Palermo (Italy) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. The main sights of Palermo with descriptions, guides and maps.
City of Palermo (Italy)
Palermo is a city in southern Italy and the capital of the island of Sicily. It’s a place steeped in ancient history and the smell of the sea, cultural traditions and great gastronomy. Palermo combines beautiful architecture with a breathtaking seascape, it is famous for charming squares and atmospheric streets, impressive churches and luxurious palaces, cute street markets and cozy restaurants. Palermo has been called “the most conquered city in the world. For several thousand years, it has been owned by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans and Spaniards. Each of these nations considered Palermo as their own and left a mark on its streets, making the city a melting pot of different cultures, traditions and religions.
Interestingly, Palermo is considered one of the poorest cities among the “regional capitals” of Italy. Also the capital of Sicily has earned a reputation as one of the most criminal places in the Apennine Peninsula. But meanwhile, it’s a soulful and authentic city known for the hospitality and openness of the locals.
What to do (Palermo):
From €250 per excursion
Palermo: the many faces of the city
Full-day city tour
€250 for the tour
Palermo on the palm of your hand
Riding in a car with a panoramic roof and strolling through ancient quarters
Geography and climate
Palermo is located in southern Italy on the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea in the northern part of the island of Sicily. The city is surrounded by the mountain range of the same name and lies in the valley of the rivers Papireto, Cemonia and Oreto. Palermo is one of the warmest cities in Europe. The capital of Sicily has a Mediterranean climate with humid, slightly stuffy summers and very warm winters. The temperature even in the coldest period rarely drops below 10 ° C.
Among tourists (and locals) is the popular area of Mondello, located near the center of Palermo. It boasts one of the best beaches in the whole city and also has a bustling atmosphere and welcoming character. There are numerous eateries scattered in the streets leading to the beach.
Panorama of Palermo
- More than 650 thousand people live in Palermo.
- The area is 160.59 km².
- Language: Italian.
- Currency – euros.
- Visa – Schengen.
- Time – Central European (UTC +1, in summer +2).
- Palermo is famous for its excellent gastronomy and delicious street food. Sicilian cuisine is based on seafood, herbs and spices (thyme, rosemary, etc.), and vegetables.
- Popular local products: olive oil, natural juices, wine, cheese.
- Typical dishes include Sfincione (the local equivalent of pizza), Panino con la milza (a traditional dish consisting of minced meat loaf), Calzone (another type of pizza), Pizza siciliana (Sicilian style pizza), Scaccia (pie with vegetables and anchovies), Cipollina (puff pastry with vegetables, cheese, bacon), but also various snacks (Antipasti), pastas, fish and seafood dishes.
Best time to visit
The ideal time to visit Sicily and Palermo in particular is in May, June, September and October. If the main goal is not a beach holiday, go in winter, late fall and early spring.
Palermo is one of the oldest cities in the world. The settlement on the site of the modern city was founded in the 8th century BC by the Phoenicians. The Greeks then settled here, and during the First Punic War the main military fleet of Carthage was located here. In 254 BC the ancient city was conquered by the Romans. Palermo was part of their state until the 6th century AD. In 515 the city was conquered by the Goths, but twenty years later became part of the Byzantine Empire.
Palermo Street Market
In 831 Palermo was conquered by the Saracens. During the Moorish period of its history, the city prospered through trade with North Africa. In 1072 Palermo was conquered by the Normans, who made it the capital of the rather powerful kingdom of Sicily. This period is considered the heyday of Palermo. In the second half of the 13th century, Sicily was for a time invaded by the French. Then Palermo (as well as the entire island) became part of the possessions of the Kingdom of Aragon. The Spaniards ruled Sicily until the end of the 18th century.
The streets of Palermo
Palermo became part of Italy in 1860. During World War II a large part of the city was heavily damaged.
How to get there
The international airport is located 30 km west of Palermo. It receives flights from most major cities in Italy and some cities in Europe. The easiest way to get from the airport to Palermo is by bus (Prestia e Commande).
The capital of Sicily has ferry connections to Genoa, Naples, Malta and Cagliari. There are also trains to Palermo from Rome and Naples that use the Messina ferry.
Palermo, unlike Rome, Florence, Venice, and Milan, is not among the most popular Italian cities. Although in terms of atmosphere, the number and variety of attractions, historical and cultural monuments, the capital of Sicily is not inferior to them. Palermo is also famous for the huge number of churches (there are more than 250). Some of them are masterpieces of sacred architecture.
The Cathedral is the main sacral monument of Palermo and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a magnificent ancient church, founded in the 12th century and preserving its original Norman character. The building has an impressive facade that is an interweaving of elements of Gothic, Moorish and Spanish architecture.
One of the cathedral’s columns has an early Arabic inscription, confirming that the church was built on the foundations of a Moorish mosque. The bell tower dates from the 12th century, but was rebuilt in 1840. The royal box, from which Sicilian kings greeted the people after their coronation, was also built in the 12th century and altered three centuries later. Among the many artifacts of the cathedral, the tombs of the Norman Hohenstaufens especially stand out.
The Palace of the Normans, also known as the Royal Palace, is one of Palermo’s most famous landmarks. This monumental building was built by Frederick II on the foundations of an ancient Saracen structure. At the time of the Kingdom of Sicily this was the residence of its rulers. The palace was much enlarged and rebuilt by the Spaniards, a synthesis of medieval and later architecture.
In the northeastern part of the palace there remains a prominent Norman structure, a tall tower with neat square stone blocks and blind arcades. The square courtyard, built in the early 17th century, is surrounded by three stories of arcades.
The Palatine Chapel is a masterpiece of medieval architecture that represents a unique fusion of Norman, Arabic, Byzantine and Romanesque styles. It is the court church of the Sicilian kings, consecrated in the 12th century. In spite of all the changes that have taken place over the centuries, its interior has not lost its overall harmony. This small basilica of three aisles is above all known for its splendid interior, in which the medieval mosaics stand out.
The New Gate
The New Gate is a magnificent ancient structure with an impressive facade just west of the palace.
The gate was built in 1535.
The Politeama Theater is a remarkable example of neoclassical architecture built in the second half of the 19th century.
Church of St. Catherine
The Church of St. Catherine is a sacred structure in the heart of Palermo, built in the 16th century. It is a synthesis of Sicilian Baroque, Rococo and Renaissance styles.
The Martorana is a medieval religious building founded in 1143. This sacred monument is an Arab-Norman style building. The Baroque facade, added along with the bell tower after an earthquake in the 1720s, breaks slightly from this concept. The church has a Byzantine structure and magnificent 12th-century mosaics, which are among the oldest in all of Sicily.
San Giovanni is an ancient monastery, founded back in the 6th century. During the Moorish period, a mosque was built here. Then the Normans re-consecrated the place and in 1132 they erected a square church with an austere interior, topped by five domes.
San Cataldo is a monument of medieval religious architecture in Arab-Norman style. The church dates from the 12th century and is distinguished by its bright red domes over the elevated central nave. The building has an austere interior, an inlaid floor and Corinthian capitals on four ancient columns.
The Teatro Massimo
The Teatro Massimo is Sicily’s main opera house and one of the most striking neoclassical buildings in Italy. The theater opened its doors in 1897.
Palermo has an impressive archaeological museum located behind a small 17th-century monastery. Its collections are incredible ancient artifacts, including Arabic and Phoenician objects.
The Capuchin Catacombs are one of Palermo’s most unusual and slightly creepy sights. These underground passages are located under the abbey and were carved into the volcanic rock in the 17th century. The catacombs were used for burials until 1881. Inside is a grim scene of 8,000 mummified corpses, arranged by gender and status, lying in the passageways or hanging in the niches of the walls.
The Palazzo Abatellis (Patella) is a Catalan Gothic building built by Matteo Carnelivari in 1490. From the beginning of the 16th to the middle of the 19th century, a monastery was located here. Nowadays, within the walls of the palace there is an art gallery that includes works of outstanding Sicilian masters.
Quattro Canti is one of the central squares of Palermo and is an outstanding example of Sicilian Baroque. The urban space was built in the first half of the 17th century according to a design by the Roman architect Lasso. The square has an unusual octagonal shape. The facades of the buildings forming it are decorated with sculptures.
Behind one of the palaces is the Baroque church of San Giuseppe dei Teatini, a large basilica built between 1612 and 1645.
Santa Maria di Gesù
Santa Maria di Gesù is a former Minorite monastery located on the slopes of Monte Griffon.
The church of Santo Spirito was built in 1173-78 as the oratory of a Cistercian abbey outside the medieval walls. In 1282 the “Sicilian Supper” began in front of the building and ended with the expulsion of the French.
The Chiaramonte Palace is a medieval building built in the 14th century for a powerful noble dynasty. It served as the residence of the governor between 1468 and 1517, then as the seat of the Inquisition and, since 1799, as the seat of the courts of justice. This massive stone building with a square courtyard is now a museum.
€130 for a guided tour
Street Food the Sicilian Way
Taste delicious arancini, cannoli with ricotta and other gastronomic masterpieces of Palermo
€350 for the tour
Etna is an active volcano in Sicily.
Climb up to the craters of a famous volcano and admire a breathtaking panorama of Sicily
Palermo is a cozy, distinctive city that is located in Italy and is the capital of Sicily. On the one hand, Palermo – the mystical glow of Byzantine mosaics, Arab domes, the cathedral with the tombs of Norman kings and Germanic emperors, baroque churches and palazzos, and on the other – the lowest income per capita and the highest unemployment rate in Italy, faceless boxes of apartment buildings on the outskirts of town, neighborhoods of poverty and ruins in the middle of the old city; “The Tunnel of Love and the Church of Santa Rosalia, the tranquility of the museums and the bustle of the market and port, the magnificent outline of the Conca d’Oro and the overflowing traffic in the streets. For the international tourist, Palermo offers an insight into a world where different historical and cultural strata have intermingled over the millennia, a world full of contradictions, yet fascinating.
Save on your trip to Palermo!
Video: Palermo from Above
Palermo is on the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea, where locals catch fish for sale at dawn. The city’s central market impresses with its assortment, and the fresh pastries delight the sense of smell. Tourists are especially loved here: they bring the main income, so do not fear that a representative of the Sicilian mafia around the corner attacked. Of course, you shouldn’t go out at night, especially in the streets of the market, which is empty at this time, but if you follow some simple safety rules, you can be sure that your holiday in Palermo will be remembered extremely positively.
View of Mount Pellegrino The Garibaldi Theatre (Politeama)
It is interesting to note that the theme of the Mafia or Godfather in Palermo is not predominant, despite the fact that this is what comes to mind when one thinks of Sicily. You can buy t-shirts with that theme in the market, visit the Massimo Theater, and that’s where it ends.
The climate is Mediterranean, which means it’s hard to freeze here. Sometimes the temperature rises to +42 degrees. Summer in Palermo lasts 8 months, starting in April and ending in December, and August is the hottest time, so those who can’t stand the heat shouldn’t come this month.
History of Palermo
Palermo was founded by the Phoenicians in 754 BC. It was originally called Sus, which means “flower”, while the Greeks called it Panormos, “the always accessible harbor”. Because of its convenient location, the city quickly developed into a major trading center. The Phoenicians fought regularly with the Greeks in the 4th and 5th centuries BC for supremacy over Sicily, but it was not until 279 BC that they were able to capture the city.
Map of Palermo from the 17th century
Just a couple of decades later, Rome took over Sicily. During Roman rule, nothing significant happened in Palermo, it remained an accessible trading point at the crossroads of Mediterranean trade routes.
In the 6th century A.D. Sicily was conquered by the Byzantines, and in the 9th century by the Saracens, who made Palermo their capital. During this time, a variety of temples and mosques were built in the city, but everyone could adhere to their faith without fear of persecution. An irrigation system was created, thanks to which orange groves appeared in Palermo.
In 1130, the kingdom of Sicily was founded, ruled by Normans. They proved to be responsible and wise leaders, allowing the Sicilians to keep their identity, which was reflected in the architecture of the time. The cathedral building, for example, reflects the Norman, Byzantine and Roman influences. Construction was very active and social life was in full swing.
Palermo in 1840
In 1266, Palermo was conquered by Charles of Anjou. But the power of the French did not please the people of Sicily, and so began a protracted war for 9 years. The French invaders were exterminated, and the period of Spanish domination began. This lasted for 6 centuries and caused much trouble and distress to the island, culminating in a rebellion. It covered the whole of Sicily. The result was the overthrow of the Spanish rule, but later everything returned to normal.
In 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi landed on the island. He captured Palermo and made Sicily part of the Italian kingdom. Subsequently, the willful people of Sicily rebelled more than once, not wanting to be part of Italy and to be dependent on it. It was at this time that the Sicilian Mafia was born, which eventually grew into a major faction.
Mafia rampant in the 1970s
World War I bypassed Palermo, but World War II led to significant destruction due to bombing. More than 10 thousand citizens were left homeless and huddled in the old city center. In the 1950s, the island was overwhelmed by the invasion of the unemployed, housing has become scarce. In the early ’60s, massive construction of shopping malls and parking lots began, leading to the demolition and demolition of many rare buildings. The city’s population increased by 20%, new apartment buildings were built, but the central part lay in ruins, which can be found in Palermo to this day.
Currently Palermo is one of the largest cities and major ports of Italy.
Attractions of Palermo
The best way to start exploring Palermo is at the Archaeological Museum, which has a lot of interesting exhibits, collections of Byzantine, Phoenician and Greek art. There you can learn about the history of the city and nearby settlements. The museum building is also impressive: it used to belong to a monastery, so it has a whole complex of rooms, as well as a chapel.
The Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Palermo is a great place to explore the architectural heritage of the city. It is the site of the relics of the patroness of Palermo, Saint Rosalia, and the tombs of Sicilian kings and Germanic emperors during whose reign the city and kingdom itself reached its heyday. The cathedral was built in the XII century AD and has undergone several reconstructions and reconstructions. The building combines features of Arab, Byzantine and Norman architecture, which makes it unique.
In the central part of the city is the Piazza Pretoria, surrounded by houses built in Baroque style. The piazza has a wonderful fountain.
The Royal Norman Palace is also worth a visit in Palermo. The frescoes alone are in the Byzantine style. Previously, this palace was home to kings and their families, so it will be interesting to see the dwelling place of high-ranking monarchs. There is also the Palatine Chapel, with a unique Arabic carving on the ceiling, decorated with intricate mosaics. At present this is a museum but services are held on Sundays.
A world famous attraction is the Catacombs of the Capuchins, a kind of museum city of the dead under the Capuchin monastery. Skeletonized, mummified, embalmed bodies of the dead lie, stand, hang, and form compositions. The place is not recommended to the impressionable people. All in all, about 8,000 monks and wealthy Sicilians are buried in the necropolis. The first to be buried here was Brother Silvestro of Gubbio in 1599, and since 1882 the burials in the Capuchin catacombs were officially stopped. After that date, exceptions were made for only a few of the dead, including Giovanni Paterniti and Rosalia Lombardo. Today it is their imperishable remains that are the most visited in the necropolis.
A visit to the Teatro Massimo in Piazza Verdi is no less memorable. The opera house is the largest in Italy and one of the largest in Europe: a well-designed structure that can hold 1,400 spectators. The unique architecture guarantees excellent audibility. It was on the steps of the Teatro Massimo that Rosalia Corleone was murdered in the third part of the movie “The Godfather”.
The botanical garden appeared in Palermo in the XVIII century and was intended for the people of the royal dynasty. At first it was a small piece of land on which greenery and medicinal herbs were grown, but then it grew and added exotic trees and plants, an extensive aquarium, and a greenhouse.
Piazza Marina is next to the sea. It used to be the place where royal festivities used to take place. Garibaldi Garden is very close and interesting for tourists not only with benches and walking paths, but also with centuries-old trees, which are more than 300 years old. Sometimes children play hide and seek among them.
In Palermo we also recommend an astronomical observatory, a museum of marionettes and architecture.
Entertainment and Recreation
The main entertainment in Palermo is a beach vacation. The sea is quiet and clean with well-groomed pebble beaches where you can practice various water sports: diving, windsurfing, canoeing or jet-skiing.
After the beach activities, when the evening cools down, tourists move to the local bars. Most of the entertainment establishments are located on the square Olivella. The most popular night bars are Piano bar, Escargot, Drive bar and Collica. The best nightclubs in Palermo are: Grants club, Rosamunda and Anticlea club.
Do not forget to watch the funny puppet shows in the streets of Palermo.
Cafes and Restaurants
In Palermo, as in all of Italy, they love pizza. It even has its own kind – sfincione. The old pizza recipe calls for the following ingredients: a flatbread base, tomato sauce, onions and Sicilian cheese. And the seasonings added to the pizza make the taste unique. Today, Sicilian pizza has undergone many changes. The different variations can be tasted not only in pizzerias, but also in small booths right on the streets. However, in order not to make a wrong choice, it is worth listening to the reviews of travelers who recommend restaurants Al 59, Antica Focacceria San Francesco and Comparucci.
A traditional Sicilian dish is caponata, an assortment of roasted eggplant, tomatoes, onions and celery with olives, capers and sweet and sour sauce. There are about 37 classic recipes for this dish. Caponata is served as a side dish or as an appetizer.
The best traditional Sicilian restaurants in Palermo are: Bye Bye Blues on Via del Garofalo, 23 (you’ll be overwhelmed not only by the cuisine but also by the wine list of 350 local wines), Capricci Di Sicilia, near the old market (try the legendary Sicilian cassata here), and La Scuderia, in the city park near the racecourse (they serve wine from their own cellar).
Via della Liberta is one of the most fashionable pedestrian shopping streets not only in Palermo but in all of Italy, with the finest clothing brands for sale here. In the streets of the Old City you can see many colorful food markets. The most famous one is on Vucciria. Fresh fish, fruit, vegetables and meat are also offered with loud shouts in Ballaro. The most original market is in the Capo neighborhood around Piazza dei Beati-Paoli, where you can eat buns, baked chickpeas, tortillas or crispy baked arancini (rice meatballs) in the restaurants.
Palermo’s orange AMAT city buses are often crowded and do not exactly follow the schedule during the summer. The schedule can be found at tourist information kiosks; most routes stop in front of the train station. Tickets must be purchased in advance, in tobacco shops or at the bus station. The fare is 1.05 euros for an hour or 4 euros for the whole day.
Palermo has two small buses, Linea Gialla and Linea Rossa, which operate in the narrow streets of the historic center. They will be useful primarily to tourists. If you want to go to Palermo’s suburb of Monreale, look for bus number 389 in Independence Square.
You can stay in different areas of Palermo, but much depends on how heavy your suitcases are and how much time you want to spend in the city.
If the luggage bags have an excessive weight, fatigue takes its toll, and will have to leave very soon, it is worth a stop in the station area. The disadvantages are that it is very noisy and there are a lot of Arabs. The pluses are cheap accommodation, proximity to the train station and the center. Be sure to book a room overlooking the courtyard, otherwise you can not sleep well because of the noise. But even with a good location must be made sure that there are no trash cans near the windows, otherwise their aromas will drive you crazy. One of the best station hotels is the Hotel Orientale. There is free Wi-Fi and breakfast, and a free crib for families with children. The hotel has 1 star and the room rate is about 3,000 rubles.
In the center of Palermo, you can rent an apartment, such as the Palazzo Nuccio Guest house. The room is a full-fledged separate apartment with all amenities. There is Wi-Fi, it is possible to accommodate a child from 6 years old without a bed, the main tourist attractions are within walking distance. Prices start from 4000 rubles. If you need exactly a hotel, then excellent reviews received Casa Galati. It has 2 stars, the price for a room starts from 3500 rubles.
How to get there
You can get to Palermo by plane, train, bus, car and, of course, by sea. The cost of tickets varies depending on the chosen method of travel.
If you decide to fly, you should know that there is Falcone-Borsellino airport near Palermo, which can be reached from Europe, Russia and all over Italy.
By train from Russia to get to Palermo is inconvenient, because the way will pass through several countries and have more than one change. If you consider a more logical way, for example, from Rome to Palermo, everything is much easier: there are 2 types of budget trains a day from Termini station – morning Intercity (IC) and evening InterCityNotte (ICN). The trip in the morning will cost 75 euros, and in the evening 98 euros; travel time is up to 11 hours.
Palermo can also be reached by ferry. To do this, you will need to go to the Roman seaport of Civitavecchia. Tickets start at 60 euros (seats in shared cabins). The ferry departs every Friday at 19 hours. To get to Civitavecchia from Termini Station, take the Regionale train (ticket price €5).
It is also possible to travel by bus. If leaving Rome, you need to get to the bus station Roma (Rom) or Largo Guido Mazzon. The first bus leaves at 18:45. Total travel time is 13 hours. The ticket costs from 35 euros. The most romantic and unpredictable is the trip to Palermo by car.