15 Best Things to Do in Palermo


Paler­mo is an Ital­ian city where the mafia once orig­i­nat­ed, and before that it was ruled by either African or Euro­pean kings. It is con­sid­ered the most fre­quent­ly con­quered city in the world. At dif­fer­ent times, Arabs, Nor­mans, Phoeni­cians, Spaniards, Greeks dom­i­nat­ed here. Now the city can boast of its rich his­to­ry and cul­tur­al tra­di­tions.


Who and why should come to Palermo

The cap­i­tal of Sici­ly is called the bridge between East and West. It has many his­tor­i­cal and cul­tur­al attrac­tions left in mem­o­ry of the Arab, Byzan­tine and Roman rulers.

Paler­mo’s most famous her­itage is the Capuchin Cat­a­combs, which house some 8,000 clothed mum­mies. The sec­ond most pop­u­lar mon­u­ment of antiq­ui­ty is the Cathe­dral. It was built in the 12th cen­tu­ry and is a fusion of Goth­ic, Baroque and Neo­clas­si­cal styles.

One of the best ways to get clos­er to the spir­it of Paler­mo is to taste the local del­i­ca­cies. Sici­ly is home to a mas­sive culi­nary move­ment where chefs try to pre­serve region­al tra­di­tions and sup­port local sup­pli­ers. In the mar­kets of Vuc­caria and Il Cap­po, you can taste the famous street del­i­ca­cies — aranci­ni and sfin­cione (piz­za).

A trip to Paler­mo is not pos­si­ble with­out explor­ing art exhi­bi­tions and gal­leries. You should start with the Gallery of Mod­ern Art, which presents paint­ings by Ital­ian mas­ters of the 19th and 20th cen­turies.

Religious sites

Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary

cathedral cathedral

The ori­en­tal fla­vor of the Cathe­dral of Paler­mo came from the Nor­man mas­ters, who dec­o­rat­ed it with asps, arch­es and para­pets. On the south side of the cathe­dral, over­look­ing the square, a Cata­lan por­ti­co was added in 1453. The ped­i­ment is dec­o­rat­ed with fres­coes with bib­li­cal scenes — God the Father and the Vir­gin Mary.

In the fig­ured sar­coph­a­gus in the right wall of the cathe­dral is the tomb of the first wife of Fred­er­ick II — Con­stance of Aragon, who died in 1222. The sar­coph­a­gus was opened in 1781, and real trea­sures were found inside. The most promi­nent of them is the crown, rich­ly dec­o­rat­ed with pearls and pre­cious stones.

Chiesa della Martorana

kieso della martorano

This church has oth­er names: San­ta Maria del Ammi­raglio, San Nicolò dei Gre­ci. How­ev­er, it is easy to find it — it goes straight to Piaz­za Belli­ni. It is one of the most impres­sive Byzan­tine cathe­drals in Italy and was built dur­ing the Mid­dle Ages. UNESCO con­sid­ers it his­tor­i­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant.

It all start­ed with the Alba­ni­ans, who fled from the per­se­cu­tors from the Turk­ish lands and spread the Chris­t­ian reli­gion through­out the region. Soon she firm­ly entered the cul­ture of local res­i­dents, set­tled in paint­ings, cer­e­monies and even lan­guage. Although the Catholic Church does not rec­og­nize this, most of the rites per­formed inside Mar­torana are East­ern Ortho­dox.

Monte Pellegrino

gora monte pelegrino

This is a moun­tain that the Sicil­ians con­sid­ered sacred. It served as a guide for sailors who entered the port after long wan­der­ings. In the cave of Pel­le­gri­no is the church of San­ta Ros­alia, the patroness of the city. She lived in Paler­mo from 1130 to 1170. Ros­alia spent the last years of her life in a her­mitage.

Duomo di Monreale

duomo de monreale

Just sev­en kilo­me­ters from Paler­mo is an Arab-Nor­man cathe­dral ded­i­cat­ed to the Vir­gin Mary. This is a world-famous land­mark. The build­ing was built in 1174 by order of the Nor­man king William II. He claimed that the Madon­na appeared to him in a dream and asked him to build a tem­ple in her hon­or.

The inte­ri­or of the Duo­mo di Mon­reale is strik­ing in its beau­ty: gold­en mosaics cov­er the walls, which depict scenes from the Bible. In the asp stands the fig­ure of Christ Pan­to­cra­tor.

In gen­er­al, a large num­ber of relics are kept with­in the walls of the cathe­dral, includ­ing the main altar of Val­adier, the sar­copha­gi of William I and William II, the chapel of the Cru­ci­fix­ion, a thorn from the crown of Jesus Christ and a com­plete­ly mod­ern organ of the 20th cen­tu­ry.

Church of Jesus

cerkov iisusa

One of the most impor­tant reli­gious build­ings of the Baroque era, the locals con­sid­er the most beau­ti­ful church of Paler­mo. In addi­tion to the offi­cial name, the cathe­dral also has anoth­er name — Casa Pro­fes­sa. The build­ing was built by the Jesuits in hon­or of the Span­ish gov­er­nor.

The Church of Jesus is famous for the pres­ence of numer­ous dec­o­ra­tions, stat­ues and sculp­tures made of poly­chrome mar­ble. In 1943, dur­ing the bomb­ing, the cathe­dral was dam­aged, but only 11 years lat­er it was restored.

Cultural attractions

Teatro Massimo

teatr massimo

It is the third largest the­ater in Europe (after the Nation­al Opera in Paris and the Oper­haus in Aus­tria). Locals con­sid­er Mas­si­mo their Eif­fel Tow­er. To vis­it Paler­mo and not go to the the­ater is the same as com­ing in vain.

It was built at the end of the 19th cen­tu­ry accord­ing to the design of the Sicil­ian archi­tect Giambat­tista Basile. The project was com­plet­ed by his son Ernesto, armed with the sup­port of expe­ri­enced artists, includ­ing Ducrot and Ettore de Maria. At that time, the the­ater was con­sid­ered the prop­er­ty of the Flo­rio fam­i­ly and was the cen­ter not only for enter­tain­ment, but also for doing busi­ness, as well as for polit­i­cal nego­ti­a­tions.

Museum of Ceramics Al Genio

musei ceramics

The muse­um was opened in 2008 and con­tains one of the largest col­lec­tions of Neapoli­tan and Sicil­ian art in all of Europe. It fea­tures more than 4,900 exhibits, many of which date back to the 16th and lat­er cen­turies. The halls of the muse­um are locat­ed in the Palaz­zo Tor­ei (Piraino), an ele­gant and beau­ti­ful­ly dec­o­rat­ed build­ing.

Zisa Castle

female sisa

It is believed that the name Zisa comes from the Ara­bic “al-Aziz”, that is, “noble and majes­tic.” The struc­ture was built in the XII cen­tu­ry and is a reflec­tion of the Arab-Nor­man pres­ence and rule in Sici­ly. Today the Cas­tle hous­es the Muse­um of Islam­ic Art.

Architectural monuments

Palazzo Steri Chiaramonte

palazo stevi kiaramonte

Palaz­zo Steri (trans­lat­ed from Greek as “for­ti­fied palace”) was built by the wealthy Chiara­monte fam­i­ly. From the end of the 15th to the begin­ning of the 16th cen­tu­ry, Span­ish gov­er­nors lived in it. From 1600 to 1782, Palaz­zo Steri became the offi­cial res­i­dence of the Holy Inqui­si­tion. The square on which the build­ing is locat­ed was once the place of exe­cu­tion for those who opposed the gov­ern­ment.

Cuba Palace

dvorec kuba

Since the 12th cen­tu­ry it has been the res­i­dence of the Sicil­ian rulers. Ara­bic motifs can be traced in the archi­tec­ture of the build­ing — it turns out that the cus­tomer admired the ori­en­tal style. Out­ward­ly, the palace resem­bles a cube, which is why it has such a name. Its facade is dec­o­rat­ed with Moor­ish arch­es and Ara­bic script, which was tra­di­tion­al for that time.

Quattro Canti (Piaca Vilhena)

kvatra kanti

The build­ings, built in the form of an octag­o­nal square, are exposed at the inter­sec­tion of two main roads — Via Vit­to­rio and Via Maque­da. Each cor­ner of the square is a struc­ture rich­ly dec­o­rat­ed with stat­ues and columns.

The build­ings were built in hon­or of the founders of the dis­tricts of Paler­mo — Alberg­e­ria, Capo, La Dog­gia and Cal­sa. They have patron saints — Nin­fa, Oli­va, Agatha and Christi­na.

norman palace

Normanski Palace

In the 9th cen­tu­ry, this palace was built by the Arabs, and lat­er, when the Nor­mans and Fred­er­ick II came to pow­er, the cas­tle real­ly changed. For a long time they did not pay atten­tion to it, how­ev­er, with the advent of the Span­ish gov­er­nor in Paler­mo, it was ren­o­vat­ed, expand­ed and served as a res­i­dence for the monarch. Well, now the region­al par­lia­ment of Sici­ly sits here.

Piazza Pretoria and the Fountain of Shame

piazza pretoria

The foun­tain is locat­ed right in the cen­ter of the square, which is dom­i­nat­ed by his­tor­i­cal build­ings, church­es and a palace. That is why the prae­to­ria is so attrac­tive for tourists. The foun­tain itself was cre­at­ed in the 16th cen­tu­ry in hon­or of Don Pedro de Tole­do, but was soon bought out by the Sen­ate of Paler­mo.

Despite the fact that the source is a real archi­tec­tur­al mas­ter­piece, dec­o­rat­ed with sculp­tures of myth­i­cal gods, it has often been crit­i­cized. It was believed that it was inap­pro­pri­ate to show nude fig­ures in the city cen­ter. There­fore, the locals gave the sculp­ture a nick­name — the Foun­tain of Shame or the Fontana Del­la Ver­gogna.

Interesting places

Capuchin catacombs

katakombi kapuzinov

For those who like to tick­le their nerves, Paler­mo has a unique place — the Capuchin Cat­a­combs. This under­ground ceme­tery was pre­vi­ous­ly a monastery. Inside it, in sep­a­rate sar­copha­gi, the remains of ser­vants are buried, and many of them were famous, wealthy peo­ple.

In the tun­nels under the monastery, there are a total of about 8,000 mum­mi­fied bod­ies that were buried here from the 17th to the 19th cen­turies. Some are of par­tic­u­lar inter­est. One of the last to be buried was the so-called “Sleep­ing Beau­ty” — she was pre­served in per­fect con­di­tion, despite the fact that she died as much as 100 years ago.


pliag mondello

This is a beach resort in one of the dis­tricts of Paler­mo. There is no large con­cen­tra­tion of sights and archi­tec­tur­al mon­u­ments here, as in the Old Town — except for the old bath­house and the pier. How­ev­er, there is plen­ty to do in Mon­del­lo as well.

For exam­ple, swim in the crys­tal clear water and sun­bathe on the white sand of the beach. In addi­tion to this, enter­tain­ment lovers should vis­it local clubs, sou­venir shops and restau­rants.


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