Things to do in Cefalù in one day – Exploring the Norman citadel

Things to do in Cefalù in one day – Exploring the Norman citadel

Cefalù is one of the most visited place in Sicily. Its tiny size does not stop thousands of tourists from visiting it every day during the summer months.

The truth is that at first, I didn’t want to spend a day of our Sicily road trip in Cefalù, because I thought that in the middle of summer the amount of tourists was going to let me enjoy the city. However, we not only managed to dodge the masses, but we managed to discover secret corners where we could get lost.

Keep in mind that one day in Cefalù is enough to tour this small city in detail. In fact, we did not even spend a night here, since the prices are extremely high compared to less touristy areas.

WHERE TO PARK IN CEFALÙ

If you arrive in Cefalù by car, it will be good to plan where you are going to park, since it is not an easy task here. Due to the small size of the city, parking is limited in its center except for several paid parkings.

If you want to park for free I advise you to do it on the outskirts of the city, in the area that we did (See details on the map).

From here, you can walk the entire Lungomare Giuseppe Giardina seafront to reach the center. In addition, you will see how are hundreds of people reserving space on the beach from the first hours in the day, and how it is better to look for alternative beaches than going to the crowded beach of Cefalù during the summer months. We’ll talk about that later.

Top things to do in Cefalù in one day

Cefalú is a pretty small town, so in one day you have more than enough time to visit it. In our case we started exploring the surroundings of Cefalù first, ending up touring its center and historical center.

LA ROCCA

If you visit Cefalù, the first thing I recommend is that you wear good footwear because to reach the best views of the so-called Norman Citadel, they will be very useful.

To get a panoramic view from where you can see the whole city you will have to climb the Rocca. And it is that Cefalú is a small fishing village trapped between the Tyrrhenian Sea and this calcareous rock of 270 meters high.

My recommendation is that the first thing you do when you get to Cefalù, first thing in the morning, is to go up to La Rocca; especially if you visit Sicily in summer as temperatures increase with the passing of the hours.

Cefalú seem from the Rocca things to do in cefalu in one day

Cefalù seen from the Rocca

In any case, although the path is not easy and you have to climb 278 steps carved into the Rocca under the scorching Sicilian sun, you will get rewarding views and you will immediately understand the structure of the city.

TEMPLE OF DIANA

Halfway up the Rocca is the Temple of Diana. A temple created to worship the goddess of water and the moon. It is believed that this megalithic monument was built during the ninth century BC. C, being the only pre-classic era monument of Sicily.

Do not expect too much from this temple. If nobody notifies you that it is there you would think it is any abandoned construction. And it is a shame how sloppy it is.

NORMAN CASTLE

After another half hour of ascent, we find the ruins of the Norman Castle. This fortification was built to protect the city from possible attacks. It also offers a 360º view that uncovers a new view of the surroundings.

From there we were able to see the Nuevo Puerto Presidiana and enjoy the colour changes of the  Tyrrhenian Sea.

Nuevo Puerto Presidiana seem from the normam castle things to do in cefalu in one day

Nuevo Puerto Presidiana seen from the Norman Castle

We also discover the Promontory of Torre Caldura, and the lookout tower located on the cape Caldura, dating from the 16th century.

Promontorio de Torre Caldura seen from the Norman Castle best of cefalu in one day

Promontorio de Torre Caldura seen from the Norman Castle

And of course we admired the shape of a Latin cross of the Cathedral of Cefalù, the main monument of the city, and of which we will speak later.

Duomo di Cefalú seem from the Rocca in Cefalu sicily

Duomo di Cefalú seen from La Rocca

However, what we liked most about going up to La Rocca was discovering an alternative site to the crowded main beach of Cefalù.

If you look at the last image, the colorful of the bay on the left is nothing other than umbrellas that rival for having their own places in the sand . However, thanks to the first thing we did in Cefalú was to go up to La Rocca, from here we found what is called Arrecife de Giudecca, where we could enjoy the sea almost for ourselves.

THE FIRE OF CEFALÚ

Also, climbing the Rocca we met part of the most recent history of Cefalù. At the left side of the last image the mounts of Cefalù appear. These unfortunately burned in a fire on June 16, 2016. Practically 1 month before our visit to Cefalù.

It was a shame to see all the charred black mounts. But the worst thing is not only knowing that they will have to spend more than 100 years to return to being as before, but as they told us, the fire was caused by the mafia when the town hall withdrew the ranger concession to the private company that managed

This fact made us see that the mafia is not only gangsters stories of the past, but something current that still survives and that we would see throughout the trip as in the subject of waste disposal service, taxes, etc.

Top attraction in Old town cefalù

Once you descend the Rocca, I encourage you to explore the medieval old town that stands out for its cobblestone streets.

The main artery -and where most trade is done- is the Corso Ruggero, which marked the limit of the medieval city. However, do not follow it all the way. Get lost, look for solitary alleys and move to another century, when Cefalù was Greek, Roman, Arab or Norman.

MEDIEVAL LAundry “FIUME CEFALINO”

The access to the medieval laundry “Fiume Cefalino” is located in Via Vittorio Emanuele. It is a laundry that -although it is not known when it was built- is attributed to Medieval times. I could not miss it in our post about things to do in Cefalù in a day.

This laundry located at the mouth of the Cefalino creek is dug directly into the volcanic stone of the place. In fact, to get to it you will have to go down a stone staircase.

Several restorations throughout history have made it possible to preserve it in such a way that it is one of the most visited places in Cefalù. In the last remodeling in the 19th century, bronze lion heads were added to each of the pipes that supplied the lavatory.

Later the water is channeled and carried to the sea through a cleft that opens in the medieval wall that still is raised in Cefalù and that leads to the port.

DUOMO DI CEFALÚ

No doubt, Duomo di Cefalù is the most important thing you have to visit in Cefalù in a day. Not all fishing villages can have a cathedral, but less from such an early period. The cathedral of Cefalù (1131) was founded even before Palermo’s (1184).

The story goes that the ship where the King of Sicily traveled Ruggero II faced a storm in the journey from Naples to Palermo. The King, thinking that he was going to die, promised the savior that if he arrived safely on land, he would build a cathedral in his honor wherever he arrived. On disembarking at Cefalù, the king kept his promise and soon afterwards the construction work began.

Duomo di Cefalú in sicily main attractions in cefalu in one day visit

Duomo di Cefalú

The highlight of the cathedral are its rectangular towers that give it an aspect of a Norman fortress. Inside, the Byzantine mosaic of the Christ Pantocrator with Arabic-Norman characters stands out; Blonde hair (Norman) and thick dark beard (Arabic).

Since 2015 it is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO as part of the Arab-Norman route of Palermo, Monreale and Cefalù. During the summer months, the visiting hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

ALTERNATIVE to CEFALù BEACH – GIUDECCA REEF

Taking a bath in the Tyrrhenian Sea is something you have to do in Cefalù.

After lunch and knowing that we did not want to go to the main beach of Cefalù, we went to look for an access point to the Giudecca Reef, which we had discovered from La Rocca.

On the map I have indicated the postern by which we got to descend to the reef. And it is not easy to find. We had to go through the oldest streets we saw in all of Cefalù. Without a doubt,  this area is the most historic and least reformed of the town. To get to the sea you have to literally cross the medieval wall that appears in the movie Cinema Paradiso.

I must say that the reef is nothing more than a volcanic rock terrain that has formed impossible forms that into the sea. The difficulty of access makes you find a place of peace and tranquility much closer to the center than the beach of Cefalù.

Incredible as it seems you’ll be alone. However, privacy is not guaranteed as the Norman wall converted into houses has a view of this area.

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Via Giudecca

Although there is no fine sand in which to lie down, the place can not be more suitable for diving. So do not forget your googles.

diving at the beaches of via giudecca reef top things to do in cefalu in one day

Diving at the beaches of Via Giudecca

From this area you can see the restaurant Al Faro, where we had previously eaten.

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Giudecca Reef

Where to eat in cefalù

Al Faro

The lunch we had the day we spent in Cefalù was at the restaurant called Al Faro. We found it by chance, while we were looking for an access to the Giudecca Reef.

The restaurant had a terrace right on the cliff that overlooked the Giudecca Reef, on the street with the same name and it was located at the foot of the Cefalù Lighthouse.

In it, as in almost all of Sicily, the typical dish was pasta with seafood or fish. However luckily for me there was also a veggie option.

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Pasta at the terrace of Al Faro restaurant

We also enjoyed our first of many mezzi litri di bianco della casa.

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Al Faro Restaurant in Via Giudecca

Duomo Gelatieri

Another gastronomic delight that we tried in Cefalú was at the cathedral square. It is pastry and ice cream shop called Duomo Gelatieri that is at the corner of Corso Ruggero street.

Before saying goodbye to Cefalù, we went back there to buy cannoli and they proved to be the best ones of the trip. The riccota cream, the crunchy outside and the pistachio pieces were delicious. We were also lucky that they were fresh.

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The best Cannoli of Sicily in Duomo Gelatieri

accommodation in cefalù

We do not stay in Cefalù, since prices are skyrocketing due to being such a small and touristy town.

The best we found quality price and that had good location is this apartment.

If you want something cheaper and that is also good, although somewhat worse, you can look at the rooms of this accommodation.

If you want to save even more we can find some hotels further away from the center that cost below € 50. As Cefalù is small you will not have problems getting from one place to another quickly.

If the three options that we have proposed do not convince you, you can always look for other accommodations in Cefalù from here.

If you book your hotel using our Booking links, we will get a small fee without affecting the price paid by the reader. Buying through them helps us to continue with this project.

Also, if you prefer to book with Airbnb instead of Booking, here we give you a € 25 discount on Airbnb.

How to get to Cefalú

If you are traveling Sicily by car, Cefalù is about an hour from Palermo by the E90 highway that runs through the north of the island.

We only spent a day in Cefalù, but we didn’t spend a night here since apart from being expensive, the next day in the early hours we would take a ferry to Stromboli from Milazzo.

If you are heading east at sunset time, I suggest that instead of following the E90 road, at least take a section of the SS113. This road is attached to the coast, simply separated from the sea by the train tracks.

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Sunset from the SS113 Road

Suddenly a train passed and the scene was perfect to close our day in Cefalù.

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Train passing next to the SS113 road between Cefalù and Milazzo

CEFALÚ map with the top attractions pointed

What about you, DO YOU KNOW OTHER THINGS WE SHOULD DO IN CEFALU IN ONE DAY?

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