Cefalù is just beautiful! See our guide to this Sicilian gem!

cefalu sicily guide things to do food accommodation should i visit

Cefalù was our home for a delightful, relaxing week in June and what a visit it was! Italy is always a good idea, and southern Italy holds a special place in our heart! Cefalù was no different. Think Italian charm, a beautiful old town and harbour, excellent food (including fresh seafood, tasty pasta and of course arancini), and an atmosphere that screams ‘la dolce vita’. This guide covers off the highlights, things to do in Cefalù, great food, top accommodation and so much more!

A few things to know about Cefalù

Cefalù is one of the gems in Sicily that should be high on everyone’s list! This little fishing village is located on the north coast of the island and is easy enough to reach from nearby cities of Catania, Messina or Palermo. Cefalù boasts a mixed history, including Greek, Roman and Arabic influences. We were immediately drawn to the city’s southern charm – it’s colourful streets, the buzz in the town square, and the way the locals say more with their hands than they do with their words.

To us, it seemed there were fewer English, North American and Australian tourists than we have come across in other beachside town destination. In fact, the vast majority of those visiting the area seem to be Italian! Perhaps its their top pick holiday destination they don’t want the rest of the world to know about! However, it is important to note that during the middle of the day tours would often arrive and walk through the town. While not overly crowded, it definitely increased the foot traffic. Positively, the mornings were calm, and these tours would often leave by evening.

We found Cefalù to be very safe, including at night. While we encourage normal safety precautions, it generally felt welcoming and safe. While it is a romantic destination for couples, we observed many families, groups of friends and solo travelers.

Why should you visit Cefalù?

Cefalù is perfect for those wanting to experience southern Italian charm. It’s an idyllic seaside town great for slowing down, experiencing excellent food, an aperitif by the beach and people watching and the summer sun sets over the harbour. Don’t visit Cefalù for an all action adventure holiday. Sure there are lots of things to do, but the real ‘star of the show’ is the atmosphere and vibe of the town. We detail a number of the best things to do in Cefalù below, however it is important to point out that this town wasn’t really a ‘party town’. There were definitely lots of places to drink and enjoy the vibe, but no nightclubs. Bigger towns like Palermo may be preferred for those looking to party hard.

highlights from our stay in Cefalù

See some of the of the photo highlights in the gallery below. Keep reading for our top recommendations, things to do, food picks and much more!

Things to do in Cefalù Sicily

Cefalu is a relatively small town, with most of the main attractions within close walking distance. We have listed some of our favourite things to do below to help you plan the perfect stop in Cefalu.

  • Walk the picturesque old town: The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and you can tell it deserves the status. Beautiful main streets, an impressive main square (and cathedral), a charming harbour and main beach, tiny alleyways and postcard views. Just walking the old town was one of our favourite activities, in the morning before the crowds, late afternoon as the sun dropped in the sky, or in the evening where bars and restaurants were humming.
  • Relax on the beach: Another must-do when in Cefalu over summer (or shoulder season). We have listed some of the top beaches below, but one of the best is the main beach situated adjacent to the old town walls. Filled with locals, Italian tourists and a smattering of other international tourists, it is a hum of activity and happy noise. Put up an umbrella and stay for a few hours, bring down a few drinks from the supermarket, and enjoy the crystal clear waters.
  • Eat freshly made-to-order arancini: The famous Sicilian street food is a must-try when in Cefalu. You can order them from almost every little vendor, cafe or restaurant, however the best ‘made-to-order’ option is from Sfrigola, located along the main street. You choose from over 10 options and watch as they make and cook it by hand.
  • Hike to La Rocca di Cefalù (the rock): This is another top activity to do when in Cefalu, being greeted by incredible views of the town and coastline below, however timing is everything here. If you visit during summer, or even shoulder season, the temperature after around 10-11am can be above 30 degrees, and the hike can become very hot. We recommend you head up as soon as the gates open (8am) or later in the evening before they close (8pm). The hike will take around 1.5-2 hours all up, and is moderate effort. Read more about the hike here.
  • People watch the locals in the square: Enjoying the moment in a beautiful setting is one of our favourite travel pass-times, and in Cefalu it was no different. We loved just sitting in the main square beneath the cathedral and La Rocca with a coffee or cold beverage. We would watch the locals converse, in particular, the older Italians and their animated conversations. It’s a beautiful sight and one of our favourite memories.
  • Walk the pathway outside the city walls: Running around the perimeter of the old town from the harbour to Punto di vista dalle scale al mare is a paved little path which weaves its way through the rocks. It’s particularly picturesque in the evening, as the sun begins to set, or in the morning where you can find little spots to swim off the rocks (see below).
  • Watch sunset by the harbour: There are numerous excellent sunset locations (see more below), however our favourite spot was to perch on the pier looking back at the old town and beach. The hum of happy locals and tourists alike blended together to create a backdrop to the picturesque setting in front of us. We grabbed a pack of briscola cards, a bottle of cheap local wine from the supermarket, and relaxed until the sun had set… the perfect end to a beach day!

Best beaches in Cefalù

Spiaggia di Cefalu: This is the main sandy stretch of beach in Cefalu and no doubt the one that pops if you look up pictures of Cefalu online. From the city’s pier you’ll find yourself a ‘desktop background’ equivalent image of Cefalu’s beautiful old town kissing the shoreline and a pleasant hum of holiday makers sunning themselves to their heart’s content. Although the busiest of Cefalu’s beaches, once you see it for yourself you’ll understand why. This strip of sand stretches for a few kilometers becoming Longo Mare de Cefalu. There are numerous beach bars, you can rent umbrellas and chairs, plus there’s lots of spots for your to throw down a towel and enjoy the view of the UNESCO old town. The further you head away to the left of the old town the more ‘local’ the beach becomes, and the cheaper the beach umbrellas. We spent time in the heart of the action, and also a little further away, and both were excellent for different reasons.

Varco A Mare Spiaggia Beach: If you’re after a more tranquil beach day, this hidden cove is the perfect place to set yourself up for a couple of hours. The downside of having more of the beach to yourself however is its more of an effort to get to. If going from Cefalu on foot we recommend walking through ‘La Calette’ a hotel and beach clubs overlooking the water. Alternatively you can drive to the entrance of the beach via a more inland route. Throw the beach name into google maps and you’ll get an easy directions taking around 30 minutes from the old town. Make sure you bring plenty of water, a hat, sunscreen, a beach umbrella and perhaps some snacks if you plan on staying for most of the day. Alternatively there is a bar next door and some restaurants associated with the hotel a couple of hundred meters down the road. Be prepared that there’s no shade, and the beach itself doesn’t have bathroom facilities. We consider it a hidden gem worth the effort, but it may not be for everyone.

Punto di vista dalle scale al mare: On our very first walk into Cefalu we noted a smattering stairways leading down to a row of scraggy rocks where one can jump straight into the ocean for a dip. We made a conscious effort to return here a few days later to cool off with none of the tourists. There also happens to be a little paved path that takes you around the perimeter of the town to the main port if you decide you want to follow it all the way around. Worth a visit if you’re looking for some piece and quiet for a couple of hours, or an alternative swimming spot!

Food, wine & coffee in Cefalù!

The best coffee in Cefalù:

Okay, this is a little tougher than our usual ‘best coffee’ lists. The Italians enjoy the coffee, but don’t have the desire for artisanal coffee like we do in Melbourne. What you get as a result is good tasting espresso and coffee roasts, but poorly made cappuccinos/flat whites.. and don’t even think of asking for a ‘Melbourne-style’ magic (double ristretto with 3/4 milk). However, you know us.. we tried a lot of different cafe’s and have listed some of the ones we enjoyed below.

  • Best coffee: Tatiana Melfa Bakery (Cefalu) – This cafe is located a few minutes out of the old town and was the best coffee we sampled during our stay. They make a decent cappuccino, and the courtyard out the back is beautiful!
  • Best vibes: Head to the main square and sit at any of the 3 cafe’s. We rated Bar Duomo for the cute tables and good view, or Cathedral Coffee for good staff vibes. However, don’t expect top tier coffee and the prices will be higher. You pay for the experience of sitting in the main square soaking up the vibe.
  • Cheap & good coffee: Head to Al Caffe located on the fringe of the old town for coffee where the locals go. You’ll spend around 20-30% less here than the main square.
Where to go for a drink in Cefalù:
  • By the harbour: our top pick isn’t actually a bar at all.. it’s the pier that stretches out from the front of the old town. Grab a bottle of wine, beers or even some limoncello and sit by the harbour and enjoy the best free spot in town.
  • The main square: similar to above, BYO your own drink to the main square and enjoy the vibe. Alternatively, the bars in the main square will be happy to provide you with a cold beverage.
  • Le Petit Tonneau: A charming little wine bar situated in the walls of the old town. Book in advance to avoid disappointment. We recommend sunset time. Have a wine (or a few!), enjoy the amazing views. It’s very reasonably priced considering the setting.
  • Enoteca Rossorobino: Another little wine bar/restaurant that is good to perch at for a drink.
  • Bottiglieria Italiana Fuorimondo: This wine bar and steakhouse restaurant is situated just off the main square and provides a great spot to have a vino (or dinner).
Food that we loved in Cefalù:
  • The best sandwich in Cefalu: The little deli located in the old town called La Cefalu Nostrana is run by a local husband and wife. They make fresh to order sandwiches and trust us when we say they’re bloody good! We went twice! If you need inspiration, ask them for a combination, however we strongly recommend the pistachio, ricotta, mortadella and tomato option!
  • Where to go for arancini? You will find these tasty fried rice balls in almost every street food vendor, cafe and restaurant.. they are iconically Sicilian. We sampled a few, and enjoyed the made-to-order arancini from Sfrigola located on the main street.
  • Where to go for the best pasta (and best lunch)? Located around 5-10minutes out of the old town is Pasta e Pasti. This no frills restaurant doesn’t immediately draw the eye, but the busy courtyard and people out the front are a sign it’s worth visiting. It’s a lunch only option, open from 9am-4pm all days but Monday. This is one of our top recommendations when in Cefalu!
  • Where to experience ‘nonna’s cooking’: Sicily definitely has some top tier Italian food, and La Brace is one of the best in Cefalu! This local restaurant was recommended to us, and it didn’t disappoint. Run by a mother (nonna) and son duo, the food is tasty, prices very reasonable, house wine very drinkable, and waiting list booked out. Book in advance or be forced to wait until 10.30pm for a spot.
  • A few other top options:
    • Tinchite: A top local recommendation that was reasonably priced and always busy. Sit on the cute vine covered terrace or along the little alleyway.
    • Qualia: This restaurant looked beautiful, and their reputation is high. Considering the Michelin Star reputation, the prices were very reasonable.
    • Karma: A busy restaurant we stumbled upon during our last night, thus didn’t have a chance to visit. However, it was busy and the reviews look good.
    • Le Petit Tonneau: Has a place on multiple lists of our guide. Book in advance. We tried the smoked fish sharing platter and the bruschetta (pistachio paste was amazing) and rated highly.
    • Osteria Del Duormo: Situated on the edge of the main square, this restaurant often had live music (a pianist when we were there). Expect to pay main square prices.
  • Bakeries to visit in Cefalu:
    • Non Scola Pane: A little traditional bakery down an alleyway off the main street.
    • La Baguette: Situated 5 minutes from the old town, this ‘local feel’ bakery is a good one to check out.
    • Moderna Panetteria: Another ‘local’ bakery that is just outside the old town boasting lots of sweet treats.
    • Gelateria Pasticceria Cangelosi: Another bakery known for good cannoli and hand made sweets.

How long should you stay in Cefalù?

We stayed for a delightful week and didn’t regret it! However, we were in need of a relaxed week doing nothing but beach, good food, a few gym sessions and soaking up the Italian vibe. If you’re looking for a ‘beach break’, we would recommend at least 2-3 days to relax and enjoy. However, the town itself and main attractions can easily be covered in a day.

Day trip vs staying in Cefalù? We would recommend staying the night over a day trip for a few reasons. In our humble opinion, the ‘best parts’ of Cefalu aren’t the main attractions. We loved the hum of animated locals, especially in the square at night or by the harbour. Listening to music on the old town beach, especially in the late afternoon. The tasty local food, including multiple lunch spots and nonna-style feeds. The relaxed and slow paced ‘Sicilian’ way of life. All of this can’t be experienced in a quick ‘in-and-out’ day trip or tour.

A few more Cefalu recommendations

Local food markets:

There are a multitude of little deli’s and fruit vendors that line the main streets and fringes of the old town. Our favourite was the mobile little car which drives along the streets in the morning (see photo below). These interactions are a great experience in themselves, however if you are looking for a proper supermarket, head 10 minutes walk out of town to Deco.

Best sunset locations in Cefalu:
  • The pier infront of the old town offers an excellent sunset view and should be high on your list when considering where to watch the sunset in Cefalu.
  • Find a ‘hidden Cefalu sunset’ location at the end of Piazza Francesco Crispi. There are a multitude of rocks which are perfect to perch (and play cards like we did), or a cute little paved path to walk along.
  • The restaurants which line the harbour or back onto the water from the main street. There are heaps to choose from, however be prepared most of them are busy, expensive and don’t necessarily have the best feed on Cefalu. The exception to this is Le Petit Tonneau. Sitting in an old building in the wall of the old town, if has a tiny terrace with only 3 tables. The view is exception and perfect for the sunset. However, you need to make sure you book in advance, as these tables definitely will fill up. The wine is excellent and the sharing platters good value.
Want to gym while in Cefalu?

We tried multiple gyms and can safetly say the best gym in the town is Palestra Fit Times. Located 5 minutes from the old town, and near our favourite coffee shop (Tatiana Melfa Bakery) and lunch restaurant (Pasta e Pasti). A casual visit will cost 10 euros per person, or a week pass is 25 euros.

The best views in Cefalu?
  • The harbour and pier directly infront of the old town offers in our opinion one of the very best views.
  • Walk along the promenade to the left of the old town to be treated to a unique perspective of the old town. Around 5-10 minutes along the promenade will offer up the best view in our opinion.
  • The hike to La Rocca di Cefalu will give some beautiful views of the old town and surrounding regions. The view from the archaeological site walls 2/3 the way up is ‘our pick’ of the views.
  • A drone view… okay, we know this is ‘cheating’. But if you have a drone, definitely throw it up to capture some amazing Cefalu views. See our gallery and guide to flying a drone in Cefalu here.
  • The cathedral roof: The roof of cathedral in Cefalu offers excellent views of the square and old town below. You will have to pay to access this view point.
  • The rooftop bar in the heart of the Cefalu old town – Dokeio: This offers up another beautiful perspective of the Cefalu old town.
The other ‘main attractions’ in Cefalu?
  • Visit the Cefalu Cathedral – it’s more impressive from the outside (or above) than inside, however entry is free and we recommend you duck your head in a visit. If you are around in weekends you may witness a wedding like we did. If you want to climb up for the view, walk through the museum or historical buildings, this will cost between 8-13 euros.
  • Check out the historic washing baths – This is another free attraction located on the main street that we definitely recommend visiting. It takes only a few minutes, but it shows a unique perspective of how the town may have functioned years ago.
Consider ‘Cefalu time’ when planning your day.

What we mean by this is that during the middle of the day in summer, the local Sicilians shut up shop.. literally. Between around 1-3pm many of the shops, the cathedral/baths, and attractions would shut. Factor this into your plans. We would often head to the beach at this stage, or take a rest in our apartment to ‘beat the heat’.

Wander the cute little alleyways in Cefalu.

There were numerous tiny little streets and alleys all branching off the main roads. We recommend you check them out. Some are lined with colourful painted pots, others lead to restaurants or view points.

Walk (or run) along the beachside promenade:

Running from the edge of the old town to the left along the beach is a paved walkway. With a length of around 2kms, it makes a perfect walkway or path for a morning run (like we did a few times during our stay). We also think this Cefalu promenade offers one of the best views of the old town. You can also reach ‘less busy’ parts of the beach and beach clubs.

How to get to Cefalu?

Airports: There are 2 airports nearby, Palermo, around 1hour
west of Cefalu, and Catania, located on the south east coast (closer to Taormina).

Option 1: Train – This is the cheapest option, with the expense varying
pending what airport you arrive in. A train from Palermo will take around 1-1.5
hours and cost 15-30 euroes per person. However, a train from Catainia will likely
around 50-75 euros per person pending the time of day, and this will take over
4 hours from Catania. We recommend you try to fly into Palermo if possible, but
note that many international flights come via Catania.

Option 2: Taxi – A taxi/private transfer is a viable option, especially if
you are coming from Catania airport. The big benefit here is the journey
duration is only around 2 hours from Catania to Cefalu (saves 2-3 hours travel
time). The major difference is cost, with this likely costing upwards of 200
euros for the trip.

Option 3: Driving – Driving represents an excellent way to get around Sicily,
however parking is an issue in Cefalu (see below). We recommend if you are
going to drive that you contact your accommodation host to discuss parking
options in advance.

Parking: This is an important one for those looking to road trip around Sicily and drive to Cefalu. We verified this information with locals. The old town is very walking friendly, and only has driving access to residents (or those with local permits). Additionally, during the day there is a ‘small cars only’ restriction. You are unable to drive into the old town with a hire car, especially a bigger hire car. If you do, you will likely be subject to a 100 euro fine every time you enter/exit. The best option if planning to drive into Cefalu is contact your accommodation. They can sometimes apply for a permit, or advise you where to park. There was a reasonable amount of parking around 10-15minutes walk out of the old town along the promenade/beach (cost varied by up to 20 euros for 24 hours).

Where to stay in Cefalù? Best accommodation in Cefalù?

Where we stayed: We stayed in a perfectly placed apartment called Aurora House Loft right in the heart of the old town. Price was reasonable, hose was great, and you could walk to everything within a few minutes. We would definitely recommend it, however there was 2 x narrow sets of stairs to get up to the apartment, making it not appropriate for all travelers.

A few top accommodation picks we researched in Cefalù:

  • Le Calette: Treat yourself with a stay at one of the nicest hotels in Cefalu. Not for those looking to save $$ but for those wanting a top experience.
  • Meravigghia Suites Cefalù: A beautiful spot right near the beach in the old town.
  • B&B Le Suites di Costanza: A well priced option right near the beach on the edge of the old town.
  • Case Vacanze Mini: A well priced, well located little guesthouse in the old town.

Don’t like what you see? Check out the map below for more great stays in Cefalù!


Where else should you visit in Sicily?

Where to start? You could easily spend a few weeks or a whole month in Sicily. We will put together a proper guide on this, however having visited Palermo and Taormina, we definitely recommend these. We haven’t visited Trapani, Syracuse, Ragusa or the Aolian Islands, but we have heard amazing things. Additionally, there are numerous little inland towns like Gangi that are worth exploring, especially if you have a car. Day trips to the active Mt Etna volcano are also supposed to be well worth it.

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