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Sicily's capital promises a bit more adventure than your average island city break. Its wonderfully dishevelled buildings on slightly chaotic streets show the architectural marks of this island's many invaders. And its residents have a reputation for being colourful characters, many of them rule bending! The Hotel Guru's picks of the best places to stay in Palermo are small B&Bs from where you can explore this fascinating city to the max.
Palermo's unpredictability can be a great positive, and may allow you to see more than just your guide book's recommendations. But before you go off exploring, make sure you visit:
- the Cappella Palatina, a beautiful chapel full of wonderfully detailed mosaics;
- Palermo's giant fountain, the Fontana Pretoria, in the Piazza Pretoria;
- Palermo's palace, the Palazzo dei Normanni, used as a parliament building during the week, but open to visitors to marvel at its wonderful artworks on the weekend.
- And the opera house: Teatro Massimo, one of the city's iconic landmarks and made even more famous by its appearance in the final scene of The Godfather: Part III.
A Foodie's Palermo
It's no coincidence that Coppola's mafia men knock up spaghetti and meatballs to feed twenty just as easily as they knock about shopkeepers - food, and cooking, are central to the Sicilian way of life.
And only the very freshest ingredients will do, which is why the Ballarò market is such a vibrant place to visit. Fish, vegetables, herbs, blood oranges, cheeses, saffron, chickpeas - this market has a bounty of everything!
Established by Arab invaders about a thousand years ago, you can still see the Moorish influences in its souk-similarity. This is one of the best places to eat as well - the food stalls serve food fit for a Don.
The Mercato del Capo is also worth a wander through, as is Sapori e dei Saperi della Legalita, which only sells goodies produced on land confiscated from the mafia.
The grandeur of Palermo's patterned cathedral, the lovingly ornate detail of the Oratorio del Rosario, the beautiful restoration of La Martorana, a 12th Century church, and the Gothic grace of Chiesa de San Francesco d'Assisi show the importance of religion to Palermo's history.
As well its importance to the mafia, Palermo's religious bent saw it take quite strongly to the Inquisition. And despite the relatively small number of Protestants or Jews to target, Palermo's Inquisition Prison, in the Palazzo Chiaromonte Steri, was quite full. The prisoners here spent time adding their marks to the walls, and some of this colourful graffiti and art remains today. The museum, in what were once cells, is definitely worth a stroll through.
Some of the best places to stay in Palermo are its boutique B&Bs. Small and carefully designed, these are scattered throughout the city.
- If you want to be right in the historic heart of town try the modern boutique decor of BB22.
- If you're travelling with a family try Maxim B&B, it's right near the long sandy beach of Mondello.
Still not sure where to book? Browse through our list of all the best places to stay in Palermo, or contact, one of our friendly gurus for advice. Alternatively check our full list of recommendations in Sicily.
Best Hotels in Palermo
B&B Il Giardino di Ballaro 5 rooms from $49Palermo (75/77)
Charming, characterful, colourful boutique B&B in the heart of historical Palmero. Rooms with quirky art and furnishings, air conditioning and direct access to lovely outdoor courtyard. Traditional Sicilian breakfast available. Child friendly and great value.Sights nearby - Moment from cathedral, Cappella Palatina, Tower of San NicolòLocal markets - Close to BallaròGreat walks - Good for walkers.
B&B Delle Vittorie 5 rooms from $113Palermo
A chic and contemporary B&B, in the heart of the old city. Elegant and understated interiors, are matched by excellent service and a friendly atmosphere. Perfectly located for explore all the city has to offer, from bars and restaurants to museums and cathedrals. An excellent breakfast is included.Romantic Break - A pampering pad in the centre of the city, boasting comfy and stylish suites, four poster beds and excellent views.Local markets - Just a short stroll to the popular markets of Ballarò and Vucciria, head down to pick up some regional specialities.Sights nearby - Within walking distance of the Cathedral, the Quattro Canti, the Teatro Massimo, the Royal Palace.Great walks - Right in the centre of the historic old city, head out and explore her streets on foot.
Principe di villafranca 32 rooms from $114Palermo
Boutique hotel in the heart of Palermo, a short walk from the Politeama and Massimo theatres. Rooms have antique furnishings, marble floors, and vaulted ceilings giving an authentic, luxurious feel. A cozy Sicilian restaurant at the hotel and many bars on nearby streets. Ideal for work or pleasure.Great walks - Walk the city from Via Maqueda and Corso Vittorio EmanuelSights nearby - Explore 16th-century catacombsLocal markets - Explore Ballarò MarketRecommended by - Fodors
BB22 6 rooms from $115Palermo
Excellent boutique B&B with attractive bedrooms in Palermo. Rooms and one suite combine contemporary lighting, artwork, and jazzy wallpapers with parquet floors, gilt mirrors and stand alone bathtubs. A great city spot for a romantic holiday.HoneymoonsRomantic BreakSights nearby - Situated in the heart of historic PalermoRestrictions on children - Children over 8 welcome.Recommended by - I Escape
Maxim B&B 5 rooms from $115Palermo
A sweet, great value B&B in a central location in Palermo. Charming rooms and one suite have parquet floors, creamy tones, four poster beds and occasional modern art. Close to beaches and sights. Family friendly.Value chicSights nearby - Central Palermo so easy access to all the sightsLocal markets - Vucciria, Ballarò and del Capo street markets.Four poster beds - For romantics.Recommended by - I Escape