Capital of Sicily, founded by Phoenicians under the name of "Ziz" (= Flower, but the meaning is still doubtful), later renamed by Greeks "Panormos" which means "all port", it reached its golden age during the Arab domination (IX-XI centuries A.C.) when it became one of the most prosperous cities in the Mediterranean and Europe, known as "city of delights" for its marvelous and lavish gardens, as well as for magnificent mosques and palaces. After being conquered by the Normans (1060-1080 A.C.), most of palaces and mosques were destroyed, but the new rulers exploited the cosmopolitan environment of Palermo and the artists, architects and masters from different cultural roots giving the birth to a unique architectural style, the so-called "Arab-Norman Style of Sicily", which is an original mixture of arabesque decorations, Romanesque architecture and Byzantine mosaics. After being home to one of the most famous Emperors of the Middle Ages, Frederik II fo Swabi, named "Stupor Mundi" by contemporaries, Palermo began its decadence under the influence of several dominations (French, Aragonians, Spanish and Borbons from Naples. In the mid of XIX century, during the so-called "Italian Risorgimento" Palermo was one the leading revolutionary cities in Italy, strongly contributing to the success of the "Mille" (literally "one thousand") patriots' expedition lead by the famous Italian national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi which ended with the reunification of Italy under the Savoy dynasty from Turin (1860). Nowadays Palermo faces several problems affecting its economic development, mainly because of the presence of the very powerful criminal organization known worldwide as "Mafia" or "Cosa Nostra". The city's economy is based on local government institutions, port, shipbuilding industry and the mechanical industry. It is also seat to some important Sicilian wine making companies (like Tasca d'Almerita, Duca di Salaparuta, Corvo, Planeta, etc.) whose popularity in the world is growing.
Palermo International Airport (IATA: PMO) is located some 32 km west of the city at Punta Raisi and has flights incoming from other Italian centres and major European cities on a regular basis. Half hourly shuttle buses, on the :00 and :30, (operated by Prestia e Comandè) provide inexpensive transport into the city centre train station (€6.10, as of November 2012). Purchase bus ticket from the ticket office next to the bus at the airport. From city centre to the airport, purchase ticket from the driver. There are 1-2 trains per hour, 50 minutes, €5.80 (destination Punta Raisi). The usual taxi and car rental services are also available at the airport.
Although Palermo is a fair-sized city, most of the interesting sites around the centre can easily be reached on foot.
Get a 24 hour ticket for €4. Many buses run on Via Roma. To go to Pl Indipendenza take bus 109 from the station.
Because of its variety of monuments, attesting to its long and rich history, and the number of other cultural and naturalistic attractions, Palermo can offer a very interesting experience to the visitor interested in exploring it.
- Cathedral. Honey-coloured and Catalan influenced. Frederick II, Barbarossa's son, died in 1250 and is buried here, far from his ancestral home above Hohenstaufen, Germany. Frederick's sarcophagus is of porphyry dyed with imperial purple.
- Quattro Canti - the symbolic crossroads at the old centre of the city and the nearby small, but pretty La Martorana church with Byzantine mosaics inside.
- Museo Archeologico.
- Catacombe dei Cappuccini, open daily 9AM-12 noon and 3PM-5PM, entrance is €3 - the catacombs of the Capuchin convent located on the Piazza Cappuccini, just west of the city centre, contain over 8000 mummified ex-residents from Palermo and its surrounding villages, some merely clothed skeletons, other remarkably well-preserved and lifelike. Well worth a visit, interesting, if slightly morbid. Children may either find it exciting or terrifying and it must be the responsibility of their parents to think carefully before taking them.
- Palazzo dei Normanni. Inside, don't miss the mosaics in the Cappella Palatina and the old Royal Apartments
- street markets, especially near the Piazza del Carmine and Vucciria. At the Ballaro there is a huge variety of fresh fruits on offer.
- Piazza Garraffello near Vucciria on Friday nights a DJ is playing open air if the weather is good. Huge crowd dancing. There are also lots of bars right next to the square.
- Piazza Pretoria, including the Fontana Pretoria
- The Gesu Church is one of the most architecturally important in Palermo. Constructed between 1564–1633, it's late date of completion resulted in an abundant use of polychrome marbles on both floors and walls. This form of decoration, which gradually evolved in Sicily from the beginning of the 17th century, was a mark of the beginning of the Sicilian Baroque period, which was to give Sicily almost an architectural national identity. Note that it the church has a modest facade and is hidden in back street in central Palermo, unlike the great cathedral this one you have too look for.
- San Giovanni degli Eremiti, ☎ . Via dei Bernadetti. Old church ruin and nice garden. The €6 admission ensures that the lovely garden is quiet and peaceful. Open mo-sa 9AM-7PM.
- Cappella Palatina, ☎ . Piazza Indipendenza. Chapel with mosaics. It's one of the artistic gems of Palermo, magnificent mosaics and Arabian-style decorations, among the most beautiful in the world. Open mo-fr 9-11. 45AM and 3-4:45PM. Sa 9-11:45AM. Su 9-9:45AM, 12-12:45PM.
- The Zisa and the Cuba, Arabic-Norman royal palaces. The Zisa is in Piazza Zisa; the Cuba in Corso Calatafimi.
- Monreale - a village/suburb 8 km west of Palermo, sitting on the hill with a great view back towards the city and the sea. Be sure to visit the Duomo (Cathedral) and its cloisters too.
International House Language Centre is right in the centre near Piazza Politeama (via Q. Sella 70). International House has teachers with years of experience. Each year it welcomes Italian language students from every corner of the globe. Its Italian language courses can be combined with traditional cooking lessons, scuba diving sessions and tours of the city and the island. The school was founded in 1975 and is also a centre of excellence for English language teaching. Free Wi-fi available for tourists and students.
- Isola Saporita, ☎ . Corso Vittorio Emanuele 504 (opposite the cathedral). Good selection of wine, oil, marmalade, sauces, etc.
- The "Pizzo free" shops are a group of shopkeepeers that refuse to pay the racket to the Mafia. The Palermitan consumers sustain them by going shopping in their stores. These shops are easily recognisable by a sticker in the shop/restaurant window. You can find the list here: . If you'd prefer your whole trip to be "pizzo-free" there is a special website for travelers here: 
- Mercato di Ballarò, Via Ballarò, Piazze de Carmine. Mon, Tue, Thu to Sat 7-20, Wed 7-13. Busy food market in Albergheria.
- La Coppola Storta, Via Bara all'Olivella 74, ☎ . This cap, originally of Sicilian peasants and later of the Mafia, has become a stylish accessory.
Try specialties of Palermo like panino con la milza or panelle, in one of the many sandwich stands in the old city center.
- Antica Focacceria S. Francesco, Via A Paternostro, 58 (In the small piazza in front front of S. Francecso church). 11am t0 3.30 pm, 5,30 to 11.30 pm. A deservedly popular top quality restaurant serving fine Sicilian food in the open air. Bookings recommended at weekends. Main courses €15, fast food €5.
- Il Proverbio, ☎ . Via Discesa 24. Close to station and Quattro Canti. Great Sicilian food, most dishes are €4-6.
- Al Chioschetto. Pz. Indipendenza Di Fronte N. 31. Close to the new gate. Excellent fresh panini and salads. They keep all the ingredients in a cooled glass counter, makes the panini from scratch when you order, using only freshly cut pieces of meat.
- Le pergamene, Piazza Marina 48 (near of the Palazzo chiaramonte steri), ☎ 091 6166142.
- Pizza Gaetano, Via XII Gennaio, 1/Q, ☎ . Authentic pizza and pasta dishes. Not touristy at all. $.
- Pipi Room, V. XX Settembre 59. Antipasto, pizzas, etc. $.
- Antico Caffé Spinnato, Via Principe di Belmonte 107/115, ☎ .
- Osteria dei Vespri, Piazza Croce dei Vespri 6, ☎ . Mon to Sat 12-15, 18-24.
- Paticceria Capello, Via Nicolo Garzili 10, ☎ . Thu to Tue 7-22, Wed closed.
- Pasticceria Capello, Via Colonna Rotta 58, ☎ . Thu to Tue 7-22, Wed closed.
- Trattoria al Piccolo Napoli, Piazetta Mulino a Vento 4, ☎ .
- Enoteca Picone, Via Marconi 36, ☎ .
- B&B Novecento, Via Roma, 62, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Original liberty style building in the historical centre, three-star B&B with rooms with AC, Wi-Fi, private bathroom (external or also ensuite), central heating, LCD tv, mini bar, frigo, original furnishings of early 1900s.
- Villa Addaura, Lungomare C. Colombo 1931, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Villa Addaura, a bed and breakfast in Mondello, is in a beautiful location 10 metres from the sea.
- Your Hostel, Via Roma, 62 (Via Gagini, 61). New as of 2012 hostel. Clean, free Wi-Fi.
- Al Giardino Dell'Alloro, Vicolo San Carlo 8 (on the Via Alloro 1 block from Piazza San Francesco), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. On a quiet street. €35-45 per person.
- Attic 12 - Bed&Breakfast, Street: Via dell'Autonomia Siciliana n.51 (centre, near Liberta'street), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: after 12.00, check-out: until 10.00. At 12th attic floor rooms have air conditioning, central heating, circular bath, LCD TV satellite and wi-fi. Panoramic "Solarium" with sun loungers and barbecue. Medium price to stay is €70 a day for a couple.
- B&B Il Giardino di Ballarò, Street: Via Porta di Castro 75/77 (centre, near Mercato Ballarò), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: after 12.00, check-out: until 10.00. € 70 a day for a couple.
- Bed and Breakfast Panormus, Via Roma, 72 (near to the central station), ☎ , fax: +39 091 6175826, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Three stars in historical centre. B&B Panormus is in a beautiful liberty palace built in 1915. TV, air conditioning, hair dryer, heat, freezer, reserved bathroom (outside your room, not to ruin the original "liberty" ceilings and pavements). Car parking is near.
- Bed & Breakfast Palermo Art Lincoln, Via Lincoln, 161 (city center), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. The Bed and Breakfast Palermo Art Lincoln is located close to a metro station and the air terminal to and from the airport. € 30.
- Hotel Casa Giuditta, Via Savona 10 - Piazza Kalsa (in the historical city centre, opposite the sea). Offers rooms and self-catering apartments with 17th century style decorations. Fully furnished with all mod cons: a/c, washing machines, kitchen with oven, freezer, dishwasher, satellite TV. Children welcome.
- Le Casette, Via Torretta 7, Sferracavallo, nr Mondello (30 meters from the sea and 2 km from Mondello). A group of 1 and 2-bedroom self-catering apartments, on Sferracavallo's seafront close to Palermo. Simple but comfortable studios have an outdoor yard, for relaxing during the day and romantic dinners by night. Sferracavallo has good public transport connections to Palermo, and is close to the Capo Gallo nature reserve.
- Florio Park Hotel, Contrada Magaggiari. First category hotel complex located by the sea on a beautiful golden and sandy beach. Inside a 4-hectare park, the hotel has 17 pavilions (1 or 2 floors), surrounded by luxuriant vegetation, that comprise 204 rooms and 6 suites. In the central building you'll find the reception desk and the wide and elegant hall, the restaurant, the excursions office, the American bar, the bazaar and the TV room.
- Giorgio's House Palermo, Via Mongitore, ☎ . Bed and Breakfast where you can get (if you wish) for free: pick up, By night tours (3/4 times per week), trekking tours (April–May / October–December) day trips (5/6 times per month) to Cefalù, Erice, Etna, Beaches, Zingaro etc., English/Italian conversation meetings (1/2 times per week).
- Saint Thorn Guest Club, Via Spina Santa 210, Capo Gallo, near Mondello. Located inside the 'Capo Gallo' nature reserve in the hills outside Palermo, offering stunning views across Mondello's beach. Free parking in the nearby private street, or inside the villa for €5; swimming pool; free internet. All rooms have en suite baths, TV, hair dryer, a/c, fridge, own outside access. Two rooms have kitchenette, with minimum stay of 5 days. Downtown Palermo is about 15 mins by bus/car, Mondello 10 min, airport 20 min.
- Hotel Artemisia Palace Palermo, Via Roma, 499, ☎ , fax: +39 091 6055766. Elegant four star hotel which has 18 double rooms and suite. All with private bar, satellite TV with Sky channels, internet connection. Also available a free public parking.
- Hotel Italy, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Via Roma 62, 4. floor, 100 m from the train station. Good clean rooms with new bathrooms, AC, TV, and balcony with clotheslines. €60, no breakfast.
- Hotel Joli,Via Michele Amari, 11, 90139 Palermo Ph. +39 091.6111765, Fax: +39 091.6111766 . Rooms adorned with frescoes and fine decor. Fine service, too.
- NH Jolly Palermo, ☎ . Foro Italico. 237 spacious rooms and a congress centre with 2 meeting rooms, all equipped with natural light, located on the picturesque gulf of the city and enjoys breathtaking views across the sea.
- B&B Palermo, ☎ , fax: +39 091 8771577, e-mail: email@example.com. The B&B Porta di Castro is an old building restored and well furnished.
- B&B Lincoln Suite Palermo, Via Lincoln (Centre), ☎ . Refined, cheap and central, close to the station.
- In Itinera B&B (near the Giardino Inglese and the Notarbartolo Station), via della Libertà 58, ☎ . Bed and breakfast art and design in the heart of Palermo. Rooms with free wifi, minibar, bathroom with shower or bath and Chromotherapy, air conditioning
- Excelsior Palace Hotel, Via Marchese Ugo, 3, ☎ , fax: +39 091 342139. One of the oldest and most renowned luxury hotels in Palermo. 4 star, near the harbour and the English Garden.
- Grand Hotel et Des Palmes Palermo, Via Roma 398, ☎ , fax: +39 091 331545. Large and luxurious 4 star in the centre, with exquisite interior design and high quality service. Also one of the oldest and best known in the city. Richard Wagner stayed here from November, 1881 until 20 March 1882. It was at this hotel that he completed Parsifal on 13 January 1882.
- Quintocanto Hotel e Spa, Corso Vittorio Emanuele 310, ☎ , fax: +39 091-7302738, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Hotel Residenza D’Aragona, ☎ , fax: +39 091 6622273. Via Ottavio D'Aragona, 25,. Elegant and filled with modern comforts and impeccable service. In the historical centre, near the Politeama and Massimo theaters. Single from €80, double from €120.
- Hotel Ucciardhome Palermo, Via Enrico Albanese, 34/36, ☎ , fax: +39 091-7302738, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Hotel Villa Igiea Palermo, Salita Belmonte 43, ☎ , fax: +39 091 547 654. 5-star villa and hotel complex in the hills overlooking Palermo and the bay. Offering health spa, tennis courts and a fantastic Greek swimming pool that overlooks the sea from on high.
- Mondello Palace Hotel, Viale Principe di Scalea (In Mondello, 7 km from Palermo city centre), ☎ , toll-free: . It rises a few metres from the soft and golden sandy beach and is surrounded by a lush Mediterranean park. It is an elegant building with wide, classic halls. There are an open-air swimming pool, free Wi-Fi internet connection and a parking lot inside the hotel (unguarded). The restaurant is the feather in its cap. It is located in a wide and bright hall, opening up on the garden. Here you can taste Sicilian and international dishes, together with very nice local wines.
Beware of pickpockets and motorcycle-riding snatch thieves targeting handbags, wallets and mobile phones.
Women should not walk alone at night in the historical centre of Palermo and travellers could be wary of La Kalsa, the neighborhood between Via Roma and the water, at night. The area is being renewed and gentrified, but is probably still one of the riskier places to be at night.
Vehicle theft is a major problem in Palermo, so the use of private, secure car parks is to be preferred.
Avoid going outside the city center, except for Mondello (beach and clubs), Sferracavallo (great restaurants), Monreale.
- Internet Shop. Via Napoli N, 32. Tel: +39 091 584146. 13 computers, E2.5/hour. Wireless internet.
- Mediapoint Via Maqueda 221, tel:+39 091 6113332. close to 4CANTI, 4c/min. Picture backup in CD or DVD, memory cards available.
- Aboriginal Internet Cafe, Via S. Spinuzza 51, close to Teatro Massimo, Tel: +39 091 6622229, . Also serves beer and drinks with obscene names.
Palermo's main APT Tourist Office is located at Piazza Castelnuovo 35, open Mo-Fr 8AM-8PM and Sa 8AM-2PM. English spoken. A branch of the tourist office also exists at the airport. Get a free map from one of the blue information booths.
Palermo is the main hub for buses and trains in Sicily. The main station - Stazione Centrale is near the centre. Most of the long-distance buses leave from just round the corner. The shuttle to the airport leaves every half hour on the half hour until 11PM from the eastern side of the square in front of the train station.