Home / Travel Guides - Palermo / Things To Do In Palermo


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Thanks to its rich and varied history, Palermo and its surrounding areas are full of architectural treasures just waiting to be discovered. Many of the sights are conveniently situated in the city centre: in the old town, you will find treasures like Palazzo dei Normanni, as well as the beautiful Santa Caterina Church and the spectacular Piazza Pretoria. For a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city, the beautiful volcanic island Ustica is a safe bet and will not disappoint you.Palazzo dei NormanniThe former royal palace of King Roger II in the 1100’s, Palazzo dei Normanni is one of the most famous sights in Palermo. Dating back to the 9th century, the palace owes its current appearance to the embellishments realized by the Normans: covered in dazzling Byzantine mosaics, the Arab-Norman architecture is a symbol of the political and cultural union operated by the Normans. Check out the stunning Palatine Chapel

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InterCity to RomeA train ride that includes a ferry trip on its journey, this InterCity route connects Palermo to Rome and traverses Catania, Naples, the region of Calabria and Messina (among other places) along the way. Beautiful views of the Tyrrhenian Sea coastline, Mount Vesuvius and the coast of Sicily accompany the ride. The entire trip takes around 12 hours.studiolab/Shutterstock.com
Cappella PalatinaThe royal chapel of the Norman kings of Sicily, Cappella Palatina is the finest example of the Arab-Norman art in the city. Every inch is a jubilation of craftmanship, from the golden mosaics covering the walls, to the marble floors and carved, wooden ceilings.
The chapel is located inside the Normans Palace (Palazzo dei Normanni) and there's likely a queue at the entrance, so try to get here at the opening in the morning.

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Piazza PretoriaThe grandiose Piazza Pretoria captivates with its fountain, spreading proudly in front of Palazzo Pretorio (City Hall) as one of the major symbols of Palermo. The Pretoria Fountain was sculpted by Francesco Camilliani in 1574 and initially placed in Florence for a few years, it was then bought by the municipality and transported to Palermo. The fountain is a true masterpiece and considered being one of the most beautiful fountains in Italy. The nude figures adorning the fountain has got the most prudish population of the city to nickname the square "Piazza della Vergogna", Square of Shame.

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Cattedrale di PalermoOne of the major examples of Sicily's unique encounter of architectonic styles, Palermo's cathedral is the results of centuries of additions, redecoration and restorations. It was built on 1185 on the site of a former Byzantine church, which was used as a mosque during the 9th century and it encompasses Medieval, Gothic, Arabic and Neoclassical style. Climb up to the roof and enjoy a great view of the city.
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Quattro CantiAlso known as Piazza Vigliena, Quattro Canti is considered as one of the most fascinating landmarks of Palermo. Located at the intersection of Via Maqueda and Corso Vittorio Emanuele, it has an octagonal structure shaped by the elegant facades of the buildings standing at its corners. During the day, the sun is always shining on at least one of the four facades: leading on this Baroque gem being nicknamed by locals "il teatro del sole" ("the theater of the sun").
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Teatro MassimoA Neoclassical masterpiece, Teatro Massimo is one of the largest opera houses in Europe. Recently restored, it is now the lyrical temple of the city, staging the opera and ballet official season.
The flamboyant interiors can be visited with a 30-minute tour available daily in several languages.

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Majolica Museum "Stanze al Genio"A hidden gem in Palermo, Stanze al Genio is a private collection of 5000 tiles from the 15th to the 20th century. The hand-painted tiles cover the walls and floors in the piano nobile of the 16th-century Palazzo Torre Pirajno. On display is also a small collection of vintage stationery and Italian toys. Visits are possible only via guided tours that must be booked in advance.

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Santa Caterina d'AlessandriaSanta Caterina Church in Palermo attracts visitors with its remarkable Sicilian Baroque architecture: the walls are full of ornamental paintings and there are vibrant frescoes, intricately carves statues and stunning colorful marble interiors. Don't miss out on the magnificent majolica cloister and the view from the rooftop terrace. The bakery located inside the complex sells sweet treats prepared with century-old recipes from Sicily's convents.

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Museo Archeologico Regionale "Antonino Salinas"Housed in a Renaissance monastery, Palermo's Archaeological Museum has a rich collection of Roman and Ancient Greek artifacts including many items spanning most of Palermo’s history. The highlights of the exhibition are the decorative friezes from the temples at Selinunte.
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Ballarò MarketBallarò is the oldest and widest market in Palermo where you can enjoy some exciting flavors and buy fresh produces. Resembling a colorful and buzzing souk, walking down the lanes of this busy street market will immediately show you how Sicily markets developed during the Arab occupation. Part of the experience are the jingles sung by the vendors to attract customers while offering samples to the passers-by.
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Galleria Regionale della SiciliaAllegedly the best art gallery of Palermo, the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia exhibits artworks of Sicilian artists from the Middle Age, artifacts from the Arab period and paintings from the 17th and 18th century. Take your time to admire the stunning Palazzo Abatellis, built in the 15th century in the Gothic-Catalan style.
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San Giovanni degli EremitiOne of the finest examples of Medieval architecture in Palermo, the church San Giovanni degli Eremiti is famous for its red domes and architectural design that was greatly influenced by the Arabs during the 12th Century. This was originally a mosque that was later converted into a Christian church dedicated to Sicily's hermit monks. Walk along the pretty garden of regional plants and the ruins of the cloister.
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Orto BotanicoFounded in 1781, the Botanical Gardens in Palermo are considered to be a prestigious open-air botanical museum that has enabled in-depth studies on fascinating plants for about 200 years. Walk down the shaded pathways lined with subtropical plants, fig-trees, Mediterranean herb gardens and local cacti and hibiscus but don't forget to also check out the beautiful historical buildings where this restful paradise is set in.
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Castello della ZisaZisa Castle is a 12th century castle built for King William I of Sicily. Its name derives from the Arabic "al-Aziz", which means splendid. The original Norman building underwent some changes during the years, especially with the decorations added during the Baroque period. The Islamic inspiration for the architecture is clearly visible in the amazing decorations of the vestibole, where Arabic vaults and columns are interposed by Baroque frescoes and marble decorations. Today the castle house a museum of Islamic art.

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Torre di San Nicolò all'AlbergheriaSan Nicolò all'Albergheria Tower is a civic tower dating back to the 12th century and located just nearby Ballarò market. Originally used for defensive purpose, this Medieval tower is today open to visitors that can enjoy a breathtaking view over Palermo cityscape and its historical buildings.
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Palazzo Chiaramonte SteriPalazzo Chiaramonte Steri is a palace built in the early 14th century in Norman Gothic style that was used by the Inquisition as both tribunal and prison between 1600 and 1782. Conveying centuries of Sicilian history, this is one of the symbols of Palermo. The palace is today the head office of the University of Palermo, where visitors can admire the marvelous lecture halls with a decorated wooden ceiling from the 14th century or visit the Inquisition Museum with haunting graffiti and artworks of the prisoners covering the cell's walls.
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Catacombe dei CappucchiniLocated in the Capuchin Monastery since 1599, the Catacombs houses 8,000 mummified bodies and skeletons of former residents of Palermo that died between the 17th and 19th centuries. It's a somewhat macabre insight into the customs and traditions of the Palermitan society of the time, with gender, religion, profession and social status rigidly applied to the disposition of the bodies.
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Art Nouveau KiosksThe three Art Nouveau kiosks by architect Ernesto Basile appear like unexpected gems along the buzzing streets of Palermo. Built about the end of the 19th century, the kiosks once hosted the traditional Sicilian vendors of soft drinks and refreshing beverages but are today converted into tobacconists.
Chiosco Ribaudo located in Piazza Verdi, the most famous one, is a crimson and wrought iron building adorned with golden letters. The second Ribaudo kiosk in Piazza Castelnuovo is decorated with colorful majolica and mosaics while the Chiosco Vicari, in front of the Teatro Massimo is a triumph of Moorish, Islamic and Colonial architecture.

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Nature Reserve of Capo GalloA real hidden paradise easily reached with a few minutes walk from Mondello, Capo Gallo is a regional nature reserve encompassing the huge Mount Gallo, ending up in a rocky promontory towered by a lighthouse, some grottos and hidden sandy beaches surrounded by wild vegetation. Capo Gallo is also a good place for snorkeling, kayaking and hiking.

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MonrealeThis little town with a population of 30,000 lies in the mountains southwest of Palermo. Its postcard-perfect views are only rivaled by the UNESCO-listed Norman masterpiece that is Monreale Cathedral, Italy’s largest medieval building which holds 6,000 square meters of Byzantine art.
One of the most important examples of Norman architecture in Europe, the cathedral is cover in shimmering golden mosaics and also encompass Arab, Byzantine and Classical elements.

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UsticaUstica is a tiny volcanic island located 52 km from Palermo with which is linked by a regular ferry service. This heavenly retreat offers everything one may expect from a Mediterranean Island: hiking trails alongside the stunning grottos of the shoreline, crystal clear waters with natural pools and exciting snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities, including an underwater archeological trail with Roman artifacts. Check out the tourist office in the main square of the island.

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MondelloJust a 30-minute bus ride from Palermo, Mondello is a small coastal resort boasting long beaches of white sand and blue waters. Dominated by the towering art nouveau pier pavilion, Mondello hosts many excellent seafood restaurants, hidden Liberty-style villas and water sports opportunities. The area is popular with locals for its proximity to the city center and can get crowded during the weekends. Nearby is also the mountainous nature reserve of Capo Gallo, ideal for hiking and kayaking.

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