Cefalù is one of Sicily’s great beach towns, so here’s what you need to know to enjoy it to the fullest!
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Cefalù is a great little beach town on the northern coast of Sicily. It’s an easy hour’s drive or train from Palermo, making it simple as an add-on city!
One thing I’ve noticed is that Italians love Cefalù. If you tell someone you’re headed to Sicily, they’re probably going to mention Cefalù. So I knew we had to go check out the hype!
Like much of the island, Cefalù has been ruled by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Normans, and more, and you see the mix of cultural influences in the architecture, food, and more. The city has its own local pastries and traditions, so you can easily spend a few days relaxing here without getting bored!
We opted for a day trip, which is easily doable from Palermo – less than an hour by train. We went with this option because of how much of Sicily we were trying to see in one trip. But it’s a great destination if you want a few days to relax by the sea if you want more time!
Cefalù features a massive beach, one of the few sand beaches in Italy! Because of the bay, the water is calm even by Mediterranean standards. Needless to say, it’s a big draw.
Like most Italian beaches, most of it is organized into beach clubs where you pay to use the space. Chairs and umbrellas are provided, and there’s typically a bar and/or restaurant, so you don’t have to go far for lunch. It’s also yours for the day, so it’s a nice way to really embrace the beach bum mentality!
In general, the beach clubs more to the east (towards the Cathedral and mountain) are a bit cheaper, but that’s also because they transition more into pebbles instead of sand. The local kids hang out on the pier at the far end, so the people-watching is pretty good over there.
Walk down the pier for an iconic Cefalù view looking back of the city with the mountain rising above.
The Cefalù Cathedral sits not far from the water, tucked under the mountain. Other than the mountain, it’s the highest point in town and offers a great view from the roof.
I feel like deciding about entering churches is always tough. Sometimes you can enter the sanctuary for free, but to see any other areas or historic relics you have to pay. Other times you need to pay for entry, only to find it not your favorite style of church architecture.
Since we wanted to get the rooftop views, we opted to pay for entry here. It was a good call – paid entry allows you to see some of their mosaics, climb the tower, and walk along the rooftop, giving beautiful views of the city and the sea. The architecture was interesting and beautiful, stark against the deep blue sky and ocean. The mosaic ceilings are also gorgeous – overall, I liked the Cefalù Cathedral more than the Palermo Cathedral!
Another thing to remember when preparing is that unlike many other Sicilian churches (but similar to the rest of Europe), this cathedral requires women to have their shoulders covered to visit. You can buy a hilarious paper robe for 1-2€, so I opted for this because I’d forgotten my scarf that day.
If you’re feeling ambitious, you can climb the mountain! Not quite a full mountain, it’s a rocky outcropping that rises above the city. At the top, there’s the Castle of Cefalù along with the ruins of a temple to Diana and several fortress walls. There’s a small fee to explore around, but the views from the top are incredible.
Since we were there on a sweltering July day, we decided to skip the hike and get the rooftop view from the cathedral instead. But if you’re up for a short hike, I’ve heard nothing but good things!
Lo Scoglio Ubraico
When in Cefalù, eat seafood! Preferably on a balcony overlooking the sea. There are tons of restaurants that fit the bill, but we chose Lo Scoglio Ubraico. I’ll be honest, the name cracked me up so much that we had to try it – in Italian, it means “the drunken rock.” They have a massive balcony overlooking the rocky coast, so it was the perfect place for lunch!
I ordered their special that day, spaghetti ai ricci: sea urchin pasta! It’s a Sicilian specialty that’s typically made with sea urchin, a bit of white wine, parsley, and pasta. It’s those simple dishes that make Italian food so great, because you the urchin was the main player in the dish, not just an expensive garnish.
If you stay for a few days, make sure to eat dinner at a place with a sunset view! Cefalù is positioned on the island in such a way that it’s one of the few towns in the area where you can get great views of the sun setting over the water.
Whether you’re looking for a day trip to the coast or a few days at the sea, Cefalù is a great choice. Being less than an hour from Palermo makes it even better!
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