Palermo is a great weekend trip destination especially during the off season months of May and September. It is full of sunshine, sea breeze and history. As the whole island the city has changed religions and countries within the centuries and this is depicted in it's architecture and taste.
Street food, mafia, trash problems and 'God Father' filming - Palermo has seen it all.
Our flight back home was leaving from Palermo, so we decided to stay longer and spent 48 hours in the Sicily's capital.
FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE CITY
It takes about 30-45 minutes to get from Palermo city center to the airport - be sure to plan your time accordingly.
After checking all the options we found out that the most fast and convinient one is to take a shuttle Bus service run by Prestia e Comande. With several stops around the city center it is an easy and budget way of transportation. On the moment of travel we paid 6 Euro per ticket. As a comparison taxi costs around 50 Euro. Be sure to book your ticket online - it will save you time and money and also guarantees you a seat during the rush hour.
We noticed frequent and broad bus service across the city, but if you are in Palermo only for a weekend you probably won't need it since most of the sightseeing points are located withing the walking distance.
What was very convinient though - Free bus service with the city center, driving regularly along the main attractions. Ask for the route map at the tourist office or directy at AMAT, or check out this link.
As I'm always on the hunt for nice coffee spots, photo locations and street life details in any new place I visit I choose feet as my primarly source of moving around. Palermo is an easy walking destination. Most of the city center is closed to traffic over the weekend and evening hours. Other than that Palermo is not hilly and if you are not outside during the high heat hours and wear comfortable shoes you won't have any troubles walking around.
We have spotted auite some bikers and routes marked for bikes, but I think that it was mostly within the old city premises. Sicilians are not careful drivers and biking could turn into a dangerous activity.
EAT & DRINK
You will find all kinds of eateries in Palermo - from indian to local quisine. The city is also famous for it's street food - Arancini (stuffed fried rice balls) and sicilian chickpea fritters being among the most popular ones sold on every market and widely across the city. With food stalls and markets selling snacks and fresh produce you won't go hungry.
Just keep in mind that many traditional Italian restaurants and osteria's are closed between lunch and dinner times that said starting from 15:00 until 19:00. If you are traveling in a large group of people I'd advise you to book your table in advance - places get very busy during main eating hours.
Opening and serving times:
Breakfast: starting from 06:00 a.m. Breakfast in Italy is usually a cup of espesso and a cornetto (croissant) eaten standing at a bar.
Lunch: Is served between 12:00 and 14:30.
Dinner: starting 19:00. Italians eat late, so if you really want to experience the local flare come no earlier than 20:30.
Please also note that many places are closed on Sundays and some also on Mondays. Always consult the opening times before heading somewhere.
COFFEESHOPS & BAKERIES
ADDRESS: Via Vittorio Emanuele, 162
A lovely shop selling all varieties of coffee and baked goods. Prices are also reasonable. My favorite was cremoso al caffe.
ADDRESS: 46, Discesa dei Giudici
A lovely coffee and gelato shot located in the city center. Nice sitting outside area and all kinds of coffee with ice cream (affogato) on offer.
ADDRESS: Via generale Magliocco, 31
This place is extremely popular among youngsters of Palermo - we felt like an old couple entering it. But it does serve good coffee and nice snack in a lovely modern minimalistic atmosphere.
ADDRESS: Viale Venere, 1
Located a bit outside city center this place serves not only coffee and cakes, but good food options.
ADDRESS: Via Valerio Villareale, 24
A lovely bakery and coffee shop with other store located in Catania.
ADDRESS: Via Colonna Rotta, 68
A traditional pastry shop with plenty of sweet delicious delights to choose out of. The only disadvantage is that there is a tiny sitting area outside with not so charming view. If you are looking for a place to rest your feet go for Bistrot Cappello (Via Vittorio Emanuele, 11) - a gelato and pastry shop with a better sitting opportunities.
ADDRESS: Piazza Sant'Onofrio, 37/38
People say that Pizzeria Frida serves some of the best pizza in Palermo. We had to try it by ourselves and it truly was delicious. There are way too many options to choose out of - different types and styles of pizza. Consult the web page or ask waiter. I'd recommend you to reserve a table or come early - it's extremely busy!
ADDRESS: Via Maqueda, 172A
Located right next to the most busy corner of Palermo - Quattro Canti this is a traditional bistrot both popular among locals and tourists. It's great for a pit stop in the city center and for people watching.
ADDRESS: Via Vittorio Emanuele, 176
A lovely restaurant with a good choise of Italian food and affordable prices. When the Street is closed for traffic tables are also brought outside.
ADDRESS: Via Alessandro Paternostro, 58
As the name says this place serves focaccia. But not only, it also serves food and pastry. It's a lovely place located on a quite square further away from the crowds. It is still very popular though.
ADDRESS: Piazza Colonna, 7/8
This Osteria is a real gem in terms of food and price. Very reasonable prices, big portions, friendly staff and many traditional sicilian dishes on offer. Very popular among tourists and locals, so be sure to arrive early.
ADDRESS: Piazza Ignazio Florio angolo via P.pe di Granatelli
This place serves all kinds of pizza including traditional sicilian one with a thick dough.
ADDRESS: Via Isidoro la Lumia, 15/17
It's all about burgers here.
You will be safe following your guidebook in terms of seghtseeing. Most of the attractions are located close to each other and are worth visiting simply because they are gorgeous!
But if you prefer to step off the beaten path once in a while (I so do!) than you might also like the following places we stumbled upon our wanderings through the city.
CHIESA DEL SANTISSIMO SALVATORE
Don't miss this gorgeous baroque church. Somehow it stays overlooked by tourists passing by it on their way to Quattro Canti or Palermo Cathedral, but it is worth stopping by and having a look inside. The best part is that for 2,50 euro you can climb up 150 steps to the church roof top passing by some nice sitting areas.
We arrived there at about 10 a.m. and were the only ones to enjoy the view.
It is half price of what you pay to climb the roof of the Palermo Cathedral and the views are just the same (with the Cathedrale on the skyline).
If you are into Italian art but don't want to spend the whole day inside this is a place for you. It is a lovely 3 storey museum with a pleasant selection of Italian masters. The big bonus is that you can take your kid along - stroller access is available.
I simply can't resist visiting a botanical garden and to fuel on some solitude and peace when exploring a big city. Palermo Botanical Garden is a lovely one although it is located off the city cebter it is still worth visiting.
I love visiting market. And Palermo has some great ones! Ballaro Market is the most popular one and this is also the one we have visited. The further inside you go the less orientation you have - at some point you don't know whether you are in Italy, Middle East or Africa - so much diversty, so much vibe!
Mercato Vucciria and Mercato del Capo.
I'm not a big help here, since I usually don't do much shopping when on the road. But once in a while I like bringing home something to remind me of my travels. From Palermo we brought a bottle of olive oil, two prints with Palermo skyline and a package of sicilian pasta.
LIBRERIA DEL CORSO
ADDRESS: Via Vittorio Emanuele, 332
Right next door to the Book Store in House Number 330 there is a cute little shop selling souvenirs, books and other lovely handmade items. Unfortunately it was closed (sunday) when we passed by, but I did some heavy window shopping and decided that it's a nice one to tell you about.
ADDRESS: Via Alessandro Paternostro, 75
A tiny sweet craft store selling works of local designers - from stationary to jewelry. Worth stopping by for some unique presents. Cash only!
FLEA MARKET AT GIARDINO GARIBALDI
If you like extraordinary and unique items with history than you should check out the Sunday flea market in Giardino Garibaldi. You might end up with some treasures only you will have.
BEACH IN PALERMO: If you prefer beach instead of city life than you
shoudln't go to Palermo can simply hop on a bus and enjoy some beach life in one of the Palermo neighbourhoods - Mondello. To get there hop on a seasonal bus 806 and for 1.40 Euro it will take you in 45 minutes to the beach. Careful, it could be VERY crowded! Since it's a seasonal bus it goes from the middle of May to the end of October,
TIPPING: In most of the places service charge ('Coperto' in Italian) is already included in price - you will see it on the bill. Sometimes it goes per person, sometimes for the table - in this case you don't need to worry about tipping. In Palermo most of the service charge is 2 euro, which is ok if youeat at a restaurant, but is not ok if you just had a coffee.
If the service charge is not included 10% of the bill is a recommended tip.
If you want to save on service charge order your coffee at the bar - you will see locals do so, in this case no service charge is paid and if you can wish you can round the bill in the end.
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