The capital city of Sicily, Palermo is a feast for all the senses. Historic, passionate, and thriving – its skyline is dominated by exquisite cathedrals and chapels. Meanwhile, labyrinthine streets offer colorful markets, theaters, and ancient palaces. This makes walking around Palermo like stepping into a living museum. On every street corner, you’ll discover different architectural styles – Roman, Norman, and Arabic. While exploring the daily markets, you can sample life as a local, and shop like one too! Flanked by majestic mountains and azure waters, Palermo is scenic, friendly, and the perfect base for a Sicilian adventure. While all visitors will appreciate the city’s sheer beauty, our Palermo Design Guide offers itinerary highlights for those with an eye for aesthetics.
Palermo has so many beautiful things to see, it’s hard to know where to look first! Check out our Palermo Travel Guide for a more extensive look into where to go and what to see. But first, read on for the absolute must-sees for design lovers.
Nestled in Piazza Bellini, close to Quattro Canti Square and Pretoria fountain, the sacred site of La Martorana (also known as Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio) blends ornate artwork and detailed design. This incredible church was commissioned by George of Antioch in 1143, who loved the Byzantine art style. The building is impressive from the exterior, fringed by palm trees and distinctive entrances. However, the true majesty lies inside: it’s a glistening wonderland of colorful mosaics and frescoes in gold and blue hues. Explore the surrounding area on our Palermo Old Town Bike Tour.
Piazza Bellini, 3, 90133, Palermo, Sicily
If you visit just one site on our Palermo Design Guide, let it be the Palermo Cathedral. One of the most important architectural monuments in Sicily, Palermo Cathedral was constructed by the Normans in 1184. Building during these times involved much competition. Therefore, we see myriad styles ranging from Medieval and Gothic to Arabic and Neoclassical in this architectural gem. Even if you don’t step inside the building, the exterior offers Baroque cupolas, porticos with frescos, and a Renaissance bell tower to admire.
Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 480, Palermo, Sicily
Antico Stabilimento Balneare di Mondello
This eye-catching building in Mondello near Capo Gallo Reserve stands as a fairy-tale landmark by the water’s edge. Designed by Rudolf Stualker, it epitomizes the essence of a beach resort during the Art Nouveau era. The palatial structure stretching along the bay with its towering grand entrance and apricot-hued façade is the perfect place to take a stroll and imagine visiting the bustling Sicilian lido during these times. A great way to visit Mondello is our Beach Bike Tour from Palermo.
Viale Regina Elena, Mondello, Sicily
Capella Palatina & Palazzo dei Normanni
The beautiful royal Palatine Chapel of the Norman Palace was commissioned by Roger II of Sicily and dedicated to Saint Peter. This artistic masterpiece close to Palazzo dei Normanni was completed in 1132. It boasts a unique blend of Norman, Byzantine, and Fatimid architectural styles, which showcases the complex heritage of Sicily in one building through its mosaics and paintings. Highlights include the intricately detailed Muqarnas ceiling and chapel mosaics of the saints.
Piazza del Parlamento, 90134, Palermo, Sicily.
This atmospheric restaurant lies within a 16th-century building, where Sicilian Renaissance sculptor Antonio Gagini once honed his works. The restaurant is a designer’s dream with signature furnishings by Alfred von Hersch and art by Croc Tavarella. The candlelit restaurant focuses on social dining – a space where guests sit around a communal table so they can interact with the hosts and new friends. The cuisine is a unique take on Mediterranean fare using fresh local ingredients. Dishes include the catch of the day and spaghetti with Siccagno tomato, basil, and smoked ricotta. Then, finish the meal with chocolate mousse with salted caramel, plums, and licorice ice cream!
Via Cassari, 35, Palermo, Sicily
Bye Bye Blues
Situated on the Gulf of Mondello overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Bye Bye Blues is a design enthusiast and foodie dream. Chef Patrizia di Benedetto is the only woman chef in Sicily to win a coveted Michelin star. She utilizes fresh ingredients to create delicious Italian and Sicilian gourmet dishes. The restaurant is bright and modern, featuring natural light and Sicilian artwork. The menu offers diners a sensory journey through Sicily with local wines as their travel companions. Sample the mouth-watering fillet of turbot with orange and fennel, tortelli with ricotta, and pork ragout with pea cream. For dessert, a delectable baba with vacuum-candied banana and ice cream will certainly satisfy you.
Via del Garofalo, 23, 90100, Palermo
To elevate your experience while exploring the highlights of our Palermo Design Guide, dive into aesthetic comfort at the end of the day! The terracotta expanse of palatial Villa Igiea dominates the waterfront of Palermo. With exquisitely designed lobby space, frescoes, and rooms designed by Olga Polizzi and Paolo Moschino, the hotel is a blend of contemporary flair and period furnishings. Many of the 66 guest rooms and suites overlook the vast expanse of the cerulean Tyrrhenian Sea. They feature cool marble floors and private balconies overlooking swaying palms, bobbing yachts, and gardens. Dining in the hotel is also a treat. Menus by Fulvio Pierangelini contain timeless traditional recipes utilizing homegrown produce from surrounding farms, fresh seafood, and classic pasta dishes. Enjoying them on the romantic outdoor terrace at sunset will surely be a highlight of your stay.
Salita Belmonte, 43, 90142, Palermo
Located close to the 13th century Torre di San Nicolo di Bari and lively Ballaro street market, Palazzo Brunaccini is a modern-day palace in Palermo. Perfect for couples, solo travelers, or friends who wish to stay in the historic heart of Palermo, it offers easy access to all the sights and sounds of the city. The 17 guest rooms are light and airy, distributed on different levels with wooden beam ceilings and four-poster beds. Meanwhile, furnished patios offer the ideal place to sit with a glass of wine and look over city rooftops.
Piazzetta Lucrezia Brunaccini, 9, 90139, Palermo, Sicily
The Best Ways to Experience Palermo
Palermo is a city that unfolds itself at a leisurely pace, so tourists often get lost in the shuffle of trying to see all the highlights in a short amount of time. A tour in Palermo will help you find off-the-beaten-path hidden gems and experiences with locals, elevating your stay to another level. Learn the stories and savor the flavors of Palermo’s unique street foods with a delightful Street Food Evening Tour. Or take a private cooking class with a local and learn the secrets of Palermo’s cuisine, acquiring skills and memories you can take home with you. Tour packages, meanwhile, fold a visit to Palermo into longer explorations of Sicily. With your choice of hotels and a perfectly balanced itinerary, they will help you discover Palermo in style.