Palermo Top 20
Collected by Travis Marshall, AFAR Local Expert
90134 Palermo, Province of Palermo, Italy
The architecture of San Giovanni degli Eremiti (St. John of the Hermits) reflects the story of Palermo over the centuries—a monastery built in the 6th century, replaced by a mosque under the Arab occupation, replaced by a monastery for Benedictine...
Piazza Cappuccini, 1, 90129 Palermo PA, Italy
At street level, the Capuchin monastery might seem like many other historic churches in Palermo. But once you go below ground, you'll encounter the most unusual and macabre display in the city. More than 8,000 mummified bodies are interred in its...
Piazza Guglielmo II, 1, 90046 Monreale PA, Italy
A short trip to the hilltop town of Monreale, just outside Palermo, offers the chance to explore some exceptional Norman-era buildings, most notably the Monreale Cathedral. The church's interior has an extravagant mosaic that covers more than...
Piazza Indipendenza, 1, 90129 Palermo PA, Italy
Palermo's Norman Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been a seat of power in Sicily for centuries. Its apartments (open to the public Friday through Monday) provided quarters to King Roger II during his reign in the 12th century, and the...
90134 Palermo, Province of Palermo, Italy
by Fabrizia Lanza Within the Palace of the Normans, there’s a chapel of the kings. “It’s sumptuous,” Fabrizia says, “all covered with mosaics. It’s like getting inside a golden box of jewelry.” Piazza del Parlamento 1 This story appeared in the...
Via Lincoln, 2, 90133 Palermo PA, Italy
Take a break from the city's frenetic energy with a visit to the Palermo Botanical Garden, just south of the port next to Villa Giulia Park. Established in 1786, the 10-hectare (25-acre) gardens contain plants from around the world: Southeast...
90133 Palermo, Province of Palermo, Italy
The Palazzo Chiaramonte-Steri, also called Steri Castle, was built in 1307 by Sicily's powerful Chiaramonte family. Manfredi Chiaramonte later added the elaborate Hall of the Barons, whose wooden ceiling is blanketed with murals. Starting in 1601,...
Via Vittorio Emanuele, 90040 Palermo PA, Italy
One of Italy's most architecturally diverse buildings, the Palermo Cathedral has an imposing exterior that combines Arab, Norman, Gothic, neoclassical and Baroque styles. Inside, look for the heliometer—a bronze line embedded in the floor that...
Via Valverde, 3, 90133 Palermo PA, Italy
The interior walls of the Oratory of Santa Cita display the masterpiece of Palermo sculptor Giacomo Serpotta, who spent much of his life on this elaborate collection of three-dimensional stuccowork. The chapel was built as thanks to the Virgin...
Mondello, Palermo, Province of Palermo, Italy
The resort town of Mondello, just a short drive from Palermo, is a popular escape for visitors and Sicilians alike. Cerulean waters lap a beach of soft white sand. Visitors staying in nearby villas spend much of their time relaxing on the beach,...
Contrada Santa Lucia, 90015 Cefalù PA, Italy
Spend a day strolling the medieval streets of Cefalù, an idyllic coastal resort town about an hour's drive east of Palermo. The Norman-era Cefalù Cathedral towers above honey-colored stone houses; a rocky promontory known as La Rocca forms a...
Piazza Verdi, 90138 Palermo PA, Italy
by Fabrizia Lanza Palermo’s opera house, built in the 19th century and inspired by ancient Greek ruins in Sicily, is the largest in Italy and the third largest in Europe. You can catchRigoletto,La Traviata—I love all of Verdi and Puccini; I’m...
Piazza Antonio Pasqualino, 5, 90133 Palermo PA, Italy
Sicily has a long tradition of puppet shows, and they're not intended merely to amuse the kids. These are elaborate theatrical works that tell complex stories through beautifully crafted marionettes. Palermo's International Museum of Marionettes...
At the heart of Palermo's port, the Bourbon Arsenal bears the coat of arms of Spain's King Philip IV, who commissioned it as a shipbuilding factory in 1630. Naval ships were made here for centuries; Horatio Nelson even lived in the arsenal for a...
Via Bonanno Pietro, 90142 Palermo PA, Italy
Mount Pellegrino, which towers over the coast between Palermo and the beach of Mondello, is a popular day excursion from Palermo. The panoramic view from the top is breathtaking. And while you're up there you can visit the sanctuary of Santa...
92100 Agrigento, AG, Italy
It's a full-day excursion from Palermo to visit the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento, but the trip is well worth it. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has no fewer than eight Doric-style Greek temples that date back to the 5th century B.C.E. The...
Via Alloro, 4, 90133 Palermo PA, Italy
See some of Sicily's most prized artworks at the Regional Gallery of Sicily, housed in the Palazzo Abatellis, in Palermo's Kalsa neighborhood. The palace's Catalonian Gothic–style architecture, which dates from the 1490s, is worth a visit in its...
Piazza Zisa, 90135 Palermo PA, Italy
On Palermo's western side, the Zisa Castle was built in the 12th century by Arab craftsmen as a summer retreat for King William I of Sicily. It's now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with handsome windows overlooking the gardens. The main hall,...
Via Merlo, 2, 90133 Palermo PA, Italy
A visit to the Palazzo Mirto offers the rare opportunity to see the interior of a classic Palermo palace as it was during its extravagant heyday. Located in the historic Kalsa district, Palazzo Mirto was home to the prominent Filangeri family for...
Piazza Bellini, 1, 90133 Palermo PA, Italy
The church of San Cataldo and its neighbor, La Martorana, both overlook the Piazza Bellini but offer contrasting experiences. San Cataldo is modest on the outside, and its interior remains unfinished more than 850 years after its construction—but...
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