Palermo is known as a food lover’s paradise, so prepare your stomach for a treat, but don’t forget to intersperse sessions of eating with a little art and culture.
Mercato di Ballarò
Visit one of Palermo’s sprawling food markets in the morning to see the hustle and bustle of the fruit and veg traders, most of which happens before noon. For those with an appetite, there are plenty of stalls serving snacks like freshly boiled octopus with lemon or the Sicilian classic, panelle (chickpea fritters).
Cakes and pretty marzipan sweets call out from behind glass counters. Order an espresso and ricotta pastry, and consume while standing.
Chiesa di Santa Caterina
Palermo is full of beautiful churches, but this was one of our favourites. Set back off Via Maqueda, the unassuming exterior belies the architectural opulence that lies inside, where there are beautiful examples of Baroque, Rococo and Renaissance design. It’s well worth the modest €3 for entry.
A relaxed and friendly cafe that doubles as a wine bar later in the day. It’s standing room only inside, but there are hooks for bags which makes things easier. Unusually for Palermo, where good local wines are a given and in most bars and restaurants you simply choose bianco or rosso, here there’s a wine list.
Casa del Brodo
If you’re feeling in the mood for a more traditional atmosphere, try this restaurant serving classic Sicilian seafood pastas. You’ll want to order antipasti, primi, secondi, as well as dolce – but you might not be able to fit it all in.
In the Kalsa area there are a great number of old palazzos to visit, but it can be hard trying to find out much about these locked-away treasures, as Palermo’s tourist board doesn’t seem to count them as real museums. Palazzo Mirto was the 17th-century family home of an aristocratic Palermitan family, in which you find the usual fixtures: a bedroom, dressing room, dining room; and less usual: stables, toy theatre and a tapestry room.
Very close to the Palazzo Mirto you can take refreshments in the form of gelato brioche or fruit granita, or choose from a long list of cakes. Sit outdoors in the covered courtyard.
Museo Delle Maioliche
This beautiful little house museum is open only for tours but it’s worth the time, as it’s a wonderful tribute to Sicily and the region’s craftsmanship. Rooms are lined with tiles from floor to ceiling and tell the journey of the tile from unique hand-painted pieces through to mechanisation. The guides are passionate and the house is still a residence (hence why it’s a tour-only museum), run solely on donations and relying on word-of-mouth recommendations as they can’t be officially classified as a museum.
Seven at Hotel Ambasciatori
From ground level this looks like any modern hotel, but take the wooden lift to the top floor to visit the restaurant and you’ll come out to a dazzling rooftop view overlooking Palermo. If you ask for a table just for drinks you might get lucky and be taken to the highest point, where there’s a 360° view of the city.
Everyone agrees – if you want a real taste of Palermo, find your way to this bar down the alleys of Vucciria after midnight where you’ll find a raucous street party. It’s very loud, very Palermitan and very fun.