Palermo is a city full of culture, history and traffic. Visit old palazzi, baroque churches and traditional souk-like markets.
It is a bustling city with loud and chaotic traffic, so it’s best to come here in the early morning, as most interesting churches and palazzi open early anyway. When you come by car beware of the ZTL zone (La Zona a Traffico Limitato), which requires you to purchase a day pass for 5€ per day. You can buy these passes in certain tabbachi around the city and directly at the Palermo Transportation Agency (office in 9 Via Borrelli at Piazza Croci). Then activate it via the app or online.
Park either in the safe garage of the department store La Rinascente or close by in one of the smaller public parking areas.
Highlights are the Palazzo dei Normanni (or Palazzo Reale) where you can see the magnificent mosaics of Cappella Palatina. If you come here when it opens, around 8:15am you will avoid the many tourist groups. When entering the beautiful chapel covered in golden mosaics of biblical imagery you need to cover your shoulders and legs, so bring a jacket or scarf.
There is also a huge number of beautiful churches and buildings that reflect the many cultures from orient to occident, which influenced the city over hundreds of years. Special are for example the huge Cattedrale di Palermo, the ornate Chiesa Immacolata Concezione and San Giovanni degli Eremiti with its red dome roofs. It’s nice to walk down the pedestrian part of Via Vittorio Emanuele from the Cattedrale to the Quattro Canti, the historic heart of the city, because here you find old palazzi, the museum for contemporary art in Palazzo Riso and close by the famous Teatro Massimo. Just around the corner of Quattro Canti there is also the beautiful fountain at Palazzo Pretoria with its artful sculptures. Palermo is also famous for its traditional, souk-like markets, like Mercato Vucciria and Ballaro. A more modern place is Palazzo Butera, an old restored palazzo which now hosts contemporary art exhibitions and has a lovely rooftop terrace.
Antico Caffè Spinnato is great for a traditional breakfast of coffee and a jam-filled cornetto. Or eat all the traditional snacks at I Cuochini. In the evening try the wine bar Bisso Bistrot, restaurants Gagini and Buatta or the rooftop terrace of department store Rinascente for drinks.