Top things to do in Syracuse Sicily

Top things to do in Syracuse Sicily

Family holidays in Syracuse Sicily

Syracuse (or Siracusa in Italian), on the east coast of Sicily, is ideal for a city break, with or without kids. It’s just an hour’s drive south of Catania airport and can be visited for a long weekend or as part of a bigger trip around Sicily. Its historical heart is the island of Ortigia, just one kilometre square, where you’re never far from a glorious sea view, or an enticing restaurant or gelateria. This being Sicily, there are ancient ruins aplenty, car-free piazzas, majestic Baroque architecture and lots of fun diversions for children of all ages. Our Syracuse holiday took place in April for two nights during a longer family trip to Sicily and it was without doubt one of the highlights of our visit. So I’ve put together some of the best things to do in Syracuse with kids.

things to do in syracuse sicily with kids
Narrow streets in Syracuse are perfect for little explorers

What to do in Siracusa? Explore on foot (or bike)

The city is flat and many of the streets are car free so it’s perfect for idle wandering rather than guidebook-led marching. Our boys (aged 5 and 3) were on balance bikes, so they had great fun zooming along the alleyways pretending they were on mopeds (said mopeds greatly improved their road safety awareness). You can easily wile away an hour or two exploring; there are great little shops, amazing looking eateries and delightful piazzas to discover. We stopped regularly for coffees, ice creams, lunch, granita, aperitivos, dinner… there always seemed to be a valid reason.

things to do in Syracuse sicily with kids
In search of a gelateria…

Syracuse boat trips

If your children tire of wandering (although the town is small enough that they shouldn’t), hop on a boat and tour Ortigia and its nearby caves from the water. The trip includes moving under a very low “mind your head” bridge at the end!

Syracuse sicily boat trip ortigia
Our captain wasn’t taking any chances with Syracuse’s spring weather (we were in T-shirts)
Siracusa sicilia boat trip ortigia siracusa sicilia
Caves stud the coast of mainland Syracuse

Play at knights and pirates in Castello Maniace

Set at the very tip of Ortigia with the waves lapping its ramparts, 13th century Castello Maniace is the perfect place for kids to let their imaginations run wild. There are towers, a large keep, pathways, tunnels and underground rooms with windows overlooking the sea. This was one of the best things in Syracuse with kids.

Syracuse castello maniace sicily
Castello Maniace, Syracuse
Siracusa castello maniace ortigia, things to do in syracuse with kids
Looking for pirates at Castello Maniace

Visit the puppet theatre in Syracuse

The plots are generally so convoluted you’d likely not follow them in English so don’t worry that these 45 minute productions are in Italian, go for the epic sword fights and brilliant monsters. Seats in the first two rows are reserved for children and at the end of the show the puppeteers come out to take a bow and show off their puppets. There’s a programme with an English translation including a list of the characters so you can brief the kids on what they’re about to witness. As well as the theatre, there’s also a museum and a workshop to peek into.

Syracuse puppet theatre sicily italy
Brave knights and scary monsters at Piccolo Teatro dei Pupi,Syracuse

Hit the beach near Syracuse

There are rocks to swim from on Ortigia at Forte Vigliena but if you’d prefer something sandy, there are countless beaches a short drive or taxi ride away.

Syracuse, coastline of ortigia, sicily, italy
Crystal clear waters surround Ortigia

Walk into a giant ear at the Syracuse Archaeological Park

Ancient Greek and Roman history might not appeal to all children but the archaeological site just outside Syracuse (2km) offers more than just a couple of 2,000 year old amphitheatres. Here, you can walk into a giant manmade cave nicknamed the Ear of Dionysius. Legend has it that prisoners were once held here and the emperor could listen to their wails due to the impressive acoustics of the cave. Our kids loved the powerful echoes and the sheer size of the cave.

Ear of Dionysos at the Archaeological Park, Syracuse, things to do in syracuse with kids, sicily, italy
The manmade Ear of Dionysos at the Archaeological Park, Syracuse
Syracuse, Orecchio di Dionisio, Parco Archeologico della Neapolis, siracusa, sicilia, italia
Exploring the Ear of Dionysos

Visit Piazza del Duomo and eat an ice cream (or a granita)

My favourite piazza in Sicily has to be Syracuse’s Piazza Duomo. Its limestone palazzos appear to glow in the sunshine and it’s a great spot to let the kids run around. We introduced the children to the Sicilian dessert granita: similar to sorbet but less sweet and with a coarser texture, delicious! The boys then ran off to play football with some other children while we enjoyed a coffee. The cathedral of Syracuse is almost a complete history of Sicily with Greek, Roman, Arabic, Norman and Baroque elements.

gelato in Syracuse, things to do in syracuse sicily with kids

Explore Ipogeo di Piazza Duomo

Such is the draw of simply sitting in a piazza, ice cream or coffee in hand, watching the world go by, that we didn’t manage to visit the Ipogeo. However, it sounds intriguing: a series of Roman cave-like passageways under the city, used as an air raid shelter in the Second World War, which lead from Piazza Duomo to the sea. If anyone has visited them, please let me know what you thought.

Piazza Duomo at night Syracuse
Piazza Duomo at night

Introduce the kids to Ancient Greek myths at Aretusa Fountain

For a bit of light Greek mythology, head for the Fontana Aretusa. The abridged story is basically this: pretty girl is pursued by river god so turns into a spring to protect herself from his unwelcome advances. I didn’t attempt to explain this to my children, we were still recovering from the puppet show storyline…

Aretusa Fountain, things to do in Syracuse sicily with kids
Aretusa Fountain, Syracuse

Visit the Syracuse aquarium

If you want to find out whether that fish you had for dinner really does frequent the waters around Syracuse, visit the little aquarium on the western seafront.

Syracuse harbour Sicily, italy
Syracuse harbour

Barring the ice creams, all of the above attractions in Syracuse are free to children.

Where to stay in Syracuse with kids

We stayed at the very lovely L’Approdo delle Sirene in Syracuse. This small B&B overlooks the harbour and has stylish rooms including a pair of rooms which interconnect. There’s a little breakfast room with a sea view open air terrace where we enjoyed eating homemade cakes with our coffee.

I’ve also heard good things about Hotel Gutkowski and for those with a bigger budget (and without kids), I’d recommend the elegant Algila and its sister hotel the Antico Hotel Roma (same website as the Algila).

So, that’s my list of things to do with kids in Syracuse. Have you been to Sicily with kids? Are there any other things to do in Syracuse which I’ve missed out? Let me know in the comments below.

Planning a trip to Italy with kids? Read my complete guide to Italy for families here.

Read my ultimate guide of things to do in Sicily with kids here.

More on Sicily with kids:
Our spring road trip around eastern Sicily

My guide to beaches in Sicily

Wild flowers of Sicily

Review: L’Approdo delle Sirene, Syracuse

Our guided tour of Mt Etna

7 reasons to stay in an agriturismo in Italy with kids

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  1. 23rd May 2017 / 3:04 pm

    So many fun things to do with the kids. I’ve been reading a lot about this region recently and I’d love to take my family some day. The cave looks especially cool. #citytripping

    • 24th May 2017 / 9:37 am

      The puppet show was hilarious! I’m now trying to find a Punch and Judy show for my kids to see in the UK!

  2. 24th May 2017 / 4:34 pm

    Ooooh I’m tempted by Sicily full stop but Syracuse looks fantastic #CulturedKids

  3. 24th May 2017 / 8:56 pm

    We really enjoyed Sicily when we went (pre kids). We didn’t visit this area though and would love to go back with the girls. Great list. Thanks for linking #citytripping

    • 24th May 2017 / 9:16 pm

      I can’t wait to return with my boys, I’d like to visit some of the islands next or maybe the north coast and mountains. Tricky decisions!

  4. pigeonpairandme
    25th May 2017 / 1:11 pm

    Syracuse looks as though it has the perfect mixture of relaxation and culture. I know my two kids would love shouting inside the ‘ear’ to make echos – and wow, that beach!

  5. Ruth
    1st July 2017 / 4:02 am

    I am liking Syracuse a lot! Great to see there is a lot to do in the city. I like to explore places by the sea. I can’t resist the combination of an old town and a stunning coastline. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • 1st July 2017 / 9:07 am

      I agree, cities by the sea are particularly appealing!

  6. galanda23
    1st July 2017 / 6:17 am

    I’d love to visit Syracuse some day. There seems to be a lot to see and do there. #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  7. 1st July 2017 / 8:22 am

    Oooh pretty! I’ve never heard of this Italian city before! Thanks for introducing me!! Will be pinning this! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  8. Anisa
    1st July 2017 / 8:48 am

    I really want to make it to Sicily at some point, so adding Syracuse to my list. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  9. melindacrow
    1st July 2017 / 2:29 pm

    Looks amazing! Love all things Italian. Thanks for the great roundup of a city that wasn’t on my radar.

    • 2nd July 2017 / 9:29 pm

      We bought bikes when we got there, fantastic investment. They rode round all the historical sites perfectly happily!

  10. 7th July 2017 / 12:09 am

    At first, we thought you meant Syracuse NY, and almost passed. But this looks way more fun! (No offense, Syracuse.) Also glad you noted that these tips are not just for kids, because we’d enjoy doing all of these things! Although, Rob is most interested in playing Knights & Pirates. #boys… 😉 #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • 7th July 2017 / 12:08 pm

      Haha, yes I probably should have specified in the title!

  11. Leila Daniels
    21st January 2018 / 2:30 pm

    Wonderful website. Plenty of helpful information here. I’m sending it to some buddies ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thanks on your effort!

  12. 26th April 2018 / 12:53 pm

    Fantastic recs! We are here for 2 months with 4 kids, all under 5 years old. We have rented a flat in the heart of Ortigia, and your information is beyond helpful! Thank you!!

    • smudgedpostcard
      26th April 2018 / 9:36 pm

      Wow, lucky you! Hope you have a brilliant time!

  13. 6th February 2019 / 1:39 pm

    Hi, I like the Syracuse from your personal point of view. I also spent almost a week with my family there and we visited Puppet theatre. I liked puppets and atmosphere in theatre, so unique and rustical, but I can not say that I liked performance, to much violence and sword fights, even we didn’t understand italian it was obvious that appearance of devil and dragons is not child friendly plot. What do you think?
    I appreciate traditional theater, it is my profession actually, I have drama workshops for kids, but I prefer less dramatic scenario for preschool kids.

    • smudgedpostcard
      13th February 2019 / 12:55 pm

      Well, my boys laughed at the violence, they didn’t take it very seriously at all. I guess the action appeals more to small children than it does to adults, it certainly helped with the lack of Italian comprehension. I’ll have a read of your review, thanks.

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