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The capital of Sicily, Palermo is a millennia-old city sprawled along the shores of the Mediterranean on the island's northern coast. Palermo was settled originally by the Phoenicians and changed hands many times over the centuries, becoming a mix of Western and Arabic cultures that represents a unique slice of Italy today. As you explore this fascinating and vibrant city, discover tantalizing Sicilian cuisine, stunning architecture, and beautiful beaches right at your fingertips. In the rolling hills of the countryside, destinations like the Capuchin Catacombs and the town of Monreale showcase traces of ancient history and the quieter side of island life.
Palermo's city center was mapped out by medieval urban planners, and a stroll through its narrow, labyrinthine streets still feels like a journey into yesteryear. At the heart of the city, 4 mundamenti, or districts, spread out from the grand piazza of Quatro Canti, each with its own flavor and fair share of historic landmarks.
Once the city's Arab quarter, Kalsa was constructed during the Muslim occupation of Sicily during the Middle Ages and has been revitalized in recent years. Landmarks range from the medieval La Magione church to the serene Villa Giulia park. In the evenings, the streets fill with diners enjoying local restaurants and wine bars.
Albergheria is the oldest section of the city, and is home to architectural treasures like the Palazzo dei Normanni and Casa Professa. Many streets were damaged during the air raids of WWII, but the neighborhood today has a lively global feel and a diverse community. At the center, the bustling Ballaró Market offers a feast for the senses.
Monte di Pietà
Countless visitors come to Monte di Pietà to visit the majestic Palermo Cathedral and the Teatro Massimo, the largest theater in Italy. The district is also known as the Capo for because of its sprawling, open-air Capo Market, considered one of the most authentic of its kind in the city.
Bordered by Palermo's harbor on its east side, Castellammare hosts the city's prolific Regional Archaeological Museum Antonio Salinas, as well as a sprinkling of stunning churches. Wander the centuries-old Vucciria Market, and discover tiny, hole-in-the-wall eateries with some of the city's most delicious Sicilian cuisine.
Things to See in Palermo
Palermo offers sights around every corner to immerse you in its rich history. Admire the 9th-century grandeur of the Norman-era palace known as the Palazzo dei Normanni, famous for its mosaic-covered Palatine Chapel. The city also contains an array of Norman and Baroque churches, many of which have UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Survey the bright red domes of the Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti, study the diverse art and architecture of La Martorana, and marvel at the magnificent portico of the Palermo Cathedral. If you're intrigued by the city's ancient origins, don't miss the Museum of Archaeology, which houses an impressive collection of Phoenician and Greek art and artifacts from Sicily's earliest days. On the western outskirts of the city, the Capuchin Catacombs offer a look at the ultimate museum of the macabre—with more than 8,000 mummies lining the walls.
Things to Do & Attractions in Palermo
Take advantage of a wealth of things to do in and around Palermo. Choose from a range of tours to explore the city's medieval streets and fascinating landmarks, from bike tours for those who love getting active to tours focused on the city's mafia history. Take a bite out of Palermo's distinct Sicilian cuisine with a tantalizing tour of the city's finest street food, or learn how to prepare traditional dishes with a chef-taught cooking class. Beyond the city limits, Sicily is packed with treasures to explore on a day trip. Embark on an excursion to the magnificent Greek temples of Agrigento, or let a guide introduce you to the nearby town of Monreale, renowned for the dazzling, UNESCO-listed Monreale Cathedral. Day trips to the eastern end of the island offer a chance to ascend the imposing Mount Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe.
An escape to Palermo need not cost a fortune. You can leave your wallet behind if you check out:
Church of San Giorgio Martire - Work on your spiritual side or simply enjoy the serene atmosphere at this holy place.