With a long and fascinating history, rich cultural heritage, gorgeous natural surroundings, and incredible weather, Palermo, the capital of Sicily, can seem like an ideal place to take a vacation. And in many ways, it is. The island of Sicily shares a love of food, music, and la Dolce Vita with the rest of Italy, but it also has a culture that's uniquely its own. This fiercely independent island has something for everyone, whether you're a lover of art, a history buff, a thrillseeker, or a beach bum.
However, sometimes it's the youngest members of the family who are the most discerning when it comes to things to do. A rich and long history and deep artistic heritage don't have the same draw for children as they do for adults. If you're visiting Palermo as part of a family vacation, you're going to have to find some activities that will keep the kids entertained.
Luckily, there are plenty of options. We've collected some of the best family-friendly attractions in Palermo so that you can enjoy family holidays without worrying about keeping the kids entertained. And when you take advantage of Bounce luggage storage in Palermo, you'll make any family trip much easier. Drop off your unneeded belongings with Bounce and get ready to enjoy some of the best things to do in Palermo with kids.
Puppetry has a long history as part of the culture of southern Italy, particularly Sicily. When you visit Palermo, it will be harder to avoid a puppet theatre than it is to find one. However, you can learn more about this ancient craft at Palermo's International Museum of Puppets. As well as being one of the best museums in Palermo, this institution even has its own puppet theatre. Shows take place on Friday afternoons throughout the year, but in the summer, there's a show most days. It's a great way to keep the kids entertained while immersing them in an important part of the cultural life of Sicily.
If you want to get a glimpse of the real life of Sicily while still taking part in a fun activity for the kids, visit one of Palermo's lively street markets. Capo Market is one of the most famous, along with Vucciria and Ballaro. At all of these markets, you'll get to rub shoulders with Palermo's residents and try delicious street food while you soak up the atmosphere. And while these markets are mostly about food, at Capo Market, you'll find a range of items of sometimes dubious provenance for sale. Whether you decide to buy anything or not, both you and the kids will have a great time in these lively streets, and you'll be getting a real insight into what life is like for locals at the same time.
Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio
This impressive cathedral in Palermo's Piazza Bellini is known for its spectacular mosaics and historic architecture. But those aren't normally things you associate with a great day out for the kids. No matter how many centuries have gone by since the church was originally built in 1143, kids aren't likely to be impressed.
What might impress them more is how unusual the mosaics in this church are. A mixture of Christian and Arabic motifs makes this church truly unique and provides a visual example of the changing rulers of Sicily. Older children who can understand some of the history may well be intrigued by this relic of Arab rule and the classic Sicilian architecture of an iconic building in the city center.
Sicilian street food tour
Visiting Italy inevitably means sampling some truly amazing food. And if you thought cities like Florence and Rome were obsessed with their cuisine, you haven't seen anything yet. There's not a single part of Palermo you can go to where food isn't celebrated. And Southern Italians, particularly Sicilians, can make a solid claim to having invented street food. Whether it's pizza, arancini, sfincione, or cannolis, many traditional Sicilian dishes are made to be eaten out in the open and on the go.
You can explore this side of Sicilian culture by yourself quite easily by picking places to eat at random. But if you really want to immerse yourself in Sicilian cuisine, consider taking a Palermo street food tour. A knowledgeable guide will take you to all the best places to go for food in the city, and you'll come away with not only a full belly but a deeper appreciation of the place food occupies in the heart of every Sicilian.
Catacombe dei Cappuccini
This is strictly one for the older kids - it's just too spooky for little ones. But if your kids have a taste for the ghoulish and the macabre, they'll love this creepy attraction. The Capuchin Catacombe is the final resting place of over 8000 monks, priests, and notable Sicilians, spanning hundreds of years of history. And this is no regular graveyard. Here, the walls are decorated with dead bodies, many of them dressed as they would have been during their lifetime and posed in lifelike poses. Certainly, this spooky attraction isn't to everyone's taste. But many kids and many adults will undoubtedly get a kick out of such an unusual place.
You can't really say you've visited Palermo without seeing this Norman Cathedral. Built over centuries in a mixture of architectural styles, Palermo's Cathedral looks almost like a relic of an alien civilization. As a still-functioning church, Palermo Cathedral is free to visit, making it one of the top free things to do in Palermo. The Cathedral contains a small museum that displays the crown jewels of Sicily's obsolete monarchy, and the impressive statues and paintings inside are evidence of the city's rich history. For a small fee, you can also climb the bell tower, which will give you and the kids fantastic views over this beautiful city.
Palermo Botanical Garden
If you want to get a taste of nature without going far from the city, Palermo Botanical Gardens is the place to do it. Part of the University of Palermo, this botanical garden goes back to 1779. It's home to thousands of different plant species that grow both outside and in temperature-controlled greenhouses. Kids usually get the biggest kick out of the pond, which is home to friendly turtles and makes a great place to explore on one of Palermo's many sunny days.
Located close to the heart of Palermo, the MEC Museum is still relatively unknown to most tourists. And while the word museum may send a shiver through more active kids, they might change their tune when they learn that this museum is devoted to technology. Created by Italy's biggest collector of Apple products, this museum tells the story of the information technology revolution with a special emphasis on the life and work of Steve Jobs and his Apple company. Seeing the first iPods displayed as museum pieces may make you feel uncomfortably old, but kids will get a kick out of that, and the Pixar gallery will teach them more about how their favorite animated movies are made. In amongst all of Palermo's historic attractions, this high-tech museum makes a welcome change and offers a glimpse into the future in this very old town.
Located close to the famous Quattro Canti, some of Palermo's most famous buildings, you'll find the huge fountain of Piazza Pretoria. Kids may not care about the history behind this place, but they will get a kick out of the impressive statues. Let them run up and down the steps for a while, and you'll be tiring them out so that you can hopefully enjoy a quiet night.
A Trip to the Beach
As a Mediterranean island, Sicily is blessed with some truly beautiful beaches. Mondello Beach, though outside the city itself, is probably the closest to Palermo, and offers a sandy beach and crystal clear water that make it an excellent place to beat the heat and enjoy the Italian sunshine. The beaches of Sicily come in a huge variety and make excellent destinations for day trips, so you can explore a sandy resort full of amenities one day and then visit a rocky and isolated cove the next. The Palermo tourist information office can fill you in on the best local beaches and how to get to them, making this one of the best things to enjoy during the summer months.
Acqua Verde Water Park
If the beach doesn't offer enough thrills, check out Acqua Verde Water Park. Located in the town of Cefalu, which is known for its beaches, this waterpark offers a more thrilling way to cool off in the Sicilian summer. Let the children play on the many water slides and wave pools while you enjoy some much-needed relaxation. Since this is Sicily, you'll also find plenty of great places to eat, making the waterpark an excellent location for a family day out.
When you're looking for a place to keep kids entertained, the zoo is hard to beat. Known more properly as the Bioparco di Sicilia, the zoo is home to fascinating animals such as hippos, chimpanzees, zebras, monkeys, and more. There's also a reptile house where kids can meet tortoises and snakes, and a farmyard area with a petting zoo. There's even a dinosaur area where animatronic models replicate the experience of walking through a prehistoric zoo. If you're stuck for family-friendly places to go while in Palermo, the zoo makes a great option.
Parco Avventure Madonie
Located a solid two-hour drive from Palermo Airport, Parco Avventure Madonie isn't in the city itself. However, if you find yourself in Palermo with kids, the park is one of the best day trips you'll find in Sicily. Part of the wider Parco della Madonie that offers excellent hiking and wilderness adventures in Sicily, this adventure park is the perfect place for kids to get some exercise and burn off some energy in nature. Kids can take part in a treetop adventure, take an orienteering class, go off-roading, try their hand at mountain biking or archery, and engage in all manner of outdoor pursuits. In fact, there's so much to do here that many people choose to stay in the park and devote several days to taking advantage of everything it has to offer. There's a separate charge for each activity, so it's a good idea to plan ahead and focus on what you really want to do. But there's so much fun to be had here that it is often worth the extra cost and time it takes to reach the park and enjoy something truly special.
Who doesn't want to explore one of the world's most famous volcanoes? Mount Etna is around three hour's drive from Palermo, but the chance to visit an active supervolcano makes it well worth a day trip. You can ride a cable car up to the crater and enjoy incredible views over the island of Sicily and the wider Mediterranean, and you'll learn more about the geological activity and history of the mountain at the visitor center. There's also an adventure park at the base of the mountain, making this a fantastic place to explore with the family.
What are the best family activities in Palermo?
Only you know what best suits your family on a vacation to Palermo. However, there are some attractions that always seem to end up being the favorites. The chaos of the street markets often has an energizing effect on kids, and the astonishing variety of Sicilian street food is definitely something they'll remember. Further afield, Madonie Adventure Park offers an incredible wealth of outdoor activities, and a trip to volcanic Mount Etna will definitely give your kids something to tell their friends about when they get back home.