Palermo is Sicily’s largest city that has been the crossroads of various civilizations. Sitting at the edge of Europe, the city was the center of the ancient world. As such you’ll find remnants of various cultures infused into the city’s fabric. Arabesque domes are as much a part of the city as Byzantine mosaics and frescoed cupolas. The past and present are also intertwined in the decor of hotels in Palermo, Italy, with many housed in historic buildings.
There are plenty of varied things to do in Palermo, besides exploring its history. Whether it’s the natural scenery you’re pining for or bustling shopping areas, there is more than enough to keep you busy here. Apart from its historic spaces, the ancient markets are clear standouts. One of the top things to do in Sicily is to enjoy world-class street food in the ancient Palermo markets
Where To Stay In Palermo
If you’re visiting Palermo for the first time, the best place to base yourself is in La Kalsa. It’s one of the four districts that make up the old town and is the most extensive. Located close to the port, you’ll find a heady mix of cultures in this area. Antique shops, taverns and bars dot the area, so you won’t be at a loose end for things to do here.
At the very center of the old town is Monte di Pieta where you’ll find a stunning display of monuments and buildings from the past plus a good range of hotels to suit all budgets. Families with children would do well to stay in the newest part of the city center, Politeama Liberta as it’s one of the safer parts of the city. However, the upscale area is not for those on a budget.
For someone on a budget who wants to be close to the beach, Modello is a great option. The area is far removed from the touristy parts of the city so if you’re looking for a quiet getaway this is where you should head.
Another good option is to head to Cefalù which is a little over an hour by train or road from Palermo. The best hotels in Cefalù offer a wide range of amenities such as swimming pools and good restaurants among other things.
Grand Hotel Piazza Borsa
You’ll find quite a few good hotels in Palermo, Italy, such as the Grand Hotel Piazza Borsa near the city center. This gorgeous four-star hotel in the heart of the city is rich in charm and class. It’s also big on amenities.
Many classical details are on display here with arched columns a central courtyard and Art Nouveau architecture. You can expect large rooms that are comfortable and stylish with a good range of amenities. Some come with small balconies while all rooms feature shower/tub combos.
Guests can enjoy a free buffet breakfast in an interesting cavernous room with arched windows. The hotel also has an excellent restaurant, Kemonia, named after a river. After your day of sightseeing, you may want to unwind at the spacious spa or fitness center.
Off Via Roma in the historic center, you’ll find the Hotel Ambasciatori. It’s one of the best hotels in Palermo, Italy, if you’re looking for an affordable place near the center. The central train station is less than a 10-minute walk from here. There are plenty of shops and restaurants on Via Roma too.
This hotel is well suited to families because of the spacious guestrooms. It probably makes up for the lack of common spaces outside the rooms. Like most of the spaces in the hotel the rooms are simplistic with a low key decor and a range of standard comforts.
The standout of the hotel is undoubtedly the rooftop with its Italian restaurant, lounge, and solarium. It’s a good place to take in views of the surroundings and enjoy a meal at the same time. Apart from the restaurant, you’ll also find a small fitness room with a few exercise machines.
Belonging to the family of Sicily’s leading winemakers, Palazzo Planeta, is one of the best hotels in Palermo, Sicily for families or bigger groups. The hotel consists of seven spacious, luxury apartments between Via Roma and Piazza Florio. Besides the spacious accommodation, another reason why this hotel is an ideal base for families is its safe, central location. Most sights are within walking distance from here but you’ll also find bus stops nearby if you’re not in a mood to walk around.
Dating from the early 1900s, the historic palazzo has been the Planeta’s family residence for many years. The apartments are stylish and fully equipped to be a home away from home. High ceilinged rooms, balconies, parquet floors, and polished wooden furniture are what you can look forward to. Whilst the bedrooms are clean and comfortable, the kitchens are the standout with big fridges and other appliances a few small extras. For quick bites or a traditional Italian breakfast, there’s a café below.
Hotel Porta Felice & Spa
For those looking for hotels in Palermo, Italy, that are slightly removed from the center, Hotel Porta Felice & Spa is a great option. Located on the outskirts of the historic center, it’s closer to the sea. There are a few attractions within an easy stroll from the hotel, so you’re not totally cut off from the sights if you base yourself here.
The renovated historic building sports a cozy, contemporary vibe with cool colored furniture and metal wall sconces. It also has a ‘green philosophy’ with its solar panels, water conservation, and recycling policies. Chic guestrooms showcase black leather headboards and black wood closets.
You can enjoy a free breakfast at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant where dinner is also served. Other perks on offer at the hotel are a well-designed spa with a sauna, steam room, and whirlpool and also a fitness center.
Artemisia Palace Hotel
Situated near Piazza Politeama in the center of the city, Artemisia Palace Hotel beautifully blends the old and the new. Housed in a restored 20th-century palazzo, the hotel offers 19 sleek elegant rooms. The elegance combined with a great location, make the hotel one of the finest four-star hotels in Palermo, Italy. Most attractions are within easy walking distance of the hotel.
Though the building’s history is clearly visible in its exterior, the interiors are chic and modern. You’ll find beautifully furnished rooms that blend dark and light shades. Rooms feature a good range of amenities and spacious en-suite bathrooms. There’s only one junior suite in the hotel but superior double rooms come with a balcony. One downside to staying here is the lack of any big amenities. Other than the breakfast buffet and the hotel being pet-friendly, there’s not much else to look forward to. If you’re in the city to see the sights, you won’t be spending too much time in the hotel to notice the lack of amenities, given how comfortable the rooms are.
Hotel Palazzo Sitano
Within walking distance of the Vucciria and Ballaro street markets and the city’s old historic center, you’ll find Hotel Palazzo Sitano. Though the hotel is in proximity to many of the top attractions in the city, the immediate neighborhood might be a bit of a dampener. However, most guests tend to overlook this small obstacle as there is so much more to explore beyond the hotel.
One reason why the hotel ranks high among the hotels in Palermo, Italy, is its clean and tasteful interiors. The converted 18th-century Baroque townhouse offers sleek and airy common areas with hardwood floors and light marble. Guestrooms are also sleek with dark wood furnishings and a good range of amenities.
As with most hotels in Palermo, Sicily, guests begin the day with a complimentary breakfast. The hotel also has a small, modern spa which has a steam room and sauna.
If you’re looking for hotels in Palermo, Italy, that offer the best value, Alma Hotel tops the list. Located on the fourth floor of a converted office building half a block from the old town, you’re well placed to see the sights. Italy’s biggest opera house, Massimo Theater is a short five-minute walk from here while it’s about 10-minutes by bus to the Cathedral. You’ll also find two good markets and a few restaurants in the vicinity.
The hotel only has seven rooms but each is spotlessly clean with minimalistic decor. Despite this, you’ll find a good range of amenities and extremely comfy beds. Breakfast, which is included in the rate is a pretty good spread served in a simple dining room.
Grand Hotel Wagner
Not much has changed about the Grand Hotel Wagner in the past century so if you’re looking for historic hotels in Palermo, Sicily, near the center this is a great option. Named after the famous composer Richard Wagner, who often visited the city, stepping into the hotel is like taking a step back in time.
The stately old palazzo which houses the hotel serves as a prelude for what is to come. Beginning with the gleaming marble steps at the entrance to the gilded decorations and majestic chandelier in the lobby, everything about the hotel exudes the charm of a bygone era. Ornate guest rooms also reflect this style with hand-painted ceilings and antique furnishings. Though the hotel seems like it’s stuck in a time capsule, you’ll find quite a few modern comforts in each room.
Though the hotel prides itself on its grandeur, the amenities are quite limited. Other than a sumptuous buffet breakfast served on the top floor with indoor and outdoor seating, there’s no other dining option. The fitness center is pretty compact with only a handful of machines, but there’s also a wellness center and a sauna.
Palazzo Brunaccini may not be one of the best-located hotels in Palermo, Italy, given the immediate neighborhood. However, if you can look past that, it is a centrally located hotel within walking distance of many attractions. Right behind the hotel, you’ll find one of the oldest markets in the city, Ballaro historic market.
Modern rooms with antique accents add a touch of class to your stay. Light-colored wood and white bedsheets blend in beautifully with the décor. Guests can enjoy a complimentary breakfast that often receives outstanding reviews. Likewise with the on-site restaurant/bar Ristorante da Carlo, which is popular with locals too. For something unique to do, you could also sign up for a cooking class at the restaurant.
Palermo’s first boutique B&B stands out as one of the most charming hotels in Palermo, Italy. With its elegant interiors and excellent location, it’s no wonder the BB22 hotel climbs to the top of the listings. Whilst the main shopping street Via Roma is a three-minute walk from here, the Vucciria market is a little further away. However, the hotel’s location just behind the San Domenico Square puts you close to the sights and much of the action.
The hotel occupies the first and third floors of a 17th-century palazzo but does not have a lift. That being said, the marble staircase that leads to the rooms is pretty interesting with personalized objects. Guest rooms have an air of sophistication and style that make them stand out from the other boutique hotels. Each of the seven rooms is uniquely designed with tasteful furnishings and plenty of comforts to reflect the citrus fruit that it’s named after. You can enjoy a good simple breakfast in the morning that is included in the rate. As is the case with most of the smaller hotels in Palermo, Sicily, don’t expect anything else.
Rocco Forte Villa Igiea
Villa Igiea by the Rocco Forte group is a standout property with its gorgeous setting and history. For die-hard romantics, this is one of the best hotels in Palermo, Italy, that offers you your own private paradise. In existence as a hotel since the early 1900s, the hotel has seen the likes of royalty and power embrace its hospitality. From the King of Siam to Queen Alexandra and King Carlos of Spain, the hotel was once the much sought after destination by royalty and Hollywood in its heydey. Not surprising, given its opulence and style.
Contemporary flair is seamlessly interwoven into the historic fabric of the hotel to create an exquisite space. You’ll find the space furnished with classic antiques and calming shades with classic parquet or Carrara marble floors. The design is carried forward into the guest rooms which offer beautiful views through tall windows. Some rooms come with terraces that look out onto the sea.
Dining at the in-house restaurant is an experience in itself with carefully crafted menus by the chef. You can enjoy a laid-back breakfast, an al fresco lunch, or a delicious evening banquet. During the day relax at the outdoor pool that is nestled amidst landscaped gardens overlooking the sea.
If you’re in the city for the sights this may not be the ideal location as the hotel is quite removed from the center. It’s about 2 km to Palermo port from here.
Recommended Restaurants/ Bars in Palermo:
- Osteria Dei Vespri – If your tastebuds are craving authentic Sicilian food, this is the perfect place right in the heart of ancient Palermo. Run by the Rizzo brothers, the restaurant offers a choice between the Earth or Classic tasting menus. The food here is top-notch which makes it one of the more popular restaurants in the city.
- Street Food and History Walking Tour – One of the best ways to indulge in authentic local cuisine is to taste it at a street stall. This walk through the streets of the old town will give you a chance to test five typical street foods while you also learn about the local culture and landmarks.
- Il Baro – You can’t leave Sicily without tasting its pizza and one of the best places to indulge yourself is at this restaurant. There are over 60 specialties of pizza on offer here plus a range of other delicious Italian dishes.
Recommended Activities in Palermo:
- Markets of Palermo (Ballaro, Vucciria, Capo) – For those who enjoy a good bargain these three old markets are where you should head. These historic markets have been in operation for centuries and are the best places to get a feel for the culture. However, it’s best to leave any valuables behind if you are going to visit the outdoor markets.
- Exclusive Art Tour – This small-group half-day tour will take you through the winding streets of the Politeama district to discover its historical monuments. Visit the Palermo Cathedral and other iconic buildings such as the Teatro Massimo and Teatro Polieteama.
- Cappella Palatina – This 12th-century royal chapel designed by Roger II is one of the top attractions in Palermo. Glittering gold mosaics, inlaid marble floors, and wooden ceiling will take your breath away. Make sure you’ve dressed appropriately or you will not be allowed to enter.