A heady cocktail of whizzing Vespas and serene basilicas, ramshackle fish bazaars and Byzantine artworks, Palermo is a fine welcome to the island of Sicily. Tucked onto the northern shores, it’s the same hubbub of life it was during the ages of the Phoenician Greeks, the Romans, the Normans, the Moors – the list goes on! Attitude and energy are everywhere. You’ll encounter yelling salespeople, rude drivers, leather-faced fishermen and moustachioed coffee drinkers between the vibrant piazzas and back alleys. That all adds to the charm, but don’t forget that gorgeous beaches and mountains also await just over the horizon.
Airbnb in Palermo is packed with accommodation choices. At the top end are sumptuous apartments housed in ancient palazzos, spilling out into al fresco terraces under the shade of carved stone cloisters. For budget seekers, there are dorm beds in backpacker hostels or simple flats with mini kitchenettes up for grabs. This guide can help you home in on the area of the big city that suits you the most, and comes with a few curated recommendations on the hottest Airbnbs in Palermo today…
There are no legal limits on the use of Airbnb in Palermo. That means you can get stuck into the thousands of urban homes and seaside pads that await in this northern corner of Sicily and not worry about falling foul of the law. Owners of properties are asked to register their listings and must charge each guest the relevant tourist tax, which ranges from €0.50 to €4 a night, depending on the quality of the stay. You might also be asked to show your ID or passport upon check-in, just as you would in a conventional hotel.
Where should I stay in Palermo Airbnb?
The higgledy-piggledy nature of old Palermo is a symptom of the city’s millennia of expansion and variety of masters. The ancient heart of it all ranges through all sorts of neighbourhoods, from the bustling market hub of Castellammare o Loggia(1) to ramshackle Il Capo(2) to the UNESCO monuments of the Old Town(3) to the most ancient area of Albergheria(4). There are new parts of the metropolis on the menu to boot – check out Politeama(5) for nightlife and wider streets. During the hot Sicilian summer, you might also want to consider a Palermo Airbnb up in Mondello(6), where brilliant beaches and sea swimming await.
Castellammare o Loggia
The fantastic Mercato Vucciria
Hidden osterias for lunch
Unique street layouts
Really hard to navigate – it’s a maze!
Always busy, particularly in the height of the tourist season
Castellammare o Loggia is a labyrinthine corner of old Palermo that’s been a hubbub of life and action since the very earliest days of the city. Its main attraction is unquestionably the vast Mercato Vucciria – a seemingly endless open-air street bazaar that’s brimming with pungent cheeses, arancini balls, spices, fruit and veg. As the area edges towards the ports of La Cala, it also offers up a smorgasbord of hidden osterias and wine bars. Half the fun is getting lost there, amid the winding alleys and the dead-end streets.
Directly to the west of Castellammare o Loggia, Il Capo takes over the reins with its own street markets and shopping strips. This is a land of narrow alleys and echoing thoroughfares, where locals shop for muddy tomatoes and bulbous melons amid the crooked stalls. There are some jewels in the crown that Il Capo loves to flaunt. Chief among them has to be the Teatro Massimo out on the eastern fringes – that’s the largest opera house in all of Italy.
The Palermo Old Town artfully fuses the crude and the magnificent. On one street, you could see street vendors gutting fish catches. On another you might stumble upon a gurgling Baroque water feature (check out the Fontana Pretoria) or a handsome stretch of paint-peeling Sicilian mansions that date to the turn of the century. The main drag of Corso Vittoria Emanuele sums up the district perfectly. It’s a hubbub of cafes and trattoria and gritty bars that vie for attention, but culminates at the eye-watering UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Cattedrale di Palermo.
History oozes from each of the marble façades and proud Norman churches that converge on the enthralling area of Albergheria. It’s certainly one for the culture vultures, as the streets here display the oldest remnants of the island capital, some dating as far back as the Phoenician Greeks in the centuries long before Christ. Another market – the Ballaro Market – also pops up in Albergheria. It’s the ingredient that shows this district is no museum piece, thanks to haggling shopkeepers and pandemonius rows of fishmongers, veg sellers, butchers and more.
Wedged between the port of Palermo and the maze-like interior of the old city, Politeama is a taste of the newer sprawl of Sicily’s capital. It’s arranged in an organised grid pattern (a welcome change from the rest of the downtown) and has wide, tree-lined streets that can host al fresco cantinas and trattoria in the evening. It’s all a little less claustrophobic than the haphazard urban planning of ancient Palermo, which helps to create cocktail-doused nightlife hubs around Via La Lumia and Piazza Bagnasco.
Just 35 minutes’ drive from the very beating heart of the city, the little exclave of Mondello offers a bout of sand and sea. It’s fronted by a long curve of glowing white powder – the Spiaggia di Mondello – that slopes into a glimmering bay of typically Mediterranean blue water. There’s a bustling promenade just behind the beach that’s laden with sleek cocktail joints and sunset cafés. Beyond are blocks of B&Bs and Airbnbs, all slowly reaching up to the rugged heights of the Capo Gallo Reserve – great for nature lovers and hikers.
There’s enough at the Art-Apartment to leave you feeling truly immersed in the history and hertiage of Palermo. Rooms adorned with Moorish tiles and classical Italian furniture combine with touches of Moroccan earthiness and vaulted ceilings that hearken back to the middle ages. The piece de resistance is surely the open terrace, which is packed with citrus trees and housed under a handsome metal loggia.
It’s almost impossible to believe that the great green garden and covered patios of the Casa Volta are so close to the historic middle of Sicily’s capital. The house is a little fold of peace and serenity, offering a trio of separate bedrooms, a private kitchen, and beautifully refurbished modern bathrooms right on the doorstep of Politeama and the port.
In an enchanting palazzo that dates all the way back to the 1600s, this spacious three-bedroom flat offers families a pad right in the beating heart of the historic core of Palermo. With cathedrals on one side and opera houses on the other, you can relax knowing you’re within striking distance of all the main sights. Talking of relaxing…that sun-splashed rooftop terrace is the prime spot for a little R&R.
Huddled into the old-school Kalsa district between centuries-old Moorish ruins and homes, this big penthouse apartment counts four bedrooms and four bathrooms. That gives it a total capacity of up to 15 guests across eight individual beds. Up above, the rooftop terrace is the jewel in the crown. It’s a space where everyone can gather for an evening Aperitivo to watch the sunset over the city and the Sicilian mountains.
Perfect for families, couples, or small groups, this 80-square-metre apartment is just a few blocks back from the shimmering sands of Mondello Beach. To make the most of the setting, it’s got its own large solarium on the roof, along with a cracking side-on views over the Mediterranean Sea. Inside, a large kitchen-diner area and an L-shaped lounge only add to the draws.
Probably. Airbnbs are often just a smidgen cheaper than comparable hotels. Of course, you can still pay more for the most luxurious pads, but you’ll also be able to find plenty that’s easy on the wallet. In addition, larger rental options mean you can cut costs by sharing with all your travel buddies, while self-catering keeps you from dropping euros on the Palermo street-food stalls and osteria (there are great veg and fruit markets to help you cook, too!).
One downside of an Airbnb is the lack of dedicated service. Only hotels will offer on-demand concierges, on-site tour planning, breakfast meals, daily housekeeping and the like. To enjoy all of that, you might want to book something like Eurostars Centrale Palace Hotel. It’s got a fine location on the bustling Corso Vittoria Emanuele in the midst of the Vecchio Centro, so you’ll be close to the sights but also get all the creature comforts you could hope for.
Delve into the wonderland that is Sicily by choosing to start your adventure in the buzzy capital of Palermo. It’s awash with Arab and Norman and grand medieval landmarks, and also has some seriously sumptuous Airbnbs immersed in the middle of it all.