A seaside location, warm climate, great Sicilian food and a vibrant nightlife as well as being steeped in fascinating history and a treasure trove of sights have made Palermo one of Sicily's more popular destination cities
The area around modern-day Palermo has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The Phoenicians had a harbour settlement here and they were followed by the Carthaginians. Later the Greeks and then the Romans moved in before the Vandals and the Ostrogoths took over. Palermo then became part of the Byzantine Empire until the Christians drove them out. Over the centuries the city changed hands several times.
The presence of so many different cultures at one time or another has left its mark on the Palermo of today. For instance, Palermo Cathedral boasts a variety of architectural influences and the church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti with its red domes is a prime example of the influences that gave rise to Arab-Norman architecture. Other notable Arab-Norman constructions are the palaces of Zisa and Cuba. Don't miss the breath-taking mosaics of the Cappella Palatina at the Palazzo dei Normanni.
Besides the many architectural treasures in the city, it also boasts lovely piazzas, street markets, museums like the Regional Archaeological Museum Antonio Salinas and the Teatro Massimo, the biggest of Italy's opera houses. The many restaurants specialising in Sicilian food are a major attraction too. From caponata to panella, many dishes show Arabic influences. You'll also need to leave room for desserts like cannoli or cassata. Typical Palermitan specialities aren't for the faint-hearted since they often contain ingredients like veal spleens or lamb intestines.
If you have a taste for the macabre but would rather see it than eat it, be sure to visit the Catacombe dei Cappucini. Displayed here are the mummified bodies, still wearing their burial clothes, of about 8,000 people: from the elderly to children, from friars to artists.
Before your flight to Palermo International Airport, it's a great idea to book a car online through Rent.it. They'll then have it waiting for you when you land and you'll have the freedom to explore other attractions in the area. These include stunning beaches and historic villages. If you've seen the popular Italian film Cinema Paradiso, you'll definitely want to visit Bagheria, the town where it was filmed. Most of Sicily's other attractions are within only a few hours' drive too. At night, having your own transport is your best option since parts of Palermo can be quite dangerous.