The beautiful island of Sicily is charming tourists from all over the world with impressive landscapes, superb beaches, and historical sights. This time we will take a look at the best castles in Sicily that you can visit on your vacation.
There are more than 200 castles in Sicily waiting for tourists to discover. Of course, a good portion of them is in ruins. However, for those who want to indulge themselves in history, there are still plenty of castles in great condition.
We’ve selected our 15 favorite Sicilian castles for you in this list. They are all worth the visit and while you definitely won’t be able to check out every single one of them on your holiday, you should try to include at least a few.
Our featured image is the castle of Erice.
The best way to see the castles in Sicily
Before we dive into the details we wanted to mention just one thing. In order to see many of these castles, it’s advised that you rent a car. Small towns in Sicily are not that easy to access and driving in Sicily is not that bad outside of the big cities.
Big towns have great public transport between them so even if you opt for not having a rental car you can still visit some of the castles, it’s just easier to do it on your own accord.
15 Best Castles in Sicily
Now it’s time to check out the best castles in Sicily. Whether you are a history buff or just someone who loves old castles you’ll definitely find something to enjoy here. Visiting these old historical places today is always something unique.
For your convenience, we’ll also include a Google Maps link for all the castles so you can easily set them into your car navigation.
1. Castello di Venere, Erice
The first pick is Castello di Venere in Erice. While this castle might not be the best preserved in Sicily it’s a most definitely unique sight. Not just because of the castle itself but due to the surrounding town of Erice.
Believe it or not, this castle was originally an ancient temple dedicated to Venus. This is actually where the name of the castle comes from as Venere means Venus in Italian. The original temple was already a small fortification by itself but by the 11th century not much has remained of the building.
The Normans found the remains a perfect place to start building out a castle and fortress for defending the surrounding area. You can see the result today as the castle of Erice, standing atop a 750 meters high hill, overlooking the area below. It’s a magnificent sight.
Sadly the castle itself is mostly in ruins but you should still make the trip on foot from Erice as it’s a short walk through a nice park. Once near the castle, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views all the way to Trapani and the salt fields.
Another reason to visit this castle in Sicily is the historical town of Erice. It’s right next to the castle on the top of the hill and it’s a mostly untouched medieval village. You’ll find that you can’t even take your car inside and except for the locals you’ll have to explore on foot. It’s a magical place where you’ll feel like being transported back a few centuries.
2. Castello di Mussomeli
Castello Manfredonico. also known as the Mussomeli Castle is one of the most impressive castles in Sicily. Located inside mainland Sicily it’s easy to access via car but you might need to drive a few hours to get here. But this is one of those castles that’s worth the drive.
Castello Manfredonico was built in 1370 by Manfredi Chiaramonte. The location for this castle was chosen strategically. It was put atop a limestone hill overlooking the whole valley and area around it. As you are arriving in the quiet town of Mussomeli you’ll already see the castle towering over the landscape more than 700 meters above sea level.
One of the interesting things about this castle is that it wasn’t rebuilt or really renovated over the years except for preservation. Many castles receive extensions throughout history but Castello Manfredonico is in a very similar state compared to when it was completed.
This means that you can experience the original Norman-Gothic style and get a taste of what life must have been within the castle walls during the medieval ages.
3. Castello Maniace
You can visit Castello Maniace in Siracusa of Sicily. It’s a defensive fortress on the tip of the island called Ortigia. Ortigia itself is an awesome place to explore as it has a really unique medieval Sicilian feel to it.
It’s almost inevitable to stumble upon the castle as you are exploring this old town area. As you walk towards the sea you will suddenly enter a big square and the castle walls will reveal themselves for you.
The original defensive fortress was completed in 1240 and served the city ever since. At one time it was even the functioned as the royal palace for the Angevin kings of Sicily. After that period it was a prison for a while before being used as a fortress once again.
As the castle was used throughout history it’s in a very good condition. The local rulers have always paid attention to maintain and renovate it. This means that you can visit a rather big and well-preserved castle when you are walking around Siracusa.
4. Castello di Caccamo
When you visit the charming village of Caccamo you’ll be treated to a real historical site by the local castle. Castello di Caccamo is a very well preserved structure built atop the nearby mountain.
To be honest this castle is not that easy to visit via public transport but it’s located conveniently close to Palermo when driving a car.
The original castle was completed in the 12th century with the aim to provide a defense to the nearby town. It was later expanded with thicker walls and more defensive features to take up the shape it is in today.
It is one of the many well-preserved castles in Sicily. You can still see the original walls and even the bastions of the fortification.
5. Castello di Donnafugata
The best way to visit the Donnafugata Castle in Sicily is whenever you are near the Ragúsa area. It’s just 15 kilometers from Ragúsa so it’s a very short drive.
Originally the castle was completed around the 14th century but it has undergone extensive renovation and the current state you see today is a result of the 19th-century additions. When visiting today you’ll see a Neo-Gothic style as a result.
While many castles have rocky histories with battles and rulers taking over, Castello di Donnafugata has always been more of a noble residence. This means that many of the original structures are intact and in very good condition.
The beautiful castle is striking from the outside and it shows that it’s a residence and not a real fortress. You can visit the inside as well which is a museum today with periodic furnishing to complete the experience.
There is also a costume gallery where you can see how people of the era dressed. You’ll also find the castle gardens complete with a labyrinth.
6. Castello Di Calatabiano
Another beautiful hilltop castle in Sicily. This one is in a half-ruined and half-preserved state. You can still see most of the castle but some parts are almost completely destroyed.
This castle is very close to Taormina and around a 40-50 minutes drive from Catania. If you want to include it on your itinerary it’s best to do it on your way to Taormina.
You’ll get great views from the castle and you actually need to take a funicular to visit. It’s a great adventure for a family attraction.
7. Castello di Milazzo
You will find the Milazzo Castle up in the hills near the quiet seaside town of Milazzo. The whole town and castle stand on their own little islet on the northern coast of Sicily.
It’s a mostly ruined castle with some structures still available for you to visit today. Parts of the original wall and even a chapel survived to modern times.
The hilltop location is also a guarantee for great views and perfect photo opportunities. Whenever you are in Milazzo you should hike up and visit the castle.
8. Castello Ursino, Catania
The Ursino Castle of Catania has a quite peculiar story to it. It’s a wonderful castle that has survived the test of time, but it was not always a guarantee.
Originally, this castle was built atop a cliff wall overlooking the sea. Throughout the years the nearby Etna has erupted many times causing lava flow and restructuring the landscape. Add to that some earthquakes and suddenly the Ursino Castle is 1 kilometer inland no longer on a cliffside.
Today it’s surrounded by buildings and is located deep inside Catania. Tourists always find it awesome to have such a huge castle in the middle of the city, but as you see it was not always like this.
Originally it was used to house the kings of the Sicilian Kingdom however the capital was later moved out of Catania. During these years the building was in a slight decline used as a big armory and prison.
Today it’s once again open to the public and houses the Museo Civico. Not an attraction that you should miss whenever you are visiting Catania.
9. Castello del Conte Luna
Castello del Conta Luna is also known as the Castle of Caltabelotta. It’s close to the southern coast of Sicily. If you are ever in Sciacca you only need to drive around 30 minutes to reach this castle.
As it is with many of the Sicilian castles you will find Castello del Conte Luna on the top of the hill next to Caltabelotta. The castle is watching over the wonderful scenery around town and was used to defend against any invaders.
This impressive fortification was less fortunate than many others in Sicily. It is mostly in ruins and only a shadow of its previous glory.
You can walk up to the castle from the town. If you do so you will be rewarded with impressive views and a chance to visit the ruined fortress that has Byzantine origins.
10. Zisa Palace Palermo
The Zisa Palace of Palermo is another great example of a castle that’s more for living and not for defending. Although you can visit Zisa Palace in Palermo, it’s not in the historical center like most of the other sights. This means that people short on time unfortunately often overlook this wonderful palace.
This palace (or castle as some people refer to it) is a truly old building. It was completed in 1189 and the original purpose of the building was a summer residence for the royal family.
Throughout history, this palace has seen some hard times. Not once but twice it was thought to be completely beyond any repair. The first time this happened, it was given to a noble family absolutely free of charge. Can you believe that? Just look at the beautiful Zisa Palace as it is today and it’s hard to imagine this building was given to someone completely free.
Luckily the historical value of this castle in Palermo was quickly realized and in modern times the local government took ownership of the building. They transformed it into a tourist site where you can even grab some guided tours. Ever since 2015, it’s also part of the UNESCO Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale World Heritage Site.
11. Castello di Sperlinga
You will find the Castle of Sperlinga in the Enna province of Sicily, towering over the small village of Sperlinga. This medieval castle is in a half-ruined and half preserved state. It’s a wonderful place to visit and as usual, you’ll get amazing views of Sperlinga itself.
One of the most interesting sights about this castle is the old sacred temples dating back 4000 years. These temples are carved out of the mountain and even today the caves are visible. Castello di Sperlinga was built right on top of them.
12. Castello di Cefalù
The beautiful coastal town of Cefalù is an important tourist sport during the summer. People love the beach and the charming atmosphere of this small town. It’s also known for having one of the oldest mosaics in Sicily.
As you visit Cefalù you will see that the landscape is dominated by Rocca di Cefalù or the Rock of Cefalù. This ‘rock’ is an impressive and tall rocky crag.
On the top of the ‘rocca’ you will find the remains of Castello di Cefalù. It is no question that out of all the castles in Sicily, this one is one of the more ruined castles. Only a handful of walls and building blocks remain to remind you: that there was once an imposing Norman castle here.
Regardless, the hike up the rock is totally worth it as it’s a unique geological formation in all of Italy. From the top, you’ll get some of the best coastal views near Cefalù with awesome photo opportunities. Do not skip this one whenever you are visiting.
13. Castello La Grua-Talamanca di Carini
The La Grua Castle towers over Carini, watching from a strategic position. This Norman castle is preserved in a very nice condition and provides a very imposing sight even today. Almost unmissable whenever visiting Carini.
The castle and town are less than one hour’s drive from Palermo. We highly recommend that you plan a visit whenever you are driving towards Trapani or Marsala as it’s possible to include it on the way.
Whenever you visit you can be transported back to medieval times as the castle is in very good condition. You can even check out interior rooms decorated with era-specific furniture. It’s great fun and it’s one of the best castles in Sicily.
14. Castello dei Chiaramonte
A cute little castle in the village of Naro, Sicily. It’s in a very good condition with all walls standing. Although it’s a small castle you can go inside the inner courtyard and find a mesmerizing lookout spot toward the sea. It’s a great spot to watch a sunset.
The village of Naro is also super charming. Castello dei Chiaramonte is located only a short drive away from Agrigento making it easy to access, that is if you rent a car.
15. Castello della Colombaia
The local castle of Trapani is actually pretty unique. It’s not on the land but rather inside the water. Locals of Trapani found a small patch of land to build the fortress on which gave it a strategic position for defending against invaders.
It is also among the oldest castles in Sicily. According to some documents the castle was first completed during the first Punic war. That is 260 B.C. Just imagine how ancient this castle is.
Although the location makes it hard to visit, whenever you are in Trapani make sure to walk all the way to the port. From there you will be able to take some great pics of this hidden gem of a castle.
Visiting Castles in Sicily is Fun!
No matter which castle you visit in Sicily you are almost always guaranteed to be embraced by amazing history and get a wonderful view from the top. The charming small towns of Sicily with their castles are ever so inviting to travelers from all around.
It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a family day out or a romantic stroll in the castle courtyard the island of Sicily simply has it all.