13 Best Things To Do In Palermo Sicily
January 24, 2023
By guy yefet

Looking for things to do in Palermo? In this Palermo blog, you will find everything you need to know about Palermo.

A Complete Travel Guide To Palermo Sicily

Palermo, the capital of Sicily, is located in northwestern Sicily, on the sea, and has a natural harbor that has attracted conquerors for thousands of years.

I visited Palermo as part of my two-week road trip to Sicily. Everyone who comes to Sicily visits Palermo either at the beginning or at the end of their trip.

There are many things to do in Sicily. Palermo and the surrounding area are undoubtedly among the most impressive places that Sicily has to offer.

The city was built by Phoenician merchants in the 9th century BC, due to its natural harbor it attracted merchants and in general, the city went through hardships and conquests among the Greeks, Romans, Muslims, and more.

Today the city enjoys the status of a tourist city, with colorful houses and Venetian-style buildings adjacent to the port, which creates a picturesque and magical image of the city.

As mentioned the city was a sought-after destination among many peoples and therefore it is not possible to precisely define the look and style of the locals, a kind of grouping of exiles.

To get to know the city the best way is to walk it. Although it is a tourist city, its noisy, bustling character and the charm of the capital of Sicily cannot be separated from it.

drone shot over palermo Houses in sicily

Best time to visit Palermo

The best time to visit Sicily is from May to June or September to October.

The late spring and early fall months offer pleasant temperatures for hiking, sightseeing, or soaking at the beaches.

In July-August, you will be forced to crowd with many more tourists on the island, less comfortable days for walking because of the heavy heat, and higher hotel prices.

Winter brings discounted hotel prices, but swimming on the beaches of Sicily is not something you want to try in winter. The water is too cold. Also, expect that some attractions close earlier in the winter months.

How to get to Palermo?


Flights to Palermo can usually be obtained with connecting flights to destinations in Europe, most often and probably the flight from Rome, but sometimes also from Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, and more.

Click here to check the last deals and find an affordable flight to Palermo.

by car

If you are already in Italy with a car. You can get on a ferry with your car that will take you to Sicily.

The ferry to Messina in Sicily leaves from Villa San Giovanni, which can be reached from the north on the A3 main road. You can get on the ferry in a car or with a motorcycle or caravan.

The ferry from Villa San Giovanni to Messina takes about 20-30 minutes.

From Messina to Palermo, a two-and-a-half hour drives along the coastline until you reach Palermo.

Click here to check the ferry schedule and rates.

how to get around Palermo?

Palermo is a walkable city, You can visit and explore all the important places in Palermo on foot.

Palermo is the city most visitors to the island visit.

When you arrive in the city, do not be tempted to rent a car for the days you will be there, as it is very difficult to find parking and the traffic is challenging for those who do not know or are used to driving in crowded places.

Take a walking tour & a street food tour to get to know the streets of the historic city. highly recommended.

Where to stay in Palermo?

The most popular tourist areas in the city are Mondello, the old town, and Politama/Liberta, where you will find most of the accommodation.

Check the last deals on Booking.com to find all sorts of accommodation types.

How many days should you spend in Palermo?

3 days is an ideal time to visit Palermo.

You can visit the main tourist attractions in Palermo, soak up the lively atmosphere in the city and the street markets, and of course, devote enough time to the Cathedral of Monreale.

13 best things to do in Palermo

1/ Capuchin catacombs of palermo

This attraction is not for everyone but is a place worth visiting if you can.

The building is a burial site built for the Cappuccino monks belonging to the Church of Santa Maria Della Pace, with more than 8,000 monks mummified in their clothes from centuries ago, including some of Palermo's wealthy families who wanted to be buried in the catacombs.

Keep in mind that if you are traveling with children to take them there, you should show them some pictures beforehand so they know what to expect.

Capuchin catacombs of palermo sicily

2/ Norman Palace (Palazzo dei Normanni)

This is an impressive site that was once the seat of the kings of Sicily and is now the seat of the regional government.

The construction of the palace began in the 9th century and within it are woven spectacular mosaics that are a must-see.

The rooms in the palace are a popular attraction among tourists, and you can even take a peek into the King and Valais de Rogero II room that provides a glimpse into the palace's fascinating and colorful history.

Norman Palace (Palazzo dei Normanni) palermo sicily

3/ Palermo Cathedral

The cathedral is one of the most prominent examples of Norman Arab architecture in Sicily that incorporates other architectural elements from the past that are highly admired by visitors from around the world.

At the entrance to the building, on the left are the tombs of the Norman kings as well as their treasures including the crown of the Queen of Sicily, Constance, from the 13th century adorned with gems.

If you continue up the stairs you will enjoy a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.

Palermo Cathedral in sicily italy

4/ Teatro Massimo

This impressive structure is the largest opera house in Italy and the third-largest in Europe, with more than 1,300 seats and more than 130 music, opera and dance events taking place every year.

You can sign up for a guided tour that will take you on a historical tour through the depths of the theater that sometimes also includes an interesting demonstration of the acoustic characteristics of the auditorium.

Teatro Massimo in palermo sicily

5/ The Four Corners Square

One of the most beautiful and central areas in the city is the Four Corners Square where you will find fountains and statues from 1611 for which the King of Spain was responsible.

The place can serve as a perfect starting point for star trekking in the city, as most of the sites of historical and cultural importance are a few minute’s walks away.

In addition, you can sit and listen to the music of the street musicians who are in the square regularly and enjoy coffee, wine, and good food from the restaurants that are around.

 The Four Corners Square in palermo sicily

6/ Pretoria Fountain: The Fountain of Shame

Right next to the Quattro Canti is Piazza Pretoria and in the center is the magnificent Baroque fountain on whose background you will surely want to take a souvenir photo.

It is a huge fountain the size of white marble and decorated with many sculptures.

This masterpiece was designed and built-in Florence in the 16th century and stood in the garden of a local nobleman, but was sold to the municipality of Palermo after the above fell into financial difficulties.

The fountain was dismantled into 644 parts and sent to Palermo by ship.

For its installation, a number of residential houses in the city center were evacuated and demolished. But the magnificent fountain managed to upset and upset quite a few of the inhabitants of Palermo, who were thus apparently much more conservative than their counterparts from Florence.

They very much disliked the sculptures with the naked figures that adorned the fountain, especially in light of the fact that the fountain was built near the church.

Despite the criticism, the fountain remained as it was, but was nicknamed the Fountain of Shame throughout the city.

Pretoria Fountain: The Fountain of Shame palermo sicily

7/ Palermo Food Markets

One of the stable things in Palermo that survives crises, absent or present tourism, weather that varies according to seasons and fashions, is street food.

Perhaps because it is well-rooted in daily life, available almost every hour, and born out of the need of the poor class for cheap, hot, available, and nutritious food.

Long before the term "street food" became a familiar and coveted term, it was simply what it was - food sold on the street.

Before endless regulations regarding food hygiene, styling, and Instagram marketing, street food was simply an available and cheap (really cheap) way to eat.

The street food in Palermo has managed to get through a lot of fads and with a loyal local clientele accompanied by a curious tourist crowd, it shows relevance to this day.

Take a street food tour

The Palermo Street Food Tour has been designed to allow tourists to see beautiful Palermo on the one hand, and to taste and learn about five Sicilian treats, including: 'Panelle' (chickpea popsicle) and 'Arancine' (deep-fried rice balls) Sweet Sicilian wine.

You can indulge in Sicily's famous cannoli (fried dough stuffed with sweetened ricotta cheese), and ice cream or granita.

In lively and crowded markets such as the food market in Capo Square, Ballaro Market, and Vucciria Market in Palermo or the wonderful fish and food market in Piazza di Benedetto in Catania, you will find fish and seafood stalls that will even surpass the Pentz.

The greatness of your imagination. Here you will find regular oysters called Vongole, black oysters called Cozze, Shrimp (Gamberi) and Gambroni, lobsters, sea urchins (Ricci), calamari, squid, octopuses, dwarf calamari, and fish, of all types and species and names I could not always catch.

The most respected fish is the swordfish (Spada). This is a huge fish with a kind of long "beak", spread out into slices and made in a pan or on the fire like a steak.

You can see how popular the fish is in the queues that stretch near the stalls.

The hours of operation of the markets and especially of the fish markets are in the morning.

In the afternoon the places are vacated, washed, and waiting for the next morning merchants.

man give water to his vegetables in Palermo Food Markets sicily

8/ spend a day in Mondello Beach

Mondello Beach, a short drive from Palermo, is a 2 km stretch of beach in northern Sicily.

The sandy area belongs to the small fishing town of the same name. This beach is considered one of the most popular beaches in Sicily and is very popular with both tourists and locals.

There is a charming sandy part for bathing, with clear turquoise water. Another part is a fishing port with a pier and boats.

The beach strip is full of restaurants, cafes, and ice cream parlors at various levels.

2 old mens looking at Mondello Beach in sicily

9/ Monralea Cathedral

Monriella Cathedral and Monastery are particularly spectacular, surpassing any other work of art.

The church is located about eight miles south of Palermo Cathedral on a steep hill about 300 meters above sea level.

The church overlooks Palermo, located on the slopes of Mount Caputo. It is said that a visit to Palermo is not complete without a visit to Monreale Church.

True, Palermo Cathedral is Larger, but a more original and authentic Montreal to the spirit of the 12th century.

This marvelous place is much more than "just another church."

Monralea Cathedral near palermo sicily

10/ The Cave of Rosalia

When visiting Palermo, do not miss the Cave of the Saint and Patronite of the city, Rosalia. Climb, with the vehicle, up the mountain from the direction of Palermo.

Go early, to reach the cave before 18:00 then you will be impressed by the families of the pilgrims, who ascend to the holy place.

Faith with its help leads believers to ascend the stairs to the entrance to the cave on their knees or lying down. Exactly so. Instead, they light candles in her honor. A really beautiful cave that turns into a church. Inside, the believers transfer the water, dripping from the ceiling of the cave, over their sore limbs, to healing by Rosalia.

Along the road, there are many deviations to summarize the trip to the place.

11/ Take a hike in mount pellegrino  

An excellent choice for a half-day trip. Easily accessible. A bus link runs to the top.

If you have enough crowds and want to escape a noisy city - this is the very place for you.

There is a sanctuary on the top. The real value of the place is in the mountain nature and superb views. You can see much of Sicily from this place.

view over mount pellegrino and the ocean in palermo sicily

12/ Sala Dei Venti

King's apartment and bedroom, which has been preserved close to their original condition.

In a mosaic room, some of which represent animal images in Genoard Park, others, are more symbolic.

Mosaics depicting animal matings are images typical of Byzantine iconography, although none of these images are religious.

Part of the royal apartment was probably a place to dine and have fun.

Although Roger II and his grandson, Frederick II, did not officially hold the harem, it is known that beautiful, young women were held in the palace, whose official occupation was weaving.

13/ Segesta

Segesta, located northwest of the Sicilian island, tells visitors about the spread of the Greeks throughout the Mediterranean basin.

In this place is a Doric temple that is preserved almost in its entirety, dating to 420 BC.

When you are in Palermo, you can join a guided tour that will take you to 3 different places close to Palermo including Segesta and Erice, the medieval town.

The ruins of ancient Segesta cover a green hill overlooking the sea and have remained intact even though some of them have not been completed and despite the many earthquakes that hit the area.

Segesta greek antique in sicily

Car rental in Palermo

If you start your trip to Sicily from Palermo, You can rent a car with which you can drive around the rest of the island.

On every trip where I rent a car, I always book through Rentalcars.com. You can compare the different companies and rent a car that suits you.

Some tips for driving

1 / Drive carefully because the Italians cut to the right and left, run red lights, and don't stop at crosswalks. As has been said here, laws are just a recommendation in Sicily.

2 / Prepare a small amount of money for driving on the highways. The roads are relatively comfortable, and you should keep the speed allowed by law because there are a lot of cameras on the way.

3 / Inside the cities, the roads are very narrow. In general, it is always recommended to look for a parking lot near the city center. It is not advisable to drive your car into the main square.

4 / ZTL The most critical sign to warn of, there is no entry in these areas! You can receive high fines. I recommend downloading the ZTL Radar app, to know where you are allowed to park and where you are not. The app is synchronized with Waze and Google Maps and marks a smiley face in the area where parking is allowed and a sad face in the ZTL area.

5 / In the parking lot it is mandatory to fold mirrors because someone can easily pass by and damage the car's mirror

6 / If possible, it is better to rent a small car because of the road conditions and the crowded streets in the cities. A small car will also make parking easier for you!

7 / There is a chance that the waiting time at the car dealership will be long in the summer months, so be patient

8 / Parking - always look at the signs! White marking for free parking, blue marking paid to park, and yellow for the disabled.

9 / I always recommend getting fully comprehensive insurance. Yes, it adds costs, and you have to pay more money, but if you are driving in a new country or an unfamiliar area for the first time, it is always better to have peace of mind and know that you are covered in terms of insurance.

10/ In rural areas, there is almost no GPS reception. It's recommended to download the map of Sicily via Google Maps in case of need.

Thanks for reading!

Palermo is an integral part of Sicily, and you should spend at least 3 days seeing and doing the best things in Palermo.

I hope this Palermo travel guide will help you plan your trip to Palermo in the best way.

My Travel Resources

Here are some websites I use whenever preparing for my next journey anywhere around the world.

  • Book affordable flights on Expedia, a great website that show the best routes and flight deals to your destination.

  • Find a budget-friendly deal on all sorts of accommodation types on Booking.com.

  • Buy the most flexible and budget-friendly travel insurance at SafteyWing.

  • Book a car rental in advance to explore and discover Sicily freely.

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2 weeks in sicily: the perfect sicily road trip

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