Want to know what Palermo is like for a holiday? Well, briefly illustrating all the things to do in Palermo and its surroundings is not an easy task, especially considering all the landscapes and historical riches this city offers (Palermo UNESCO heritage).
To facilitate this task, avoiding hours of online browsing in search of the ideal destination, we have divided the possible sites based on the type of visit, so you can organize the vacation itinerary according to your preferences.
We have grouped the locations into two main categories: beaches and cultural itineraries:
- Palermo’s most beautiful beaches and surroundings
- The best of Palermo and its surroundings: a cultural itinerary
However, before going into detail about the most beautiful beaches and appealing cultural locations, we will look at how to reach Palermo and best move around its surroundings.
How to move around Palermo and its surroundings
Palermo’s airport is well served by numerous daily flights and is connected to most Italian and international airports.
Landing at Palermo airport will allow you to avoid city traffic congestion since it is about thirty kilometers from the city center.
If intend to travel to discover the area and all the things to do in Palermo, the ideal solution is to hire a car, which will facilitate your trip.
If, on the other hand, you prefer to stay near Palermo, you could rent a scooter or use public transport.
Finally, suppose you do not find the most convenient flight to Palermo airport. In that case, you can also consider Trapani airport, which is about an hour by car or bus from the center of Palermo and often has very affordable offers.
Palermo’s most beautiful beaches and its surroundings
For lovers of the sea and the landscape, it is essential to consider destinations such as San Vito lo Capo, Mondello Beach, Capo Gallo Nature Reserve and Ustica and the beaches of Balestrate. Let’s find out together in detail.
San Vito lo Capo
In San Vito lo Capo, you can find the unspoiled Zingaro reserve, one of the four unmissable nature reserves in Western Sicily.
It is certainly the coolest destination at the moment and has seen growing Italian and international tourist interest in terms of things to do in Palermo.
The most beautiful beaches near Palermo city are undoubtedly:
- Caletta del Bue Marino
- Cala Tonnarella dell’Uzzo
- Spiaggia dei Macari
Their transparency and crystallinity are due to rocks or pebbles, which make the water incredibly bright.
Located a few kilometers west of Palermo, in the beautiful bay of Mondello, easily accessible by car, it is the ideal place capable of offering you crystal clear waters and a wonderful view towards the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve.
It is also suitable for lovers of comfort and various amenities, thanks to the numerous presence of kiosks, bars, typical restaurants, and the possibility of renting umbrellas and sunbeds.
You can also visit the fishing village and buy the local fish a few steps from the beach.
Capo Gallo Nature Reserve
A couple of kilometers from Mondello, the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve is able to offer a day of pure relaxation for lovers of hiking trails, wonderful sea views, and unspoiled nature.
Easily accessible by car, it is ideal for any vacation.
The ideal trip would be to spend a whole day in the reserve, perhaps with a packed lunch, then a visit to the Grotta dell’Olio.
Anyone who stays in Palermo and loves the Mediterranean seabed should not miss a trip to Ustica.
It is a small island, right in front of the city, where time seems to have stopped completely.
If you don’t have a car, don’t worry, after reaching the island by ferry or hydrofoil, you can rent a scooter or quad bike to explore the island near the port.
Stay at least one night in this wonderful nature reserve so that you can enjoy the splendid landscape and the typical and incomparable local cuisine.
The beaches of Balestrate
About an hour west of Palermo, between Punta Raisi and San Vito lo Capo, it is the perfect place for a family vacation with your children, thanks to the spectacular and shallow sea.
The sea is never ending and has crystal clear water and a very fine beach that stretches for about 8 kilometers of coastline.
The best of Palermo and its surroundings: a cultural itinerary
Visiting Sicily and limiting yourself to the beautiful beaches, coves, cliffs, and bays would be a real shame because there are so many things to do in Palermo.
The rich cultural itineraries will allow you to fully immerse yourself in Palermo’s culture and relive the history of the numerous populations and cultures that have followed one another on the island.
Symbols of the city that shouldn’t be missed: the Cathedral of Palermo, the Martorana church, the Conte Federico Palace, the markets of Palermo, the villas of Bagheria, the archaeological area of Solunto.
The Cathedral of Palermo
Destroyed and rebuilt several times, it fully represents the passage and mixture of various cultures over the centuries.
Inside, in addition to the church itself, you will also have the opportunity to visit the royal tombs, the treasure of the Cathedral, and the rooftops.
It is characterized by a very impressive structure and a unique style.
Here, the journey of the Cart of Santa Rosalia ends during the “Santuzza” feast: one of the most beautiful and characteristic events of Sicilian tradition.
It is best to visit it in the afternoon since the church is located in a vibrant pedestrian area full of bars, restaurants, and clubs. It is an ideal location for spending an unforgettable evening in the historic center’s evocative setting.
The Martorana Church – Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio
It is located in the historic center of Palermo, to be precise in Piazza Bellini, a stone’s throw from beautiful attractions such as:
- Municipal Historical Archive
- Church of Santa Caterina d’Alessandria
- Piazza Quattro Canti (The Four Corners of Palermo)
- Sant’Anna Modern Art Gallery
- Pretoria Square
It is known and renowned for the beauty of its Byzantine mosaics and the unique Arab-Norman style, characterized by numerous golden finishes.
Conte Federico Palace
Being in the immediate vicinity of the Cathedral of Palermo, the Ballarò market and the Palazzo dei Normanni can also be visited on the same day.
The average visit time is about an hour, and it is a destination that can easily be included in your itinerary.
The Palermo markets
If you are undecided about what to do in Palermo, surely the markets are an unmissable destination, some of the symbolic places of this city.
They are the places par excellence that recount and represent the roots and culture of the Sicilian people. In addition, if you want to find the best places to eat and buy food in Palermo, check out the markets.
You will have the possibility to choose between four different markets:
Mercato della Vucciria
It is the best-known market in Palermo and is located near Piazza Caracciolo.
Very close to Palermo’s port, it is known for its great wealth of fish, fruit, and vegetables. It is ideal for those who love “getting lost” in the dense network of alleys and squares that hosts it.
In the evening, after the market is over, it becomes the real hub of nightlife.
Mercato di Ballarò
It is the oldest market in Palermo and extends from Piazza Casa Professa to Porta Sant’Agata.
It is characterized by its multi-ethnicity and various and colorful products, from meat to fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, the “conca d’oro” to exotic specialties, and even household items.
It is strongly recommended for those who love street food (Palermo is ranked 5th in the world for street food by Forbes.)
Mercato del Capo
Well known for selling local fresh meat.
It extends into via Carini, via Beati Paoli, via di S. Agostino, and via Cappuccinelle.
Mercato di Borgo Vecchio
It is located between Piazza Sturzo and Piazza Ucciardone and is the only one that stays open late at night and is ideal for organizing unique evenings.
The Villas of Bagheria
Just 10 minutes from the center of Palermo, in the direction of Messina or Catania, you will find the municipality of Bagheria.
It is known above all for the eighteenth-century baroque style of the numerous villas where the noble and wealthy families of Palermo once spent their vacations.
The main ones are all within walking distance:
- Villa Palagonia
- Villa Cattolica
- Villa Butera
Archaeological area of Solunto
A few kilometers from Bagheria, we find the town of Solunto, which, in addition to offering beautiful beaches, is the backdrop to a magnificent archaeological area.
Since it is not a very touristy place, you can enjoy a still unspoiled atmosphere, with a privileged point of view, from Monte Catalfano, over the wonderful bay.
In a couple of hours, you will be lucky enough to visit the entire archaeological site, walking among the millenary ruins that include:
- Mosaic spa
- L’Agorà – commercial center
- Solunto Gymnasium
- The Theater and The Odeon for shows
- The Sanctuary consecrated to the God of the Phoenicians
The Antiquarium of Solunto, a museum rich in archaeological remains, is absolutely worth visiting.
Where to stay in Palermo and its surroundings
The places we have described are the ideal and most loved destinations to be taken into consideration to truly discover all the things to do in Palermo and its surroundings.
For lovers of the city, there is nothing to do but indulge in the wealth of proposals that the city of Palermo offers. For those who love adventures, there is only the embarrassment of choosing between beaches, lidos, archaeological sites, nature reserves, and unspoiled locations.
Scent of Sicily gives you the opportunity to stay in luxurious vacation homes within walking distance from the most beautiful scenic, natural, and cultural destinations in Italy.
Many of these villas are also close to the places described above, so don’t miss them!
You will find the perfect holiday home in Palermo and its surroundings, and you will be followed step by step in the organization of your stay, thanks to Scent of Sicily’s daily commitment to making the experience of those who visit the Land of the Sun truly unique.