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Things to do in Palermo

Things to do in  Palermo

Welcome to Palermo

Palermo is Sicily’s melting pot, an intoxicating blend of cultures clashing, conforming, and ultimately coming together over the millennia to form a city that seems worlds way from mainland Italy. Its spectacular mix of Norman, Moorish, and baroque architecture sits cheek-to-jowl with bazaar-like street markets teeming with Palermitani who speak the Arabic-influenced local dialect and hawk dishes rooted in northern Africa. Knock-out Byzantine mosaics in the Royal Palace and Cathedral are the city’s pride and joy, but visitors also come to experience the vibrant food scene and colorful nightlife.

Top 15 attractions in Palermo

Palermo Cathedral (Cattedrale di Palermo)

Over the centuries, Sicily was ruled by successive waves of conquerors, each one leaving their mark on the island’s architecture, culture, and cuisine. A perfect example of this blend of cultures is the Palermo Cathedral (Cattedrale di Palermo), a fascinating patchwork of Norman, Arabic, Gothic, Baroque, and Neoclassical architectural styles.More

Massimo Opera House (Teatro Massimo)

The largest opera house in Italy, Palermo’s handsome 19th-century Massimo Opera House (Teatro Massimo is one of the city’s crown jewels. From its elegant neoclassical exterior honoring Sicily’s ancient temples to the lavish gold-and-velvet interiors with impeccable acoustics, this landmark theater dazzles with more than just music.More

Capo Market (Mercato di Capo)

Take a deep and delicious dive into Palermo’s culture and cuisine with a visit to Capo Market (Mercato di Capo), thick with stalls selling a wide variety of local produce, fresh fish, and other specialties.The atmosphere of this bustling market is testimony to the strong Arab influence in the port city, one of the hallmarks of its unique history.More

Monreale Cathedral (Duomo di Monreale)

The mosaic-filled Monreale Cathedral (Duomo di Monreale) is both one of Italy’s most impressive masterpieces of medieval architecture and one of Sicily’s finest examples of Norman design. The triumph of Norman, Arab, Byzantine and classical elements was built by William II in 1184, and continues to dazzle visitors almost 1,000 years later.More

Four Corners (Quattro Canti)

Don’t be put off by the heavy traffic in Palermo’s busy Quattro Canti. This square that doubles as a major intersection is a popular stop for architecture enthusiasts, drawn to the four largely identical 17th-century buildings that sit at its four corners, considered among the finest examples of baroque architecture in Palermo.More

Vucciria Market (La Vucciria)

While Palermo has a number of bustling outdoor markets worth exploring for the lively atmosphere, the most famous is Vucciria Market, known locally as La Vucciria. Located in the historic center around Piazza San Domenico, the stalls predominantly sell fish, meat, and produce—but you can find a little of everything here.More

Palatine Chapel (Capella Palatina)

The Palatine Chapel inside Palermo’s Royal Palace—once the private chapel of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily—is one of the most breathtaking and important attractions in the city. The chapel seems to glow in a golden light, reflected by the ornate mosaics that cover its interior and are considered among the best in Italy.More

Capuchin Catacombs (Catacombe dei Cappuccini)

One of the most famous sights in Palermo—albeit a rather macabre one—is the extensive network of catacombs under the city’s historic Capuchin Monastery. The subterranean Capuchin Catacombs (Catacombe dei Cappuccini) are home to thousands of mummified remains in varying states of preservation dating from the 16th to 20th centuries.More

Piazza & Fontana Pretoria

The spectacular Fontana Pretoria is the centerpiece of Palermo’s large Piazza Pretoria. Created by the Florentine sculptor Francesco Camilliani for a private Tuscan villa, the fountain was acquired by Palermo in 1574. Its nude statues scandalized locals at the time, but today the fountain is one of the city’s most treasured landmarks.More

Politeama Garibaldi Theater (Teatro Politeama Garibaldi)

The imposing Politeama Garibaldi Theater (Teatro Politeama Garibaldi), which overlooks Palermo’s Piazza Ruggero Settimo, turns heads with its triumphal arch entrance and circular design ringed with two levels of columns. Home to the Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana, this 19th-century concert hall stages classical music performances year round.More

Ballarò Market (Mercato Ballarò)

If you are looking to immerse yourself in the local culture of Palermo, the Ballarò Market (Mercato Ballarò) is the place to go. As the city’s oldest street market and one of the most vibrant markets in Europe, Ballarò also provides a glimpse into Palermo’s past as a major commercial center and port.More

Opera Dei Pupi (Rod Marionette Theatre)

For a unique window into Palermo’s cultural traditions, catch a performance of the historic Sicilian Puppet Theatre (Opera Dei Pupi, a theater so singular that it is recognized by UNESCO for Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage. At the International Marionette Museum (Museo Internazionale delle Marionette you can see finely-made, historic puppets and enjoy a show.More


Palermo’s splendid La Martorana is an architectural time capsule, with elements of three successive historic styles—Norman, Romanesque, and baroque—on its facade, and untouched Byzantine glory within. One of a group of extraordinary UNESCO-listed churches in Palermo, La Martorana dazzles with its 12th-century mosaics.More

Chiaramonte-Steri Palace (Palazzo Chiaramonte-Steri)

The 14th-century Chiaramonte-Steri Palace was used as a prison in the Inquisition, and today is home to a museum dedicated to this dark chapter of Sicilian history. Visit the graffiti-covered cells on the lower floors before heading upstairs to take in the art gallery and views over the city to the sea.More

Church of the Gesù (Chiesa del Gesù)

One of the most important baroque churches in Sicily, Church of the Gesù was built by the Jesuits in the late 16th century and is a treasure trove of lavish frescoes, stone carvings, and marble reliefs. Fans of the baroque style will enjoy visiting what many consider to be among the city’s finest churches.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 2 Days in Sorrento

How to Spend 2 Days in Sorrento

Food and Wine Lover's Guide to Sorrento

Food and Wine Lover's Guide to Sorrento

Top activities in Palermo

Palermo morning Street Food Walking Tour by Streaty
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out
Night Street Food Tour of Palermo
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out

Night Street Food Tour of Palermo

Sicilian Cooking Class in Palermo

Sicilian Cooking Class in Palermo

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People Also Ask

What is Palermo known for?

Palermo is the capital of the Italian island of Sicily and is famous for its rich history, having been conquered by the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Arabians, among others. An added bonus: Palermo is one of the sunniest cities in Italy (and Europe).

How do I spend a day in Palermo?

With one day in Palermo, explore the city on a walking tour, including the UNESCO-listed Palermo Cathedral, Royal Palace of Palermo, and Massimo Theater, the largest in Italy. Don’t miss the lively street markets and delicious street food—be sure to try Sicilian specialties arancini (stuffed rice balls), granita, and cannoli.

Is Palermo in Sicily or Italy?

Palermo is in both. It’s the capital of the Italian island of Sicily, one of the largest Mediterranean islands. Although Sicily is one of the 20 regions that make up Italy, it is an autonomous region with a unique culture and cuisine. Locals typically call themselves “Sicilian” rather than “Italian.”

How many days are enough for Palermo?

You can take in the highlights of Palermo, including the markets, Norman Palace, and Palermo Cathedral, on a day trip, but it’s worth staying longer. Three days or more will give you time to enjoy the beaches of Mondello, mountain town of Monreale, and UNESCO-listed monuments of Cefalu.

Is Palermo or Catania better?

Palermo and Catania are popular choices for travelers to Sicily, and both have international airports and plenty of accommodation options. Head to Palermo for UNESCO-listed monuments, street markets, and some of Sicily’s best beaches, or Catania to hike Mt Etna, explore the south coast, and sample the island’s best nightlife.

Is Palermo worth visiting?

Yes, Palmero—Sicily’s capital and one of the island’s most-visited cities—is worth a stop for its picturesque Old City and UNESCO-listed monuments. Not only is it the gateway to one of Sicily’s most beautiful beaches, Mondello, but it’s also renowned for buzzing street markets and Sicilian street food.


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