You need to visit Palermo Sicily

written by Olivia Rawes
updated 12/3/2021
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Palermo has been reborn. Visit the revitalised capital of Sicily. Discover its art galleries. Find new restaurants. Explore the history. And enjoy the sun. Here's the Palermo lowdown for your next trip. The information in this article is taken from The Rough Guide to Italy your essential guide for visiting Italy.

Why should I visit Palermo Sicily?

Palermo doesn't go easy on you. Car horns blare incessantly, the summer sun's relentless and opening hours seem flexible. But be patient. It's also a charming city where the air smells of sweet pastries, backstreets open onto pretty squares and mosaiced churches dot all over.

You can't escape history in Palermo. The city's awash with Arabic cupolas, Baroque facades, Byzantine mosaics and Norman relics. But now there's also a contemporary art scene. Palermo's food is cutting edge and there are plenty of new places to stay.

If you're looking for new places to stay in Palermo, think about Bedda Mari Rooms & Suites, its city views are incredible.

The Fountain of Shame on Piazza Pretoria, Palermo, Sicily © Romas_Photo/Shutterstock

Why is now a great time to visit?

Palermo's been transformed. It's tired districts have woken up and you'll find new restaurants all over the place. Even some of the city's grand Baroque palaces now welcome guests.

If you want to get involved with city life during your stay, take an interest in supporting anti-Mafia businesses. To find out what you can do and how you can help, Addiopizzo is a great source of information.

Prefer to leave planning and booking to experts? Have a look at some sample itineraries. Both Complete Italy or Italy Itineraries offer inspiration. All Tailor Made Trips can be modified together with your local expert, then booked for a stress-free holiday. Click 'Modify this itinerary' to contact a local Italy expert.

Top things to do in Palermo

When it's too hot for Palermo beaches, find yourself a cool interior. The jewel is 12th-century Capella Palatina, the Palazzo dei Normanni private chapel famous for its Byzantine mosaics.

Don't miss Teatro Massimo, which is possibly Italy's largest theatre. And a visit to Cattedrale di Palermo is another must. If you climb up to the roof, you're rewarded by some of the longest, clearest views in the entire city.

Then drop in on Galleria d’Arte Moderna or spend a few hours browsing Museo d'Arte Contemporanea della Sicilia. Or discover a different side of Palermo altogether and book a NO Mafia walking tour round the city.

Capella Palatina is cool refuge from Palermo weather in summer © lapas77/Shutterstock

Food and drink in Palermo

Palermo's famous for street food and the city's best morning market, Ballarò, is street food central. It's noisy and the stalls are crammed into narrow streets. Butchers' counters overflow with gore and produce stalls are abundant. So when you feel hungry, this is the place to be.

Alternatively for another true taste of Palermo try II Cuochini. It's tiny, a favourite with locals and serves city specialities like ragù-stuffed arancini and panzerotti.

If you want more refinement head to Buatta Cucina Popolana where traditional Sicilian cooking meets the slow-food movement. Bisso Bistrot is another local haunt, you'll find it behind Quattro Canti. And for the best value wine, visit your neighbourhood enoteca.

To really experience Palermo's culinary culture, past and present, book a street food walking tour and let a local be your guide.

Delicious cannolis topped with a glacé cherry © Victoria43/Shutterstock

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Day trips from Palermo

Palermo is a great base for exploring Sicily and several fascinating places make easy day-trips from the city.

Visit the Roman site at Solunto, perched above the coastal town of Porticello. Seaside Mondello combines beaches, good restaurants and fishing village history. Head to the hill town of Monreale to see the stunning Norman-Byzantine cathedral.

Or hop on a train and ride to Cefalù on the coast. And if you want to spin your day trip into an overnight, stay at Hotel Kalura for the sea views.

Swap Palermo beaches for coastal Cefalù on an easy day trip © S-F/Shutterstock

Ready to travel to Italy? Find out about the best time to go and the best places to see and things to do in Italy. For inspiration use the Italy itineraries from The Rough Guide to Italy and our local travel experts. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there. And don't forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

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written by Olivia Rawes
updated 12/3/2021
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