Become a Cruise Insider
Tips, deals and more in your inbox.
Your Ultimate Cruise Guide

Palermo Cruise Port

Port of Palermo: An Overview

Palermo is a city of contrasts and most people either like it or hate it. It's a place that's ugly and pretty, thick with smog but surrounded by mountains and the blue/gray sea, with a good number of public gardens. On one block are impressive Arab-Norman buildings and on the next crumbling facades and heaps of trash. (More commonly, cruise ships that call at the island will anchor at more ...
Palermo is a city of contrasts and most people either like it or hate it. It's a place that's ugly and pretty, thick with smog but surrounded by mountains and the blue/gray sea, with a good number of public gardens. On one block are impressive Arab-Norman buildings and on the next crumbling facades and heaps of trash. (More commonly, cruise ships that call at the island will anchor at Giardini-Naxos on the south side as it is the gateway to the splendid Taormina.)

Located on the northwestern coast of the island of Sicily, the city was founded by Ancient Greeks and eventually became part of the Roman Empire. In the ninth century, the Arabs took over and converted churches to mosques and the common language to Arabic. The Norman period followed, and in the 13th century Palermo was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. The French and Spanish later passed through. Today, while Sicily is officially part of Italy (the regional government is semi-autonomous), its capital city of one million residents feels neither European nor Arabic, but some combination of the two.

The city was heavily bombed by Allied Forces during WWII, and some neighborhoods have yet to be repaired. More recently Palermo has made headlines as the base of the infamous Cosa Nostra (mafia).

To be sure there are rich neighborhoods (check out the shops on Via Liberta, Palermo's Rodeo Drive) and poor neighborhoods, sometimes on the same street. If you wander just a little off the beaten path you will find streets that just don't seem safe even in broad daylight (visitors are advised not to wear flashy jewelry and to keep close watch on their cameras, pocketbooks and wallets). less

Looking for a hotel near Palermo cruise port?

Sponsored links

Things To Do
Tips
Port Reviews
Shore Excursions
Forums

Hanging Around

In the terminal building are a cafe, convenience store and, on the second floor, a Western Union office with Internet access.

Don't Miss

Palazzo dei Normanni (Piazza del Parlamento, open Monday - Saturday 8:30 a.m. - noon, and 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. - noon), is home to the Sicilian parliament and considered the island's greatest treasure. The palace dates to the days of Arab control in the ninth century. It was restored by the Normans, and then by the Spanish. The must-see inside is Cappella Palatina, built for the very wealthy Roger II in the 12th century, and adorned with breathtaking mosaics and gold.

The recently renovated Teatro Massimo (Piazza G. Verdi) was built between 1875 and 1897 in neo-Classical style and boasts the second largest indoor stage in Europe after the Paris Opera House. The steps out front are the big attraction as this is where a key scene in "Godfather 3" was filmed (when Don Corleone's daughter Mary is shot and cries, "Papa, papa").

The city's Cathedral, Piazza di Cattedrale (open Monday - Saturday 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.), is of Arab-Norman design, built starting in 1185 A.D. It's actually prettier outside (a nice photo opp) than in -- your chance to see Greek-Roman, Norman and Arabic influences all blended together.

Museum Archaeologico Regionale (Via Bara all'Olivella 24, open Tuesday - Saturday 8:30 a.m. - 6:15 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.), is located in a former Renaissance-era monastery and houses some of Italy's most valuable Roman and Greek artifacts including sculptures from the temples of Selinunte, once a major Greek city on the Italian coast. The Roman collection includes mosaics and frescoes.

Inside the 15th-century Palazzo Abatellis (Via Alloro, 4) is one of Sicily's best art museums, Galleria Regionale della Sicilia (daily 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. and Tuesday - Thursday 3 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.), boasting dozens of religious panels and sculptures dating from the Middle Ages through the Baroque period.

Only six miles from Palermo is the magnificent Monreale Cathedral, (Monreale, daily 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.), one of the finest cathedrals in Italy -- the design combines Norman, Arabic, Byzantine and Classical elements to create what is truly a dazzling interior. Forty-two scenes from the Bible are depicted in mosaics. To get there you can take a taxi or catch public bus no. 389, which departs from Piazza Indipendenza in Palermo (the trip takes about 40 minutes). There are up to three buses per hour, and the cost each way is about $1.25.

Go shopping. Tre Erre Ceramiche ceramic shop (Via E. Arari, 49), a short walk from the ship pier, has worldwide fans including Chelsea Clinton. The ceramics here are breathtaking. Fancy stores, including Chanel, Tods, D&G (Dolce & Gabbana) and Armani, can be found on Via Liberta. Popular with Palermo's own chic set, Fiorentino, on Via Liberta, has been selling beautiful jewelry since 1890.

Getting Around

Cabs and horse-drawn carts offering tours can be found just outside the terminal gates. In either case it is wise to negotiate a price up front. Cabs can be hired by the trip or hour. Double-decker tour buses operate around the city. Public buses run around the city and to the suburbs as well. While this is a good walking city, and you can easily walk to dining, museums and shopping, be aware the old part of the city is a jumbled warren of streets and it's easy to get lost. Also be aware, pickpockets are particularly skilled in Palermo.

Lunching

On our last trip we dined on seafood pasta at Sapori Perduti, a restaurant that was surprisingly hip and gourmet for being located on a downtrodden-looking side street (Via Principe di Belmonte) -- male models were sitting at the next table. The venue features new, albeit a little pricy, Sicilian cuisine. Open for lunch and dinner.

At Bar Alba (Piazza Don Bosco, off Via Liberta, Tuesday - Sunday, 7:30 a.m. until 11 p.m.), where you can sample arancine (Sicilian rice balls stuffed with meat and peas and fried) and cassata Siciliana (the Sicilian version of fruit cake).

Where You're Docked

You dock at a modern pier, within walking distance of downtown.

Watch Out For

The traffic is truly crazy. Use caution when crossing major thoroughfares. As mentioned above, leave your valuable belongings on the ship or guard them carefully.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The local currency is the euro. Most banks have ATM's. There are also individual ATM's throughout the city.

Language

Italian.

Best Souvenir

Colorful hand-painted ceramics, embroidered fabrics and coral jewelry (coral is considered a fertility symbol).

For More Information

On the Web: Italian Government Tourist Board
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Europe
The Independent Traveler: Europe Bargains and Features

By Fran Golden, Cruise Critic contributor.

Photos appear courtesy of the Italian Government Tourist Board.
09/14
I just come back with my family from a 7 days Mediterranean Cruise,with MSC Musica, I`ve been around the world taking many Cruises, I have my standards, maybe a little spoiled with the real cruises. The food was school cafeteria style, Not Italian ... Read more
Nice trip nair
09/12
Overall a pleasant trip. Food was very good and room was nice. Unfortunately we traveled at a time of severe unrest in the Middle East. My wife and I visited Tunis and later that same day they had a riot (Sept 11, 2012), Marseille where they had a ... Read more
Read 2 Palermo Cruise Reviews

Thank You For Signing Up!

Please Note: To ensure delivery of your free e-letters, please add news@cruisecritic.com to your address book.
We're committed to protecting your privacy and will not rent or sell your e-mail address. By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.