7 of the best things to do during your stay in Palermo, Sicily

Did you know that Palermo is considered the most conquered city in history? Hence the reason why it’s full of history and culture that will surely amaze anyone who decides to explore it. There is so much to see and do in the capital of Sicily so putting together this list was no easy feat, but here’s 7 of the best things to do during your stay in Palermo:

1. Visit the Palermo Cathedral

The cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Palermo, the Palermo Cathedral (Cattedrale di Palermo) is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and is characterized by the presence of many different styles due to the long history of additions, alterations and restorations over hundreds of years. What we see today is the result of a stratification of styles from Gothic to Medieval, Arabic to Neoclassical.

Palermo Cathedral

2. Gaze in awe at the Norman Palace

Also known as the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace), this building is one of the most extraordinary buildings in all of Sicily. Located on the highest point of the ancient centre of Palermo, it is home to the Cappella Palatina (Palatine Chapel) which is considered by far the best example of Arab-Norman-Byzantine style that was prevalent in the 12th century Sicily. The palace was the seat of the Kings of Sicily and it documents Palermo’s rich and significant history throughout the years of dominance from various cultures.

It is officially the oldest royal residence in Europe, and today is the seat of the legislative body of Sicily, known as the Sicilian Regional Assembly.

Palatine Chapel inside the Norman Palace

3. Visit the local markets and take a street food tour

Explore the backstreet markets of Palermo where food stalls provide local delicacies such as arancini, chick pea fritters and various fresh seafood. Check out this amazing tour where your guide will take you through the Vucciria and Mercato di Capo markets and give you an experience you’ll never forget!

4. See the iconic Teatro Massimo

The Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuela, located at the Piazza Verdi is an opera house that was dedicated to King Victor Emanuel II. It is the biggest opera house in Italy and the third largest in Europe. Its rich program offers a wide choice of operas and events that should not be missed.

5. Discover the Capuchin Catacombs and take a trip to Monreale

The Capuchin Catacombs and the Cathedral of Monreale are two of Palermo’s most distinctive landmarks in Sicily. In the 16th century, the capuchin monks of Palermo outgrew their original cemetary and so they began to excavate crypts below their Capuchin monastery. Initially, the catacombs were intended only for deceased friars but as the years went on, it became a status symbol to be entombed in the catacombs.

The Cathedral of Monreale is one of the greatest existent examples of Norman architecture found in Sicily. The church was dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary in 1182 and since 2015, has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The church is a national monument of Italy, and one of the most important attractions to visit in Sicily.

We highly recommend this tour where you’ll spend a half day visiting both attractions with an expert guide. Your guide will take you to the Catacombes where you’ll get up close and personal with many of the mummified bodies including the adorable Rosalia Lombardo, a young girl who at the age of 2 years old passed away and was preserved. Known as ‘Sleeping Beauty’ around the world, her body remains in perfect condition, over 100 years since she passed.

After the catacombs, you’ll be transferred to Monreale where you’ll be amazed by its beauty and elegance and get a taste of Arab-Normal architecture.

6. Become a master in Sicilian cooking

Sicilian cuisine shows traces of all cultures that have existed on the island over the last two millennia. Although there are many similarities to Italian cuisine, the cuisine from Palermo is more particular and often hard to experience without the knowledge of a local. We recommend this Sicilian cooking class in Palermo where you’ll get to experience first hand the city’s culinary traditions by preparing classic dishes at a family run cooking school. You’ll learn to make street food dishes like the fried chick pea fritters known as Panelle to more advanced meals such as pasta con le sarde, a classic Palermitan pasta dish and even iconic desserts like the Cannoli and Cassata Siciliana.

7. Walk the streets of the city centre

Palermo, with its rich history and traditions provides a number of things to see and do during your stay in the capital of Sicily. If you’re strapped for time or you’re after a more basic and general experience, we also recommend a walking tour of the city centre. Here, you’ll get a taste of Palermo where you’ll visit the top sights in just a few hours while also browsing some of the local stalls and markets.

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