Palermo Guide

Situated on the north-westerly coast of the island of Sicily, a few miles from mainland Italy, the city of Palermo dates back to the 8th century and is today renowned for its myriad of Norman buildings, impressive palaces and lively local markets.

It is also popular as a base from which to explore other parts of this impressive island, which include idyllic beaches and the world-famous Mount Etna volcano. Those who plan to spend their entire trip in Palermo will enjoy the city’s stunning architecture, winding streets, and chic cafe-culture.

How to get to Palermo

The closest international airport to Palermo is Falcone Borsellino Airport, which is around 30km from the city centre, and connects to several cities across Europe.

The airport is linked to the city by the Trinacria Express shuttle train and a shuttle bus service. By road, the journey takes approximately 30 minutes.

When to visit Palermo

Palermo is blessed with a mild climate all year round, making it a superb destination throughout the seasons.

During the height of summer, the city experiences mostly hot and humid weather – often above the 30C mark – whilst the winters are mild with very little rainfall.

Spring time is also a superb period to visit Palermo, owing to the enduring warm temperatures and smaller crowds.

Things to do in Palermo

Activities and Attractions


The city's seafront is lined with parks and gardens, with perhaps the most notable being an impressive Botanical Garden.

For keen golfers, the main course in Palermo is at Le Madonie Golf resort, which is overlooked by scenic mountains.

Sightseeing


Palermo's magnificent Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is distinctive for its mix of architectural styles as well as its sheer size.

Once a royal residence, the origins of the Palazzo dei Normanni go back to the 9th century, and it is now home to the Sicilian Regional Assembly.

The Palatine Chapel is Palermo's most popular tourist attraction and remains busy throughout the year. The Chapel's interior is stunning, boasting distinctive Saracen arches and Byzantine mosaics.

Built to celebrate the unification of Italy, the Massimo theatre holds regular performances, and is most famous for being used in the film 'The Godfather: Part III'.

The Fontana Pretoria is an impressive fountain located at the heart of the busy Piazza Pretoria. Created in the mid-16th century, the unveiling of the Fontana Pretoria is said to have caused much controversy in Palermo, owing to the several nude figures that are incorporated into the sculpture.

Palermo's catacombs are a popular, though macabre, landmark, and contain over 8,000 mummified bodies, all dressed as they would have been in their lifetime.

Museums and Culture


Palermo is a paradise for history and art buffs, with its numerous museums home to rich archaeological collections. A number of these museums are housed within historic buildings including former churches and palaces.

A number of Palermo’s museums focus on Sicilian heritage, including the Museo Archeologico Regionale, the Museo Etnografico Pitrè and the Museo Mormino.

The arts scene in Palermo is centred around two top quality galleries. The first is the Galleria Regionale, located inside the Palazzo Abatellis, and containing important collections from as far back as medieval times. The second is the Galleria d'Arte Moderna (Modern Art Gallery) which features well-lit paintings and sculptures in a contemporary style.

Shopping


Shopping in Palermo is a mixture of traditional, bustling markets that are full of character and charm, and luxurious boutiques offering chic clothing for which Italy is synonymous.

All of the renowned Italian design houses can be found in Palermo, including Dolce and Gabbana and Luis Vuitton, and unlike other cities that are based in countries with less of a fashion heritage, visiting these stores offers as much of an authentic local ‘experience’ as the numerous markets that are dotted throughout the city.

Eating Out


Visitors to Palermo get to enjoy a vast range of cuisine, not just in its restaurants, but also in bakeries and street stalls scattered across the city. Palermo's numerous restaurants range from upmarket establishments, often located in historical buildings, to smaller family-owned “trattorias”.

Nightlife


Nightlife in Palermo is fairly limited for such a large city, with most of the activity taking place in bars and taverns dotted around the centre. The liveliest squares at night are Piazza Castelnuovo and Piazza Verdi, where bars stay open till late and many offer live pianists in the summer months.

Day trips and Excursions


Palermo is an excellent jumping off point for enjoying the surrounding Sicilian countryside and its myriad of scenic attractions.

Other popular spots near Palermo include a medieval hilltop town, Roman ruins and the Mondello beach resort. Keen walkers may want to head for the major Sicilian attraction of Mount Etna, which offers various walking tours that provide stunning views of this famous volcanic mountain.

What’s on in Palermo

February


Carnevale, held in the Termini Imerese suburb of Palermo, sees floats and papier-mache decorations paraded through the streets.

May


The Merit Cup Windsurf World Festival sees top-class windsurfers competing at Mondello beach in this prestigious competition.

June


The EcoVision Festival is an international event dedicated to the environment and cinema, with over 100 films screened.

July


The Verdura Festival features a variety of music concerts, including classical, rock, pop, dance and flamenco, all taking place at the Massimo Theatre.

Kals'Art is a series of music, cinema and theatre events held in parks, city squares and historic buildings throughout the city.

September


Il Genia di Palermo is a contemporary art exhibition taking place in a variety of venues across the city, with a strong focus on promoting new talent.

December


The Christmas Market is held on Piazza Peranni, and offers antiques, handcrafted items including toys, jewellery and ornaments, as well as cakes and other delicacies.

 

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