Palermo Travel Guide

Introduction to Palermo

Passionate Sicily’s capital Palermo is a beautiful Italian city on the northern coast of the island. Centuries ago, Palermo was one of the most prosperous cities in the Mediterranean which became known as the ‘city of delights’. Stunning gardens and decadent palaces dominated the city but were later destroyed and replaced by Arab, Romanesque and Byzantine architecture. Made famous by films such as ‘The Godfather’, Palermo retains its reputation as a mafia run town but visitors needn’t worry, the city is perfectly safe! Ancient monuments, cathedrals and chapels dazzle with exquisite frescoes and mosaics, markets display a colourful bounty of Italian produce and cosy local cafes nestle in lively piazzas as the aroma of pizza fills the air.

Palermo Cathedral

Palermo Cathedral – a beautiful example of Catalan inspired architecture and design in the heart of Palermo.

Palermo Cappuccini

Catacombe dei Cappuccini – the eerie catacombs of this capuchin convent is home to over eight hundred mummified Palermo residents. 

The Gesu Church

The Gesu Church – Palermo’s architecturally significant church makes extravagant use of marble using it on both floors and walls.

Other things to do in Palermo

Historical architecture in Palermo is hard to avoid and well worth exploring. From the honey hue of Palermo Cathedral and the creepy catacombs of the Capuchin convent, to the stunning mosaics in the Palatina chapel in Palazzo dei Normanni and the beautiful Baroque Gesu Church; Palermo bursts at the seam with elegant design. Discover shopping Italian-style in the boisterous, bustling markets of Piazza del Carmine and Vucciria or the brilliantly colourful Ballaro fruit and vegetable market. Be sure to take home some of Sicily’s finest wines and olive oil. Visit the village of Monreal for hilltop sea views and a majestic cathedral. Palermo’s coastline is dotted with white sandy beaches like Mondello Beach with its charming restaurants, Aspra Beach’s brightly painted boats and breath-taking San Vito Lo Capo Beach that will whisk you to the Caribbean. Take a cable car up to the summit of smoking Mount Etna, if you dare, or get swept away by a dramatic Italian opera.  

Eating and drinking in Palermo

Sicily is known for its spectacular cuisine. With sea air and the freshest ingredients, Palermo’s restaurants, trattorias and cafes serve up mouth-watering meals. Enjoy an aperetivo on the beach or in a rooftop cocktail bar at sunset before sampling the city’s finest foods from homemade Panini to the best pizza on the planet, cooked in traditional wood-fired ovens. Nightlife in Palermo can be as simply as a late-night coffee in a local piazza or hitting one of the open air dance floors of Palermo’s clubs. Ballet, opera and theatre performances also take place under the stars and make a wonderful end to the day. 

Palermo climate

Palermo has a blissful Mediterranean climate with mild wet winters and dry, hot summers. Temperatures in August can reach into the low thirties while winters rarely go below 10 degrees. Palermo sees over 2,500 hours of sunshine a year with warm, balmy nights. October through to January see the most rainfall. 

When to go to Palermo

If you want to enjoy the beaches and catch the sun, June through to late September are the best times to go, but this is when most tourists will visit Palermo. If you want sunshine but a less crowded atmosphere, May and October are often still warm enough to hit the beaches, but with far fewer people on the streets. March and April may not offer beach weather but they will be dry and also virtually tourist free.

Flying to Palermo

Palermo International Airport is 32 kilometres from the centre of Palermo but can be reached in approximately 50 minutes by shuttle bus and trains or by hire car if you prefer. If you aren't limited to flights to Palermo, visitors can also fly into Rome or Naples -- both have trains connecting to the Messina Straits ferry to take you on to Palermo.  You'll have an array of hotels in Palermo to choose from if you plan to visit.

 Palermo Deals

Hotels in Palermo

Car hire in Palermo

Images by Flickr/Tirch, vic15, and Erik Daniel Drost