Palermo in a Day Tour with Monreale Cathedral

Explore beautiful Palermo and Monreale in this full-day tour
From US$1,566 privately
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Tour Details
8 hours
Product Type
  • Piazza Verdi
  • Piazza Pretoria
  • Piazza Bellini
  • Quattro Canti
  • Cathedral of Monreale
  • Santa Caterina
  • La Martorana
  • Immacolata Concezione
  • Capo Market
  • Palermo Cathedral
Photos & Highlights
  • Explore the history and culture of Palermo & Monreale, visting the most famous sites
  • Led by a local expert or scholar
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Tour Description
On this full-day tour of Palermo and Monreale, we will explore the stunning cathedrals, architecture, art, and markets located in these historic Sicilian towns. As the most conquered city in history, our expert guide will explain the tumultuous events and the subsequent merging of opposing influences that resulted in the utterly unique architecture of these two towns. Through palaces, churches, piazzas, and the boisterous market it's easy to see why Palermo is a city with the most UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites. 
  • Piazzas (Verdi, Pretoria, Bellini)
  • Santa Caterina
  • La Martorana
  • Quatro Canti
  • Immacolata Concezione
  • Capo Market
  • Palermo's Cathedral
  • Monreale's Cathedral & Cloister
  • 8 hours with a PhD or MA level guide
  • All entrance costs and taxi transfer from Palermo to Monreale 
We will begin the tour in front of Teatro Massimo, Palermo’s opera house and the third-largest opera house in Europe. Situated at the center of Palermo in Piazza Verdi, it is a prime example of the influence of Greek and Roman design that still exists in Europe. As we wander through the lavish Piazza Pretoria, we will encounter an ornate marble fountain, where your guide will regale you with tales of its origin and how it got its colloquial name, “Foundation of Shame." We will see a number of divine churches which contribute to Palermo's unique character. One such building is the Sicilian Baroque, Rococo, and Renaissance-style church, the Santa Caterina, which had its beginnings in 1310 as a female monastery. We will tour, among others, the incredible example of Sicilian baroque architecture, the Immacolata Concezione whose construction took a few months to erect but the decoration took a century to complete. We'll learn about the extraordinary polychrome marble decorations, unique to Sicilian architecture due to the abundance of material locally mined or available through trade routes. 

Afterward, we'll continue to the colorful and boisterous historic market of the Capo. Here we'll learn about traditional food cultures while being invigorated by the lively vendors who mirror the original patrons of this working-class market - the pirates, mercenaries, and slave traders. In Piazza Bellini, we'll view spectacular Arab-Norman art and architecture left by the Norman kings, including the ornately decorated Church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio or “La Martorana” the colloquial name given by the locals, named after the marzipan fruit on top of a cassata cake which originated in this location. We will head to the small town of San Cataldo, the city of churches, whose large number of places of worship tell many stories of different people and cultures throughout history. The tour will include the Hermitage of Saint Cataldus, built into a steep cliff, which could date as far back as the tenth century and houses a few ancient frescos.

After a local lunch at your own expense, we will head off to the spectacular Cathedral of Monreale via taxi on the outskirts of Palermo. With an estimated twenty-two hundred kilograms of pure gold, this cathedral is one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Italy and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our expert guide will explain the unique synergy between Norman-French, Byzantine, and Arabic design and speak of the larger social and political context that allowed this masterpiece to be built. Lastly, we'll visit the cloister attached to the cathedral’s south side. In contrast to the opulence of the Cathedral of Monreale, the cloister is subdued, yet its intimate detailing and regular arrangement are a sight to behold. Perfect ogival arches and one hundred and eight pairs of columns depict biblical scenes carved in marble, contrasting with brighter inlays. 

At the conclusion of this Sicilian city tour, you will be enraptured with the ornate and opulent architecture. You will have gained an understanding of how this style was possible through the confluence of cultures influencing this region over the centuries. To continue your explorations of Palermo with Context, we recommend our Palermo Street Food walk.
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Book with confidence — see Context's flexible cancellation policy here.

What is a private tour?
Our private tours are limited exclusively to travelers in your party. They are designed to provide a learning experience that is completely tailored to you and your traveling companions. Private tours give you more flexibility with scheduling (you decide when the walk best fits in your trip), the ability to tailor your itinerary (we'll work to match the itinerary to the interests and dynamics of your group), and more personalized time with your guide.
Is there a max pax?
We are limited to groups of up to 7 people as we take a taxi that seats this number. 
Where do we meet? Where does it end?
We will meet in front of the Teatro Massimo (Palermo's Opera House) in Piazza Verdi. Your route may differ according to your guide. Your confirmation email will have the exact meeting point details along with a map.
What if it’s raining?
Tours operate rain or shine, but in the case of inclement weather, your expert will modify the tour so more time is spent indoors. It never hurts to be prepared; we encourage keeping an eye on the weather and bringing along an umbrella, sunscreen, water, or a hat as needed.
Is this tour walking intensive, and/or wheelchair accessible?
We do cover quite a bit of ground on this tour and therefore we recommend contacting us with any mobility questions; we will be happy to advise if the itinerary will be appropriate for you or propose modifications where necessary. Please feel free to contact us.
is there a dress code for the Monreale’s Cathedral and Cloister
This is a place of worship so you must dress accordingly. Nothing revealing is allowed, shoulders, and legs need to be covered for all clients attending.
Where You'll Start
(4.95) 15 Reviews

Reviews can only be left by Context customers after they have completed a tour. For more information about our reviews, please see our FAQ.

Wonderful tour! Would highly recommend Alessandra as a extremely qualified and informative individual!
The tour it self was perfect, but our guide Naida was even better. With her passion for history and her love for the city of Palermo she could makes understand how did the city developed throughout the course of time. Not an easy city to tour, she could manage to makes us comprehend how the city is a mix of every culture that settle there, explaining in depth for example the historial and artistic concept of Arab-Norman. As well Naida could teach us about the contemporary history of Palermo, making us truly understand its essence. We truly recommend traveling to Palermo, and if it’s with Naida even more.
The all day tour still wasn't long enough to see everything. We covered a lot of sites and churches and enjoyed the day thoroughly! Roberta was terrific... a fount of knowledge, personable, fun, and informative. Great tour! Shared a great lunch together and had lots of fun. Always engaging!