Palermo may not be as big or famous as Rome, but the Sicilian capital city offers more attractions and activities than you’ll be able to cram into a three day visit. Whether your touristic tastes lean toward the architectural, the artistic, the shopaholic, or the culinary, there’s something to please just about everyone - and with a well-planned itinerary, you’ll leave Palermo feeling like you’ve gotten a good look at what makes this city so endlessly fascinating.
Here are some itinerary suggestions for a three day trip to Palermo.
On your first day in Palermo, it’s a good idea to get to know the layout of the historic city. One of the best ways to do this is simply by walking. In the historic center of Palermo this can lead you to Norman churches, chapels with exquisite Byzantine mosaics, Baroque palaces, busy outdoor markets, Capuchin catacombs with more than 8,000 mummies, and Italy’s largest opera house. Wandering aimlessly can eat up an entire day, especially if you’re ducking in and out of churches and museums along the way, but if you want a more targeted stroll then you should sign up for a guided walking tour of Palermo. With a guided tour, you won’t miss any of the highlights - and you’ll have them explained to you along the way.
If you make efficient use of your morning with a guided tour, or if you simply want to break up your Palermo sightseeing, you can take advantage of nice weather with a visit to the nearby Mondello Lido. Palermo’s most popular beach is a short bus ride from the city center, and in the summer it’s full of locals and visitors soaking up Sicily’s legendary sun.
Be sure to sample some Sicilian specialties whenever you’re feeling peckish. From “arancini” (deep-fried rice balls filled with cheese and meat) to “panelle” (deep-fried chickpea dough) to “caponata” (sweet and sour vegetable side dish, heavy on the eggplant) to fresh cannoli - some of Palermo’s most delicious treats are served from street-side carts, so don’t be shy about lining up behind the locals.
Are you intrigued by other Sicilian destinations nearby, and not planning to stay in another Sicilian city on this trip? Then day two is a great chance to plan a day trip from Palermo. You’ve got several good options, depending on the weather.
If Mondello Lido isn’t enough beach time for you, or you spent all of day one sightseeing, then a day trip to the pretty beach town of Cefalu may be just what you need. The historic town is picturesque and lacks Palermo’s chaotic nature - plus it has a lovely beach that’s extremely popular in the summer months.
When the weather isn’t necessarily conducive to beach time - or you’re just more interested in centuries-old mosaics - then you can catch a bus to the nearby town of Monreale to check out its beautiful cathedral. If you thought the mosaics in the Palatine Chapel were gorgeous, prepare to be blown away by the mosaics in the Monreale Cathedral.
Cefalu and Monreale are more leisurely day trips, but if you want to get further afield and don’t mind a longer excursion you can even get to Segesta to see its 5th century B.C.E. Greek temple, to Erice to see its Norman castle, and to Marsala - home of the fortified wine of the same name.
After seeing the highlights of Palermo and seeing something of the countryside on a day trip outside the city, your third day in Palermo can be a time to focus more on your favorite part of your visit so far.
Were you intrigued by the architectural diversity of the city? Visit parts of the historic center you missed earlier, and consider taking an architectural tour. Are you interested in the performing arts? Take a tour of the Teatro Massimo, check out the schedule to see if there’s an opera performance you can attend, or visit the International Marionette Museum to see one of the puppet shows for which Palermo is famous. Is your mouth still watering at the thought of all the delicious treats you’ve eaten? Head for the outdoor markets to seek out edible souvenirs or - better yet - sign up for a cooking class to learn how to make some of those Palermitan specialties.
And if you’re visiting Palermo when the weather is nice and it’s just too hot to think about doing anything else, you absolutely have permission to head for Mondello Lido once again and relax on the beach just like the locals are doing.