Palermo is rich in monumental works. Its historic center is among the largest in Europe. There are churches, palaces, squares, doors and other evocative works that can be visited by going around the city. Below we show you only some of the most remarkable monuments that must be visited and all of them can be visited.
After the brief essential indications you can find the addresses and the telephone numbers for information on times and conditions of visit. If you want more information on the listed monuments, you can learn more by clicking on the links below.
Royal Palace or Royal Palace of the Normans
It rises in the oldest part of the city, above a Punic settlement. It is the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. One of the most visited monuments in the city and the oldest royal residence in Europe. Inside the Palace we find a jewel of art! The Palatine Chapel defined by Guy de Maupassant as the most beautiful church in the world.
San Giovanni degli Eremiti
Among the most interesting examples of Sicilian-Norman art, it is considered one of the symbolic monuments of Palermo. One of the most fascinating and singular ecclesiastical buildings of our city. Try to imagine Palermo without the exotic charm of the little red plastered domes that cover the church of S. Giovanni degli Eremiti.
Bordering the ancient south-western medieval city walls, the complex of S. Giovanni degli Eremiti is located near Palazzo dei Normanni in the stretch once lapped by the waters of the bad weather river (Kemonia), one of the two rivers that once they crossed the city (today underground).
Palazzo della Zisa
Recognized as the protagonists of one of the most admired courts of the Middle Ages, the Norman sovereigns of Sicily, alongside the traditional fame of warriors, also combine that of patrons of prestigious and refined civil and religious buildings.
The great count Ruggero and his descendants in order to create “an ideal landscape”, created in the great Plain of Palermo an immense Royal Park, a paradise on earth, where the Altavilla promoted the building of their “Sollazzi Regi” (places of delights) splendid mansions of leisure and rest surrounded by magnificent gardens with lush vegetation, hunting pavilions, artificial lakes and fish ponds.
Located inside what was once the extended hunting park of the Norman kings called the “Genoard” (earth’s paradise), Cuba (from the Arabic qubba) which means arch, vault, rises not far from Porta New.
This sumptuous palace, which has all the distinctive features of Norman architecture, was commissioned by William II the Good, as evidenced by an Arabic inscription in kufic characters that decorates the factory’s attic frame.
The palace, coeval with that of the Zisa, which it equaled in magnificence, was completed in 1180, it was one of the royal “patsies” (places of delights), and was once surrounded by a magnificent park with vineyards, orchards and a large fish pond.
The Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele, in Palermo, is the largest opera house in Italy and the third in Europe. The structure, built in a neoclassical-eclectic style, recalls the forms of classical architecture, with its famous staircase, columns with Corinthian capitals, the arcade and the large metal dome. It stands in the current Piazza Verdi, where once stood the church of the Stimmate and the monastery of San Giuliano which were demolished at the end of the nineteenth century precisely to make room for the majestic building. The work began in 1875 after the numerous controversies that followed the competition of 1864 won by the architect Giovan Battista Filippo Basile, whose death was succeeded by his son Ernesto, also an architect, who, at the request of the Municipality of Palermo, agreed to complete the work of his father.
The Politeama Garibaldi theater in Palermo, designed by the architect Giuseppe Damiani Almejda, is a harmonious and imposing Pompeian style building located in Piazza Ruggero Settimo, one of the most beautiful and lively squares in the city.
The Politeama theater was the first to take place in the new city, in fact its construction began, in 1867, almost in conjunction with the Massimo theater factory and ended in 1891 by the will of the municipal administration of the city.
Four songs (Piazza Vigliena)
The so-called Quattro Canti, located in Piazza Villena, represent the center of the Baroque Palermo. Its structure, perfectly octagonal, is formed by the alternation of streets (Via Vittorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda) and architectural backdrops.
The facades that form the square, during the hours of the day, are always illuminated at least on one side, and this is why they are also known as the “Theater of the Sun”. The statues in the square were placed by Mariano Smiriglio, engineer of the Palermo Senate, starting from 1617 and represent the rivers of Palermo (Oreto, Kemonia, Pannaria and Papireto), the allegory of the seasons, the historical rulers of the city and the patron saint of Palermo.
The wonderful square is located not far from the Quattro Canti, exactly in the center of gravity of the historic city of Palermo. In the center the “Fontana Pretoria”, known as “Piazza della Vergogna” due to the nudity of the statues, occupies the entire center of the Piazza and is one of the most beautiful fountains in Italy. It is composed of two concentric rings of stone divided by a ring of water, surmounted by stairways that act as small bridges and marble parapets. In the center a stem composed of three basins positioned one above the other, where a marble stem emerges that supports a putter with a cornucopia, a mythological symbol of food and abundance, the gods of Olympus and the rivers of Palermo, Oreto, Papireto, Gabriele and Maredolce. All around statues of men and women, pagan divinities and animal heads pouring water into the tanks.
Once the city of Palermo was surrounded by walls and there were also entrance doors, the most important being the so-called Gate of the Palace.
This gate was perhaps closed in 1460 and another was built at the end of the main road and was called Porta dell’Aquila, but the population immediately called it Nuova.
It was decorated with friezes and symbols including four defeated Turks. Two of them with severed arms and two with arms crossed as a sign of submission, in memory of the African victory. The mannerist construction is inspired by the ancient Roman triumphal monuments but also by the late Renaissance architecture with large mannerist influences.
The birth of Porta Felice dates back to 6 July 1582, to give a monumental entrance to the Cassaro (the current Corso Vittorio Emanuele), which the year before had been extended to the sea, thus reaching the other beautiful road that skirted the walls and the beach, what the Palermo Senate called “Strada Colonna”, the current Foro Italico.
The name “Felice” was given in honor of the wife of the viceroy, woman Felice Orsini.
Great protagonist of Palermo’s life, Porta Felice saw sovereigns, viceroys, nobility, processions, the cart of the Feast of Santa Rosalia and the carriages with the crews for the famous walk to the Marina of the Belle Epoque.
Tower of San Nicolò
Right next to the Church of San Nicolò di Bari at the Albergheria, there is a slender quadrangular construction with well-squared ashlars, it is the fourteenth-century civic tower which is part of the transmission system. Built by the Palermo Universitas to defend the walls of the “Cassaro”, it was not part of the church structures, but was isolated and isolated. The San Nicolò all’Albergheria tower, composed of four levels, was built with large ashlar stones, using squared tuffaceous rocks, which give it a rigorous and severe line.
Santa Maria dello Spasimo
It was born, in the sixteenth century, as a convent complex dedicated to Santa Maria dello Spasimo, dedicated to the immense pain of Mary, who suffers before her son who collapses under the weight of the Cross on the way to Calvary.
The initial project, however very ambitious, was never completed, leaving the sumptuous unfinished work. Deconsecrated as a church, the complex became the first public theater in the city and after several renovations today the church with its open-air nave, is a suggestive place used as a cultural space that hosts events of various kinds, an enchanting scenery for theatrical events and music.