Last updated on May 30, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Sicily

Catania or Taormina – Which one is better

Taormina and Catania are both located on the west coast of Sicily and they are around 50km apart from each other

It is difficult to say if Catania or Taormina is better because it all depends on the experience and type of trip you are after.

For example, I believe that Catania is better for families, however, Taormina is more suitable for a romantic getaway for couples.

Both Taormina and Catania have a rich architecture that reflects their history and culture. In saying that, Catania is more famous for its Baroque architecture, while Taormina is well known for its medieval and Renaissance style.

Even the food experience is totally different, but awesome in both cases.

In this post, I have listed the main differences and similitudes between Catania and Taormina, with my take on the favourite city.

But let’s jump to the juicy stuff.

View of Taormina Mare
View of Taormina Mare

Catania Or Taormina – In a nutshell

Here below I have organised a quick and easy table that summarizes the major differences between Catania and Taormina.

Click on the subject to read more about it

SubjectCataniaTaorminaMy favourite
For FamiliesIt is a big city with family-friendly activitiesNot very kid-friendly with the attractions, but access to the beachCatania
For CouplesVibrant nightlife sceneRomantic ambience, stunning views, and luxurious accommodationsTaormina
3-Day ItineraryCatania is a big city with a wider variety of activities in the city and aroundLovely Old Centre and beach timeTie
AccommodationsValue for money
Scuto Home or B&B Palazzo Bruca
More expensive
Villa Schuler or Le Chevalier
Taormina
ArchitectureMix of ancient, Baroque and modern architectureStunning Greco-Roman theatre, and Medieval architectureTie
FoodStreet food, seafood, and delicious sweetsHigh-end Sicilian cuisineCatania
BeachesThe city beach is not greatSome of the most beautiful beaches in SicilyTaormina
NatureCatania is well connected to Mount EtnaThe coast is just stunningTaormina
NightlifePlenty of choice with many bars, clubs, and live music venues.Pretentious bars and lounges.Catania
ShoppingWide choice of street markets, affordable shops, high-end boutiques and designer stores.Exclusive boutiques and designer storesCatania
Festivals & Cultural EventsMany cultural events and festivals (Saint Agatha Festival is unique).Taormina Film Festival.Catania
TransportCatania is better connected by having an airport, a major train station and a bus stationTaormina has a minor bus stationCatania

Besides Taormina and Catania, there are other amazing places to stay in Sicily, of which Palermo with its unique neighbourhood is, of course, another must-experience place.

The central Duomo Square and start of Via Etnea
The central Duomo Square and the start of Via Etnea in Catania

Catania Or Taormina for families

Catania is a bustling city with plenty of activities for families.

One of the highlights is the lively fish market, which is a great place to take children and introduce them to the local culture.

There are also several parks and playgrounds, such as Villa Bellini, which has beautiful gardens and a playground for kids.

Families can also visit the nearby water park Etnaland, which is a fun day trip from the city.

While Taormina is not known for its family-friendly activities, there are still some options if you are travelling with kids.

One highlight is the Taormina Cable Car, which takes visitors up to the hilltop town from the beach area.

There are also several beautiful parks, such as Villa Comunale, with stunning views of the sea.

Taormina works better if you want to mix some beach time with history and architecture.

Catania is my favourite: there are more activities for families to enjoy. It’s a big city with plenty of kid-friendly attractions. The only thing that lacks is a good beach.

View from the top of the cable car
View from the top of the cable car in Taormina

Catania Or Taormina For couples

Catania has a lively nightlife scene, with plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from.

One romantic option is to take a sunset stroll through the city’s historic centre and stop for an aperitivo at one of the many bars in Via Etnea or in the charming San Berillo area.

You will love the local fish market and the street food that you can buy all around. Try to make it in the early morning to mix with the local crowd.

Taormina is a picturesque town with an amazing romantic atmosphere.

You can take a stroll along Corso Umberto, the town’s main street, which is lined with shops and restaurants.

There are also several beautiful gardens, such as the Villa Comunale, where you can enjoy a picnic or simply relax and take in the views.

Taormina is my favourite: without any doubt. Too beautiful and too romantic. The views you can have from multiple points in the city are just unique. You have easy access to the beach and lovely beach clubs for a late drink.

Via Etnea at night
Via Etnea in Catania at night

3-day itinerary in Catania and Taormina

A three-day itinerary in Catania will give you enough time to explore the city’s historic centre and discover its vibrant street markets, impressive Baroque architecture, and lively nightlife.

On the first day, you can visit the Piazza del Duomo, which is home to the Cathedral of Saint Agatha and the historic fish market, La Pescheria.

You can also explore the Ursino Castle, which is now a museum showcasing the city’s history.

The second day can be spent visiting the Roman Amphitheater, the Bellini Gardens, and the Benedictine Monastery.

On the third day, you can take a trip to the stunning Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe.

In Taormina, you can have a more relaxing three days.

On the first day, you can visit the ancient Greek Theatre, which offers stunning views of Mount Etna and the coast. You can also explore the historic centre, with its winding streets, elegant boutiques and cafes.

On the second day, you can take the cable car to the beautiful beach of Isola Bella and spend the day lounging in the sun or snorkelling in crystal-clear waters.

On the third day, you can take a trip to the nearby Alcantara Gorge, with its stunning rock formations and natural swimming pools.

If you are visiting the region for a long stay I have a few great itineraries of Sicily that may help with your planning.

It is a tie: both cities offer so much that is difficult to choose. Catania is probably better for an active 3-day trip, meanwhile, Taormina is more suitable for a relaxed stay.

The Greek Theatre in Taormina
The Greek Theatre in Taormina

Where to stay in Taormina and Catania

Both Catania and Taormina offer a wide range of accommodations, although, on average Catania tends to be less expensive and better value for money.

In saying that Taormina offers hotels with outstanding views of the coast, something impossible to find in Catania.

I always suggest staying away from the busiest shopping and bars streets.

Try to avoid booking in Via Etnea and the San Berillo area in Catania. Same for Corso Umberto in Taormina. Usually, secondary streets work fine.

I’ve created an exhaustive guide to Sicily’s areas and accommodation options, including some fantastic hotels in Taormina and Catania that offer great value for money.

Additionally, on my last trip to the region, I organized two guides that specifically highlight the best areas to stay in Taormina and the top neighbourhoods to book your hotel in Catania.

Here are some of the greatest options for a comfortable stay in both cities.

Hotel Villa Bianca
Hotel Villa Bianca in Taormina Mare

Architecture in Catania Vs. Taormina

Catania‘s Baroque architecture is among the most impressive in Italy, with grand palaces, churches, and public buildings that reflect the city’s history and culture.

The Piazza del Duomo, with its magnificent Cathedral of Saint Agatha and the elegant Palazzo degli Elefanti, is a must-see.

Other impressive destinations are the unfinished Chiesa di San Nicolò l’Arena, the Basilica della Collegiata, the Church of San Benedetto, and the Palazzo Biscari, which is now a museum showcasing the city’s history.

Taormina is renowned for its beautiful medieval and Renaissance architecture, with stunning palaces, churches, and public buildings.

The highlight of Taormina is without any doubt the ancient Greek Theatre, which offers stunning views of Mount Etna and the coast.

Other notable buildings include the Palazzo Corvaja, the Santa Caterina Church, and the Palazzo Duchi di Santo Stefano, which now houses a museum of art and archeology.

It is a tie: both cities offer so much in terms of architecture. Certainly, Taormina’s Greek Theatre is unique but Catania’s variety and quantity seem never-ending.

The amazing view down to Giardini Naxos from the Greek Theatre
The amazing view down to Giardini Naxos from the Greek Theatre in Taormina

Is food better in Catania or Taormina?

Catania is known for its street food, which is an integral part of the city’s culture, especially at the fish market, around the corner from Duomo Square.

Some of the must-try dishes include arancini (rice balls), sfincione (Sicilian pizza), and cannoli (sweet pastry).

There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes offering traditional Sicilian cuisine and fresh seafood, usually at an affordable price too.

I love the outdoor restaurants in San Berillo. On my last trip to Catania, I found some amazing hidden gems like La Pentolaccia.

Taormina has a more upscale dining scene, with plenty of restaurants offering romantic views and high-end cuisine.

Seafood is the highlight in Taormina, however, it does not come cheap.

There are also several gelaterias and pastry shops that offer delicious sweets.

Catania is my favourite: vibrant street food scene, unique culinary experience, all at an affordable price

Via Garibaldi leading to the Duomo
Via Garibaldi leading to the Duomo in Catania

Where are the best Beaches? Catania Or Taormina

Catania has a main city beach, La Playa, popular with locals in the summer months.

The beach is wide and sandy. You can find free areas as well as beach clubs.

However, it must be said that the water can be murky, due to the proximity to the port, and the beach is quite dirty, especially in the free sections.

Taormina has smaller beaches, but they are some of the most beautiful in Sicily.

From the Old Centre take the cable car down to Taormina Mare where you can take a sun umbrella and a sun bed to enjoy a lovely warm day.

Alternatively, follow the sign to the Isola Bella, a small, pebbly beach with crystal-clear water and stunning views of the bay.

Giardini Naxos, a neighbouring town, also has a long, sandy beach that is great for swimming and sunbathing. Very popular with families and kids.

The only drawback is that the beaches of Taormina can be super busy, almost crowded, in the summer months.

Taormina is my favourite: by a big margin too. The city of Catania is not, unfortunately, cleaning its own beach (La Playa). On the contrary, Taormina beaches are spotlessly clean, picturesque and romantic, although very busy in summer.

The beautiful Taormina Mare Beach
The beautiful Taormina Mare Beach

Nature around Catania and Taormina

Catania is very well connected (€7 for a public bus) to the majestic Mount Etna, which is the highest active volcano in Europe.

You can take a guided tour to the top of the mountain or hike one of the many trails in the area.

The surrounding countryside is also beautiful, with rolling hills and vineyards.

Taormina has the beautiful Taormina Natural Reserve, which is a protected area of coastline with stunning beaches and cliffs.

The reserve is also home to a variety of flora and fauna, including sea turtles and dolphins.

Taormna is my favourite: the beautiful coast is really unbeatable. Moreover, you can visit Mount Etna also from Taormina, though only with an organised tour (no public transportation going there)

The final part of the road going to the Bove Valley
The final part of the road going to the Bove Valley in Mount Etna

Nightlife in Catania and Taormina

Catania offers a lively and energetic nightlife scene with plenty of options for those looking for bars, clubs, and live music venues.

The streets of Catania come alive at night, particularly in the popular Piazza Bellini area, where you can find many bars and clubs.

On my last trip, I particularly enjoyed my time in the San Berillo area, with plenty of restaurants and drinking places that become alive in the evening.

Taormina has a more relaxed and sophisticated vibe, but it still offers some great nightlife options, particularly for those looking for a more upscale experience.

The town has a range of wine bars and cocktail lounges with stunning views.

Make a point to go down to Taormina Mare for the amazing Beach Clubs.

Club venues and owners tend to change quite frequently. Ask your host what is the most fashionable spot once there.

Catania is my favourite: Catania’s vibrant nightlife scene wins this category for me. I love the energy and diversity of the city’s nightlife, and the fact that there are options for all tastes and budgets.

The unique A Putia Dell'Ostello restaurant - dining by an underground river
The unique A Putia Dell’Ostello restaurant in Catania – dining by an underground river

Where is the best Shopping? Catania or Taormina?

Catania is a great place to shop, with a mix of local markets, artisan shops, and high-end boutiques.

You can find anything you want, at any price and budget.

Taormina is also a great place to shop, particularly for those looking for high-end boutiques and designer stores.

The town has a range of luxury shops, selling everything from high-end fashion to handmade ceramics and jewellery.

Catania is my favourite: there is a wider choice, for any budget. Taormina works better for high-end boutiques though

The central Corso Umberto
The central Corso Umberto in Taormina

Can you visit Taormina from Catania on a day trip (or vice-versa)

I believe that both cities deserve at least two full days, even more Catania, especially if you plan to visit the Etna volcano with a tour.

In saying that, I fully understand that sometimes this is not possible due to time constraints.

For this reason, on my last trip, I created a video on how to make a day trip to Taormina from Catania.

You can also think to rent a car in Sicily and visit Taormina and Etna Mount on the same day. This is one of my favourite scenic drives in Sicily, by the way.

All you need to know to organise a day trip to Taormina, including train and bus options
Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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