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Sicily and its notable city of Palermo have been at the crossroads of civilizations for thousands of years. Today visitors can feel the impact and diversity of Italy's stunning island of Sicily. Palermo is famous for its history, culture, architecture, and (of course) its delicious southern Italian cuisine. Sicily's cuisines have long been influenced by food from across the Mediterranean.

Italy is an incredibly rich and diverse country that, even with three weeks, one can only hope to scratch the surface of what the country has to offer. Sicily is famous for being one of Italy's most stunning regions and its capital, Palermo, has it all. Feel the laid-back and friendly vibe of the residents of Palermo and see how it has become one of the favorite destinations in the Mediterranean.

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Why Palermo Is One Of The Top Destinations In Sicily

Palermo is an ancient city boasting a history of over 2,700 years old and was originally founded by the Phoenicians in 734 BC. Later on, it came under the sway of Carthage and was influenced by ancient Greeks. As Rome grew, it became part of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire for over a thousand years. It came under Byzantine, Arab, and even Norman control. Later it was the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily.

  • Founded: 734 BC By The Phoenicians
  • Influences: Roman, Arabic, Byzantine, Norman, Spanish

Today Palermo is considered Sicily's cultural and tourism capital and is a favored stop-over for Mediterranean cruises. Palermo is famous for:

  • Mediterranean Climate
  • Cuisine
  • Nightlife & Music
  • Architecture (Including Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, and Art Nouveau)

Palermo is a city that has experienced centuries of dizzying highs and crushing lows. One will find crumbling staircases as well as Italy's largest opera house. Architecture in the city reflects the city's periods of Arab, Norman, and Spanish rule.

Related: Have You Heard Of This Forgotten Island Off The Coast Of Sicily?

Top Attractions In Palermo

Palermo's Cathedral

One of the most eye-catching buildings in Palermo is the UNESCO-listed Palermo Cathedral. It was first erected in 1185 by a Norman archbishop of Palermo called Walter Ophamil. It is likely to have been built on the foundation of an earlier Byzantine basilica that had been turned into a mosque by the Saracens.

  • Entrance: Free
  • Built: First Built In 1185 By The Normans

The cathedral has been expanded over the years, but its east exterior still retains the original Norman character. The cathedral has seen the coronation of kings and has numerous tombs of kings within it.

Norman Palace (Palazzo dei Normanni)

Located just out of Palermo is the Norman Palace. This impressive structure is the oldest royal residence in European and was the private residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Sicily. It was first built by the Arabs as a palace for the Emir and was larger and expanded by the Normans.

  • Built: By The Arabs and Normans

Since 1947 it has been the seat of the regional parliament of Sicily.

Related: Visiting The Valley Of The Temples: One Of The Most Outstanding Examples Of Greater Greece

Other Attractions In Palermo

There are too many architectural attractions to list here in full, but here are a few of them.

  • Church Of Santa Maria: Known For Its Stunning 12th Century Mosaics
  • Antonio Salinas Regional Archeological Museum: Has Exhibits Dating From Egyptian and Phoenician Times
  • Capuchin Catacombs: Houses 8,000 Mummified Corpses Arranged By Sex and Status
  • Teatro Massimo: Italy's Largest Opera House
  • Quattro Canti: Square On The Main Tourist Street

Palermo Is Famous For Sicilian Food

Of course, one of the best ways to really enjoy and experience Palermo is by sampling some of its delicious food. Palermo boasts some of Sicily's best cuisine and is an ideal place to sample some of the island's most outstanding regional foods.

One will find everything from fine dining restaurants to humble little neighborhood restaurants. Sicilian food is based on local products like lemons, seafood, oranges, pistachio nuts, almonds, olives, Sicilian-style cheeses, and fresh vegetables.

See how the Sicilians take similar ingredients and give them rich flavors with a Sicilian Cooking Class in Palermo.

Naturally, Sicilian food features a lot of pizza and pasta - as well as seafood (it's an island, after all). The favorite summer drink to enjoy during the heat of the day is Aperol Spritz.