Explore Palermo, a city rich in history and culture. From Arab-Norman treasures to traditional culinary delights to the seaside, here is our guide on what to see and do in the Sicilian capital.

Plan your trip and set off to discover Palermo with Italo! Now, Italo reaches more places in utmost comfort with its coach service Itabus, so you can arrive in Sicily stress-free! With this guide, you can learn all about the history and wonders of the Sicilian capital before your visit.

Palermo is a splendid city because many different cultures and traditions have intertwined throughout its rich artistic and architectural heritage: from the Arab domes to the splendid Byzantine mosaics, from the Baroque churches to the Art Nouveau palaces, from the local market stalls and delicious traditional foods to the glamorous Mondello Beach, there are so many beautiful experiences waiting for you in Palermo!

These are our recommendations for a day trip in Palermo

  1. Palermo Cathedral
  2. Fontana Pretoria (the fountain of shame)
  3. Quattro Canti
  4. Martorana Church
  5. Norman Palace
  6. Palatine Chapel
  7. St. John of the Hermits
  8. Mondello Beach
  9. Monreale Cathedral
  10. What to eat in Palermo
  11. Travel to Palermo with Italo

1. Palermo Cathedral

cattedrale palermo

The first site we recommend is the Palermo Cathedral and its thousand-year history.

Located in the city center and dedicated to the Assumption of the Holy Virgin Mary, it was first an early Christian Basilica, then a mosque, and then again a church under the Norman rule.

Marvel at the various architectural styles ranging from the mid-18th century neoclassical, by Ferdinando Fuga who was architect to the Bourbon king Charles III, to the Arab-Norman Gothic and Baroque styles. Be sure to admire the main apse, the main entryway, the dome, and the royal tombs, especially the sarcophagus of Federico II and the tomb of Santa Rosalia.

The cathedral is open Monday through Saturday from 7:00 to 19:00. On Sundays and public holidays from 8:00 to 13:00 and from 16:00 to 19:00. Admission is free to the basilica. The cost of the ticket for the treasury, royal tombs, crypt, and much more is €7, reduced €5.

2. Fontana Pretoria (the fountain of shame)

fontana pretoria palermo

The second landmark you cannot miss is the spectacular Fontana Pretoria in the center of Pretoria square, in front of the town hall. The residents of Palermo call it the Fountain of Shame because of its nude statues. Finished in 1554, it was destined to embellish the garden of Don Luigi di Toledo in Florence. However, for a question of debts accumulated by that Spanish noble family, it was sold to the Senate of Palermo in 1573 and transported from Florence to Palermo.

Its large circular base is surrounded by an elegant balustrade and contains the other fountain basins layered, concentrically, one atop the other. Admire the dozens of statues representing deities and mythological figures, such as Hercules, Venus, Apollo, Bacchus, Diana and Adonis.

3. Quattro Canti

i quattro canti palermo

A few steps from the fountain our third recommended destination: the Quattro Canti, one of the most scenic squares in Palermo where you can’t help but take a nice selfie. To get there you must arrive at the intersection of Palermo’s two principal streets, via Maqueda and via Vittorio Emanuele. When constructed in 1600, via Maqueda divided the city, and at this intersection the four corners of ancient quarters of the city meet, hence the name of the square: the four corners.

The Quattro Canti are octagonal in shape and sometimes referred to as the Theater of the Sun, because on every day of the year, at least one of the edifices of the four corners is illuminated by sunlight.

Admire the three styles, Doric, Ionic and Composite, of each corner’s edifice, the statues of the seasons, of the Spanish kings, and of the patron saints of each quarter, Santa Oliva, Santa Cristina, Sant’Agata and Santa Ninfa.

4. Martorana Church

chiesa martorana

The fourth landmark on our list is one of the most fascinating Byzantine churches in Italy! Built in 1143 by Admiral George of Antioch mixing Arab-Norman and Baroque styles, it was sold in 1433 to the nearby Benedictine monastery founded by the noblewoman Eloisa Martorana. Interestingly, the church is part of the Eparchy of Piana degli Albanesi and, despite being subject to the Holy See, follows the Orthodox liturgical calendar.

The Church has beautiful Byzantine art, notably, the Christ Pantocrator (ruler of all) on top of the dome, a statue of Christ with his hand raised in blessing that is surrounded by four prostrate angels in adoration at his feet.

Martorana Church is open every day, Monday through Saturday from 08:00 to 13:00 and 15:30 to 19:00. Sundays and holidays from 08:30 to 09:45 and from 11:45 to 13:00. The cost of the ticket is €2, reduced rate €1.

5. Norman Palace

palazzo dei normanni palermo

Our fifth recommendation will take you to the oldest royal residence in Europe: Palazzo dei Normanni, today the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. Is one of the most visited landmarks on the island and inside you will find the marvelous Palatine Chapel. There are two entrances to the palace, the main entrance being reserved for personnel is in Piazza del Parlamento. The tourist entrance is in Piazza Indipendenza.

The two large internal courtyards and the reception rooms are beautiful and impressive, note the Hercules’ Room which takes its name from the frescoes there by Velasquez representing the twelve tasks of the Greek hero.

The Norman is open from Monday to Thursday from 8:30 to 14:30; on Friday and Saturday from 8:30 to 16:30; Sundays and holidays from 8:30 to 12:30.

6. Palatine Chapel

cappella palatina palermo

Since you’re already in the Norman Palace, our sixth recommendation is there too. The beautiful Palatine Chapel dedicated to St. Peter the Apostle was built in 1130 at the behest of Roger II of Sicily. The entire basilica with its three naves and the famous Byzantine mosaics that fresco it is a dazzling experience. The largest and most famous of the mosaics is Christ Pantocrator, a motif also present in Martorana Church. Don’t miss the wooden ceiling with engravings and carvings that illustrate the long Arab domination of the city.

The Palatine Chapel, the Cathedral, the Cathedral of Cefalù, and that of Monreale have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites since July 2015.

The cost of the ticket for the Palatine Chapel and the Royal Apartments is €12, reduced €10.

7. St. John of the Hermits

san giovanni degli eremiti

A few steps from the Norman Palace you reach the seventh destination on our Palermo tour: the Church of St. John of the Hermits, one of the most beautiful complexes in Palermo. The red domes are worth admiring, the cloister with pointed arches and decorated capitals and the towering palm trees. These particularities are the result of the Arab domination which transformed it into a mosque in the 6th century.

Inside, cross the Roman cruciform church covered by red domes and you reach a small door that takes you to the Sala Araba with a cross vault and a Byzantine fresco depicting the Madonna with child between two saints.

The church is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 to 19:00, Sundays and holidays from 9:00 to 13:30. The cost of the ticket is €6, reduced rate for teachers and children €3.

8. Mondello Beach

spiaggia mondello

You absolutely must go to this eighth place on our tour, especially if you’re visiting Palermo in the summer: sunbathing, a long walk, or a dip in the wonderful Mondello sea is a rite of passage.

Palermo is not only history and architectural beauty, but also a seaside city and the Palermitan beach is a must.

White sand underfoot, crystalline sea, tree-lined avenues, Art Nouveau villas, restaurants, bars, shops, private clubs, and everything you need for a dream vacation at Mondello Beach.

It’s located on the west coast of Sicily, 11 kilometers from Palermo and can be easily reached by public transport from the city center. You could also stay by the sea and head to Palermo to visit the museums, churches, and other sights. In summer, it’s a popular destination and very crowded, however at any time of the year it embodies the ideal place to escape the pandemonium of the city and immerse yourself in nature.

9. Monreale Cathedral

duomo monreale

For a side trip a short distance from the city, we recommend this ninth destination: the Cathedral of Santa Maria Nuova, known as the Monreale Cathedral of the Arab-Norman style. Since 2015, it’s also a Unesco World Heritage Site.

It lies just 10 kilometers from the center of Palermo, in a very central square, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele.

Admire the entire Norman-style structure built in the 12th century by King William II. There are three naves in the shape of the Roman cruciform lined with rich Byzantine mosaics. Note the main altar, the pipe organ from the 18th and 19th centuries, and the Baroque portico at the entrance.

Don’t miss the two chapels of the Crucifix and San Benedetto among the majesty of the interiors. Exploring the Cathedral will leave you speechless for its precious history and for all its beauty.

Monreale Cathedral is open weekdays from 8:30 to 12:45 and from 14:00 to 17:00 and on holidays from 14:00 to 17:00. Touristic visits are not allowed during ceremonies and celebrations.

For more information regarding ticket prices, reservations, and guided tours, visit

10. What to eat in Palermo

piatti tipici palermo

Every day trip needs a stop to dine, for a culinary treat we recommend the famous Palermo markets which sell an array of fresh, local products. The three largest markets in the city are Vucciria, Ballarò, and Capo. Visiting these markets is essential if you want to fully immerse yourself in the Palermitan lifestyle, there are the typical little shops and historic locales, stills it’s common to fins kebabs together with potato croquettes and the famous arancini (breaded, fried balls of rice stuffed with savory ingredients).

Palermo is the Italian capital of street food! Don’t miss the soft panini with stewed spleen, the sfincione (a soft focaccia with thick tomato sauce and caciocavallo cheese), the veal intestines, and the panelle (fried chickpea flour fritters).

dolci tipici palermo

After a taste of street food, try the Palermitan pastry shops, depending on who you ask, they are the best in the world. We recommend ordering the famous cannoli, cassata, almond pastries, or watermelon gelo. There are so many excellent pastry shops but it’s always better to ask a local for a suggestion on where to find the best one.

11. Travel to Palermo with Italo

Explore Sicily with Italo and Itabus to discover its many wonders. Reach Palermo by Italo’s new routes serviced by Itabus, buy your ticket now and arrive with ease for the summer!

If you love the sea, don’t miss our guide on how to reach the Aeolian Islands with Italo, the Sicilian archipelago paradise unlike any place else, and check out our 10 recommendations on what to do and see on the 7 Sicilian islands.