Visit Sicily and its most beautiful sites: here is our selection of the 12 essential things to do when visiting Cefalù!
Located in the province of Palermo on the Tyrrhenian coast of Sicily (Italy), Cefalù is one of the most famous Sicilian seaside resorts. Built at the foot of a huge cliff, this small Sicilian fishing port is an essential stopover for travelers. The city extends along the Gulf and the bays of Aranciotto and Settefrati over an area of 65 km², where 14,310 inhabitants live (2017). Founded in the 5th century BC by the Greeks, occupied by the Roman Empire from -254 BC, by the Arabs in the 9th century and by the Normans in the 11th century, Cefalù has a very ancient historical and cultural heritage. The city is world famous for its Norman cathedral, built in 1131, its beaches, its gastronomy, the medieval city and the beauty of the surrounding landscapes.
Looking for what to do in Cefalù? We have prepared this little list of what we recommend you do and see on a visit to Cefalù!
Also read : The 17 best things to do in Sicily
1. Cefalù Cathedral
A major attraction of the city, the cathedral of Cefalù was built by the Normans in 1131, at the instigation of King Roger II of Sicily, whose legend tells us that he survived a storm on the beach of Cefalù.
Perched at the top of the medieval city, the cathedral-fortress bears witness to the power of the Normans, descendants of the Vikings in the 11th and 12th centuries. Included on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Monuments since 2015, the cathedral contains the figure of Christ the Pantocrator, Byzantine mosaics and funerary monuments.
2. The Rock of Cefalù
Present in almost all the photos of Sicily, the rock of Cefalù is the place where the city was originally built. It therefore bears the ruins of the different periods that followed one another: the pre-Hellenic temple of Diana – built between the 5th and 4th centuries BC – and the ruins of the Castle of Cefalù. The rock rises to 750 feet above the city, and offers a splendid view of Cefalù and Capo d’Orlando in the distance.
Be careful if you come to visit Cefalù in the summer: the temperature can rise to 105°F here, protect yourself well from the sun because there is little shade in Sicily.
3. The Castle of Cefalù
What to do in Cefalù? Climbing to the heights! At 750 feet above sea level, the remains of the castle of Cefalù stand on a limestone relief. Climbing the rock on the rampart path – the slopes are steep – walk and enjoy the Opuntia, the Aloe Vera and their yellow flower poles (in summer), and open onto the crenelated walls of the castle. We recommend that you visit the castle early in the morning: first, because the heat is not yet suffocating, and especially because the hordes of tourists have not yet walked the hill in the morning hours.
4. The Corso Ruggero
Corso Ruggeo is the main artery of the historic district. Stop by if you don’t know what to do in Cefalù. The old quarter surrounded the city in medieval times. Today, it is a street beaten by thousands of tourists who came to admire the baroque palaces and churches and go shopping to bring back their memories to the country.
5. The Pescara Gate
In the Middle Ages and until the Renaissance, four gates were used to enter the city walls. Today, there is only one entrance left: the Pescara Gate, named after the man who had it built in 1570. Located in the old town, the gate is known for its frame, a Gothic arch in which you can see the sparkling blue of the sea licking the quays of the old port and the beach: come there in the evening or in the morning because in high season, parasols and tourists burning in the sun will perhaps spoil your view…
6. La Torre Caldura
Head for the east of Cefalù, where you can both take the height to contemplate the great blue licking the rugged coastline of the region, and bathe in the warm waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The cliff of Torre Caldura, at the end of Via Presidiana, is one of the best sites in Cefalù: it is a building whose remains date back to the 16th century.
7. The Mandralisca Museum
The Mandralisca museum, located in the heart of the city, houses collections bequeathed to the city by Baron E. di Mandralisca, a rich 19th century collector. The visitor can see a vast collection of archaeological remains, including a crater from the 4th century BC, more than 20,000 majolica coins, numismatic coins and many paintings, including Antonello da Messina’s Ritratto d’Ignoto.
8. Lungomare di Cefalù
If you are by car or bicycle, go along the waterfront (Lungomare in Italian) to have unique views of the Rocca di Cefalù: there are several accesses to the beaches and coves to swim below. 90% of the beaches are made of fine sand, with the possibility of renting a deckchair and a parasol, which proves to be life-saving when the sun shines and transforms the beach into a plancha (except that it is you who are the fish…).
9. The beach of Cefalù
Be careful if you come in summer: the beach of Cefalù is a must if you come to visit Cefalù, but it promises to be taken by storm all day and you will be laying towel to towel. As an extension of the old town, soak in this sea similar to a lagoon of crystal clear waters, with the old medieval buildings as a backdrop is exquisite.
10. The Gibilmanna Sanctuary
Visiting Cefalù and Sicily is not only about hitting the beaches. Especially if it is too hot, it is an opportunity to take a little bit of altitude and venture inland to the Gibilmanna Sanctuary. Heading south, towards Madonie Park and Gibilmanna. The SP54-bis road leads you to the sanctuary, at an altitude of 2,600 feet. This is an opportunity to put on your hiking boots and walk a little while taking pictures of the mountains and coastline.
11. Pineta Di Grotta Grattara
It would be a real shame to visit Cefalù and miss this jewel of nature: Pineta di Grotta Grattara is a (easy) hiking spot a few miles south of Cefalù – the roads to get there are very winding – where you can observe superb rock formations, with the village of Gratteri below, built on terraces.
12. The Madonie Regional Natural Park
Located between Palermo and Cefalù, the Madonie Regional Natural Park is a member of the European Geoparks Network and the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network, it was created in 1989. It covers 39,941 hectares and offers beautiful hikes in the Madonies mountain range, six of which culminate at an altitude of more than 5,000 feet. By joining Isnello, try the ascent of the highest point, the Pizzo Carbonara, which rises to 6,500 feet.
How to get to Cefalù?
The nearest airport is Palermo Falcone-Borsellino, Palermo’s main airport and you will find many direct flights, especially with low cost companies. It will be easy to find regular flights from London (both Luton and Stansted), Newcastle or Liverpool. Prices for tickets to Palermo vary greatly: tickets are cheaper from November to March and more expensive from June to September. To find a cheap flight to Palermo, you can compare flights and find what best suits you on the website of our partner Skyscanner.
To reach Cefalù you can rent a car directly at the airport : the Sicilian motorway network in the north is very well done. Alternatively, you can opt for the train, which is also very popular with travelers as it runs along the sea, and the beautiful surrounding landscapes, all for less than €5 per trip. Finally, if you are staying in Palermo, there are many guided tours that combine the discovery of Cefalù for a day.
To park in Cefalu, make sure to avoid the blue areas reserved for local residents. The fine is 42€ if you are caught.
Where to stay in Cefalù?
To visit Cefalù, we recommend the old town if you like the busy and tourist areas. Otherwise, along the waterfront – lungomare – has many hotels to stay in, and rates can be prety decent if you book a hotel in advance on an online booking platform. For a more typical stay, why not stay with a local resident or opt for a charming Airbnb? For a night or a stay, there will be plenty for everyone.
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