Have a party streak in you? You will be delighted to learn that when the lights go down in Palermo, the city comes alive in a legendary fashion. While Sicilians might be known for a few key flaws, we do know our beer.
Ciao! It is your purebred Sicilian friend Nico here to talk about our crazy nightlife in Palermo.
Let’s get straight to the point. A night out in Sicily won’t come heavily laden with iconic clubs, as you might find in other areas of Europe. We are not really into two-floored dancing clubs flooded with booze and bombarded with mono-not sound unzunzuznzunnnzzz.
But who needs a club when you can turn an old town alley into a loud dance party instead?
So, the big question is this: What makes Palermo nightlife renowned around Italy? The word is variety! There is something for everyone.
Do you want to sip an authentic Italian beverage by the sea? You can do that in Palermo. Do you want to dance with someone in the ruins of an old market until the sun comes up? You can do that here too.
Anything you desire, any day of the week, any time of the year, it’s available to you. Do you want to go completely crazy on your vacation, doing things you’ve never done before? You can here.
Do you want to relax in a nice Italian restaurant and enjoy a delicious ice cream dessert somewhere after that? We’ve got that covered too.
In fact, there’s nothing a modern city nightlife scene can give you that you can’t find here in Palermo.
The unfortunate side to Sicilians is that they don’t make the most loyal of customers. For this reason, the best places to hang out change in a regular rotation year round.
So, instead of listing off specific locations to go to, I’ll instead introduce you to the best areas for nightlife in Palermo and the most popular nighttime activities.
Let’s get started.
Palermo never sleeps, any day of the week and any time of the year. It doesn’t matter when you go, the party never stops. The only downside is that the best places where locals go change frequently, and you, as a tourist, might easily end up in an undesirable place. To know where the REAL fun is, don’t be shy; ask the locals!
Best Nightlife Areas in Palermo
Offering the best options in pubs, clubs, restaurants, bars and music of all genres, Palermo nightlife is second to none.
It is only here that you will find a lively and energetic crowd of fun-seekers night after night all year long.
You might find that other Italian cities have long and drawn out nights, but Palermo isn’t like this at all.
While the typical night begins at 8 PM (to roughly 3AM) with an aperitif, it continues on from there with anything you desire.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that those seeking thrills beyond 3 AM are out of luck either. There is typically only one area offering post-3AM excitement, and that’s Vucciria in Old Town.
The average Sicilian also begins with that aperitif around 8PM and proceeds to get a small bite to eat in a local restaurant.
After this, it is a steady nomadic journey from one bar to another (the exception being the club-goers who dance from one club to the next).
Once they’ve eaten and gotten a few drinks, the bar jumpers join the dedicated clubbers for dancing until the music stops around 3AM.
Sicilians are already established as the least loyal of customers, but their truly looking for the perfect place with the perfect people to spend an evening with.
This is partially why you aren’t going to find a distinct and diverse theming to each of the nightlife spots, but instead, varying types of people.
Each spot has a different group it seems: young, old, snobs, and more. It is almost as though certain types of people can’t allow themselves to mix in Palermo.
But since we’ve also established that every night is a pilgrimage from place to place, you can’t even narrow down locations based on what kinds of people you might expect to find there.
Since it is not easy to provide a “best of” location list for the venues, bars and clubs, it is only fitting that I could at least introduce you to the best areas to go.
Before we get into the best areas for you to join the nightlife, here is a tip that is really invaluable (and I’m giving it to you for free!): RENT A CAR. If you are wanting to delve deeply into the nightlife Palermo has to offer, you only have two options if you didn’t rent a car: get ripped off by greedy taxi drivers or be limited to a certain area by booking a room in walking distance of certain areas.
Here are the top 4 areas that you should check out if you are looking for a good time (at night) in Palermo.
1. Old Town
Some call it the Historical City Center (Centro Storico), some call it Old Town, it’s all a matter of preference. What has not changed is that this location is a hub for the nightlife you want to experience in Palermo.
Whether you are looking to drink and dance, or just cut loose among the old buildings and deteriorating palaces in the small alleys, you have that option here. Experience the romantic atmosphere that this history and cool night air can generate.
Just to brag a little bit, some people might not know that our historical center is one of the largest in all of Europe.
On the historic roads and ancient squares that have existed for centuries, you can have nights you’ll remember more than any other in Sicily. Trust me.
There are many popular stops, but here are the top ones right now:
- Champagneria (in the immediate area of the Massimo Theater)
- Piazza Sant’anna (This is a spot that gets very active once the sun goes down)
- Piazza Rivoluzione (This square has a renowned bar appreciated for its aperitive)
I am not labeling the touristy places that you can go, these are the most popular places for the locals here as well.
While they might have been more prominent in years’ past, Via Vittorio Emanuele and Via dei Chiavettieri both offer affordable cocktails, live music and entertainment, and many cheerful locals to accompany the high volume of other tourists.
You can certainly take advantage of the tables around, but most of the locals prefer to stand and sip their drinks. So, if you are a student of the adage “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”, it is something you might also consider.
Oh! I nearly forgot – I do have some good news for you. Ready?
You are not going to get gouged by choosing to have a few drinks like you can expect when you travel to other prominent European cities.
This is all about where you are coming from, of course.
Usually, you can expect a glass of wine to run you around €5 and a decent cocktail to be around €7. The restaurants that are not tourist traps can usually offer you a quality meal for a modest price as well.
While you are not going to see silk dress shirts and expensive Prada bags around every turn, you can expect locals to have good taste. Even in comfortable clothing, we look sharp.
This makes it very important to pack the right clothes.
There is one place in Old Town where you will likely never see ties and other fancy wear like this, and that is Vucciria Market.
You should take a bit of time to see it, even if it doesn’t have the same charm that it used to. The municipality is working to renovate and clean it out.
Once you have stepped inside, it feels like you have entered into the three rings of a gigantic, and likely illegal, circus.
Here you can expect to see some rundown buildings which fence in the dancers, peddlers, and small joints for cheap alcoholic cocktails. You are also likely to see some sketchy looking places, and even some sanitarily unregulated barbequed items to put in your stomach if you are daring.
If you can brave the chaos, you will witness a truly unforgettable show.
Another place that you might be able to avoid the traditional dress codes is the Piazza Magione, especially during the summer. At this time of year there are many cheap pubs and restaurants, many offering live music and entertainment.
If you are a traveler with a heart for longer night outings, you should find accommodation in the areas that support this.
This is a great place for accommodation in Palermo, especially if you are among the night owls that want to enjoy people, alcohol, and even a little craziness. Here, you can experience the true essence of Palermo nightlife.
2. Politeama / Libertà Area (Downtown)
Ok, so this is a newer area of the city – and that is why we call it the new city center.
While this area is nowhere near as large as Old Town, you can find a great volume of bars and restaurants here, which often have a more stylish and posh feel than the relaxed options of Old Town (which might be boring for some people).
It is important to note that this still does not mean luxurious bars and venues like you might expect in Paris, either.
You have no reason to ever leave this area hungry, as most restaurants cater to any food preference. You can expect prices to be slightly higher than you found in Old Town.
But don’t worry, this place is not going to leave you broke, either. Worst case, you can expect around 50€ for a full meal at a higher-end location.
You are going to find multiple authentic Italian restaurants, but also steakhouses, Japanese sushi stops, sandwich stores, and even Indian food.
Want great pizza? Get to the best places with these the tips of the locals.
Eating is not the only advantage to being here, feel free to binge drink to your heart’s content. No worries there.
You can find many quality spots for Italian cocktails from the aperitivo time on (around 7pm). This time slot is actually the best time to visit the area, as I don’t really see many reasons to stay here late into the night.
One advantage is that this area is frequented almost exclusively by the locals.
You might be one of the only tourists around.
Part of the reason for this is that the area isn’t riddled with attractions and immersed in history like you might find in Old Town.
The locals are going to hang out primarily in a few specific places:
You are going to find that this area is frequented most by what is known as ‘the good Palermo.’ This refers to the upper-middle class crowd within the city.
While this is still not some gala event attire, you will find that those who are hanging out in this area pay far more attention to their clothing than they do in Old Town.
One of the best things that you can do here is enjoy an aperitif or a drink right after dinner. This is especially true if you are mainly looking for an over 30 crowd. The whole area is people enjoying the company and drinks in a comfortable setting.
In the new city center, you are not going to find wild parties, behaviors and antics. If you want that, you should consider Old Town instead.
But, there are exceptions to every rule, it seems. In this case, the exception is Borgo Vecchio Square.
Only 400 meters from Via Libertà, you can find the teens and working class crowd acting out of character for this upscale area of Palermo. The theme here is cheap drinks and loud people nearly every night until 4 AM.
This is not a circus that you are going to want to miss, but this should not be your only stop of the evening, either. You can carve some time to see it and appreciate a cheap drink or two with the crowd.
Here, much the rest of the city, clubs and venues run on a rotation of being open and closed.
While you might see dozens of modern bars for stylish locals today, tomorrow there might only be one and it is the exclusive hangout spot for gutter punks.
So how do you know where you are supposed to go? Follow the locals. In our Travel Guide, you have a constantly updating compass to steer you right where the action is. Check it out.
You are not going to find tourists and wild parties like you might experience in Old Town. This area is far more refined and ideal for those looking to appreciate a quality aperitif or an after-dinner drink with an older crowd of 30+ people.
3. Mondello – Addaura and Sferracavallo Seafront
While it is likely a little cooler by the sea, the nightlife here can get red hot at times.
During the summer especially, Mondello Beach, and the Addaura and Sferracavallo Coasts are where many locals go to have fun.
It is a sight that is sure to get anyone’s heart racing.
You can find many restaurants, clubs, and bars overlooking the sea here. You can enjoy an unforgettable experience as the sun sets on the coast.
For those that are not looking to burn the midnight oil night after night, you can appreciate some big playgrounds (many are open until 1 AM), ice cream shops, and family restaurants throughout Mondello and these other seaside spots as well.
Prices are going to be a little higher here than you might find in other places, but this is mainly due to the popularity of the season. Even with higher prices, you are not going to get gouged.
For a cocktail, you can expect €8. €6 is what you can expect for a glass of wine, and 5€ for beers.
For eating, you have many cheap sandwich locations right along the sea, but even the restaurants here typically do not charge more than €40 for the full meal.
If you are visiting Palermo during the summer months, you should definitely look to grab accommodations in Mondello.
By doing this, you can stay right in the middle of some great action. You won’t be missing a single a single ray of the great sunshine on the beach this way, either.
There is just one downside to choosing this area, though.
If you do not have a rented car or a car of your own, you cannot get to the places on the other coasts. Public transport does not really exist for this, so taxis become your only option. This is a great way to get ripped off by bloodthirsty vampires.
As I have already mentioned, I cannot name key bars, clubs, and venues because they change like lottery numbers. You can look to our Video Travel Guide for up to the minute details on where to go and when.
Our team works around the clock to be sure this guide has the latest information. Check it out.
Mondello, Addaura and Sferracavallo coasts are some of the favored areas for the locals to spend their evenings drinking and dancing. If you do not have a car, though, you will have much less of a chance to ever see these areas.
4. La Cala
In this marina area, you can find a couple of cool bars to enjoy some great wine (Aperol or Spritz) as the sun is setting and fishermen are returning in from the sea.
While this is an attractive spot for those looking for booze, many runners race along the horseshoe marina, surprisingly undeterred by the smell of frying fish.
If you are one of these runners I am referring to, we have you covered. Be sure to look at the best route for runners. Check them out.
It will feel like you have hopped into a painting, and it is no wonder why many young artists have rendered paintings of this incredible sight.
At one time, this was the Port of Palermo, but after the 16th century, it dropped considerably in size on account of receding waters.
You will find that there are not many large bars and restaurants, but rather a few locations with big terraces where you can drink in the open air.
There is a popular nightclub here that allows you to dance among the boats. The place is called Calamare (for updated info on the best bars around, you can check out our Video Travel Guide).
You might find that this is an excellent area to seek accommodation, especially if you are looking for some place that is one of a kind. You might find that during the summer months, this is an excellent place to seek accommodation, especially for a one-of-a-kind experience.
You can find this horseshoe marina by the Foro Italico park in the Castellammare District. It is very close to Old Town, and allows you to visit many major attractions on foot. Take a look at the best walking itineraries.
What Locals Do at Nighttime
If there was a National Championship for drinking, I think we would win it. We love to drink and we do not deny ourselves this pleasure in any capacity.
Maybe we just love earning trophies.
Below you can find the seven main activities pursued by our locals, places where alcohol can remain the undisputed protagonist of the story.
So, let’s begin.
The Italian Aperitif
You might liken an aperitif in Italy to something of a religious rite performed nightly.
Around 7:30 or 8:00 pm, everyone gathers around tables holding drinks in celebration, in love, or just to have some fun with friends.
The aperitif actually has origins that date back to the end of the 1700s in Turin.
An Italian distiller (Antonio Benedetto Carpano) invented Vermouth at this time and the ritual began to spread all throughout the 19th century.
While it might be more of a way now for people to unwind after taxing days at work, it used to be a mid-day event (or even morning event) years ago.
At this time, a glass of wine was paired with delicious snacks in an effort to bring about some pleasant conversations among people and boost the appetite.
While it might not have the same kind of chic feel that it might have in the 1800s, it is still a common occurrence. At one time it was a simple glass of vermouth and some light snacks.
Today, the aperitif seems more like an all you can eat buffet and all you can drink trough of booze. But hey, who needs modesty?
While typically you are only asked to pay for what you drink in these circumstances, there are some times when you might have to shell out a few euros for the food that accompanies the drinks.
You can have an aperitif nearly anywhere in the city, but I would suggest avoiding the touristy places (unless you want indigestion or food poisoning).
If you want to know what the best places for an aperitive are, check out our Travel Guide.
You might find that you are still hungry after this aperitif, and if that’s the case, you aren’t out of food options throughout the city.
While the heaviest groupings of restaurants are in Old Town and Libertà-Politeama, every district has plenty of options to choose from.
You will find that most restaurants (again, don’t go touristy) serve dinner from 7:30 pm until around midnight.
Check out the page on Sicilian Cuisine for some more concentrated information about where you should eat.
If you asked me what the most popular nighttime activity in Palermo is, I would say it is hands down the Italian Aperitivo. There’s no more traditional pasttime you can do at night. Just make sure you don’t end up in some touristy aperitivo bars, which seem as if they are increasing in number day by day.
Having drinks on the street
In Sicily, we absolutely love to stand outside of bars and drink (yes, even in the winter).
From 8 PM, we set out on a nightly alcoholic pilgrimage from one bar to the next as though we are insatiably thirsty rabbits.
We go inside to get our drinks, but most often go back outside to consume the alcohol and continue talking incessantly like we might never get the chance again. That’s even something that we do in the winter.
Fortunately, though, it does not rain all that often. The cold cannot quench our thirst and our desire for fresh air.
Only rain can undo these plans. When it rains, you won’t even see so much as a nose out that can get wet. It is as if our bodies dissolve in the water.
Drinking on the street is a great social event, especially throughout the squares in old town. These are the best moments to find a local Romeo or Juliet, or even just a new friend to share some time.
This is hardly a time to be shy, loosen up a little.
With our Palermo Video Guide, you can find a list of the best spots for an alcoholic pilgrimage. Check them out and get a move on!
For some reason, we locals don’t like to spend an entire night in the same places. This means you can see people who start bar-hopping after dinner right up until late at night between the historic center and downtown.
Dancing Your Way Around Palermo
There aren’t an overwhelming amount of clubs throughout Palermo like you might find in the other major Italian cities.
This is partly because most islanders are less interested in the actual club and more interested in the people who get the party going.
As earlier stated, groups tend to be together in different areas all over the city, and the same premise rings true for club goers.
Instead of being drawn to a club because it has 4 floors with different themes, Palermo people go to clubs to chase an organizer of the party or to hear a DJ holding the PR.
To put this in perspective, one week a club can be jam packed with people wall to wall, and the next week there will be no one at all because the organizer moved to a new spot.
Social networks and word-of-mouth play a role in figuring out where the party is every night.
Grab a copy of our Video Travel Guide to stay up to date yourself and save yourself some trouble hunting bad leads on a non-existent party.
Sicilians don’t like the idea of always dancing in the same places. The trendy clubs and bars to dance in change continually, and for this reason, you might experience some difficulty in spotting the right place to be. To avoid ending up in unpopular places, always ask the locals where you can dance.
Of all the activities preferred by the Sicilians, listening to live music while sipping a good cocktail is definitely one of them.
It’s a genuine regional activity.
The local bands are so many that they’re squared away. You’ll find everything from aspiring Queens to local traditional music strummers.
But there’s a problem. Nobody has any idea where on earth these bands are, it’s always almost all improvised.
All the nightspots in Palermo could potentially host a local band. Yes, that’s right, the issue of obtaining authorizations is still an unresolved mystery.
You will often see bands made up of 5 members playing within two square meters with the viewers practically breathing down their necks.
To further complicate matters, the owners of the bars display a certain allergy with the organization. Everything is decided overnight. There is practically no planning.
Translated? There’s no time (and no desire) to promote the event.
The more experienced follow the Facebook pages of the individual bands to know where they are going.
The regular people go to those places where there is a higher probability of catching a live group but without any real certainty. Of course, you have to assume the role of a regular person.
I will list three night spots below that focus more on live concerts.
As I’ve already told you, the ones I’m about to list are the three bars that generally offer live music but apart from the first one on the list, the other often offer live events but not regularly.
So don’t be surprised if instead of a local band you find a crazy Deejay with his hands up who invites the masses to go wild with his techno music.
Here are the three clubs I have been talking about.
- Cantavespri. After midnight it becomes a nightclub but during the aperitif, that means the time slot ranging from 8.00 pm to 10.30 pm many bands especially on Wednesdays and Fridays play live music. Take a look at their Facebook page.
- Candelai. Here you not only have a good chance to catch a live concert but they also have a calendar of events (at the moment and no-one knows for how long) in their up to date website. Maybe the only one in Palermo. You can consult it here.
- Vinoverso. The concept is similar to that of Cantavespri. From about 8.00 pm to 11.30pm dinner or aperitif often with live music and then it turns into a nightclub with dance music. They also use their Facebook page to share information about their live shows.
If you want to know where the fun is and how best to manage your time, check out our travel guide.
Many bars around Palermo host local bands who play live music while you sip your drink. The only problem is that you need a stroke of luck to catch them. There is no website that promotes these events, and everything is left to chance.
Snacking Late At Night
While we determined that Palermo never sleeps, it never goes hungry either.
With Sicilian nightlife being so active, it is not hard at all to find that you have indulged in a few too many glasses. When it comes to absorbing this alcohol, you need some fast food options (along with a good bit of water.)
All night cafés and eateries are all over Palermo, and they can offer heavy meals to appetizing snacks at any hour you arrive.
The locals partaking in this late night dining love pezzi di rosticceria.
You have to be brave, but you can opt for heavy options available through street food vendors, such as Pane con la Milza (sandwich with spleen) or Sfincione.
Here are three places that I think you should try out if you are eating late at night:
- Maracanà – This place has pasta, sandwiches, and just about any second course you might be looking for.
- Jonny Walker – This is one of the places that you can always get pezzo di rosticceria.
Rocky – This is one of the best street peddlers cooking up and serving Pane con la Milza.
If you are looking for a complete and regularly updated guide on where and what to eat (no matter when you want to go), take a look at our travel guide.
In Palermo, it’s always the right time for a good snack; this happens also during the night. We have tons of nighttime places churning out any kind of food to the starving and those who have had a few too many drinks.
A Night At The Theater
Hopefully, by now you’ve made the smart choice to look into what to do in Palermo. If you have already discovered that Palermo houses one of the most influential opera houses in the world – Teatro Massimo. This place is the biggest of its kind in Italy, and the 3rd largest in Europe.
You might decide that you can try a day tour, but it does not hold a candle to attending a performance in the theater.
Interested? You can always take a look at the upcoming events of the theatre.
While on one hand we do have the biggest theatre in Italy along with a rich cultural heritage, we also do not have a city that has much in the line of competition for this establishment, either. This is the one place putting on big shows.
One close option might be Teatro Biondo, which does have multiple shows, but each performance is exclusively in Italian.
However, if you want to see a genuine and authentic Italian show, you can check out their calendar to see their upcoming events.
If cabaret is more your style, you can spend an evening at Agricantus. This is made of two distinct environments (a split between a showroom and a restaurant with a stage).
Agricantus might be just the kind of entertainment that can really add some spice to your evenings, you can check out their next events.
Last but not least, one show that you must see is the Teatro dei Pupi Siciliani.
This is a traditional Sicilian Puppet Theatre founded back in 1893 and has been run by the Cuticchio family since the beginning. It is a great attraction that is well worth your time.
Nightlife here doesn’t just revolve around alcohol and food, but also around cultural activities. There are a bunch of theaters giving spectacular plays and shows. The most famous one is Teatro Massimo, but there are many other interesting less famous theaters you might want to stop by and see.
Gays And Lesbians
Every year, the city of Palermo puts on the Gay Pride Parade. This is an expression of the openness and welcoming nature of the city towards its gay and lesbian community.
While it might be commonly thought that Sicilians are a stubborn and unaccepting group of people, this is actually quite the opposite.
There are no negative attitudes towards the LGBT community here, or that visit here.
With that being said, there are not a lot of places that are especially meant for LGBT people to get together and mingle.
The only spot is an old pub called Exit in the Politeama district.
Much like the revolving door of popular night spots mentioned earlier, the same can be said about LGBT-friendly locations.
This is the complete list of the best areas to experience the Palermo nightlife. I do recommend to get access to our Travel Guide and you can learn all of the secrets to maximizing the night life here in Sicily.
Palermo is considered an LGBT-friendly location, and there are no negative attitudes toward them. There are many bars and places mainly frequented by these groups of people, but I would say that you can see them in basically any other place too.
We have just provided a complete list of the best areas to experience the Palermo nightlife and some of the best nighttime activities to do in the town.
We have discussed many important things, but I would like to stress again the most important ones.
- The best places to hang out at night change as readily as the weekly lottery numbers. Ask the locals to make sure you are headed where the fun is.
- The best areas to hang out at night are Politeama and the historic center. There is the Mondello area as well, but being on the coast, it is only active during the summer.
- If you want to enjoy the nightlife, make sure you stay in some of the key areas within walk distance from where the fun is. The public transportation system is almost non-existent at night, and taxis are really expensive.
Before we say goodbye, allow me to remind you that you can get four itineraries that can help you make the most of your Palermo trip. Along with these, you can pick up a free video guide on Palermo that features tips from locals. You cannot find these anywhere else. Best of all, it is all for FREE. Check it out now!
I would also suggest that interested parties should join the free group on Facebook. This allows those visiting, or those that have already visited, to share their experiences, tips, and, stories.
If you have any questions or concerns about a trip you might be planning, check out the tourist information page to see if your question has already been answered. You can also drop a comment in the box below here, and let me help you find the answer you are looking for.
A hug for you all,
PS – If you want to experience the city as if you were a real Sicilian, without falling into the money traps and going only to the tourist spots, you should make sure that you check out our guide, The Sicilian Way.