Cruise in Palermo: what to see and do in one day

Palermo: what to see and to visit during a Cruise? Cruising Journal gives you information and some advice on how best to visit Palermo. Discovering the pearl of Sicily, Palermo with its mix of traditions, cultures and flavours has always fascinated tourists.

In Palermo you will discover a city rich in art, culture and street food, considered the pearl of Sicily precisely because of its mix of cultures, traditions and flavours. Palermo has the second largest historic centre in Europe, but the historical part is small enough so that you can visit it in just one day.

Once off the ship you have two options: you can either walk around the historical centre or go to other wonderful places in the city, such as the Mondello beach.

If you decide to take a walking tour of the historic centre: once you leave the port, walk about 800 metres along Via Emerico Amari (where you will find work in progress for a ‘mini rambla’) and you will arrive at the Politeama Garibaldi Theatre, from where the discovery of Palermo’s historic centre begins.

On the left (with your back to the theatre) a long street full of shops (Via Ruggero Settimo) will lead you to your first important stop, the Massimo Theatre, located in Piazza Verdi. It is one of the largest in Europe, the third largest after the Paris Opera and the Vienna State Opera, and the largest opera house in Italy. The interiors are incredibly elegant and can be admired thanks to guided tours lasting 30 minutes, at a cost of €8, reduced to €5 for under 26s (updated to 2021), while entry is free for children under 6. The theatre is open for visits every day from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm.

Behind the Massimo Theatre, along Via Volturno for 300 metres, you will find one of Palermo’s famous food markets: the Capo Market, where the colours and scents of fresh products fill the street. The other famous markets are “Ballarò” and “Vucciria”.

If you return to the Massimo Theatre and continue for about 600km along Via Maqueda, (where you will find more shops and many stalls) you will arrive at the “Quattro Canti“, Palermo’s famous crossroads, an octagonal square overlooked by many elegant 17th-century buildings. This is where the city’s two main streets intersect: Via Maqueda and the Cassaro (Via Vittorio Emanuele).

Piazza Pretoria is just a stone’s throw away and is also known as the ‘Fountain of Shame’, both because of the nudity of the statues and, above all, because of the protests caused by the excessive sums paid to buy it.

Returning to the four canti and heading up the mountain side of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, you will reach the splendid Cathedral, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the area of Palermo, Cefalù and Monreale. The interior of the Cathedral is divided into two areas for tourist visits, the first is free and includes only the Cathedral (opening times Mon-Sat 7am-7pm, Sun 8am-7pm) and the second is called the “Monumental Area” and requires a fee, which includes the roofs, royal tombs, crypt, apses, Treasury and underground passages (opening times Mon-Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 10am-6pm). This area has different types of ticket because you can choose to visit just one part!

If you want to go further afield, you can continue along the street through Porta Nuova towards Independence Square where you will find the Norman Palace, dating back to 1130. Once the seat of the rulers of the Kingdom of Sicily, today it is Europe’s oldest royal residence. Inside, the Royal Palace contains one of Palermo’s most beautiful treasures: the Palatine Chapel. You can visit it from Mon to Sat from 8.30 to 16.30, Sun and Public Holidays from 8.30 to 12.30 with different ticket offers depending on the areas you want to visit.

If you prefer to return and get closer to the ship, you can go back up along Corso Vittorio Emanuele and continue towards the sea until you reach Porta Felice, which overlooks the sea on one side and the Cassaro (Via Vittorio Emanuele) on the other. It is a genuine monumental entrance to the city.

From there you will exit at the Foro Italico, a large green area, from which you will surely spot the ship in the distance. Then you can decide to return to the historic centre, and perhaps get lost in some of the alleys of the stoic centre or walk along the sea towards the port, in which case you can admire the murals dedicated to Falcone and Borsellino and the small port “À Cala” with its U shape, this represents the oldest port in the city of Palermo.

Naturally, along the way it is mandatory to try one of the Palermo/Sicilian specialities, such as arancina, pane con panelle (chickpea flour fritters) and crocchè, “pane ca meusa” (i.e. bread with veal spleen) and remember that if you order one of these you will be asked a question: Maritatu o Schettu? That is to say, married or unmarried? In the first case it will be served with caciocavallo or ricotta cheese, in the second case with just lemon! Instead, the sweet specialities are cannolo, cassata and granita.

If the walking tour is not your thing, you can take a tour bus. The City Sightseeing service offers several routes, including the historic centre, the art nouveau area of the city and a further route to Monreale Cathedral.

Or if you want to experience something special, you can visit the city on board a carriage. An expert ‘gnuri’ (coachman) will guide you around the city to the sound of horses’ hooves. You can choose to take a one-hour tour of the old town, or arrange a longer tour. A carriage can accommodate a maximum of 4 people.

If you want to get to the beautiful beach of Mondello, there are plenty of taxis at the port (much faster) or from the Politeama theatre you can take one of the buses to Mondello.

We would recommend deciding in advance which stage to spend more time on and always keep an eye on the clock, because these wonders will enchant you!

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Giorgia Lombardo