Last updated on February 27, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Sicily

10 key differences: Is TAORMINA or SYRACUSE better in Sicily?

Let’s compare the two destinations on 10 points including beach, nightlife and budget to understand if it’s better to visit Taormina or Syracuse in Sicily

Access to Syracuse and Taormina

The easiest and most cost-effective way to visit both cities from overseas is by flying to the Catania Airport, in the eastern part of Sicily. Taormina is located north, while Siracusa is in the south, both around 65km from the airport

Syracuse

Syracuse is well connected by either train or Flixbus to the Catania Airport and the trip takes around 1.5 hours. The only drawback is that there are no frequent runs and you may have to wait one or 2 hours at the terminal.

Trains and buses link Siracusa directly with Rome, Naples and Palermo and other towns and cities on the island, however, getting around in Sicily does take time because delays happen more often than you want.

This is why I usually suggest renting a car in Sicily. You will avoid wasting time at the different stations and you can visit so many unique off-the-beaten-path places like the Laghetti di Cavagrande, a short trip from Siracusa.

From Syracuse, you can easily take a train to the Baroque towns of Sicily in the Val di Noto (Ragusa and Modica are stunning), another of the amazing destinations on the island.

Taormina

Taormina relies more heavily on buses. Catania Airport is just one hour away, though you require a pricey shuttle or taxi ride over winding mountain roads into town.

There is a Train Station called Taormina-Giardini Naxos but its location is actually more in the town of Giardini Naxos and from there you will need to grab a local bus or taxi to Taormina, perched on the hill.

Syracuse is an easier town to get to, with multiple possibilities. It’s also well connected to the rest of Sicily, especially the South-East coast of the region.

In this video, you can see how to visit Taormina as a day trip from Catania with both the bus and the train

Is Taormina or Syracuse cheaper

Prices below are indicative and in Euro (€) which is roughly 1:1 with the US Dollar (give or take).

Syracuse

In Syracuse you can snag lovely lodgings for under €100/night, cafes serve mega cheap plates of pasta or arancini for just euros, and historical complexes like Neapolis Archaeological Park offer bargain rates.

Syracuse stays affordable while delivering premium value sightseeing, especially if travelling off-season when you can experience the best UNESCO sites of Sicily almost to yourself. Airbnbs outside the touristy zone also help couples or families spread out comfortably at neighbourhood rates.

It must be said that Ortigia, the Historical Centre of Siracusa, is 10-20% more expensive than the New City Centre.

My tip: head to the New Centre for the best restaurants at bargain prices, with the Sikania Pizzeria cooking my favourite pizza.

Map of the best areas to stay in Syracuse Sicily
Map of the best areas to stay in Syracuse Sicily

Taormina

Taormina commands premium prices across the board given its setting dramatically overlooking Mt Etna and the sea.

Budget B&Bs still run €100+ nightly, cheap pizza checks in around €15, and few attractions offer reduced costs for thrifty travellers even off-season.

While providing an exceptionally beautiful backdrop for holidays, Taormina clearly caters to a more affluent audience with higher rates.

If you are travelling on a budget, then Syracuse is better than Taormina. The cost of living is so much more affordable.

Taormina or Syracuse for families

Syracuse

Syracuse shines for accommodating families with its vibrant Italian seaside city ambience fused with amazing ancient ruins and pedestrian-friendly streetlife.

Kids can scramble over temples and Greek amphitheatres in Neapolis Park, pose by mythic fountain statues or peek into underground tunnels.

Back in town, expansive piazzas host markets and music events amid gelato stops. Swimmable rocky beaches and promenades allow for family fun by the sea too although do not expect any wide sandy beach.

From apartment rentals to hotels, lodging options are plentiful for families in Syracuse.

Taormina

While postcard-perfect, Taormina’s mountaintop location and lack of child-oriented attractions present some challenges for vacationing families beyond the exquisite scenery.

The winding cobblestone alleys prove inaccessible for strollers, while precipitous cliffs lack safety barriers in areas. Souvenir boutiques far outnumber more practical retailers. Most lodgings involve stairs in smaller, more expensive guestrooms.

What I prefer about Taormina are its beaches. True, you need to take either a bus or the 5-minute cable car but once down they are lovely, although very busy.

Overall, Taormina works best for grown-ups while Syracuse is an easy town to explore also with little ones.

The beautiful Taormina Mare Beach
The beautiful Taormina Mare Beach

Taormina or Syracuse for couples

Syracuse

You will love the Old Town of Siracusa, Ortigia. This is the place to get lost with your partner, so romantic and so many hidden corners and tiny squares to discover together.

I particularly loved my time in the Giudecca, the old Jewish quarter, walking through the narrow lanes and discovering a nice cafe here, a wine bar there, and a family-run trattoria. So charming.

The most romantic accommodations have stunning views over the coastline, typically at a much cheaper price than in Taormina.

Taormina

Taormina sets the scene for romance with its breathtaking vistas of the East Coast and Mount Etna coupled with charming narrow lanes dotted by flower boxes and ivy-covered balconies.

You can stroll through picturesque gardens hand-in-hand, enjoy candlelit dinners on cozy terraces then cozy up in one of the many boutique hotels hidden throughout ancient buildings.

The lovely mountain-village ambience offers plenty of privacy for travelling duos along winding backstreets made for getting lost together while discovering hidden cafés, gelato stops and scenic lookouts.

Both towns are great for couples with Siracusa being more laid-back and Taormina more elegant and luxurious.

10 Exceptional and Typical Sicilian Cheeses

Is Nightlife better in Syracuse or Taormina

Syracuse

Syracuse offers a vibrant nightlife, although subdued, throughout pedestrian zones around Piazza Duomo open bar-hopping until the wee hours for mingling and people watching.

The locals start swelling after 9 pm once the languid passeggiata tradition (the walk along the Via Cavour) concludes with friends converging to share pizza, beer and live music performances. Wine shops and cocktail bars are also very popular.

A great place to hang out till late is The Atrium, near the station, with a pool table and good music played till around 3 am.

Taormina

Though small, Taormina dazzles after dark with glitzy cocktail bars and trendy wine lounges mostly around the Corso Umberto pedestrian area and and the iconic Piazza IX Aprile.

The Morgana Lounge Bar is very popular for a late drink, however, there is a €30 charge to enter (My tip: make it there early after dinner and you may have free access). The interior design is truly unique.

Once again Taormina is the best spot for a glamour night out.

The Greek Theatre in Taormina
The Greek Theatre in Taormina

Syracuse or Taormina for the beach

Syracuse

The city itself has no real beach around. You may find some space at the pebble beach Cala Rossa (a super tiny one) or you can have a dive from the platform at the Vigliena Fortress called Spiaggia Diana nel Forte.

For a day out I personally suggest grabbing the 15-minute train to Fontane Bianche, around 15km south of the city and one of the best beaches in Sicily. There is some walk involved from and to the station but totally worth it.

Taormina

Taormina itself perches dramatically on sheer seacliffs 200 meters above the ocean, so beach access requires riding downhill shuttle buses or the handy cable car to reach the grey volcanic sand public beach below in Giardini Naxos or at the Lido.

The beach facing the Isola Bella is so stunning, however, also so busy! I was there last September, towards the end of the month, on a weekday and it was hard to find a spot for my towel.

Better maintained private beach clubs cater up the shore in Letojanni but come at a higher price.

For both towns, the beach is not the main attraction. For that, there are so many other beautiful places like San Vito lo Capo or Cefalu in the north and Fontane Bianche or Marina d’Avola on the east coast.

The Isola Bella at the end of the free beach
The Isola Bella, at the end of the free beach

Syracuse Historical Centre vs Taormina Old Town

Syracuse

Sprawling across a rocky isthmus and offshore island, Syracuse’s historical foundations showcase incredible ancient Greek and Roman monuments coupled with baroque facades spilling colourful wrought-iron balconies overhead.

The vast central Ortygia island comprises atmospheric alleys hiding restaurants in 15th-century palazzos and open-air markets between eroded columns.

Interesting fact: In Ancient Greek times, Ortigia was one of the most important cities in the world and one of the most influential ports in the Mediterranean Sea.

Taormina

Taormina’s intimate hilltop historic heart charms visitors with its postcard vistas overlooking the Ionian Sea from precarious cliffs.

Flower-lined pedestrian walkways weave past 15th-century palaces, tiny piazzas with tinkling fountains and clocktowers etched against the sky.

Well-preserved ancient sites like the grand Greco-Roman theatre of Taormina hosting summer concerts and film festivals contrast with the more diminutive San Pancrazio Chapel occupying the shell of a former Greek temple.

Both have a beautiful Historical Centre however Taormina is more compact and easier to explore it.

The beautiful Duomo Square in Syracuse/Ortigia
The beautiful Duomo Square in Syracuse/Ortigia

3 nights in Taormina and Syracuse?

Siracusa

DayItineraryDescription
1Ortigia Island DiscoveryBegin your exploration of Syracuse in the heart of its ancient island, Ortigia. Start with the majestic Piazza del Duomo, admiring the stunning cathedral built over the ruins of a Greek temple. Wander through the narrow streets to the Fountain of Arethusa and explore one of the best Sicilian markets for a taste of the local street food. Visit the Temple of Apollo and end your day with a waterfront dinner, enjoying fresh seafood as the sun sets over the Mediterranean.
2Archaeological Park and MuseumsDedicate your second day to the Neapolis Archaeological Park, home to the Greek Theatre, the Roman Amphitheater, and the Ear of Dionysius. These ancient ruins offer a glimpse into Syracuse’s rich historical past. Afterwards, visit the Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum, one of Sicily’s largest museums, to see an extensive collection of artifacts. Spend the evening exploring the modern side of Syracuse.
3Day Trip to Noto or Nature EscapesFor your final day, choose between a cultural excursion or a nature adventure. Take a short trip to Noto, one of the Sicilian UNESCO World Heritage sites, and one of the better preserved Baroque towns in Sicily. Alternatively, visit the Laghetti Grande and its surrounding park for a peaceful day of hiking and diving in one of the many natural pools created along the waterfalls. I was totally impressed by the Laghetti, almost untouched by any form of tourism, now one of my favourite places on the eastern side of the island.

Taormina

DayDescription
1Taormina ExplorationStart your time in Taormina by exploring the heart of the city, beginning with the ancient Greek Theatre, renowned for its stunning views of Etna and the Ionian Sea. Stroll down Corso Umberto, the main pedestrian street filled with shops, cafes, and historical sites. Visit the beautiful public gardens, Villa Comunale, for a peaceful retreat. End your day with a sunset dinner at a terrace restaurant overlooking the sea.
2Day Trip to the Etna VolcanoEmbark on a day tour to Mount Etna, Europe’s highest and most active volcano. Do it yourself or join an organised tour that typically includes a hike or gondol ride to the craters, a visit to the lava flows and tubes, and a sampling of local products from the fertile volcanic soil, such as honey and wine. Return to Taormina in the late afternoon.
3Taormina’s Beaches and Isola BellaSpend your final day enjoying Taormina’s beautiful beaches connected to the Historical Centre by cable car. Start with Isola Bella, a small island connected to the mainland by a narrow path, often referred to as the “Pearl of the Ionian Sea.” Enjoy snorkelling, swimming, or sunbathing. In the afternoon, explore Mazzarò or Spisone near Taormina. Conclude your trip with an evening walk.

Being the two towns so close to each other think also about the possibility of including both on your Sicily itinerary.

Accommodation – hotel options, costs, booking tips

Syracuse

Lodging choices throughout Syracuse range from budget to luxury. Colonial-style Airbnbs in the old Ortygia district start around just €60/night. One or two-bedroom apartments in the New Centre start from €70-100/night, an affordable option for families.

For romance, elegant 5-star inns occupy former seaside aristocratic estates running €250+, yet may include extras like open-air hot tubs on panoramic terraces.

Shoulder months are up to 50% cheaper than peak season (July and August).

I have written extensively about where to stay in Syracuse with the best areas and hotels. Here are 4 of the best choices in Ortigia:

Algilà Ortigia Charme Hotel ($$$$): Outstanding building and rooms (especially the suite), breakfast featuring traditional fresh ‘cannoli‘, excellent location. One of the best Syracuse hotels.

Grand Hotel Des Etrangers ($$$$-$$$$$): Luxury hotel with stunning sea views, exceptional staff service, and an exquisite breakfast. The rooftop terrace is superb.

Antico Hotel Roma ($$$-$$$$): Modern rooms and excellent service. Central location, plenty of space, and friendly staff.

Aura Ortigia ($-$$): Charming apartments with attentive hosts, central location, and thoughtful amenities. Excellent value for money.

Other great options are the Hotel Gutkowski, the Hotel Henry’s House and the Ortea Palace Hotel.

Where to stay in Syracuse Sicily

Taormina

Given its exclusive hillside location, Taormina leans heavily toward intimate boutique hotels and romantic inns occupying charming antique structures. Prime spots along the Corso Umberto pedestrian strip or overlooking the famous Piazza IX Aprile start around €250+ nightly.

Quaint medieval alley districts like Naumachie offer only slight savings of around €175/night at 3-star picks. Budget B&Bs still run €100+ even off-season. Reserve as early as you can for the best rates and availability.

I have written extensively about where to stay in Taormina with the best areas and hotels. Here are my favourite accommodations in the Historical Centre.

Hotel Le Chevalier is located just off the beaten path which is perfect if you are looking for a quiet night.

Rooms are clean and spacious and a few with a view of the coast. Overall a great price, especially if compared with the average price of Taormina’s accommodations.

Bella Tao is a clean and simple family-run guesthouse right in the centre of Taormina, just a few metres from Corso Umberto, the core of the town.

Located on a secondary street is also super quiet, for a great night’s sleep. It is one of the best values for money in Taormina

The Hotel Villa Schuler has, in my opinion, one of the best views in Sicily (see photos here) Moreover, it’s so well located in Taormina. The garden around the property is absolutely gorgeous, with mostly sub-tropical plants. The free breakfast is so delicious. You will not get an infinity pool at Villa Schuler but everything else is there.

Where to stay in Taormina Italy
Where to stay in Taormina Italy

honeymoon in Taormina or Syracuse

As you may have already picked from what I have written till here, Taormina is surely one of the best towns in Sicily and possibly in Italy for a glamour stay, in a lux or boutique hotel, possibly with a view of the coast and the Etna Volcano.

This is where you will find the finest cocktail bars and also the top restaurants for an exclusive dinner. Down the coast, you can indulge in the luxury of a beach club and enjoy an Aperol Spritz before heading back to your room.

Syracuse is equally romantic but in a more laid-back way made of relaxed wine bars and casual cafes.

The best location for your stay is at the Promenade in the northwest of the island of Ortigia, the former seaside aristocratic estates where you will find the finest accommodation that may include extras like open-air hot tubs on panoramic terraces.

Both towns are fantastic destinations for a honeymoon in Sicily, however, Taormina may work better for a glamorous stay.

Best places for a romantic honeymoon in Sicily - towns and boutique hotels
Best places for a romantic honeymoon in Sicily – towns and hotels
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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