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Palermo is a thriving, cosmopolitan city that mixes incredible architecture, beautiful sandy beaches and top restaurants to create a destination quite unlike anything else. Sicily’s capital rises from the waterfront, with a cluster of honey-hued houses and a domed cathedral watching over everything. From the sun-drenched beachfront to the maze of historic streets, Palermo is a heady combination of the best that Italy has to offer.
This is a city where you can head beneath the streets to visit the eerie catacombs one minute, and enjoy the sumptuous surroundings of the city’s grand theatre the next. That’s part of what makes Palermo so unique: the charismatic blend of unusual sights, impressive history and beautiful surroundings combine to form one of Italy’s hottest city break destinations.
Palermo wears all the trappings of an Italian capital city, with most of the must-sees gathering in the gold-hued city centre. You can peek into the city’s Norman past at the Royal Palace of Palermo. Or check out the grand fountains of the king-sized piazza, Quattro Canti. There’s a superb line-up of churches, too, from domed Palermo Cathedral to the Byzantine mosaics of the Martorana. If you’ve got time, head to Zisa Castle just west of the city centre. The nearby skeletons and mummies of the Capuchin Catacombs are straight out of a horror flick – and one of the most popular spots in Palermo.
Palermo is also home to some standout beaches. Trace the coast to the northern edge of the city for lounger-lined Mondello Beach. The sands here stretch out next to the high-rise rocks of the Capo Gallo Reserve. Scale the hills for a bird’s-eye view over the Gulf of Palermo.
Palermo Airport (PMO) is about 30 minutes from the centre of the city. Direct flights to Palermo are available from London Gatwick and London Stansted and take approxmimately 2 hours 50 minutes.
Wining and dining in Palermo is a true joy, with hundreds of options available and some of the finest Italian cuisine to be found anywhere in the world. Start the day early with a coffee at a pavement cafe, lounge at lunch by the seafront and experience the best that Italy has to offer when evening comes. Set menus are popular here and provide an affordable way to try different flavours. The focus on fresh seafood and locally sourced ingredients makes for some great dining experiences, too. To eat like a true Palermitan, we recommend you sample some pesce crudo (raw fish) fresh from the sea and enjoy one of the wonderfully flavoursome ricotta dishes that grace almost every menu.
Founded in 743 BC by the Phoenicians, Palermo went on to be a part of the Roman Republic, Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire for over a thousand years. Named ‘Panormus’ (‘complete port’) by the Greeks, Palermo’s port and coastal location has played a prominent part of its history. Named capital of the Kingdom of Sicily for centuries, the city remains to this day Sicily’s cultural, economic and tourist capital, rich in history, culture and art. Its illustrious history has resulted in an impressive collection of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque churches and palaces that draw millions of sightseers every day.