The capital of Sicily was founded by Phoenicians under the name of "Ziz" (= Flower, but the meaning is still uncerain) and later renamed by Greeks "Panormos", which means "all port". It reached its golden age during the Arab domination (9th to 11th centuries AD) 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 AD), 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 In the mid-19thcentury, Palermo was one the leading revolutionary cities in Italy, strongly contributing to the success of the "Mille" (literally "one thousand"), a 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 (displaying "prestia e commande") provide inexpensive transport into the city centre (€6.10). 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. You can also book a private airport transfer online in advance. There is a couple of companies, which offer this service in Palermo, such as:
Palermo, despite many attractions, is not usually regarded as a must-see city. Nevertheless its various monuments reflecting the city's rich and diverse history, and the many cultural and natural attractions, can make for an wonderful experience to those willing to explore it.
The area of Viale della Libertà Avenue from the Politeama Theater to Piazza Croci is a great place that shows the Art-Nouveau heart of the City. It can be considered Palermo's Avenue des Champs-Elysées.
Mosaic in Monreale Cathedral
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.
The Orpheus mosaic
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 and seafood 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.
San Giovanni degli Eremiti. Via dei Bernadetti. Tel: +39 91 6515019. 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, Tel: +39 091 7054317. 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.
The Church of San Giovanni dei Lebbrosi (norman-arabic shape), the old Admiral Bridge and the recently re-opened Favara Castle (at the beginning of the magnificent panoramic road towards the historic location of the Gibilrossa hill, topped by an obelisk dedicated to the italian national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi, where you can get an amazing view over the whole Palermo's gulf from a platform -follow the directions towards the town of Belmonte Mezzagno, through wonderful orange and tangerine orchards] are the main sights of the part of the city beyond the river Oreto.
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). tel: +390916527506. Good selection of wine, oil, marmelade, 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: 
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), . A deservedly popular top quality restaurant serving fine Sicilian food in the open air. Bookings recommended at weekends.Main courses €15, fast food €5. edit
Il Proverbio, Via Discesa 24, tel: +39091 6173267. 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. edit
Pizza Gaetano, Via XII Gennaio, 1/Q, ☎ +39 091 6014544. Authentic pizza and pasta dishes. Not touristy at all.$. edit
Pipi Room, V. XX Settembre 59, . Antipasto, pizzas, etc.$. edit
Food Tours, . Food and wine tour, Cooking Class, Street food Palermo$. edit
B&B Palermo Lincoln Suite (B&B Palermo Lincoln Suite), Via Lincoln 161 (Centre), ☎ 091.6176750, . Just 200 meters from Palermo Central Station, the Lincoln Suite is an intimate property with a peaceful garden. It offers free Wi-Fi and spacious air-conditioned rooms with balcony and private bathroom.edit
B & B Porta di Castro  located in the historic center of Palermo behind the Palace of the Normans, 400 meters from the Cathedral, is just a few minutes from the metro station. The main sights of the city are easily reachable in a few minutes.
B&B Palermo Art Lincoln, Palermo city-centre, ☎ +39 328 544 5482 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Guests are served a complimentary breakfast. In addition to multilingual staff and tour/ticket assistance, Palermo Art Lincoln features laundry facilities. Wireless Internet access is complimentary in public areas. Additional amenities include a garden, concierge services, and room service (during limited hours).€ 30. edit
Palermo Erasmus life organization, Palermo city-centre, (email@example.com), . Free-service for any student who is looking for a cheap room in Palermo city-centre for short-long terms.(,13,36553)edit
B&B Novecento, Via Roma, 62, ☎ +39 0919761194 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Original liberty style building in the historical centre, three stars b&b with charme rooms with AC, Wi-Fi, private bathroom (external or also ensuite), central heating, LCD TV, mini bar, frigo, original furnishings of early 1900s.(,13,36553)edit
Your Hostel, Via Roma, 62 (Via Gagini, 61), . New as of 2012 hostel. Clean, free Wi-Fi.edit
B&B Palermo Mediterraneo (b&b Palermo), Via Tenete Giovanni Ingrao 2, ☎ +39 091586135, . Comfortable central accommodation near Teatro Massimo.€ 50 / € 60. edit
120 Rodionoff B&B, Street: Via Giuseppe Sciuti 120 (centre, near Liberta'street), ☎ +39 333 7091711 (email@example.com), . checkin: after 12.30; checkout: until 10.30. At 120 Rodionoff rooms have air conditioning, central heating, private bathrooms, LCD TV satellite with Astra and Hotbird satellites, free internet both wi-fi and via ethernet cable. The staff speaks English and Russian.€70 a day for a double room. (38.14047622710244,13.351396769285202)edit
***Attic 12 - Bed&Breakfast, Street: Via G.Alessi(ex Via dell'Autonomia Siciliana) n.51 (centre, near Liberta'street), ☎ +39 3333 100546 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: after 12.00; checkout: until 10.00. At 12th penthouse panoramic floor, Attic 12 offer you: 1 double bed, air conditioning, central heating, circular bath and large shower, LCD TV satellite, minifrigo, frigobar and wi-fi 24/24. Panoramic "Solarium" with sun loungers and barbecue. Free private parking. Exclusive use for only 2 guests.Medium price to stay is €70 a day for a couple. (38.14047622710244,13.351396769285202)edit
Al Giardino Dell'Alloro, Vicolo San Carlo 8 (on the Via Alloro 1 block from Piazza San Francesco), ☎ +39 091 6176904 (email@example.com), . Excellent central location on a quiet street.€35-45 per person. edit
Bed and Breakfast Panormus, Via Roma, 72 (near to the central station), ☎ +39 091 6175826 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +39 091 6175826), . 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.edit
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.edit
Giorgio's House Palermo, Via Mongitore, ☎ +39 3472214823, . 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).edit
Hotel Artemisia Palace Palermo – Via Roma, 499 . Telephone +39 091 6090612 • Fax +39 091 6055766. Elegant four star hotel which boasts 18 double rooms and suite. All with private bar, satellite TV with Sky channels, internet connection. Also available a free public parking.
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.edit
Hotel Italy. Via Roma 62, 4. floor, 100 m from the train station. Tel: +39091 6230656, email: email@example.com. 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.
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.edit
Maxim Bed and breakfast Suite Rooms ***, Via Mariano Stabile 136, ☎ (+39) 091.9765471 or (+39) 3347243622 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . An elegant bed and breakfast in central Palermo, the Maxim offers refined rooms with free Wi-Fi and an LCD TV. It is 350mt from Teatro Massimo and a 20-minute walk from Palermo Central Station. Decorated with modern works of art on the walls, rooms are air conditioned and are fitted with parquet floors and contemporary furniture. Each comes with a fridge and a balcony. 1.5 km from Palermo Cathedral and a 10-minute walk from Palermo Harbour. edit
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.edit
Excelsior Palace Hotel, Via Marchese Ugo, 3, Ph. 0039 091 7909, Fax: 0039 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. Ph. 0039 091 6028111, Fax: 0039 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, ☎ +39 091.348426 (email@example.com, fax: +39 091.7302738), . (38.11536821035723,13.360941410064697)edit
Hotel Artemisa Palace Palermo –Via Roma, 499 - 90139 Palermo, Italy  Telephone +39 091 6090612 • 091 6055766. This four star hotel of Palermo presents single, double and suites accommodation with private bath, shower, satellite TV, air conditioning and breakfast included. Double rooms from 65 Euros.
Hotel Residenza D’Aragona, Via Ottavio D'Aragona, 25, Ph. +39 091.6622222, Fax: +39 091.6622273 . 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 Villa Igiea Palermo, Salita Belmonte 43, Ph +39 091 631 2111, 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.
NH Jolly Palermo, Foro Italico, +39 091 6165090 . 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.
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.
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 at the beginning of the historical centre, Piazza Giulio Cesare. 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 even though a new bus terminal inside the eastern part of the station has recently been completed and opened to the pubblic.