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Palermo - Sicily's Cultural Centre

The greatest opera house in Italy, the Norman-Arab sacred buildings and the Palazzo dei Normanni make Palermo Sicily's cultural centre. Its wonderful beaches and Monte Pellegrino, which was once called the most beautiful promontory in the world by Goethe, fascinate all travellers.

Cathedral in Palermo

Geography - The fifth biggest city in the country

Palermo is the capital of as well as the greatest city in the Italian region of Sicily. The metropolis and its suburbs lie in an idyllic bay at the Tyrrhenian Sea at the north coast of the island, which is also called Conca d'oro ("golden hollow"). The city is surrounded by Monte Pellegrino in the north, which is 600 metres high, and Monte Catalfano in the east. With almost 700,000 inhabitants and an area of 158 km², Palermo is Italy's fifth biggest city. The climate is, similar to that in Sicily, temperate to warm with warm summers and mild winters.

View of Palermo from a nearby mountain

Culture - Norman-Arab elements and the country's greatest opera house

Palermo was founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century under the name of "Ziz" (flower), which refers to the fertility of its landscape. The Greeks, on the other hand, called the city "Panormus" ("sheltered harbour") because of its harbour. In the course of history, the Sicilian metropolis was most of all shaped by the Romans, the Vandals and Byzantines, the Arabs, Normans and Staufer, which is apparent from many buildings. The city's main attraction is without doubt Palermo Cathedral (Santa Vergine Maria Assunta), which was built in Norman-Arab style in 1185 and accommodates the tombs of the Hohenstaufen emperors Henry VI and Frederick II. There are several sacred buildings in Norman-Arab style in Palermo, which you recognise by their red domes. Other worthwhile buildings are the churches San Giovanni degli Eremiti, the Palazzo dei Normanni (seat of the Sicilian parliament) and the Teatro Massimo. The latter is the greatest opera house in Italy and the third biggest one in the whole of Europe.

The famous opera in Palermo

Experience - Authentic markets and delicious street food

You can experience the city's special atmosphere on the lively Piazzi in the evening or on one of the many authentic markets during the day, which are located in the streets and the dreamy alleys in the old town. Particularly popular examples are the food market Mercato della Vucciria (short "La Vucciria"), the fruit and vegetable market Mercato Ballarò, the night market Il Borgo and the Mercato del Capo. You cannot only buy local vegetables and fruit here but also taste extraordinary and delicious snacks. Palermo's street food is one of the best ones on earth after Bangkok, Singapore and Penang. Typical snacks in the Sicilian capital consist of rice meatballs (arancini), bread filled with spleen (pani ca meusa), sweet bread with ricotta cheese (iris fritta), chickpea fritters with parsley (panelle) or lamb and chicken wrapped around leek spiced with parsley (stigghiola). You get a dessert in one of the numerous confectioners (pasticceria).

Street food in Palermo

Activities - Bathing in Mondello Bay and hiking on Monte Pellegrino

As Palermo lies directly at the sea, its beaches are excellently suited for going sunbathing. You can also do all kinds of water sports here. Mondello Bay is one of Palermo's most beautiful and popular beaches. From the long sandy beach, you have a great view of Monte Pellegrino, which is part of the nature reserve of the same name. Both the reserve and the city's hinterland offer great conditions for going hiking, trekking and cycling.

Bathing and swimming in Palermo


Since Palermo is the destination of many Mediterranean cruises, the summer is one of the most popular times for travelling the city. However, autumn and winter are also excellent seasons for a trip to Palermo, for example to escape the cold and unpleasant weather in your home country.

A trip to Palermo is the ideal opportunity of combining beach holidays with a city trip. Travellers experience both the Mediterranean atmosphere of Sicily and the city life of the mainland here.

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