About 300,000 people call Catania home, making it the second biggest city in Sicily. It is situated on the gorgeous Ionian Sea and by Mount Etna which has had a big impact on the history and development of the city. Volcanic eruptions have leveled the town a couple of times, but each time the city has rebuilt and become even stronger. If you come here on vacation you will have lots to see, including ancient structures in the Old Town, modern museums, art galleries and great food.
Catania is a good spot for a family vacation and there are lots of fun things that both kids and grown-ups can enjoy doing together. Out and about in the city with the kids? Don't let backpacks and bags slow anyone down, even for a minute. Stow belongings in a Catania luggage locker and enjoy the many sights in this fabulous European city.
Stroll Through the Botanical Garden
The Catania Botanical Garden, which is also called the Orto Botanico, is a fantastic place to visit with the kids. It is a pleasant spot to take a walk and enjoy some time outside in a peaceful and gorgeous greenspace. Most of the plants are set up outside in the gardens and if you bring your camera you can take a photo of yourself or the kids in front of all the beautiful flowers.
If you make your way to the indoor pavilion you can see all sorts of exotic plants that have come from around the world. You can even see an impressive collection of cacti as well as other non-native plants and flowers.
Go Shopping at a Street Market
As Catania is situated under an active volcano, it is rich with volcanic minerals that are great for growing plants. The locals take full advantage of this to grow their own food, and many of them choose to sell their products at the local markets.
The best place to go is the central market in the middle of town which is a colorful and lively place. They mostly sell fruits, vegetables and individual ingredients here, but it is also possible to find stalls selling artisanal crafts. If you enjoy seafood, you can find a fish market to shop at.
Spend an Afternoon at the Beach
It is always nice to spend a day at the beach and, as a coastal city, Catania has several that are worth visiting. Although you can visit year-round, this is an activity better suited to a summer vacation, since you and the children can relax on the sands and cool off in the sea when it gets hot.
One of your best options is the Stabilimento Balneare Le Capanninem which is a local beach club that has dark volcanic sands as well as umbrellas and sunbeds set up. If you get hungry, stop by one of the coastal cafes or restaurants for a bite to eat or a refreshing drink. If you want to really have a good time you can take the family on a boat ride along the coast! Siracusa is on the coast as well and a lovely place to see.
Go to the Civic Museum
Catania has a bunch of museums and one of the best is the Museo Civico. The museum is housed in the old Castle Ursino which dates back all the way to the 13th century and was originally used as a defense post for the East Coast of the country. Just seeing the castle itself should be exciting enough for the kids, but just wait until you see what's inside.
The museum has an art gallery with beautiful paintings and portraits as well as a book shop. If you head outside they can try to find ancient engravings hidden inside the courtyard. This is something fun and educational to do as a family in Catania.
Visit the Piazza del Duomo
Found right in the center of the city is Piazza del Duomo, the main square of Catania and the point where the city's three main roads intersect. This is where you can find lots of the city's monuments and landmarks which makes it a great place for taking a break between sightseeing.
One thing that you will immediately notice is the giant sculpture of a laughing elephant in the center of the square. This animal has been the symbol of Catania for the last few centuries and although not many people know exactly why, there are several theories. Some think that the elephant is meant to bring happiness and protection from the erupting volcano on Mount Etna.
Explore Bellini Garden
After walking around the city for a while it can be nice to relax and unwind in a local public park. One of the best ones to visit is Villa Bellini, or Bellini Garden, as it is well kept and beautiful. The greenspace is maintained by talented gardeners who ensure that the area is clean, safe and enjoyable for everyone who visits.
The space has a playground that all kids are sure to love as well as exercise machines in case the parents want to get a workout in. Enjoy the fresh air and nice weather while the little ones play on the swings and slides.
Visit the Polo Tactile Multimedia Museum
The Polo Tactile Multimedia Museum was first introduced to Catania back in 2008 and today it is the only museum of its kind in Southern Italy. It is one of the most interesting attractions and there is a lot to do in the museum's sections like the sensory garden, the bar in the dark and the showroom. There is so much here for everyone to see, feel and experience together.
This activity is inclusive and all guests are welcome. They make it a goal to allow everyone to enjoy the space, and even those with disabilities or visual impairment can participate. Both kids and adults can learn something new!
See the Beautiful Palazzo Biscari
The Palazzo Biscari in Catania is a stunning example of Sicilian Baroque architecture as well as one of the most important palaces in the city. The interior of the palace is decorated with ornate detailing from floor to rooftop with beautifully carved doorways and painted ceilings.
The frescoed halls are charming and elegant, which makes the palace an incredible setting for all sorts of events. See if there are any concerts, fashion shows, galas, receptions or performances going on while you are here. This site is sure to amaze people of all ages.
Take a Cable Car to Mount Etna
Mount Etna is special, not only because it is the highest mountain in Sicily but also because it is the world's oldest recorded active volcano. You can follow guided tours up the mountain either by hiking on foot, by bus, or by cable car to see great views of the city below, as well as fields of lava and lava flows.
You might not be able to go as far up the mountain on certain days depending on the safety measures, but otherwise, it is still an amazing experience. When you get home your kids will be able to tell their friends that they have stepped foot on a real volcano!
Discover the Toy Museum
This is a great museum to visit when you are in Catania, especially if you are visiting with children. Grown-ups can take a journey down memory lane as they see all of the toys and games that they knew from their childhood. It is also housed in an old mansion so you can learn a bit about the city's history at the same time.
You can see all sorts of antique toys here, including toy trains, small cars, vintage dolls and even handmade furniture. Kids will love to look at all of the antique toys and it can be interesting to see how they have changed over time.
What are the best family activities in Catania?
The best things to do in Catania with younger kids
The Polo Tactile Multimedia Museum is a great activity for younger children since it is interactive and they will have lots to do to keep them busy. Small kids can get bored or distracted easily, but this place should be able to keep them entertained!
The Bellini Garden is a suitable place to bring kids, as it has everything that they will need to be active and have fun. Small kids and toddlers can run free or play in the playground to get their energy out before going back to the hotel for the night.
Kids of all ages will love a trip to the Toy Museum. Visitors can see all sorts of cool things, and since kids love toys they will definitely find this museum intriguing.
The best things to do in Catania with older kids
Take a cable car to Mount Etna and see the view. Mount Etna is beautiful and definitely a place that is worth visiting while you are in Catania. However, since there will be lots of walking this activity can be tough for small kids, especially if you go on a hiking tour. This is why older children might be better suited to the trek up the mountain.
The Palazzo Biscari is stunning, from the amazing painted ceilings to elegant designs on the walls. We definitely recommend that you stop by while you are in town and older kids will be able to appreciate the artwork and architecture, but younger ones might get bored.
Catania's Civic Museum and Castle Ursino are famous landmarks located in the city and all tourists who visit should check it out. There are lots of interesting things to see here, from ancient artifacts to paintings from different periods, and older children can probably get more out of the experience than younger ones.
Free Things to do in Catania with Kids
Are you looking for free activities? It is always nice to lay low when you are on vacation and Catania has a couple of pristine beaches that you can spend all day relaxing on. As a bonus, you don't even have to pay to get into some of them! Check the city's website to see if any of them require an entrance fee.
As the main square of Catania, Piazza del Duomo usually has something going on. Since its location is in the heart of the city you will definitely pass by it at some point during your vacation, and feel free to to stick around since it won't cost you anything.
Of course, if you choose to buy something in the markets then you will need to pay, but visiting the markets and browsing is always free. Just walking around the stalls can be quite an experience, and if you don't mind spending a bit of money you can find something fresh and tasty to eat. Take the kids on a quest for street food!
Vacationing in Catania as a Family
If you get the chance to visit Sicily on a family vacation you are lucky, and Catania is one of the best places to go. Traveling with kids is different than going somewhere alone and there is a lot more that you will have to consider, which is why we have made this list of travel tips and fun things to do as a family. It is a beautiful city surrounded by the sea and the mountains so if you are a family that likes to get active you will have lots of opportunities to spend time in nature.
However, if you prefer to stay within the city limits you can spend your days discovering all of the best landmarks, visiting a museum, or going to a kid's theme park in the city. There are so many things that make Catania special, from the biggest volcano in all of Europe to beautiful old buildings and art galleries that anyone can get inspiration from. This will be an unforgettable experience for everyone which is why you should try to do as much as you can while you are visiting.