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Gloriously unconventional and slightly disheveled in a charmingly Italian way, Sicily's capital city is a melting pot of cultures and architecture, in fact one saying is that Palermo is 'the most European of North Africa's cities'!.
This is a vibrant, colourful and chaotic city full of contrasts, with elegant palazzos, noisy street markets but also stylish modern boutiques. Start with a wander around the old centre, which fans out from the main crossroads of the Quattro Canti, from where the four main quarters of the city begin. There's much to see and do in both the city itself and on day trips out and car hire can be taken for part of your stay. Palermo can also easily be combined with other destinations in Sicily to make a great multi-centre holiday read more...
Read our blog: Top 10 things to do in Sicily
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Places to see in Palermo
Travel out of town by bus to Monreale, perched on a hill overlooking the valley, where the cathedral and cloister are one of the best examples of Norman architecture in the world.
If you fancy a bit of sunbathing, the white sandy beach of Mondello is only 15 kms away and reachable by bus. Alternatively, you can take the train to picturesque Cefalù along the coast.
The highlights of Palermo are all pretty central and mostly easy to reach on foot. The Cathedral, a glorious hybrid of styles, and the nearby Palazzo dei Normanni (Royal Palace) with its Capella Palatina decorated with glistening mosaics, are definitely worth a visit. There are numerous churches worth seeing and the Galleria Regionale art gallery holds many important works by Sicilian artists.
Food & Drink
There are all manner of restaurants and pizzerias in Palermo and prices are generally good. Sicilian cuisine has been heavily influenced by the many cultures that have passed through, with the North African influence perhaps the strongest. So expect more vegetables, nuts and spices than you would normally find in Italy; pistachio, almonds and cumin are all found in many local dishes. The legacy of the Arabs is the exquisite desserts of sesame, dried fruit and honey, ice cream flavoured with jasmine, and jellies made from melon, cinnamon and jasmine.
There are so many grape varieties in Sicily, some perhaps lesser-known, that you will be spoilt for choice with the local wines - try Inzolia, Zibibbo or Grecanico. Plus there are many liqueurs made from prickly pears, cinnamon and almonds plus good grappas too.
Festivals & Events
Like much of Italy, Palermo is deeply religious and so many of the city’s festivals are based on the Catholic calendar and Easter in particular, is a great time to visit the city with processions and lots of food and drink.The beautiful Teatro Massimo hosts opera, concerts and ballet throughout the season. Check out the Kursaal Kalhesa that has a programme of musical events as well as an excellent bar and restaurant. Every Saturday morning at Piazza Marina there’s a Flea Market.