Discover the 10 essential things to do in Palermo, Italy

What to do in Palermo, capital of Sicily and one of the oldest cities on the European continent?


  • 1. The Norman Palace and the Palatine Chapel
  • 2. Palermo Cathedral
  • 3. The Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele, the largest in Italy
  • 4. The Palaces of Palermo
  • 5. The most beautiful squares in the city
  • 6. The Capuchin Catacombs
  • 7. Palermo’s street food and markets
  • 8. A boat trip
  • 9. Also to see in Palermo
  • 10. Things to do around Palermo
  • How to get to Palermo?
  • Where to stay in Palermo?

To visit Palermo is to confront the contrasts of the city at every street corner. Sumptuous palaces rub shoulders with ruined monuments, large sunny squares lead to a maze of narrow, dark streets.

Palermo has a rich complex history dating back to Antiquity, the city having been founded around the 8th century BC and having undergone many phases of occupation: Arab, Norman, Byzantine, French, Spanish.

Come and discover the many places of interest in Palermo, a city with a strong character.

1. The Norman Palace and the Palatine Chapel

Norman Palace, Palermo

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Gandolfo CannatellaRelated tickets/activities:PalermoNormans

The Norman Palace is like Palermo, a great mixture of influences. Alternately Punic and Roman fortress, residence of the Muslim emirs and palace of the Norman kings, it currently houses the region’s parliament. An essential visit which contains a real jewel: the Palatine Chapel. Covered with gilding and medieval mosaics, it is a breathtaking sight.

2. Palermo Cathedral

Palermo Cathedral

Photo credit: Shutterstock – SFRelated tickets/activities:Palermocathedral

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is a medieval monument dating from the 12th century, a Romanesque church with strong Arab influence. It was built on the site of what was then the mosque of the Arab city and before that a Roman temple. You can admire the very worked exterior facades which contrast with the very sober Baroque style inside.

3. The Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele , the largest in Italy

Massimo Theatre, Palermo

Photo credit: Shutterstock – lapas77Related tickets/activities:Palermo

The Teatro Massimo is the largest opera house in Italy and the third largest in Europe with more than 1600 seats and the possibility of hosting up to 700 actors on stage! Built in the 19th century, it was restored and reopened in 1997 after a period of neglect. Only the Opéra Garnier in Paris and the Staatsoper in Vienna offer larger halls than this one. Go check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

4. The Palaces of Palermo

Gangi Palace

Photo credit: Shutterstock – lindasky76Related tickets/activities:Palermopalace

The number of churches in Palermo is matched only by the number of palaces. You will find them on every street corner and it is often possible to enter their courtyards to better appreciate them. Stroll along Via Maqueda, a historical axis of the city where you will find on your way the Palazzo Grassellini, Comitini or Mazzarino. Film lovers cannot fail to visit the Palazzo Gangi, an 18th century palace where Visconti’s famous ballroom scene from The Cheetah was filmed. Finally, go to

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Zisa Pleasure Palace, a 12th century Arabic-style building commissioned by the Norman King William I.

5. The most beautiful squares in the city

Piazza Bellini, Palermo, Sicily

Photo credit: Shutterstock – elesiRelated tickets/activities:Palermo

You cannot visit Palermo without lingering in its squares. The best known of all, more like a crossroads, is the Quattro Canti, the historic center of the city flanked by four identical Baroque monuments housing the statues of the four Spanish governors of Palermo. Piazza Bellini and its Church of the Martorana, undoubtedly the most beautiful in the city, cannot be missing from your list. We also recommend Piazza Pretoria and its monumental 16th century fountain.

6. The Capuchin Catacombs


Photo credit: Shutterstock – Marcel ClemensRelated tickets/activities:Palermocatacombs

By far the most bizarre attraction in Palermo, but also one of the most popular in the city, the Capuchin Monastery is most famous for its Catacombs. These underground passages were carved into volcanic rock after 1599 and served as a burial ground until 1881. Inside you will be greeted by around 8000 mummified corpses, arranged according to gender and status in the hallways or hanging to the walls. The mummies wear well-preserved clothes, as the families regularly “gifted” new clothes to the deceased. One mummy in particular attracts visitors, that of a 2-year-old girl, Rosalia Lombardo , whose level of preservation is exceptional.

7. Palermo’s street food and markets

Market in Palermo

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Alex Segre

Palermo’s street markets are an opportunity to immerse yourself in the flavors of Sicily, and in the heart of Palermo life. Sicilian cuisine is rich, and you will find all the elements that make it up on market stalls set up in narrow streets between ruined buildings, such as in the markets of Ballaro and Vucciria. Street -food is very present in Palermo : go in search of Rocky, a local character, and try his Pane con la Milza (made with veal lung and spleen), taste the pasta with sea urchins and bean fries fried ( panelle ) washed down with a spremuta d’arancia (orange juice).

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Opening hours for La Vucciria: Mon-Fri 10am-1pm, Via Coltellieri 46, 90133, Palermo
Opening hours for Ballaro: 7:30am-8pm, closing at 1pm on Sundays, Via Ballaro, 14, 90134 Palermo

8. A boat trip

Cefalù, Palermo

Photo credit: Shutterstock – ciccino77Related tickets/activities:Palermoboat rental

To discover Palermo as well as possible, another must-do is offered to you: the boat trip! Indeed if you want to explore the region of the three seas in Sicily, nothing better than boat rental in Palermo .

Sicily, the island of three seas, runs many cruise itineraries. In one or two days you will have plenty of time to explore some of these gems. For short cruises from Palermo, choose the Tyrrhenian Sea. You can then walk along the Aeolian Islands and enjoy a sublime view of Vulcano …

9. Also to see in Palermo

Botanical Gardens, Palermo

Photo credit: Shutterstock – nikolpetr

One can hardly stop visiting Palermo; surprises are around every corner! Here are a few more steps to continue your journey:

  • The Vucciria market
  • The Albergheria district
  • Antonio Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum
  • Palermo Botanical Garden

10. Things to do around Palermo

Cloister, Monreale, Palermo

The cloister of Monreale – Photo credit: Flickr – Brigitte Djajasasmita

Now that you know what to do in Palermo, don’t hesitate to pick from this list to discover the surroundings. Sicily is a region that deserves attention!

  • Monreale and its cathedral
  • Mondello beach to cool off
  • The town of Cefalù , between relaxation and culture
  • The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento , 2 hours by train from Palermo

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Mohamed SAKHRI

I am Mohamed SAKHRI, the creator and editor-in-chief of this blog, 'Discover the World – The Blog for Curious Travelers.' Join me as we embark on a journey around the world, uncovering beautiful places, diverse cultures, and captivating stories. Additionally, we will delve into mysterious and, at times, even bizarre destinations.

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