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Palermo Culture & history

Our most recommended Palermo Culture & history

Palermo: Street Food and History Walking Tour

1. Palermo: Street Food and History Walking Tour

Embark on a walking tour through the center of Palermo and feel like you are visiting an open-air museum. Marvel at a range of different architectural styles and see the Capo street markets that are a true mix of culture, customs, and food traditions. Taste five local food specialties and a drink to wash them down tastefully. Blend a historical and foodie walking tour into one. See and learn about historical landmarks, including Opera dei Pupi (traditional puppet theater), Piazza Beati Paoli, the Cathedral, the Quattro Canti, and the Pretoria fountain en route. Walk through the bustling Capo Street Market, offering a wide selection of local meats, seafood, produce & Sicilian bites. Then, taste some local specialties from Palermo. Tuck into some sfincione (dough topped with onion, bread crumbs, tomato, and oregano), panelle (fried chickpea flour), crocché (potato croquettes), arancine (rice croquettes stuffed with meat or butter), and cannolo (crunchy shell with sweet-cheese). Refresh yourself with a drink, to close off your tour in style.

From Palermo: Monreale and Cefalù Half-Day Trip

2. From Palermo: Monreale and Cefalù Half-Day Trip

Escape the hustle and bustle of Palermo city center on a half-day tour to Monreale and Cefalù. Marvel at a Norman cathedral on the slopes of Monte Caputo, and learn the Greek and Medieval history of one of Sicily’s most beautiful towns. Following a pick-up from your hotel or the port of Palermo, transfer to Monreale where you will have approximately 1-hour to tour the Duomo. An official audio guide is included to learn the history of the 12th-century building, considered one of the greatest landmarks of medieval ecclesiastical architecture in the south of Italy. Then, drive along the north coast of Sicily, on route to the beautiful town of Cefalù. Sit back and relax on the 1.5-hour journey, and on arrival go to the 12th-century Duomo. See traces of the Middle Ages at the Osterio Magno. Get panoramic views from the Porta Terra. Discover Greek and Arabic pottery in the Mandralisca Museum, and walk down some curving stone steps to a picturesque cluster of 16th-century wash basins at the Lavatoio.

Palermo: Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples Day Tour

3. Palermo: Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples Day Tour

Enjoy a scenic drive into the countryside to Agrigento on this full-day excursion from Palmero, with stops to see ancient temples. Visit local museums and learn about the country's rich history before being transferred back to Palermo. The excursion includes a short stop for a coffee en route to Agrigento, before arriving at the Valley of the Temples. You can further explore the Hera, Concordia and Apollo temples and Hardcastle villa, with a guidebook that will provide more information about the sites. You’ll have free time to decide on a place for lunch, before your driver takes you to the Agrigento Archaeology Museum. After exploring the museum’s collections, you'll be driven back to Palermo.

From Palermo: Villa Romana and Valley of the Temples Trip

4. From Palermo: Villa Romana and Valley of the Temples Trip

Follow in the footsteps of the Greeks and Romans on a day trip where your transport is taken care of for you. Discover some of the finest Roman mosaics in the world at the Villa Romana del Casale. Learn all about the Valley of the Temples archaeological site with a licensed local guide. Meet your driver in central Palermo and be taken straight to Piazza Armerina, where you will explore the Villa Romana del Casale independently. Marvel at the luxurious 4th-century villa, home to an influential Roman family. Take your time to examine its exquisite mosaic flooring. Continue to Agrigento for a guided tour of the magnificent Valley of Temples, built by the Greeks in the 5th century BC. See the ruins of temples, necropolises, houses, streets, and everything else you'd expect to find in an ancient city. Finally, return to the meeting point in Palermo.

Palermo: Norman Palace and Palatine Chapel Tour with Tickets

5. Palermo: Norman Palace and Palatine Chapel Tour with Tickets

With more than 800 years of history, it’s perfect for culture vultures! Of all the incredible attractions in Palermo, the Palazzo dei Normanni is one that you can’t miss off your itinerary. Once the seat of the King of Sicily, it is the oldest royal residence in Europe and you can learn the history of all the dynasties who had their thrones here - as well as visiting a stunning and sublime channel. Palermo is decorated in history and there are few buildings that offer a window into the past quite as clear as the Palazzo dei Normanni. The Palazzo dei Normanni (or the Norman Palace to English speakers). Construction on the palace started in the 9th century when Sicily was under Islamic rule, though it was renovated by the Normans in 1072 when their empire spread across Europe. Now, it’s the home of the Sicilian Regional assembly. You’ll get exclusive entrance into the palace and its gardens Though not as well known as Rome’s Sistine Chapel or Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, the Cappella Palatina (or Palatine Chapel) is one of the most spectacular in all of Italy. The chapel, on the second-floor of the palace, was built in 1140 and gives an insight into the arts, science and philosophy of the dominant Western and Middle Eastern cultures at that time. See traditional Islamic designs, Byzantine mosaics, and golden decorations in one of the best examples of the Arab - Norman - Byzantine style. Not only do your tickets allow you entrance to the palace and chapel, but you can explore the gardens too with your expert guide. And as the tour is 1.5 hours long, there’s enough time for you to appreciate the stunning historic building and then spend the rest of the day wandering through Palermo’s historic centre.

Capuchin Catacombs and Monreale Cathedral Private Tour

6. Capuchin Catacombs and Monreale Cathedral Private Tour

Explore the ghoulish remains of friars and luminaries at Palermo’s Capuchin Catacombs on a 3-hour sightseeing tour. Wander along dank corridors through a vast human library of mummified bodies. Inaugurated in 1599, when Capuchin monks discovered that their catacombs contained a mysterious preservative that could mummify the dead, the goal of the site is to reflect on the fragility of life and consider the pettiness of worldly goods. Some 8,000 bodies of men and women were ultimately buried in the catacombs, including the mummy of friar Silvestro of Gubbio, the first body to be buried in the catacombs. The corpses are divided into categories, such as friars, virgins, and professors, and often recognizable by their decaying clothing. As you walk through the corridors, you will see ghastly bodies that include the mummified corpse of the painter Velazquez. Emerge from the gruesome catacombs and travel to Monreale, 6 miles (10 kilometers) from Palermo. Here you will swap corpses for gold and marble as you visit the 12th-century Arab-Norman Cathedral, one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in the world. End your tour at the Benedictine Cloister, completed at the turn of the 13th century. Wander around the beautiful garden, surrounded by delicate arches and white marble columns.

Palermo: Markets and Monuments City Center Walking Tour

7. Palermo: Markets and Monuments City Center Walking Tour

Get a feel for the rich history, culture, and architecture of central Palermo on a 3-hour guided walking tour. Your guide will take you to Norman Sicily churches and beautiful palaces, through bustling city squares and famous old street markets. Head first to the Teatro Massimo and learn about Italy’s largest opera house, known for its perfect acoustics. Then visit the beautiful Palermo Cathedral, dating from the 12th century and part of Unesco ’s list of World Heritage sites. See the Church of the Gesù, one of the most important Baroque churches in Palermo, as well as the Praetorian Palace, an outstanding palace of the 15th century.   Continue to Pretoria Square, referred to by locals as the “square of shame” for the nudity of its fountain statues. You’ll also visit the nearby Bellini Square where you’ll see the Church of San Cataldo and Martorana Church, two more Norman Sicily–era churches and Unesco World Heritage sites.   Along the way, your guide will lead you through the famous Capo street markets. Observe the lively scenes and multitude of smells, textiles, and colorful foods as you weave among the stalls. You can also buy and taste some of the city’s popular street food, including: panelle, crocché, sfincione and arancina The tour ends in the exact center of historic Palermo, the Baroque Villena Square, also known as Quattro Canti (Four Corners). It was built in the early 1600s at the crossing of the two most prominent streets in Palermo: Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda.

Palermo: Walking Tour of Historic Markets and Monuments

8. Palermo: Walking Tour of Historic Markets and Monuments

Explore Palermo's historic center led by a seasoned guide. Hear about the history of the capital of Sicily while admiring notable monuments such as the Teatro Massimo, the Cathedral, and the Quattro Canti, before wandering through markets for local wares and traditional street food. Start the tour by entering the Palermo Cathedral, a UNESCO-listed site dating from the early 12th century. Admire its iconic bell towers and learn about its architectural evolution through time. Then, stop by the Massimo Theater and hear about the ghostly legends surrounding it. You'll visit other must-see landmarks like the baroque Quattro Canti plaza, and the imposing Fontana Pretoria in the Piazza of the same name. Along the way, discover the myths and legends of Siciliy like the mysterious Beati Paoli sect, and the city's patron saint Santa Rosalia, or La Santuzza. Finally, walk through the Capo street market and take the opportunity to try some of Palermo's delicacies like Sicilian street food and pastries.

Palermo: Art and Architecture Walking Tour

9. Palermo: Art and Architecture Walking Tour

Discover the historical monuments of Palermo on a small group half-day tour, and learn the fascinating history of the city, from its birth under the Phoenicians through the Roman Republic and the Byzantine Empire to the modern day. Wander the winding streets of the Politeama sestiere (district) to see iconic buildings such as the Teatro Politeama and Teatro Massimo, one of the largest opera houses in Europe. Learn about the Arab-Norman era and religious rites at sites such as the 12th-century Cappella Palatina (Palatine Chapel) in the Palazzo Reale. Look in wonder at the splendid façade of Palermo Cathedral, characterized by different architectural styles, from the Gothic through the early Renaissance and Baroque. Learn more about the hidden treasures of the historical center and hear amazing stories that take you on a journey through time.

Palermo: The Baroque and Aristocracy Walking Tour w/ Tasting

10. Palermo: The Baroque and Aristocracy Walking Tour w/ Tasting

Meet us at h 2.30PM at the i Quattro Canti, the famous Pretoria (A.k.a Shame) fountain will be a scenario of popular stories. In Piazza Bellini you will admire the domes of San Cataldo from the 12th century of the Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, of the Martorana and of Santa Caterina and you will travel the alleys of the Corporations of the artisans and of the Judges who accompanied the Inquiries to the Death. You will be introduced to the stories of Gattopardo walking along the street and having the opportunity to see (from outside) the Gangi palace, location of the famous film by Visconti, to reach the square decorated by the splendid Gothic rose window of the church of San Francesco D’Assisi. From there you will discover the richest and darkest centuries of Hispanic Sicily with a visit to the oratory of San Lorenzo, decorated by the stuccos of the Serpotta and admire the ancient furnishings, stables and treasures in the Historical House of the Mirto Palace. In the shadow of the centuries-old ficus magnolioides of the sea square, a Surprise Visit in the footsteps of the “Santa Inquisition” will end your walk through traditional ice-creams and cannoli in the district of the old port of the Cala.

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Frequently asked questions about Palermo

What top attractions are a must-see in Palermo?

What are the best day trips and excursions from Palermo?

The best day trips and excursions from Palermo are:

Agrigento

Other Sightseeing Options in Palermo

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What people are saying about Palermo

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 238 reviews

Awesome trip. We were picked up and dropped off at our Airbnb. I love hands-off tours where the driver gives you a few tips and then you're off on your own. I had my two children with me and we were able to explore on our own and enjoyed some playtime. I would definitely recommend if you're more of a hands-off traveler.

This tour may be listed as a street food tour first, but it truly is a balanced blend of the history and the food of Palermo. I really appreciated this mix and it helped my family and myself get oriented with Palermo. 10/10 would recommend!

This was a great half day trip from Palermo. Monreale had great views over the cities and a lovely church. Cefalu was beautiful on the water. It was during the holidays/off season, so my was closed, but it was fun to visit.

it was a pleasant experience, and the guide was kind and provided many interesting details about the history of the city and how some words are formed.

Very knowledgeable! Nice, Funny, good pace of tour