Founded in 1185, Palermo’s cathedral is a prime example of Sicily’s Arab-Norman style of architecture. Full of geometric patterns and maiolica cupolas, the building itself is a fascinating work of art. Over the centuries, the cathedral underwent many restorations and additions; however, it managed to maintain the various styles added throughout the years. The most visited sights on the interior include the tomb of Emperor Frederick ll, the treasure chamber, and the crypt. Throughout its history, the building has been used as a Paleo-Christian basilica, Arab mosque, and a Christian temple before it was converted into a cathedral.
There are several monuments and museums in Palermo that are vying for your attention. For instance the Capuchin Abbey and Catacombs. They may not be at the top of your list, but the place worth a stop. Discover one of the world’s most morbid tourist attractions, featuring a collection of over 8000 preserved bodies. The monks who preserved them used traditional embalming techniques. Your visit to the catacombs will take you through rooms that house religious figures, doctors, women, professionals, and infants. The display of bodies is one of the largest around and by far the best-dressed in the world.
In the heart of Palermo’s historic center, is the busiest street market in the city. The combination of smells, noises, and the bustling shoppers make it a vibrant area to explore. You can find anything from fresh produce, cakes, pastries, meats, cheeses, to inexpensive clothing. Originally, the products sold included fish, meat, and spices which arrived into the city from Ballarò. Nowadays, the market welcomes tourists from all parts of the world. Excite your taste buds with some of the most famous street food in Palermo! For an insight into local life, a stop to the Ballarò market is a must.
Countless visitors travel to Palermo yearly, to experience its riches. The city itself offers visitors culture, art, food, music, and plenty of historic attractions and ancient buildings to explore; there are so many wonderful things to do in Palermo. Awarded the denomination of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016, it´s no wonder why Sicily’s capital is a top destination. This metropolitan city boasts some of the most famous sites in the world. Palermo offers elements of impressively built museums and monuments as well as tranquil green spaces and walkways overlooking the water.
The true historic center of Palermo starts at the entrance of the city, in front of Porte Nuevo. Inside the old town, there are many jewels to explore. Before entering, it’s a good idea to make a few historic stops outside the center first. You can’t miss the Palace of the Normans, also known as the Royal Palace of Palermo. The palace is now home to the Sicilian Regional Assembly. The Palatine Chapel is the highlight of the building and holds much symbolism. The three craftsmen working on the chapel each came from a different religious group yet were able to harmoniously work together to create the immaculately constructed chapel. The Monastery of the Capuchins and its collection of embalmed bodies is in many people's opinion, the best place to see, Palermo will surprise you if you decide to take in this site.
Once inside the old town, places to visit in Palermo include the Cathedral, the market of the Vucciria, Bonanno Village, Piazza Verdi, the archeological museum, Piazza Pretoria (Square of Shame) and Quattro Canti (Piazza Vigliena).
If you´re wondering what to do in Palermo, there is no shortage of monuments, museums, and theatres to enjoy. Famous for being the grounds of the third largest theatre in Europe, and first in Italy, the Massimo theatre is, without a doubt, a work of art just as much as the opera performances that take place inside its walls. The theatre is world renowned for the acoustics thanks to the horseshoe-shaped hall design. After over 20 years of restoration works, in the neoclassical style, the theatre reopened for the public. For a more in-depth exploration of the theatre, take a guided tour. When visiting Palermo, you should also check out the Politeama theatre, home of the orchestra symphony.
When you need a break from exploring the historical center of Palermo, the best place to enjoy a stroll is at the Foro Italico. Continue along to La Cala, the marina of Palermo. Once an ancient port, the area is now a modern-day marina with conveniences of a restaurant and bar.
Starting at the Puerta Felice and ending in the local park, Villa Giulia. The traditional Italian garden landscape offers a vast green space and views of the sea. If walking away from the water, through the park, you arrive at the Botanical gardens. This is the perfect place to enjoy some peace and quiet.
Browse the page for other interesting ideas on what to see in Palermo.