Welcome to Palermo, Sicily!
The capital of Sicily, Palermo, Italy, is one of the most conquered cities in the world. It seems that Sicily has always been a prize for many nations; so it comes as no surprise that Palermo was under the control of the Romans, Arabs, and finally Christian conquerors. Both peaceful and rugged at the same time, Sicily’s largest city is basically a mix of everything. From Byzantine mosaics and Gothic palaces to Arabesque domes and markets, Palermo offers a wide range of historical sites.
Explore Palermo’s street food markets, historical monuments, and breathtaking landscapes, as a worldwide local and get to know the city through the eyes of the locals. This insider’s guide takes you beyond the most famous attractions and allows you to discover some of Palermo’s finest sites.
Where to Begin
Palermo’s opera house, Teatro Massimo, is a great place to start your journey through the city. You can get a ticket for an opera or go on a guided tour, which is organized every day. The square in front of the Teatro Massimo is extremely popular with the locals, especially on the weekends when thousands of young people gather here. Our next stop is the lovely Fontana Pretoria, located in the center of Piazza Pretoria. Built in the 16th century, the fountain features marble statues of characters from Greek Mythology including Areas, Apollo, Poseidon, and Zeus. Quattro Canti is another historical attraction in the center of Palermo. At each corner of this open square, you will see statues of some of the most important citizens and rulers of Italy. It’s a great place to snap some cool photos.
Worldwide Local Tip: Temperatures here are pleasant most of the time, which means you can visit the city throughout the year, and enjoy the nice Palermo weather. It’s true, it doesn’t get very hot in July or August, but still, there are nice beaches just outside the city where you can cool down, anyway. During winter, the temperature is mild and you won’t need more than a hoodie or a light jacket.
Eat Like a Local
Sicilians are very proud of their cuisine (as they should be!) and the locals here in Palermo will tell you how Capo, Ballaro, Vucciria, and Borgo Vecchio are 4 of the best food markets, in all of Sicily. The prices at these markets are typically low, but that has no impact on the quality of the food, as it is still amazing! From fresh fish and seafood to stalls selling fruits and vegetables, there is something for every foodie out there. Visiting the food markets in Sicily is also a great way to experience the Palermitan culture, and mingle with local grandmas who come here to do their weekly shopping. The Palermo Street Food Tour, offered by Streaty, is also a good way to indulge in local food specialties. The tour lasts for 3 hours and includes a local guide who takes you to the local markets of Capo and Vucciria. During the tour, you will learn more about the Sicilian cuisine and try authentic street food specialties, such as arancina, sfincione, veg panelle, cazzilli fritters, veal offal roll, and cannoli ricotta cream. A visit to one of the oldest bars in the city, where you can sample some delicious Palermo wine, is also included in the guided tour.
Worldwide Local Tip: The best way to get around Palermo is on foot. Mostly a pedestrian area, it is easy to navigate through the city from any of the central Palermo hotels. As for public transportation, don’t count on it too much. Buses are often overcrowded and are never on time. The metro is also not the most reliable form of transportation. The traffic in Palermo is chaotic, so think twice before renting a car. That being said, the best place to stay in Palermo, is in the city center which means you’ll be just minutes from the best attractions that you can walk to.
Explore the Surrounding Area
To venture outside the city’s gates, follow tips from the locals by visiting the lovely town of Mondello and its spectacular beach. It’s a great place to unwind and enjoy the crystal clear Mediterranean waters. Make sure to stop by a picturesque Art Nouveau building and pier, situated next to the beach that has a nice restaurant and bar. For a day trip away from Palermo, the small town of Cefalu is the most obvious choice. From the historic cobblestone streets lined with charming houses and a beautiful cathedral to one of the most amazing beaches in the region, there is plenty to keep you entertained in this small Sicilian town.
Worldwide Local Tip: Since Sicilians can be very laid back, don’t expect businesses to be open in the afternoon. Locals believe in and practice what is known as a “siesta,” which is basically resting time. This means that many Palermo restaurants and bars are not open for business between 3 and 6 pm.
Enjoy Your Visit!
You are not likely to find many cities in the world as interesting as Palermo. Exploring the capital of Sicily as a worldwide local is the best way to get to know the local culture, allowing you to discover some of the most fascinating places in Palermo.