You want to discover Palermo? We show you the top sights and give you info & tips for the capital of Sicily. This way you can easily prepare your unforgettable trip!
If you're looking for old town flair in Palermo, take a tour of the many markets in the centre, where you can buy almost anything from fresh food to electronics and clothing.
The markets are at the heart of Palermo's city centre and most of them date back to Arab rule. Here you will be immersed in a world of colour and sound.To the article about Palermo markets
The harbour bay of La Cala, Palermo's marina, is a promenade and photo backdrop. Since its restoration in 2008, the many yachts, cosy bars and cafés present a well-kept image and make the harbour a hotspot for Palermitans.To the article about Palermo Harbour
The imposing fountain in late Renaissance style, one of the most important sights of the Sicilian metropolis, has an eventful history.
In the 16th century, originally commissioned for a Tuscan private villa, the structure found its destination in Palermo. Like no other monument, it attracts attention and has caused heated tempers in the past.
The Palermitans found the unclothed statues of the river gods and nymphs scandalous and called the fountain "Fontana della Vergogna", i.e. "Fountain of Shame". Tempers have long since calmed, but the epithet remains to this day.
If you are in Palermo, you should definitely visit the Maria Santissima Assunta Cathedral. It stands in the middle of the old town and is considered the most beautiful and most important church in the city.
The cathedral is not only impressive from the outside, but is also convincing from the inside with its baroque-looking basilica. The underground crypt and the treasury are particularly worth seeing. Here lie the relics of former archbishops of the city, the relics of Santa Rosalia and royal tombs such as that of Frederick II.
There is a church worth seeing on literally every corner, and the buildings date from a wide variety of eras. This results in numerous styles that reflect Palermo's turbulent history.
With its places of worship, Palermo offers highlights for every taste. If you would like to visit more churches than just the cathedral, we recommend
our 5 favourite churches for your tour:
Many travellers want quality accommodation with an authentic atmosphere. At Boutique BnB Dolcevita we offer modern rooms and warm service so you can feel like a local for a while.More info on the Boutique BnB Dolcevita
In addition to countless sacred buildings, the city of Palermo is home to an almost equally large number of representative residential buildings from different centuries.
The former noble and regent palaces show the wealth of their former owners and give an idea of how significant Palermo was as a permanent residence.
One of these main attractions in the medieval city centre of Palermo is the "Palazzo Reale" (Norman Palace). Particularly worth seeing in the palace is the court chapel, the "Cappella Palatina". It was built between 1132 and 1140 and is one of the most famous medieval church buildings.
The Cappella Palatina is best known for its gold-ground mosaics depicting a series of scenes from the Old and New Testaments, for its remarkable details and its message: tolerance between peoples and religions.
Last but not least, you can also enjoy sights of a completely different kind in Sicily's capital: Internationally acclaimed opera and ballet performances take place on the stages of the large theatre houses, making Palermo one of the three most important "playgrounds" in Europe.
When you're out and about in Palermo, there's one very special attraction you can't afford to miss: the Teatro Massimo.
Here you can get a whiff of Hollywood flair. Francis Ford Coppola shot the final sequence of "The Godfather - Part III" in the stairwell and in the Sala Grande.
The Quattro Canti intersection marks the point where Via Vittorio Emanuele and Via Nuova meet. The name is somewhat misleading: translated, it means "four corners". In fact, however, the piazza is octagonal.
The perfectly symmetrical palazzi in the Piazza Quattro Canti impress with a distinctive symbolic language, which is also reflected in the popular name for the square.
The Palermitans call it Teatro del Sole, the Sun Theatre. Because at any time of day, one of the façades is illuminated by the sun.
A place of tranquillity in the Palermo hustle and bustle is the Parco Giardino Garibaldi. Here you can take a walk and relax on one of the benches.
The biggest attraction of the park are the specimens of three fig trees, which are similar in size to sequoias. One of the trees, together with another from the Botanical Garden in Palermo, is one of the largest and oldest fig trees in Europe.
But the park has even more magical secrets to offer than just the miraculously grown fig trees. The first police murder of the mafia in Palermo took place here.
Do you feel like getting spooky? The Capuchin Crypt houses the world's largest collection of mummies and is one of the most morbid tourist attractions around.
Among other things, Rosalia Lombardo, a mummified two-year-old girl known as the "sleeping beauty of Sicily" and considered the most beautiful mummy in the world, lies here.
In the small town of Monreale, 5 kilometres from Palermo, the Cathedral of Monreale awaits you at a height of 300 metres on the royal mountain "Monte Reale".
The cathedral is the largest church in Sicily and is famous for its Byzantine gold-ground mosaics - here you will find the largest unified Byzantine mosaic cycle known anywhere.
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Palermo is located in the northwest of Sicily, directly on the sea. On the satellite image, Italy looks like a boot and Sicily like the football at its top.
This football is the remnant of a land bridge that once connected Italy with Africa. Of course, the proximity to Africa can still be felt in the climate today. Tunisia, for example, is 308 km away.
Click here for the Online city map
When is the best time to travel to Palermo?
The climate is most attractive in spring and autumn. It is pleasantly warm then, you can swim in the sea and it rarely rains. In these southern regions it is very hot in July and August with temperatures around 40 degrees.
In principle, you can travel to Palermo all year round, because it never gets really cold there. In January, the temperatures are rarely below 10 degrees, and the first almond trees begin to blossom at the end of February.
The most expensive travel season is around Easter time. July and August are also high season, despite the heat, because Italian families have their summer holidays during these months.
How much time should you allow for Palermo?
The old town can easily be explored on foot in two days. However, if you want to see some of the most beautiful sights, a weekend is too short. Three to four days would be ideal to see the most interesting highlights. For a combination of city trip and beach holiday, it is recommended to plan a week.
Who is Palermo best suited for?
Palermo is the ideal place for active bon vivants who are life-affirming and optimistic. For whom it is important to enjoy life to the fullest. Who have "pamper and be pampered" as their motto, are often interested in art and culture and like the urban flair and the richness of facets. For these active connoisseurs, Palermo with its mix of art and culture, its culinary delights, its vibrant life and its location on the Mediterranean is the ideal place.
Can you drink tap water in Palermo?
Tap water in Sicily is tested at regular intervals according to EU guidelines. You can drink it, there are no health reasons against it. However, there are regional differences in taste.
Water from the mountains tastes very good, but on the coast the taste leaves much to be desired. For example, the tap water in Palermo tastes of lime, which is why most hotels, restaurants and cafés filter the water.
Do you tip in Palermo?
Throughout Italy, and also in Sicily, it is customary to charge for the coperto, which is the table setting, the obligatory bread on the table and the service.
This amount of about two to three euros per person is listed on the menu and is automatically included on the bill. In principle, this covers the tip.
Since the local waiters earn little, it is a friendly gesture to leave a few euros on the table for the service despite the coperto charged.
How can I pay in Palermo?
You can easily pay without cash in Palermo, both in the supermarket and in restaurants. Either use your German EC card or pay by credit card.
Withdrawing money is also easy, there are banks with ATMs. The withdrawal fee with a German EC card is between two and six euros.
What should you definitely pack?
In Sicily, the sun shines very strongly almost all year round. Therefore, one of the most important tips is to take a sunscreen with a high sun protection factor.
You should also pack a sun hat to avoid sunstroke. Mosquito repellent lotion is also worthwhile. It is advisable to buy these products in Germany. On the island, hygiene products such as creams and also shampoos or body lotions are usually more expensive.
It also makes sense to pack a light scarf or coverlet for church visits. On the one hand, it is not allowed to enter sacred buildings with bare arms, and on the other hand, it is often very chilly in the old buildings.
Do I need a travel adapter?
As there are three different systems of sockets in Italy, the German standard plug does not fit into all sockets. If you want to be absolutely sure that your device will work in the hotel, you should think of a universal adapter. It is worth taking this adapter with you from home, in Italy it is not easy to find everywhere.
Are there certain rules of conduct?
In principle, the same rules of conduct apply in Palermo as in other European regions. When visiting a church, however, you should make sure that you are dressed correctly.
Women visiting a church or other sacred building should not have spaghetti straps or bare arms. Skirts that expose the knee are also not welcome. You can throw on a light scarf or borrow a plastic cover-up at the portal.
Do you still have unanswered questions and need tips for your tour? Then also visit the Information page from Wikipedia, the Wikivoyage page or feel free to contact us. We will be happy to help you.
Palermo is known for its mafia past. Today, the capital of Sicily is considered the safest metropolis in Italy. The criminal structures have been fought by the judiciary and the population since the 1980s.
The turnaround in dealing with the Mafia is due first and foremost to Giovanni Falcone, who as a judge in the early 1980s set up a special commission in Palermo and brought some 400 Mafia members to trial.
The victorious Falcone was then killed with a car bomb on his way from the airport in revenge. The second prosecutor in the trial, Paolo Borsellino, also fell victim to an attack a good two months later.
These two assassinations of the symbolic figures of the resistance triggered a wave of indignation among the civilian population. The Italian state launched a repressive offensive that continues to this day, and the enraged population began to free itself from the influence of the criminal organisation.
The national statistics office Istat reported in 2019 that Palermo is the safest metropolis in Italy. More details on this and the current crime data can be found in our Article: How safe is Palermo?
Palermo has more to offer than the typical Italian dishes such as lasagne, pizza or spaghetti, although you can also order these delicacies in top quality at every corner of the city.
Sicilian cuisine is very versatile. One reason for this is Sicily's turbulent history with its many changes of rule. The Greeks, Romans and Arabs brought many ingredients and new spices to the island.
In addition to the influences of foreign cultures, Sicilian cuisine is characterised by the rich yields of its own agriculture, such as olives, artichokes, tomatoes or aubergines and fishing.
Our restaurant tips:
Palermo has also been synonymous with street food for centuries. Forbes lists the city as the 5th street food capital of the world. It is the only Italian city in the top 10.
We recommend you to experience the street food culture on the three-hour tour of the local markets . You will taste the authentic street food with a guide at your side.
Here is a list of the most popular street food dishes:
Where to get good desserts:
Our tip for further reading:
The top sights can all be found in the old town. Palermo's attitude to life with its many influences flows between them.
The best way to get to know this identity is on foot in the old town. The streets and narrow alleys here offer a special ambience.
We have presented the markets to you. During the day, you can also shop in numerous shops or browse at street vendors' stalls.
In the early evening, from 6pm, it's "time for an aperitivo" in the old town. Literally, aperitivo refers to the drink before the meal, which is supposed to "stimulate the appetite". In fact, it can be translated as "going for a drink and having all kinds of snacks".
Meanwhile, the street from Quattro Canti towards the sea to Piazza Marina has become a pedestrian zone. Stroll through the traffic-calmed street and enjoy a cool drink, a caffè, the Palermo street food or an aperitivo in the evening in one of the numerous street bars and snack bars.
You can get to know the top 10 highlights presented by us in the old town of Palermo on foot and in about 3 days. We recommend the following sights if you are on site for at least 4 days.
The beach bay of Mondello
After an extensive tour of the Sicilian capital, it's time for a break. How about a day trip to the beach?
The suburb of Mondello is only a few kilometres from Palermo and offers the finest sandy beach, crystal clear water and an idyllic view of the surrounding natural landscape.
Full day sailing tour to Mondello with lunch on board
The Monte Pellegrino
Monte Pellegrino, the "pilgrim's mountain", is four kilometres outside the city centre. The view from the highest point is breathtaking and you will encounter many highlights on the way up.
There is the "most beautiful promontory in the world" (Goethe), the chapel of Saint Rosalia carved into the mountain or the paradise-like Laghetto Gorgo di Santa Rosalia pond.
While some of the historic buildings are still used for government business today, others house galleries or museums and attract many art enthusiasts to Sicily with their exhibitions.
Palermo exhibits here partly unique exhibits of the prehistory and early history of Sicily or shows valuable sculpture and painting collections.
The Botanical Garden and Villa Giulia
You can take time out in Europe's largest and oldest botanical garden. Goethe once looked for the primordial plant here. With around 12,000 species of plants, the Botanical Garden is one of the best research facilities in Italy and a visitor attraction.