Let’s be honest for a moment here, who doesn’t want to holiday in Sicily?
The most southerly part of Italy and the largest island in the Mediterranean, this incredible part of Europe boasts sensational weather, fabulous history, amazing food, great coast and a fascinating culture influenced by nearby North Africa, as well as the sun-baked southern slice of Europe.
I was lucky enough to spend a week in Sicily earlier this summer, but honestly wished it was longer – you could easily spend a month on this island and not see it all, so my plan is certainly to return.
That’s because, I like everybody else, fell in love with this authentic and rustic charm of Sicily – her slow pace, her historic sights and her hours of sunshine.
It’s a pretty hard-to-beat combination in my book!
And if you feel like you might want to visit and fall in love with this island too, here’s my list of the top 20 things to do in Sicily, which will absolutely show you the best she has to offer…
- Ultimate 1 Week Sicily Itinerary
- Complete Sicily Packing List
- How Much Does it Cost to Visit Sicily?
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#1 Eat in Palermo
First up when it comes to top things to do in Sicily, you have to head to the capital and start feasting!
In all likelihood, you’ll probably arrive into the city of Palermo when you first enter Sicily anyway, so you really can’t pass up the opportunity to spend a couple of days here eating as much as you can!
One of the most ancient cities in Europe, there’s plenty of churches, plazas, palaces and gorgeous cobbled streets to take in here too, but what really set this city apart for me was the amazing street food!
Traditionally an economically poorer part of Italy, the food culture of Sicily is based around hearty, healthy, and simple dishes that nevertheless pack a delicious taste punch and are often infused with ingredients from nearby Northern Africa.
Sp my advise is not to miss the opportunity to try as much of it as you can!
Be it a classic Panini Con La Milza – a spleen panini from the famous Nni Franco U Vastiddaru – or some more vegetarian-friendly panelle – chickpea fritters – there’s also plenty of couscous, arancini and fish dishes on offer too.
Top this off with a gelato brioche – essentially an ice cream sandwich in a sweet bun (yes that’s right!) – along with a trip to one of Palermo’s incredible markets, and you’ll soon realise why eating in Palermo is a must during your time in Sicily!
Learn more in my list of the top things to do in Palermo.
#2 Head to the Fish Market in Catania
But if you don’t have time for Palermo on your itinerary – perhaps because you’re heading to the east of Sicily instead – then you can’t miss the incredible fish market in Sicily’s second city as a worthy alternative.
Taking place every week day, La Pescheria, as the market is known, is a loud, raucous and genuine affair that reels in the locals keen to get their hands on the freshest catch and tourists who want to come and enjoy the many seafood restaurants in the vicinity.
Pair this with some of Catania’s other great sights – including Roman theatres, castles, squares and churches – and there’s no question visiting Catania is a must during your time in Sicily too.
#3 Trek Mount Etna
And of course, the other thing you can’t miss in Catania – miss in the sense that it looms over the city and provides it with a daily head-turning backdrop, is Mount Etna!
Yes Sicily’s famous volcano is located in the east of the island and hiking up her is definitely one of the best things to do on the island.
There’s a range of routes and tours available for this (I definitely do recommend you take a tour) depending on your fitness levels and schedule, so here’s my top Etna hike picks for you to choose from…
- Etna: Craters of the 2002 Eruption Trekking Experience
- Catania: Mount Etna Trekking Trip off the Tourist Path
- Mount Etna: Excursion to the Base of the Summit Craters
#4 Hit the Beach at San Vito Lo Capo
But now we turn to some of the island’s other natural attractions – of which there are plenty FYI, not least the gorgeous coastline.
And if you’re looking for a good beach on Sicily, look no further than the gorgeous town of San Vito lo Capo.
Located under 2 hours from Palermo (learn about how to get there in this post), San Vito is a quaint town that while touristy, has not been overrun.
Instead this busy little town boasts some great bars and restaurants, along with a sunny stretch of golden sand.
Rent a sunbed and parasol for the day (20-30€) and make the best out of this top Sicily beach and its gorgeous shallow, safe swimming area.
#5 Hike Zingaro Reserve
And right by San Vito lo Capo is the wonderful nature reserve of Zingaro.
A protected area, that comprises of some beautiful coastline, complete with several caves, small museums and 7 little beachy coves between San Vito and Scopello, this is a car-free zone that has a lovely walking trail running right through it.
Hiking in this park to some of the beautiful coves here is definitely one of the best things to do in Sicily – and the best way to do it, if you can’t manage the whole length, is to park at the San Vito entrance and walk as far as the 3rd beach, which was my favourite!
Don’t forget to bring water, snacks, swimwear and a towel, as well as closed-toe walking shoes – there’s no facilities here and you won’t be allowed to enter the park if you’re wearing flipflops.
#6 View the Messina Cathedral
But now we head over to the east of Sicily again and to the city of Messina – the nearest point to the Italian mainland and one of the island’s major access points.
And the flagship attraction in this city is the incredible Norman Cathedral, with its Gothic portal, 15th-century windows and astronomical clock on the bell tower.
In fact, the bell tower and astronomical clock at this Cathedral are actually the largest in the world and you can actually see the complex mechanical design behind this time devise by heading inside the clock tower – don’t miss it!
#7 Discover Bella Isola at Taormina
And just south of Messina – only about an hour away by train – is the other lovely Sicilian destination of Taormina.
A gorgeous hilltop spot, most famous for its Greek theatre which overlooks the beautiful coastline here, along with a cute centre filled with the predictable but still lovely churches you’d expect from an Italian destination, visiting Taormina is definitely one of the best things to do in Sicily.
But if you do want a break from all the sightseeing, then I highly suggest you head down to the sea here via the fun and cheap cable car that takes you from the historic centre to the coastal neighbourhood of Mazzarò.
After taking in the great views the cable car provides, and then reaching Mazzarò, head down Via Nazionale on foot for 10 minutes until you get to the beautiful islet and beach of Isola Bella.
Stay here swimming and enjoying the unique setting until the day trippers go – then you’ll really get to experience this spot at its sunset best.
#8 Explore Trapani
And another lovely spot on Sicily’s coast that you can’t miss is the city of Trapani.
Located in the west of the island, a few hour’s drive or bus from Palermo, this ancient city is a lovely spot to stroll around enjoying some great people-watching, shopping and enjoy a cornetto and coffee – just what Sicilian memories are made of!
Don’t miss the fish market here either, or the various museums, churches, fountains and historic towers of this lovely spot.
Trapani also boasts a number of great day trips. Find my top picks below…
#9 See the Masala Salt Pans
First up, one of the best Trapani day trips and one of the top things to do in Sicily is to head to Masala to see the amazing salt pans here.
Part of the Stagnone Nature Reserve, this unique landscape is home to a huge range of migratory birds, some lovely islands and an incredible sunset opportunity – don’t miss it if you can.
Taking a tour is a great way to see this area and to learn more about it, including Masala’s history, which dates back to the Roman era.
#10 Wine Taste
And another top thing to do in Masala is wine taste!
A famous wine growing region in Sicily, this is an ancient industry across the island, but one of the most popular spots for it is Masala.
It’s best to take a wine tour here in my opinion – it means no one has to drive (as most tours also include tastings), and also means you’ll get an insight into the wine production industry too.
Here’s my top pick.
If you’re based over in the east of Sicily however, then don’t fear, you can also enjoy some great wine tasting in this part of the island too – including around Mount Etna, Taormina and Catania.
Again, here’s my top picks…
- Linguaglossa: Wine Tasting Experience at Etna Nord
- Mount Etna Food and Wine Tasting Tour
- Catania, Taormina, Messina: 3 Etna Wineries Tour & Tasting
#11 Take the Cable Car to Erice
And the third great day trip from Trapani – or an adventure in its own right if you like – is to visit the ancient hilltop town of Erice.
Dating back to the 1300’s this is thought to be one of Sicily’s prettiest towns and is therefore absolutely one of the top things to do here.
Situated over 700m above sea level, the views from Erice across the countryside and coastline below are seriously impressive and that’s not to mention the Medieval cobbled streets, over 60 churches here and also the enormous fortification walls.
Touristy, but worth at least half a day, Erice can also be accessed by an exciting cable car ride from Trapani itself, or simply drive up here in your hire car vehicle like I did.
Just make sure you remember to pay for the parking!
#12 Cycle Favignana
And finally, the last day trip from Trapani is an absolute gem of a thing to do in Sicily – possibly my fav on this whole list… and that is to cycle on the wonderful island of Favignana.
Possible to experience as a day trip from Trapani – learn more in this post – you can also stay on this mini island if you want a couple of days to retreat and really get away from it all.
Largely car-free, the best way to get around, and explore the stunning coastline here, is via 2 wheels.
Pick up a bike from one of the rental shops at the harbour for 5€ (electric bikes are also available for an additional fee) and then enjoy the various coves and swimming spots, before ending up at my fav – Cala Azzurra.
It’s a real WOW of a spot!
#13 Sail to Lipari
And talking about Sicily’s islands, it pays to know the Favignana isn’t the only mini island that sits off Sicily’s coast.
Lipari, which is part of the Aeolian Islands off the north coast of Italy, should also not be missed.
The largest of this archipelago, there’s one main town on Lipari, as well as 4 villages, where most of the islanders live.
Outside of exploring these spots, it’s the island’s beautiful beaches, with their exquisite white sands, that draw the crowds along with the island’s highest point – Monte Chirica – which offers fab views.
The best (and most fun way) to get around the island is by scooter, so don’t miss that either if you want soak up the full Italian experience!
#14 Marvel at Agrigento
And now from the north of the country to the south, marvelling at the incredible ruins found at Agrigento are a must on your list of the top things to do in Sicily.
The Valley of the Temples, as the site is known, is UNESCO-listed and dates back to around 450BC – it’s definitely one of the top Sicilian ruins to check out and I suggest pairing this with…
#15 Climb the Stairs of the Turks
Also near Agrigento is one of the best beaches in Sicily.
Made of limestone and formed by the process of coastal erosion, the striking white steps here are totally unique and provide an amazing contrast against the blue water of the sea below.
Sunset is a particularly magical time to visit, but at any time of the day relaxing and catching a few rays here and, for the brave ones, even climbing to the top of the stairs, is a super memorable thing to do in Sicily.
#16 Snap Segesta
And while we’re talking about ruins (or at least we were a couple of points ago!), snapping the other major Roman Temple on this island – which can be found at Segesta – is another must.
Tickets can be bought at the entrance and cost 8€ for adults, which is worth it once you factor in not only the temple, but the climb up to the amphitheatre with its striking views.
Don’t miss this second bit, I think I actually preferred it!
Allow around 1-2 hours to visit this site, which makes a great stop if you’re travelling from Palermo to Trapania or visa-versa.
#17 Wander Noto
And another top historic destination to visit in Sicily is the charming baroque town of Noto.
Having been destroyed by an earthquake in 1693, the city was rebuilt in what is now thought to be one of the most impressive architectural ages.
Located in the southwest of Sicily and constructed largely using local honey-coloured limestone, Noto manages to remain quite lowkey and isn’t yet overrun by tourists.
UNESCO-listed, there’s several beautiful churches and palaces to visit here, as well as striking streets to wander, with the pedestrianised Corso Vittorio Emanuele being the highlight.
#18 Don’t Miss Syracuse
And not far from Noto is the city of Syracuse – there’s simply no way I couldn’t miss this one off a list of the best things to do in Sicily!
Another historic city on this island – yes another one! – Syracuse is located on the coast too, and is also renowned for its Greek and Roman sights, as well as for being the birthplace of Archimedes.
2,700 years old and once a major trading port – it formerly matched Athens in size!
Now it’s much bigger as a tourist destination than a commerce centre and is one of the loveliest spots on the east side of Sicily in my opinion, with plenty of top restaurants, sunset-facing bars, delicious gelato stops and top accommodation choices.
And oh it’s UNESCO-listed too of course… well this is Sicily after all!
#19 Day Trip to Cefalu
But back on the other side of the island now, the charming city of Cefalu is just an hour by train from Palermo.
You can either stay here fr the night, or just visit for the day, but whichever length of visit you opt for, don’t miss wandering the old town here, including heading into the cathedral of course, as well as enjoying a lovely alfresco lunch with a view of the sea.
After that, it’s time to head down to the beach itself for a swim, to watch the kids jumping off the pier and to take in the sweeping views of Cefalu’s bay.
Check out this article I wrote about day tripping to Cefalu, which gives details of a cute beachside bar and top gelato spot!
#20 Get Off the Beaten Track Enna
And last but not least on this list of the top 20 things to do in Sicily, it’s the less popular but still delightful destination of Enna.
Situated in the centre of the island – one of the main reasons less people visit here – the historic city of Enna sits up on a hill at over 900m above sea level and boasts some seriously stunning panoramic views as a result.
With some of Sicily’s best food too – thanks to all the nearby farms and agricultural land – the thin Medieval streets here are worth at least a day of your time in Sicily, not to mention the nearby Lombardy Castle.
Mini Sicily Travel Guide
When to Visit Sicily?
The best time to visit Sicily is during the spring months of May and June or the autumn months of September and October.
Check out the full article I wrote about when to visit Sicily here for more info.
How to Get to Sicily?
Flying to either Palmero or Catania is the best way to get to Sicily from across Europe.
Check out Skyscanner for the best deals as they include budget airlines in their searches.
Otherwise, you can also take a ferry or train across the Messina Strait to Sicily from mainland Italy.
Trains run direct from Rome and Naples and take between 9 and 11 hours. You can easily book tickets via Trainline. The train goes on a ferry, but this is included in your ticket price.
Alternatively, you can cross, via ferry only, from various mainland Italian ports to various Sicilian island ports.
Check out all the options and book tickets via Direct Ferries here.
How Long to Spend There?
As you now know, you’ll need at least a week to get to grips with Sicily and, even then, will likely have to choose either the west or east of the island to enjoy.
With 2 weeks you can explore both sides of the island and, with longer, you can start digging into the more remote southern and central parts of this charming Italian destination.
The choice, as they say, is yours.
How to Get Around?
Hiring a car is the best way to get around Sicily. Find a great deal here.
Otherwise, if you don’t want to drive, I recommend staying in one of the main cities and using the buses and trains that run frequently from there. I’ve constructed the above itinerary with public transport in mind too.
You can easily book train tickets in Sicily via Trainline.
And Busbud also works brilliantly for, well, buses!
For transfers from the airport to your accommodation check out WelcomePickUps – a great option as Uber is not available in Sicily.
Where to Stay?
Wondering where to stay in Sicily?
Check out this post I wrote which lists the best areas and best accommodation in Sicily.
Travel Insurance for Sicily
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
Travel Money in Sicily
When it comes to getting paying for things in Sicily, you want to ensure you’re not being charged overseas transaction fees or getting poor exchange rates when using your card abroad, which is why I took my Wise Card away with me to this island.
The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no markups, no sneaky transaction fees and a free Euros account, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card in Italy… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold! Get yours here.
SAVE IT TO PINTEREST!
And there you have it, my list of top 20 things to do in Sicily.
One of the highlights of travelling in Italy – and that’s saying a lot! – I can’t recommend this beautiful part of the country enough.
What’s your favourite on this list?
Or have I missed it?
If so, let me know what it is by dropping into the comments below…