Top 10 Things to Do in Palermo, Italy

With its long, lively history and rich blend of multicultural influences, Palermo, Italy, is the home of spectacular architecture, art, shopping and cuisine. Its rugged coastline sits on sparkling Mediterranean waters that lend abundant natural beauty to this famous city on the island of Sicily.

When planning a cruise to Palermo, let Carnival® help create memories that will last a lifetime with our perfectly curated European cruise itineraries. To help you choose fun, we have also put together adventure filled shore excursions designed for you to get the most out of your vacation. These excursions offer great opportunities to explore some of the best sites and activities on your cruise. Check out this list of the top 10 must-do things to do in Palermo, Italy.

a ferry leaving the port, and city, of palermoa ferry leaving the port, and city, of palermo

1. Expand Your Cultural Horizons

Start your trip in Palermo by taking a close-up look at how the architecture and art of Palermo reflect Norman, Arabic and many other cultural elements. The Historical Palermo & Monreale shore excursion offers a panoramic tour of this historic center along with a stop at the Cathedral of Palermo. Here, you can view and learn about the history of the four Norman Towers and beautiful dome, bell tower and clock.

Travel on to Monreale to view the Duomo and its fabulous Arabic mosaics. Free time in Monreale gives you the opportunity to shop for souvenirs before returning to the ship.

the duomo of palermo, italy

2. Explore the City on Foot

Exploring new terrain on foot can be lots of fun, but its better when you have an experienced guide to lead the way. During the Walk to Palermo excursion, you’ll visit the amazing historical city center and view the incredible Saint Agostino Church.

Proceed down the street called Via Maqueda to the Quattro Canti city square and Pretoria Plaza, site of a monumental 16th-century fountain that was transported in pieces from Venice and features sculptures of mythological figures. Stroll through the historic market known as “del Capo,” renowned for both its size and fascinating folklore, and visit the Theatre Massimo, a famous opera house.

the exterior of the massimo theater, the biggest opera theater in italy

3. Explore Palermo Underground

Check out the Underground Palermo, Zisa Castle & Sightseeing excursion. You’ll visit a beautiful castle and the fascinating, underground Catacombs of Cappuccini and take in other city highlights. The itinerary for this tour includes a panoramic tour through the city to admire the Theatre Politeama, Theatre Massimo, Royal Palace, Pretoria Plaza and Quatro Canti, a city square anchored by four symbolically decorated Spanish palaces.

Take a walk through the catacombs, a curiosity from the past where you can view more than 8,000 mummified bodies of monks and nobles dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. A stop at Zisa Castle, once the residence of conquering Norman kings, offers a splendid example of Arabic architecture. Cap off the tour with a visit to the Cathedral of Palermo.

statues surrounding the pretoria plaza

4. Sample the Street Food

You can find plenty of food vendors with carts filled with Sicilian specialties on the streets of Palermo. As you walk through Palermo, you will see folks munching on tasty treats as they travel to their destinations. If you like pizza, you’ll love sfincione, a Sicilian deep-dish concoction similar to pizza.

Feeling more daring? Try panelle, Arab-influenced chickpea fritters with mint-flavored potato croquettes. Then try mangia e bevi, a dish consisting of a green onion wrapped in bacon and grilled and then sliced into circular pieces before serving with fresh lemon slices.

5. Relax on a Park Bench

Parks and beaches are plentiful in Palermo. One of the finest is the Villa Giula, a peaceful, city green space that is almost 350 years old and features remarkable sculptures, sundials, trees and flowers.

During your time in Palermo, relax on a park bench, read a good book or take a walk and chat with the locals. Local parks offer a variety of settings to enjoy such as the English Garden, a park that features a children’s playground with numerous fountains and ponds. Give yourself some time to wind down in between your adventure packed days and embrace the relaxing environment.

a resting place at the villa giula park in palermo, rome

6. Hike to a Lighthouse

One important thing to know about Palermo is that some parks in the area are designed for exciting outdoor adventures. Capo Gallo Park, for example, is a coastal nature reserve made up of mountains and a headland dividing the two gulfs of Sferracavallo and Mondello. If you want to go hiking during your time in Palermo, walk the path beneath the impressive cliffs to the lighthouse and enjoy breathtaking views of the Mediterranean below. The unspoiled, crystal-clear waters and grottos make this a delightful snorkeling spot as well.

7. Chill Out on a Sandy Beach

The beaches in Palermo are sure to take your breath away with its beauty. The ocean water is warm enough to swim in from April to October, so make sure to bring bathing gear! Capo Gallo isn’t the only spot in the area where the beautiful coastline is rocky. If you’re up for a swim and you prefer a soft sandy beach, try a day at the beach in the village of Mondello. You will have everything you need right there, including bathrooms, umbrellas and sunbeds.

the gulf of mondello, and a crystal clear sea

8. Taste the Fresh Local Fruit

If you like fresh fruit, then Palermo is your paradise. On your cruise to Italy, you can find fresh, local produce like oranges, strawberries, cherries, figs and mulberries throughout the year (there’s some variation depending on the season), at any of Palermo’s four major markets: Capo, Ballarò, Vucciria and Borgo Vecchio. Buy some juicy fresh fruits to eat on the beach or in a park while exploring the city.

9. See Zingaro Natural Reserve

A scenic drive along the highway towards Trapani will bring you to the white sandy beaches and pristine waters of San Vito lo Capo. It’s here in San Vito where you can tour the northern part of Zingaro Natural Reserve. With four miles of stunning lands that overlook the sea, this reserve has over 600 types of trees for you to discover, as well as 30 species of birds. You can even take a swim along the coast in one of the reserve’s natural creeks before your leisurely walk to Scopello, a tiny, fishing village along the coast.

the scopello coastal landscape

10. Shop for Puppets, Handbags and Coral Jewelry

Before leaving the port of Palermo, you’ll want to buy some souvenirs and gifts to take home with you and local crafts are always a great idea. Palermo is known worldwide for its expert artisanry, ranging from gorgeous, embroidered fabrics and fashionable, coffa handbags to ironwork, ceramics and coral jewelry. These unique items can serve as very special gifts that you can only find in Palermo. If you have kids or grand-kids, be sure to bring them some fun and iconic Sicilian marionettes (puppets). Taking a few souvenirs back home is always a great reminder of the fun times you had on your Carnival Cruise adventure.

a souvenir cart with handbags and puppets in palermo, italy

Your cruise to Palermo is bound to be fun and memorable when sailing with Carnival. Whether it’s your first time to Sicily or your fiftieth, Carnival shore excursions provide guests with a variety of activities to discover all areas of the city — from a relaxing day at the beach to a walking tour through the city, you’ll be able to see everything that Palermo has to offer.