Things to do in Cefalu, Sicily
Cefalu, Sicily, is a small city with a beautiful old center and romantic streets full of character. It’s known for its incredible views from the ‘Molo di Cefalu’ pier that looks out onto the city’s authentic houses and the small central beach.
Though it’s much busier than other locations, such as Trapani and Erice, there are lots of things to do. Because of this, as well as the great restaurants, it’s the perfect location to visit for a day or two.
Tip: Are you traveling as a European citizen? If you’re under 25 years old, many things to do in Cefalù are only half-priced!
1. Cefalù Cathedral
Right in the town’s central square, with a beautiful mountain backdrop, stands the Cefalù Cathedral. This building can be seen from different angles in the city, as it stands slightly higher in the sloped town and towers above all else. Lined by small osterias, lively terraces, and delicious gelato spots, the cathedral is one of the best things to do in Cefalu, Italy.
Built nearly a millennium ago, the Duomo houses soaring vaulted ceilings, incredible frescoes, and a beautiful apse adorned with biblical scenes. These beautiful mosaics depict Cristo Pantocratore (Christ Almighty), one of Sicily’s greatest artistic treasures. Entrance to the Duomo is free, though if you want to see the Cristo Pantocratore up close, you’ll have to buy a ticket at the door, which costs 9 EUR (9.90 USD).
2. Visit the Beaches
One of the draws to the buzzing fisherman’s city is its picture-perfect beaches, lined with incredible backdrops. From the central 1.6-kilometer-long stretch of golden sand to beautiful pebbled beaches that hug the northern shoreline, there are many dreamy locations to go swimming and sunbathing. Lay down your towel at one of these summer gems and soak up the dolce vita as you go for a dip in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Spiaggia del Porto Vecchio (Cefalù Port)
One of the more unique features of this beach is that it sits right in the historical center of Cefalu, Sicily. It’s lined with beautiful orange-roofed houses and La Rocca Mountain, making it the perfect spot to unwind after a morning full of sightseeing.
In the summer, this is one of the liveliest locations in town, covered in colorful beach towels and umbrellas. Here, you can rent a sunbed or simply find a spot to lay down your towel. The beach has a few bars and restaurants that open in summer, perfect for a refreshing drink or bite.
Relax on the soft sand, or float in the calm turquoise waters, looking up at the stunning mountain views. If you’re looking to be a bit more active, you can also join a guided paddleboard excursion around the bay with Piranha Sup Surf School.
Just outside of Cefalu’s historic center lies the beautiful secluded Caldura Beach. This stretch of white sand set against crystal-clear water is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, or relaxing in the sun. With its surrounding cliffs and greenery, it’s one of the best things to do in Cefalu, Italy.
3. Explore the Historic Center
Cefalù’s charming old center is a must-see on any Sicily road trip. The streets are full of character, lined with beautiful authentic houses, great restaurants, and small Sicilian shops. While you make your way across the promenade and stroll through the small alleyways, you’ll discover plenty of hidden gems and local treasures.
While popular areas such as Corso Ruggero are enjoyable, the best way to experience Cefalù is by wandering the little side streets and piazzas. Take a peek into the small ceramic shops and relax at one of the central terraces, soaking up the magical atmosphere of the area. At night, the streets light up, creating another beautiful setting to enjoy over a delicious dinner.
Make sure to visit the pier ‘Molo di Cefalu’, one of the best places to experience the town’s beauty. From here, you can see the iconic fisherman’s houses and the small central beach.
In the old town, you’ll also find the small Mandralisca Museum, filled with a grand collection of the Mandralisca family. Next to an exhibition of ceramics and pottery, the museum houses the famous ‘Portrait of an Unknown Man’ by Antonello da Messina. This is one of the most distinctive portraits of the Italian Renaissance.
4. Lavatoio Medievale Fiume Cefalino
The Lavatoio Medievale, or medieval laundry, is a unique thing to do in the heart of Cefalu, Sicily. Located at the edge of a creek, it’s accessed through a wide staircase directing you to a remarkable site carved entirely out of volcanic rock. The laundry space has been so well-preserved that it’s now one of the most visited locations in the city.
This historical remnant is an incredible example of life in ancient Cefalù, offering a glimpse into the town’s rich heritage. We recommend visiting the medieval laundry in the morning to avoid the bigger crowds.
5. Day Trip to Madonie Regional Natural Park
Not too far from the city lies the lush Madonie Regional Natural Park, full of incredible mountains, forests, and charming villages. This area is perfect for hiking, biking, and exploring the diverse landscapes of Sicily, Italy.
You can choose many different trails, ranging from easy day hikes to more challenging adventures. You can spend a few hours out of your day exploring the park’s incredible scenery. Walk between luscious trees, beautiful villages, and tall grasslands, only stopping to capture the views with your camera.
6. Hike Rocca di Cefalu
La Rocca di Cefalù is the stunning dramatic backdrop to the city you immediately spot when approaching the historic town. From up top, you’ll have breathtaking views over the entire surrounding area, looking out onto the orange rooftops of the old town and the stunning aquamarine sea.
Though the sights from up top are incredible, you don’t have to hike all the way up La Rocca (2-3 hours of walking) to enjoy the views. About halfway, you’ll find a beautiful panoramic viewpoint that offers the best view over Cefalù and its surroundings. Bring a picnic to enjoy on the mountain, as there are plenty of tables and trees for shade. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some rabbits here!
The mountain is open from 8 AM – 8 PM between April and October (last admission at 7 PM). During the rest of the year, it closes at 4 PM. The entrance lies on the western side of the cliff rock (here is the location) and costs 5 EUR (5.62 USD).
It’s best to visit the mountain first thing in the morning to avoid the midday summer heat. Enjoy walking through the natural scenery and soak up the beauty of the Sicilian coast from above.
Castello di Cefalù, Sicily
When you hike up the mountain, you’ll make your way past a few impressive remnants of ancient Sicily. At the top stands an old castle ruin, once a beautiful fortification built to protect the city.
Besides a glimpse back in time, the castle ruins offer stunning panoramic views over the surrounding area. From here, you can see the orange roofs of Cefalù glow in the sunlight, edged by the beautiful aquamarine sea.
7. Explore the Ruins of Himera
Not too far from Cefalù, tucked between tall grasslands, lies the archeological area of Himera. Where once stood a grand city with temples, theaters, and other buildings, you’ll now only find its remains. This is one of many ancient areas to explore on the island, making it the perfect activity for history lovers.
It was founded in the 6th century BC by the ancient Greeks and played an important role in their wars. Now, visitors can get a glimpse of the city’s history by visiting the archeological site overlooking the sea.
8. Sicilian Ceramics
Sicilian ceramics are highly regarded for their beauty, quality, and incredible designs. When you make your way through Sicily, you’ll notice that the island’s tradition of ceramics is deeply rooted in the local culture. Especially in Cefalù, you’ll have the opportunity to explore this heritage by visiting one of the pottery studios in town.
While you make your way through the maze of alleyways, take some time to peek into the ceramic shops and studios. Here, you can even watch the ceramics being made and learn a bit about the history and techniques of the craft. Ceramics in Sicily are known for their bright colors, intricate patterns, and unique shapes. They’re often hand-crafted and painted, making each piece one-of-a-kind and the perfect souvenir to bring home.
9. Day Trip to Punta Sant’Elia
En route to or from Palermo, make sure to stop at the stunning viewpoint and beach of Punta Sant’Elia. This beautiful area is the perfect place to experience the unspoiled natural beauty of the Cefalù coastline, with its sunny golden beaches and dramatic rocky shores.
Immerse yourself in the scenery as you take a leisurely stroll along the stone peninsula. Enjoy the fresh sea breeze and marvel at the endless crystal-clear waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The coastline is also home to abundant marine life, making it popular for snorkeling and diving (one of the most popular activities in Cefalù, Sicily!).
Best Restaurants & Cafes in Cefalù, Sicily
Sicilian cuisine is a feast for the senses, full of bold flavors, fresh ingredients, and vibrant colors. Everywhere in Cefalù, you’ll find cute osterias and buzzing terraces, perfect for a sit-down drink or dinner. Start off with a delicious Caponata, a classic Sicilian appetizer. Then, order yourself a savory pasta dish (like pasta con le sarde) and sweet cannoli pastry for dessert.
Whether you’re looking to indulge in fresh seafood, traditional pasta, or a flavorful street pastry, Cefalù has plenty of restaurants to choose from. Some of our favorites are:
- Mandralisca Sedici
- History Pinsa
- La Brace Cefalù
- Liberty Restaurant Bistrot
- Sicilian Food & Drink
- Passafiume Cantina Bistrot
- Braceria Italiana Fuorimondo
- Le Terme
Good to know: Many restaurants in Cefalù, Sicily, don’t open before 7 PM. Even if the opening times on Google Maps say the restaurant’s open, it’s best to check in person or call to confirm.
Where to Stay
From beautiful B&Bs with waterfront views in the old center to stunning summer retreats just slightly out of town, there are many hotels in Cefalu to choose from.
If you’re only visiting for a few days and don’t want to walk far, choose accommodation in the old town. However, please note that the new town (although not as pretty) is cheaper. From here, it’s about a 20-minute walk along the beach promenade to get to the historic center.
How to Visit Cefalu, Italy
The closest airport to Cefalu in Sicily is Palermo Airport. From Palermo, it’s about a 1 – 2 hour journey to get to the ancient center of Cefalu, depending on the transportation you choose.
You can get there by train, which is a beautiful 1-hour ride through the countryside and along the coast. The train stops right in between the old and new town, allowing you easy access to the historic center from there (a 10-minute walk away). Taking the train in Sicily is a comfortable way of getting around and takes you past some of the island’s most incredible scenery.
Cefalu also makes a perfect stop on a road trip in Sicily, allowing you to easily get there by car. From Palermo, it takes about an hour’s drive to get to the ancient town and about 3 hours from Catania.
However, parking in Sicily can be an issue. Like many other Italian cities, Cefalu is covered with ZTL zones, making it difficult to park anywhere in the city center. Because of this, it’s best to park just outside of town along the Lungomare (the promenade). Here, you’ll find parking on both sides of the road as well as a larger parking lot. Expect to pay 8 EUR (8.80 USD) for a whole day of parking. From the parking lot, it’s only a short walk to the beach and the historic center.
Most of the things to do in Cefalu, Sicily, can be done on foot. Especially if you’re visiting for just a few days, the historic center and beaches are all easily accessible by walking. Take your time to stroll through the ancient streets and along the beachfront promenade as you soak up the incredible atmosphere of the city.
How Many Days in Cefalu, Sicily?
With its old center and beautiful shoreline, the charming city of Cefalù in Italy has a lot to offer. Although you can visit the city on a day trip, we’d recommend spending at least two nights (one full day) in town to soak up the atmosphere fully.
Especially if you’re visiting Sicily in the summer, you might want to stay a little longer to relax on the beautiful beaches.
How Much Does Cefalu Cost?
Cefalu is a relatively affordable destination on the island of Sicily, with your most significant expenses being accommodation and car rental. Prices also depend on the time of year you visit the city. For example, the summer months are generally more expensive (with prices peaking in September).
Best Time to Visit Cefalù, Sicily
The best time to visit Cefalù, Sicily, is during the shoulder seasons of Spring and Fall. During this time, the weather’s nicely warm and sunny, and there are fewer crowds. However, note that September is the busiest month on the island and, therefore, also the most expensive.
During the summer months (June – August), the weather gets very hot, but there’s also a fun and lively atmosphere, making it a great time to visit and relax at the beach. Additionally, unlike eastern Taormina, which can be a bit too crowded during peak season, Cefalù remains a great location to visit.