As the capital of Sicily, Palermo is home to a vast amount of cultural and historical thingsfor guests to enjoy. You’ll find bustling markets filled with fresh herbs and spices, historic cathedrals covered in vibrant mosaics and frescos, and stunning homes that tower over the city with their intricately designed exterior. It can be an incredible experience to stroll through its winding streets to explore everything in the city. If you’re planning to visit Palermo for a day, you’ll find some interesting things you can do while here below.
One day in Palermo Sicily, things to do and see
Visit the Antico Caffè Spinnato for Coffee and Cannoli
The Antico Caffé Spinnato is a historic café known not only for its history, but delicious menu. Built in 1860, this café was and still is a popular hangout for locals to talk about current events. The café is well-known for its fresh coffee and mouthwatering cannoli. You can buy some and sit outside on its sidewalk terrace. To get to the café, you can take Via Maqueda. This is one of the main roads in Palermo so it will be easy to reach the café on it.
See the Teatro Politeama
The Teatro Politeama is one of the most iconic theaters in the city thanks to its rich history and astonishing performances. The theater first opened its doors in 1874 despite it still being under construction and not having a complete roof. Known for its archways, chandeliers, and intricate architecture, the Teatro Politeama offered a variety of different acts for guests to enjoy, like comedies, operas, and even circuses when it first opened. Many prominent artists have also performed here like Leopoldo Mugnone. You can walk through the theater with a guided tour or buy some tickets to attend one of the many daily events.
Take a Tour of the Teatro Massimo
This opera house is one of the largest of its kind in Europe. Built in 1897, the famous Leopoldo Mugnone performed here as well. The theater offers numerous tours throughout the day, such as of the Royal Box which features red couches and a dazzling Murano chandelier. You can also see the Pompeian Hall which is known for its circular design that helps to enhance the sound of the music playing in it.
Explore the Palazzo Costantino
Created by Giuseppe Merendino, the Palazzo Costantino is a historic palace that will take you back in time to the 18th century. Once abandoned, you can walk around the palace to view its incredible collection of stuccos, furniture, and frescos that survived World War II. The palace towers high above the city so it will certainly catch your eye. While it’s often closed, it occasionally does open, so if you want to explore its interior, you’ll need to checkits schedule ahead of time.
See the Chiesa Santa Ninfa ai Crociferi
Designed with a stunning Baroque-Mannerist architecture, the Chiesa Santa Ninfa ai Crociferi (Church of Saint Nympha) was built in 1601. It’s known for its stone façade as well as its barrel vaults on the ceiling. This church was one of the first buildings to be situated on the Via Maqueda.
Stroll Through the Quattro Canti
Also known as the Piazza Vigliena, the Quattro Canti is one of the many public squares in the city known for its amazing display of Baroque architecture. Designed in the early 1600s, it was constructed to be one of the main traveling roads in Palermo and is home to a bustling intersection which creates a unique octagonal shape. This shape captures sunlight which makes the buildings and roads inside glow earning the Quattro Canti the nickname “Theater of the Sun.” The buildings bordering the street will amaze you with their massive columns and statues that are built into their walls. To get to Quattro Canti, you can walk down Via Vittorio Emanuele.
View the Fontana Pretoria
Built in 1554, the Fontana Pretoria, which translates to “Praetorian Fountain,” is an enormous fountain located in the middle of the city’s historic district. The fountain was originally located in Florence before being transported over to Palermo in 1574. The fountain is designed with steps leading up to its center which is also covered in statues of various mythological gods. Today, it’s considered to be a beautiful piece of art, but back when it first graced the city’s streets people were disgusted by the nude statues and would name them after corrupt city officials. You can view this fountain up close anytime during the day, and even night, as it’s illuminated in floodlights.
Travel to the Piazza Bellini to See the Church of San Cataldo and Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio
The Piazza Bellini is a stunning square that is known for its intricate mixture of different architectural styles. You’ll find many unique buildings here, like the Church of San Cataldo and Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio. The Church of San Cataldo was constructed in 1154 and features Arabian-Norman architecture. Its interior was never complete, due to the assassination of Maio of Bari, which explains the rustic and unpainted brick ceilings and walls. Today, it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and you can walk through its halls and chapels with a guided tour to learn more about its interesting history.
Nearby is Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, a church built in 1145 that has a rich religious history. It was once home to the Benedictine Nuns of the Monastery who were known for their tasty marzipan fruit coveted throughout the city. The interior of the church is filled with colorful frescos and mosaics, vaulted ceilings, and ornate columns.
Stroll Through the Giardino Garibaldi
The Giardino Garibaldi is a stunning villa bordered by ancient trees whose massive roots you can see almost floating out of the ground. In fact, the city’s oldest tree (150 years old) is located here. Despite its peaceful appearance, the spot was once the location where executions took place in the city. However, today, it serves as a tranquil site to take a stroll or go shopping at the flea market which is hosted here during the weekend.
Explore the Piazza San Domenico
The Piazza San Domenico is one of the many squares located in the heart of Palermo’s historic city. It is home to many beautiful structures you can view, like the Column of the Immaculate Conception and the Church of San Domenico.
Shop at the Vucciria Market
After exploring the Piazza San Domenico, you can take a short walk over to the Vucciria Market. This is a historic open-air marketplace in the city. The market lines a small street and features numerous stalls that sell everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to handcrafted items.
To get to the Vucciria Market, you can take Via Vittorio Emanuele, which will take you by historic buildings, or Via Maccherronai which is a quiet street known for being a popular place for locals to play briscola, a popular Italian card game.
Walk Around the Piazza Bologni
The Piazza Bologni is the perfect place to take a stroll to view historic buildings. The square, built in 1566, is known for its perfect rectangular shape which is bordered by various types of structures, like the Palazzo Ugo delle Favare which towers over the square. You’ll also find a large statue of Charles V of Hamburg in the middle of it.
Take a Tour of the Cattedrale di Palermo
Also known as the Palermo Cathedral, this church is known for its unique geometric patterns and marble interior. You’ll also find royal Norman tombs inside which are the final resting places of many prominent Norman figures and royalty. You can also tour the cathedral’s treasury which houses Constance of Aragon’s jewel-adorned 13th century crown.
View the Porta Nuova
The Porta Nuova is a large city archway that stands over the entrance of Palermo to welcome guests to the city’s oldest street. Its carved exterior tells the story of how the city celebrated a visit by Charles V to it after he captured Tunis in 1536. The gate has been remodeled throughout time, but its purpose remains the same. You can walk through this gate, but be aware that cars also can drive through it so you’ll need to keep a close eye on the road.
Tour the Palazzo dei Normanni
The Palazzo dei Normanni, or Royal Palace of Palermo, was once the home of kings who ruled over the city. This UNESCO site opened in 1130 and features a beautiful Norman architectural style that features columned archways and a large courtyard. This structure now serves as a home to the Sicilian Regional Assembly.
Where to Stay in Palermo
When in Palermo, a great place to stay at is La Terrazza Palace. This grand hotel features magnificent architecture and is located in the middle of the city so you can get around easily. The rooms here have their own private terraces and even high-end hydromassage showers. The hotel also offers other great amenities like a bar and a breakfast buffet you can enjoy.
Palermo is a stunning city that should be a must-see place when in Sicily. Its charm will captivate you as you stroll through its streets to explore markets or walk through gardens. It also has a beautiful selection of architecture that helps to tell the unique history of the city. The destinations above are some of the best places to see when in Palermo for a day to ensure you experience the most important things this city has to offer.