The Sicilian capital is one of the most fascinating cities in Italy. Its beauty is the result of a complex history, made up of many peoples and many cultures that have alternated on the territory over the centuries. Today Palermo is a city made of contrasts: baroque churches and majestic buildings are opposed to social problems with deep roots. The latter, however, do not erase the liveliness of Palermo’s inhabitants and the cheerful atmosphere of the city. Architectural and natural beauties, interesting museums and a mouth-watering gastronomic tradition are just some of the reasons to visit Palermo: this city is full of places to discover! Below we will recommend you the 10 things to see in Palermo absolutely.
The Palermo Cathedral is one of the most emblematic buildings of the city.
First it was an early Christian basilica, then a mosque and finally a church again during the Norman domination.
As you can imagine, the Cathedral underwent numerous structural changes over the centuries. During the second half of the eighteenth century, for example, the neoclassical style took over.
Looking well, however, you can still trace the signs of the past: the apse dates back to the Arab-Norman period, the style of the main entrance portal is Gothic and, finally, the dome is Baroque.
In the crypts there are a series of royal tombs: here there is the tomb of Frederick II, Roger II, Henry VI and Constance of Altavilla. In the crypt of the Cathedral there are also the remains of Santa Rosalia, patron saint of the city.
Another wonderful church of Palermo is the Martorana.
The building of worship was built by Admiral George of Antioch, servant of the Norman king Roger II.
Today this church is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most beautiful Byzantine churches in Italy.
The mosaics on the walls are amazing and leave the visitor stunned in front of so much beauty. The highlight of the decorations is the Christ Pantocrator on the dome.
An unmissable stop on a visit to Palermo is the Palazzo dei Normanni, also known as the Royal Palace.
This is one of the historical buildings that today can be considered a symbol of the city.
The fortress was initially built by the Arabs and then enlarged by the Normans. The maximum splendor of the palace came with the reign of Roger II and dates back to this period the construction of the Palatine Chapel, the church of the royal family. Inside, the mosaics will leave you speechless!
If you decide to visit the Norman Palace, the Palatine Chapel is definitely a must-see.
The church of the royal family houses magnificent Byzantine mosaics. Here too, as in the Church of the Martorana, a magnificent Christ Pantocrator stands out.
Not far from the center of Palermo is the Zisa Castle, a Norman Arab style building erected at the end of 1100.
The name comes from the Arabic al-ʿAzīza, that is “the splendid”.
The palace was conceived as a royal summer residence and was immersed within a vast park dotted with pavilions, gardens and water basins.
Today you can walk outside or visit the interior where you will find an interesting exhibition of objects related to Islamic art.
If you are an archaeology lover, the Antonio Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum is one of the things to see in Palermo that you should not miss.
Inside, there is a vast and interesting collection of artifacts ranging from Etruscan to Roman times, including Egyptian and Greek civilizations.
Not far from the Archaeological Museum is the Massimo Theater, the largest opera house in Italy and the third largest in Europe.
A majestic building, as fascinating on the outside as it is on the inside.
Its inauguration took place in 1897 and today continues to host magnificent shows despite a long abandonment lasted 23 years (from 1974 to 1997).
If you are looking for a place to visit in Palermo that will give you the chills, you must head to the Catacombs of the Capuchins. Inside the Catacombs there are 8000 mummies: they are the remains of friars, celebrities, rich Palermo citizens, but also ordinary people.
Initially, the Capuchins mummified only their own brothers, but then this practice was increasingly requested by the rich people of Palermo who wanted to meet their deceased loved ones.
The last mummy that found its place in the Catacombs is that of little Rosalia Lombardo, a little girl who died at the age of two from pneumonia.
The visit is definitely suggestive and is not recommended for small children.
Another of the things to see in Palermo are the Quattro Canti, the city’s most famous intersection.
Here Via Vittorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda intersect. At the center you will notice a beautiful fountain that represents the seasons, the kings of Palermo and the patron saints of the city. On either side of the intersection, however, there are 4 buildings with luxurious and completely symmetrical facades.
Finally, an unmissable stop is the lively Ballarò Market, one of the most characteristic markets of Palermo.
Here, among the vegetables and fragrant fruit, among the shouts of the vendors and the colors of the stalls, you will also find the best street food in the Sicilian capital: arancina, pane ca meuza, bread and panelle and stigghiole. You will be spoiled for choice!
For a fun visit and to live a special experience, we want to suggest you to take part in our Palermo Street Food: a local expert guide will accompany you to discover the historic center of the city and the best street food of the Sicilian capital!
We hope that our advice on the 10 things to see in Palermo will be useful to you. We are waiting for you to taste together the delicacies of the local gastronomic tradition!