Palermo at a glance
The capital of the largest island in the Mediterranean is a spectacular mix of Arab and Norman heritage, with its fascinating medieval quarters, Art Nouveau buildings, and open-air markets.
The Champagneria, one of the oldest watering holes in town, also lends its name to the entire neighborhood opposite the Teatro Massimo.
You probably didn’t know
The asteroid Ceres was discovered from the astronomical observatory of Palermo in 1801.
Suggested reading and viewing
Read The Leopard (Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, 1958); watch Palermo Shooting, directed by Wim Wenders and starring Dennis Hopper and Lou Reed as himself (2008), about a German photographer who comes to the city to escape his past.
- Population: 679,000
- Annual visitor numbers: 700,000 (2014)
- January mean temperature: 11.5°C
- August mean temperature: 30°C
Things to do in Palermo
No visit to Palermo is complete without popping into Pasticceria Cappello for their delectable sweets, and if you only have one, make it a setteveli torte: seven layers of chocolate heaven.
Ke Palle: Arancine d'Autore
Ke Palle: Arancine d'Autore is a celebration of Sicily's most ubiquitous finger food – the rice ball – stuffed with fillings you never thought possible.
It may be in a shoddy part of town and the first approach might be a little offputting, but Zia Pina is nonetheless the de facto go-to place for home cooking.
Lo Strascino, though a bit removed from the town center, is well worth the trek out for its ambiance dripping with Sicilian folklore, impressive starter buffet, and fish you choose directly from the display.
Buatta serves up so-called “people's food”, recipes from long ago in a newfangled way, using only locally-sourced ingredients.
La Champagneria del Massimo
The Champagneria del Massimo is where locals like to kick off the evening with an aperitif and a hearty happy hour buffet, while next door the Aboriginal Internet Café is where expats seem to convene.
Enoteca Butticè is stocked to the rafters with local and international wines from the old and the new world, so sip the night away. Sommelier Salvatore Fanale is on hand help you make the right choice.
Via Ruggero Settimo and Via Libert
The main shopping drags are Via Ruggero Settimo and Via Libert, which has all the well-known brands. In a cul-de-sac near the Politeama theatre is Rizzo Manufacture Studio, a cobbler with a love for vinyl LPs – so you'll find shoe shopping and record selections all under one roof.
Mercato Delle Pulci
If you’ve got a scavenger hunter within you, head to the Mercato Delle Pulci (a flea market in piazza dei Ciompi), making your way through decrepit bodegas chock-full of bric-a-brac or antiques.
Tre Erre Ceramiche
Sicilian ceramic shops are concentrated near the port. Tre Erre Ceramiche at 49 Via Emerico Amari, has a vast array at great prices.
Capo and Ballarò
You can't say you've gone food shopping in Palermo unless you've ventured into one of the large outdoor markets, the Capo (Via Volturno at Porta Carini) or the Ballarò (entrance at Corso Tuköry). Here you will find an explosion of colours and mouthwatering produce, and a lasting testament of the Arab era of the city.
240 hectares of history
Palermo has been dominated by many people throughout its history, and therefore has no shortage of sites that are a testament to that. From the imposing Norman cathedral and Royal Palace with Phoenician foundations to the winding side streets laden with impressive Spanish-era palazzi, the historical centre of the city covers some 240 hectares – that's a lot of ground to cover. Make it easier by catching a hop-on, hop-off bus on Via Emerico Amari, corner of Vis Wagner.
Museo delle Marionette
The kids will most definitely want to make a stop at the Museo delle Marionette, (Puppet Museum, on piazza Antonio Pasqualino) to see puppets from all over the world, or even catch a Sicilian puppet show (For more information, enquire at Argento, 445 via Vittorio Emanuele).
Le Stanze al Genio
The exquisite Le Stanze al Genio museum houses well over 2,000 ceramic tiles from southern Italy. Visits by appointment only.
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