Two days in Palermo: itinerary and tips

Are you thinking about spending two days in Palermo?

Well, the city boasts hundreds of absolutely unmissable places and monuments, so making a selection of worth visiting is certainly not easy.

Having only two days in Palermo means having to give up something, nevertheless it will be possible to take advantage of the little time available to quickly immerse yourself in the history and tradition of the Sicilian capital.

Two days in Palermo: the itinerary

Itinerary for the first day (best things to visit in Palermo):

  1. San Giovanni degli Eremiti
  2. Palazzo dei Normanni
  3. The Palatine Chapel
  4. The Cathedral
  5. Corso Vittorio Emanuele
  6. Piazza Pretoria and the Quattro Canti
  7. Piazza Marina and Palazzo Steri

Itinerary for the second day (best places to visit in Palermo):

  1. Piazza Politeama
  2. Teatro Massimo
  3. Porta Carini and the Capo market
  4. Church of Sant’Agostino
  5. Via Maqueda

Now let’s see in detail the individual stages of our two days in Palermo itinerary and all the related information of tourist interest.

Two days in Palermo. You can't miss the red domes of the Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti
The red domes of the Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti in Palermo

Day 1: The itinerary of this mini tour of Palermo starts from the beautiful church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti (the closest metro stop is “Orleans“), part of the Arab-Norman route, a UNESCO heritage site. The church has a wonderful cloister (testimony of the ancient monastery that once stood here) and a delightful garden.

Continuing towards Piazza Indipendenza, it is possible to reach the Royal Palace, also known as “Palazzo dei Normanni“, (about 3 minutes on foot from San Giovanni degli Eremiti). Here you can admire the Sala dei Viceroy, the crypt, the Palatine Chapel and the astronomical observatory.

Palazzo dei Normanni is one of the most visited places in the whole of Sicily, a complete tour inside it takes a couple of hours but it is absolutely worth it.

At the end of the visit, it is possible to take Corso Vittorio Emanuele (formerly called “Cassaro”) passing under the arch of Porta Nuova, which for centuries was the most important land access point to the city. Immediately after the arch, on the right, it will be possible to immerse yourself in the greenery of Villa Bonanno.

A few tens of meters further on is the Cathedral of Palermo, which over time has undergone Byzantine, Arab and Norman influences. This mix of styles created a jewel that the whole world envies.

By reservation it is also possible to have access to the roofs and admire the city from the top of its cathedral. Continuing along Corso Vittorio Emanuele it is possible to admire the beauty of the noble palaces and churches that are part of it, including the beautiful church of San Giuseppe dei Teatini.

At this point we are now near the Quattro Canti (Piazza Villena for toponymy), a square particularly loved by tourists on holiday in Palermo for its octagon shape, but also for the works and allegories that enrich it.

Detail of the fountains of Piazza Pretoria in Palermo
Detail of the fountains of Piazza Pretoria in Palermo

Turn right and then take via Maqueda, you will immediately see the beautiful Piazza Pretoria and its immense fountain. The square is also called “Piazza della Vergogna” because of the naked statues that enrich the large fountain.

Right in front of it, there is the institutional seat of the Municipality of Palermo. Behind the town hall is Piazza Bellini and the enchanting Church of San Cataldo, with clearly Arab-Norman architectural features due in particular to the three red hemispherical domes on the roof.

Two days in Palermo: Piazza Bellini and the Church of San Cataldo on the right
Piazza Bellini and the Church of San Cataldo on the right

After visiting the church, it is possible to return to Corso Vittorio Emanuele until reaching Piazza Marina: here is the beautiful Villa Garibaldi (inside which there is the largest Ficus tree in Europe) and the Palazzo Chiaramonte- Steri, which guards the prisons of the inquisition.

On Sunday morning in Piazza Marina there is a historic antiques market that is absolutely worth visiting.

It is possible to conclude the itinerary of this first part of the tour of Palermo in two days by taking a walk on the lawn of the Foro Italico (a few minutes walk from Piazza Marina) and a good ice cream in one of the many ice cream shops in the area.

Day 2: The second part of this two days in Palermo tour includes departure from Piazza Ruggero Settimo (which the Palermitans call “Piazza Politeama“): after a few shots in this beautiful square, dominated by the Politeama Theater and its rampant bronze horses placed on the roof, you can take via Ruggero Settimo, which is the main shopping street in Palermo.

Piazza Politeama in Palermo. On the right the homonymous Theater.
Piazza Politeama in Palermo. On the right the homonymous Theater.

Here you can find the major clothing brands but also some franchises, historic bookstores, bars and souvenir shops. Often along this elegant street it is possible to meet street artists, struggling with their shows and street food vendors. The entire area is pedestrianized for most of the week and this makes the walk even more enjoyable, especially if you have children.

At the end of Via Ruggero Settimo you will find, as if by magic, the enchanting Teatro Massimo, the third largest theater in Europe.

A stop in front of the theater is a must and it can be an opportunity to cool off with one of the slushes that a street vendor, dressed in traditional Sicilian clothes, offers his customers right in front of the theater.

Resuming your march on this exciting two-day tour of Palermo, you will have to take via Volturno, which is located behind the Teatro Massimo: at the end of this street you will find the ancient Porta Carini, once the gateway to Palermo and today famous because it represents the beginning of the “Capo“, one of the four historical markets of Palermo (the others are Ballarò, Vucciria and Borgo Vecchio).

Porta Carini and the entrance to the Capo market in Palermo
Porta Carini and the entrance to the Capo market in Palermo

In Palermo, nothing is better than getting lost among the stalls of the local markets among meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and sweets.

Capo is a market that strongly recalls the Arab tradition, particularly alive here, thanks also to the picturesque awnings that ensure the merchandise shelter from the sun and rain.

This will also be an opportunity to listen to the famous “abbanniata” live, which means the habit to advertise one’s goods aloud, almost like a song.

Each vendor creates their own abbanniata and hearing them performed at the same time, in that mix of aromas and flavors that envelops the visitor, really gives the sensation of being inside an ancient Arab market.

After the Capo market it is possible to take Via Sant’Agostino, which leads directly to the Church of Sant’Agostino: inside it is possible to admire the stuccos by Giacomo Serpotta and the beautiful 16th century cloister.

At the end of the visit of this important church, testimony of the Baroque in Palermo, we suggest reaching the nearby via Maqueda and concluding here this tour of Palermo in two days.

Via Maqueda, Palermo
Via Maqueda, Palermo

It will be an opportunity to enjoy a relaxing walk overlooking the ancient and noble palaces of this ancient street, taking the opportunity to buy something in one of the many souvenir shops nearby or stopping in a bar to try some of the typical specialties of Palermo.

Best time to visit Palermo

The best period to visit Palermo for a weekend is during springtime or autumn. In these seasons the weather is usually sunny, but not as hot as in summer.

So you will have the chance to enjoy this walking tour without the stress related to the high temperatures.

Visiting Palermo in two days may seem like a difficult task, but following this itinerary you will return home with the certainty of having seen what you usually see when you have three or four days of time.

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