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Panorama of Cefalù, Sicily from the Rocca di Cefalù park.

Cefalù, Sicily – How to Spend One Day in the Delightful Beach Town

Quick guide to everything you should see and do on a one-day visit to Sicily’s coastal village of Cefalù. 

Cefalù, a lively beach town on the northern coast of Sicily, has it all – golden sand beaches, ancient ruins, a hilltop castle (La Rocca), a glittering cathedral, and excellent dining.  It’s popular with Sicilians, mainland Italians, and international visitors – for a good reason.

I recently visited with two of my boys and they had a blast.  It was one of our favorite places we visited on our trip to Sicily. 

Fun Fact:  Cefalù was a film location for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) and the Italian classic, Cinema Paradiso (1988).

Where is Cefalù?

The part of town you’ll want to visit is the old town – from the base of the castle cliff to the beach, and the little streets and piazzas in between.

When you arrive in town by car, you’ll be in the newer part of town along the SS113.  If you arrive by train, you’ll be parallel to the SS113. Make your way straight to the historic center – Via Giacomo Matteotti and Via Umberto I are both nice entry points to the historic center.

How to Pronounce Cefalù

Cefalù is pronounced cheh-fah-LOO.

Listen to it here:

When to Visit Cefalù

To experience the small town when it feels most alive but it’s not completely overrun, visit in May, June, July, or September.

Our family recently visited in January and we wore short sleeves and even played in the sand and splashed around in the sea.

Cefalù Average Temperatures & Precipitation

MONTHLOW (°C)HIGH (°C)PRECIPITATION (mm)
January914100
February91594
March101678
April121958
May152324
June192714
July22306
August223021
September202745
October1623100
November131994
December1016107
Source: Il Meteo (Italia)

How to Get to Cefalù

Cefalù is commonly visited on a day trip from Palermo.  Both car and train (Palermo Centrale to Cefalù) take about an hour.

Car

Cefalù is easily reached if you have a rental car.  It’s just off the E90.  The most challenging aspect of driving to Cefalù is finding parking.  You can sometimes find street parking (blue lines, pay & display), and there is also the large Parking Dafne, near the entrance to the historic center (bonus: toilets).  Read more about Driving in Sicily and Parking in Italy.

Train

You can arrive in Cefalù by train.  The station is very close to the entrance to the historic center.  The town is served by Trenitalia’s regional (slow) trains.

Tour

If you’re staying elsewhere in Sicily but want to visit Cefalù without driving or taking the train, have someone else worry about the logistics – take an organized tour.  For example, you can take a half-day tour from Palermo to Monreale and Cefalù.

Is One Day Enough Time to Visit Cefalù?

One day is enough time to see and enjoy the small town.  Of course, you can always spend more time if you’d like.  There are plenty of hotels and apartments in town. 

How to Spend One Day in Cefalù

1.    Climb up to the Castle (La Rocca) and Archaeological Ruins

Temple of Diana, in the Archaeological Park above Cefalù, Sicily.
Temple of Diana

Upon arriving in Cefalù, head straight for the town’s castle.  The Rocca di Cefalù looms high above the town and it looks like an intimidating climb.  In fact, it’s an almost 300-meter ascent and it’s not easy, but it can be done if you take plenty of breaks on the way up.  You’ve got a perfect excuse to stop and check out each of the viewpoints on the way to the top.  At the castle ruins, you can see Cefalù, the Mediterranean Sea, the surrounding villages and countryside, and the Parco delle Madonie and the Madonie mountains.

Don’t skip the archaeological area – the cisterns, church, oven, and the Temple of Diana (Tempio di Diana) are all interesting.  Also, walk out to the cross for views of Cefalù and the Mediterranean Sea below.

Castle Logistics:  Currently open 8:00am – 5:00pm (sign at the entrance), with the last entrance at 3:30pm.  Pay for the entrance at the machine (small bills or credit card).

Good To Know:  There are no facilities in the park, so use the toilets at the entrance and bring water and a snack with you.

2.    Meander through Town to the Duomo (Cefalù Cathedral)

Walk downhill to the Duomo on Salita Saraceni and Via Costa (or Corso Ruggero).

3.    Get a Coffee and Snack in Piazza del Duomo

Piazza del Duomo in Cefalù, Sicily on a sunny winter day.

Take a seat at one of the piazza’s outdoor cafes.  Order a coffee, a granite al caffè, an aperitivo, or even a brioche con gelato.

4.    Wander into the Duomo

Belly full, make your way up the steps and into the Duomo, which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Arab Norman Palermo and the Cathedrals of Cefalù and Monreale. 

While in a storm near Naples, King Roger II vowed to build a temple to God if he survived.  He ended up in Cefalù and in 1131 ordered construction to begin on the cathedral.

I love seeing the Duomo’s glittering mosaics, like those inside the Palatine Chapel in Palermo and the Monreale Cathedral. 

5.    Walk To the Mandralisca Museum (Museo Mandralisca)

Antonello da Messina's 'Portrait of an Unknown Sailor,' said to be the male version of the Mona Lisa, on display in a black frame at the Museo Mandralisca in Cefalù, Sicily.

Step into this small but mighty museum in the Mandralisca family home.  The star of the museum is Antonello da Messina’s ‘Portrait of an Unknown Sailor,’ which many say rival the Mona Lisa. 

My boys and I were drawn to the painting (it’s displayed well in a dark, temperature-controlled room) and how the sailor’s smile seemed to be mocking us.  His eyes followed us around the room and my youngest son told me, ‘he has a secret.’

The rooms of the Museo Mandralisca host many other interesting artifacts, including a diverse collection of coins and original family furniture.

6.    Check out the Medieval Laundry House

Two boys checking out the medieval laundry house in Cefalù, Sicily.

Walk down the stairs into Cefalù’s medieval, shaded washing house.  The cool Cefalino River flows underground (it was covered in the 1600s) and into the tubs where the local woman would wash their laundry.  The laundry house was restored in 1991 and it’s worth a stop – if only to touch the chilly water and imagine doing your laundry here!

7.    Explore the Shops and Small Streets

Boy walking up steps past colorful flowers in ceramic containers on a small street in Cefalù, Sicily.

Continue to make your way through the historic center, looking at the shops and scenes from daily life in the town. 

8.    Relax at the Beach

Sunny day at the beach in Cefalù, Sicily.  The beach is empty on the winter day.

Ahhhh – finally!  Rent an umbrella and lounge chair or stake out a spot in a free area of the beach and enjoy the sunshine, golden sand, and clear water of Cefalu’s spiaggia.

9.    Have Aperitivo and Dinner

Or, head back to your home base in Palermo or another nearby city or village.

If you’re sticking around town in the evening, join everyone else and wipe the sand from your body before heading to a bar or restaurant for aperitivo or dinner.  Piazza Garibaldi, Piazza del Duomo, and along the beach are all great spots for aperitivo. Pasta e Pasti (via Roma 17) has fresh pasta – choose your shape.  It’s popular with locals, and there’s often a line out the door.

Cefalù FAQ

Can I take the boat to the Aeolian Islands from Cefalù?

You’ll need to catch the hydrofoil from Milazzo, close to Messina, and about a 90-minute drive from Cefalù.

Is the Cefalù ‘Biglietto Unico’ worth it?

If you’re planning on visiting a few of the sites, it likely will be. You can purchase the ticket in the machines at each of the sites or at the tourist info center on Corso Ruggero.