In this article, I will list some of the best tours that you can do in Palermo. I will also cover day trips, excursions, and even multi-day trips beginning in Palermo that you should not miss if you want to get the most out of your time in Sicily.
Ciao! It is Nico here, your 100% authentic, full-blooded Sicilian friend. I am going to answer a one-million-dollar question: what are the best tours and trips you should do when visiting Palermo?
Let me take a bit of a side trip before we begin.
There is no way that this is not a long article, but if you want to save both time and money, it is really beneficial for you to sit back and read through all this content carefully.
Ten minutes reading this article has to be better than wasting entire days (not to mention tons of money) on sub-par tours, right?
Great, then we are on the same page.
As with other tourist destinations around the world, there are several outings you could try. Every single one of them is advertised as something you ‘cannot miss.’
So, finding the right one and booking it is a hassle.
Today is your lucky day, however. I am going to shed the right light on what I consider to be the best possible options that are worth your time and money.
Ready to get started?
Great! Let’s go.
I have personally tried the tours I mention here and I am not linked to the organizers in any way. Each of these tours are not put together by our site WeArePalermo, but private parties. I consider them worth mentioning, but we are not responsible for their choices or what they do.
Best 3 Palermo City Tours Offering Different Perspectives
Below, there is a list of the best tours that happen in the city. All of them go right through the heart of Palermo.
I have selected them to give you the essence of the city that I love from different perspectives and looks.
If you can afford to, I would honestly do all of these tours – or just pick the one you like and see the possible availability.
Here you go!
This is a walk that lasts around three hours with a professional guide who is determined to not only get you completely stuffed with delicious street food dishes, but it also examines some of the interesting aspects of local culture – even going beyond culinary traditions.
If you can only go on one paid tour of your trip, this should certainly be the one. I promise that by the end of this tour, you will be thanking me for telling you about this one. You will be thinking ‘Good thing I decided to go for it.’
Why Choose the Street Food Tour?
This is the most requested and booked, and it’s really no surprise why.
Let me first set the scene for you. Palermo is home to the best street food in Europe, and the fifth best in the world. Not me saying that, no, but all the foodie geniuses out there.
And it’s not fries and sausages, but a feast of creative old dishes made over centuries by the poor who were sick of the daily bread-and-onion grind.
The recipes used to today have been the same that we have used for centuries, past down from parent to child in true Sicilian culinary tradition. They were immensely good generations ago, and they continue to be as impressive today.
The best spots to try these traditional recipes are the maze-like street markets. On paid tour, the guides take you through the labyrinthine markets on a flavor journey, filling not only your belly but also your mind with history, tales, legends and anecdotes.
Can You Do the Tour By Yourself?
If you consider yourself to be adventurous, no one is going to stop you from setting out on the tour alone through the markets. The entrance to these ancient markets is free, and you can explore them on your own without paying for a guide.
You need a good pair of comfortable shoes to explore larger markets like Capo and Ballarò. I would personally recommend starting your tour with Porta Carini.
Hold up a minute! There are some things that you need to know before you set out with this, however:
- No one speaks English in the markets, and they have no interest in trying.
- Everybody will try and make you pay triple the cost – so expect some haggling.
- You will not find a menu to read and review anywhere (even if you were willing pay for one or pray to the Lord for help)
If you are going at this tour alone, then you need to put in some time to get prepared through lots and lots of research. You can risk a tour turning into an expensive, chaotic, and confusing culinary journey if you don’t.
Want to take the guided tour?
Going to Palermo and not eating our street food is the same as taking a trip to Egypt and not taking a minute to see the pyramids. It’s not only about food: it is about the centuries of tradition and history woven into every dish.
2. NO Mafia walking tour – Observe the Mafia culture through the eyes of Sicilians
On this tour, the guides will take you on a journey through the history of the Sicilian Mafia, showing you how the Mafia has been a cancer for us Sicilians, and introducing you to the brave individuals who lost their lives fighting against it.
- Uncover Palermo’s hottest hotspots from a local’s perspective.
- Get a taste of the past, present, and future of the anti-mafia movement.
- Ditch the stereotypes and dig deeper into the Mafia phenomenon to gain a real understanding.
This tour should be mandatory. It shows the reality of the Mafia and its impact on Sicilian society. It’s not something to be glorified or romanticized, but a serious issue that has caused many losses.
Why Choose the NO Mafia Walking tour?
I’m sure you have heard stories about the Mafia and how all Sicilians are ruthless killer mafiosi, trained from the cradle.
While much of this is crap created by television and Hollywood, it is true that the Mafia exists, and there were some dark days where the streets ran red with blood.
This blood belonged to those who were part of a movement bigger than the Mafia itself: the anti-Mafia, brave heroes who fought and defeated the bloodthirsty Mafia of the past, sacrificing their own lives in the process.
On this tour, the guides will take you on a journey through the history of the Sicilian Mafia, showing you what a cancer the Mafia has been for us Sicilians and introducing you to the brave souls who died fighting against it.
You’ll see the Mafia through our eyes and understand why we’re especially irritated by those who glorify it.
Can You Do This Tour By Yourself?
There is no substitute for a guided tour when it comes to exploring the dark history of the Sicilian Mafia.
While you can certainly read books or do some research on your own, the true magic of this experience lies in the stories told by a knowledgeable local guide.
They bring the history to life with their personal insights and experiences, providing a deeper understanding of the cultural and social context of the events.
If you are interested in this tour, you can click on this link to see prices and availability.
For this tour, you can get behind the wheel of the historic (and brightly colored) Fiat 500. Travel back in time on this tour through the narrow streets of Palermo’s historic city center. You can learn and appreciate the full meaning of the Dolce Vita.
- Sit behind the wheel of the classic vintage Fiat 500 (where else is this even possible?)
- Admire many of the attractions in the city like the Teatro Massimo, the Cathedral, and the Palazzo dei Normanni (though you can’t get inside with the car!)
- Explore Ballarò Market, the oldest street market in Palermo on foot, not in car among the people like a madman.
This is the very best way to enjoy Italian Dolce Vita. It is one of the most amusing and funniest experiences you can have in Italy, and you end up feeling like you are in a major motion picture.
Why Choose This Tour?
The Fiat 500 is a cute little car produced by the Italian car maker between the 1950s and 1970s. If you’ve seen the Disney movie “Cars,” the adorable little car named Luigi is one of these cars.
The Fiat 500 is one of the symbols of Italy. It was the people’s ride: reliable and affordable, unlike other Italian brands like Ferrari and Lamborghini, where you basically had to sell a kidney to buy one.
If you have had a license (not necessarily an Italian one) for at least three years, you have experience with manual transmissions, and just want to have a good time, this tour is one that you should not miss.
Do you know what is meant by the Italian Dolce Vita? Here is a little lesson for you.
The late 50’s were the time of an economic boom in Italy. We were recuperating from the second World War’s hardships and suffering and had an overwhelming desire to live life to the fullest.
People were eager to enjoy all sorts of beauty and entertainment in the most beautiful cities in Italy, including Rome, Milan, Florence, Palermo, and Naples.
The climate was that of pursuing ecstasy in Italy, which this pursuit was given its own term, Dolce Vita derived from the famous Federico Fellini film.
Both the major cinema productions and amateur films have regularly depicted Italians happily driving the 500 through the center streets.
This tour has you experiencing Dolce Vita.
This experience is not just the thrill of driving the 500, but the excitement of riding in a time machine. You can feel the rumble of the engine and the sensations of joy that so many Italians have experienced over the years.
No worries, you won’t crash on the first bend! The guides will be there with you, and they know how to make even the worst drivers look good. So, if you’ve got a driver’s license and a sense of adventure, don’t miss this tour. I promise you, it will be a blast.
Can You Do The Tour By Yourself?
Absolutely not. Where can you find a vintage 500 for rent? You cannot even go into the Valley of the Temples and make sacrifices to the gods for assistance in this. You can’t find it for three main reasons:
- Car rentals just don’t deal in vintage vehicles (not even if you are willing to pay more for them)
- You cannot drive a vintage car through Old Town without express written permission from the local authority (not even if you are Don Vito Coreleone.)
- Alone, you would likely get quickly lost in the narrow streets of the center. (I mean tourists get lost on foot, so how much harder is that in a car?)
The only real alternative (which is much sadder) is to rent a modern 500 model. It doesn’t have the same itinerary of this tour and give you the same sensations that you get from the real deal vintage option. We are willing to pau for those feelings and experiences, aren’t we?
If you are interested in this tour, you can click on this link to see prices and availability.
This is easily one of the most amusing and spectacular tours that you can do in Palermo. It is so unique that you are unlikely to find a similar experience anywhere else. If you have a driver’s license, this is something that you should definitely make time to try.
BONUS – Palermo’s Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour (For Those Pressed for Time)
You can purchase a 24 hour pass on a classic double-decker bus common to many tourist attraction cities around the world. This takes you for a leisurely drive around the city, and shows you all the main attractions.
- You explore the city much faster (and save the wear on your feet)
- Two different routes to take (and you should do both)
- You can get off the bus or get on at any stop (when stopped of course)
Not doing this tour is a substantial missed opportunity for visitors to Palermo. You will beat yourself up over it. If you do not have much time to spare, it allows you to see all of the major attractions and areas in just a few hours.
Why Do This Tour?
If we are being honest, I have no emotional attachments about these Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tours through big cities like Palermo. I also don’t consider them to be cheap.
Wait a minute, though, there is one big ‘BUT’…
Palermo is the second largest historical center in Europe, which means that if you are only spending a short time here, you need an efficient method of doing the most. You will need wings on your feet. If you miss the attractions and landmarks, why did you even come to Palermo?
Turns out, wings on your feet costs about 20 euros.
At one time, Old Don Tano told me that our minds are full of rooms of memories. When we age, the room turns into our happy place that we can visit as we choose.
It is just like in the movies where an old goofball stands there staring off at the sky, reminiscing with an idiotic smile on his face. That a clear picture?
The older that you get, the more that you find yourself opening and closing that door (yes, with that idiotic smile on your face.)
Consider it like a child’s room that is full of games and toys, the more memories that you stuff into your happy place, the more satisfied you become.
He might have filled up the void a little too much – but that’s another issue.
So the question that you need to be asking yourself now is whether 20€ is worth adding a little extra into that room of yours. Search to find your answer and then act accordingly.
Can You Do This Tour By Yourself?
Honestly, there is no way. As I have already mentioned, I have no emotional attachments to this style of touring, but if you have a limited time to work with, it is one of the wisest choices you might make in your life.
If you think about possibly using the public buses for a tour like this (and I surely hope that you are not considering this) there are three things that you need to know:
- The Sicilian public transport system is one of the worst in the entire world (no, I’m not exaggerating.)
- You will have to change buses often during the same journey (waiting a substantial amount of time at each respective stop)
- There is no electronic displays telling you what stop you are at, so you never know when to get off. Good luck.
If you are interested in one of the bus tours, you can click on this link to see the prices and availability.
I do not jump up and down for these types of tours in any city, but it is one of the smartest ways for tourists visiting Palermo to see all of what they need to when you are short on time (or just want to speed up the process.)
Why Did I Mention a Tour with A Private Guide?
If you take the time to hire a private guide to take you around Palermo, they can narrate the things you should know about the history and culture, is the best way to explore.
There is just one big problem: they are often too expensive for what they have to offer.
Personally, I have tried many of these (disguised as a tourist – because I think that’s hilarious.) I still haven’t found a single one that I would recommend to a friend.
They really restrict themselves with the same regurgitations of the boring historical events and dates that I forget after like thirty seconds. You can just hop on Wikipedia for the same information.
The irony is that Palermo is one of the most exciting cities in the world.
For this reason, I do not link any tour guide at the moment. I am still searching for a good one, and when I find it, I will update this paragraph.
If you want to hire a private tour guide in the city, I would suggest making sure that they are professionals. There are several charlatans out there who like to pose as official guides, and really they are just stealing your money and giving you nothing in return.
Top Three Day Trips and Excursions (Especially for First-Time Visitors)
Below, you will find a list of excursions that you can enjoy around Palermo. These are all round-trip tours, so by the time you should be enjoying dinner, you will be back in the city to do so.
There are so many beautiful villages around Palermo, but if this is the first time that you are visiting, these are the few that you should begin with.
Let’s take a look.
When you choose this excursion, you get to see the famous Norman cathedral in Monreale, then visit the historic Cefalù. Explore key local attractions like the Mandralisca Museum and the Cathedral.
- You can see two of the most visited (and most beautiful) cathedrals in Italy – it is no coincidence that both of these are now UNESCO sites
- Travel the scenic Sicilian coast (which is sure to take your breath away)
- Experience Greek and Arabic terracotta contained in the Mandralisca Museum (the highlight of these being the Portrait of an Unknown Man by Antonello da Messina)
When you are choosing out-of-town trips, these are among the most popular destinations. Follow the crowd and don’t miss out on two incredible experiences.
Why Should You Choose This Tour?
Have you ever had a feeling of embarrassment that only comes from the discovery that you missed out on seeing and experiencing a critical attraction that is both important and beautiful the last time you visited?
You are certainly going to end up with this feeling if you do not take the time to visit Monreale and Cefalù.
If you just begin looking into a guide to Sicily, read part of a blog article about the island, you have heard of Cefalù and Monreale before.
Both of these are must-visit destinations – without talking your ear off about it – here are two reasons that this is the case.
You must visit Monreale because its cathedral with beautiful mosaics will make you think you have witnessed a real miracle.
The church itself is golden, covered nearly completely with shiny mosaics like you might have done in school with cardboard. Here, they are created with gold, silver, marble, and enamel.
Unlikely you created anything in school that spanned 6,400 square meters of surface like these mosaics do in the cathedral.
You may never see anything quite like it anywhere else.
Its nearly the same with the cathedral in Cefalù, as you cannot accurately describe its mystical atmosphere. There are also beautiful and intricate mosaics that can remind you of the amazing cathedral in Monreale.
Cefalù is more than its gorgeous beaches, food options, and aperitifs. The area is rich with a distinct cultural heritage.
In the Mandralisca Museum, there is an impressive collection. You should be blown away anyway, otherwise its possible something is wrong with you. Here you can appreciate the Portrait of an Unknown Man by Antonello da Messina.
This is all about the culture of the area and all of Sicily. If you would rather drink of the beach, hit the club, and embody the destructive we only live once lifestyle, you maybe shouldn’t come here.
Can You Do This Tour on Your Own?
Yes, but if you do not have a quality vehicle or a flying carpet to get you around, then taking this tour could give you stress hives.
The public transportation system in Sicily is nowhere near as efficient as London’s – however, here is what you should do if you want to try it anyway:
- Leave early to reach Cefalù by train and retrun to Palermo no later than 1PM (depart from the central station.)
- From Palmero, use the Moovit App to find which buses travel out to Monreale (pray this is simple enough for you)
- You could also reverse the order here, but bear in mind that the latest train departing from Cefalù back to Palermo leaves around 8PM.
I should emphasize for the tours you take outside of Palermo on your own, you should not attempt them without a car. The inefficiency and bad organization of Sicily and our low morale for work can lead to some unexpected (and unpleasant) surprises.
If you are interested in taking the tour, you can use this link to see the prices and availability.
The Monreale Cathedral and Cefalù village are two things that you should not miss if you visit Palermo. If you are not wanting to pay into a professional tour, make sure you visit these places alone with the public transportation options.
This tour shows you three of the most interesting locations in West Sicily. You see the Greek temples in Segesta, the (Saline) Salt Works in Trapani, and the medieval town of Erice atop a famous mountain.
- Visit the medieval town of Erice (which looks much like you might expect Camelot to look – the town of King Arthur)
- Pray to the Greek Gods and explore the archeological site of Segesta
- See the salt works in Trapani – both the renowned factory and the shelter for migratory birds.
When you consider Western Sicily, these are three things that you really must do. Not only does this offer you incredible views and history, but also delicious foods. You must taste the Genoese of Erice, but beware, one taste and you might want to move here forever.
Why Choose This Tour?
Segesta actually has two attractions worth mentioning: the Greek Temple and a theater.
Located in the middle of nowhere seemingly, there is a Greek temple that was constructed in the middle of the 5th century. German writer Goethe fell in love with this temple and the area when he visited Sicily/Italy.
I should mention that Goethe was hard to please. If this temple left an impression on him, you would definitely be impressed by its construction.
The Greek theater here will also be an impressive site to see. It was constructed in the 2nd century (BC) when Segesta was free under the Romans.
This is deemed among the most beautiful theaters constructed during the classical period, and this goes both for its state of preservation, as well as its positioning on the Gulf of Castellammare/Hills of Trapani.
Erice, on the other hand, is my favorite of the spots on this tour.
This is a small medieval town preserving characteristics of that time. You will feel like you have walked onto the set of First Knight, like you might run into Richard Gere and Sean Connery.
The only difference is that the Genovese were not eating in the film, but you MUST here.
Salt works are ancient industrial architectures in which the ancient activity of extracting salt gets carried out. They are framed in a landscape known as the Via del Sale.
Come dusk, mills like these on the sea offer an interesting site because they landscape becomes tinged with colors reflected in salt deposits.
Where the water meets the land, there is yet another site worth photographing, postcard-perfect flamingo sights.
Can You Do This Tour on Your Own?
I certainly would never try that, but if you are somehow protected by Tiche (the fortune goddess) you can try your luck and hope all the transportation goes smoothly.
I will explain what you should do if you insist on trying:
- You can reach Erice via a panoramic cable car from Trapani. You can get there by buses 201, 202, and 203. You can also reach Trapani from Palermo via buses of Segesta company.
- You should return to Trapani from Erice by cable car and use the Moovit App to reach the Salt Works by bus, or call a taxi (recommended.)
- From Trapani to Segesta, or vice versa, you can look for the mysterious Tarantola Bus company. Good luck finding out their timetables and where to get to a bus stop (they have no website.)
I would suggest that without having a car of your own to drive, I would not attempt this trip on your own. If you are adventurous, then go on. If we do not hear from you again – you are loved.
If you are interested in the actual tour, however, you can click this link to see prices and availability.
I chose this tour because, in just one day, you get so many different things to see: a medieval town, an old Greek city, and salt works. It is truly unique. If you have a chance to check it out, I highly recommend you do.
This tour takes you to see the famed Valley of Temples – ancient temples constructed by the Greeks and dedicated to their gods. This area spans 1300 hectares, and is considered the largest archaeological site on earth.
- Learn the story behind the Valley of Temples
- Visit the temples of Hera, Concordia, and Apollo
- Explore the incredible Archaeological Museum of Agrigento
As the largest archaeological site in the world, it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List as one of the most visited sites in Italy since 1997. If I were you, I would certainly check it out.
Why Take This Tour?
In 581 BC, inhabitants of Gela founded the city of Agrigento and it was one of the leading cities in this ancient world. It was an urban center for economics and politics.
Every year, this becomes more and more of a self-promoting area, now attracting over a million visitors annually.
I believe it ranks among the top five most-visited places in all of Italy.
This is the largest archaeological sites in the world, and since 1997, has been a UNESCO World Heritage List site. The site is more than 2500 years old.
Should I keep going, or do you realize now that you should absolutely be visiting this site? I knew you were a smart cookie.
After all the years studying Greek mythology at school, which admittedly seemed way complicated at the time, it is all starting to make some sense when you see this site.
Didn’t study any Greek mythology or go to school? It might be good to just kneel in front of the temple and say you’re sorry for ignoring them all this time.
Besides the long history of this place, I would also encourage you to come for the amazing views of the valley. It can literally give you the chills.
I’m a hopeless romantic, though – enchanted by incredible vistas.
You should be happy to know that you can do a full photoshoot here for your Instagram account and win a ‘likes’ war with all of your friends. (You know you want to – don’t lie.)
Can You Do This Tour By Yourself?
Yes, I would say that you definitely can. You don’t even need a magic carpet or a car.
The best way is to go from Palermo by train, reaching the main station in Agrigento in about two hours. Here, there is a regular bus service that can reliably get you to the Valley of Temples.
- Visit the Trenitalia (or Trainline) website and purchase your tickets for Agrigento (though you can also get these at the station.)
- Get off at the central Agrigento station (and grab a delicious coffee here)
- Download the Moovit App to see which buses are available to take you to Valley of Temples (lines 1, 1/, 2, 3, 3/)
Remember that that the last train back to Palermo leaves around 8PM. Plan your time well, or you will end up staying the night in Agrigento.
If you are interested in the tour, you can click this link to see the prices and availability.
If you are a history and culture buff, that is all that the Valley of Temples is. If you miss it, people are going to think you an ignorant. Even if you are not that into Greek history, you will be astonished just to see the beauty of this place.
The Five Best Multiple-Day Tours to See Sicily
Below, I am going to tell you the best tours to take from Palermo where you should expect to stay the night away.
You can travel to these places on your own and do not need to waste the money on tour organization.
Check it out.
Here are the reasons that you should check out Catania.
- Nightlife and food (Catania has been dubbed Milan of Southern Italy)
- Beautiful, long walks through the historical city center’s attractions and shops
- Direct excursions from here to Etna and Taormina (takes a while to get there)
You will be glad that Catania is easily accessible from Palermo, as buses and trains depart for this destination regularly. My advice: stay there for three days, giving Catania, Etna, and Taormina its own separate dedicated day.
I wrote an entire article only about Catania – have a look.
This is another must-do if you are traveling around Sicily, and here’s why:
- Greek Theater of Syracuse – a prestigious location renowned for classical performances, musical performances, and concerts.
- Incredible beaches against crystal-clear seas you can experience by boat with multiple incredible excursions.
- Admire ancient religious architecture like the Temple of Apollo and the Temple of Athena in an open air museum.
Favignana is a small island (only about 38 square kilometers) and part of the Egadi chain of islands.
- Appreciate multiple beaches against crystal-clear water you can reach by bicycle.
- Hiking trails leading to breathtaking views and vistas.
- Unforgettable food and drinks to experience when the sun is setting.
You can reach this island from Palermo by a bus that leaves on the hour to the Trapani Port. Here, you take a hydrofoil to Favignana.
Another small island you should see about 67 km northwest of Palermo. Here is what you should check out:
- Crystal-clear water become living aquariums because they are full of fish.
- Diving enthusiasts haven, with many organized excursions leaving every day
- Hike gorgeous nature at your leisure
It is easily accessed from Palermo by taking a hydrofoil from the port, and you can get directly to the island from here.
I would give myself 2-3 days to explore all that the island has to offer and really enjoy the sea. I would be remiss to not encourage you only to take this trip from May-September (the warmer months.)
I put together an entire article on Ustica – Take a look.
5. Aeolian Islands
A chain of seven islands that embody one of the most popular European vacation summer destinations. Here is what you can expect:
- Crystal-clear sea surrounding every island. It feels like being in a postcard all the time.
- Salina is famous for being a nature reserve with the two highest archipelago peaks.
- Lipari has the most people, giving it the best nightlife.
- Vulcano is popular for a spa where you can get muddied in restorative sulfur waters.
- Stromboli is an incredible active volcano. You can climb the two peaks to experience breathtaking views during your hikes and treks.
- Panarea is the smallest, but the most exclusive. It is a favored vacation getaway spot for celebrities, professional athletes, and politicians.
- Filicudi and Alicudi are reserved islands, favored most by those that want to experience nature and focus most on relaxation.
You can reach the islands right from the Port of Palermo by hydrofoil. The trip takes roughly five hours. It might take you awhile to see all seven of these islands, so I might encourage you only to check out a couple. You can make the choice for yourself based on how long you are visiting Sicily.
I am sorry if I overloaded you with information, but Sicily can be an overwhelming jungle if you do not get your bearings. I don’t want you to get lost. In summation, I have mentioned the best city tours and excursions, best day trips, and best multi-day trips. Let’s take a quick look at what those were:
- City Tours: Street Food, NO Mafia Walking Tour, and Vintage Fiat 500 Tours
- Day Trips and Excursions: Monreale & Cefalù, Segesta, Erice and the Salt Works of Trapani, Agrigento and The Valley of Temples
- Multiple-Day Tours: Catania, Syracuse, Favignana, Ustica, and the Aeolian Islands
Hopefully this information helps you to find tours that make your trip more enjoyable, informative, and satisfying. If you still need help, have doubts, or just have a question – leave me a comment in the box below and I will be sure to get back with you as soon as possible.
A big hug,
N.B. – I am giving an itinerary for Palermo, as well as a couple informative videos I shot with valuable tips for the city. Check them out – they are 100% free.