- How not to annoy or get annoyed by others on holiday
- Burano, Murano and Torcello – review of Viator tour
- A photo diary of Venice
- Perfect little lunch spots in Venice
- Sight-seeing in Venice – Secret Itinerary, Museum Pass and Chorus Scheme
- Searching for Romeo and Juliet
- Verona card review and top picks
- Best Gelato and Ravioli in Verona (or the World…)
- The Ultimate Hiking Guide to Porto Venere
- Vulcano – Part 1 of the 3 Boat Trips You Must Take in the Aeolian Islands
- Lipari – Salina: Part 2 of the 3 Boat Trips You Must Take in the Aeolian Islands
- Panarea – Stromboli – Part 3 of the 3 Boat Trips you Must take in the Aeolian Islands
- A Night hike up Stromboli
- The Ultimate Guide to the Aeolian Islands
- A Short Guide to Taormina
- Top 5 things to do in Palermo Sicily
- Top 5 things to do in Catania Sicily
- Mount Etna tours review – a geo adventure
- Club di Giulietta – The secret life of a Secretary of Juliet
- A budget foodie’s guide to Verona
- The Ultimate guide to Verona Opera Festival – tips and expectations
- Top 5 of Padua, Italy
- Mantua – a hidden town of palaces
- The Ultimate Guide to 48 hours in Milan
- Things to do in Sirmione – an escape to Lake Garda
- The Ultimate Guide to Cinque Terre
- Secret Spots in Verona – off the beaten path
- Day trips from Venice: 7+ quick escapes for you
- Lago di Soprais – how to do the Lake Soprais hike in the Italian Dolomites
- Cortina d’Ampezzo Summer guide for hikers
- Lagazuoi hike: seeing WWI tunnel warfare in the Dolomites
- 6 day Dolomite itinerary for the photo + hike enthusiast
- Tre Cime di Lavaredo: how to hike the classic three peaks in Dolomite Italy
- Bologna food guide: best restaurants, gelateria, and what to eat
- What to do in Bologna aside from eating
- What to see in Treviso Italy
- What to do on a San Marino Day Trip
- Day Trips from Bologna: amazing cities in Italy you don’t want to miss
- Northern Italy Itinerary: 5 different 10-14 days itineraries
Palermo, the capital of Sicily nestled in the northwest corner of the island brimming with 2,700 years of history. Founded by the Phoenician in 734 BC, it’s been under the rules of the Carthaginians, Roman Republic, Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Arabic rules, Norman conquest, then forming the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies before unified with Italy in 1860.
Famed for its history, culture, food, and art – I have to say my first impression of the city isn’t the best. Its streets are dirty and full of litters and the atmosphere did not make me feel safe. There was a sense of derelict and neglect in the air; however, none of these could obscure the history and beauty of the city with so much history. Even though it was at the bottom of my list compare to the Aeolian Islands, Taormina, and Catania, there are still moments when my breath was taken away:
- See my full Italy series and itineraries here
Things to do in Palermo Sicily
Here are my top 5 of Palermo, but if you want a full guide of the city, here’s more on what to do in Palermo.
Located in a piazza of the same name, Fontana Pretoria is located almost in the dead center of the city and is a masterpiece made by Francise Camilliani, a Florentine Sculptor in the 16th century. It is interesting to point out that the major pieces were not originally created for this purpose, but for a member of the de Medici family, who sold it to the Palermo Senate when he realized he couldn’t afford to maintain it.
Fenced off for protection, you can admire the forty-odd figures of mythical beasts, gods and goddess that are sculpted in the Renaissance Florentine style that had only been recently restored.
Address: Piazza Pretoria, Palermo, Italy
No admission fee
A palace-like cathedral with its own courtyard, the Palermo Cathedral is definitely an eye-catching sight with its brick-red façade and the odd mix of styles that is the result of being added to and altered over the years. Erected in 1185, it’s a mix of Norman, Moorish, Gothic, Baroque, and Neoclassical style that is completed in the 18 century.
The beautiful small green domes of the side cupolas are of baroque style, while the eye-catching portico with its three arches made by Domenico and Antonello Gagini is of Gothic-Catalan style. The main façade, connected to the Archbishop’s Palace by arcades, was built in the 14th and 15th century and my head was dizzy just spinning around taking everything in.
We didn’t end up visiting the inside of the church due to the cathedral being set up for a function the next day, but the exterior was enough to blow me away.
Address: Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 90040 Palermo, Italy
Opening times: 7:00 – 19:00 daily
Admission fee: free, but 5 euros for the terrace
Located on the ground floor of Palazzo Reale, Cappella Palatina is the royal chapel of the Norman kings. Most famous for the golden mosaics that covered the entire chapel, it was built in 1132 and took 8 years to finish.
With Norman architecture, Arabic arches and muqarnas and Byzantine domes and mosaics, the mixture of styles are oddly harmonious in the chapel. Ranging from 1140 to 1170, the oldest mosaics are believed to be those on the ceiling, done by Byzantine masters as opposed to the local craftsmen in the later ones.
There is often a long queue for entry to this chapel and you are allowed to take photos inside with the flash off. The mosaics along the outside of the chapel are very beautiful too, with action-packed scenes of Romans nestled behind brick arches.
Address: Piazza Indipendenza, 90129 Palermo, Italy
Opening times: Mon – Sat 8:15 – 17:40; Sun and holiday 8:15 – 13:00
Admission fee: There are several packages:
Exhibition, Palatine Chapel and the Royal Apartments (Fri – Mon): Adults: €12 Reduced: €10 Exhibition and Palatine Chapel (Tue – Thu): Adults: €10 Reduced: €8
Named after the wife of Viceroy Marcantonio Colonna, the Prince of Stigliano, this beautiful park situated not too far from the sea front. Also known as Villa del Popolo or Villa Flor, the park was completed in 1778 and enlarged in 1866, designed by Nicolo Palma.
The highlights of the park are the four exedras surrounding the central dodecahedron fountain; these four semi-circular recess bright with mosaics, with their semi-dome providing ample shade and are fairly popular photo spots.
Address: Via Lincoln, Palermo, Italy
FlaM Osteria Contemporanea
What’s a top 5 in a city without the mention of a restaurant? Tucked away in one of the hidden corners of Palermo is the FlaM Osteria Contemporanea. A modern Sicilian restaurant, it’s got some raving reviews on Tripadvisor that we couldn’t wait to check it out.
The food was an absolute treat to both the eyes and taste buds, although it would be nice if the portion size is slightly bigger. We ordered a macaroni wrapped in lasagna dish and a mixed tuna dish and they were both delicious.
But that’s really a common point among all contemporary restaurants. We got served bread as well as a nice little selection of dessert for free, and the service was excellent and I can’t complain about anything.
Address: Via della Vetriera, 1, 90133, Palermo
Opening times: 12 – 15:30, 19:30 – 23:30 Closed Tuesday
Where to stay in Palermo
Budget: B&B Gallidoro is located smack in the downtown area with clean rooms and highly rated staff, though it might be a bit noisy at night. For something more modern but equally central, try LeCupole. If you are a fan of terraces and Meditteranea vibe, check out Demetra Rooms as well.
Mid-range: For some grandeur, stay at Grand Hotel Et Des Palmes in the middle of historic center, though it is a bit aged. Il Giardino di Ballarò and the Palermo Gallery are great alternatives for those who love interior design.
Splurge: If a pool is essential for you, then treat yourself at L’ Hôtellerie B&B or Grand Hotel Villa Igiea Palermo – MGallery by Sofitel. The latter is a bit further from the center but the rooms and views make up for it!
2 thoughts on “Top 5 things to do in Palermo Sicily”
So happy to find a blog about Sicily. I’ve been there several times and I call it my second home. I’ve been to Palermo but only went to see the Botanical Garden. Next time I’ll make sure to visit those Top 5 you listed.
Pingback: The Ultimate Guide to 48 hours in Milan, Italy