Palermo has pretty much spruced up! Where chaos and traffic once reigned, a pretty pedestrian street has sprung up in Palermo’s Old City. The status as Italy’s European Capital of Culture 2018 has contributed significantly to the embellishment of Sicily’s capital. It is a beautiful city at the sea that can be explored on a long weekend or be the starting point for a road trip through Sicily and an excursion to the Aelian Islands.
The Palatine Chapel, with its beautiful golden mosaics, is particularly well known. Thanks to the financial support of the German art patron Reinhold Würth, the Arab-Byzantine court chapel of King Roger in the Norman Palace has shone in the golden glow again since 2008.
Palermo Cathedral is home to tombs of the Hohenstaufer, which promoted a policy of tolerance and integration in southern Italy.
Visit the Cathedral of Palermo
In its full name, this church is called: La cattedrale metropolitana primaziale della Santa Vergine Maria Assunta. Everyone just calls it the Cattedral. It was inaugurated in 1185 and has been constantly expanded and rebuilt over the centuries. It is a smorgasbord of architectural styles, such as the Milan Cathedral. Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassic, Moorish, Norman.
In the Cathedral of Palermo, in four coffins, there are the mummified remains of Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, his father Emperor Henry VI of Hohenstaufen, his mother Konstanze and her father, the Norman king Roger II.
Visit the Palatine Chapel in the Norman Palace
The Palatina Chapel at Palazzo Reale is dating back to the 11th century. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From 2003 to 2008, the chapel and its mosaics were restored with the support of the German entrepreneur and patron of art Reinhold Würth.
Plan a visit to the Norman Palace and the Court Chapel and take at least 1 hour to do so. Without tickets, it can sometimes take you to have the tickets and get through all the security gates.
The most elegant thing is when you book a private guided tour with us. Our guides speak your language we will organize the skip-the-line tickets before you arrive.
See an Opera at the Teatro Massimo di Palermo
The Teatro Massimo is the largest opera house in Italy. It was completely restored in 1997 and offers the wonderful Italian operas. We offer music trips to Palermo with premium tickets for a piece of your choice, 2 nights at the hotel and an accompanying program. Please contact us for details.
Don’t miss Piazza Vigliena and Fontana Pretoria
Piazza Vigliena (from 1620) has many names Piazza Quattro Canti, which is four seasons, or even sun theaters, because at least one of the sides is illuminated by the sun at any time of the year. Really a very peculiar place. A masterpiece of the Baroque. Right next to it, if you’re already there, don’t miss the Fontana Pretoria. It is the fountain of shame, made of white marble. The fountain was built in Florence in 1554 and transferred to Naples 20 years later.
See the Mosaics at Chiesa Santa Maria dell ’Ammiraglio
The Admirals Church of Santa Maria dell ‘Ammiraglio, also called Chiesa della Martorana. The mosaics date back to Byzantine times. This church also houses a variety of architectural styles through constant additions and conversions. In the 15th century, the church belonged to the La Martorana Convention. It was the nuns of this monastery who formed fruits from colorful marzipan. These products are called frutta di Martorana .
Palermo for Food Lovers
Palermo for Gourmets
Strolling through one of the markets, you can try the freshly prepared delicacies in small portions at various points. With a glass of Sicilian wine, of course. Many dishes are refined with almonds and pistachios, including fish dishes. Especially delicious are the little sweets, filled with ricotta, orange and lemon cream. Also worth mentioning are the frutta di Martorana, which is made from colorful marzipan fruit varieties. These are less sweet than the Lübeck marzipan, but all the more aromatic. The famous markets are Mercato Vucceria, Mercato Ballarò and Mercato il Capo.
Arrival and transport
Palermo has Falcone Airport & Borsellino near Punta Raisi. The approach is direct from the sea. With the airport shuttle you are in Palermo in about 30 minutes, the buses run every half hour. There are other lines to Trapani, Segesta, Agrigento, Catania.
Palermo has a centrally located train station. A popular alternative to getting there with your own car is from Genova by ferry. After about 20h you can reach Palermo well rested.
We combine your trip to Palermo with exclusive hotels on favourable terms. This is not always easy, but we are usually able to do so.
- Massimo Plaza Hotel (4 stars)
- Grand Hotel Wagner (5 stars)
- Artemisia Palace Hotel (4 stars)
- Hotel Principe di Lampedusa (4 stars)
Please include your desired hotel at the time of the inquiry, if this is important to you. Otherwise, the desired hotel category is enough for us.
Tour of Palermo
Walking Tour of Palermo
This walk will take you past Palermo’s most beautiful sights. We recommend first visiting the Norman Palace with the famous court chapel, the Cappella Palatina, in the morning before the big rush of visitors begins.
Then you cross the beautiful Villa Bonanno Park, a small oasis with palm trees, which forms a beautiful connection between the Norman Palace with the Baroque Fountain and the square in front of the cathedral.
The Cathedral of Palermo of St. Mary’s Assunta dates back to 1184. A rooftop walk overlooking Palermo is particularly nice.
You may have time to visit one of the most typical puppet shows, such as Teatro Pupi Argento, opposite the cathedral.
Walk over the pedestrian mile Via Vittorio Emanuele to the “Quattro Canti.” At the intersection of Quattro Canti, four old town districts of Palermos meet with three aristocratic palaces and a church.
The four corner buildings have been redesigned in such a way that an octagonal square with fountain with sculptures was built instead of the building corners.
The best way to discover a city is by hiring a private guide that speaks your language. Please see our Palermo Guided City Walk for details.
Road Trips from Palermo
Palermo is easy to explore by public transport (bus and train) or by car to the many attractions in the area, which are easily accessible on a day trip. Here are the most important ones mentioned.
- Mondello, the fashionable seaside resort
- The Greek temples of Segesta
- Trapani and Erice, connected by a cable car
- The salt flats between Trapani and Marsala with the island of Mozzia
- The Parco dello Zingaro Nature Park in the northwest, a paradise for orchid lovers
- The Greek temple town of Agrigento
- The Greek temples in Selinunte
Don’t do it
Tourists are people with shorts and a camera around their neck. Tourists look different then the normal people around. Easy to spot no matter where your travel takes you. Therefore it is common sense to take care of your personal belongings and don’t wear your wallet full of cash in easy reach. Palermo is not different.
For a tourist, Sicily is likely to be safer than some areas in New York or Chicago
We also know Sicily from Hollywood movies and certain news about famous criminal associations. Palermo airport has been named after the prosecutor Falcone who was murdered on the highway between the airport and Palermo. So it still happens today that you wonder what kind of people they are sitting at the side table. Don’t ask. It is an unpleasant topic and it does not fit actually to a holiday situation.
Sicilians are very open-minded if you want to ask for directions, know something about the history or simply want to share your joy that Sicily is so beautiful.