Discover the 10 best things to do in Polignano a Mare, Italy’s most magical coastal town.
Located in the beautiful region of Puglia, Polignano a Mare is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. With its dramatic cliffs, crystal-clear waters, and charming old town, this picturesque coastal town offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, rich culture, and exquisite cuisine.
Polignano a Mare is an embodiment of Italy’s coastal charm, offering a memorable escape for those seeking natural wonders and authentic cultural experiences. It is one of the most beautiful places in Italy and a top travel destination year-round.
💡 INSIDER TIP: Polignano a Mare is one of my all-time FAVOURITE towns in Italy. It is quaint yet full of things to do and see. Plus food, accommodation, and activities are quite budget-friendly.
This makes it an AMAZING alternative to other popular and expensive beach towns in Italy like Positano and Capri. I highly recommend a visit to Polignano a Mare.
Discover the best things to do in Polignano a Mare below.
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10 Amazing Things to Do in Polignano a Mare
Go Swimming at Cala Monachile
One of the most iconic things to do in Polignano a Mare is to go swimming at Cala Monachile. Cala Monachile is a small, charming cove nestled between the dramatic cliffs of this picturesque coastal town.
It’s a must-visit destination for travelers looking to experience the beauty and serenity of the Adriatic Sea in a unique and idyllic setting.
💡 INSIDER TIP: Cala Monachile is one of the most famous beaches in all of the Puglia region of Italy. In fact, Cala Monachile is the symbol of Puglia and many people come to this region to visit it.
Cala Monachile is iconic for its dramatic natural beauty and the opportunity it offers to swim in crystal-clear waters surrounded by rugged cliffs and historic architecture. The cove can be accessed via a stone staircase that winds its way down the cliffside.
Once you reach the cove, you can set up your towel on the rocky beach or the surrounding cliffs. The backdrop of the town’s white-washed buildings, and the towering limestone cliffs, creates a picture-perfect scene.
Whether you’re swimming snorkeling, or simply sunbathing on the rocks, swimming at Cala Monachile is a quintessential Polignano a Mare experience that allows you to connect with nature and immerse yourself in the town’s rich coastal heritage.
💡 INSIDER TIP: Cala Monachile is a rocky beach and actually quite uncomfortable. Prepare to sit on some rocks and think about bringing water shoes because the rocks getting into the water are painful. *This beach can get very busy in the summer months*
Have Dinner at Grotta Palazzese
Indulging in a dinner at Grotta Palazzese is a truly exceptional and iconic experience. Grotta Palazzese is a world-renowned restaurant located inside a natural sea cave overlooking the Adriatic Sea. This unique restaurant offers not just a meal but an extraordinary journey into the heart of the town’s coastal charm.
Grotta Palazzese’s iconic status stems from its unmatched setting, where you can enjoy Italian cuisine in a cave that’s been transformed into a dining room with panoramic sea views. The ambiance is simply magical, especially during the evening when the cave is softly illuminated, creating a romantic and intimate atmosphere.
It’s a dining experience that encapsulates the town’s charm and offers a taste of both its natural and culinary wonders. Treating yourself to dinner at Grotta Palazzese is one of the top things to do in Polignano a Mare and a true bucket list experience.
💡 INSIDER TIP: Be sure to book your table and time well in advance as in the high season it books quickly. Also, take a look at the sunset schedule as it is best to arrive just before sunset so you can enjoy it with some natural light and in the dark.
Spend a Day Beach Hopping
Beach hopping is one of the top things to do in Polignano a Mare for the ultimate coastal adventure. While Polignano a Mare itself has captivating beaches, there are other beautiful coastal gems in close proximity that are worth exploring. Here’s a guide to beach hopping in the area:
🏝️ Cala Paura Beach: Just a short stroll from Lama Monachile Beach, you’ll find Cala Paura Beach, which is equally picturesque. It’s nestled below the Aragonese Castle and offers a glimpse into the town’s history. Access it by walking along the cliffside path.
🏝️ Cala Porto Beach: Continue your beach-hopping adventure by heading to Cala Porto Beach, located within walking distance from the town center. It’s another lovely spot for sunbathing and swimming.
🏝️ Cala Cozze: For a change of scenery, drive about 10 minutes south of Polignano a Mare to discover Cala Cozze. It’s a small but serene cove with clear waters, and it’s a bit less crowded than the town’s main beaches.
🏝️ Cala San Giovanni: Extend your beach-hopping experience by heading about 15 minutes south to the charming Cala San Giovanni. This small beach is surrounded by nature and offers a quieter escape from the crowds.
🏝️ Monopoli Beaches: If you’re willing to explore further, consider visiting the nearby town of Monopoli, about 15 minutes by car from Polignano a Mare. Monopoli boasts several lovely beaches, including Cala Paradiso and Porto Bianco.
To get to these beaches, walking is the most convenient option for those within Polignano a Mare. For beaches a bit farther away, renting a car or using a local taxi service is advisable. Beach hopping in this region allows you to explore a variety of coastal landscapes and enjoy the beauty of the Adriatic Sea.
Wander the Old Town Wander
Wandering the Old Town of Polignano a Mare is a journey through time and culture. This historic gem, perched on the edge of dramatic limestone cliffs, offers a truly unique experience. The whitewashed buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, and picturesque squares are a testament to the town’s rich history and architectural heritage.
The Old Town’s intricate maze of alleys is a treasure trove of hidden surprises, from boutique shops selling local crafts to quaint cafes offering a taste of Puglian cuisine. Each corner turned reveals stunning views of the Adriatic Sea, making it a photographer’s paradise.
As you wander, you’ll come across historic churches like the Chiesa Matrice and Chiesa di San Vito, showcasing centuries-old architecture and religious art. In Polignano a Mare’s Old Town, the past and present harmoniously coexist, creating an enchanting setting where history, culture, and natural beauty converge in a way that’s simply unforgettable.
💡 INSIDER TIP: The old town is wonderful to explore with no set path or journey. Simply walking around the maze of streets is the best way to see it.
Visit The Famous Viewpoints
Polignano a Mare offers several famous viewpoints that provide stunning views of the Adriatic Sea and the town’s picturesque coastline. Here are some of the most renowned viewpoints:
👉🏻 Ponte Lama Monachile: This iconic bridge offers breathtaking views of Lama Monachile Beach and the gorge, creating a postcard-perfect scene that captures the essence of Polignano a Mare.
👉🏻 Balconata Santa Teresa: Located near the historic center, Balconata Santa Teresa is a scenic viewpoint that provides a panoramic view of the coastline and the clear blue waters of the Adriatic Sea.
👉🏻 Terrazza Santo Stefano: This lovely terrace overlooks the scenic Cala Paura and offers unobstructed views of the Aragonese Castle, the cliffs, and the sea.
👉🏻 Terrazza di Cala Monachile: Situated on a clifftop near Lama Monachile Beach, this viewpoint offers incredible views of the cove and the surrounding coastline, especially during sunset.
👉🏻 Belvedere San Vito: Named after the town’s patron saint, this viewpoint provides a spectacular vantage point overlooking the sea and the charming white-washed buildings of Polignano a Mare.
Visiting these famous viewpoints allows you to take in the town’s natural beauty and coastal charm from different angles. They are perfect spots for capturing memorable photos and appreciating the unique geography and ambiance of Polignano a Mare.
Go Wine Tasting
Wine tasting is one of the top things to do in Polignano a Mare. This region is renowned for its bold red wines, including the celebrated Primitivo and Negroamaro, as well as aromatic whites like Fiano and Malvasia Bianca.
To make the most of your wine-tasting adventure, consider taking guided tours that provide in-depth insights into the winemaking process and the unique characteristics of Puglian wines. Many wineries offer the opportunity to savor their products in the picturesque settings of vineyards, where you can take in the breathtaking landscapes while sipping on regional delights.
Enjoy Local Cuisine
Enjoying the diverse local cuisine in Polignano a Mare is a true culinary adventure. As a coastal town nestled in the Apulia region of Italy, it boasts a menu rich in Mediterranean flavors and fresh seafood.
One of my favourite local dishes to try was the unique pasta shape called orecchiette, renowned for its ear-like shape. After your meal, enjoy traditional sweets like “Pasticiotto” and “Cartellate,” a sweet finale that captures the essence of Italian hospitality and culinary traditions.
Dining in Polignano a Mare is more than just a meal; it’s an immersive cultural experience. Really delving into the culinary scene is one of the top things to do in Polignano a Mare!
💡 INSIDER TIP: Polignano a Mare also has amazing pizza! The best pizza I had here was from Il Quadrifoglio – Polignano a Mare. CHEFS KISS!
Go on a Boat Tour
Going on a boat tour is easily one of the best things to do in Polignano a Mare to see and explore the town from a new perspective. As you sail along the Adriatic coastline, you’ll be greeted by the breathtaking beauty of this charming coastal town from a new perspective.
Moreso, boat tours often provide opportunities for swimming and snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters.
Each boat tour promises an unforgettable journey along the picturesque coastline of Polignano a Mare, where the land, sea, and sky come together in one of the most unique and awe-inducing views in the world.
Embark on a Day Trip
Taking a day trip from Polignano a Mare to nearby destinations is an excellent way to expand your exploration of the Puglia region and experience its diverse attractions. This is one of the best things to do in Polignano a Mare and something I encourage everything to do to see more of this amazing region.
Here are a few of my favorite day trip options:
👉🏻 Monopoli: A day trip from Polignano a Mare to Monopoli is one of the BEST day trip options. The journey is only 15 minutes by train and well worth it. Stroll through Monopoli’s charming old town, explore historic churches, and indulge in fresh seafood by the harbor.
💡 INSIDER TIP: Monopoli is also a great place to stay for a few days while in Puglia. It is a more local and less touristy city conveniently located in the center of all the best day trip destinations.
👉🏻 Alberobello: Known for its iconic trulli houses, Alberobello is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most unique places in Italy. Explore the charming streets filled with these conical-roofed buildings, visit the Trullo Sovrano, and learn about the history and culture of this enchanting town. This is a great private tour to see as many of these places in one day as possible! Discover the TOUR.
👉🏻 Bari: The regional capital, Bari, is less than an hour away from Polignano a Mare by train or car. Discover its historic old town, Bari Vecchia, with its winding alleys and vibrant street life. Don’t miss the Basilica di San Nicola, a significant pilgrimage site, and savor the local street food, like panzerotti and focaccia.
👉🏻 Matera: A bit farther but well worth the trip, Matera is known for its ancient cave dwellings and stunning cave churches. Explore the Sassi di Matera, a unique UNESCO World Heritage site, and learn about the fascinating history of this city carved into the rocks. Since this is a little further it is best to take a tour/transfer to maximize your time. THIS is a great tour option.
👉🏻 Ostuni: Often referred to as the “White City” due to its white-washed buildings, Ostuni is a picturesque town with a charming historic center. Wander its maze of narrow streets, visit the impressive Ostuni Cathedral, and enjoy panoramic views from its hilltop location.
💡 INSIDER TIP: Taking multiple day trips and visiting multiple cities is a MUST while visiting this region of Italy. The trains are very cheap and the different cities are pretty close together. However, despite being close they are very different from one another and all offer something different to see.
Go for Sunset Drinks
Going for sunset drinks is one of the best things to do in Polignano a Mare to end your day in this picturesque coastal town. There are several enchanting spots where you can savor your favorite beverages while watching the sun dip below the horizon, casting warm hues over the Adriatic Sea. Some of the top places for sunset drinks are:
🌞 Ponte Lama Monachile: The iconic bridge offers a stunning vantage point for admiring the sunset. Find a spot on the bridge, or sit at one of the nearby cafes or bars, and enjoy a drink as the sun paints the sky with a palette of colors.
🌞 Balconata Santa Teresa: This lovely terrace offers unobstructed views of the coastline, making it an ideal spot to relish a drink as you watch the sunset over the sea.
🌞 Terrazza Santo Stefano: Located near the historic center, this terrace provides an excellent setting to enjoy the sunset while sipping on your preferred beverage. The views of Cala Paura and the cliffs are truly captivating.
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Best Places to Stay in Polignano a Mare
The best place to stay in Polignano a Mare is often within its Old Town. Accommodations perched on the cliffs provide stunning sea views, while boutique hotels and guesthouses offer a cozy and authentic experience.
Some of the best hotels in Polignano a Mare are:
FAQ: Best Things to do in Polignano a Mare
Is Polignano a Mare worth a visit?
Absolutely, Polignano a Mare is well worth a visit! This charming coastal town in southern Italy offers a unique blend of natural beauty, rich history, delicious cuisine, and a relaxed Mediterranean atmosphere.
The stunning beaches, dramatic cliffs, and picturesque old town make it a captivating destination for travelers seeking an authentic Italian experience by the sea.
Which is nicer Monopoli or Polignano a Mare?
When deciding between Polignano a Mare and Monopoli it really comes down to your preferences. Polignano a Mare, with its dramatic cliffs and crystal-clear waters, is a seaside paradise that’s often considered one of the most picturesque spots in the region.
It’s all about the stunning beaches here, perfect for those seeking sun, sea, and breathtaking views. The town itself is a charming blend of historic architecture and modern amenities, making it a wonderful destination for beach lovers and romantics alike.
On the other hand, Monopoli offers a different experience. It’s a bit larger than Polignano a Mare and has a more local, authentic feel. While it also has its share of lovely beaches, it’s the historic old town with its winding streets, hidden piazzas, and local trattorias that steal the spotlight.
Monopoli’s character is deeply rooted in its history and community, making it a great choice for travelers looking to immerse themselves in a genuine Italian atmosphere.
💡 INSIDER TIP: I LOVE both cities for completely different reasons. The best thing is they are only 10 minutes apart by train so you can see both and pick for yourself.
Is it better to stay in Bari or Polignano a Mare?
The choice between staying in Bari or Polignano a Mare depends on your preferences. Bari, the regional capital, offers a bustling urban experience with a variety of attractions, cultural sites, and transportation options.
In contrast, Polignano a Mare offers a more tranquil, coastal ambiance with breathtaking views and easy access to beautiful beaches.
If you’re seeking a relaxing coastal getaway, Polignano a Mare may be the better choice. However, if you prefer a more urban setting and plan to explore a wider range of activities and sites, Bari might be the better option. Both places offer their own unique charm and appeal.
How long should I spend in Polignano a Mare?
The amount of time you spend in Polignano a Mare depends on what you want to do and see.
🌞 Day Trip: If you have limited time, you can visit Polignano a Mare as a day trip from a nearby city like Bari or Alberobello. A day is enough time to explore the town, visit the beach, and enjoy a meal at one of its picturesque restaurants.
🌞 3-4 Days: If you want to take your time, spending 3 to 4 days in Polignano a Mare will allow you to thoroughly enjoy the town, its surroundings, and even take day trips to nearby attractions.
🌞 5+ Days: If you’re looking for a truly immersive experience, consider staying more than 5 days. This provides plenty of time to explore Polignano a Mare at a slower pace, discover local culture, and venture more into the beautiful Puglia region.
Conclusion: Best things to do in Polignano a Mare
Polignano a Mare is one of my favorite places in all of Italy. It has such a warm and inviting atmosphere and it is truly beautiful. I highly recommend it to EVERYONE! Keep this list of the best things to do in Polignano a Mare for your visit.
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