What to See in Palermo, Italy, in One Day

The diverse architecture of Palermo Cathedral is just one thing youll want to see in the Sicilian capital
The diverse architecture of Palermo Cathedral is just one thing you'll want to see in the Sicilian capital | © Alpineguide / Alamy Stock Photo

Palermo is a city of striking architecture, pulsating markets and fascinating cultural heritage. To help you squeeze as much as possible out of a one-day visit, here’s what to see and do in the capital of Sicily.

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Morning

1. Buy fresh produce at Mercato del Capo

Farmers' Market, Street Food

Three boys walk between food stalls in an alleyway at Mercato del Capo in Palermo, Sicily
© Fotomaton / Alamy Stock Photo
The markets of Palermo are known for their chaos and noise. Dive in and experience Sicily at its loudest and most frenzied with a morning visit to the Mercato del Capo. Wind your way through stalls piled with local produce, including ruby red tomatoes and types of squash you’ve probably never seen before. For food on the go, have a slab of sfincione (thick-crust Sicilian pizza), or a sandwich filled with salty panelle fritters, made with chickpea flour.

2. Enjoy a coffee break at Casa Stagnitta

Bar, Cafe, Pastries, Italian, Pub Grub

Casa Stagnitta is one of many historic cafes in Palermo and one of the top coffee houses in Sicily. Opened in 1928, it now specialises in expertly brewed, single-origin coffees. It occupies prime real estate in the middle of the historic centre and has a lovely outside seating space – a perfect spot to watch the city wake up. If you’re still feeling peckish after your Mercato del Capo visit, treat yourself to one of the home-made cakes or perhaps a vanilla brioche.

Afternoon

3. Admire the architecture of Palermo Cathedral

Cathedral, Church

A view towards Palermo Cathedral, Sicily, focusing on a statue, clock tower and a basilica
© funkyfood London - Paul Williams / Alamy Stock Photo
Next, it’s time to visit one of the most renowned buildings in Sicily: Palermo Cathedral. The grand structure was built by the Normans in 1184, but has been augmented over the centuries, resulting in an intriguing mix of architectural styles. First admire the enormous dome, columns and arches on the outside, then head in. It’s free to enter the church, but there’s a small fee to visit the tombs, treasury, crypts and terraces.

4. Get spooked at the Catacombe dei Cappuccini

Museum

Macabre, yes, but a visit to the Catacombe dei Cappuccini (Capuchin Catacombs) provides a fascinating – and spooky – insight into the history of the city. You’ll come face to skull with long-departed friars who served at the connected church of Santa Maria della Pace. The first mummy here was Fra Silvestro da Gubbio, who was interred on 16 October 1599 (per the sign strapped to his chest), but there are now more than 1,250 who call the catacombs home.

Evening

5. Sip seaside cocktails at Mondello Beach

Natural Feature

A view towards Charleston pier from sandy Mondello Beach in Palermo, Sicily, as the tide rolls in
© anna quaglia / Alamy Stock Photo

A short bus ride from the town centre is Mondello Beach, a long, sandy stretch with a promenade filled with cafes and restaurants. Find a table with a view and a sea breeze, and order a glass of wine or a spritz while you wait for the sun to set.

6. Take a late-night 'passeggiata' around Quattro Canti

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

End your day in Palermo with an after-dinner stroll – the Italians call it a passeggiata – in the area around Quattro Canti, a crossroads officially called the Piazza Vigliena. Here, the two main roads in Palermo, Via Maqueda and Via Vittorio Emanuele, intersect. There are also four buildings on each corner, each with a fountain representing one of the four seasons, and a statue of one of the Spanish kings of Sicily.

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