8 Top Things to Do in Cefalù in One Day

Please share if you enjoy this content!

Looking for the top things to do in Cefalù, Sicily?

One of the top day trips from Palermo, and for that matter, one of the most visited places in Sicily, is to the historic Norman citadel of Cefalù. It’s a popular place to visit year-round, especially in the summer.

You may need to dodge crowds of tourists to see this magical spot, but don’t let that sway you. It’s well worth visiting this gem on the island’s northern coast. It was quite busy when I went in mid-May, but it was just as magical as I expected.

Part of the fun of visiting is wandering off the main road to see the narrow, picture-perfect streets. So, head to Cefalù any time of year to enjoy this magical spot.

In this post, I’ll share the top things to do in Cefalù. You can see the city’s highlights on a day trip, but you just might want to stay a little longer!

view of the oceans and mountains in cefalu, homes and buildings right by the ocean, pier in the distance

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links at no extra cost to you. Please read the full disclosure for more information.

Top Things to Do in Cefalù—Quick List

  1. Visit the Cefalù Cathedral, climb the tower, and enjoy the views.
  2. Soak in the rays on the beach.
  3. Visit the old city gate by the water.
  4. See the medieval public laundry.
  5. Wander through the historic streets of the medieval old town.
  6. Grab a unique gelato at the cathedral square.
  7. Visit the castle ruins on Cefalù Rock.
  8. Enjoy a spritz in your own unique style at Spritzando.

Top Things to Do in Cefalù

People want to visit Cefalù for many reasons: the gorgeous beach, the historic medieval city, and the UNESCO World Heritage-designated cathedral church. Or simply wandering the old city streets to take in the views.

No matter the reason for bringing you here, you can easily fill up a day (or more!) exploring what Cefalù offers. Here are the top things to do in Cefalù, and you can pick what you’re most interested in to fill up a day (or more!).

side street in cefalu, people walking down the street, historic buildings on both sides, old town

1. Cefalù Cathedral (Duomo di Cefalù)

One of the highlights of any visit to Cefalù is the incredible Cefalù Cathedral. It’s the focal point of this picturesque town and a must-see.

First, head to the square and take in the views of this majestic structure. It’s high up on a set of stairs with the ruins at Cefalù Rock looking down on it.

According to local legend, King Roger II was caught at sea in a storm. If he lived, he vowed to build a church at this site. Not many small fishing villages like Cefalù have such a grand cathedral, and they can thank the Norman king for it.

Head to the left of the cathedral for the ticket office and choose what you’d like to do. It’s worth getting the complete package to climb the tower for the incredible views and visit the cloister and the small museum.

outside of duomo ticket office, potted plants lining the entrance, people waiting outside to buy tickets

Duomo ticket office

Duomo Tower

There are around 80 steps to the top of the tower. You’ll also cross over to the south tower for different city views. The stairs are tight, with high steps to navigate, but there are railings.

The views of Cefalù Rock and the ruins of Cefalù Castle, the city, and the beach are exquisite. And the cloister is not only beautiful but unique as well.

It’s the oldest in Sicily and features double columns crowned by two capitals.

Don’t miss the Bishop’s rooms, either. They are exquisite!

If you’re interested, check out the Mandralisca Museum (Museo Mandralisca). It’s located near the Cathedral Plaza and includes a wide range of historical art, including Murano Glass, Greek and Arab vases, and more.

The Cathedral of Cefalù is located at Piazza del Duomo, 90015 Cefalù PA, Italy. Tickets range from 5 to 12 EUROS ($5.50 to $12.25 USD). For 12, you can access the cathedral, tower, museum, Bishop’s Chapel, and cloister. The cathedral is free to visit. (However, you don’t get access to the other places in and around it unless you purchase a ticket.)

2. Cefalù Beach (Spiaggia di Cefalù)

Located right on the edge of the old town, this beach is a highlight of any visit to Cefalù. It’s often called one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Sicily.

From the water, you can see the promenade and the rocky, jagged cliffs overlooking the city where the ruins of the old settlement are. There isn’t a bad view from this area or of this area.

Part of the beach has picturesque lidos—blue and white striped umbrellas and raised sunbeds for soaking in the rays. There are lots of restaurants and shops nearby.

Walk the beach and enjoy the soft sand between your toes. There’s a half-mile stretch to walk and enjoy the views of this picturesque town.

The water is beautiful and clear, and there is a breakwater keeping large swells away. It’s not much for surfers, but it is an incredible leisurely swim place.

The beach is located here on a map.

3. Porta Pescara

On one end of the beach is the only remaining of four city gates, Porta Pescara. The fisherman used it centuries ago to bring their fresh catch into the town. It’s located at the old city port near the old harbor and the beach.

The old gate features a Gothic arch with the King of Sicily’s coat of arms. It’s a perfect spot to snap iconic photos of the beach and the gorgeous coastline, with the city as the perfect backdrop.

This area is also great for swimming, and you’ll see lots of people taking advantage of this perfect location. Stand by the rocky old wall of Costa di Cefalù for a gorgeous picture with the sea in the background in one direction and the city in the other.

Porta Pescara is located at Via Vittorio Emanuele, 105, 90015 Cefalù PA, Italy.

original city gate to cefalu, porta pescara, last remaining gate to the city center, best beaches in cefalu, beaches in cefalu

4. Public Laundry (Lavtoio Medievale)

Head down Via Vittorio Emmanuele in the old town and head down the steps to the public laundry. You’ll walk under wide arches down the staircase of lava stones to the area.

This was built into the Cefalino River during the Middle Ages as a place where women gathered to wash clothing. It was also used as a bathhouse, where people gathered to bathe and share the latest news.

At the foot of the steps, you’ll see a verse by Vincenzo Auria, written in 1655, “Here flows Cefalino, more salubrious than any other river, purer than silver, colder than snow.”

Lavtoio Medievale is located at Via Vittorio Emanuele, 90015 Cefalù PA, Italy. It’s open daily from 10 to 12 and 4 to 7.

public laundry, lavtoio medievale, things to do in cefalu, what to do in cefalu, medieval laundry

5. Wander Through the Historic Old Town

Start your visit walking down the main drag in town, Corso Ruggero. Take the time to check out the architecture, churches, Cathedral Square, and well, everything!

There are reminders of the city’s belief in Catholicism along the way. You’ll see churches like the beautiful Santo Stefano and these little cutouts with statues of Jesus and other saints.

Then, wander down the side streets. This gets you off the tour path and the crowds and gives you an entirely different view of the city.

I’m an architecture buff, and I saw so many pretty houses, views, flowers, and more when I went off the beaten path. Go to see the sites, of course, but don’t miss the opportunity to wander.

6. Grab a Gelato

Sicilians love gelato just as much as other Italians do, so you can be sure you’ll find plenty of places to get one. Cefalù is no different!

You really can’t go wrong with gelato anywhere. But, if you want to go to a unique place with some of the best city views, head to Cathedral Square. On the right side is a place with some rather unique offerings.

They have many of the traditional, and chocolate lovers will rejoice with some of their particularly rich concoctions. One flavor caught my eye: vaniglia nera con carbone vegetable, which translates as “black vanilla with charred vegetable.”

Given that I’m a bona fide chocoholic, I went the safe route. But if you want to try something a little different, this place has got you covered!

Duomo Gelatieri dal 1952 is located at Via Bevilacqua Pittore, 2, 90015 Cefalù PA, Italy.

glass case showing all the different flavors of gelato, cones with toppings on them on the right side, black bowls on the left side

7. Cefalù Rock (La Rocca)

If you’re seeking a way to work off the gelato you undoubtedly enjoyed, then head up to La Rocca. You get the best views of the city from here, but you’ll work for it!

The path up is steep and rocky in areas, and you’ll climb 278 steps at the start on the Salita Saraceni staircase. It’s a good idea to do this first thing in the morning when you arrive, as it gets quite warm here all year round.

Stop at the Temple of Diana, which is around halfway up. This megalithic monument was built during the 9th century BC to worship Diana, the Greek goddess of the moon and the water. It may be one of the oldest structures in Sicily.

Continue the climb, which will take around an hour in total. You’ll find the ruins of the original city, including the castle and the fortification wall. From here, you get panoramic views of the city and its surroundings.

La Rocca is located here on a map.

la rocca, view looking up at the famous rock, small trees growing on the rock, what to do in cefalu, things to do in cefalu

8. Cool Off at Spritzando

Italy is known for its spritzes, and the most popular: the Aperol spritz. However, that’s not the only offering in Sicily.

A Hugo is very popular, particularly in the Trapani area. It’s sparkling wine and elderflower. Yum!

If you want to go even more different, stop in Sprintando. A friend of a friend owns it, and they have a large list of different spritz offerings. It’s located on one of the smaller side streets towards the beach off of Via Vittorio Emanuele.

Just check the menu before ordering, as their Hugo is very different than what I had in Trapani! (I believe it had anise in it, which I don’t like at all.)

Spritzando is located at Via Gioeni, 89, 90015 Cefalù PA, Italy. They are open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Stop by and show them some love!

Sam and friends (Maren, Filippo, Karolina) in Spritzando

A Brief History of Cefalù

Cefalù was founded in the 4th century BC by the Greeks with the name of Kephaloídion for its location and rocky outcroppings, including the iconic Cefalù rock overlooking the current city. It was an indigenous settlement previously, but the Greeks made it official.

It was conquered by the Romans and named Cephaloedium. From 250 BC to 858 AD, it was under Roman rule. Then, the Arabs who settled in Sicily renamed it Gafludi, and it became part of the Emirate of Sicily for two centuries.

The Normans conquered Cefalù in 1063, and in 1131, it was relocated to the foot of the rock, where it is today. You can still visit the ruins at the top of the rock where it once stood.

Muck of the new city was built during this time, including the centerpiece, a large Norman-style cathedral.

Cefalù became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. It now has a population of around 14,000, attracting millions from all over Sicily, Europe, and the world.

How to Get to Cefalù

If you’re staying in Palermo, getting to Cefalù is a breeze. There are two trains that run between the cities. If you want a direct route and to book a seat, take the Intercity train (10 Euros, around $x USD).

Otherwise, hop on the Regionale train. It does stop in the smaller towns between the two cities, but you get to take in the views when you go. (6 Euros, or around $x USD).

Both trains leave from the central station in Palermo and take around an hour. (The Intercity train is a little less).

You have the option to drive as well, though I wouldn’t recommend it. Not only is driving a car in Palermo challenging, but finding parking in Cefalù may be equally difficult.

And you can’t drive in most of the historic center of Cefalù. It’s a “Traffico Limitato” zone, so only locals can drive there.

Your best bet is to go by train. Don’t forget to validate your return ticket in Cefalù if you book an open return (where you can leave at any time).

How to Get Around Cefalù

The historic center of Cefalù isn’t very large, so the best way to get around is by foot.

If you take the train to get there, and I recommend you do, it’s only maybe a ten-minute walk to the city center.

This Cefalù map is near the old town and gives you the perspective of the city’s size.

map of the city of cefalu, map showing where all the monuments and attractions are, things to do in cefalu, what to do in cefalu

When to Visit Cefalù

The weather in Cefalù is surprisingly nice all year round. So, it’s a popular tourist destination at any time, but especially in the summer.

July and August are the busiest months, and you’ll find it hard even to get a spot on the beach. It’s better to go in the shoulder season, May-June or September, when you’ll find great beach weather and fewer crowds.

During the other months of the year, you’ll find even fewer crowds and better prices for hotels. It’s really up to you, and no matter when you go, you should definitely make sure to visit.

How Much Time to Spend in Cefalù

How much time you’ll want to spend in Cefalù really depends on a number of factors. In particular, how much time do you have for your trip to Sicily?

You can easily see this small city’s highlights on a day trip, including some beach time if you hustle. Alternatively, you could spend several days soaking in the rays here and want to stay longer!

If you’re on a two-week road trip around western Sicily, you’ll probably plan for a day trip here from Palermo. It’s a great bet, though it will leave you wanting to return for more time (as I feel!).

Plan to spend at least a full day here. If you’re not a fan of crowds and don’t love lounging on the beach, that may be enough for you. Otherwise, plan to come back on your second trip to Sicily!

small step walkway leading to the street, flower vases lining the steps on the left side

Best Places to Stay in Cefalù

Budget—Scirocco B&B: This is the best hotel in Cefalu if you want some peace and quiet at an affordable price. The rooms are warm and sunny, and the price includes complimentary breakfast and free parking. The rooftop terrace is perfect for enjoying breakfast or a few evening drinks.

Mid-range—Victoria Palace Hotel: This affordable hotel is about a 10-minute walk from the famous Cefalu Cathedral. The rooms are simple but very bright and colorful. All rooms have balconies, so make sure to request a room with sea views to sit on the balcony and enjoy the water. The hotel also has a bar and rooftop garden.

Luxury—Hotel Le Calette: If you want something luxurious in Cefalu, I recommend Hotel Le Calette. The rooms have beautiful balconies, and there are many amenities to check out while here, including a spa, hot tub, three bars, and three restaurants.

Best Restaurants in Cefalù

Of course, anywhere in Italy, there will be amazing food. Cefalu might be small, but there are many cute little restaurants where you can try local food.

Here is a quick list of some of the places to try:

  • La Botte: Come here for some great food right after touring the cathedral. The restaurant is family-owned and run. There are only a few tables, so it tends to get busy, but the wait is worth it. Most of the dishes are seafood and super yummy.
  • La Gallizza: I recommend this place if you want to be far away from the common tourist places and instead at something that is off the beaten path. Deep-fried risotto balls are the specialty, and they are delicious.
  • Ristorante Le Chat Noir: Want some traditional Sicilian food while in the area? This is the place to come. They also have tons of local desserts. This place is a little fancier than others on the list, so it makes for a great date night.
  • AI Porticciolo: For an amazing restaurant right on the coast, make sure to check out this place. It has tons of different pizzas to choose from, as well as a variety of other dishes like marinated tuna and pasta with fennel and pine nuts.
view from tower, ocean in the distance, things to do in cefalu

Don’t Miss the Best Things to Do in Cefalù

Cefalù was once a sleepy fishing village that grew into a major Sicily tourist attraction. You can still find the charm in this small city when you wander off the beaten path.

The incredible cathedral, gorgeous beach, and picturesque narrow old city streets make it a must-see when you’re in Palermo, and you really won’t want to miss it.

Just be careful; you might love it so much that you build a second trip to Sicily around it!

You Might Also Like

Like it? Pin it!

Please share if you enjoy this content!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *