need more space.

Since many riads in Marrakech can be a little on the cramped side, the spaciousness of Riad Le Rihani is a huge plus, especially for couples or for families.

Check rates on Booking || Check rates on Hotels.com

 Riad Yamina 52Book Here

The beautiful hotel pool of Riad Yamina with tile around it
Riad Yamina 52 | Photo Credit: Riad Yamina 52

The courtyard at Riad Yamina 52 is basically a garden which the entire riad is built around, complete with a dip pool in the middle of everything so you can fresh after a hot day out exploring the medina.

There’s also a gorgeous cradle of trees above it, shielding the pool (and your skin!) from the sun. 

interior of a marrakech riad in red carpet, wooden chairs, etc.
Image Credit: Riad Yamina 52

There’s also a rooftop terrace to enjoy a shady mid-day break from exploring Marrakech when you want some peace and quiet.

The rooms are pretty much a Morocco-inspired Pinterest board come to life: beautiful rugs, traditional lanterns, wooden furniture, colorful textiles. 

There are a variety of rooms at a range of price points, from surprisingly affordable doubles to more luxurious suites.

Check prices on Booking || Check prices on Hotels.com

Climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa: Guide for a Perfect Visit [2024]

The Leaning Tower of Pisa may just be the world’s most successful failure. 

Its unintended tilt results from a few careless mistakes and many painstaking fixes, and its unique history is a marvel that captivates visitors to this day.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa was never supposed to be anything special. It was constructed in the 12th century by Bonanno Pisano, a relatively unknown architect.

View of the intense tilt of the leaning tower of pisa
Look at how much it leans! Taken March 2024

It was intended to be a simple belltower for the Cathedral of Pisa. Easy, no?

Well, many things went awry… why is why it took nearly 200 years to build a simple tower. By contrast, the Colosseum of Rome, still the largest standing amphitheater in the world, took merely ten years).

⌛ Planning your Pisa trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

🏝️ Best Pisa Tours & Experiences
1. Leaning Tower & Cathedral Complex Tickets (#1 attraction in Pisa!)
2. Chianti Half-Day Wine Tour (top-rated wine tour)
3. Pisa Food Tour (tastings from 5 eateries on a lunch tour)

🛏️ Best Pisa Hotels
1. Grand Hotel Duomo (best Leaning Tower views!)
2. The Rif (art hotel in a renovated 1900s villa)
3. Palazzo Feroci (luxury converted palazzo with designer interiors)

✈️ Flying into Pisa? Book your airport taxi in advance with Welcome Pickups for a stress-free arrival.

🚘 Planning to travel around Tuscany independently? Look into car rentals in Pisa.

Here, we’ll go into the history of why the Tower of Pisa (Torre di Pisa, in Italian) leans and how you can visit this unique attraction in Pisa on your upcoming trip to Italy.

Why Does the Pisa Tower Lean?​

Allison Green pretending the hold up the leaning tower of pisa in the typical tourist photo
No, the Leaning Tower doesn’t lean on purpose — even though that’s now the big tourist draw!

Just three stories into building the tower, they noticed something was off when it had already begun leaning. In typical Italian fashion, they waited about a century to continue building, trying to counterbalance the shifted weight by building off-balance floors.

After a pause due to wars, they finally added the bell chamber, completing the tower… nearly two centuries later.

But herein is the problem: the tower is made of gray and white marble, a nod to the marble-rich region of Carrera not far away. However, marble is extremely heavy, and that’s a large part of why the issue with the tower leaning began.

The lean of the tower at a 4 degree angle with the pisa cathedral behind it
Leaning at a cool 4 degrees in 2024

But the marble’s not the only thing to blame — the foundation was poorly planned, only three meters deep atop an unstable mix of clay, sand, and shells. Look, I’m no engineer, but that doesn’t sound like a solid start for a huge marble tower weighing nearly 15,000 metric tons.

Interventions were attempted, giving the tower some of its characteristic columns and arches, but never entirely solving the problem. Finally, in 1990, the tower’s lean grew untenable — leaning by a whopping 5.5 degrees.

They started stabilizing the foundation using soil extraction, straightening the tower significantly, and reducing the lean to a more comfortable angle, just under 4 degrees.

As of now, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is considered stable for the next 200 years, when it will undoubtedly need to be worked on again—assuming we still have a planet in 200 years.

​Getting to the Leaning Tower of Pisa​

The area of the leaning tower of pisa with the duomo of pisa
The Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa

Most people visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa in one of two ways: on a day trip from Florence or spending a few days in Pisa, dedicating some proper time to this Tuscan city.

Personally, I recently visited Pisa on a day trip from Florence, and I didn’t think it was nearly enough time—I was left wanting a lot more! 

Whether you visit on a self-guided day trip or visit Pisa for a few days independently, you will arrive at the Pisa train station, Pisa Centrale. You can leave your luggage here if it’s convenient, or you may want to check into a hotel first if you are staying in Pisa overnight.

Either way, from Pisa Centrale train station in the city center, you can make an easy 20-minute walk straight to the Piazza dei Miracoli (formerly the Piazza del Duomo).

You’ll quickly be greeted by Pisa’s most endearing and iconic attraction…. and thousands of less endearing tourists taking cheesy photos with it. 

The leaning tower and the cathedral and lots of crowds
The crowds in Piazza dei Miracoli are intense – watch for pickpockets!

For a cool side trip before visiting the Leaning Tower, just around the corner from the Pisa, you can make a little detour to see the famous ‘Tuttomondo’ Keith Haring mural.

It’s one of the last murals created by Haring before he died from complications of AIDS. It’s located on the wall of the Sant’Antonio Abate church.

Some people may arrive at the Pisa airport, which is extremely close to the town center… You could even walk if you choose as it’s only 2 kilometers away from the town center!

That said, since most people have luggage, they take the Pisa Mover for five Euros to the train station and then walk to the Leaning Tower of Pisa from there.

Getting Tickets to Climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Allison Green's hand holding a mobile ticket
My online ticket to enter the Leaning Tower of Pisa

To climb to the top of the tower, you need specific Leaning Tower of Pisa tickets with a dedicated time slot. You must carefully observe the time of your visit. It’s for a 30-minute window, and you must arrive on time within that window to be able to use your ticket.

The best way to ensure you have a reserved time slot to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa is by booking online in advance well ahead of time.

You can also try to go to the ticket office on the same day, but don’t count on it, because in peak season, it’s pretty common for all the tickets for the day to be sold out. 

Your timed ticket to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa will also get you fast-track access to the Pisa Cathedral anytime that same day.

The interior of the pisa cathedral
The Pisa Cathedral may just be more impressive than the Leaning Tower

While visiting the Pisa Cathedral is technically free, those who do not have a bundled ticket for other sites in the Piazza dei Miracoli will have to wait in a longer line. You, on the other hand, get to skip it!

If the individual tickets to climb the Leaning Tower are sold out, don’t fret — you can take a guided tour that includes the city of Pisa as one of the stops and choose an add-on that includes tickets to the Leaning Tower. 

These Pisa Tower tickets are often booked in advance from a separate supply of tickets, so you can usually get tickets this way, even when they are sold out on the official website and GetYourGuide.

What’s It Like Climbing the Leaning Tower?​

Climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a pretty stress-free and easy experience, especially compared to other climbs I’ve done in Italy, like Brunelleschi’s Dome in Florence and the Terraces of the Milan Duomo. In comparison, I found those really crowded and disorganized.

The line to climb the Leaning Tower is well-managed and runs quickly, so you don’t have to wait too long. However, they only allow people in the next time slot to be in line, so observe your timed-entry ticket carefully. 

Sign showing the rules for getting in line like no bags, next time slot, etc.
Three rules for waiting in line for a smooth process

The security is also speedy and efficient for easy access to the tower. Note that security does not allow any bags for security reasons — not even small backpacks! — but there is a free cloakroom that you can use. 

They carefully stagger the group times so that the narrow spiral staircases to ascend and descend the tower are manageable and not too crowded.

Before climbing the tower, they have everyone sit in a rounded bench area at the bottom while listening to a brief informational overview of its history. This also helps ensure the tower staircase is manageable, as people from the previous time slot need to descend.

People waiting and listening to a presentation while sitting inside the hollow part of the leaning tower of pisa
Eagerly awaiting our turn to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

Once you’ve heard the presentation, you can start going up the (very narrow) spiral staircases.

Prepare for some serious cardio: you’ve got 5 staircases ahead of you with 269 steps (according to this article, which went and counted every single step themselves — now that’s the kind of petty level of pedantry I can truly respect).

Allison Green with her camera walking down some very steep narrow steps in the round tower of Pisa
So many narrow steps!

You’ll reach the seventh floor first, opening to beautiful views of the Duomo of Pisa.

If you go at the right time, around 10 AM, you’ll see a cool sight: the shadow of the Leaning Tower casting a cool shadow over the Duomo! 

The leaning tower of pisa casting a shadow over the duomo
I loved seeing the shadow of the Leaning Tower on the cathedral!

But the climb’s not over!

You can go up one more staircase to the eighth floor, where you can see the bell chamber and the tallest views over the Campo dei Miracoli, as well as 360-degree views around the rest of Pisa. Now that’s a view!

The belltower area of the tallest part of the leaning tower of pisa
At the bell chamber, the tallest part of the tower

View from the top overlooking Miracle Square and other parts of Pisa
Admiring the 360 views over Pisa’s city center

Leaning Tower of Pisa Admission Hours ​and Tickets

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has straightforward admission hours that don’t change much from day to day.

From April through September, the opening hours are from 9 AM to 8 PM. From October through March, they’re just one hour shorter, from 9 AM to 7 PM. 

Allison Green smiling at the top of the leaning tower of pisa having reached the top
Worth the climb!

Throughout the year, the last admission is 30 minutes before closing, as it takes a minimum of 30 minutes to climb to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and enjoy the views.

To ensure you snag a time slot, be sure to book your tickets ahead of time. Skip-the-line tickets can be booked in advance here.

Other Attractions in the Square of Miracles​

The baptistry building in the suqare of miracles in pisa italy
The Baptistry, one of the many interesting buildings in the complex

In addition to the must-see monument, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, don’t miss a few other highlights in the Piazza dei Miracoli if you have time. Together, they constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

In the interest of saving your time, I won’t go into too much detail, but the places you can visit in the Piazza dei Miracoli are:

  • Duomo di Pisa (Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta): A gorgeous cathedral built in 1063, a hallmark of the Romanesque style that Pisa developed. The interior is particularly ornate and unique, with its gorgeous dramatic stripes of marble and several beautiful mosaics.
People standing in the middle of the Duomo of pisa interior
The beautiful interior of Pisa’s Cathedral
  • Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistry of St. John): A small, rounded building with a large dome constructed in 1152, shaped so to encourage beautiful acoustics. Like the Duomo, it’s notable for its beautiful marblework that is emblematic of the Pisan style. 
  • Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery): This beautiful cemetery is set amidst a cloister filled with frescoes, surrounded by sarcophagi and tombs of prominent locals. It is a somber but beautiful place to visit away from the hordes of tourists elsewhere in the area.
  • Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (Cathedral Museum): Just as Florence has its own museum dedicated to its cathedral, so too does Pisa. This museum houses works that were once part of the cathedral and baptistry, providing more focus and curated context on these beautiful works.
  • Sinopie Museum: Here, you can find some drawings made for the frescoes inside the Camposanto, which show a beautiful insight into the artistic process for creating these larger-than-life works.

10 Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting the Colosseum [2024 Update]

lots of tourists outside the colosseum in rome

While Rome is filled with wonderful squares, fountains, and awe-inspiring ancient ruins, nothing will capture your interest like the Colosseum!

The nearly 2,000-year-old amphitheater is the symbol of the Eternal City and a must-see on any Rome itinerary — whether you have one day, 3 days, or a full week!

But visiting the Colosseum comes with tips and tricks. You may think it’s as easy as showing up, getting a ticket, and visiting the place… but you’d be wrong!

Cloudy day at the Colosseum with view of the arena floor and people visible in the distance.
View of the ground level of the Colosseum

In my opinion, you’d be missing out if you skip a proper Colosseum tour, and you even risking having a bad experience without knowing a few key pieces of advice beforehand.

Tourists often make quite a few mistakes when visiting the Colosseum — I’m here to help you avoid them.

In fact, I recently visited the Colosseum and made a few mistakes of my own, just to ensure you won’t make those mistakes on your trip. (I’d like to see an AI with that level of dedication /j).

Read on to find out how to make the most of your visit and avoid falling into some easily avoidable errors.

But first — let’s quickly go over some history for context, to get you excited for visiting the Colosseum!

📝 This post was completely re-written after Allison visited the Colosseum in March 2024. She's since updated this post to reflect her experience, ensure its accuracy, and add recent photographs.

Want a Colosseum Tour? My 3 Top Picks

This post goes heavily into detail into everything you can expect about visiting the Colosseum.

But maybe you just want to skip all that and have a tour guide figure that all out for you?

Here are my top Colosseum tour recommendations in case you want to outsource all the planning!

#1 TOP PICK

detail of the arena floor area of the colosseum

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Colosseum Underground, Arena Floor and Ancient Rome Tour
✔️ 3 hour walking tour with guide & skip-the-line entry
✔️ Includes Colosseum dungeons & tunnels, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill

↳ Book it

#2 PICK

colosseum interior on a sunny day

Colosseum Guided Tour

✔️ Budget-friendly tour with live guide that includes Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum
X Does not include Arena Floor or Underground

↳ Book it

#3 PICK

ceiling of the sistine chapel in rome

Colosseum and Vatican Museums Full-Day Tour
✔️ Skip long lines at the two most iconic sights in Rome
✔️ No need to plan meals, timing, or transport – it’s all handled for you

↳ Book it

Why Visit the Colosseum?

Side view of the arena of the colosseum in Rome on a sunny day
Colosseum on a March day in 2024

The two mains reason to visit the Colosseum is its record-setting size as well as its history: even to this day, it’s the largest standing amphitheater in the world. Standing since 80 CE, the world has had nearly two millennia to beat this record… but no other structure has unseated it.

Taking about a decade to build, during the period from 70 and 80 CE, it was built by Emperor Vespasian, the successor to Nero. And, in typical Roman petty one-upping fashion, Vespasian decided to built it right alongside Nero’s old villa, the Domus Aurea, in a drained lake in the former gardens of the house.

Everyone who’s seen Gladiator has some idea of the macabre spectacles that took place in the Roman Colosseum: dark, violent ‘games’ of gladiators fighting each other (or animals) to death, as well as public executions. 

These executions were particularly gruesome: crucifixions, burning alive, and being fed to beasts. It’s hard to believe that these were the Eras and Renaissance Tours of Ancient Rome, drawing up to 50,000 spectators at a time… but times certainly were different back then.

Luckily, visiting the Colosseum in Rome today is a much more peaceful affair — the only fighting you’ll be doing is for good angles amidst the crowds.

How to Get to the Roman Colosseum

sign for the colosseo metro stop (line b) in rome italy
The Colosseum metro stop — pretty straightforward, no?

It’s quite easy to get to the Roman Colosseum either on foot or by public transport within Rome.

You can get to the Colosseum via the Metro from many places in Rome. Simply take Line B to the Colosseo stop.

Insider Tip: Have a little time before you need to pick up your tickets or meet your group? Put “Giardinetto del Monte Oppio” into your Maps app and walk there from the Colosseo stop before visiting the Colosseum — you’ll be able to get a great angle for a perfect photo!

Exiting the metro, you’ll be right on Piazza del Colosseo, where most small group tours meet up. You can also go to the security point to enter if you are doing a fast-track entry and you already have your ticket printed and ready to go.

The arch of constantine outside the colosseum with green trees in March
The Arch of Constantine (pictured here) was my tour’s meeting point. My guide was holding a white flag to help me find him.

If you pre-booked some sort of ticket through a tour company like Get Your Guide and you need to pick up your ticket in person, like I did, be sure to check the meeting point.

For my self-guided fast-track entry with audioguide, we had to meet at the Arch of Constantine, about 15 minutes before our entry time. We met the guide, got our printed tickets, and audioguide access information — but more on this part later.

Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting the Colosseum in Rome

Mistake 1: Not booking your ticket online in advance

The interior of the Colosseum as seen from one side of the ancient amphitheater
Exploring the interior of the Colosseum

The biggest mistake to avoid when visiting the Colosseum is showing up without a ticket — seriously, if there’s one thing you glean from this article, let it be this!

To avoid long lines (and potentially not even getting in!), especially in peak season, buy your tickets for the Colosseum online.

When planning my trips, I tend to use GetYourGuide since they have more ticket availability than official websites, which sell out quickly. But more importantly, I always buy skip-the-line tickets to popular attractions because my time while I’m traveling is one of my most precious resources!

The few extra dollars I spend pre-booking a skip-the-line ticket is well-worth it when I consider the opportunity cost of waiting in line on a trip I’ve invested time, money, and planning into.

Lines at the Colosseum in rome
I will always pay a little extra to avoid the lines!

The first time I visited the Roman Colosseum many years ago, I took a guided tour because I wanted to know all the history of this fascinating place.

Unless you really hate guided tours, I would recommend this. The history of the Colosseum is incredibly fascinating, and the tour guides usually do a good job of relaying this information in an engaging way. 

This guided tour has great reviews and a reasonable cost!

Allison's hand holding a paper ticket for visiting the Colosseum plus her audio guide log in which did not work
Printed ticket from my self-guided visit to the Colosseum in March

On my most recent visit, I chose to just book this skip-the-line ticket with an audioguide, since I had done a tour in the past and I wanted the freedom to wander and take photos at my leisure. However, I was pretty disappointed with the audioguide portion of the experience.

I hadn’t read the fine print (which is my mistake) and it was a phone app audioguide, not a physical audioguide. That would be just mildly annoying, except for the small fact that… the audioguide app wouldn’t work, and I spent much of my time at the Colosseum attempting to contact the tour company to get it fixed.

They were never able to fix the issue, claiming they sent me an SMS with a new link to access the audioguide, but I never received it. GetYourGuide did refund a portion of my tour, which I appreciated. That’s another reason why I book with them — the (very) few times I’ve had a bad tour, they’ve always issued a full or partial refund.

I didn’t love this experience, but for some, it may still be the right choice. If that’s you, you can still book this skip-the-line ticket and audioguide here. Be sure to read the email carefully and download the audioguide app a few days before so you can troubleshoot if it doesn’t work.

No matter what kind of ticket you get, you need to show up 15 minutes before at the dedicated meeting point.

If you already have the exact ticket you need for entry, you can just go straight to the dedicated entrance to show your ticket and go through the security checkpoint.

Mistake 2: Not knowing all the ticket options

people standing in line waiting for a guided tour departure inside the interior of the colosseum
One of the guided tour meeting points

There are actually a ton of different options for visiting the Colosseum, including certain parts of the Colosseum that are only accessible with a ticket add-on… and these can be a little confusing.

Your standard ticket gives you access to the Colosseum’s first two floors and the museum exhibits within it. It also gives you access to another site just a few minutes’ walk away: the combined site of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. 

But there is also a few other parts of the Colosseum that you can access! One is the arena floor, where you can wander the base of the amphitheater and see the entirety of the Colosseum towering above you.

This guided tour includes the arena floor

sign that lets you know the different places and directions you can go on the tour, including to the underground and arena area
Bifurcation point for two different areas (and ticket types) of the Colosseum

Different from the arena floor, there’s also the underground area where you can explore the cells where animals and prisoners sat in purgatory before their executions were put on display to tens of thousands of spectators.

You’ll see the tunnels and hidden entrances and understand how the underbelly of the Colosseum really operated, which is fascinating for those with the stomach for a little dark history.

This guided tour includes the arena underground as well as the arena floor

Finally, there’s another option that might be interesting if you are visiting during the high season in Rome: the night tour. Availability for this is extremely limited — there are only a few dates remaining for the 2024 summer season — but you can try to get one of the last remaining dates. 


I know these options can be a little intimidating so here’s a quick summary:

Mistake 3: Forgetting your ID

Sign in italian and english showing you that you must display your ID card to enter the colosseum
ID cards with a photo are now mandatory for entry

I’m not sure exactly why, but it is mandatory to show a photo ID to enter the Colosseum nowadays, at least it was true for my March 2024 visit. This wasn’t the case for visiting the Vatican, which I had done the day before, but it is part of the Colosseum’s security process.

I don’t always carry all my important documents on me when I’m traveling around Italy due to the high risk of pickpockets. Luckily, I did notice the part of the booking details where it told me to bring my ID and I wasn’t caught off-guard by this. 

I’m not sure how strict they are on this and if they would accept a photograph or printed copy of your ID if you didn’t have your actual ID with you. I wouldn’t risk it though.

Presumably if you are reading this article, you’re not yet at the Colosseum, so you can just bring your ID and avoid any issues!

Mistake 4: Visiting at the wrong time of day

Peaceful vibe of one woman, in shadow, looking at a display in the colosseum without any crowds around her
Peaceful opportunities to enjoy the Colosseum at 9:30 AM

Another big mistake people make when visiting the Colosseum is picking a time right smack-dab in the middle of the day — avoid this if at all possible. 

I highly recommend booking one of the first openings of the day — on my March 2024 visit, I booked a 9:30 AM opening and it was perfect. The Colosseum was busy but not crowded.

no one in line at the roman forum and palatine hill line
Virtually no lines to enter the Palatine Hill area at 10:30 AM

By the time I made it over to Palatine Hill, there was virtually no one there and I could enjoy that area in peace.

However, by the time I reached the Roman Forum around 11:30 AM (having already visited the Colosseum and Palatine Hill)… it was extremely crowded.

That gave me a taste for what seeing the Colosseum is like later in the day (and I didn’t like it). 

busy crowds at the roman forum at 11:30
The crowds gathering later in the day at the Roman Forum (around 11:30 AM)

If you really can’t handle getting up early the morning, late afternoon isn’t a terrible second choice… but keep in mind that the Colosseum and its related sites close roughly an hour before sunset. 

In winter, that means it closes as early as 4:30 PM (with the last entry at 3:30 PM) — but in the peak of summer, it costs around 7:15 PM (last entry at 6:15 PM). 

You need at least 3 hours to properly see the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum.

However, also keep in mind that your standard entry ticket is valid for 24 hours. If you are doing a self-guided tour experience, you can break up your time between the two sights, even on different days if you like!

If you don’t mind returning to the same place twice in order to minimize crowds (and summer heat), you could always see the Colosseum in the late afternoon before it closes.

Then you can visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill the following morning. This would be a nice way to break up the sightseeing and avoid the crowds.

Mistake 5: Skipping the Palatine Hill & the Roman Forum

The area of Palatine Hill in the spring with beautiful ruins and very few people
Don’t ignore the excellent Palatine Hill complex area!

One of the biggest mistakes you can make? Not realizing that even the most basic entrance ticket for the Colosseum also includes two other world class sites: the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. This alone makes it the best money you can spend in all of Rome, in my estimation.

Don’t be tempted to skip the Roman Forum just because you can see it while you walk down Via dei Fort Imperiali… trust me, there’s a world of difference between walking past the ruins of ancient Rome and being completely immersed in it, imaging the agora that used to stand where you’re standing. 

Plus, Palatine Hill is an incredibly rich and diverse site that’s absolutely worth dedicating at least an hour of your time to. Between its gardens, viewpoints, and interesting ruins — as well as its smaller-than-average crowds — it was actually one of the highlights of my self-guided visit to the Colosseum and its related sites. 

View of the Roman Forum area from a vantage point above the area
The Roman Forum is definitely a highlight for many!

Personally, I loved Palatine Hill the most of all simply because it was so peaceful; after that, I enjoyed the Colosseum, and at the bottom of my list was the Roman Forum simply because it was so crowded at that point. But that’s just my personal two cents!

If you are self-guided your own visit to the Colosseum and not going with a group, you can structure your Colosseum itinerary any way you like — even doing it on separate days, like I mentioned above. 

There is no order in which you need to access the Colosseum or Roman Forum and Palatine Hill complex (which are together in the same area, so you only present your ticket once).

With your entry ticket, you can decide the order of your visit so long as everything takes place within 24 hours of your designated entry time.

Mistake 6: Bringing a big backpack or a rolling bag

Map of the roman colosseum
Unsurprisingly… no cloakrooms in an ancient amphitheater!

This is a big mistake some people make when visiting the Colosseum — one that unfortunately is quite a hassle to deal with if you are caught unawares.

There is a strict policy in place that doesn’t allow visitors to enter with big luggage, and there is no cloakroom available on-site at the Roman Colosseum. 

Put simply, if you show up with a large backpack or rolling bag at the entrance to the Colosseum, you won’t be allowed entry at all until you have found a place to store your bag.

That means you may lose out on your entry slot, and there’s no obligation for the staff to accept your ticket if you arrive outside of your designated time slot. 

If you plan on visiting the Colosseum before check-in or after an early check-out, prepare in advance. Leave your luggage at your hotel, or use a luggage storage company like Bounce.

Aside from not being able to enter the Colosseum, carrying a roller bag on Roman roads is no one’s idea of fun!

Mistake 7: Not wearing the right shoes

Allison Green wearing white sneakers as an example of appropriate footwear for the Colosseum
Trendy? No. Comfy? Yes!

Listen. I get that you want to look cute during your Roman holiday and take some banger Instagram pictures. 

But wearing the wrong shoes during a trip to the Colosseum and (to a larger extent) the Roman Forum is a big mistake. A big, uneven cobblestone, ankle-twist-waiting to happen mistake. 

You’ll definitely want to hedge your bets and wear a comfortable, sporty shoe — sneakers would be ideal here, or a pair of hiking sandals that will ensure you can walk on this uneven ground without injuring yourself.

the bumpy cobblestone roads of roman forum and palatine hill area
These cobblestones are begging you have some sense!

These roads are nearly two millennia old and haven’t been maintained in any traditional sense of the word, so trust me, you’re going to be uncomfortable if you don’t have the right footwear.

And heeled boots or flip flops? Forget about it. You’ll be miserable. Cute, but miserable.

Mistake 8: Not preparing for the weather

Allison Green at the Roman Colosseum smiling and wearing glasses taking a selfie
At first I was happy for my hat and vest… and later regretted it!

The Roman Colosseum is an all-season attraction, but depending on what time of year you’ll be visiting, you’ll still want to keep an eye on the weather forecast to avoid any unpleasantness on your outing. 

Put simply, the weather in Rome is really unpredictable… on my March visit, I found it actually extremely warm — about 20° C / 68° F but very sunny — and I definitely found myself wishing I had slathered on some sunscreen before my visit (and left my heavier jacket at home).

And visiting in the summer? May the odds be ever in your favorite. Roman summer days are not to be messed with — they can get unbearably hot.

Wear light colors like white, taupe, and beige and pick quick-drying natural materials like linen. Avoid cotton, which doesn’t dry well when it gets sweaty, and for god’s sake, stay away from anything with polyester in it if you value not feeling like a baked potato. 

You also should definitely bring a hat because there’s very little shade in any portion of this visit — and you’ll also want sunscreen no matter the season. 

Layers are going to be your friend if you visit Rome in any season outside of summer, as the mornings and evenings are often rather cold before the mercury soars up in the middle of the day.

Wear a lightweight layer underneath, and don’t carry too heavy of a jacket as it heats up during the day. 

And of course, rain is always a reality in Rome, so be sure to bring a rain jacket or umbrella if there’s even the slightest inkling of rain in the forecast.

Mistake 9: Bringing any prohibited items

airport style security at the colosseum
Make sure you don’t have any prohibited items!

When entering the Colosseum, you’ll have to go through a security checkpoint like at the airport (only with much friendlier workers), and your bag will also be checked during that process.

It is forbidden to bring any sharp objects (including Swiss army knives), glass bottles, tripods, selfie sticks, weapons, or any sort of aerosol. Yes, that includes spray-on deodorant and even aerosol sunscreens!

Given that there is no cloakroom to store any of your items in, any prohibited items found on you will simply be confiscated, so avoid bringing them altogether if you don’t want to risk losing them.

Mistake 10: Not carrying a water bottle

roman water fountain with face and public drinking fountain
One of Rome’s many public fountains

As long as you bring a plastic, non-glass reusable water bottle, you can bring it into the Colosseum and refill as much as needed.

Rome is pretty warm for much of the year, and you’ll walk more than you ever thought possible when visiting sites like the Colosseum. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the duration of your visit and thinking you won’t need water!

Luckily, there are so many great free-to-use public foundations available all over Rome, including plenty of ones in the area of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum.

Avoid the touts selling water around the Colosseum and Roman Forum for overpriced water — you will certainly overpay for it. Just bring your own bottle and fill up!

Just head to the closest fountain (fun fact: they are called nasoni in Italian, which means big noses). You’ll get as much fresh water as you need, all for free!

Colosseum Ticket Options

I briefly went into this above, but here, I’ll explain the different Colosseum ticket types with more detail about what’s included and how they differ.

Guided Tour Including Colosseum Arena Floor & Colosseum Underground

Low down angle of the colosseum showing the arena floor area

If you want to see as much of the Colosseum as possible, this is the best, most all-inclusive Colosseum tour for you.

In addition to your regular Colosseum and Roman Forum ticket, it also includes a multi-hour guided tour to help bring all of these unique facets of Roman history to life, adding color and detail to your sightseeing.

This tour in particular offers special access to the arena floor and the Colosseum underground, which many other Roman Colosseum tours do not include.

The underground area (called the hypogeum) is a really interesting piece to add to a Colosseum tour. It includes tunnels and passageways that connect a series of cages and dungeons underneath the arena floor of the colosseum.

This part of the Colosseum was a purgatory of sorts, where enslaved people and prisoners were kept before being publicly executed, as well as the wild animals who were fought and slaughtered by the gladiators for entertainment.

If you’re interested in dark history — or just getting the full story of the historical places you visit — adding the Colosseum underground is a must-do.

This is one of the best tours if you want the full Colosseum experience and are curious to get a bit off the beaten path and learn some of the Colosseum’s more macabre history by adding the underground access!

Book your guided underground tour with special access here!

Fast Track Rome Colosseum Ticket

View of the beautiful constantine arch through the windows of the colosseum

This is the most affordable and flexible way to visit the Colosseum — great if your budget is short on time or money. This is what I personally did in March 2024.

Pre-booking your Colosseum ticket (you can do so online here) allows you to skip the long line at the ticket booth. Instead, you just find the guide at the designated meeting point, mine was at the Arch of Constantine and was very easy to find.

This ticket includes an audioguide which you access on your phone. Mine didn’t work, unfortunately, but I was still able to enjoy the Roman Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum independently.

You will be on your own to explore the site, but you won’t have to deal with any queues besides the normal security line (which is unavoidable and moves really fast — I was in within minutes).

Note that this ticket does not include the arena floor or the Colosseum underground or an in-person tour guide: it’s the bare bones option.

Book your skip-the-line Colosseum ticket here!

Guided Tour and Colosseum Tickets

faraway view of the colosseum with trees and other views

If you have a little more room in your budget, I definitely suggest booking this guided tour, which includes a guided walking tour and admission tickets.

There is simply so much to learn about the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill that you won’t really be able to appreciate without the expertise of a licensed guide who is an expert in Roman history.

This tour is rather affordable with not much of an up-charge for the tour guide, especially when you consider the initial price of the ticket.

You’re paying roughly another $30 USD for a 3 hours of a tour guide’s time!

You can book in a small group of up to 10, 20, or 30 people, at different price tiers based on how many people are in the group.

Book your guided tour of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum here

Colosseum by Night After Hours Tour

the exterior of the colosseum as seen at night - yes you can visit at night!

Did you know you can visit the Colosseum after the doors have officially closed? There are a number of tours which offer exclusive access to the Colosseum after dark!

This is a really fun way to beat the crowds (or the summer heat) if you are planning to visit the Colosseum in the peak season, June through August.

It is more expensive than other ticket options, but not by a drastic margin… which may be a nice price to pay, given the peace you’ll enjoy!

However, if you want those classic daytime photos of the Colosseum, you won’t be able to get those, so if photography is a big aspect of why you are visiting the Colosseum, that is something to consider.

But if all you want is a unique way to see the Colosseum and learn its history without the crowds or heat of peak summer travel, a night tour is an epic way to do it!

Note that night tours sell out extremely fast and nearly all of the 2024 tour offerings are gone, totally sold out — the only remaining tours I could find are linked below.

Book your night tour of the Colosseum here!

Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel & Colosseum Full Day Tour

an ornately painted ceiling in the vatican museums in rome

If you want to see all of Rome’s most essential (and crowded) sights under the expert eye of a tour guide, I strongly suggest this tour option.

Visiting the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel with a guide is really helpful because these sights can be quite stressful to navigate on your own.

It’s very crowded, tickets must be booked well in advance (same-day ticket waits often exceed 2 hours), and there is so much to see that it is helpful to go with a guide w ho will ensure you see the most essential parts and skip the rest.

This tour also includes transportation between Colosseum and the Vatican so you can simply sit back and sightsee and enjoy your day, without having to worry about anything other than taking in the sights and history and making memories.

This tour includes all entry tickets, skip-the-line access, lunch, guides, and transportation.

It’s a little pricy, but it plans you the perfect day in Rome seeing its two most iconic attractions without a second thought.

Book your tour of the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel & Colosseum here!

8 Awesome Things to Do in Agrigento, Sicily [2024]

The gateway to the spectacular Valley of the Temples, Agrigento is one of the most popular places to visit in Sicily.

Whether you only have a few days or you’re planning a longer road trip around Sicily, you should absolutely spend at least a day in Agrigento and appreciate its small town charms.

I visited Agrigento on one of my road trips through Sicily, and it was among my favorite places on the island.

Downtown cityscape of the old town of Agrigento Sicily

Wandering through the Valley of the Temples is an experience unlike any other, but the historical center of Agrigento is also worth exploring in its own right!

In this short guide, you’ll find the best landmarks and activities in Agrigento, along with a few tips to make the most of your trip (no matter how short!)

Tips for Visiting Agrigento

The Valley of the temples in Agrigento with stairs leading to the temple ruins

Before diving into the attractions, I want to give you a few quick tips to help you plan your trip. Firstly, you’ll have to plan your trip according to the season you visit Agrigento.

You won’t be surprised to hear that summer is the most popular time to travel to Sicily, but if that’s the only time you can visit, you can make life easier by preparing for crowds and increased prices. 

Booking your accommodation in advance, buying attraction tickets online, and choosing weekdays over weekends can all help you have a more pleasant experience. If you can, choose the shoulder seasons to make the most of your time in Sicily! 

Early spring and late fall are the perfect mix of good weather and smaller crowds. However, winter is also a good time, since the temperatures rarely go below 14°C (57°F).

downtown cityscape of agrigento with balconies and lanterns in the facades

While you can visit Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples in one day if you move quickly and plan carefully, I really recommend spending at least a night in the city.

This will give you the chance to get to know it better without rushing through your visit to the archaeological park. 

One last tip: Agrigento is the perfect stop on a Sicily road trip itinerary, so if you’re traveling with a rental car, you’ll be in luck!

Best Things to Do in Agrigento

One of the giant heads in the valley of the temples in agrigento sicily

Agrigento is among the most popular cities in Sicily, but to be honest, most people just visit for the Valley of the Temples. While this is a must-see, Agrigento has so much more to offer than just this! 

Here are the best things to do in this charming hilltop Sicilian city, one of the best places in Sicily for history and culture!

Explore the Valley of the Temples

a bronze figure sculpture in front of one of the temple ruins of an ancient greek city in the sicilian town of agrigento

Of course, we still have to mention the Valley of the Temples Archaeological Park (in Italian, Valle dei Templi), since is by far the most popular tourist attraction in Agrigento and among the most visited in Sicily.

Being so popular, be prepared for crowds at these ancient ruins. However, it’s absolutely worth the visit, so go ahead and schedule the time to explore this wonderful archaeological site.

Just south of Agrigento’s historic center, the Valley of the Temples is an archaeological area featuring incredibly well-preserved ancient Greek temples and other ruins.

In 1997, the site was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its status as one of the most outstanding examples of Greek architecture in what used to be the Magna Grecia region.  

Prepare to spend several hours exploring this area and wandering through the magnificent temples and other ancient remains. Fun fact: this is Europe’s largest archaeological park!

one of the old ruined buildings of agrigento's valley of the temples with several doric temples from the ancient times

Visiting the park takes at least 2 hours, and that’s assuming you move at a fast pace and don’t stop much. I recommend setting aside 3-4 hours for an independent visit to really take in all the sights.

The most impressive structure is the Temple of Concordia, a Doric temple dating to the 4th century BCE. Other notable buildings are the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Juno, the Temple of Castor, the Temple of Heracles, and the Temple of the Dioscuri.

You can explore the park by yourself, following the marked route to see all of its Greek ruins and Doric temples. The park is open daily from early in the morning until pretty late in the evening, so you can easily fit this into your schedule. 

An adult entry ticket is 13€, and can be purchased online directly from the archaeological site here. Note that if you happen to visit on the first Sunday of the month between 8:30 AM and 7:00 PM, entrance is free!

sunset over the ruined greek city landscape of valley of the temples in agrigento sicily

Another option is to join a guided tour of the Valley of the Temples, such as on this 2-hour guided tour: the perfect choice if you don’t have much time and want to make the most of your time in the park. 

Plus, this way, you can learn more about the magnificent ancient Greek architecture from your guide. The activity even includes the chance to save time by skipping the line — definitely worth special consideration in summer!

One last option worth exploring is the Valley of the Temples sunset tour. You’ll start exploring the park with your guide just as the sun goes down so you can enjoy a magical view of the temples in the soft sunset light.

Book your daytime 2-hour tour Book your sunset tour

Check out the Kolymbethra Garden

Agrigento's Kolymbethra Garden with hay bales, small wall, and desert-like arid landscape of sicily in summer

While you’re exploring the Valley of the Temples, you ought to also stop by the Kolymbethra Garden.

This peaceful garden within the archaeological park captures Sicily’s flavors, scents, and colors in a delightful green corner.

These gardens date back over two millennia when the Greek city of Akragas (now known as Agrigento) designed a series of irrigation channels leading to a nearby reservoir called Colimbetra (hence the name).

In the garden, you can walk through olive groves, almond trees, and citrus trees and enjoy their delightful fragrances. 

Just a heads up as you’re planning, access to the garden requires an extra fee on top of the access to the Valley of the Temples. However, the fee is just a reasonable 3€, so it’s a small price to pay.

Visit the Archaeological Museum Pietro Griffo

Photo Credit: Von Holger Uwe Schmitt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 If you want to learn more about the Valley of the Temples, supplement your itinerary with a visit to the archaeological museum of Agrigento, Pietro Griffo

The museum complements your visit to the archaeological park for a small extra fee if you buy the combined ticket. It costs more when bought separately, so if you’re interested, it’s better to get the combined ticket.

Pietro Griffo is home to a vast collection of archaeological artifacts that were unearthed from the Valley of the Temples, including vases, sculptures, coins, inscriptions, and decorative elements from ancient sanctuaries.

Explore the old town of Agrigento

Town center of Agrigento with a tannish brown and white hued church with steps leading up to it and also a belltower in the church

While you might want to dedicate most of your time to exploring the Valley of the Temples, save some time for the old town of Agrigento.

Agrigento’s medieval center dates to the 11th century and features charming alleys, squares, and stairways, all of which are not to be missed!

Stroll along the main street, explore hidden alleyways, and check out the beautiful Baroque churches. Cattedrale di San Gerlando, Chiesa di Santo Spirito, and Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Greci are three absolute must-see churches in Agrigento. 

Santa Maria dei Greci church in Agrigento, Sicily with bricks and belltower and blue sky

One spot you can’t miss is Scalinata degli Artisti or the Artists’ Stairway. Check out the painted steps on this picturesque stairway and admire the beautiful street art in the area! 

And of course, be sure to head to Belvedere Domenico Modugno for a stunning panoramic view of the valley surrounding Agrigento.

Enjoy tasty local food

sicily sardines with orange and stuffed with delicious filling

To complete your stay in Agrigento, try some delicious local food. The historical center offers countless options for every taste. 

If you’re craving tasty, heartwarming food, head to Naif and try local dishes like caponata, cavatelli alla norma, and linguine with almond pesto.

If you’re looking for a quick bite and you’re a fan of seafood, you have to try the sandwiches or fried fish at Cusà Fish

Lastly, for a special night out, enjoy the fine dining at Sal8. The specialties are fish-based, but they also serve meat and vegetarian options so you’re sure to find something to enjoy! 

Have a beach day in Porto Empedocle

yellow and blue striped umbrellas on a sicily beach

Agrigento isn’t itself a coastal town, but it’s just a short distance inland, making it easy to pop over to the beach town of Porto Empodocle (halfway to the Scala dei Turchi, the next spot on this list).

Grab a patch of beach in the free section of Spiaggia di Marinella, or for more amenities, you can also rent a chair and umbrellas at the Lido Marinella.

Take a day trip to Scala dei Turchi

white cliffs and yellow sand on the beach with beautiful blue waters on the coast of sicily's southern coast

If you’re going to spend a more than one day in Agrigento, you ought to take at least half a day to explore the impressive Scala dei Turchi (Turks’ Stairs)

These white cliffs sinking in the turquoise waters is one of the most scenic spots on the southern coast of Sicily.

You can reach the parking area in under 20 minutes by car from Agrigento or by bus during the summer months. 

Note that access to the cliffs themselves is forbidden, but you can admire the stunning landscape from a nearby beach or from above at Belvedere Scala dei Turchi.

Take a boat tour of the Scala dei Turchi

people sitting on the white cliff edges of the scala dei turchi in sicily

Another way to explore this scenic spot is by joining this Stair of the Turks Boat Tour and admire the white cliff from another vantage point — down below it!

During this 4-hour tour, you can admire the beautiful cliffs from the boat, swim in the clear waters just off the coast, and enjoy other spectacular views along the gorgeous Sicilian seascape.

Book your boat tour here!

7 Marvelous Things to Do in Messina, Sicily

Messina sits almost at the northeastern tip of Sicily, just across the strait from Reggio Calabria, the southernmost city in mainland Italy.

Despite its prime location, Messina is one of the less frequently visited places in Sicily, and it’s often overlooked in favor of other, more famous cities.

Sadly, Messina has a long history of devastating events, especially in the 20th century.

After a massive earthquake in 1908 destroyed a great part of Reggio Calabria and Messina, bombardments during World War II damaged the city even further, adding insult to injury. 

Though it was mostly reconstructed after this series of disasters, Messina still has many abandoned buildings, which stand a sort of monument to this history of devastation and the slow process of rebuilding.

Panoramic viewpoint in Messina with a church with a dome and lots of trees around it and two benches to sit on
Viewpoint in Messina of one of its many churches, the Tempio di Christo Re

I stopped off in Messina during one of my trips to Sicily, since I was crossing the strait from Reggio Calabria.

While yes, it may lack some of the charm of small seaside towns like Taormina or Siracusa, I can tell you that it’s still a lovely city worth a visit. 

Without any further ado, here’s a short guide of things to do in Messina, one of Sicily’s most underrated cities.

Tips for Visiting Messina

The landscape of Messina, Sicily; view of the stunning Church of the Madonna di Montalto, set on the hill Caperino in the town, with a view of the sea in the background.
Church of the Madonna di Montalto in Messina

Just being one of the bigger cities in Sicily somehow isn’t enough to attract visitors.

With most travelers heading to Palermo, Agrigento, and Siracusa, Messina is mostly just visited by travelers who have already seen the rest of the island and are looking to avoid the crowds.

On the bright side, the fact that Messina isn’t so famous among tourists means you can often enjoy the city without having to put up with crowds.

While summers are still popular, especially given the many cruises stopping by, you’ll still find fewer people overall in Messina than in most other Sicilian cities and beach towns.

Downtown of Messina in Sicily with the clocktower and structures of the city center
Downtown street in Messina, with a view of the clocktower

Given the island’s summer tourism boom, visiting in the shoulder season can be great; in particular, months like April and October offer the perfect compromise with good weather and moderate crowds. 

Also, if you don’t mind passing up your Sicily beach time in exchange for solitude and winter prices, winter can also be a good time to visit, since Messina is not really a beach-centered destination.

Most people will find one day is enough time to explore Messina, so plan your schedule accordingly. 

Especially if you’ll be taking a renting a car in Sicily before going on a road trip, I recommend spending the day in Messina before moving on to nearby places like the charming Taormina and beautiful Mount Etna and its wine-growing region.

Things to Do in Messina, Sicily

The building of  Temple Christ the King in Messina with the strait of messina in the background
Details of the Messina cityscape

I’ll be honest: unlike some of the more popular cities in Sicily, Messina isn’t exactly packed with attractions and landmarks. However, this doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do! 

You can take your sweet time walking around the city, all while admiring the beautiful churches, and checking out some stunning viewpoints. 

Read on for a few more of my favorite things to do in Messina.

Explore the center of Messina.

Architecture in Messina's city center with green shutters and pink and white striped paint on the building
Traditional old architecture in Messina

Start your visit to Messina off with a walk around its historical center, where you can admire beautiful buildings, check out impressive squares, and visit beautiful churches.

The city may be big, but the historical center is nice and compact, so you can explore it in a couple of hours.

Make your way down to stroll around Cairoli Square, one of the main city squares.

From the square, you can walk along Viale San Martino, Messina’s shopping street, lined with everything from clothing and jewelry stores to bars, bakeries, and gelateria

If you’re short on time but want to see the main sights and learn some cool facts about Messina, you can join this 2-hour Walking Tour.

Your knowledgeable guide will show you around the historical center and tell you legends and historical facts about the city’s landmarks for context.

Admire Messina’s fountains.

Ornate fountain with several figures displayed on it with a tree and a pastel pink historical building behind it
The ornate fountains of Messina

Scattered all over Messina’s historical center, you’ll see several artistic fountains which is one of the halmmarks of the city.

The most famous is Fontana di Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune), but others worth checking out include Fontana di Orione, in front of the cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo, and Fontana Falconieri.

Close to Fontana Falconieri, you can also check out a variety of sculptures lining a lovely stairway leading to Santuario Parrocchia S. Maria Di Montalto.

Tip: From here, you can enjoy a lovely view of the Cristo Re Sanctuary.

Discover Messina’s churches.

The central cathedral of messina with a large belltower and clock
The Messina Cathedral and its belltower

Messina’s churches are among its most beautiful landmarks, especially when set against the backdrop of the waters of the gorgeous Strait of Messina.

Along with the Messina Cathedral, the Tempio di Cristo Re (pictured nelow) and the Chiesa Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani are the most famous and photogenic churches in town.

The Basilica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta is known for its astronomical clock (which we’ll talk about in a bit), but it’s also just a beautiful church worth visiting in its own right: its cupola is especially gorgeous!

Cupola detail in the church in the center of Messina
Interior of the cathedral basilica

Though mostly destroyed in the 1908 earthquake, some elements survived, like the Gothic portal and an apse.

You can get an audio guide for a small fee when visiting the cathedral interior.

Located on top of a hill, Tempio di Cristo Re offers spectacular views over the city and features unique architecture.

Panoramic view of Messina's town, with the Temple Christ the King on the water with views of the strait and the town on the other side (part of Mainland Italy)
View of Tempio di Cristo Re with Reggio di Calabria on the other side of the water

The church was built on the spot previously occupied by the medieval castle of Matagrifone and actually incorporates the ruins of the fortress, including the only tower still standing.

The last church we’ll talk about here, the lovely Chiesa Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani, dates to the Byzantine period and combines both Norman and Arab architectural elements in a blend that is typically Sicilian.

The 12th-century church occupies the place of an ancient temple dedicated to Neptune and is one of the few structures that survived the 1908 earthquake.

Watch the astronomical clock strike noon.

The detail of the astronomical clock in Messina with gold and midnight blue colors
The astronomical clock of Messina

The Cathedral of Messina (aka the Duomo di Messina) is perhaps best known for its astronomical clock, the largest and purportedly most complex (though how that’s measured, I’m not exactly sure) in the world.

The clock was added to the bell tower in 1933 following the cathedral’s reconstruction after the 1908 earthquake. 

Built by a Strasbourg-based company, the clock resembles the one in the French city from which it hails.

The clock has several symbolic decorations, the most significant one being the carousel of the days of the week, with a deity representing each day.

Zodiac symbols on the astronomic clock in Messina
Symbols of the zodiac on the clock in Messina

Other parts of the clock are a carousel depicting the stages of life, as well as a statue of Messina’s patron saint, a separate clock that marks the sun’s zodiac symbols, the Madonna of the Letter, and several biblical scenes.

Every day at noon, visitors gather around the clock to watch it come alive.

Watching the statues come to life one by one, complete with movement and sounds, is a must-see attraction in Messina.

Get there a few minutes earlier to catch a good spot for the show!

Check out the art at the Interdisciplinary Regional Museum of Messina.

Regional Museum of Messina when it's open with a palm tree and two cars in front of it
The Regional Museum of Messina outside the center | Photo Credit: I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Regional Museum of Messina is home to a vast collection of artworks and archeological artifacts, including important works by Caravaggio and Antonello da Messina.

The museum highlights art and culture in Messina dating back between the 12th and 18th centuries.

In addition to its core focus, the museum also houses paintings, sculptures, and artifacts retrieved in the aftermath of the 1908 earthquake.

The museum has a unique location that is itself quite historical: it’s set in a former spinning mill.

Although it’s a bit farther than the other the main landmarks in Messina, you can still easily reach it by bus or a pleasant 30-minute walk.

Stroll through the University Botanical Garden.

blooming bushes with pink and purple flowers in messina sicily
Bougainvillea in Messina

Admittedly, Messina is a bit lacking in green spaces for the most part, at least compared to other places in Sicily.

That said, the University Botanical Garden is a delightful exception!

This little green area was first established in the 17th century… but sadly, it was destroyed shortly after during Messina’s revolt against the Spanish.

The botanical garden as you’ll see it today dates to the late 19th century, a little oasis in the center of a busy city. Best of all, it’s free of charge! 

However, it’s important to note that it’s only open on weekdays; weekends, it’s closed!

Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the Camposanto.

The monumental cemetery in Messina with rows of hedges, plants, and monuments like tombstones etc.
The Camposanto of Messina

A graveyard walk might sound a bit unusual, but strolling through the Monumental Cemetery is one of the more popular things to do in Messina, and it’s also one of the city’s few green spaces.

Also known as Camposanto, the 18th-century cemetery features beautifully decorated chapels, sculptures, and monuments.

Going for a walk through Camposanto is a relaxing and peaceful way to spend an hour in Messina if you run out of things to do.

The cemetery is just a 20-minute walk from Piazza Cairoli, but you can also catch the tram.

The 11 Best Mt. Etna Wine Tours from Catania & Taormina

Sicilian vineyards with Etna volcano eruption at background in Sicily, Italy. Rural Sicilian landscape

If you’re planning a trip to Sicily, you’re probably planning to visit its epic coastline, stunning beaches, charming beach towns, and countless historical spots.

But there’s one thing you simply can’t miss: visiting the iconic Mt. Etna, the tallest active volcano in all of Europe.

The towering, simmering Mt. Etna is located near the city of Catania and the charming commune of Taormina, making it a convenient spot to visit.

And when you realize that the Etna region is home to some of Italy’s best wines, that’s all the more reason to check one of these Etna wine tours on your trip.

mt etna in the background with a slight amount of smoke coming from the top of the volcano, rows of grape vines, and a house in the vineyard fields

Whether you’re staying in Catania or Taormina, you’ll be close to all the best spots in Sicily, surrounded by beautiful beaches all along the coast. 

While there’s a lot of history in the area, let’s be honest: just the views of Mount Etna alone would be worth the trip!

But of course, Sicilian food is incredibly delicious, and made even more so by the local Mount Etna wine. 

From rich and deep Nero d’Avola to the region’s signature Etna Rosso wine, made from a blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, the winemaking scene in the Etna wine region is fantastic. 

drinking nero d'avola wine in the sicily countryside with two glasses at a wine tasting in etna

And while Sicily’s better known for its red wines, don’t sleep on its white wines, primarily the Etna Biancos which are made from the local indigenous Carricante and Catarrato grape varieties. 

The mineral-rich volcanic terroir of the Etna slopes has allowed for some pretty unique wines to emerge here, distinct from what you’d find in Tuscan Chianti region or Veneto’s Prosecco area

Italy’s wines are as diverse as its landscapes and people, after all, and Sicily is an important part of that equation.

So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, spend the day taking a Mt Etna wine tour, and give your palette the treatment it deserves!

We’ll go into the top 11 Etna wine tours below and details of what’s included in each, but if you don’t have time for that, here’s the quick run-down of my favorite picks!

My Top 3 Picks for Etna Wine Tours

#1 TOP PICK

mt etna smoking in the background with vineyards in front and an agricultural tractor-type car in the front

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Etna Food & Wine Tasting from Taormina
✔️ Winery tour & taste 5 different wines
✔️ Tasty Sicilian farm-to-table lunch

↳ Book it

#2 PICK

vineyards in the mt etna area with clouds above the landscape on a beautiful day in sicily

Private Etna Wine Tour from Catania or Taormina
✔️ Visit 3 different wineries — more than any other tour
✔️ Try unlimited amounts of 12 different wines

↳ Book it

#3 PICK

views of mt. etna while hiking around the beautiful area

Etna Nature & Wine Tour with Hike & Alcantara Gorge
✔️ See lava caves, hike Etna to a 2,000-m viewpoint, and explore Alcantara Gorges
✔️ Wine tasting alongside Sicilian lunch at an Etna winery

↳ Book it

What to Know About Etna Wines

View of Mount Etna while hiking the mountain, reddish brown dirt and skyline and horizon

Mt. Etna wine has a distinct terroir from its volcanic soils, which are mineral-rich as a result of past volcanic eruptions, as the soil has mingled with lava and ash.

Another distinctive factor that separates Mt. Etna wine from the rest is its relatively high altitude of cultivation, as it’s typically grown from 600-1,000 meters up — that’s 2,000 to 3,000 feet!

High altitudes = cooler weather and longer ripening times, creating more complexity and structure in the wines.

Plus, many Etna wineries preserve the indigenous grape varieties unique to the island, like Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, and Nero d’Avola.

You likely won’t taste these grapes outside of Sicily!

Etna wines come in several varieties: Etna Rosso (red wines), Etna Bianco (from Carricante and Catarratto white wine grapes), Etna Rosatao (a rosé made from Nerello Mascalese grapes), and Etna Passito (a lush dessert wine).

The 11 Top Etna Wine Tours

1. Etna Wine Tasting and Food Tour from Catania

view of the wineries in the etna area with yellow and pink flowers on an overcast day

⌛ Tour Length: 7 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.8/5 stars (20+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
-Full day trip with pick up and drop off from Catania
-Sampling 7 different Mt Etna wines, local honey, and olive oil
-Enjoying a large three-course meal at the second winery visit


 Read more about this food and wine tour here!

If tasting 7 wines sounds like a good way to spend the day, this might be the Mt Etna wine tasting tour for you!

You’ll get the ball rolling at your first stop, Zafferana Etnea, a commune of Catania known for its honey and olive oil.

And yes, you will be sampling the local products, don’t you worry!

Once you hit your first winery with your small group, you’ll learn about the harvesting and production process of Mt Etna wines.

This way, you have some context for the delicious local wines before your first taste test.

The fun (and drinks) continue over at the second winery, but that’s not all – there’s also a tasty, local Sicilian lunch to go along with the 3 different Etna DOC wines you’ll be tasting paired with your  meal!

The antipasto, primo, and secondo should keep you nice and full for the final leg of the tour, where local experts will give you a guided walk through the Mt Etna vineyards.

The Mt Etna tour concludes in the early evening, giving you plenty of time to explore Catania before tucking in for the night!

2. Mount Etna Tour and Wine Experience from Catania

Mount Etna volcanic landscape with hidden cave on side crater with ash, stones and green patches of scrub, guided hiking tour on Etna, Sicily, Italy

⌛ Tour Length: 8 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.3/5 stars (10+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
-Hiking the lava caves, craters & volcanic region of Mt. Etna
-Wine tasting and light lunch after exploring Etna
-Positive English language guides with in-depth knowledge of the Etna region


 Read more about this wine tour here!

This Etna wine tour will take about 8 hours of your day, but there’s a good reason for that: this tour combines a trip to both the Mt Etna volcano and the Etna wineries around it!

First, your guide will show you around the general Mount Etna area before taking you to see a lava tube (created by running lava flow from previous eruptions that cooled over time) and its surrounding craters.

Needless to say, you want to make sure you’re appropriately dressed since there’s a lot of exploring and light trekking on this tour. 

Hiking shoes, some layers (as it can get cold on Mt. Etna!), and some light snacks are a must!

After immersing yourself in the fascinating geology and volcanic landscape of Mt Etna, it’s time to enjoy the spoils of all that volcanic activity – a series of delicious wines!

If all that learning and tasting leaves you feeling a bit peckish, next up is a delicious light lunch before wrapping things up.

You’ll then be transported back to your hotel in Catania at the end of the tour.

3. Mount Etna Food and Wine Tasting Tour from Taormina

mt etna smoking in the background with vineyards in front and an agricultural tractor-type car in the front

⌛ Tour Length: 6 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.8/5 stars (120+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
An unforgettable drive through some of Sicily’s most charming coastal villages
-Sampling wine and snacks at wineries and an open-air amphitheater
-Enjoying some farm-to-table goods, such as pasta, produce, and limoncello


 Read more about this Mt. Etna wine tour here!

If you’re staying in Taormina, this might be one of the best Etna winery tours you could hope for.

After picking you up, your guides will take you on a scenic drive through various villages in coastal Sicily – these beach towns are so charming. 

Plus, the flora and architecture here along the coast really are unique, so you’ll probably be taking pictures throughout the entire drive!

Your first stop after the scenic drive is a visit to a family-run Mt Etna winery, where you can try some fine Etna rosé to start the wine tasting part of the tour!

After checking out the wine cellars, you’ll hit the ruins of a historic open amphitheater and indulge in some snacks and even more Etna wine samples!

You’d better save some room, though, since you’ll also be going to a farmhouse and trying out a typical Sicilian lunch that makes use of the pasta, produce, and typical products of the region.

After all, Sicily is famous for more than just its wine production!

The last step is trying out some limoncello before heading back to Taormina.

4. Full-Day Etna and Wine Tour from Catania

vineyards in the mt etna area with parcels of land with vineyards and clouds in the sky and some town in the backgrond

⌛ Tour Length: 7 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.8/5 stars (50+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
-A memorable drive to Rifugio Sapienza with photo stops
-A scenic uphill hike or cable car ride, followed by a lava tube visit
-Sampling a wide variety of wines, still and sparkling, along with local snacks

 Read more about this full day tour here!

This Etna wine tour might be the best way to experience just how scenic the Etna National Park really is. 

The first order of business is to drive up to Rifugio Sapienza up on the slopes of Mt Etna, all while making stops at scenic vistas along the way – don’t worry, your camera will eat just as well as you will on this trip!

Your guide will explain the geology and history during each stop, so this is a great tour if you’re interested in the region’s history – both of the land and of the people.

Next up, you can either take a two-kilometer hike across various scenic hiking paths or take a cable car up the mountain for some scenic photo ops at the top of the mountain.

Whichever one you opt for, everyone unites at the next point: a lava cave – not something you get to see every day, and not something you likely associate with a wine tour!

After all that fun and excitement, it’s time to get to the wines… because this is just as much a wine tasting Etna experience as it is a hiking tour!

You’ll get to toast with some sparkling Sicilian wine, try four local kinds of still wine (with grapes grown on the slopes of Mount Etna), and have a bunch of Sicilian snacks to go along with them!

5. Mount Etna Winery Tour and Tasting

mt etna in the distance smoking with wineries and green lush landscape in the front of the photo

⌛ Tour Length: 1.5 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.8/5 stars (20+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
-Quick Etna winery tour perfect for quick Sicily trips
-Perfect for people who prefer more independent travel to guided tours
-Trying Etna wines with local Sicilian food pairings


➜ Read more about this wine tasting tour here!

In case you’re looking for something short yet scenic, this 1.5-hour Etna wine tour has your name written all over it! 

However, this is only a good tour option if you have rented a car in Sicily, since you’ll need to drive yourself to the tour’s meeting point – transportation is not included.

You’ll get into the action right away with some white wine tasting, followed by an underground winery tour led by an expert sommelier. 

You get to learn which local products go well with which types of wine – pretty useful information for any aspiring wine aficionado! 

After that, there’s even more wine to be had. Up to seven glasses for you to sample, to be specific, depending on which tour you opt for!

Applying what you learned at the start of the tour, you get to mix and match these wines with black Nebrodi pork, ricotta cannoli, and some other mouth-watering Sicilian delicacies!

6. Catania, Taormina, Messina: 3 Etna Wineries Tour & Tasting

terraces of vineyards in the etna area while doing a vineyard tour of mt etna with patchy sky with clouds

⌛ Tour Length: 6.5 – 7 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.9/5 stars (40+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
-Visiting 3 different wineries – more than most Etna wine tours on this list
-Getting to try a total of 12 wines, enjoying as much as you’d like
-Private tour with pickup in either Catania, Taormina, or Messina


 Read more about this wine tasting tour here!

Whether you’re staying in Catania, Taormina, or even Messina, you’ll be swept up from your door to be brought on a magical Etna wine tasting experience.

This private tour covers three wineries, some of the most prestigious in the Etna area.

Between the three of them, you can sample a total of 12 wines – and they won’t hesitate to top you off on any of your favorites, either.

The first winery sets the tone with some delicious Etna white wine, as well as a guided tour of the winery premises and a rundown of the production process, including how the volcanic soil impacts the wine region.

The breathtaking views from the terrace don’t hurt, either!

Each of the following Etna wineries offers an even greater variety of drinks and food, so you’ll definitely be going home with your stomach full (and head a-buzzing).

Best of all, since this tour is private, you’ll have individualized attention and can ask as much as you want about the winemaking process!

7. Guided Tour of Etna with Wine Tasting & Appetizers from Catania

vineyards in the mt etna area with clouds above the landscape on a beautiful day in sicily

⌛ Tour Length: 7 hours | 🌟 Rating: New! | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
-The chance to get a 3,000-meter-altitude view from the Etna summit
-Option for shorter hike instead, plus all enjoy a guided tour of a lava flow cave
-Sampling five wines with appetizers at one of Etna’s best wineries


 Read more about this wine and tasting tour here!

This Etna group tour is perfect for wine geeks and geology nerds alone: this Etna wine tour not only educates you on the wine, but also the volcano’s history along the way. 

Plus, the drive climbing up to the Sapienza Refuge is an adventure in itself: the landscape is awe-inspiring, to say the least.

There have been more recent lava flows in the area that have affected the volcanic terrain, and your guide will tell you all about it – and what that means for Etna wine in general!

After some exploring, your options include a shorter hike or alonger trek under the guidance of a local mountain guide – your choice (either is a good option, especially since you haven’t started the wine tasting yet!)

Fair warning, you’re missing out on quite a view if you don’t go with the latter!

I highly recommend that if it’s at all possible: you’ll reach the summit of the volcano, around 3,000 meters above sea level!

Either way, at Rifugio Sapienza (at 1,920 meters of altitude), you’ll be visiting a lava flow cave to conclude the sightseeing portion of the tour.

Finally, it’s time for the wine, but it sure is worth the wait – the appetizer platter that goes along with it is what really seals the deal.

You’ll try five delicious local Etna wines, made all the better by a sample of fritters, local cheese, Italian cold cuts, olive oil, and farm-made pâté.

8. Mt. Etna Private Tour with Food and Wine Tasting from Catania or Messina

the summit of mt etna with some snow in the background on the top of the volcanic crater, part of an etna wine tour

⌛ Tour Length: 6 – 7 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.7/5 stars (10+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
-A chance to go as high as 3,300 meters up Mount Etna to the summit
-Exploring Silvestri Crateri and looking at lava-made souvenirs 
-Indulging in a hearty meal and several different kinds of wine


 Read more about this Mt. Etna private tour here!

If seeing the volcano close up is as important to you as trying the delicious local wine, this private Mount Etna wine tour from Catania or Messina is perfect for you.

There’s a lot to see on the drive from Catania, but the best part is when you reach Zafferana Etnea and start tasting some local honey, jams, and liquors made from local produce. 

Even further up the road is Rifugio Sapienza, one of the most scenic parts of all of the Etna region, near the Silvestri Crateri.

No reason to stop there though – for an even better view, you can take a cable car to go even higher to the summit for an additional €65 fee.

The tour is private, so as long as you and yours all agree, you really ought to make the trip up to the summit.

Either way, your trekking will be rewarded on the way down with a memorable winery visit at the end of the Etna tour.

Besides the obligatory local red and white wines, you’ll be served everything from veggies and olive oils to meat and cheese from the surrounding region.

9. Etna, Wine and Alcantara Tour from Taormina

springtime vineyard growth in the landscape around mt etna with beautiful blue sky with clouds and growth and trees

⌛ Tour Length: 9 hours | 🌟 Rating: 5/5 stars (300+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
-Hiking in Mt. Etna, Monti Sartorius, and Alcantara River Park
-Enjoying a large meal along with generous wine samples
-Visiting the stunning, scenic Alcantara Gorge


 Read more about this wine tour in Taormina here!

This 9-hour Etna wine tour is worth every penny, as it covers virtually everything you could hope to experience along Sicily’s eastern coast.

Starting off from Taormina, you’ll set out on an amazing hike on Mt Etna, taking in the lava caves and moon-like volcanic landscapes that Mount Etna is known for.

Afterwards, you’ll check out two more scenic hiking areas, Monti Sartorius and Alcantara River Park.

You’ll definitely want to wear some trekking shoes for this combined hiking and Etna wine tour.

After all that hiking, you’ll have worked up quite the appetite. Luckily, there’s a three-course meal waiting for you, along with some of Sicily’s best wines. 

Still, the best part is probably getting to see the Alcantara Gorge – pictures don’t do this place justice, so you’ll just have to see for yourself.

All that eating and trekking will knock the wind out of you, so rest easy on the way back in the air conditioned minivan.

You can relax, because your tour operator will drop you back off at your accommodation once you’re done.

10. Private 3-Winery Etna Tour from Catania

vineyards in the area of mount etna with rows of grape vines with a town in the background and mountains further back in the distance

⌛ Tour Length: 6 hours | 🌟 Rating: 5/5 stars (210+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
-Tasting up to 12 different Etna wines
-Thorough tour of each of three distinct Etna wineries
-Enjoying a variety of local food and Sicilian snacks throughout the day


 Read more about this wine tasting tour here!

One thorough winery tour may be enough for casual wine drinkers, but it won’t quite do it for the serious wine drinker who is looking to dive deep on their Etna wine tasting excursion.

Luckily, this private 6-hour wine tour covers a whopping three wineries near Mt Etna!

The drive there has some unique stops that other Mount Etna wine tours skip, which makes it a pretty unique Etna experience.

I mean, how many people can say they’ve seen a church made of volcanic rock… while on a wine tour, nonetheless?

Once you hit your first Etna winery, you’ll get to enjoy a guided tour of the estate and a variety of wine samples to get you started on the right foot.

Hard to resist a large plate of deliciousness and five different wines with a scenic balcony view!

There’s more where that came from, though, as the second winery will have you tasting another four wines!

Ending things on a high note, the final winery offers three particularly high-caliber Mt Etna wines and even more snacks. 

No one could blame you if you couldn’t eat or drink anymore at that point, though!

11. Etna Tour and Lunch in a Winery with Wine Tasting

view of an etna winery with a road leading down to an estate house, trees, etna landscape with vineyard rows

⌛ Tour Length: 7 – 9 hours | 🌟 Rating: 5/5 stars (35+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
-Getting to explore the Silvestri Craters at 2,000 meters high
-Tasting produce at a local farm alongside a wine tasting
-Lunch at a scenic winery, complete with a wine tasting flight


 Read more about this wine tasting tour here!

If you’re a couple or small group looking to get pampered for a day, it doesn’t get better than this Etna wine tour!

Wherever you are in the general Catania region, your friendly guides will go above and beyond to pick you up.

If you’re not feeling confident about driving up the mountain yourself (or if you’ve opted not to rent a car in Italy), this tour is the perfect way to see the Silvestri Craters firsthand. 

By the way, the 2,000-meter-high view is probably one of the most spectacular sights you’ll see in all of Sicily!

To get you salivating before the big wine tasting finale, your guides will take you to a farm to sample some local specialties first.

After all, Etna is first and foremost an agricultural region!

Once you’re at the winery, you also get to enjoy a full Sicilian lunch alongside some wine samples before heading back home from your Mount Etna wine tasting tour. 

21 Epic Villas in Tuscany with Private Pools [Curated Picks for 2024]

tuscany villa in italy with swimming pool and luxury accommodations

With rolling hills and vineyards as your everyday backdrop, renting a Tuscany villa with a private pool is one of the best ways to experience the bucolic landscapes of Italy’s most beautiful countryside.

And with fully-equipped kitchens, al fresco dining areas, and beautiful gardens, a home’s comforts meets nature’s beauty in these villas.

Of course, the crown jewel of many of these Tuscan villas are their private pools, a little secluded sanctuary to float clear blue skies or lounge at the water’s edge with a glass of Chianti in hand.

Renting a villa in Tuscany with a private pool is not just about luxury, though it can be if you want it to be — there are plenty of luxe jewels in this list, but also some budget sleeper hits that will surprise you with how affordable they are.

a pool villa in tuscany with loungers and countryside

It’s also about embracing the experience of traveling with a group of loved ones, whether that’s the family you’re born into or the family you’ve chosen.

In between relaxing at your Tuscan pool villa, you can explore medieval towns, taste your way through the humbly decadent Tuscan cuisine, or merely indulge in the sweet art of doing nothing at all!

My Top 3 Picks For Tuscany Villas with Private Pools

#1 TOP PICK

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Villa Il Turchetto

✔️ 5,000 sq. ft. pool villa (8 bedroom 7 bathroom)
✔️ Located near Saturnia thermal springs

↳ Book it

#2 PICK

Locanda in Tuscany

✔️ Fits up to 24 guests with 9 bedrooms & 10 bathrooms
✔️ Located in stunning Val d’Orcia with pool overlooking countryside

↳ Book it

#3 PICK

Casa Terzerie 

✔️ Decor inspired by a Lake Como villa with Tuscan elements
✔️ 10 guest capacity with 5 bedrooms & 3,500 sq. ft.

↳ Book it

Getting Around Tuscany

a car driving on a famous road in tuscany in autumn

These pool villas in Tuscany are pretty much impossible to reach with public transportation, and they are often in the countryside, not within walking distance of any amenities.

If you don’t want to feel isolated, you’ll definitely want to rent a car in Tuscany to make the most of your stay.

I recommend renting a car as soon as you fly into Florence (assuming you are starting your trip there), since you’ll get the best rates at the Florence airport.

I use Discover Cars to search for the best car rental prices in Italy, since they compare 500+ agencies (including smaller local ones, not just the big names) to find the best deal on your rental.

Best Villas in Tuscany with Private Pools for Large Groups

Overall Best For Big Groups: Villa Il Turchetto – Book Here

This massive Tuscany villa with private pool is the perfect choice for large groups — it can fit as many as 16 guests in its 8 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms (no bathroom hold-ups here!).

Even with a full house, you won’t be cramped at all. Villa Il Turchetto is a whopping 5,000 square feet, larger than life on the inside with high ceilings and exposed wood beams. 

The bedrooms are a variety of sizes, from smaller rooms perfect for kiddos to larger master-style suites, but truly no one will feel shafted by the rooms — they’re all very comfortable.

Some of the bathrooms even have bathtubs, for those of us who love a good soak at the end of a day on vacation.

… and speaking of good soaks, the location in Saturnia means that you’re right next to one of Tuscany’s hidden gems, the thermal springs right in town. 

When you’re this close, it’s a breeze to be there bright and early to be some of the first ones to enjoy the springs, which can get rather busy after the morning hours.

Back to this villa: with a living room with a fireplace, comfy armchairs, and a wall of built-in bookcases just begging you to curl up with a good novel, you absolutely will find yourself wishing you can move in.

The outdoor spaces here are massive too: plenty of comfortable cushioned chairs shaded by a thatched-style awning, giving you shade with hints of sun as you enjoy a Tuscan afternoon on the porch.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Tuscany without many a dinner al fresco.

Luckily, with a massive, well-equipped kitchen (I think I counted a whopping 8 burners to use on the massive, hood-range stove) and  enough outdoor seating to fit the whole crew, you’re ready to host unforgettable dinners in the cool Tuscan night breeze.

As for the pool, you won’t make any sacrifices here: it’s huge, so every single one of 16 guests could be in the pool without feeling crowded. 

It’s large enough to swim laps in, but it’s also just a wonderful place to relax in, admiring the Tuscan countryside all around you and the lovely rolling hills you can see out of every corner of your eye.

Best For Spa Lovers: Podere La Piscina – Acqua Termale e RelaxBook Here

This gorgeous villa is more like a typical Tuscan pool villa meets a full-on spa — complete with a sauna and a thermal pool and hot tub with natural spring water, it really does check all the ‘spa’ boxes!

Yes, Podere La Piscina literally has its own hot spring on the property — how’s that for a unique pool villa in Tuscany?

The spring has a constant temperature of 38°C or 100°F, so it’s perfect for visiting outside of the summer season if you want a heated pool. 

If you’re looking for a colder pool for swimming laps and cooling off on hot Tuscan days, this may not be the right villa for you in the summer months!

Some of the bathrooms also feel very spa-like, including one where two people can take baths side by side using the thermal water!

Located in the countryside of Val d’Orcia in the charming village of San Casciano dei Bagni, this is one of the most scenic areas of Tuscany to stay in.

Think of that beautiful winding road lined with trees that you likely think of the image of Tuscany, and that’s the Val d’Orcia!

The town it’s near, San Casciano dei Bagni, is part of the association of most beautiful villages in Italy.

Best of all, it’s only a kilometer away, so you can reach it on foot or with a car — so this is a great mix of a private-feeling villa yet still not feeling cut off from the delight of Tuscan small towns. 

This five-bedroom Tuscany villa with a private pool is very traditional, made of stone in the old-fashioned way (as a natural form of air conditioning) — but of course, it has regular A/C as well, because this villa will not let you miss any of your creature comforts.

Sleeping up to 10 guests, the bedrooms are great for a mix of families or a group of friends — 4 of the rooms have large double beds, but there’s one bedroom with two twin size beds.

There are many common spaces to enjoy with your group, like the large living room with three huge plush couches to gather around, all surrounding a fireplace.

This room is set in a high-ceilinged room complete with an exposed wooden ceiling with its original beams and a skylight — and a piano, in case any of you are musical!

All that plus a huge, well-equipped kitchen for making delicious meals with local ingredients and plenty of room to gather around the table, and you’ll see why this is the perfect Tuscany villa with private pool — nay, private hot springs — for larger groups!

Largest Pool Villa: Locanda in Tuscany – Book Here

This may be the largest Tuscany villa with a private pool on the list: the large house can sleep up to 24 guests in its 9 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, and a whopping 7,500 square foot floor plan!

Included in your stay is a daily breakfast at the nearby restaurant, which you can also visit for lunch or dinner if you don’t feel up to cooking for yourself.

That said, they do have a fully-equipped massive kitchen as well as outdoor BBQ facilities, so you can opt for self-catering or going out to as many meals as you like.

The outsized villa, of course, has an outsized private pool to match: stretching nearly as long as the house itself, it’s the perfect place to swim laps or take a dip during the hot afternoons in Tuscany.

There are also lots of loungers, as well as a shaded area for enjoying the afternoons outside without worrying about getting to much sun.

The pool area also has an epic sunset view, and the rolling hills of the Val d’Orcia of Tuscany is one of the entire region’s most scenic areas.

Let’s talk about the inside, now: the villa is freshly renovated, with an updated farmhouse-inspired aesthetic in all its bedrooms. 

Some of the bedrooms even have their own fireplace or clawfoot bathtub in the room!

Best for Instagram Lovers: Marsy Lavender Farm & Villa – Book Here

What’s better than Instagram snaps of you in a lavender field? Knowing you’ll be the only one there, since it’s your own private lavender farm and Tuscan countryside villa!

Nearly every square inch of this Tuscany villa with a pool is absolutely begging to be photographed, from its huge pool with floating chairs and rolling hill views to its fringed hammocks to its lovely minimalist décor to, of course, its lavender field!

Note, of course, lavender fields are not a year-round phenomenon — expect it to be at its peak from mid-June through mid-July — so you’ll want to book those dates in particular if the lavender field is a major selling point.

Located in the countryside of Marsiliana, this 5-bedroom, 6-bathroom villa is over 2,000 square feet and has plenty of room to accommodate up to 11 guests.

Rooms all have a very boutique hotel feel, with lovely high ceilings, a muted earth tone color palette livened up by thoughtful bursts of color, and bathrooms with rain showers!

The kitchen is massive and open, perfect for entertaining a large group while you cook, as well as outdoor BBQ facilities. 

Plus, this villa has its own pizza oven — how amazing is that?

And of course, since you’re looking for a Tuscany villa with a pool, I’d be remiss to mention just how large this pool is: perfect for laps or simple afternoon swims, the entire group could be in the pool at one time and it wouldn’t feel cramped!

There are also plenty of comfortable chairs and hammocks around the poolside to curl up with a book in between swims.

Typical Villa Charm: Casa Terzerie – Book Here

This very typical Tuscany villa with private pool is simple but beautiful, and that’s just what makes it so welcoming.

The lovely Casa Terzerie has all the structure of the typical regal villas of Como, with more old-fashioned features like four-poster beds, high ceilings with exposed wooden beams, and typical Tuscan tiling.

It’s great for a medium-sized group, sleeping up to 10 guests in its 5 bedrooms, each with double beds.

It’s nearly 3,500 square feet, so there’s plenty of space to not crowd each other.

The swimming pool is huge and gorgeous, lined up perfectly with the setting sun for gorgeous sunset swims.

And while the house feels very secluded, it’s perfectly situated as there’s a delicious restaurant within walking distance, 400 meters away.

That said, you’d never have to go out for meals if you don’t want to, as there’s a huge and well-equipped kitchen as well as a gorgeous al fresco dining area perfect for big meals with friends.

Best for Dinner Parties: Villa Podere Del Grasso – Book Here

Located in Castel del Piano, this Tuscany villa with a pool is a secluded little getaway perfect for groups up to 12 — perfect for families or trips with a large group of friends.

This villa in Tuscany in absolutely massive: we’re talking six bedrooms, plus two sofa beds in the living room, so it’s easy to accommodate a large group of people. 

With an enormous private pool to swim laps in or cool off in under the hot Tuscan sun, or a fireplace to gather around inside during the cooler months, this is a wonderful all-seasons villa in Tuscany for large groups.

The villa interior is gorgeous, with high ceilings complete with exposed wooden beams, completing the rustic Tuscan vibe.

A spacious kitchen with a center island to gather around is another huge perk of this villa, as it’s easy to self-cater if you want to host dinners cooking with local, seasonal ingredients — it’d be a shame to waste Italian summer produce!

A housekeeper is available in case you need any tidying while you’re staying in the villa (note that there’s an additional  charge)

With a porch featuring hammock seats overlooking the hills, this Tuscany pool villa is the perfect place to take in the sunset and relax with a glass of local Chianti.

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Best Outdoor Sunset Space: Villa Colletto – Book Here

If your favorite time of the day is sunset, this is the perfect Tuscany villa with a pool for you: Villa Colletto has one of the nicest sunset-facing terraces I’ve ever seen!

Complete with several comfortable wicker sofas and chairs with plush pillows, arranged in a circle around a table to place drinks and antipasti on, this is the perfect place to watch the sun sink into the small, rugged mountains of the Tuscan countryside.

And after the sun sets, there’s still plenty of outdoor beauty to enjoy, like the massive dining table that’ll fit the entire group with views over the surroundings villages, only tiny pinpricks of light in the dark.

The house has 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms and comfortably sleeps 8 guests, though honestly, I do expect it could fit more if you asked.

The interior is absolutely gorgeous too, keeping in mind the historical feel of traditional Italian villas with some incredible design features, from ornate ceilings to chandeliers to exposed beams.

One of my favorites is a bathroom with murals painted on the wall of a Tuscan landscape, complete with an exposed wooden beam ceiling, a wrought-iron standalone bathtub, and sconce lighting.

It’s like taking a bath in another century!

The bedrooms too feel like they came out of a 19th century Lake Como villa, with exposed beam ceilings, delicate molding features, vintage furnishings, and many with en-suite bathrooms that continue the charm.

And of course, you looked up Tuscany pool villas so let’s talk about the pool: it’s simply huge, large enough to swim laps in or have a pool party in!

There’s also lots of loungers around the pool to take breaks for sunbathing or book-worming. 

And the pool also is a great sunset spot to boot — you get epic views of the setting sun and its palette of brilliant sunset colors here, too.

There are both indoor and outdoor kitchens, and you can even hire a private chef who can cook Italian classics for you.

Perhaps even better for lovers of Tuscan wine, they have their own wine cellar and can arrange for private wine tastings!

The prices for the chef and wine tasting are rather reasonable too, starting at 35-45€ per person for meals and 25-35€ per person for wine tasting.

Who knew private luxury in your own Tuscan pool villa could be that inexpensive?

Olive Farm Beauty: Chiarentana – Book Here

This charming Tuscany pool villa in Chianciano Terme is the perfect spot for large groups of up to 14 people, with 7 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms so everyone has plenty of space (2,500 square feet).

Once a fortress and a few scattered farmhouses, Chiarentana is now a gorgeous, modern place to stay with a variety of options, but we’ll focus on the villa here, since it has its own private pool.

Oh, and did I mention it’s also an olive oil farm? It doesn’t get any more Tuscan than that, does it?

The rooms are typical Italian understated villa beauty: simple but elegant furnishings that mix and match vintage with modern, so all your creature comforts are met while still having that traditional villa feel.

The kitchen is huge and spacious, high-ceilinged with lots of natural light and counter space, plus an in-kitchen dining table for entertaining and having family or group meals.

There’s also a huge living room with a fireplace and lots of seating, perfect for a night of chats, games, and drinks to match.

Best Infinity Pool: Villa Lolù – Book Now

Located in the small town of Terranuova Bracciolini, this exquisite villa in Tuscany with a private pool is perfect for a larger group of up to 9 guests.

With four bedrooms (3 queen, one with two twin) and a living room with a sofa bed, as well as two bathrooms, there’s plenty of space at this Tuscan villa so you won’t feel crowded, even if you’re at max capacity.

It’s also rather close to the Florence airport, making transfers a breeze, as it’s located about halfway between Florence and Arrezzo, another charming Tuscan city.

The interior oozes Italian countryside charm, with rustic exposed stonework in the dining room, an outdoor area perfect for al fresco dinners with endless Chianti pours, and the typical rust-red and mustard-yellow hues of the Tuscan countryside in the shared areas.

On cool nights, there’s also a fireplace to enjoy and gather around in the lovely living room — but if it’s warm, don’t worry, this Tuscan villa is complete with A/C as well!

But of course, the real draw is the private pool: beautiful day or night, this infinity pool looks over the rolling hills of Tuscany. 

And all lit up at night in beautiful turquoise and gold, there couldn’t be a better place to drink wine and chat with friends and family late into the early morning hours. 

Plus, there’s a Jacuzzi as well to use!

And if you thought it didn’t get any better, the lovely couple who runs the villa, Gaetano and Francesca, will cook for you — even making you delicious home-cooked pizzas in their pizza oven!

Private Villa Close to Town: Podere La Terminella – Book Now

Get the best of both worlds with this gorgeous Tuscany villa with a private pool just outside of Volterra, a mid-sized town in Tuscany with a lot going on.

This is the perfect villa to stay in if you don’t want to feel totally secluded out in the countryside far from all the restaurants and attractions of Tuscany, but you still want the privacy and spaciousness that a pool villa gives you.

With 6 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms, this Tuscany pool villa comfortably fits up to 12 guests, making it great for groups of friends and families.

One of its best features is its infinity pool, which looks straight over the rolling landscape of the Tuscan countryside for some of the best views you can imagine.

Next to the pool, there are loungers with large umbrellas perfect for sunbathing with views of Tuscany spread out before you.

There’s also a large outdoor al fresco dining area, so you can eat lunch and dinner with the same sweeping views!

Inside, the kitchen is a modern marvel — you’ll find yourself wanting to cook in this one, with its gorgeous marble countertops and endless counter space, fully equipped to make mouthwatering meals.

There’s a wonderful little breakfast nook, multiple fireplaces, and tons of spacious seating areas to enjoy indoors.

The bedrooms are also very spacious and modern, with high ceilings with wooden beams and en-suite bathrooms with soaking tubs or walk-in showers — the ultimate in relaxation!

Best for Families with Little Kids: Villa Antico Borghetto Di Tigliano – Book Here

This old-fashioned Tuscany villa with a private pool is an affordable choice for mid-sized groups, fitting up to 8 guests in this 4-bedroom, 3-story villa.

A 10-minute drive from the charming Tuscan town of Vinci, it’s conveniently located but still feels very private and secluded. 

You can enjoy the large, spacious garden and its BBQ facilities as well as its above-ground pool, accessed via stairs that can be gated off.

This makes it an especially safe choice for families with young kids who may be worried about the safety of a Tuscany pool villa.

For an above ground pool, it’s rather large, and while you wouldn’t necessarily be able to swim laps in it, it’s definitely not a kiddie pool!

Kids will also love the treehouse-style play structure complete with a slide!

In terms of the interior, think old-fashioned Italian comforts: iron-wrought furniture, oil paintings and prints of famous Italian artists, and the typical Tuscan color palette of pale yellow, brick, and rust-red.

It’s not the most design-forward Tuscany pool villa, and fans of modernist design will definitely find it a little dated, but if you want old-fashioned charm, this is it!

Modern Beauty with Spa Features: Villa Le Terme – Book Here

This pool villa in Tuscany doesn’t quite feel like the others, as it has a really modern architecture compared to the others, which are more traditional in their design.

While it may not ooze with historic charm the way many of these Tuscany villas with private pools do, Villa Le Terme still is an excellent choice and may be better for those with more modernist design sensibilities.

It’s also great for large groups, with 5 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, and the ability to fit up to 13 people. One bedroom is on the ground floor and is wheelchair accessible.

This villa boasts not one but two pools: one outdoors with a gorgeous view, and one indoors, covered with a roof but surrounded by glass windows so you won’t feel like you’re missing a bit of the view!

Plus, there’s also an indoor dry sauna as well as a Turkish bath steam room to complete the “home spa” feel, as well as two tiled hammam-style relaxation loungers in the indoor pool area.

The outdoor pergola is very modern, with geometric, clean-lined outdoor furniture for lounging and relaxing beside the huge swimming pool.

Inside, the kitchen is compact but very functional, with plenty of counter space and all sorts of modern appliances that wouldn’t look out of place in a brand-new luxury apartment.

That same modern aesthetic continues throughout — from the loft-style feel of the living room-meets-dining area to spacious, minimalist bedrooms, this definitely feels like a 21st-century villa.

If you’re looking for the romantic, historic villa in Tuscany — this isn’t it. But if you want a large space and a private pool with a modern feel, this is a great choice!

Typical Tuscan Vibes: Villa Mezzavia – Book Here

Located outside the popular Tuscan destination of Cortona, this Tuscany pool villa is huge — over 3,000 square feet — with 6 bedrooms that can welcome up to 11 guests.

The two-story Villa Mezzavia has a massive private pool on site, with lots of sun loungers aside it for sunbathing in between swims.

The huge pool is well-shaded by trees for much of the day, so it’s perfect for swimming on hot days without worrying about the scorching sun!

The interior is spacious and traditional, with your typical Tuscan tile floor and brick-lined archways that given an open floor plan feel while still having separate ‘rooms’ in the main living area.

The kitchen is well-appointed though a little small, but you can definitely make do for cooking some nice meals in here to be enjoyed either in the dining room in the main house or al fresco.

The bedrooms continue the traditional Tuscan aesthetic, incorporating the same tile and brickwork in the rooms, whose edges are softened with vintage furnishings that make you feel like you’re staying in another century.

And some bedrooms even have a soaking tub in the room, whereas others have an en-suite bathroom with a step-in shower.

Small Town Bliss: Villa La Casa del Re – Book Here

Just outside the small town of Le Piazze, you can easily run into town for the things you need — a coffee, a bottle of wine, some food, all 10 minutes away on foot.

Yet still, Villa La Casa de Re is set away back far enough that you can feel the seclusion of having your very own Tuscany villa with a private pool.

Taking up 3 floors, this 6-bedroom villa can sleep up to 11 guests comfortably, though smaller groups can enjoy it as well. 

Though given how many people it can fit, it can be a rather cheap price per person if you have a full house!

The interior is lovely, warm, and welcoming, with bright white walls that invite in the natural light and wooden exposed beams that give the whole room a lovely rustic feel.

The kitchen is spacious, perfect for making a meal with a group of friends, as well as having an outdoor BBQ area for delicious summertime meals.

The pool is not huge, but it’s large enough to enjoy with a smaller group, and there are plenty of sun beds and umbrellas for you to enjoy some sunbathing.

The bedrooms have the same high-ceilinged, minimalistic yet warm stylings as the rest of the house, simply furnished with beautiful wooden furnishings and uncluttered so they have a peaceful feel.

That said, the bathrooms feel a little dated, as the tile is bit old-school and the showers aren’t particularly nice or modern.

Best Villas in Tuscany with Private Pools for Smaller Groups

Best for Budget Travel: Le Rime di Campagna – Book Now

Just on the outskirts of the charming Tuscan city of Arrezzo, less than 3 miles from the city center, you’ll find this lovely Tuscan villa for quite an affordable price!

This budget-friendly villa in Tuscany with a private pool has everything you’d want — air conditioning, a well-stocked kitchen and BBQ facilities, a patio with views of the rolling hills, and an outdoor fireplace — all at a reasonable price that’s perfect for a smaller group.

With two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and the ability to fit up to four guests, this is a great choice for two couples traveling together or a family of 4 who wants a bit of privacy during their stay.

The design is subtle and homey, not over-the-top fancy, but that’s part of its charm — it makes your Tuscany pool villa feel a little more like a home away from home, at least for a time.

The pool is not incredibly large, but since it’s a private pool for just your group of four or fewer to use, that’s not such a bad thing…

Especially when there’s an outdoor dining area and a hammock area to enjoy just next to the pool!

If you want the Tuscany villa with a private pool experience without the huge price tag, this is the spot for you, so long as your group size is small enough to make it work!

Stone House Budget Beauty: Villa La Pergola – Book Here

In a typical stone home you’ll find all over the Tuscan countryside, surrounded by flowering trees and vines, the beautiful Villa La Pergola is a good option for smaller groups of 6 or less.

With 3 bedrooms — two double beds and one sofa bed — and 2 bathrooms, this is a spacious villa in Tuscany with a private pool despite the lower number of bedrooms compared to most, with a nearly 3,000 square foot floor plan.

The interior is quintessentially Tuscan: exposed stone walls that show off the masonry, juxtaposed against plenty of wood details and mustard yellow and rust red accents.

The bedrooms are that perfect blend of minimalistic yet not Spartan, with plenty of room to spread out in yet with enough personality and detail to feel individualized and homey, like you’re staying in the house of a family friend.

Admittedly, the circular swimming pool isn’t the largest, but it’s perfectly suitable for a dip to cool off on a hot Italian afternoon.

There’s also a great pergola — who would have guessed it from the name of the villa? — with a large dining table for meals under the Tuscan sun (or stars).

But best of all is the price, which can be downright affordable; sometimes the villa is available for under $250 per night, which is just over $40 per person per night if you have a full house!

Hillside Beauty: Villa Ada Belriguardo – Book Here

Located in the countryside, this charming Tuscany villa with a private pool is set on the hillside amidst beautiful gardens, close to the towns of Sarteano and Cetona.

Typical of villas in the region, Villa Ada Belriguardo is made of stone with a terra cotta roof, emblematic of the Tuscany region.

The pool is located a terrace or two below the villa and it is simply massive, overlooking a valley of Tuscany’s hilly region. 

There is plenty of room for the whole group to enjoy the pool, or to swim some laps if you’re looking for exercise.

The pool is also beautifully lit up at night, perfect for night swims under the uncountable stars of the Tuscan sky.

This villa is on the smaller side in terms of how many guests it can fit: with only 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, it’s better suited for smaller groups of 6 or fewer.

That also makes it a fairly affordable place to stay on a budget, especially if you have a full house, though it isn’t the cheapest villa on the list.

The interior of the villa is beautiful in an old-fashioned way: think Tuscan tile floors, iron-wrought bed frames, and vintage wooden furnishings.

The bathrooms are a little small and dated, but the rest of the house feels spacious, recently renovated, and inviting, especially the kitchen and living areas.

Plus, there’s also a game room complete with a pool table!

In short, as long as you don’t need the most modern of design choices, this is the perfect choice for a smaller group looking for a Tuscany villa with a private pool.

Close to Florence: CountryHouse con Piscina – Book Here

Just on the outskirts of Florence near the outer suburb of Rifredi, you can have your own Tuscan villa with private pool while just being a short ride into town — less than 4 kilometers to its main sights, in fact.

In fact, it’s so close to the center of Florence that you can just walk to the tram, which is 5 minutes walk away, and that’ll sweep you right into town!

With a private indoor pool surrounded by beautiful brick and stone, complete with hydromassage jets, this is a lovely place to relax after a busy day sightseeing in Florence — and it’s lit up beautifully at night, giving it an almost hammam-style feel.

The indoor pool is a bit small, but it’s definitely suitable for relaxing in after a full day of sightseeing around the city.

Plus, the villa also has an outdoor fireplace, a BBQ area, and some garden areas to walk around, so you really will feel like you’re outside of the urban center, despite being so close to it!

Of course, being so close to Florence, you do make a sacrifice: namely, space, as the country house is a little on the small side. 

The rooms can be a little narrow, as everything fits in a 600 square foot floor plan, but nevertheless this charming tiny house fits up to five guests comfortably in its 2 bedrooms (and a living room sofa bed).

But for the price and location, it’s a great offer — just don’t expect a massive villa or an outdoor pool, because that’s not what this villa is about!

Seeing the Northern Lights in Rovaniemi: Tips, Apps, Spots & Tours I Recommend!

Allison Green standing in front of the Northern lights in Rovaniemi, Finland

Many people plan a trip to Rovaniemi in winter with one main thing on their mind… spotting Finnish Lapland’s fickle but phenomenal Northern lights!

This guide will go over when and how you can see the Northern lights in Rovaniemi.

This includes tips for spotting them independently as well as my own personal experience seeing the Northern lights on a tour.

Allison Green in front of the green aurora borealis in Rovaniemi Finland on a frozen lake wearing a green jacket and pink hat
With the aurora on Northern lights tour in January 2024

This post also goes over all the ideal conditions for seeing the Northern lights so you have a baseline understanding of what to expect.

Plus, I’ll give you some recommendations for Northern lights hotels outside the Rovaniemi city center, and explain how to use aurora apps to have the best chance of spotting the Northern lights.

This post goes over all my tips for spotting the Northern lights while you’re visiting Rovaniemi, but if you’re in a hurry, I recommend booking this tour — I did the Northern lights tour with them and it was the only time I saw the Northern lights in Rovaniemi in nearly two weeks!

When Can You See the Northern Lights in Rovaniemi?

The green dramatic display of the Northern lights as seen in the outskirts of Rovaniemi Finland
Northern lights display in January 2024

Note: I’m going to geek out a bit on science of the Arctic Circle for a bit — but if you just want a quick and easy answer, you can generally see the Northern lights in Rovaniemi from the end of August to the beginning of April.

While that is the general band of when you can see the aurora, my friend who lives part-time in Finland has let me know that the best months are generally September, October, and March, as this is when there is the least likelihood of clouds impeding your view.

Any time there are enough nighttime hours to have true darkness, you have a chance of seeing the Northern lights in Rovaniemi!

Allison Green standing in front of the Northern lights on a frozen lake in Finland with her back to the camera

Keep in mind that Rovaniemi is juuuust below the Arctic Circle. In fact, Santa Claus Village, 8 kilometers north of the city center, actually runs right through it!

What does that mean? Well, the Arctic Circle is essentially the latitude line on the map above which the sun does not completely set, but rather hovers just above the horizon, on the longest day of the year (aka the summer solstice).

That means that if you visit any point north of the Arctic Circle on June 20th or 21st (depending on the year), you won’t experience a true night at all!

At some places further north, like Abisko and Tromso, you won’t experience a sunset for several weeks… or more than four months, in the case of Svalbard!

The inverse of that is that during the winter, the sun won’t rise, either…. meaning lots of hours to try to spot the aurora!

A photograph Allison took of the Northern lights as they danced overhead in 2016 in Sweden.
Fun fact: Abisko was the first place I ever saw the aurora, and I managed to capture this epic shot!

In Rovaniemi, this period of polar night is quite short — just two days — but in places further north in Finland, it can last up to two months!

So, as you can imagine, the length of days varies quite a bit in Rovaniemi; the sunrise and sunset hours change dramatically throughout the course of a year.

In general, you can see the aurora borealis starting about two hours after sunset and two hours before sunrise. Otherwise, it is a little too bright to properly see any aurora.

Tips for Spotting Rovaniemi’s Northern Lights

Allison dressed to see the Northern lights in front of a frozen lake
Dressed warm and ready to try to spot the lights!

While the Northern lights are theoretically visible at any point there is darkness in Rovaniemi, in actuality, there are several other factors to consider.

The main thing that you need to think about when trying to spot the Northern lights during your visit to Rovaniemi is cloud cover: it’s the biggest enemy to seeing the aurora.

This is because the aurora borealis occurs 100 to 300 kilometers above the ground.

If you have clouds just a few kilometers above the ground blocking the night sky, you simply won’t see the lights, even if the most magical display in the world is actually happening above the clouds!

So, you need a clear night to actually see the Northern lights in Rovaniemi. Unfortunately, this is somewhat harder than it sounds!

While Rovaniemi is inland and thus not quite as cloudy as coastal spots like Tromso, it can still get quite cloudy in the winter and that can impact your ability to see the aurora.

Allison posing with the Northern lights on a tour in Norway
Seeing the Northern lights on a tour in Tromso… that actually crossed the border into Northern Finland in order to see the lights!

I’m writing this post during my January 2024 visit to Rovaniemi. As of today, I’ve been here for one week and it’s only been possible to see the aurora twice due to the cloud cover, despite quite a bit of solar activity.

Oh, yeah. The other thing you need besides a dark night and a cloudless sky is solar activity.

The aurora borealis is caused by solar activity, when solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) emit particles that make their way towards Earth.

They’re then pulled towards the Earth’s poles through electromagnetism, which is why you have a much better chance of seeing the Northern lights around the Arctic regions than anywhere else in the world.

When the solar particles interact with the atmosphere as they are pulled towards Earth, they create bursts of color: typically green, but other colors vary depending on what gas they’re interacting with and how high in the atmosphere the interaction is occuring.

Later in the post, I’ll explain aurora forecasting apps and let you know tips for using them that I learned from trial and error as well as expert tips from my Northern lights tour guide.

Seeing the Northern Lights Without a Tour

Allison Green standing with the aurora in Rovaniemi
Personally, I only saw the Northern lights with a tour and thought it was worth it!

It is definitely not required to take a Northern lights tour in order to see the Northern lights in Rovaniemi.

… But it certainly helps, as you are a lot more mobile and your guides will work their hardest to find the aurora.

That said, taking Northern lights tours can get expensive: at at least 100 euros a pop, they can add up, especially if you take multiple excursions to try to see the lights.

Luckily, if the Northern lights are strong enough, you might be able to see them in Rovaniemi so long as you get away from some of the light pollution of the city center.

In the city center, I’d recommend the area around the Arktikum Museum if you are trying to spot the Northern lights.

Not only is the architecture of the museum really cool to capture in aurora photos as it provides a really cool tonal and visual contrast to the lights, but the museum area has a pretty clear view to the northern horizon, where you’ll see the majority of the lights’ activity.

Arktikum museum in rovaniemi in a winter snowy landscape during the daytime
Imagine this view at night with the aurora overhead!

It’s also on the edge of the city center bordering the river, so you won’t have a ton of light pollution in that direction.

That said, this isn’t the ideal spot to see the Northern lights because there is still a good deal of light pollution which will impact your eye’s ability to perceive the aurora (and your camera’s ability to capture it).

There are some other cool spots to try to see the lights in Rovaniemi but outside the city center, like Ounasvaara Hill (about an hour’s walk to the top from Rovaniemi city center or accessible by a 10-minute taxi).

Ounasvaraa Hill ski slopes in the city center's outskirts
A view of Ounasvaraa’s ski slopes

There’s also he observation tower at the top of Syväsenvaara Hill (which is tricky to reach, but it does have epic views).

I really love the observation tower at the top of Syväsenvaara Hill!

I walked there several times, as it was close to where I was staying at my friend’s house in Rovaniemi (and it’s right next to Arctic Treehouse Hotel).

Allison Green standing in the observation tower at the top of the hill with the view of Rovaniemi behind her
At the top of the observation tower; the ladder is quite icy so I only recommend climbing if you are confident of your skill, not afraid of heights, and during the daytime!

However, it is a bit difficult to find the path leading up to the observation tower when everything is covered in snow.

There is a not insignificant risk that you could get lost or turned around while trying to find it, which is potentially extremely hazardous in winter temperatures. Do so at your own risk!

There are some other ideas for where to see the Northern lights around Rovaniemi here; keep in mind you will need to rent a car to get to the majority of these spots.

If it’s in the middle of winter and a lot of snow has accumulated, you should only rent a car if you are familiar with how to drive in the snow.

The road conditions can get quite hazardous for the inexperienced (seriously, my friend who lives in Rovaniemi tells me about tourist accidents all the time!).

Seeing the Northern Lights With a Tour

Allison Green in the snow wearing snowboots, scarf, hat, parka, with green display of northern lights in the background
On a tour seeing the Northern lights in Finnish Lapland, an hour outside of Rovaniemi

The easiest way to (almost) ensure you see the Northern lights in Rovaniemi is by taking a Northern lights tour.

Depending on the tour you take, you’ll spend 4 to 8 hours chasing the Northern lights as far as reasonably necessary within the time limits of your tour to try to see the lights.

I took this exact tour and can recommend it highly: our guide, Genis, was really kind and helpful and we even stayed a little longer than planned because there was a ton of cloud cover and we had to go a little further than we planned.

Allison with her back to the northern lights and them lighting up overhead
Worth the wait, always!

However, once we got to our final spot at a frozen lake, we were able to see the lights and all was worth it!

Even better, on our way home the Northern lights went absolutely crazy to the point where we were even able to see it out the window.

Even though at this point we were running a half hour behind, our guide stopped quickly to let us out to admire the lights dancing overhead.

Aurora display in Rovaniemi Finland with the green lights pulsating overhead
A beautiful, brief eruption of the aurora on the way home

This is the exact tour that I took and that I recommend to others visiting Rovaniemi.

It’s affordable but excellent, and its small group focus makes it a really enjoyable experience.

A small group is extra important if you want photos of you with the Northern lights overhead, because they can be fickle and fleeting.

Group picture of the travelers on the aurora tour in Finland
Our group size on an aurora tour in Rovaniemi

The more of you there are on the tour, the less your guide can help you take photos in that (potentially) short time span!

On my tour, our group was 8, which was not too many and we were easily able to get as many photos with the Northern lights as we wanted.

Book the same Northern lights tour I did here!

Northern Lights Hotels Near Rovaniemi

The arctic treehouse hotel in Rovaniemi with box-like structures on stilts in a snow-covered forest
The Arctic Treehouse Hotel is one of the best choices in Rovaniemi!

While not the cheapest option, another way to have a better chance of spotting the Northern lights in Rovaniemi is by staying at a Northern lights hotel.

Staying at one of the hotels outside the city center, especially that offers glass igloos, aurora cabins, or other similar accommodations that have settings out in nature with panoramic views, means that heading outside to try to see the aurora doesn’t take much effort at all!

Here are a few recommendations near Rovaniemi:

auroras going overhead at the arctic treehouse hotel outside of rovaniemi center with lit up windows and then a band of green aurora overhead
Photo Credit: Arctic Treehouse Hotel
  • Arctic Treehouse Hotel: Not far from Santa Claus Village or the Rovaniemi city center, this is a great compromise between being close to the city’s attractions yet out in nature. The treehouses are on a hill that offers a great, unobstructed northerly view. There’s a designated shelter point for warming up while you’re waiting for the aurora! You can also walk about 10 minutes uphill to the observation tower for another viewpoint.
people inside an aurora cabin in apukka with a fake fireplace with the aurora is in the sky overhead in the glass igloo
Photo Credit: Apukka Resort
  • Apukka Resort: One of the best Northern lights hotels options in Finland, Apukka is about 30 minutes from the city center which makes it the perfect place to see the Northern lights away from the city’s light pollution. There’s a variety of room types including glass igloos with panoramic windows! It hosts activities like dog sledding (which I did with Apukka – it was great!) and reindeer sledding on-site as well.
The aurora outside the window of a Finland glass igloo is vibrant with green color. Inside, you can see the white bed, Finnish design detail, and glass panes of window that show you the aurora from your window which has 180 degree views of the colorful night sky.
Photo Credit: Santa’s Igloos
  • Santa’s Igloos Arctic Circle: Close to Santa Claus Village, this igloo hotel isn’t particularly remote but it does offer an escape from the worst of the light pollution of the city while still being close to the amenities of Santa Claus Village like its souvenir shops and restaurants. There are also dog-sledding and reindeer tours you can do here but the tours at Apukka are much nicer.

Note: While these accommodations are an amazing experience, keep in mind that a lot of what you see are marketing materials where everything is portrayed in the best light possible.

Photos of the aurora borealis use long exposure to make the colors more vivid than you would see with your naked eye; don’t expect to see neon squiggles overhead, bright as Tokyo city lights!

More often, the aurora borealis looks like a faint-colored, fast-moving, odd-shaped cloud. It’s more likely that you’ll spot it because of its movement than because of its colors.

While you can see the Northern lights from out of a window in exceptional conditions (like the below photo I took from a car window!), more likely, you’ll have to go out for a walk to properly see and photograph the aurora.

A view of the aurora borealis taken through a car window
A cellphone shot of the aurora borealis in the car — this intensity is quite rare!

The panoramic windows of a glass igloo can give you a good indicator of if the lights are out or not.

That said, don’t expect to have a rave-like show in your room.

This isn’t to dissuade you from staying in one; I just want to give you accurate expectations, especially as the price tag is so high!

Using Aurora Forecasting Apps

Rovaniemi aurora in the sky above a snowy landscape on a clear day
A faint but beautiful aurora

Whether you’re trying to see the Northern lights with a tour or independently, checking out an aurora forecasting app is a good way to have an idea of what the lights will be like.

I use the My Aurora Forecast & Alerts app. It’s free, and you can get it here for Apple and here for Android.

The app will calculate a percentage chance of seeing the aurora and alert you if your percent chance is above their 30% chance threshold or if other people nearby using the app have checked in and reported sightings.

But the app is also useful for digging into the numbers and analyzing the data that’s given to you, including a few key factors.

  • Kp-index: This is perhaps the most poorly understood part of seeing the aurora, as many people simply think high number = you will definitely see the lights and think no further than that. The Kp-index solely measures the geomagnetic storm’s intensity and does not factor in cloud cover, wind direction (Bz), or other factors that may impact your ability to see the aurora. It also gives a reference for how far south the aurora may stretch, but that doesn’t necessarily correlate to a much more dramatic view at higher latitudes like Rovaniemi.
  • Solar winds: The higher the number, the stronger the chance of aurora activity. As a rule of thumb, numbers above 400 km per hour are good, and even better as it approaches 500.
  • Bz: The more negative this number is, the stronger the chance of aurora activity, because it means that solar particles are being pulled towards the earth and creating the Northern lights.
Aurora borealis in Finland
A shaky view of the Northern lights because I didn’t have time to set up my tripod when they were this active!

These apps won’t guarantee you seeing the Northern lights but they will help you understand the factors that go into the phenomenon of the aurora borealis.

This will hopefully give you more insight as to when is a good time to take a hike somewhere dark to see the lights or book a Northern lights tour.

In general, I would book a Northern lights tour based on forecasted clouds as opposed to anything else like Kp-index or geomagnetic storms.

Like I mentioned above, you can have the most spectacular aurora in the world… and see nothing if there’s low clouds overhead, blocking out your entire view.

Tip: Rather than booking direct with a company offering Northern lights tours in Rovaniemi, I book through GetYourGuide which gives you a free 24-hour cancellation option.

This way, you can book a tour and reschedule it with 24 hours or more notice if the forecast isn’t looking favorable.

Lately, I’ve noticed that GetYourGuide offers a 1-hour cancellation policy at a surcharge; this may be worth it if you want extreme flexibility.

Honestly, generally, 24 hours should be enough notice to decide whether or not the forecast is worth a Northern lights attempt, since tours do give you the option to branch out quite a bit and attempt to snag a hole in the cloud cover.

That said, it is an option I just wanted to make you aware of!

Is It Worth Visiting Arktikum?: Quick Guide to Rovaniemi’s Science Museum

Exterior of the Arktikum building in Rovaniemi Finland

The northern Finnish city of Rovaniemi is most known for its huge array of winter adventure activities, from dog sledding to Northern lights chasing to snowmobiling and beyond.

But no matter the season, any trip to the ‘capital’ of Finnish Lapland should include some time enjoying the lovely city center of Rovaniemi.

Arktikum is really two museums in one: both the Arctic Center and the Provincial Museum of Lapland operate out of the same (gorgeously designed) building, offering their own exhibits.

Interior of the Arktikum museum with its design-forward glass ceiling that is emblematic of the unique vision of Nordic architects
Interior of Arktikum
Allison Green, the author of the article, wearing a yellow sweater and hat, smiling at the camera with the building's unique architecture visible behind her
Museum selfie!

After my January 2024 visit to Arktikum, I was incredibly impressed by this small but impactful museum and thought I’d write a quick guide for those on the fence, who aren’t sure about if it’s worth visiting Arktikum.

The short answer: yes, absolutely, I think visiting Arktikum is worth it for basically every kind of traveler.

It has something for everyone. Those interested in culture, citizen scientists, families, design geeks: everyone will be pleased with some aspect of Arktikum, if not the entire thing!

Arktikum Hours and Admission Costs

Sign of all the different admission costs for visiting Arktikum as well as the culture pass
Admission costs as of January 2024

Arktikum is open from 10 AM to 6 PM daily every day except Monday, making scheduling your visit here quite easy.

It’s also within walking distance of pretty much anywhere in the Rovaniemi city center, so visiting isn’t hard if you’re already in town.

Admission costs 18 euros for an adult, but you can buy a combined pass called the Rovaniemi Culture Pass for 25 euros.

Booking the pass also grants you admission to Pilke (a science center dedicated to Finnish forests, known for its efficient design and sustainable efforts) as well as the Korundi Culture House.

Interior of the Pilke science center which is right next to Arktikum and also included on the Culture Pass. Mixed use building with museum below and office buildings above. Focusing on Finnish forests and sustainability.
Interior of the neighboring Pilke, a sustainability-focused science center

Pilke costs 7 euros for an adult ticket and Korundi costs 11 euros per adult, offering a total savings of 11 euro if you do plan to visit all three sites.

In my opinion, booking the trio via the Culture Pass offers a good deal and encourages you to make the most out of your time in Rovaniemi by paying for everything upfront and then getting to space out your visits over the course of a week.

Pilke is literally right next to Arktikum as well, so it’s extremely easy to visit both of the museums together, which is what I chose to do (and save Korundi for another day).

Tip: I booked my Culture Pass online, but there was really no need to — you can just buy it at the first one of the three museums included you visit and save the 1.50 euro service fee for online bookings.

Highlights of Arktikum

A sign leading towards an exhibit at Arktikum, an exhibit called "Arctic in Change"
One of the exhibits at Artikum

One of my highlights of visiting Arktikum was checking out the “Arctic in Change” exhibit, curated by the Arctic Science Center.

It focused on the challenges facing the Arctic’s climate and its residents — human and wildlife alike — due to global warming.

I liked how it was informative and approachable, with interactive elements that not only appealed to me as an adult but would also be excellent for kids.

Model of a polar bear and sign about the climate giving information on climate change in Finnish and English
Part of the Arctic in Change exhibit with a life-size polar bear replica

There’s also a permanent exhibit about the aurora borealis, which is endlessly fascinating to me.

Seeing the Northern lights is one of my favorite parts about visiting the Arctic — I’ve chased the lights all over the region, from Abisko to Tromso to Rovaniemi and beyond.

While I know a lot about the science of what causes the aurora borealis, I thought it laid it out in a really approachable, easy-to-understand way that would be great for curious adults and older kids alike.

Part of the aurora borealis display that explains how the aurora is caused
Informational sign explaining the aurora borealis
Interactive display of the aurora borealis
Aurora borealis room where you can lay down and watch a visualization of the aurora

But remember, Arktikum isn’t just a science museum: it’s also co-run by the Provincial Museum of Lapland, so there’s also a big focus on the people as well as the nature and science of the region.

There were several culture-focused exhibits spread across two floors (on an off-hand note, I noticed that the left-hand side of the museum focused on science whereas the right-hand side of the museum focused on culture).

I especially liked the permanent cultural exhibit focused on the inhabitants of Lapland — of course, its human residents as well as its animal ones.

Animals of the Arctic as seen as part of the culture museum section of the museum
Interactive animal exhibit at Arktikum
Display of people in Lapland in warm clothes and a sled
One of the displays in the permanent exhibit

But my personal favorite highlight of the Arktikum Museum was seeing the temporary exhibit about Sámi design, “Duodjebálgát – Paths of Duodji” (note: duodji is the word for Sámi handicrafts).

It focused on the artistic works of two Sámi artists and sisters, Birit and Reetta Tornensis, and their link between their work and their heritage.

If you don’t already know, the Sámi are Lapland’s Indigenous people, a group that transcends national borders and spans northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and some of Russia.

Sámi culture was once pushed to the margins of society — like many Indigenous peoples around the world, they were violently oppressed, having their language and traditional dress banned, among other violations.

Now, there’s more cultural understanding towards Sámi people: there are language nests dedicated to preserving Sámi language and Sámi designs are highlighted, valued, and protected.

Two articles of Sámi clothing for women with typical fringe and embroidery
Two examples of traditional Sámi dress

At the exhibit, I learned about the origin and significance of Sámi textiles historically as well as what modernization means for Sámi artisans and craftspeople.

One thing I thought was quite cool was how Sámi designs are being protected from intellectual property theft with certifications being issued to indicate Sámi authentic artistry.

There are two levels:

  • items that are Sámi designed (Sámi Made) which have to have an idea originating from a Sámi designer but can be fully or partially machine-made
  • items that are Sámi crafted (Sámi Duodji) which means that they were hand-made by a Sámi artist in traditional methods.

This exhibit is only open until April 7, 2024, at which point it will be replaced by a new exhibit, so visit Arktikum soon if you can!

View of the arctic landscape in the background with the raised glass roof and dome of the arktikum museum
Gorgeous winter views at Arktikum

Another highlight is of course the gorgeous architecture and design of the museum!

It was dreamed up by Danish architect Claus Bonderup, who won an international architecture contest in order to design the museum in the 1980s.

It’s been a key piece of Rovaniemi’s architecture scene ever since and is one of the most unique buildings in the city.

FAQ About Visiting Arktikum

Is the museum family-friendly?

Giant gemstone at the museum
Giant amethyst from a nearby mine on display

I’m not a parent, but I think so! In my opinion, Finnish people are great at integrating children into all aspects of society, rather than solely creating kid-centric spaces.

There are aspects of the museum that will delight some of the youngest travelers — the aurora display, the interactive animal exhibits, etc. — as well as older kids who will understand more of the science and cultural aspects of what the museum is trying to teach.

What amenities are there at the museum?

Sign out in the snow for the lunch buffet
A reasonably priced daily lunch buffet is available at the café

There’s a café with a daily lunch buffet (that my friend who lives part-time in Rovaniemi loves) for 15 euros.

I didn’t try it when I was there as I had already eaten lunch, but she said it’s really good and a great value.

There’s also a free-to-use coatroom area, a gift shop with great souvenir options, free lockers, and bathrooms as part of the museum.

Do you need a guide for the museum?

Allison's hand holding an audioguide for Arktikum
Audioguide at Arktikum

It’s not necessarily — the museum is very well curated and there’s no need for a guide to take you around the museum.

There are free audioguides provided for the museum in a variety of different languages if you want!

How long do you need at Arktikum?

View into the interior of the museum on the science side of the museum
Interior of the science section of the museum

This all depends on your museum speed!

I spent about an hour there, but I have ADHD, I read really quickly, and I was already familiar with several aspects of what the museum covers, since I’ve traveled a lot around the Arctic.

If you want to really soak up every exhibit, I’d estimate two or possibly even three hours including a lunch or coffee break.