If you’re planning to visit Sicily soon, this guide should help you plan your own holiday to this beautiful island. It includes the best places to visit, where to stay and of course, what to do. All tried and tested from our recent family holiday to Sicily! If you’re not sure if its for you maybe my video of our visit can persuade you…
I’ve trawled the ‘net to create a bumper guide to Sicily. If you have any tips or recommendations to help someone visit Sicily please do feel free to add them to the list.
Where is Sicily?
Let’s start with the basics. Sicily is a little island (though largest of the Italian islands) at the bottom of Italy. It’s in the central Mediterranean Sea and lovingly referred to as the eternal crossroads of the Mediterranean. It’s also only 100 miles north of Tunisia (in Africa).
Cities in Sicily
The capital city is Palermo and it’s at the top of the island. Beautiful towns in Sicily include Catania, Syracuse, Taormina, Cefalù and Messina.
Best Places to Visit in Sicily
Where to go in Sicily and what you’d actually deem to be the best places obviously depends on what you enjoy doing and the duration of your Sicily holiday. We spent five days on the island; two days in Palermo (think city life and lots of beautiful buildings and fun buskers), two days in Agrigento (think temple ruins, beautiful beaches and cute neighbourhoods) and one day at the base of Mt. Etna (think adventures on a volcano). Oh and we had a cheeky pitstop in Cefalù (a lovely beachside town). We then went back to Palermo to fly home. The route forms a triangle across the island.
Things to Do in Sicily
Wondering what to do in Sicily? Wonder no more! There truly is something for everyone and I think we loved this road trip so much because we did a little bit of relaxing, a bit of sightseeing and a bit of thrill-seeking. It gave us a fix of everything we like (especially sweet desserts and snacks!). I’ve broken down my list of things to do in Sicily into each of the areas we visited.
Things to Do in Palermo
I wasn’t sure what to do in Palermo, but that’s actually the beauty of this place. Just a simple wander down a street is perfect. A lot of the time we just wandered in whatever direction we fancied and we were never disappointed. The city is quite flat so pushing the stroller was fine most of the time. The trickiest bit was the narrow streets that were often dressed in tables and chairs or blocked with bins, so be prepared for a bit of off-roading. All part of the adventure though!
This is essentially where two major streets cross. It’s an iconic site as each corner houses a huge, beautifully OTT building. It’s stunning. We spent a lot of time here because there were often buskers – really good ones – and our mini-explorers loved watching them. Nova even joined in a few times with his little recorder!
Address: Via Vittorio Emanuele, 80146 Palermo
Mercato Del Capo
Head to this street market for an easy stroll with the locals. Nova loved seeing the baskets of snails and swordfish heads and couldn’t believe it when I said some people eat them! We found some cool street art and cute kitties around here too. The market isn’t huge but it’s a nice, free thing to do in Palermo.
Address: Via Cappuccinelle, 90138 Comune di Palermo
All the Sweet Things
Sicilians are so good at sweet things. For a start they serve gelato in a brioche bun. In a brioche bun! It’s 1,000 times better than a cone or tub and best of all, it’s totally acceptable to eat it for breakfast. You’ll find loads of gelato shops in Palermo, but I highly recommend the hazlenut from Cappadonia.
We had the best pastries in Palermo. The market croissants were better than ones I’ve had in France and were also usually filled with an obscene amount of chocolate custard. Winning!
Try the famous cannolo (pastry shell filled with sweet ricotta) – again you’ll find these everywhere.
Oh and make sure you try the granite and granita – again, found everywhere in the city centre. Granite is kind of like a sorbet, whilst granita is flavoured crushed ice. The lemon flavour is super refreshing on a hot, sunny day.
Hide in the Trees
Piazza Marina is a lovely square that’s fenced in so it’s good for letting little ones run about. Nova loved chasing all the pigeons (standard). There are also two huge Moreton Bay Fig trees here. They’re over 100 years old and make for a good game of hide and seek. Our two couldn’t get enough of them!
Address: Piazza Marina, Palermo
Right on the waterfront you’ll find a cute playground. Just be warned that there’s no fence near the water edge. I really liked that it had sea views on one side and dramatic historical buildings on the other.
Address: Foro Italico Umberto I, 1, 90133 Palermo
Opera Dei Pupi
These wooden puppets are adored in Sicily. You’ll see them hanging in most souvenir shops. We went to the Museo Internazionale Delle Marionette Antonio Pasqualino to see them, but it wasn’t that great if I’m honest. Entry is super cheap, so if you’re keen to see what all the fuss is about then head here, but only allow an hour or so as it’s pretty small.
Every guide book recommends seeing one of the puppet shows, but we had no luck during our two days in Palermo. Shows were once a week and some were postponed due to international tours.
We struggled to find much info online in terms of show dates, so keep your eyes peeled for street signs (we saw a fair few) and ask locals.
Address: Piazza Antonio Pasqualino, 5, 90133 Palermo
Watch the Turtles
We stumbled into the lobby of Museo Archeologico Regionale by chance. I saw a little fountain and decided to have a look and was rewarded with a cute courtyard and turtles. Nova and Kit spent ages watching them and it cost nothing. I can’t tell you much about the museum itself as we didn’t go inside.
Address: Museo Archeologico Regionale, Piazza Olivella, 24, 90133 Palermo
This is a beautiful building and a great spot to just hang out. Nova loved watching tourists strike a pose (and copying!) and sitting on the steps with a snack. It’s one of the largest opera houses in Europe and was opened in 1897.
Address: Teatro Massimo, Piazza Verdi, Palermo
This historical square is home to a big fountain that’s adorned with different animal statues. My two are obsessed with animals and water, so they spent ages running about here (and trying to get in the water!). The surrounding buildings are gorgeous too.
Address: Fontana Pretoria, 90133 Palermo
For a beach fix there are lots of places in the surrounding area of Palermo – Cefalù is one of the most popular ones and is about an hour’s drive along the coast. In the other direction Mondello offers sandy beaches.
Things to Do in Agrigento
I was SO excited for this part of the trip as it’s where you can find the UNESCO world heritage site, the Valley of the Temples. If I’m honest this is mainly what spurred my obsession with Sicily. I saw a photo on a blog and I was sold!
Valley of the Temples
No surprises for what makes the top of this list! So yeah, think well-preserved Greek temples and the ruins of the ancient city Akragas. It forms a trail and there are two car parks at either end. Choose one side, buy your tickets and work your way along. It’s super easy to follow and buggy-friendly.
As it’s a line you’ll then have to work your way back again to the car park (unless of course, you’re visiting via taxi). You can pay a few Euro to get a taxi back to the car park – they’re totally geared up for that – but it’s such a stunning site that I don’t think you need to. Both of our little ones (3 and 1) coped fine.
At one end you’ll find fallen parts of temples and as you walk along the trail you’ll find the ruins improve in condition leading to one major temple that’s been well-preserved thanks to the clay in the ground.
I’m not really into history so can’t tell you many facts, but you can find out more here. You can choose an audio guide if you want to know the nitty gritty. Nova kept asking me questions so as he grows up I realise I’m going to need to use Google a whole lot more!
The surrounding gardens and views are stunning. There’s a cafe about half way along with beautifully shaded spots, serving sandwiches, gelato, crisps, cold drinks, arancini (risotto balls – more filling than they look) and a few other bits. There are vegan and vegetarian options and they take card.
We spent half a day here and loved every moment. I’d recommend wearing a hat and bringing a spade so little ones can pretend to be an architect.
The Town Centre
I wasn’t expecting to love Agrigento (aside from the temples) as much as I did. The town centre is made up of lots of twisting, narrow alleyways and steps. We let Nova pick which way to go at every turning and had so much fun.
Old ladies would run on to their balconies to fuss over our mini-explorers, sleepy cats would stretch out on doormats as we passed and we often stumbled into the arty area where locals have painted the steps and walls. It has a real charm about it.
There’s a cathedral, church and other interesting beautiful buildings, so I’d recommend just having a wander. Up the hill (through all the alleyways) you’ll find a nice lookout point.
Farm Cultural Park
This wasn’t as good as I hoped it might be, but we still enjoyed it. Despite the name it’s not a farm. We were told that a local started the initiative for his children. Described as a place to make you happy, it’s a little area featuring murals, art installations and quirky designs.
We wandered about and took a break in one of the little cafes. All of the volunteers and staff in this small area were so kind and friendly.
Address: Farm Cultural Park,Cortile Bentivegna, 92026 Favara
Scalia de Turchi
We loved this part of our trip. Due to logistics we only had a few hours here, but both agreed we could have easily spent the day here. It was so much fun and had a really good vibe.
It’s a steep walk down from the roadside to the beach (even harder going back up with a three year old and one year old!), but totally worth it. It’s full of rock pools and shallow water making it perfect for mini-explorers. As the water isn’t going in and out it’s is actually really warm (well, it was in May), so I loved it.
There’s a cafe part way up the stairs with great views, serving snacks and meals.
The famous ‘white steps’ aka the rocky cliff sit on the corner. I had to paddle across the water to reach them and then a short climb up the smooth rock to get to the top. Although I had Kit on my hip and it looks a bit tricky, it wasn’t that bad at all and makes for a good photo.
There are loads of car parks in the area and there’s also free roadside parking if you’re lucky.
Definitely worth a visit!
Address: 92010 Realmonte, Agrigento
Things to Do in Catania
Ah wow, Mount Etna was special. Slightly eerie, but so super cool. We all loved it so much. Mount Etna is Europe’s tallest and most active volcano. It last erupted in 2018 and as we drove to our hotel (the closest to the lifts up to Etna) we saw a building, or I guess the remains of it, poking out from the lava rocks. Not sure when that happened, but still very eerie.
Climb Mount Etna
Hop in the cable car for 5-10 minutes for the first part of your climb. Well, you could walk but I think the ride gives a good perspective. We got there for when it opened at 9.30am and there was no queue and we had a pod to ourselves. Children under 3 are free and adult tickets are around £30 each.
From there you’ll be at the station where you can rent a warm jacket and/or climbing shoes for around 4 Euros. We travelled in May and stupidly forgot that it would be cold up here. The smallest jackets available were miles too big for our two, so we just shoved loads of layers on them! Nova was cold at the crater (see further down), but we were only up there for a little while.
Jay and I didn’t have coats or walking boots on but we didn’t bother renting any and were fine. I had Converse on and had no issues. I was a little chilly though.
Once you leave the station you can play on the lava rocks and look down at the fluffy clouds. There are no fences around the edges so be careful with little ones. Our two loved exploring, picking up the rocks and jumping on icy puddles. We didn’t walk too far, but due to the altitude I found I was out of breath really easily.
From here you can walk to the crater or you can hop in a jeep bus.
Originally we weren’t going to do this, but then we caved! If you’re not sure, I’d suggest waiting until you get off the cable car and see how you feel. You can buy your ticket from both the bottom and top stations.
Again, go early if you want to avoid the queues. There are maybe 10-20 people per bus and as you can probably guess, no car seats for the little ones. Children are free and it costs around £30 each for adults.
It’s a 10 minute bumpy journey up to the crater. It’s such a surreal, fun experience and reminded me of when we went on the ice explorer bus in Jasper National Park in Canada.
Walk the Crater
The views are insane once you get off the jeep bus! From here a guide walks you up a hill (in your jeep bus group) and then around the crater. Ours spoke English and stopped periodically to explain different things. It was so windy and cold and we both had a little one clinging on to us for dear life that we didn’t really hear what he was saying, but it didn’t matter. Just seeing the crater was incredible.
I carried Nova round the crater (it’s amazing the strength that you find!) and it just felt like such a special moment. I LOVED this experience. Jay and I both walked around it open-mouthed and don’t even get me started on the blanket of clouds beneath us. Definitely a memory I’ll treasure.
Go to the Summit
Feeling brave? You can trek all the way to the summit of Etna!
Address: Mt. Etna, 95031 Adrano, Province of Catania
We didn’t have enough time to do this and our two are too young to fully appreciate this, but if you have more time than us or older ones you may want to consider going here. Etnaland is the biggest theme park in southern Italy and entry includes access to a dinosaur land and water park too.
Entry costs 25 Euros for adults and children under 1.00m go free.
Address: Contrada Agnelleria, 95032 Belpasso
Where to Stay in Sicily
So, the best places to stay in Sicily in my opinion and based on the above itinerary would have to be Palermo, Agrigento and Catania. When I was planning the trip I looked for the best hotels in Sicily, but found the B&Bs and apartments looked a lot nicer. We prefer modern and stylish.
We spent two nights in this super convenient, beautiful and affordable B&B in Palermo. We shared a spacious bedroom, which normally might be tough but there was also a communal lounge/diner so we used that space too. Every morning an amazing breakfast spread would appear, featuring freshly baked pastries that were SO, SO good. This B&B is on the main street in Palermo, but thankfully we didn’t hear any noise.
We spent one night in this chalet style lodge in Catania. It was super cheap and although the room was definitely not our cup of tea in terms of style, the location was faultless – the closest to the cable car up Etna. It was a thirty second walk! Plus, we received a discount voucher on the cable car tickets through our hotel.
We spent our last two nights in this perfect apartment in Agrigento. The host was really friendly, the apartment was gorgeous and they provided a nice cot and highchair. The location was also a dream.
We didn’t go on any Sicily tours as we had our own set of wheels and made our own tour up if you like. However, if you don’t have a car you might want to try a hop-on-hop-off bus in Palermo or you could go for a private guide in Palermo if that’s more your thing. I’ve linked all the other tour and activities throughout the post.
Driving in Sicily
I was quite worried about driving in Sicily after reading lots of blog posts that said the roads were awful. However, it was absolutely fine! Sure, some of the roads had a few potholes, but it wasn’t worrying or difficult to get around.
The trickiest place to drive in was Palermo because there were no road markings or lanes in some parts, so it felt like a bit of a free for all. If you’re a nervous driver you might find it a little tough, but it’s doable. Just take your time.
We managed to find parking everywhere we went in Sicily, sometimes just on the street and sometimes in underground car parks.
Flights to Sicily
If you’ve ever looked at a map of Sicily you’ll know how small the island is. Although it’s small there are quite a few airports to choose from, including Palermo, Catania, Trapani and Comiso. From the UK, budget airlines, easyJet and Ryanair fly to most of them, but the schedules vary depending on the time of year, your outbound airport and the day of the week.
Palermo is in the north of the island, Catania in the east, Comiso in the south and Trapani in the west. At first I was trying to pick our flights based on where I most wanted to hang out in Sicily, but that was stupid. As we were on the move it was kind of irrelevant where we started. Plus, the island is so small that any of those hubs would work fine as a base.
We decided to fly from London Luton to Palermo via easyJet because the flights were cheap – just £200 return for all four of us and checked luggage.
It’s worth noting that the prices vary incredibly depending on what time of year you want to visit. I’ve been watching flight prices for ages and it’s probably been one of the main reasons I hadn’t gone. In the past they’ve been up to £200-£300 each.
We went in May and experienced cloud, rain, gales and glorious sunshine! It really was a mixed bag, but mostly warm and sunny. Sicilians kept apologising to us for the bad weather (even on the sunny days), but in comparison to UK weather it was great for us!
Spring is classed as March to May. It starts to get a bit warmer, but you may get some rain and wind too.
Summer is June to September, where you can expect hot, dry weather. In August the temperatures can reach around 27°C.
Autumn is generally in October and November, when temperatures start to drop. November goes to around 13°C.
Winter weather is generally from December to February, where it ranges from around 12°C to 5°C.
Replicate the Trip
Fly easyJet from London Luton to Palermo
Two nights: Palermo |affordable B&B
One night: Catania|chalet style lodge in Catania
Two nights: Agrigento |perfect apartment in Agrigento
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If you have any tips or recommendations please do leave a comment or message me. X