This article will give you multiple tips and considerations to make when the time comes to book a stay in Palermo. Read through this carefully to make sure you have all the relevant information necessary to make the best choice.
Ciao! It is your purebred Sicilian friend Nico here.
Today is all about saving you money and time when you take your vacation to Palermo. To do this, we are going to talk about the best places you should stay.
Before we begin, there’s one crucial thing you need to know.
Where you book your hotel in Palermo makes a difference. This single choice can let you say, “What a great time we had in Palermo” to “What a nightmare that was“.
If you don’t take the time to get the right information, you might end up in accommodations that aren’t exactly on the brochure. You end up in inconvenient or unsafe areas of the city that make the vacation terrible.
This has even happened to me in other areas of the world.
If you don’t have the patience to look deeply at an area, you might just get caught looking at pictures or reading some reviews that might not be forthcoming about all the potential problems.
And really isn’t aspect like the size of your hotel bathroom or decorations in the room that are going to make or break the trip. Instead, it is where these accommodations are located.
That is critical.
It cannot be understated that choosing the best place in Palermo is important for your trip. Carefully read what is happening throughout this guide despite the fact that it’s a long article.
You cannot find this information anywhere else on the internet, and it may completely change your opinion of the city because you took this time.
What Are the Best Places to Stay in Palermo?
It is not incorrect to say that Palermo is a huge city, as it is the 5th largest in the country. In total, there are 25 different districts that make up the area.
As is the case with any big city, you have beautiful and convenient areas that are ideal for tourism, but also inconvenient areas or shady places that even Satan himself wouldn’t comfortably sleep.
I won’t lie to you and tell you that we only have great areas. This would make Palermo a paradise, and I don’t think we have any place like that on our planet.
A priest friend of mine one said, “if you believe you seen heaven on the planet, you’re either dead or you’re dumb“.
To make things a little easier for you I boiled down some of the areas that I would recommend someone should stay. There are three of them, and they are:
- Centro Storico (Old Town)
- Politeama/Libertà (Downtown)
- Mondello (Seaside)
Before you let your finger go wild and start scrolling down, hold on a minute.
I’m going to take the time the list the best hotels, apartments, and B&B’s in each of these areas, but you should be diligent enough to read the pros and cons of each district.
I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s very important to me that you have a nice time.
Read the three area descriptions and then choose the hotel or accommodations that you like and what suits your traveling party. Capito (Understand)?
Good! Let’s not waste much time introducing you to these areas of the city. Stay with me.
Pros and Cons of the Top 3 Districts in Palermo
While I have already told you what the three best locations are to staying in Palermo, I should remind you again in case you forget things after only a brief time like I do.
- Politeama/Libertà (Downtown)
- Centro Storico (Historical Center/Old Town)
- Mondello (Seaside Resort Area)
Each of these has its own feel and distinct characteristics, so it matters what suits your plans and party the best.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these options in Palermo.
1. Politeama/Libertà (Downtown)
- Safe and clean- Walking distance to most attractions and monuments
- Active nightlife
- Directly connected with the airport
- Loaded with retail and restaurant locations
- Direct bus to Mondello Beach
- More traffic congestions
- Long-term stays
- Women traveling alone
- Visitors who rented or own a car
- Families with children
This shopping area is among the best in the entire city and surrounding areas.
From the early morning to late at night, there are always people here shopping (or at least pretending to.) You will find a myriad of stores including popular franchises like Zara and H&M to more luxurious brands for posh people like Prada and Gucci.
This is the quarter where you find some of the wealthiest inhabitants of the city. If you have an apartment on Libertà Road, or one of its side streets, there’s a good chance that you are well off.
Then again, you might just be one of the lucky devils who have inherited a property from their relatives, but even still the locals are always going to have that preconceived notion.
It’s sad to say, but we Sicilians live on stereotypes.
One of the drawbacks for this area is that it lacks the history and charm of Old Town, but has it unique attraction for those looking for a clean, safe, and less crowded environment.
Of course, in recent years, this area has seen an uptick in tourism.
My “damn website” (as many have put it) has been blamed as one of the causes for the growth in overall tourism, and the subsequent higher rental costs.
Perhaps one of the most important factors to consider for those traveling from airports, is how easy it is to reach the downtown area from the airport and vice versa. Shuttle buses and shared taxis both make stops in the main square here at Piazza Castelnuovo.
If you bring your car, you can park on the curb throughout the area. Be careful, as blue-lined spots (striscia blu) require payment.
Reasons You Should Stay in the Politeama/Libertà Area
Most of the times that I recommend staying in this area it is for three main reasons. Let’s take a look at them.
1. This is Deemed a Safe Area
Ultimately, Palermo is considered a safe place to stay. Do not let mafia stories and nonsense that people might show you in the movies dissuade you. They are not that way here, just on the silver screen.
Of course, like other cities in the world, there is a share of shady areas that you will want to avoid. This district is one of the safest in the city to stay and travel through.
I can guarantee you that no one is going to put a gun to your head, or “make you an offer you can’t refuse“, but this doesn’t mean that you cannot also make irresponsible, naive, or absent-minded decisions.
People get mugged everywhere on the planet. Even at Disneyland in Paris, pickpockets are looking around every corner. You need to take precautions even in one of the most magical places on Earth.
I will always say that there’s no safe place for certain people, namely those that are naive, dumb, and totally drunk.
2. Within a Short Walk of Main Attractions
Politeama/Libertà directly joins with Centro Storico (Old Town). Because of how close the two are, you can walk without difficulty to most of the major attractions of Old Town.
That’s right, I said 15 minutes on foot. If you are among those grouchy tourists that cannot stand a 15-minute walk, Palermo might not be the place for you. You really should visit most of this city on foot if you can.
The entire city doesn’t suit grouchy people. We have many flaws, so you are unlikely to last even a day.
You can walk to most of the major attractions from this district, but if you want to find a place to rest your feet, you can easily board a bus to Old Town on some of the only reliable and timely routes of our public transportation system.
If you have brought your car, another point in favor of this area is that it’s easier to park without having the pain of the ZTL (restricted traffic zone) like you experience in Old Town.
3. Active Scene at Night
Another advantage to suggesting this quarter over many of the other districts is the active nightlife. You might not compare it to some of the chaos and madness you find in Old Town, but the area is busy and full of bars and restaurants that stay open till late in the night.
Comparing it to Old Town, the atmosphere is far more refined and calmer.
I suppose I could paint you a picture by saying there are many smaller bars they feature well-dressed people sipping glasses of wine over polite conversation, snacking on a delicious aperitivo.
This is not where you go for loud music and dancing on tables. You’re not going to find big clubs with long lines outside of them. No people with dreadlocks, hard rockers, hippies, or people smoking joints.
This scene features well combed hair, high heels, designer handbags, evening dresses, button up shirts, and glasses of some of the finest Sicilian wine.
The locals started their winter nights out with a glass of wine around 8:00 PM. Then, you go to a restaurant to grab a bite and then move yourself to Old Town.
If you are a female traveling alone, this is a great place to be. You can make new friends easily in the bar without running into some of the lesser evolved Sicilians that we refer to as Tascios.
I recommend this area so often because it’s safe, clean, and convenient for tourists. It is a little less crowded than the historical center or Mondello during the appropriate seasons. If you want to live in the city temporarily as a real Sicilian, and you are willing to make a few extra steps to reach the major attractions, this is definitely the area you should consider.
Best Accommodations in Politeama/Libertà Area
This might be the moment you’ve been waiting for. Below, I want to list three different accommodations suitable for all budgets. In the next paragraph, I will list a couple of luxury options as well.
Hold your horses, I’m not quite done prefacing it.
The combinations that I have selected are not perfect. These places don’t exist in Palermo, nor do they in any other city.
Everything is subjective and personal.
I’ve worked in five-star luxury hotels and resorts such as The Four Seasons, Sheraton, and Millennium & Copthorne – and I can assure you that even these have flaws.
It really just depends on how you look at things and from what angle.
With that being said, here is the list that I have come up with. I selected 5 places to sleep based on the opinions I have gathered from thousands of visitors. Check it out.
Nico’s Golden Tip 💡:
No matter what you use to book accommodations, use a text box allowing you to make special requests. Leave a message stating that you would like a silent and clean room. People don’t typically realize how powerful that box actually is. The hotel staff labeled you as a “potential pain in the ass” and might give you some special care to avoid any disturbances.
1. Family Affair Palermo – (B&B)
2. Politeama Apartments – (Apartments)
3. Hotel Politeama – (Hotel)
Some Luxury Options in Politeama/Libertà Area
There is not an abundance of five-star hotels in Palermo that make you jump up and down with excitement.
The reason is obvious, as we have a historic city with a great beach and tons of things to do.
This requires a lot of time to explore and be away from a hotel, so as a consequence, tourists and locals alike are less likely to spend their money on a 5-star accommodation they are only using to sleep and shower.
Of course, your motivations might change if you were loaded.
Below, I have included two spots that you should check out if you aimed to raise the bar for your accommodations.
1. Hotel Wagner
2. Grand Hotel Et Des Palmes
2. Centro Storico (Old Town/Historic Center)
- Houses all key attractions
- Several pedestrian-only streets
- Full of shops, cafeterias, and restaurants
- Hectic and memorable nightlife
- Experienced Travelers
- Nightlife Lovers
Because this area houses are historical center, this is one of the most important areas in Palermo. In Italian, we call it Centro Storico. The focal point of the area is Quattro Canti, and the main roads moving through this district are Via Maqueda and Via Vittorio Emanuele.
The Centro Storico is a historian’s vivid wet dream.
If you have done your homework before coming, and random little bit about Palermo’s history (which I hope you did), it would know that it is one of the most conquered cities in the world. Palermo has seen multiple significant eras throughout its colorful history.
You will find many corners and buildings that all showcase different ancient civilizations that once considered Palermo part of their territories.
But OK, I will save the rest of my history lesson for another time.
The point I am trying to make is that all the major monuments and attractions are within this district. Whether or not you take accommodations here, this is where you wind up spending the majority of your time.
This doesn’t stop just because the sun goes down either.
When it gets dark, the district turns into a sort of Disneyland for those that love the nightlife. A recurring phrase that you might often hear is “Ok, last stop in that bar and we will just take a drink and we go“.
People just keep saying this over and over until they realize that the sun has come back up and it’s morning.
Reasons to Stay in Centro Storico
When I am recommending this to others, I would say it is for two primary reasons. There is also a bit to be cautious about and a hassle that you might want to be aware of.
1. Major Attractions Are Here Around You
In Palermo, there is no metro or reliable public transportation to get you from place to place. You are going to have to walk. This is the city that has to be seen on foot to be fully appreciated, not behind the windows of a bus anyway.
Because many of the monuments are nearby, it is one of the major draws just saying in the historical city center. This is considered the second largest historical city center in all of Europe, coupled with the worst public transportation on the continent.
Unless you happen to be one of those people that “don’t give a damn about attractions for tourists”, you are going to spend a great deal of time immersed in the culture and history that you can find in Old Town.
What this means is, picking your accommodation in this location is half of your battle already won.
All you need to pack now is some comfortable shoes, well planned itineraries, and even audio guides that you could put on your phone to understand what you’re seeing. Don’t rely on English information at these monuments and attractions, or you’ll be looking through the eyes of an idiot to see our most treasured landmarks.
2. The Night Comes Alive
When discussing Old Town, the nightlife is another huge draw. I can say on behalf of all locals, that Old Town (Centro Storico) is where we spend most of our time at night.
The area itself is huge, allowing all kinds of fun and even crazy occurrences for you to get involved in.
You might enjoy the lawless open-air feel of the Vucciria Square which offers dancing and drinks until the sun comes up. There are also multiple old alleys offering incredible scenery and authentic Italian cocktails.
A major difference between here and the Politeama/Libertà district is that this area is much more casual and entertaining then the latter.
People hanging out in the bars here are different types then you find in downtown, with more relaxed looks. You aren’t going to find perfectly ironed shirts in high heels like you might see in Politeama.
If you intend to experience Palermo by night, almost every interesting thing happening occurs here in Old Town. It will absolutely beat whatever is going happening on your hotel room ceiling. Staying here is a real blessing, given that public transportation after the sun goes down is almost nonexistent.
Caution: Watch Out for Pickpockets and ZTL (Restricted Traffic Area)
Some areas, like the Vucciria Street Market are cluttered, loud, and crowded. This makes them an ideal location for pickpockets.
The reason for this is obvious. Street markets tend to get very crowded, and it seems like almost half of the people are entirely wasted and the other portion have fallen into a “let’s have a hug because we’re family!” mode.
You do not need extensive experience in a degree in criminology to understand that these situations or places where pickpockets can thrive.
Surprisingly, Palermo is one of the safest cities in all of Italy in terms of street crime. As I’ve always said, those who are naive, drunk, unaware, or all of the above can get robbed just about anywhere.
Based on the statistics, Old Town has more incidents than Politeama/Libertà, but as alarming as a possibility of robbery is, it isn’t likely to happen to somebody who is using the proper precautions and guarded to it occurring.
You might also consider that many alleys in this area are poorly lit. They are not dangerous, but you may not feel as safe as you normally would there. I would encourage everybody to ensure that their lodging is on a well-lit street.
The municipality is also part of this circle that wants the reach into your pockets and take what you have. Old Town is now a ZTL area, meaning that we have restricted parking and traffic in this area.
What it actually means is that you have to buy a daily pass to drive and park within the zone. If they catch you (and they will) inside without a pass, you will be presented with a hefty ticket.
This is one of the areas that I like the most. Everything seems to be happening here between the day and the night, but you do need to keep your eyes open inside of the markets. Avoid some poorly lit areas as well. If you get our guide, The Sicilian Way, you can always check out our safety map for the latest information.
The Best Accommodations in Centro Storico
Without further ado I’d like to tell you the three best accommodations that I would recommend for us mere mortals. The luxury options are going to be available in the upcoming section.
Before I get into the list, wait one second.
The historic center is huge, and as I told you above, some of the streets are poorly lit at night give off a feeling that they are less than safe.
I made sure, on your behalf, to only select accommodations that are located on the streets that will not freak you out when you have to walk back to them at night.
If you opt for different options that I have not listed below, make sure with the staff that you don’t have to walk at night with your heart in your throat to return to your lodging.
Let’s not waste any more time and get to the three best options that I recommend for accommodation in Old Town.
Nico’s Golden Tip 💡:
You can ask the staff at your lodging to activate a daily ZTL pass (5€) for you on your check-in day. You will need to provide them with the car’s license plate number and pay them when you arrive. This can keep you from some of the hassles of obtaining it on your own.
1. Palazzo Sovrana (Apartments)
2. La Terrazza sul Centro (B&B)
3. Palazzo Natoli Boutique Hotel
Luxury Hotels Within the Historic Center
As I mentioned before, Palermo does not have much in the line of five-star hotels. This doesn’t make sense for visitors that spend most of their time and money outside of the room. Especially when luxury amenities are involved.
This happens especially in Old Town.
If you choose this area to stay, it means that you are here for the sightseeing in the nightlife, not to waste hours of your day at the spa or the pool that your hotel might have.
That being said, there are no hotels in Old Town worthy of being five stars, but there are a couple of really good four-star hotels. While these are not especially fancy or even all that exciting, they are still close to what you are looking for should you want to indulge on your vacation.
Let’s take a look at these two.
1. Grand Hotel Piazza Borsa
2. Hotel Principe di Lampedusa
3. The Mondello District (Seaside)
- Safe and clean
- Active nightlife in summer months
- Shops, cafeterias, and restaurants
- Lush greens
- Great beachfront
- A good distance from Old Town
- You need a vehicle to get around
- Active only during the summer months
- Those wanting to spend their holiday on the beach
- Families with children
Mondello, a former fishing village turned upscale residential area, has become a haven for wealthy (and tax-evading) politicians, entrepreneurs, dentists, and surgeons.
Perhaps the most alluring attraction here is the sandy beach and crystal-clear water. The tree lined avenues an expensive Art Nouveau villa also provide a distinct charm to Mondello.
When the warm weather arrives, Mondello gets overrun by the locals. You will see people everywhere. You will see everything from those getting sunburnt on the beach, jogging down the boardwalk, riding their bicycles off balance (see the best itineraries to avoid killing yourself), or stuffing their face on the shore.
If you would determine that your vacation is all about staying out in the sun, swimming, and eating with a view of the sea, this is where you’re going to want to find your accommodation.
While this is the neighborhood of Palermo, it is also a world unto itself. It is only a 15-minute drive from downtown, but when we say, “Let’s go to Mondello” it feels like we’re driving out of the city.
This is one of my favorite areas to stay, or maybe I should say, my favorite area to stay during the summer. In the winter, the area goes into a hibernation and there are hardly any people around or shops open.
If you have a car, you can arrive in park here without trouble. Be mindful of any paid blue spots, however.
Reasons to Stay in Mondello
I have listed several of the major draws for this area, but also one word of caution.
1. Great Beach
Mother Nature was kind enough to provide Mondello with one of the most spectacular and envied beaches in all of Europe. The water is so clear it looks like mineral water.
The beach area is divided up into two parts, the private areas that get filled up with lidos you can rent with sunbeds and umbrellas or the public areas where there is a zoo to fight for any available space.
Unfortunately for us to enjoy the immense beauty that Mother Nature so generously provided, we must also endure local chimpanzees that choose to litter the beach with their cigarettes, beer bottles, plastic, and other trash.
If you want to make sure that you stay in one of the cleaner parts of the beach without all of the riffraff, you can find some of the best lidos available if you look in our travel guide.
As you might suspect, the sun is not all that hot throughout the whole year. We are close to Africa, but not that close.
Often, our warm season runs from the spring until mid-fall. This gives you around six months to enjoy the sea without much difficulty.
My favorite months to enjoy the beach are May and September, because these are usually not as crowded with the cavemen as you will find in June, July, and August.
2. Active Nightlife in the Summer
There is no mistaking that the nightlife in Mondello is among the best of the Palermo area during the summer. Nights have cooled off, and the result is much fancier than Old Town.
The first of these categories belongs to those running street food carts (you could check out a video that I put together about the scary foods that we can eat at times). The other two listed are frequenters of the bars along the seaside.
The toco wears white linen shirts and a watch that costs 1000 euros. The profumiera wears five-inch heels and a four-inch skirt. Both of these groups are as tanned as burnt chocolate biscuits.
Both of these types of bar frequenters or fill all the clubs and nighttime venues along the shore beginning at sunset. The nights here often begin with the aperitivo, and end with everyone wildly dancing and drinking.
Mostly all the venues and bars are going to follow the aperitivo-then-dance recipe, but it is important to know which ones the locals are going to be at, and which ones are just tourist traps.
If you have required our guide The Sicilian Way, you can look at the nightlife section to have all the updated places to go (and what to wear). If not, you need to start asking the locals. You are not going to find credible information on TripAdvisor or any other website.
Caution: You Are Far from the City Center
Sicilians are among the world’s laziest people, and theatrically pretend to be tireless workers. This can go so far as to simulate actual physical ailments. In truth though, they avoid work and physical effort like they might an actual disease.
With that being said, anything beyond 500 meters (or 0.3 miles) might as well be another country. So, imagine how these same Sicilians look at 13 kilometers (8 miles) separating Mondello from Old Town. “That’s a trip that will take half a day” they would say.
Despite what you might think from hearing everyone talk, the seaside is not on some other continent or even all that far away from the city center. It is not exactly around the corner, either. If you rent a car for the trip, you’ll be fine. It’s just a 20-minute excursion with favorable traffic.
If you happen to be relying on the shoddy public transportation system, my grandmother might say, you are in the hands of the Lord. This gets even worse at night when I don’t know that I’ve ever actually seen a bus running.
During the day, you could take the dedicated 806 bus line. This is an irritating and time-consuming trip, however. I’ve written an entire guide on how to get to Mondello – so check it out.
I love this area of the seaside. It was one of my favorite places to stay around the city, but only during the summer. If I was a visitor, I would never stay here without a scooter or a car accessible to me. If you pick your accommodations here, and rely on public transportation, I fear that your vacation will soon turn into a nightmare.
The Best Places to Stay in Mondello
Here is some of the information you might have been waiting on. I understand that my preambles of the areas might run a bit long. But understanding where you’re going and what you’re getting into is crucial to making sure that you have the best time.
As usual, wait a minute before scrolling down to the accommodations for a couple of quick pieces of information.
Let me just start by saying the structures that I recommend are only be B&B’s and villas, and there is only one hotel mentioned in the paragraph about luxury lodging. Worse still, this one that is mentioned is not five-star.
There’s a very simple reason that the hotels in Mondello are not that great. And the pictures they might appear big and beautiful, featuring great pools and incredible views, but in reality, they are outdated and poorly managed.
There are many great B&B’s and villas that you can choose from with the caring staff that want to go the extra mile.
OK that’s enough talking, let’s take a look at the five best accommodations that I have for you in Mondello.
Nico’s Golden Tip 💡:
I would suggest that everybody mentions the host to ensure that they get a silent and clean place. You can also ask questions about reserving bikes for free if they have them. You might also consider asking in advance about certain necessities. In Sicily, you cannot ever be afraid to come across as a pain in the ass or to tell people the obvious more than once.
1. B&B Mondello Design
2. B&B Casa Chinaski
3. B&B L’Officina di Apollo
4. Villa Cinzia (Apartment)
5. Villa Gabriella (Apartment)
Luxury Accommodations in Mondello
Because you were still reading this, I can safely say that you and I are friends now. I think anyone looking for luxury hotels in Mondello is wasting their time.
Why would I say this? For one, all of these luxury places are going to be much more expensive than other places I have mentioned. All they can really offer you is a seaside view. The structures are often old, and the rooms are unappealing. the staff also have heavy asses as we say here in Sicily, meaning that they are lazy.
Hotels like these are luxurious on paper, but honestly, you would only be throwing your money away to try any of them.
Despite this, I will still list one of these hotels that I think might fit into this description. While it is not as luxurious as a five-star location, it might be a good compromise.
Unico Boutique Hotel d’Arte
I knew going in the article was going to be long, primarily because I’m aware of how much I like to talk. But I do want you to know that all of this was to make sure that you have the best time and don’t make mistakes that could ruin your vacation.
Booking the wrong lodging is probably the biggest mistake that you can make.
I hope I’ve painted a good picture for what to expect in each of these areas, and the best accommodations that could potentially suit you or your family.
Let’s take a quick second and sum up the information of this guide in a very condensed manner. The three best areas for you to stay are:
- Politeama/Libertà – Elegant, safe, and clean downtown area that is nearby to many attractions, retail, and restaurants.
- Centro Storico – The bulk of our attractions are within this district, so it is already where you are likely to spend most of your time.
- Mondello – This is a resort area along the sea with gorgeous tree-lined streets and a charming beachfront.
In any of these areas, I have listed the best hotels, apartments, and B&B’s to stay. I have also mentioned luxury hotels in case you are willing to spend extra for more comfort.
I want to stress once more that getting information about Palermo is critical. If you don’t get the right places, you are going to have a terrible time.
I recommend that everyone sign up for our Facebook group to get the latest information from actual visitors to Palermo. You can also get audio guides for the attractions to avoid looking at them and having no idea why it is significant.
If you want to visit the city like a real Sicilian, without falling prey to traps or scams (and wasting so much of your time), I recommend that you take a look at our travel guide The Sicilian Way.
Have any questions or doubts? Leave me a comment in the box below so I can get back with you as soon as possible.
I hope you have a wonderful trip to Palermo! Cheers!
Note: I have created 4 itineraries specific to Palermo and also five videos featuring tips and information about this city that you cannot find anywhere else. I’m giving them away for free, so check them out!