How we spent a day in Palermo, Sicily

one day guide to palermo sicily italy

The bustling capital of Sicily is a unique city that is definitely worth sampling. We visited on a day trip during our stay in Cefalu, and were enthralled by the sights, smells and sounds of Palermo. This guide isn’t a complete list of everything in the city, it’s more a ‘here’s some great things to do’ that will help you feel like you experienced Palermo.

We found the city to be a mix of impressive history and architecture, a bustle of markets, the tastes of incredible street food, a feast for your eyes and a gritty undertone of the struggles the city has faced (e.g. the mafia in the mid-late 1900s). The city has had multiple cultural and historical influences, think Roman, Arabic, Greek and more. This is reflected in its culture, architecture and food. Read on for a few top picks and some photo highlights from our visit!

Should I stay or do a day trip in Palermo? While one day isn’t nearly enough to ‘see all of Palermo’, its a great amount of time to get a taste of what it has to offer. If you’re looking to see all of the city, a few days would likely be advised, and we are sure Palermo is a city that could keep ‘giving’ up little gems many days and weeks later.

A few of the things we enjoyed during our visit to Palermo

Top pick: try cannoli at I Segreti Del Chiostro

This was one of our favourite experiences in Sicily! Head to the beautiful Piazza Bellini, follow this little sign and venture through an old monastery to a bustling ‘no frills’ bakery.

They pipe the cream into the enormous cannoli fresh (€3 each), and offer an array of other traditional sweets. The desserts are apparently made by nuns in the monastery (unsure re this). Grab your sweet treats and sit in the beautiful little courtyard. A true Palermo gem!

Sample the chaos of the Palermo food markets

These markets are iconically Palermo, and give off vibes of the Moroccan street markets where locals almost aggressively hawk their wares. The Ballaro and Capo markets offer a variety of fresh produce, ‘tapas style’ eats (yes we had an arancini), clothing, drinks and everything else you can imagine. There’s a mix of chaos, noise, smells and the visuals are great. It’s definitely a top Palermo experience.

Visit the impressive Chiesa del Gesù di Casa Professa

This beautiful church is located nearby the Ballaro market, and is definitely worth the €1 entry fee despite being relatively unassuming from the outside We were walking past unsure whether to go inside, but an Italian tourist insisted it was a must, and even paid our entry (we offered but he insisted). We weren’t disappointed. This 1600s church was definitely one of the most beautiful we have seen in Italy!

Sample the history and culture

While a day isn’t enough to see all of the top attractions, we recommend at least walking past to observe how impressive they are. This includes locations like the Palermo Cathedral (go on the hour to hear the bells ring), Quattro Canti (loved this main square), the Fountain of Shame (Fontana Pretoria), the impressive churches (including the 12th century Church of St. Mary of the Admiral), Teatro Massimo (impressive opera house), street markets and much more. Don’t expect to have time to ‘go into’ all of these locations in one day, but they are close enough to at least walk past and marvel at.

Walk the old streets and alleyways of Palermo

One of our favourite things about Palermo were the winding alleyways – some impressive and colourful, others run down and grungy. The bustling market streets, the impressive main walkways.. it was all a great insight and taste of Palermo. Make sure you enjoy the walk around when visiting.

Sample the street food

This best place to sample tasty street food like arancini is at the food markets and small local bakeries/shops. There’s lots to choose from, but we advise to keep an eye on some of the vendors who look like they have very questionable food safety.

Food, coffee & bar recommendations for Palermo:

Note: we didn’t try all of these, some were recommended by locals, friends and we walked past some that we wished we had time to stay and enjoy. Feel free to add some of your favourites in the comments if we missed them.


  • Osteria Mangia & Bevi – authentic food with nonna vibes
  • Locale – local food and a great courtyard
  • Caffè del Kassaro – a beautiful restaurant with Italian classics
  • Ristorante La Galleria – good lunch and dinner option down a little alley
  • Fúnnaco PizzaLab – top pick for pizza near the port
  • aTipico – a highly rated vegan restaurant
  • Dal Barone – cute wine bar open in the evenings


  • VERA Coffee Break – one of the best coffee’s we’ve had in Italy
  • Bar Vabres – cute cafe with good coffee and food
  • Caffetteria Rizzuto – a little specialty coffee bar


  • I Segreti Del Chiostro – authentic cannoli and deserts in a beautiful courtyard
  • Spinnatos – a classic Italian bakery
  • Cioccolateria Lorenzo – cute little desert restaurant

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