Zisa Castle (Castello della Zisa)
The magnificent La Zisa recreational castle outside Palermo’s city center is one of the nine buildings grouped together as the Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale World Heritage Site and is often included in architectural tours of the city center along with other important Arab-Norman sites in Palermo—the Royal Palace and Palatine Chapel, the Cathedral, the Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti, the Church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, the Church of San Cataldo, and Admiral’s Bridge. You can view the palace and grounds from the outside during a guided walking tour or hop-on hop-off bus tour, or visit the Islamic Museum housed inside for a deep dive into Sicily’s Arabic roots.
Things to know before you go
- Architectural tours of Palermo on foot largely take place outdoors, and sunscreen and a hat are recommended in summer.
- The surrounding grounds and fountain can be a welcome respite for kids who need a break from sightseeing in the historic center.
- The castle is not accessible to wheelchair users.
How to get there
La Zisa is located on Piazza Zisa, just outside the historic center of Palermo and can be reached by a number of bus lines that stop at the Piazza Principe di Camporeale transport hub, a 5-minute walk away.
When to get there
The castle is open all day, every day, and can be a quiet retreat from the bustling historic center and port during the busiest midday hours.
The Royal Hunting Grounds of La Zisa
The palace of La Zisa was originally designed as part of an extensive park that served as a royal summer retreat. The grounds were stocked with wild animals for sport hunting, and the park, known as the Genoard, included a second Norman-era palace that is still standing, known as La Cuba. There were architectural alterations made to La Zisa in the 14th century, and by the 16th century, the building had fallen into disrepair. In the 1970s, city officials in Palermo acquired and began to restore La Zisa, a project that took more than 20 years. Today, the palace houses a Museum of Islamic Art on the second floor and the most notable feature is the central hall with original mosaic decoration and the remains of a fountain from which water once flowed directly outside the castle.
- Four Corners (Quattro Canti)
- Capuchin Catacombs (Catacombe dei Cappuccini)
- Capo Market (Mercato di Capo)
- Palatine Chapel (Capella Palatina)
- Palermo Cathedral (Cattedrale di Palermo)
- Massimo Opera House (Teatro Massimo)
- Politeama Garibaldi Theater (Teatro Politeama Garibaldi)
- Opera Dei Pupi (Rod Marionette Theatre)
- Branciforte Palace (Palazzo Branciforte)
- Vucciria Market (La Vucciria)
- Ballarò Market (Mercato Ballarò)
- Church of the Gesù (Chiesa del Gesù)
- Piazza & Fontana Pretoria
- Mirto Palace House Museum (Palazzo Mirto Casa Museo)