While it’s a large port city, if you know where to go, Palermo is a child-friendly city sure to capture your child’s imagination with its pupi (puppets), putti (winged infants in artwork), and pastries!
Older kids can soak up the history and multicultural vibe of the city in its monuments and markets – Palermo has been inhabited by Normans, Byzantines, Romans, Spanish… and the list goes on.
We have family in Palermo and the nearby countryside, so it’s always a special stop for us. We loved our recent trip to Palermo with our little ones, and we’re sure you’ll enjoy the city too. Read on to find out about:
- The best time to visit Palermo with kids
- The best things to do in Palermo with kids
- Where to stay in Palermo with kids
- Tips for visiting Palermo with kids
- Fun, family-friendly things to do near Palermo
When to Visit Palermo with Kids
Palermo can be visited year-round, but with kids, try to avoid the hottest summer months of July and August (and even the second part of June). If you do visit in the summer, make sure you build in plenty of time at the beach, reserve accommodation with air-conditioning, and try to time your city exploring to morning and evening.
The best time to visit Palermo with kids is in the spring or fall (May, September, October). The weather is warm enough for swimming, and it’s not so hot that exploring the city is unbearable.
Christmas time is also a fantastic time for a family trip to Palermo. The city fills with lights, decorated Christmas trees, Christmas markets, presepi (Italian nativity scenes), and it’s fun to walk around the city in the evening with all of the festive locals!
Good To Know: If you’re in town on January 5th, be sure to have your kids leave a stocking (or sock) out for La Befana, the little old woman who brings treats for good children and coal for naughty ones. You’ll also find pre-filled stockings for sale in grocery stores and at stands on the side of the road.
Winter months are also great for family visits, as Palermo’s temperatures are never that chilly. We recently visited in January and even had the chance to play in the water at the beach!
Trying to decide when to visit Italy? Check out our monthly guides:
Italy in January
Italy in February
Italy in March
Italy in April
Italy in May
Italy in June
Italy in October
Italy in November
Italy in December
Best Things to Do in Palermo with Kids
See a Puppet Show in Palermo
Sicily is famous for its puppet shows and kids (and the young at heart) love watching the UNESCO-recognized art. You’ll see puppets in shop windows throughout the city, and you can even stop in at the International Puppet Museum, home to thousands of puppets from Italy and around the world!
The best way to appreciate the pupi is to watch a puppet show. There are a few pupi theatres around the city, so check them out and find the one that works best with your schedule and location.
Helpful Tip: Always contact the theater because sometimes shows are cancelled.
- Cuticchio Puppet Theatre (Teatro dell’Opera dei Pupi Cuticchio) – Via Bara all’Olivella, 95. +39 091 323400.Argento Puppet Theatre (Teatro dei Pupi – Famiglia Argento) – Via Pietro Novelli, 1/a. +39 349 1353267.
- Carlo Magno Theatre (Opera dei Pupi Figlio d’Arte Mancuso) – Via Collegio di Maria al Borgo Vecchio, 17. +39 091.8146971.
Let your child choose his or her favorite of the famous puppets – will it be Orlando (the brave knight), Rinaldo (the heroic knight), or Angelica (Orlando’s love and she also has Rinaldo’s heart!)?
Good To Know: There is some ‘violence’ in Sicilian puppet shows. The puppets are knights after all! This means your kids may see some sword action, including heads getting ‘chopped off.’
Climb up to the Santa Caterina Terraces
Adjacent to the Fontana Pretoria, it’s easy to walk right by, but don’t! Children will find something to look at in the church, and after, head up the stairs to the terraces of the monastery. This is the ultimate view of Palermo (much better than the cathedral) – you’ve got 360° views. And, when you’re finished, take the stairs down to the pastry shop next to the cloister. Choose some goodies and enjoy them in the tiled and green cloister – a tranquil spot in the middle of the busy city.
Visit a Palermo Playground
- Parco della Salute Livia Morello – The Parco della Salute is our favorite playground in Palermo. It’s next to Porta Felice, right on the water (be careful with early walkers as there’s no fence between the playground and the water) and it’s huge and full of kids! There are tons of swings, climbing structures, spring toys, and balance beams, and a small soccer pitch. There are benches for parents but not much shade. Toilets.
- Foro Italico – On the water, good picnic spot and place to play soccer, run around on the grass, and watch local kids flying kites.
- Villa Giulia – fun gardens to explore (next to the Botanical Garden)
- Botanical Garden – gorgeous botanical garden, kids love the ponds and large ficus trees
- Piazza Marina (Giardino Garibaldi) – let your little ones explore the garden full of huge ficus trees, including one of the largest ficus trees in Europe (it came from Australia and was planted in 1836)!
Check out the Ships in the Gulf of Palermo
You can see the ships from all along the water, but one of the best places to watch is from the Foro Italico. There are colorful ceramic benches on the water and you can sit and watch ships, cruise ships and locals fishing.
Go on a Child-Friendly Tour of Palermo
On our last trip to Palermo, we spent a few hours with Chiara from Uncovered Sicily. I loved how she found ways to make the visit into a game. We chose a general tour and our visit included sites like the Palermo Cathedral, the Quattro Canti, the Fountain of Shame (Pretoria Fountain) and Piazza Marina. Our guide told us all about Sicilian puppets, we tried ossa di morti cookies, and we looked for cherubs in the Oratory of St. Lawrence. The hours flew by, our kids had a blast, and my 8-year-old declared it the ‘best part of the trip!’
Look for Palermo’s Street Art
You’ll see graffiti as you walk around the city, but there are also places worth seeking out for their street art, including:
- Via Vittorio Emanuele, 353 – No Mafia Memorial
- Via dello Spasimo – Mutiple murals including the towering ones by Rosk & Loste
- Piazza Manfredi – Multiple murals
- Vicolo dei Benedettini – Santa Rosalia Mural
- Via Luigi Sicilian Villanueva, 18 – Hummingbird and Stone Mural
Good To Know: If you walk down Via dello Spasimo, make an afternoon of it by also stopping in the Spasimo Church (no roof!, free toilets) and the nearby playground in Piazza Magione (also location of Giovanni Falcone’s childhood home).
Cannoli are tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough that are filled with a sweet ricotta cheese filling.
The famed cannoli of Sicily (singular: cannolo) originated in Palermo, so be sure you try one here. Let your kids pick out their fillings for the tubular treat – pistachio, lemon, almond, and chocolate chip are common flavors.
Good To Know: If you have a chance, make the journey to Santa Cristina Gela’s Caffè del Corso (30-minute drive inland) for some of the best cannoli around!
Look for Creatures on the Pretoria Fountain
Head to Piazza Pretoria to see the ornate Fontana Pretoria that takes up the entire square. Children will delight in finding their favorite animal – will it be a cat, dog, crocodile, rhinoceros, or elephant? Or one of the monsters, horned creatures, or sirens?
Go to a Beach Near Palermo
Mondello is the nearest beach, just 20 minutes away by taxi (avoid the bus if you’re with kids – it’s too crowded and hectic). Mondello Beach is set up well for kids and families – rent a lounge chair or two and umbrella and let the kids play in the sand and shallow, turquoise sea. There are also plenty of kids play areas and family-friendly restaurants.
Mondello is very popular with locals, so it can be busy. You can also reach the beaches of Cefalù (train or car) and San Vito lo Capo (by car).
Explore a Palermo Market
Palermo has three main markets – Vucciria, Ballaro, and Capo.
Vucciria Market is known as the ghost market by locals because there’s not much there. In fact, you’ll be disappointed if you come looking for a market during the day. But, the area comes alive in the evening, beginning with aperitivo. Vucciria could be a nice stop with teens in the evening.
Ballarò Market is livelier and attracts many tourists. It’s a very multicultural area, so you’ll feel true Palermo when you walk through the narrow streets and hear the merchants yelling to advertise their wares.
Capo is a market that locals really shop at. It’s gotten a bit smaller since Covid, but it’s still functioning and serving the palermitani.
Find the Seasons in the Quattro Canti
Palermo’s two main streets (Via Maqueda & Via Vittorio Emanuele) meet up at the Quattro Canti (Four Cantons). While there are quite a few symbols on each of the corner façades, have your kids try to find the representatives of the four seasons – Eolo (wind), Venus (spring), Ceres (summer), and Bacchus (autumn).
Climb Up Monte Pellegrino
If you have older kids, teens, or even young kids who are hearty hikers, make the trek up to the top of Monte Pellegrino. Without stops, it takes 1.5-2 hours. It’s not stroller-friendly, and there’s no shade, so it’s not a good option on a hot day. However, if you do make it to the top, the views of the city and the Gulfs (of Mondello and Palermo) are breathtaking. Plus, it’s nice to be ‘in nature’ even if you’re in a city. Kids will enjoy spotting lizards, birds, and insects.
Good To Know: It can get crowded during the summer, especially with visitors that drive up to the viewpoint.
Helpful Tip: Stop in at the Santuario di Santa Rosalia (the sanctuary and resting place of Saint Rosalia, Palermo’s patron saint). Not only is the sanctuary beautiful – it’s also a nice stop with kids for its toilets and café.
Find the Turtles at the Palermo Archaeological Museum
True, visiting an archaeological museum may not be at the top of a toddler’s list, but the turtles are a nice excuse to enter the museum so older kids and teens (and parents!) can see some of the amazing Greek, Roman, and Phoenician artifacts in this small museum near Teatro Massimo.
It’s worth a quick visit to gaze at the statues, pottery, and especially the Palermo Stone. The Stone is one of the main sources used to gather the history of Egypt! Its hieroglyphics acted as a sort of diary of the first five dynasties of ancient Egypt – under each pharaoh are important events that happened during the year.
Good To Know: The Regional Archaeological Museum Antonio Salinas (full name) also has toilets and a little café – perfect for a quick break and snack.
Look for the Unicorn in the Oratorio di San Lorenzo
While you’re there, have your kids find their favorite putto, or little cherub on the walls. The stucco figures are sometimes up to no good!
Fun Fact: St. Lawrence’s Oratory was home to a Caravaggio painting, ‘The Nativity,’ which was stolen in 1969 and has never been found.
Tips for Visiting Palermo with Kids
Bring Your Stroller
Distances between monuments are large, and you’ll want to walk the streets of Palermo – both the larger shopping boulevards and the small winding lanes in the historic center. Yes, you’ll run into some cobblestones and a few potholes, but you’ll be glad to have your stroller.
I didn’t find Palermo to have many baby-changing facilities in museums, restaurants, or even child-focused areas like playgrounds. Do what local parents do and change your baby’s diaper at your accommodation, on park benches, in the stroller, or get creative in bathrooms. Be sure to bring a portable changing mat (if you forget, you can buy disposable incontinence mats at the pharmacy or grocery store.
While families here tend to eat late on our terms (our relatives here booked dinner at 8:30pm so we could have an ‘early’ dinner for the kids), you’ll find plenty of restaurants and cafes that are open throughout the day in the city center. You can also take advantage of Palermo’s delicious street food, especially in Ballarò market. Our kids love arancini, a ‘portable’ fried rice ball with kid-friendly fillings like ragù or prosciutto (ham) and cheese.
One of the things we love about Palermo is the large number of pedestrian streets and piazzas. It’s nice to have places for the kids to run around and explore. But, don’t let your guard down because vehicles will occasionally enter pedestrian streets.
Visit Playgrounds and Green Spaces
Palermo is a huge city of over 60 square miles. There’s a lot of concrete, but you can also find playgrounds, parks, and gardens. See our favorite green areas in Palermo above.
Book a Family-Friendly Tour
While I always recommend seeing cities and monuments with a family-friendly guide, Palermo is an especially nice place to have one. There’s so much to see and a guide here can make Palermo’s top sites fun for kids and adults.
Don’t Try to See Everything
For example, while it’s nice to walk by the Cathedral (Duomo) and check it out from the street, it’s not really worth going inside. There are many other churches in Palermo you should visit first, including the Church of St. Mary of Jesus, the Palatine Chapel, and the Church of St. Mary of the Admiral (aka Martorana). Instead of climbing the Duomo for the view, check out the views from the Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria (Chiesa di Santa Caterina d’Alessandria).
Where to Eat in Palermo with Kids
Fast Sicilian Food or Street Food – Enjoy Sicilian ‘fast food’ specialties like arancini (breaded and fried rice balls with fillings), pane e panelle (chickpea flour fritters in a sandwich), and sfincione (Sicilian style pizza). You can find these in small shops throughout the city, and in the markets.
Helpful Tip: Before you buy food at the market, take a look at the stall and evaluate its hygiene.
Picnic – One of our favorite things to do anywhere in Italy. Stop in a grocery store (like Conad or Coop) or alimentari or grab some goodies at a street market and have a picnic.
Tondo – Easy and delicious pizza if your kids are craving a slice. In the evenings its full of locals. Arrive when it opens in the evening for the fastest service (it gets really crowded as the night goes on).
Grano Granis Trattoria – Simple Sicilian cooking, outdoor seating available, gluten-free options.
Sciampagna – Have ‘fancy’ pastries at this shop. Best with older kids or teens.
La Dolceria di Santa Caterina – Pastry shop inside the Santa Caterina Monastery. Beautiful setting, huge selection of delicious treats. Eat outside in the cloister full of plants.
Cioccolateria Lorenzo – Lovely little pastry shop with outdoor seating in the full-of-character Kalsa neighborhood.
Where to Stay in Palermo with Kids
Definitely stay in the center. You don’t want to deal with public transport in Palermo, so you want to be somewhere that has easy access to Palermo’s sites by foot. Also, if you stay in a lively neighborhood in the city, you can walk around day and night and feel fine (because you’ll be walking with loads of Palermo residents).
The best place to stay in Palermo with children is the Kalsa neighborhood. It’s gorgeous, there are green spaces (like Piazza Marina and Foro Italico, and our favorite playground, the Parco della Salute), it’s walkable to main sites, and it’s oozing character. It’s one of those neighborhoods that make you want to stop every 20 meters to take a photo (much to the annoyance of your kids, of course).
If you’ll have a car while you’re in Palermo, Kalsa is tough because it’s in the ZTL, and fines are common even if you’ve registered your car in a parking lot.
So, if you have a car, it’s best to stay outside of the ZTL. We recently stayed in Politeama and it was a nice base for visiting the city with kids. Parking was also easy (although a bit expensive… work into your accommodation budget).
How to Get to Palermo
Flying to Palermo
Palermo’s international airport is known as Palermo Airport (PMO) or Palermo Falcone Borsellino Airport. It’s located outside the city, about 30 kilometers west, in Cinisi. To get to the city center, you can take a taxi, rent a car, or take the train.
Driving to Palermo
If you’ve been road-tripping around Sicily with your family and Palermo is your next stop, follow your GPS or Google Maps to get to your destination in Palermo. Be sure to avoid the ZTL – either watch for the signs if you’re looking for parking, or ask your hotel if you’ll be staying in Palermo.
If you’re planning on driving in Italy, check out our posts on:
Renting a Car in Italy
Italian Gas Stations and Getting Gas in Italy
Important Italian Road Signs
Driving in Italy
International Driving Permit for Italy
Renting a Car in Italy with a US Driver’s License
Italian Toll Roads – Driving on the Autostrada
Paying Tolls in Italy
Parking in Italy + Parking Sign Translations
ZTLs in Italy
Good To Know: If you’re renting a car in Sicily for your family vacation, make sure you reserve car seats with the car rental company before you arrive.
Taking the Train to Palermo
Trains arrive in Palermo from other parts of Sicily and even from mainland Italy. They aren’t particularly fast, but if you don’t want to rent a car, they are your best way to travel around the country. And most kids love train rides! The train station for the historic center is Palermo Centrale.
What I Do: I fly or drive into Palermo, but I did once take the overnight train to Palermo from the mainland. I was with my parents, and our journey involved many delays and even running on train tracks with our luggage. Memorable, yes. Repeatable, no thanks.
You can also arrive in Palermo by bus, taxi, or private driver.
Getting Around Palermo with Kids
What We Do: I book a hotel or apartment in the city center (most recently in Politeama but I also really like the Kalsa neighborhood) that is within walking distance of the main sites. Yes, we do a lot of walking, but it’s a wonderful way to see the city. If needed, we call a taxi. I do not drive our rental car in the city except for going to/from our accommodation (for example, if we go on a day trip).
Walking in Palermo
Yes, Palermo is a huge city! But, the historic center and most of the sites are all reachable on foot. If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler, it’s really handy to have a stroller in Palermo. Walking in Palermo with kids is also nice because you’ll run into street art, small pastry shops, and you’ll see daily life as it happens in the city.
Taxis in Palermo
Call a taxi at +39 091 8481. You’ll need to tell the operator where you are and he/she will tell you which car to look for (usually an Italian name + number, like Como 35 or Bari 16).
Buses in Palermo
Not very reliable, but the bus to Monreale is fine.
Driving in Palermo
Can be a little crazy, but Google Maps helps – just stay focused on where you’re going! I only recommend driving in Palermo to get to and from the city (arrival, departure, and day trips). Otherwise, keep your car parked.
Things to Do Near Palermo with Kids
- Cefalù – Kid-friendly beaches, a climb up to the castle ruins, and a gorgeous historic center make Cefalù one of our favorite kid-friendly day-trips from Palermo. Easy to reach by train or car.
- Monreale – See the glittering mosaics of the spectacular UNESCO World-Heritage site of Monreale Cathedral (Duomo di Monreale). Easily reached by bus or car from Palermo.
- Pian degli Albanesi – Need a break from the city? Drive into the countryside and visit the small villages of this area that has its own unique culture (including language, traditions, and dress). Look for street murals, sheep, and cannoli.
Palermo with Kids FAQ
Older children or teens may appreciate the catacombs, but younger children may be frightened.
You’ll see plenty of kids at Acireale’s Carnevale, but make sure a carnival visit is appropriate for your children. The festivities are loud, colorful, and there is a lot of action (floats, parades, dancing, crowds, confetti, lights, etc). It may be too much for some younger children or those with sensory issues. Also, keep in mind that Acireale is near Catania, a 3.5-hour drive from Palermo.
The Palermo soccer stadium (Renzo Barbera) is on the northern edge of the city. It’s uncovered, so be ready for rain or sunshine. Read more about taking your child to a soccer game in Italy.
There are so many gorgeous churches in Palermo, but sometimes children get bored inside churches. Luckily, Palermo’s churches are ornate and many have dazzling mosaics. Choose one or two – like the Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio (aka Martorana) or the Cappella Palatina (Palatine Chapel) in the Norman Palace. A favorite Palermo church of our kids is the Santa Caterina church, because you can climb up to the terraces for a view and have pastries in the cloister afterwards. Or, skip them all and see the Monreale Cathedral just outside of town.