Sicily is one of the most notable Islands in Italy because of its beauty, architecture, and culture. If you plan on visiting Sicily, then the capital, Palermo, is a destination that you shouldn’t miss out on! The city simmers in a deep history with cave drawings and remains of civilizations dating back to 8000 BC.
Today, the city has a bustling economy that is rapidly growing. With so many things to do in Palermo, it’s no wonder why tourists flock here every year to explore its rich culture. However, if you’ve never visited Palermo before, here are some of the top destinations you should put on your itinerary list.
Where to Stay in Palermo
The Palermo Cathedral is one of the many beautiful cathedrals that litter Italy. The cathedral dates back to 1185 when it was under the rule of Pope Gregory I. Throughout the cathedral’s existence, it has seen a variety of conquering nations come and go, and it showcases plenty of different cultural styles.
The Moors heavily influence the exterior of the cathedral while the massive clock tower radiates influences of the Renaissance. Inside the cathedral, there is a treasure chamber where visitors can examine artifacts from the different empires that ruled before. Interestingly enough, the Palermo Cathedral has served as a place of worship for Catholics and Muslims, and it also serves as a crypt for the tomb of Emperor Frederick II.
One of the most notable fountains in Palermo is the Praetorian Fountain, which sits in the middle of the historic city center. The fountain is a beautiful display of 48 statues intended to serve as a centerpiece in the garden of don Luigi de Toledo. In 1554, the fountain was built for the don, but in 1574 it was moved to its final resting place in Palermo.
Catacombe dei Cappuccini
One of the city’s most memorable destinations is the Catacombe dei Cappuccini or the Palermo Catacombs. The catacombs offer an incredible historical record of the city’s past and should be on the top of any history lover’s list of what to see in Palermo. Tourists can take a peek into the history of some of the city’s most notable monks as being interred in the Capuchin Catacombs was a symbol of status and prestige.
Mummified bodies line the walls as a public display and provide a history lesson that you probably won’t forget anytime soon. Today, the catacombs also serve as a case study by the Department of Cultural Heritage and Sicilian Identity.
You can clearly see the architectural and artistic beauty of the city in the vibrant Cappella Palatine. Much like many buildings in the city, the Palatine Chapel is a melange of Fatimid, Byzantine, and Norman architectural styles. Construction of the chapel was commissioned in 1080 to take place over an already existing chapel.
Inside the chapel, mesmerizing mosaics of art depict an array of notable figures. The oldest mosaics are located in the ceiling, the dome, and the drum. Some historians estimate that these mosaics date all the way back to the 1140s.
Palazzo dei Normanni
During the Norman Empire of the region, this royal palace served as the seat of the Kings of Sicily. After the Norman domination of the area, the palace continued to provide the central seat of power for all rulers who took over Sicily. Nowadays, the palace serves as the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly, but it used to be one of the oldest palaces for rulers in all of Europe.
Nature lovers will enjoy exploring this mountain that interrupts the beautiful Palermo skyline. The mountain is a short nine miles outside of the city center, but visitors can get to it with one of the buses that run through the city during the day. Part of the charm of visiting the mountain is the fact that you can climb it. At the top, you’ll find an unbelievable view of the city and the sea below.
Sampling the culture of Palermo would best be done by visiting an opera house. The Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele is one of the city’s most notable opera houses. It was built in honor of King Victor Emanuel II and is, in fact, the biggest opera house in all of Italy. The perfect acoustics of the interior match the beauty of the building. These acoustics allow every performance within its walls to be a memorable experience.
San Giovanni Degli Eremiti
Palermo has its fair share of churches that dominate the city, but the San Giovanni Degli Eremiti is the complete opposite in terms of its size. This modestly sized church is very well intact despite it dating back to the 6th century. From the outside, you’ll find its iconic red domed towers radiate a mixture of Norman and Arabic rule. In the back of the church, there is a charming garden that adds to the appeal of this church.
Looking to unwind? There are luxurious cabins dot the white sandy shores of Mondello Beach and look out into the beautiful Tyrrhenian Sea. The bright blue waters offer a low tide so that swimmers can wade into the sea and lounge around. With a long stretch of sand, there is plenty of room to find a secluded spot for your relaxation needs.
Tour the Palermo Food Markets
One of the most popular things to do in Palermo is go to a food market. The food markets of Palermo offer a unique taste of the city. The Palermo culinary scene differs from the mainland because the city is located right on the sea. Vibrant cuts of seafood can offer bursts of flavor that you’ll find from local fishermen. There are three main food markets in the center of the city: Cap, Vucciria, and Ballaro.
Newcomers will find plenty of activities and attractions to satisfy the curiosity of what to do in Palermo. The beauty of this city lies in the fact that there is a balanced mixture of architectural attractions and natural attractions to enjoy and explore. This is undoubtedly a city that has plenty to offer regardless of what type of traveler you are.
How to get to Palermo
The best way to get to Palermo is by plane to Falcone/Borsellino Punta Reis airport from all the main cities in Italy and around Europe. To get to the centre of Palermo you can take the shuttle train service that leaves every 30 minutes more info here. For taxi and buses check the link here