Palermo Gay Travel
wolfyy’s Palermo gay travel guide to hotels, things to do, gay bars, & local gay life.
The Gay Travel Experience: Palermo, Italy
Palermo is a gem of a city and has much more gay life than you might think! When many of us think of southern Italy, conservative values often come to mind. But that hasn’t stopped the Palermo gay scene from thriving, especially in a city that loves to party.
I honestly found it surprising how accepting Sicily, and Palermo particularly, is for gay travelers. After spending an evening with a gay local born and living in Palermo, he explained that the city is generally accepting of LGBT people.
And while there are certainly exceptions where some members of the LGBT community may potentially face hardships that others don’t, the overall experience is fun, friendly, and quite safe for Palermo gay travelers. I’d absolutely go back!
While my visit to Palermo was planned before the famous second season of The White Lotus was released, I can’t deny that the series made me even more excited to see the city.
In this guide, I’ll help you get the most out of Palermo and share the essential info for local attractions, gay bars, where to stay, and more.
Gay Palermo: Hotels & Where to Stay
The general Politeama Libertà and Borgo Vecchio area is one of the best places to stay in Palermo.
The southern end of these neighborhoods are especially convenient if you’ll be visiting with a car since it’s as close to the Palermo Historic Center as you’ll be able to drive to before things get super crowded or you reach the pedestrian zone.
Hotels in Politeama Libertà and Borgo Vecchio will typically offer better value than those directly in the city center as well. The neighborhood is walkable, quieter in the evenings, and still within a short walk to Palermo’s center.
Historic Center hotels are also popular. They’re better suited to those who want to have conveniently quick access to popular attractions, restaurants, and nightlife.
If you’re coming to Palermo specifically for a seaside getaway, then Mondello is the place to stay. This is the city’s popular beach area located about 20 minutes north of the center by car.
Staying at the gorgeous Palazzo Planeta in Politeama Libertà with my partner Michael was such a treat. We loved having a full kitchen, lots of space, laundry, and a private rooftop terrace.
It’s located only a 10-minute walk from the city’s central attractions, top nightlife centers, the port, and much more.
The gay-welcoming hosts were so friendly and detail oriented. Our villa’s air conditioning was excellent too, which is essential considering how hot it gets each summer.
This is just one recommendation—there are plenty more hotel options in Palermo to choose from that will fit your budget and style.
Palermo Gay Travel Experiences
Mercato di Ballarò
Mercato di Ballarò was my absolute favorite experience while visiting Palermo. This food market is known for being chaotic, and it is amazingly so.
Vendors clamor around pedestrians, vying to sell their fruit, seafood, and gifts. I think they like the attention they get, too!
Before going, I read a blog or two mentioning that the market is rough, or “not the safest.”
After visiting though, I’d have to disagree. Mercato di Ballarò is totally safe. But as you would in any other crowded market in Europe, don’t become a target for pickpockets.
The Palermo Cathedral
Exploring the Palermo Cathedral was more thrilling than any other cathedral I’ve visited. The church’s main interior was beautiful, yes—but the fun part was the journey up to the roof levels.
For less than 10 euros, you can experience both the roofs and the crypts of the cathedral. After climbing a series of outdoor staircases, the views you’ll see from the top are breathtaking.
I loved getting a panoramic look at the city. The cooling wind up there was refreshing, too.
Villa Bonanno is a beautiful little park not too far from the Palermo Cathedral. I found it to be super tranquil, perfect for a stroll after seeing some of the busier attractions around. There are lots of beautiful flowers and tall palm trees.
Cattedrale di Monreale
Cattedrale di Monreale is one of the most famous attractions in Sicily. People come to see the stunning Byzantine mosaics throughout the interior, along with the cloisters.
A visit is definitely worth it if you have a car since the cathedral is about 25 to 30 minutes outside of central Palermo. Parking nearby is also cheap and easy.
If you don’t have a vehicle, then you might want to consider joining a day trip to Monreale and Cefalù.
Entry into the cathedral is free, but you’ll need a ticket to go to the cloisters or the roof.
Also, note that they close from 12:45 PM until 2 PM most days and they have a strict dress code policy. But, in case you forget, they’ll sell you a cheap cover-up.
Not only was the cathedral enjoyable, but so was the town of Monreale. It sits atop a mountain, so the air is a bit cooler. It’s perfect to enjoy lunch outside at one of the cafes or take a walk to see the wonderful views of central Palermo below.
Quattro Canti, or “four corners” is an unmissable landmark in Palermo. You’ll likely find yourself in the middle of this plaza intersection without even trying. It’s part of the heart of the city, bustling with people.
During the late afternoons and evenings, people crowd into streetside restaurants, especially on the weekend. This part of the city has great nightlife and is close to other popular local nightlife spots.
Palermo’s Gay Beach
While it’s not nearly as busy as the world’s top gay beaches, the area of Sferracavallo outside of Palermo does have an unofficial gay beach.
Riserva Naturale Capo Gallo is the area you’ll want to reach. This beach area is technically a traditional nudist spot, but gay beachgoers tend to relax on the rocks a bit eastward along the shore.
The coast is quite rocky, so be sure to bring a pair of water shoes.
Palermo Gay Bars & Nightlife
Palermo has one of the most vibrant nightlife scenes of any Italian city I’ve visited. People fill narrow local streets packed with bars, enjoying themselves late into the night.
Locals of all ages are around too. While I was out and about on a Saturday night, I noticed a particularly young crowd in a few central areas of the city.
While there is one main Palermo gay bar (mentioned below) and locals will confirm it’s a fantastic place, it’s not necessarily going to be the single place to find all of the city’s gay population.
Since there aren’t many LGBT venues, gay locals spread out among bars in different areas of the city center.
For instance, there were plenty of people out along narrow streets east of the intersection of Via Roma and Via Vittorio Emanuele.
A gay local I met in Palermo ran into several of his friends while we strolled Via Alessandro Paternostro on a Saturday night.
EXIT10&LOVE is Palermo’s signature gay bar where you can find a welcoming crowd along with sexy dancers, bartenders, and the best local drag queens.
The bar is conveniently located near the city’s center and worth stopping by, especially on a weekend.
Fun fact—EXIT10&LOVE is largely where the drag queen Aura Eternal has performed, who placed in the top three on both Drag Race Italia and the Queen of the Universe Season 2.
She’s a Palermo native and still performs in this gay bar! You can also always catch her somewhere at Palermo Pride!
Laguna Blu Caterina Pub
Laguna Blu Caterina Pub is known to be the unofficial lesbian bar in Palermo. I haven’t been here, but it seems to have a great reputation online!
Palermo Gay Travel Tips
24-Hour Self-Service Kiosks
There are a bunch of miniature laundromat and convenience item kiosks all around Palermo called Trinacria Self H24.
I totally would not have expected to see something like this. They’re these little modern nooks that are open the sidewalk, and can really come in handy. Need to do laundry or a snack late at night? No problem.
Renting & Visiting Palermo by Car
I highly recommend renting a car if possible because seeing attractions outside Palermo as well as Sicily’s other amazing destinations is worth it!
It’s not expensive and saves you the hassle of finding taxis or using public transport in Palermo, which can be challenging.
I thought a little driving was fun. Fun fact, the city barely has any traffic lights. It’s all basically yielding at marked crosswalks.
Before renting your car, there are a few things to remember. First, don’t get a large vehicle—they make navigating more difficult and sometimes barely fit into parking garages.
Second, most options are manual. if you need an automatic, I’d suggest booking well in advance. Lastly, bring some change or small bills for toll roads throughout Sicily. There are tons of long tunnels through mountainsides.
Summer Temperatures Soar
The combination of intense summer heat and humidity in Palermo is no joke! Daytime high temperatures above 90 degrees F (33 degrees Celsius) are common most of July and August.
And if there’s one of those ever more common heat waves, it can get much higher.
Fellow gay travelers, I highly recommend bringing a sweat handkerchief (I always have one to combat sweating through shirts), and lightweight breathable clothing.
While you’re in Sicily, consider stopping in the popular destination of Taormina!
For more inspiration, explore wolfyy’s full collection of gay travel guides.