Palermo as a whole will enrapture you with its oceanside atmosphere, its vibrating culture and energizing activities. It is melting pot of architecture through the ages, a blend of traditional and new cuisines and stellar nightlife that permeates its many districts. Discover where to find what in Palermo’s eclectic collection of neighbourhoods and communities. While exploring Palermo, you will feel as if you’ve walked through a portal to another time, with the distinction and character between the neighbourhoods differing so noticeably.
1. Il Capo
Palermo is unique in that it still retains much of the Gothic design originally laid out as the city’s grid, with various sectors and neighbourhoods each boasting their own style and influence on arts and architecture. Il Capo is a collection of colourfully winding streets surrounding one of the largest attractions, the Teatro Massimo. Often animated with a lively street market, you will be constantly entertained as you dodge alleyways, merchants and baroque churches and structures.
2. New City
Once you pass the colossal Teatro Massimo, you will shortly be entering into the New City. A makeshift divide is created by the theatre, and the street that intersects with the medieval section of town goes north, changing names and leading to the more contemporary area, which you will notice as the street gradually widens and becomes two massive plazas. From there, you can admire the Teatro Politeama Garibaldi, and begin to explore one of the fancier streets of Palermo, Viale della Liberta. Discover the powerful flow of art that has coursed through the city streets and adorned the buildings while you window-shop.
You may be able to tell from the name that this area of town is named for the ‘Castle in the Sea’, referencing a large fortress that once stood during Arab rule to guard the port of the city. Wedged between Via Maqueda, Corso Vittoria Emmanuele and Via Crispi, you will find this flourishing city centre, abundant with historical formations and pulsing with the Vuccuria Market, which can be visited day or night and will always supply hours of action. After 8pm you will find it to be a whirlwind of apertifs, music and dancing, where you can spend the hours until sun comes up experiencing the rich nightlife of this area.
4. Vecchio Centro
Termed as the ‘Old Town’ this vibrant quarter still speaks to the historical customs of Sicilian city life. Once a host to numerous fruit, vegetable, fish and meat purveyors, it still retains some of its old-world market charm. You can spectate as butchers splatter today’s fresh catch into pieces for sale and women arrange fruits and vegetables in a colourful array at their elaborate kiosks, and whiff the strange variety of odors that flood this area. Surrounded on all sides by faded Sicilian homes, and the monumental Pretoria Fountain, this area is overflowing with remarkable sites and culture. If you follow along Via Roma or Corso Vittoria Emanuele you won’t miss any of the striking features of this locale.
One of the most distinguished sections of Palermo, this part of the ancient town represents the Phoenician impact on culture and architecture hundreds of years ago. You can spend your afternoon surveying the seemingly decrepit buildings, narrow pathways and Piazza Bologni. Within this neighborhood you can find one of the oldest markets in Italy, Il Ballaro. Starting from the edges of the Piazza Bologni you will find this place booming with visitors and natives alike, buying up food, and local art from the many stands. You will also be able to find multiple restaurants and cafés in the mesh of this exuberant area.
6. The Marina
Noted for its long border along the glittering Mediterranean Sea, the harbour and marina district of Palermo are well worth a visit. Besides the delectable seafood and restaurants that run along the edge of this area, there is a ton of activity to witness as well. Families and friends rush to the rocky shore before sunset to rollerblade, play soccer, buy baubles and toys from migrating carts and simply relax among the massive barricade of rocks that lines the coast. Observe the rotating ships as they circle in the harbour, or pace through the lush Villa Giulia or Giardino Inglese nearby.
7. Piazza Olivella
A relaxed spot for night owls, this part of town is popular with younger crowds and regarded for its buzzing nightlife. Located at the intersection of Giuseppe Patania and Via Monteleone, you will find this hub of liveliness throughout the day and into the evening. Situated near the Museo Archeologico Regionale, the square itself possesses a questionable history, possibly being Villa of Sinibaldi, which belonged to Counts of Marsi. Either way, this area is host to an abundance of tasty cafés and restaurants and ideal places to people-watch and gather.