Ten things to do in…Palermo

The island of Sicily is one of the most magical parts of Italy, with its own distinct culture, flavours, traditions and atmosphere.

Its geographical position makes Palermo the most conquered city in history. Located where east meets west, it’s been invaded by everyone from the Greeks and Romans to Byzantines and Normans, and the influences of many different cultures over hundreds of years can still be felt in everything from its cuisine to its architecture. 

Ryanair recently opened up a direct flight route from Edinburgh to Sicily’s capital city, Palermo, so now’s the time to explore this beautiful city. Here’s our pick of the best things to do in Palermo.

1. Explore a quirky museum
The walls of the Majolica Museum are covered in more than 5,000 beautiful tiles, and the museum is home to one of the largest private collections in Europe. Made in Sicily for around 500 years, Majolica tiles were used for decoration in wealthy homes and on the pavements of cities including Naples.

2. Head to a royal palace
The seat of the kings of Sicily since 1071, the Norman Palace is one of the oldest royal residencies in Europe. This spectacular building sits at the highest point in the city and boasts beautiful views.

3. Climb up to the rooftops
The Cathedral of Palermo is one of the city’s most popular attractions, and it’s not hard to see why. It dates to the 1100s and its opulent decoration truly sparkles. Start your tour in the crypts where you can view the cathedral’s treasures, and finish on its rooftop terrace.

4. Escape the city
The whole island is home to beautiful beaches, and fortunately there are some just outside Palermo which are perfect for a day trip. Mondello is a gorgeous white beach with lidos, while Sferracavallo is a quaint fishing village with pretty old buildings and great seafood restaurants.

5. Take in a puppet show
A particularly unusual tradition in Sicily is the Opera dei Pupi, or puppet opera. It dates back to the 13th century, with puppets and skills passed down through generations of families. You can take in a show at the Teatro dell’Opera dei Pupi or check out a collection of historical puppets at the Museo delle Marionette.

6. Sample local foodie favourites
Like the rest of the country, Sicily is a foodie’s paradise. Local delicacies include arancini and cannoli, and you can sample these and many other epicurean highlights at the famous food markets. In fact, Palermo is known for having some of the best street food in Europe. It also happens to be pretty cheap and often vegetarian. Their gelato served in a decadent brioche bun is a particularly naughty favourite.

7. Explore Palermo’s darker side
The Mafia has long cast a shadow over Sicily, and sadly it’s not a thing of the past. Visitors to the city can learn about the Mafia’s current role in Palermo and support the people fighting against it through Addiopizzo, a grassroots movement of businesses which refuse to pay “protection” money. Addiopizzo Travel offers a three-hour ‘anti-Mafia’ tour, which visits some of the places and people important to the anti-Mafia movement.

8. Go to the market
Ballarò market is thought of as the most authentic of the three main markets. It’s loud, clammy and chaotic and there’s no better place to see real life in Palermo. If you fancy a snack on the go, treat yourself to an arancina, a larger version of arancini, the moreish fried risotto balls. 

9. Take a cooking class
The legendary Duchess of Lampedusa, Nicoletta Polo, hosts cooking classes which begin in a food market and end with an authentic five-course meal in her palace. Her father-in-law wrote the best-selling novel, The Leopard, which looks at Sicilian aristocrats at a time of social change. The palace was once owned by the man on whom the central character of the novel was based. 

10. Steep yourself in history
Six miles west of the city you’ll find the spectacular Roman ruins of Solunto. You can wander around a Roman town with villas, a marketplace, old baths and an amphitheatre. It’s beautiful and relatively uncrowded.

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need.