Cruise Port Atlas | Palermo (Sicily), Italy Day Trips | Attractions

Palermo (Sicily), Italy Day Trips | Attractions

With limited time in port, planning is the best way to make the most of your time. Should you strike out on your own? Should you hire a local guide? Or should you book a shore excursion offered by the cruise line or an international tour company? Below we have listed the attractions and activities that many other cruisers have enjoyed. This information should help you plan.

The advantage to cruise line tours is that they are timed for your visit and give you flexibility to change your mind after your trip begins. The advantage of using a large international firm is that tours are often less expensive than cruise sponsored tours. The advantage to using a local tour company or guide is that prices can be significantly lower or you may be able to get a customized trip just to see the attractions that interest you most.

Cruise lines that visit Palermo: Voyages to Antiquity, Regent Seven Seas, Cunard, Holland America, Costa, MSC Cruises, Norwegian

Key Attractions: Palermo Cathedral, Martorana, Palantine Chapel, Monreale Cathedral, Marionette Museum, Capuchin Catacombs, Botanical Garden, San Vito Lo Capo, Mondello, Erice, Bagheria, Cefalu, Segesta and Selinunte

Palermo Churches

Port to Palermo Cathedral - 2.5 KM, 10 minutes
Port to Monreale Cathedral - 12 KM, 20 minutes
Port to Palantine Chapel - 3 KM, 10 minutes
Port to Martorana - 2 KM, 5 minutes

The Palermo Cathedral was built during the period of Norman rule by William II, King of Sicily in the late 12th century, but the building we see now has elements added through the ages including Gothic, Baroque and Neo-classical. Retaining more of its original design is the Monreale Cathedral just a few miles from Palermo. Built about 10 years earlier by the same King, the church is particularly famous for its glass on gold mosaics. It is unique because it combines elements of Roman Catholic and Orthodox design. The Martorana was built during the mid 12th century to accommodate the Orthodox believers of the city, by the first King of Sicily, Roger II. Naturally its style was Byzantine, but Islamic features are prominent as well. The facade was redesigned in a baroque style, but more recently, attempts have been made to return it to its original design. The Church is filled with stunning mosaics. The Palatine Chapel is another construction of Roger II's reign. On the ground floor of the Palazzo Reale, was the royal chapel which was begun in 1132. Combining Byzantine, Islamic and Romanesque elements, the chapel contains stunning mosaics with a wide variety of subjects including some that are secular.


Very few steps    Somewhat Wheelchair Accessible

Photo of Monreale Cathedral mosaics by tango7174

Other Palermo Attractions

Port to Botanical Garden - 3 KM, 6 minutes
Port to Puppet Museum - 2 KM, 4 minutes
Port to Capuchin Catacombs - 4 KM, 12 minutes

In 2001, the Sicilian Opera (a form of puppet theater) was added to the UNESCO list of Immaterial Heritages of Humanity. These marionettes are made to re-enact the struggles between Charlemagne's Knights and the invading Moors. This form of drama was developed in the late 19th century and still exists in a few puppet theaters. Palermo's Puppet Museums shows samples of these iconic puppets. The Palermo Botanical Garden is one of the oldest and largest in Italy and was founded in the late 18th century as a research facility. It features many species from around the world including a nice collection of water plants in the aquarium. The Garden was the first to introduce the Mandarin and the Loquat into Europe. Finally, you can visit the macabre Capuchin Catacombs where the tradition of placing fully clothed deceased monks in the catacombs and mummifying them expanded to include those who asked in their wills to be placed there and provided money for maintaining the body. The last monks were placed there in the 1880s and the last bodies are from the 1920s. Some are incredibly well preserved.

World Heritage Site   World Heritage Site   World Heritage Site   World Heritage Site  

Very few steps    Somewhat Wheelchair Accessible

Photo of Capuchin Catacombs by Sibeaster

Beaches near Palermo

Port to Mondello - 9 KM, 20 minutes
Port to San Vito Lo Capo - 109 KM, 150 minutes

Mondello is a large public beach town northwest of Palermo which is public and active. On the coastal road to Cefalu, there are beaches near Bagheria and Cefula. To the west is the dramatic peninsula at San Vito lo Capo (Saint Vitus' Cape), with a lovely public beach backed by impressive mountains and dotted with olive groves. For families that want to mix relaxation with hiking up mountain for a great view, this is an excellent choice.



Photo of San Vito Lo Capo by Mateusz Gietczynski


Port to Erice - 111 KM, 1 hour 20 minutes

You can reach Erice by taking a cable car from Trapani up the 750 meter hill on which it stands. From there you have incredible views of the area, including Trapani, the Egadi Islands, and San Vito Lo Capo to the north. Settled by Greeks who built a temple of Venus there, the promontory has been ruled by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs and Normans. Two major castles are the primary attractions for the site - the Saracen Pepoli Castle and the Norman Venus Castle. Erice is a must see in this area for anyone interested in ancient history or who enjoys a dramatic view.



Segeste and Selinunte

Port to Segesta - 79 KM, 65 minutes
Port to Selinunte - 118 KM, 1 hour 30 minutes

Segesta is the site of an indigenous (not Greek) Sicilian town where the locals built a Doric Temple during the golden age of Athens. The temple is exceptionally well-preserved and is unusual because it was not built by Greeks. It was under construction at the time when the Segestans asked the Athenians to protect them from their neighbors, the Selinuntians. In order to impress the Athenian visitors, the Segestans hosted them in many of the homes where the Athenians were impressed by the many gold plates on which they were served. What they did not know was that the Segestans only had one set of gold plates that were secreted from house to house to impress their visitors with the amazing wealth of Segesta. Naturally, the greedy Athenians helped them to defeat the Selinuntans. Nearby is a 2nd century Roman Amphitheater. The town was built on top of Mount Barbaro and commands impressive views of the surrounding landscapes. The more modern town of Catalafimi features several historic churches including one dedicated to the "Most Holy Crucifix." There are also excavations of Muslim ruins from the period of Islamic rule.

Selinunte was the rival city to Segesta during the Peloponnesian War of the late 5th Century BCE (described above). These seaside ruins are situated on a plane above scenic beaches. In 409 BC during the 2nd Punic War the entire city was destroyed by the hostile Carthaginians from the nearby North African trading power. The most impressive monument in the area is the Temple of Hera.


Very few steps    Somewhat Wheelchair Accessible

Photo of Segesta Temple


Port to Bagheria - 18 KM, 25 minutes

Like many other coastal towns in Sicily, Bagheria's history goes back to the Phoenicians. During the 17th and 18th centuries it became a town where the wealthy of Palermo built their beach estates and those villas are the reason why this is a tourist destination. Several of these large villas are open to the public for tours. The most famous is the Villa Palagonia, built in a light hearted baroque style.


Very few steps    Somewhat Wheelchair Accessible

Photo of Bagheria by JPBazard


Port to Attraction - 69 KM, 1 hour

TThe Cathedral at Cefalu was built by the King of Sicily (Roger II, ruled 1130-1154) in the Norman style, with a blend of other elements including Arab. The great mosaic of Christ Pantocrator (right) was created by an unknown artist during this period. The historic coastal town contains many other historic churches as well as the remains of the Palazzo reputed to have been built by Roger II.


Very few steps    Somewhat Wheelchair Accessible

Photo of Christ Pantocrator Mosaic by The Yorck Project

Interests Key:

Art Architecture Beach Children Wild Animals Local Cuisine Flora Gardens-Parks Geology

Diving UNESCO Views Wine Dance Music Shopping History Hiking

Walking & Wheelchair Accessibility:

No Walking Easy Walking Normal Walking Difficult Walking Accessible Limited Not Accessible