Palermo, Sicily’s biggest city, is a vibrant port town that is bustling and lively. Most tourists to Sicily are more interested in the beaches and rural life. This is why Palermo is so overlooked. They don’t know what they are missing. It is a historical meeting place of Western and Arabic cultures. The city is full of history, food, amazing architecture, and breathtaking scenery. Although it is still gritty, it is one of Italy’s most authentic and interesting cities. You can explore Palermo by taking a step back from the beaten path and exploring one of Italy’s most under-the-radar places. The Walks of Italy guide will show you the best things to do.
Palermo’s great markets
It is possible to observe every day life in Palermo, which is one of the coolest activities you can do. Although Sicily is separated from mainland Sicily by a narrow strait, its culture is quite different. You can see a great example by diving into the Vucciria market, located between Corso Vittorio Emanuele & Piazza San Domenico. Here you will find everything from plastic knick-knacks and pigs’ intestinales. This market is open from Monday to Saturday, and closes at 2:00 PM on Saturday. It is one of Palermo’s most popular attractions.
Vucciria is a great place to visit. Ballaro is the oldest Arab-style market in the city. It is located in Albergheria, a classically shabby chic neighborhood. You can enjoy a cheap lunch at a food stall, while listening to the shouts of the vendors as they sell their wares. It is chaotic, thrilling, and definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Churches, palaces, and museums in Palermo (Italy)
You want to know more about the cultural mix of Southern Italy? It is worth visiting Palermo to see its architecture. The Cappella Palatina (or Palatine Chapel) is a living reminder of the Normans’ incredible conquest of Palermo. The Normans arrived in Palermo after the wars broke out between religions and cultures all across Europe. They encouraged Palermo’s inhabitants – an eclectic mix of Greeks, Arabs and Italians – to live together peacefully. The Palatine Chapel was also built by them. The chapel’s exterior is unassuming, but it is filled with intricately colored mosaics, carved wooden ceilings, and high-falutins of Jesus Christ in an amazing mix of Norman, Byzantine, and Arab art.
You can see a variety of architectural styles at the Duomo located near the Vucciria Market on Corso Vittorio Emanuele. It was built by Normans in 1184. Later, the Goths, Spaniards, and the Italians added to it, creating an amazing building.
The Church of Santa Caterina Santa Caterina is a more uniform (but still jaw-droppingly beautiful) example of Baroque architecture. Most of the interior decoration was done in the 17th and18th centuries. Its interior is adorned with frescoes and paintings as well as carvings of animals, flowers, and saints. It is an almost unbelievable attraction, regardless of how much you think it is.
The Museo Archeologico Regionale Anton Salinas, Museum of Archeology, is the last and most important culturally enriching thing to do in Palermo. The museum is located in a convent built in 17th century with an ancient courtyard. It houses the largest collection of Punic and Greek art in Sicily. The sculptures are from Selinunte’s ancient settlement, which is located on the southern coast. You won’t find any other artwork, ancient ceramics or bronzes on the top floor.
The best beach in Palermo
It’s not only one the most enjoyable things to do at Palermo but also one of Sicily’s best activities. Mondello beach is a great spot to visit if you are looking for beaches close to Palermo. This is a small resort on the coast just outside of Palermo. This beach can be reached easily by bus. It is often crowded (like many of Italy’s best beaches, Florence), but Palermo locals love to visit its white sand expanse. This is the most authentic Italian experience you will find.
You can get there by taking the 806 and 833 buses from The Politeama or Piazza Sturzo, Palermo. Buses run frequently, and there are more for summer rush. It takes approximately 20 minutes to get there.
Dining and drinking in Palermo
Sicilian food can be very special and delicious. Palermo is the home of some of the most exquisite Sicilian dishes. We are certain that you haven’t had cannoli (deep-fried, ricotta-filled cones), until you’ve been to Palermo. The classic Italian gelato is another favorite dessert. It was almost worshipped in the streets of Palermo, where it was claimed that it was invented. Try the gelato with citrus flavors, such as lemon and orange. They are better than any other in the world! (For more information on cannolis and other Italian sweets visit our blog!
A milza sandwich is a good option if you want a substantial meal. The Palermo delicacy consists of a crusty bread, local caciocavallo mozzarella, a squeeze lemon and, oh yeah, fried cow’s pleen. This is one of our top picks for favourite offal dishes in most regions of Italy. This is not for the feint of heart but it’s definitely worth a try. They can be found almost anywhere you’ll find food in the city.
The best day trips starting from Palermo
Mt. Etna, Sicily’s most famous attraction, is also the largest. Etna is about a 3-hour drive from Palermo. It’s not the most convenient day trip. There are other great options.
A visit to Palermo would not be complete without visiting the creepy and highly popular Capuchin catacombs. More than 8,000 corpses are lined up on the walls of the Catacombe dei Cappuccini, all dressed in frozen expressions. The museum of the dead was originally established as a cemetery for Capuchin friars. Take the No. Take the 327 bus to the western outskirts of the city, stopping at Piazza Cappuccini. The catacombs can be accessed every day except Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and between 3 and 6 p.m. on weekends. Tickets cost EUR3.00. Although they may seem strange, they are a reflection of the monk’s faith in the temporary nature of this world and their salvation in another. The skulls are a memorable sight in Palermo, and kids love them!
We offer a tour from Rome to another Capuchin Catacomb – this is one of our most loved tours and an unforgettable experience.
Monreale is another must-see attraction close to Palermo. The town, located 9 miles south from Palermo, is perched on Monte Caputo’s slopes and overlooks the Conca d’Oro (or Golden Shell). This valley was once home to some of the most prolific citrus crops in the world. It is still well-known for its quality oranges, olives and almonds. You can then head straight to the 12th-century Duomo cathedral, which is a Norman-Arab cathedral with 130 mosaic scenes, 200 intricately-carved columns, and a 65-foot high mosaic of Jesus. It covers 64,583 square meters. Take the number 389 bus from Piazza Indipendenza in Palermo to get there. 389 bus from Piazza Indipendenza in Palermo.