Sicily – Palermo Things to Do in 24 Hours
Palermo is a complicated city that has been stuck between West and East for millennia. It is a marvelously stimulating experience. The Palermo tourism experience is remarkable, with brilliant structures, secret nooks, frenetic marketplaces, and countless cups of espresso – even one day in Palermo will leave you with vivid impressions and memories.
Best time to visit Palermo
Palermo (and the rest of Sicily) are best visited between May and June, or September and October. Temperatures in the mid-70s are great for city trips in late spring and early fall, and it is also the best time to get cheap flights and accommodation rates.
If you visit Palermo in July or August, you will encounter large crowds and long lines for the city’s biggest attractions, as well as increased pricing and the highest temperatures of the year, which can be uncomfortable in the city.
Winter temperatures are in the low 60s, but there are far lower hotel prices and many fewer visitors, albeit flip-flops and shorts are strictly prohibited.
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Traveling to Palermo
Sicily is served by two major airports: Palermo and Catania. The second is the largest airport on the island and is a terrific alternative if you intend on taking a Sicilian road trip with Palermo as a nice stop along the way.
- Transfer Is the quickest and most convenient alternative.
- Taxi – a cab will cost you roughly $50 and will take around 20 minutes. Taxis in Palermo are pricey; settle on the fare before getting in the cab, not on the way, as Sicilian taxi drivers are notorious for overcharging if they can.
- Bus – ThePrestia e Comande provides a 30-minute service between the airport and downtown Palermo, with multiple stations near our suggested hotels. Tickets for the 50-minute travel cost €6.
- Train – Trenitalia operates the Trinacria Express twice an hour between Punta Raisi (the airport station) and the main railway station. The 60-minute travel costs €5.90 in total.
Best Places to Stay in Palermo
Casa Nostra Boutique Hotel
Casa Nostra Boutique Hotel is located in the Monte di Pietà area of Palermo, 500 meters from Palermo Cathedral. The design is trendy yet local, evoking a sense of rural Sicily, and is housed in the ancient Palazzo Bulè, which was refurbished in 2019. With a jacuzzi, outdoor pool, and a lovely balcony, this is the ideal place to unwind after a day of touring Palermo.
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Palazzo Natoli Boutique Hotel
The Palazzo Natoli Boutique Hotel is located in the ancient Albergaria neighborhood of the old town. This is a terrific spot to stay for a one-day excursion to Palermo since it is intimate and classy, with luxury accommodations and a superbly prepared Sicilian breakfast.
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Things to See & Do in Palermo
You might easily spend a week in Palermo snacking on Brioche con Gelato in the morning and drinking cool beers in the Piazza Della Kalsa at night, with some culture thrown in for good measure. If you don’t have a week and want to tour Palermo in a day, a modest 24 hours inPalermo will suffice.
Quattro Canti Four Corners in Palermo
Quattro Canti, one of Europe’s most renowned junctions created at the beginning of the 17th century, is also one of Europe’s greatest instances of grand city design and a magnificent site to begin your Palermo one-day itinerary.
This Baroque square, formally known as Piazza Vigliena, connects the two streets Via Vittorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda. It has 8 sides: 4 streets and 4 gorgeous curving Baroque facades with fountains encircling the square. Although practically identical, each facade portrays a separate theme: the four seasons, four Sicilian rulers, and four patronesses. This is a great Instagram location and a vivid introduction to the city’s splendor.
The wonderfully frescoed Baroque Sicilian Chiesa di San Giuseppe dei Padri Teatini (Catholic Church of Saint Joseph of the Theatine Fathers), or , is literally on the intersection of Quatti Canti and Via Vittorio Emanuele. We liked it over the cathedral (which is free to visit).
The Praetorian Fountain, built in the 16th century, shows the twelve Gods of Olympus, as well as the animals and rivers of Palermo. It’s massive, fantastic, and occasionally terrifying. The fountain was previously in the yard of a nobleman in Florence, but when he ran into financial difficulties, he sold it to the city of Palermo. Because of the nudity, the plaza known as Piazza Pretoria was then named as Piazza della Vergogna – the Square of Shame – in the 18th century.
Saint Mary of the Admiral
Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, also known as La Martorana, is a 12th-century church featuring Islamic architectural characteristics such as intricate niches and geometric patterns as well as magnificent Byzantine-style mosaics.
From the early ninth century until 1061, Sicily was ruled by the Arab Emirate of Sicily, and the ensuing Arab-Norman style architecture of Palermo is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Or, to put it another way, there’s a lot of stuff you’ve seen mixed together in an excess of aesthetic impressions.
Many of the churches in ancient Palermo are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and have Arab and North African influences. When the Normans arrived, they had churches and palaces built in a design influenced by Western, Islamic, and Byzantine styles, and experienced Arab artisans contributed to the elaborate muqarnas ceilings, geometric patterns, and other distinguishing features. It’s incredible to see them alongside brilliant Byzantine mosaics.
When purchasing your entrance to visit Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, you have the option of paying one fee or a little higher price, with the slightly higher payment gaining you considerably reduced admission to several other Palermo churches.
Church of San Cataldo
The Arabian-Norma church of San Cataldo, which was built in 1154 but never finished, is also located on Piazza Bellini. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you may tour its dramatic halls and churches.
Palermo Public Market
Mercto Ballaro, located near the Stazione Centrale, is a vibrant, untidy, and pleasant outdoor public market selling fish, meat, fruit, and vegetables, as well as housewares. The greatest time to see the fresh vegetable and spice exhibits and perhaps pick up some culinary keepsakes is in the morning. Mercato Vucciria and Mercato del Capo are both well-known marketplaces in the city, although they are more difficult to get than Mercato Ballaro, that is conveniently located between churches!
San Giovanni degli Eremiti
This magnificent church, built in the sixth century but rebuilt in the 12th, is crowned with uniquely Arab-looking domes. The dramatic raw stone interior provides a tremendous feeling of space, and the ornate flooring include Islamic designs.
Palace of the Normans and Cappella Palatina
This majestic palace, located next to the medieval city entrance of Porta Nuova and one of the best things to do in Palermo according to Lonely Planet, was home to the Kings of Sicily all throughout Norman reign and for monarchs following. This amazing complex includes both palace chambers with wonderful mythological frescoes and other scenarios, such as an Asian room.
The Palatine Chapel, considered the greatest of the Arab-Norman chapels, with exquisite Byzantine mosaics and rich Arab-inspired embellishments in the Muqarnas ceiling and inlaid stone floor, is the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s centerpiece.
Cathedral of Palermo
Whatever architectural style you like – Norman, Moorish, Gothic, or Baroque – you will find it in the holy but luxurious grandeur of the Cattedrale di Palermo. Look for the Meridiana, a bronze line running south to north across the floor of the cathedral. Because of a tiny hole in one of the domes, the sun crosses the meridian at different points along the line depending on the time of year. The Meridiana’s ends commemorate the winter and summer solstices, just as marble inlays along the meridian reflect the zodiac signs throughout the year.
You must cover your legs above the knee and shoulders to enter the church. If you wish to enter, bring a simple scarf for your shoulders and avoid wearing shorts. These rules are the same for all churches in Palermo (and throughout Italy!).
When it was opened in 1897, the Massimo Theatre was the biggest opera house in Italy and the third largest in Europe, behind only the opera houses of Vienna and Paris. Cinephiles recognize it as the grand staircase, which serves as the conclusion of the ‘Godfather’ movies. Outside, take note of the lovely Stile Liberty (Italian Art Nouveau) kiosks.
The Regional Archaeological Museum Antonio Salinas, a few minutes’ walk from the theatre, includes a huge collection of Ancient Greek art and relics from Sicilian history and is well worth a visit if you have time.
End the Day at a Local Wine Bar
La Nicchia Enoteca, a trendy wine bar, is a popular choice for an evening drink of chilled prosecco, Italy’s (good) equivalent to champagne.
Palermo Street Food Scene
Pani ca Meusa is a very famous and typical Palermo dish. We’re not going to mince words: it’s a spleen sandwich. These delicious tiny slices of lung and spleen in a savory sauce with a bun will appeal to fans of nose-to-tail eating.
Ninu u Ballerino, a prominent Palermo fast food restaurant, serves panini, pizza, and other fast food staples to everyone else. Line up in the brilliant neon light, get some munchies, and join the masses of delighted residents standing up in the street around barrels. But don’t overdo it since gelato for dessert is a must!
Best Places to Eat in Palermo
Antico Caffe Spinnato
There are so many excellent things to eat in Palermo that you should get started right away to avoid missing out. The ancient Caffe Spinnato – open since 1860 – is one of Palermo’s most popular cafés, located on a pleasant pedestrian street. You can have cannoli and a cafe at a table inside or outside, but standing is both more enjoyable and cheaper.
Order from the cashier, pay, and then provide your ticket to the people behind the counter for self-service.
Trattoria Ai Normanni
Throughout the Mediterranean, lunch is a significant meal. Join the locals at Trattoria Ai Normanni, a neighborhood trattoria adjacent to the Norman Palace. Take note of the terms ‘primi’ and ‘secondi’ on the menu; you can of course follow the local custom and order two meals; no one is in a rush here. Antipasti is a traditional first meal, consisting of a variety of bright flavors such as the Sicilian staple ‘caponata.’ For the main course, you can choose between a meat dish, fish, or pasta. Pasta con le sarde is a local dish that is deliciously sauced with sardines, fennel, and saffron.
The bustling Via Maqueda is ideal for an evening destination and some tacky souvenir buying (“yes” to postcards shaped like Sicily!). The arancini are one of Palermo’s most approachable street food staples. These deep-fried rice balls covered with breadcrumbs and packed with a variety of fillings are called after the orange. You may enjoy a wide range of flavors at Ke Palle until you’re too stuffed to eat anymore!
Top Five Palermo Tips
- Don’t spend your time on cuisine that isn’t exciting and fantastic – there are already so many things to try.
- Keep an eye out for pickpockets and other small crimes, as in any metropolis. Perhaps a bit more here. Petty frauds are also common; settle on a cab and horse-drawn carriage journey fees before boarding. It is customary to be asked for an additional €10 “for the horse” at the end of a Palermo sightseeing tour!
- A little Italian goes a long way here because people don’t speak English as much as they do in other European towns, and the effort earns you a grin. Learn a few words of the language before visiting Palermo.
- Dress for cathedrals, but bring shoes to protect your footing on the slick cobblestones in the markets and alleyways.
- Palermo’s traffic is insane. If you’re driving a rental car, be sure you have booked parking and a GPS to bring you there. If you’re a pedestrian, be cautious when crossing streets. Sicilian drivers tend to wander and emerge from any direction, so keep an eye out!
Do you have more time to spend in Palermo?
If you have a day and a half in Palermo, add these must-see Palermo attractions to your agenda.
- The Capuchin Catacombs – a 20-minute walk from the old town will lead you to one of Palermo’s most amazing sites, a burial site with over 8,000 mummified bodies that give a detailed historical record. This has to be one of the most out-of-the-ordinary things to do in Palermo.
- If you’re traveling between May and September and want to calm down, head to Mondello Beach, one of the best Palermo beaches and only a 15-minute drive away, or visit the Botanical Garden for some quiet and shade!
- Why not go on a day trip? These Palermo day tours will take you to the greatest locations to see in Sicily, such as Mount Etna, the huge living volcano, and the historical sites of Taormina, Monreale, the Temple of Segesta, and the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.
- Sicily – Palermo Things to Do in 24 Hours
- Best time to visit Palermo
- Traveling to Palermo
- Best Places to Stay in Palermo
- Things to See & Do in Palermo
- Quattro Canti Four Corners in Palermo
- Fontana Pretoria
- Saint Mary of the Admiral
- Church of San Cataldo
- Palermo Public Market
- San Giovanni degli Eremiti
- Palace of the Normans and Cappella Palatina
- Cathedral of Palermo
- Teatro Massimo
- End the Day at a Local Wine Bar
- Palermo Street Food Scene
- Best Places to Eat in Palermo
- Trattoria Ai Normanni
- Top Five Palermo Tips
- Do you have more time to spend in Palermo?