A Weekend in Polignano a Mare, Puglia: The Definitive Guide
Planning a weekend in Polignano a Mare, Puglia’s most popular beach town? Plan your perfect weekend trip with our short travel guide.
You’ve most probably already seen photos of Polignano a Mare all over social media, most likely before even knowing that it was Polignano a Mare- historic, white-washed villas perched precariously on the edge of staggering sea cliffs, everything surrounded by a wave of every shade of blue. And the beach- the smallest in Italy, surrounded by high limestone cliffs with crystal clear, turquoise water lapping at its shores.
Whether you’re visiting Polignano a Mare as part of a longer trip around Puglia or you’ve come to this sublime beach town just for the weekend, Polignano a Mare is the perfect place to spend a couple of days living la dolce vita.
In this guide, you’ll find all the best things to do in Polignano a Mare, the best Polignano a Mare beach and my favourite places to eat, drink and stay.
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How to Get to Polignano a Mare?
Polignano a Mare sits on Puglia’s beautiful, rocky northern coast, just 30 minutes south of Bari, one of Puglia’s main hubs. It’s a relatively easy place to get to especially coming from Bari.
Car – The best way to get around Puglia is to rent a car and drive. While Polignano is easily reachable from Bari by public transportation, if you are planning to visit other parts of Puglia like Locorotondo, Alberobello, Ostuni or Lecce on a road trip it’s best to have a car.
When renting a car in Europe, I personally always use Auto Europe to find the best online deals for car rentals- they really do have the best rates. Click here to find the best rates for your travel dates
When renting a car in Puglia and for Polignano a Mare rent the smallest car you can- the roads in Polignano and other towns in Puglia are tiny and it helps to have a small car.
Tip for Parking Polignano a Mare: Once you get to Polignano you’ll need to find somewhere to park as you won’t need your car while exploring the town. Polignano a Mare is a small town but it gets really busy, especially in the summer season when parking can be an issue.
The best thing to do is to book a parking space in Polignano a Mare with your hotel. A few hotels have parking included but most charge about €20 per day which is actually much cheaper than having to pay per hour for a whole day in a metered spot.
You could try to find parking on the street- either free (white lines) or paid (blue lines) but it is difficult in high season. Alternatively, there are a few large parking lots – see ‘Car Park in Polignano a Mare’ – on Google Maps, it’s located just outside the historic centre which charges per hour.
Train – From Bari Centrale, you can reach Polignano a Mare by train in under 45 minutes with tickets costing less than €5 one way. If you’re visiting Polignano a Mare just for the weekend from Bari or Bari Airport this is the best way to get there.
From Bari airport, you’ll need to get another train from the airport to BARI C.LE FNB station, walk to Bari Centrale and then take the train to Polignano. For more information and to book tickets check the Tren Italia website here.
Top Things to do in Polignano a Mare
Polignano a Mare is a town for being rather than doing. The pace of life here is slow, it’s all about taking a wander, heading to the beach and enjoying the Italian way of life by sipping spritzes and feasting on plates of antipasti. Having said that there are a few leisurely things to do in Polignano. Make sure not to miss these must-dos when in town.
Stroll Along the Lungomare and Take Pictures from Largo Ardito Viewpoint
One of the best things to do in Polignano a Mare is to just stroll around and one of the best places for that stroll? The lungomare (promenade) of course. While Polignano’s lungomare is somewhat ‘broken’ due to all of the dramatic limestone cliffs, it’s best to head to the eastern part of town or to Largo Ardito for the best stretch and some of the best views of the town.
Make sure to come here for the best views at sunrise when the golden light beautifully lights up all the cliffs and whitewashed facades. It is, quite honestly one of the best views you’ll see in Polignano a Mare if not the whole of Puglia.
Wander into the Church of Saint Mary of the Assumption
On Polignano a Mare’s main square, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II you’ll find the town’s main church, the church of Saint Mary of the Assumption. When walking by it’s worth popping in, not just for a respite from the heat but also to wander around and check out the lovely ceiling frescos and ornate altar.
People Watch and Bathe at Cala Porto
The Polignano a Mare beach that the town is famous for is Cala Porto or Lama Monachile which occupies a small, pebble-studded stretch in between rolling limestone cliffs that’ll you’ll no doubt have seen before online. While it’s not the most comfortable beach to lay a towel down on- those large pebbles aren’t the best for laying on or walking over, it is a nice spot to relax for a while or go for a quick dip.
The water here in the summer is divine and it does make the perfect place to cool off. If you’re someone with an adventurous side, you can also do a bit of cliff jumping here. In fact, Cala Porto does have a bit of a reputation for being a great and perhaps, somewhat lucky place to take the plunge.
Snap a Photo from Pietra Piatta
One of the most iconic viewpoints of the town, a photo from here is a must when spending a weekend in Polignano a Mare. Located over the overside of Cala Porto- the famed Polignano a Mare beach, you can get to Pietra Piatta by heading over the viaduct bridge to the Monumento a Domenico Modugno and heading down the staircase to the rocks just behind the statue of the famed Italian performer.
The large limestone cliffs flatten out making a great place to relax, enjoy the sunrise, meditate and take photos. Walk toward Cala Porto along the rocks and you’ll get to the famed Polignano a Mare photo spot. You can enjoy it at any time but it is best at sunrise.
There are many ways to enjoy the pristine waters of Polignano a Mare and one of the fun-est is definitely SUP. Not only is it a great workout, but going for a paddle will allow you to explore Polignano a Mare beach a little more as well as all the little grottos hidden in the limestone cliffs below. You’ll be able to paddle from cala to cala and really take advantage of the pristine waters below.
Taking a SUP tour is by far the best way to go with SUP in Polignano as a knowledgeable guide will be able to point out all the best spots which you might miss otherwise. The guide will also give you a briefing on the ins and outs of SUP. Check out the best SUP tour in Polignano and Mare here.
Grab a drink at Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II is Polignano a Mare’s main square. Here you’ll find the town’s main church and important buildings as well as many restaurants, cafes and street performers. You’ll no doubt come across this piazza at some point while exploring the centro storico but the best thing to do here is to grab a table at any one of the cafes or restaurants, order a coffee or Aperol spritz and enjoy the atmosphere.
Explore Polignano a Mare Beach
Apart from Cala Porto, there are many other great beaches nearby that make a great place to relax and pass the afternoon. Polignano a Mare beaches however aren’t really the sand type. Calas or coves in the area are characterized by rocky outcrops and pebble beaches on which most people just throw down a towel anyway.
The best Polignano a Mare beaches nearby are Cala Paguro and Lido Cala Paura, just a short walk up the main road or Cala Eremita and Cala Port’Alga further south. These fisherman’s coves are pristine spots with crystal clear water that make the perfect place to relax and swim for a while.
READ MORE: Polignano a Mare Beaches: Uncovering the Resort Town’s Top Beaches
Museum of Contemporary Art Pino Pascali
If you’re walking the lungomare you’ll soon come to the Pino Pascali Contemporary Art Museum which is worth a look. Housed in a lovely building overlooking the ocean, they have a good collection of local contemporary art that’s worth checking out. Unfortunately, the museum was closed when we visited so you might want to check the opening hours on their website.
Go on a boat trip and see Polignano a Mare’s Grottos
Right below those dramatic limestone cliffs that Polignano a Mare is so famous for are many grottoes, sea caves and openings that beckon to be explored. These openings, a result of thousands of years of sea erosion are some of the best grottos in the area.
The only way to explore all these grottos is by boat and specifically by doing a Polignano a Mare boat trip. Your boat driver will take you to all the best sea caves and grottos and you’ll be able to explore the stunning coastline of Polignano a Mare as well as the nearby coast on a speed boat. Most tours last about 2 hours and include an aperitif.
Click here for my favourite boat tour in Polignano a Mare and make sure to book well ahead of time, these sell out really quickly, especially in summer.
Check out the Viewpoints
One of Polignano a Mare’s most characteristic features are its terrazzas and balconatas. They are open public balconies and terraces with spectacular views over the sea and the Polignano coastline. Visiting them on your weekend in Polignano a Mare is a must as it’s from here that you’ll get some of the best vantage points of Polignano a Mare beach and the historic town along the coast.
Getting to the balconies and terraces is easy, you’ll no doubt come across them while exploring the old town- they are generally located at the end of the dead-end streets leading out from Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. Here are the best ones I highly recommend visiting on your weekend in Polignano a Mare.
Terrazza Santo Stefano– One of the best viewpoints for sea views, eastern coastal views of Polignano a Mare and Pietra Piatta.
Balconata Sul Mare – The best viewpoint in Polignano a Mare for birds-eye views of Cala Porta, Polignano a Mare’s famous beach.
Terraza S Cándida– Similar views to Balconata sul Mare but much closer to the viaduct bridge. Great views of the top of the bridge and the bars below that lead to Cala Porto.
Terraza Sul Mare– One of the best terraces for sunrise views and the best views towards the east side of town. You can take a seat on a bench here and enjoy a truly spectacular sunrise with nobody else around.
Take a Walking Tour
One of the best ways to get to know a town and its history is to take a short walking tour. If you’re just spending a weekend in Polignano a mare and want to get the most out of your time, taking a walking tour around town is a great way to begin before hitting the beaches, the restaurants and the spritzes.
For one of the best guided walking tours in Polignano a Mare click here
Have Dinner at Grotto Palazzese
For one of the most exclusive and unique dinners you’ll have in your life, make sure to book a table at the famous Grotta Palazzese. Grotta Palazzese is the restaurant belonging to the 5-star Polignano a Mare hotel of the same name, a magical place that’s set in a natural cave. Used for parties and banquets since 1700, this restaurant is full of history, atmosphere and spectacular food too.
Book a table on the terrace, right above the sea and enjoy the unique dining experience you won’t be able to get anywhere else in the world- a perfect finish to a weekend in Polignano a Mare.
If this 5-star dining experience isn’t quite within your budget then don’t worry, there are a few other restaurants with balconies overlooking the water. For a great alternative have breakfast at Serafini Apulian Bistrot which has one small table on a tiny balcony out the back which beautiful sea views.
Just 15 minutes down the Puglian coast, you’ll find another splendid gem, Monopoli, a town well-worth visiting even if it’s just for a few hours. With its beautiful streets, atmospheric squares and the stunning old port that’s like a scene from an old Italian movie, Monopoli is a great place to explore for the afternoon.
Some of the best things to do in Monopoli are to walk the lungomare, visit the Castello Carlo V, enjoy the early mornings in the Porto Vecchio and sample some of Puglia’s best wines at Tuttoapposto Winebar.
Where to Stay in Polignano a Mare
There are so many amazing accommodations in Polignano a Mare, from apartment rentals and hotels to B&Bs and homestays. Due to the city’s popularity, however, accommodation in Polignano a Mare tends to be quite a bit more expensive than in other towns in Puglia, so you’ll probably need to increase your accommodation budget per night when visiting.
Due to its popularity, especially in the summertime, make sure to book your accommodation months in advance for the best deals and prices and also to secure something good. Here is my pick for the best places to stay in Polignano a Mare.
Borgobianco Resort & Spa – For a 5-star peaceful escape in the countryside, close to Polignano a Mare, make sure to look into staying at Borgobianco. With incredible 5-star service and facilities, this resort features spacious, clean rooms with beautiful country and ocean vibes, stunning gardens and a scenic outdoor swimming pool and one of the best spas in the area. Perfect for those really looking to relax and rejuvenate during their stay in Polignano a Mare. Check rates and availability here.
Musae Relais & SPA– Modern facilities, free wifi, and beautifully decorated rooms that are both functional and swoon-worthy, this boutique hotel is my pick for those that want to be close to all the action. Make sure to book a room with a terrace for great views and make the most of the on-site wellness center, free bike rental and some really gorgeous decor. Check rates and availability here.
Poesia Di Mare – Located right above Balconata sul Mare in the old town, this little clean and cosy B&B has some of the best sea views around. Opt for one of their double rooms with sea views and enjoy near-perfect sunset views of Cala Porto. Their breakfast is also delicious and sets you up for a day of exploration. They also offer private parking too. Check rates and availability here.
Lamare Cucina e dimore – Clean, light and airy rooms, right behind the main viaduct bridge just 100 yards from Polignano a Mare beach. Rooms have idyllic balconies, perfect for a sunset aperitif. Their restaurant is also pretty good for local Puglian food. Check availability and rates here.
To find your perfect Polignano a Mare hotels and VRBOs, check below:
Where to Eat in Polignano a Mare
Ruz- Cucina Confidenziale – A great restaurant offering Puglian classics and small dishes. This is the place to come for a chance to try many different Puglian specialities like Purea di fave (broad bean pure), seafood and fresh orecchiette (pasta) and some great wine. There are many vegetarian dishes on the menu and a few that could be made vegan.
Mint Cucina Fresca – Quite possibly the best food we had on our Puglia trip, Mint specialises in creative, modern Italian fusion cuisine with a focus on plant-based, fish and seafood dishes.
The food here is healthy, fresh, colorful and absolutely divine. From plant-based classics like tofu scramble and zucchini tagliatelle to grilled octopus and tuna. They also have amazing cocktails and all the best wines from Puglia. Don’t miss their vegan crème brûlée. Run solely by a Brazilian-Italian couple, make sure not to miss this exquisite plant-focused restaurant.
Mint is open for lunch and dinner but you’ll need to reserve a table via Whatsapp. Find out more here.
La Locanda Porta Picc– A lovely, charming restaurant with a focus on pasta and seafood dishes. You can choose from any number of their fresh pasta dishes or from the fresh seafood and fish counter. Take a seat on the patio outside to fully absorb those carbs, wine and the charismatic Polignano atmosphere.
Puro Sushi– For those that want a break from Italian food this is one of the best sushi restaurants around serving high-quality, authentic sushi, sashimi and rolls. There are a few vegetarian options.
Pescaria– Polignano is known for its seafood and this local eatery is the place for octopus pucce (sandwiches). Find all the locals here.
Leoteca – Not a restaurant but a wine shop- this is a great place to pick up Puglian wines and olive oil if you’re self-catering or would like to buy some wine to take back home.
Ready to plan your weekend in Polignano a Mare? Let me know your questions and comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
Planning a trip right now? These are just some of my favourite websites I use to book everything from hotels to rental cars!
Rentalcars.com and Auto Europe for quick and easy car rentals worldwide & in Europe
Booking.com for great deals on hotels
Agoda also for great deals on hotels
Get Your Guide and Viator for tours and adventures around the world
Related posts you might like:
Polignano a Mare Beaches: Uncovering the Resort Town’s Top Beaches
A Guide to Monopoli Puglia | A Blissful Day by the Sea
Top Things to Do in Bari Italy | A Perfect Stay in Puglia’s Capital
What to Do in Matera: A Complete Guide to Visiting Matera, Italy
A Mini Guide to Alberobello Italy: The Famed Trulli Town
Unmissable Wineries in Puglia for Your Next Trip
Exploring Ostuni Italy: Top Things to do in Puglia’s White City
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