The dramatic mountain peaks towering over Palermo, along the northwestern coast of Sicily, is the first thing that strikes visitors arriving at the city’s port—but there’s more here than spectacular views. Famous for its cuisine, ceramics, and architecture, historic and happening Palermo is a highlight of any Mediterranean cruise.
Because of the wealth of architectural masterpieces located across the old city center, it’s best to explore Palermo with a hop-on hop-off bus or private tour. Start your Palermo shore excursion at Palazzo dei Normanni, former Royal Palace of Palermo and today home of the Sicilian parliament. Seat of the kings of Sicily since the Norman domination in the 11th century, the building is the oldest royal residence in Europe and boasts intricate 12th-century mosaics. Follow this with Monreale, one of Italy’s most impressive cathedrals, famous for its 42 biblical scenes depicted in Byzantine mosaics. Take in the city’s other highlights—the Palermo Cathedral, Chiesa Della Martorana, Capuchin Catacombs, Teatro Massimo opera house, and Quattro Canti square—and be sure to browse Palermo’s ceramic shops for brightly painted Sicilian pottery and the city’s bustling street markets for food, handicrafts, and souvenirs.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Popular day trips from Palermo include Cefalù, famous for its Sanctuary of Gibilmanna and Castello della Rocca; Segesta, home of a well-preserved Doric temple from the 5th century BC; and Erice, known for its Venus Castle.
- Just outside the city of Palermo, you can easily visit Mondello, a historic fishing village now one of the area's prettiest coastal resorts.
- Farther afield to the south, the Valley of the Temples, outside the city of Agrigento, is one of Sicily’s most popular sights and makes for an easy day trip.
- Sicily’s train and bus systems are famously inefficient, in part due to the island’s complicated geography. It is almost always faster and easier to get around by car.
How to Get to Palermo from the Palermo Cruise Port
Cruise ships berth at the Stazione Marittima (cruise terminal), which was built in 1950. Taxis and horse-drawn carriages are usually waiting at the port exit to take travelers along the small winding streets of the city’s historic center, and many cruise companies also offer shuttle buses to the center of town.
Many of the largest cruise lines stop at the Palermo port. Italian is the most widely spoken language here. The local currency is the euro; ATMs are easy to find, and foreign exchange bureaus are near the docks. You can pick up free city maps near the terminal’s exit.