What are some cool things to do in San Marino? Not a lot of people have heard of this tiny place, but I wouldn’t write about it if it weren’t worth a visit.
First of all, the history of this place is fascinating. Secondly, it’s like a tiny Italy, landlocked by Italy. Although it’s a different country, you don’t need a visa to get there if you’re already in Italy. They speak Italian and use the Euro as their currency.
But there’s a special charm to San Marino. And I’ve listed these cool things to do in San Marino to make sure to check out all the magic that this place has to offer.
Why San Marino?
I decided to visit San Marino as part of my journey to visit all European countries. And this includes the list of the seven micro-states in Europe, of which San Marino is part.
The first thing that I read about San Marino was the fact that it is the world’s oldest republic, with a constitution dating back to A.D. 1600. Nestled in the heart of Italy, this landlocked microstate is a hidden gem that many travellers overlook, but those who make the journey are in for a unique experience. So, why should San Marino be on your travel bucket list?
The very air feels thick with history, and the cobblestone streets and medieval towers stand as enduring witnesses to centuries gone by. You’re not just visiting a country; you’re stepping into a living, breathing museum.
And then there’s the natural beauty that sweeps across the tiny nation.
Imagine standing atop Mount Titano, the highest peak in the country, as you gaze out over panoramic views that stretch all the way to the Adriatic Sea. The landscapes here blend seamlessly with the architecture, offering a feast for the eyes as well as the soul.
Stay tuned as we delve into the cool things to do in San Marino that make San Marino an unforgettable travel destination.
How to get there
San Marino is landlocked by Italy, and it doesn’t have an airport.
You can drive to San Marino, or you can take a bus from Rimini.
I spent the night before in Rimini and then drove to San Marino in the morning with my rental car. There is no physical border or customs, only a small sign welcoming you to San Marino.
If you don’t have a car, use the public bus from Rimini. You can find here more info about the bus.
Here to stay in San Marino
Most tourists visit San Marino for a day, like I did. And if you’re passing through Rimini, it would be a pity not to stop and see it.
But if you want to see it all, see a place that looks like Italy, but it’s not Italy, then you should spend more days here.
Here are my top hotel recommendations for San Marino:
- Hotel Cesare – in the historic centre
- The Regent Boutique Hotel – luxury hotel outside the historic centre
The Heart of San Marino – Mount Titano
San Marino is bigger than you’d expect, and you will find yourself driving for a while before reaching the main point of interest – Mount Titano.
Dominating the skyline, this majestic peak is not only the highest point in the country but also the beating heart of San Marino’s identity.
So, how can you get the most out of your visit to this iconic landmark?
I’d recommend parking in the parking lot near the cable car. Here’s the Google Map location – Parcheggio funivia. The parking gets full during the day, so make sure to park early to avoid the crowds (at least when parking).
Next, hop on the cable car that takes you to the summit. The cable car only takes a few minutes, and it’s actually used as public transport by locals.
But it’s not just a ride; it’s a journey through the skies. As you ascend, you’ll be treated to mesmerising views of San Marino’s undulating landscapes, its old-world architecture, and even the far-off glimmer of the Adriatic Sea.
Trust me, you’ll want to have your camera ready for this.
Once you’ve reached the top, you’ll find yourself on a mountaintop playground where the past meets the present.
With several scenic viewpoints, Mount Titano offers panoramas that are nothing short of breathtaking. Bring along a picnic and make it a memorable meal with a view, or simply stand at one of the overlooks and let the beauty of the world wash over you.
But Mount Titano is not just about stunning vistas; it’s also a gateway to San Marino’s rich history.
At the summit, you’ll find the first of the country’s famous Three Towers, which I’ll tell you more about later. For now, let’s just say that these fortresses add another layer of charm to the already captivating mountain.
Get a tourist visa on your passport
There are two Tourist Information Offices offering tourist visas for 8 EUR. So don’t forget to bring your passport.
The tourism office is also where you can buy your ticket for museums and ask for information about each place and what to visit. The staff is very friendly and helpful.
A Walk Through Time: The Three Towers
If Mount Titano is the heart of San Marino, then the Three Towers are its soul.
Perched atop the mountain like ancient guardians, these fortresses—Guaita, Cesta, and Montale—have stood the test of time, and each has a unique tale to tell.
The journey begins with Guaita, the oldest and arguably the most iconic of the trio. This is the San Marino tower that I visited.
Built in the 11th century, Guaita has served multiple roles throughout its existence—from a fortress to a prison. Its stout walls and battlements create an evocative atmosphere, transporting you to a time when knights and archers walked its corridors.
From Guaita, you’ll get another panoramic treat, as its vantage point offers some of the best views of San Marino and the surrounding region.
If you have the time, I’d recommend making your way to the second tower, Cesta, situated on the highest peak of Mount Titano.
Unlike Guaita, Cesta hosts a museum showcasing San Marino’s medieval arms and weaponry. Picture yourself as a medieval warrior while exploring the various exhibits, or take a moment to appreciate the craftsmanship that went into these ancient tools of war.
Last but not least, there’s Montale—the smallest and most secluded of the Three Towers. Although it’s not open to the public, its isolation adds a layer of mystique. Montale was primarily used as a watchtower, and from its height, sentinels could spot incoming threats from miles away.
Tips on visiting the towers in San Marino
If you decide to visit the tower, which is the top attraction in San Marino, I have some tips for you.
To visit any of the tickets for the museums in San Marino, you can go straight to the museum or visit the Tourist Information Office.
There’s also a San Marino tourism card, which includes more discounts and benefits for the cable car, shops and restaurants.
Museums are open from 9 am to 6 pm. There can be small variations depending on the museum.
When I was there, it started raining, so I visited only these three museums:
- Public Palace of the Republic of San Marino – This is their parliament, small but 100% recommended. Make sure to check if it’s open when you’re intending to visit
- 1st Tower Guaita – It offers beautiful views of the entire San Marino and up to the Adriatic Sea. Don’t miss it
- Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea – I was curious about the modern art scene in San Marino, which turns out it’s just a room. And it was raining at the moment. You can skip it.
There is a combined museum pass ticket (€ 10.00) for admission to 1st Tower, 2nd Tower, Public Palace (if open), State Museum, Pinacoteca San Francesco, National Gallery, Stamps and Coins Museum;
Wandering the Historic Center
If cobblestone streets, charming storefronts, and a blend of the medieval and the modern make your heart sing, then wandering through San Marino’s Historic Center will be like stepping into a dream.
This UNESCO-listed old town is a treasure trove of delights that offers a perfect blend of sightseeing, shopping, and leisure.
Many Italians visit San Marino specifically to buy fashion items such as sunglasses, bags and clothes. I couldn’t leave empty-handed, so I got a new pair of RayBan sunglasses which I adore. Unlike the EU, San Marino doesn’t charge for the VAT, so items are cheaper here.
Then it started raining, so I couldn’t use my new sunglasses. But that didn’t stop me from wandering a bit more through the labyrinthine streets.
I wish I had more time and better weather to admire the small piazzas (public squares), where locals usually sip on espresso. However, I did check quite a few high-end fashion and quirky souvenir stores.
But it’s not just about brand stores. San Marino is renowned for its artistry, be it in ceramics, paintings, or even its famous stamps and coins. So, if you look carefully, you might find something truly unique here.
The historic centre of San Marino also has plenty of restaurants and coffee shops. I’ll cover the must-try foods a bit later.
Changing of the Guard
If you want to see something cool that’s also a big part of local life, don’t miss the Changing of the Guard. Soldiers in traditional uniforms come out to switch places in a ceremony that’s been happening for years.
So, where and when can you see this?
The Changing of the Guard happens every day during the summer months, starting at 2:30 p.m. and then every 30 minutes. Just head to the Piazza della Libertà, which is easy to find—it’s near the heart of the old town.
Stamps and Coins
If you like collecting things, San Marino is the place for you, especially when it comes to stamps and coins.
This tiny country has its own unique stamps and coins that you won’t find anywhere else.
You might wonder, where can you buy these? Check out the souvenir shops in the old town or go to a post office. These are the best spots to find stamps and coins that show off San Marino’s history and culture.
I was actually surprised when the lady at the tourist centre offered this museum as a cool thing to do in San Marino. Unfortunately, I had to choose between this and the tower and the parliament.
Why bother collecting them? Well, these stamps and coins are more than just pretty pieces of paper and metal. They’re little bits of San Marino that you can take home with you. Plus, they’re small and easy to carry, making them a perfect souvenir.
I got a visa stamp on my passport, which is one of the few souvenirs I ever buy on my trips.
San Marino’s Delicious Culinary Scene
San Marino may be small, but when it comes to food and drink, it packs a big punch. They are still around Italy, so it can’t be bad, right?
So before you leave, make sure you don’t leave with an empty stomach.
First up, you’ve got to have some piadina. It’s a flatbread that’s usually stuffed with cheese, ham, or veggies. You’ll find it at street vendors and cafes all around the country. It’s quick, delicious, and easy on the wallet.
Next, if you’re into sweets, hunt down a slice of Torta Tre Monti. It’s a chocolate and hazelnut cake that’s named after the country’s three famous towers. You’ll find it in bakeries, and it’s a local favourite.
For drinks, give San Marino wine a go. You can find it at most restaurants and bars. The local wines are tasty and not too expensive.
Of course, I had to stop for a pizza, which was not bad considering how touristy this place is. I ate at Hotel and Restaurant Bellavista, which is close to the cable car.
The Medieval Days Festival
If you’re planning a trip to San Marino, you might want to aim for a time when the Medieval Days Festival is happening.
This festival is a big deal and turns the whole country into a scene from the past, complete with knights, jesters, and old-timey games.
So what exactly happens during this festival?
The streets fill up with people in medieval costumes, there are jousting competitions, and even markets selling crafts as they did hundreds of years ago. Imagine walking around and seeing musicians playing lutes or jugglers tossing fire. It’s like stepping into a time machine!
Now, why should you schedule your trip around this festival? For starters, it’s a unique experience you won’t get any other time of the year. Plus, it’s super fun for kids and adults alike.
The Medieval Days Festival offers something for everyone. And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to see a knight in shining armour?
Here is the info about the 2023 medieval festival in San Marino (it was in July), and make sure to check the same website for the details of the next festival.
Outdoor activities in San Marino
San Marino isn’t just about history and culture; it’s also a fantastic spot for nature lovers. While the country may be small, it’s got some beautiful places for a nice walk or even a challenging hike.
For a peaceful nature walk, check out the trails around Mount Titano.
They’re not too hard and offer some amazing views. You’ll walk through forests and might even spot some local wildlife like birds or small mammals.
But if you’re into more action-packed activities, you’re in luck, too.
Apart from hiking, San Marino offers rock climbing spots and even some zip-lining for thrill-seekers. These activities are usually located near the mountain areas, and you can find guides or rentals pretty easily.
Why San Marino is a must-visit
You’ve heard about the epic views from Mount Titano, the history of the Three Towers, the charm of the old town, and even the tasty local food.
So why should San Marino be on your travel list? Simple: It’s a one-of-a-kind place packed with things to see and do, all in a compact area.
Unlike big touristy cities, San Marino offers a relaxed vibe where you can actually enjoy each spot without rushing. It’s like a mini-adventure wrapped up in one tiny country. Plus, it’s easy to get around, so you won’t waste time in transit.
If you love history, great views, unique souvenirs, and delicious food, San Marino has it all. Trust me, you’ll leave with a camera full of photos and a heart full of memories.
So go ahead and start planning your trip.
San Marino is waiting to surprise and delight you!