Planning your trip to Sicily? Not sure where to stay in Sicily? This guide breaks down the best areas in Sicily for all travelers and budgets!
Sicily is perhaps equally known for being easily identifiable on a map – it is the ‘football’ getting a kick from the boot of mainland Italy – and as being the birthplace of the Mafia.
It has so much more to offer than these factors though: the island is beautiful, bursting with agricultural produce, hand-crafted wares and friendly and welcoming people.
Friendly and welcoming, that is, as long as you do not go there aiming to find criminality and villains: Sicily’s history as home to the cosa nostra is something many of the residents prefer not to glamorise.
But if you want to enjoy the positive aspects of the island, the locals will make you feel at home.
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Where to stay in Sicily: 14 Best Areas to Stay in Sicily
1. Palermo, the capital of Sicily
Despite Sicily’s fearsome reputation with Hollywood, a recent study of the twelve biggest cities in the whole of Italy saw Palermo score the lowest crime rate of all.
Having said that, opportunistic theft can occur in any city at any time, so be wary of showing off expensive equipment, wads of cash and loosely secured valuables.
Women might find themselves the target of wolf whistles and cat-calls, but during the day, at least, this is nothing to worry about. Walking alone at night is not recommended for anyone.
Get around Palermo in a number of ways: buses are cheap but quite unreliable and to be avoided if you are on a tight schedule. The bus system officially runs from 5.30am until 11.30pm, but quite often there is no bus after 10.30pm!
Bus tickets are very cheap, and do not be inclined to dodge the fare as they are monitored and fines for improper tickets can be very expensive.
There is a skeleton subway service in the city and also a partial tram service, which will get you to the most popular tourist areas in Mondello, Old Town and Politema/ Liberta.
Much of Palermo is easily accessible by foot if you like walking and are not going far, but do check out the weather report before committing to long hours in the sun.
The three areas mentioned above are the parts of the city best geared for tourists, and you will find few hotels or accommodations outside of these places.
Inside the tourist zone, there is a good range of hotels – from budget, to mid-level, to a few offering high-end luxury – apartments and B&Bs (bed and breakfasts).
Entertainment-wise, there is somewhere to go and be seen at almost any time of day. From diners and café-style restaurants, to coffee-bars and wine-shops, to more formal dining and nightclubs, you need never eat in your hotel room if you do not want to!
There are also castles, cinemas and the immense Massimo Teatro where you can even take in an opera. Palermo has a little of something for everyone.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN PALERMO
2. Catania, nice city to stay in Sicily to explore the island
On the east coast of Sicily and in the shadow of the island’s famous volcano, Catania is the second largest Sicilian city after Palermo.
The crime rate is moderate, with risk of pickpockets increasing in crowded areas and on public transport, and muggings being fairly prevalent.
However, travelling in a group, avoiding the streets after dark, and ensuring that valuables are not on display while travelling about can all minimise your risks tremendously.
Catania’s mild crime problem is a new one – the city’s burgeoning tourist industry has encouraged a criminal element to seek their fortunes in the area!
Living in the shadow of an active volcano is something to be respectful of. Should an evacuation warning sound while you are in Catania, immediately make preparations and leave as ordered!
Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, with rumblings and lava spurts occurring frequently. The volcano has even been known to blow smoke rings – perhaps a clear sign that the volcano is aware of its popularity with the many tourists that flock to Catania every year!
Getting around Catania is best done on foot, if possible. The city centre is compact and well-pedestrianised and it is easy enough to stroll across the area without too much effort.
To go further afield, the bus services are reasonable, with the various routes running between 10 and 40 minutes apart.
A train system circles around the city centre, which is useful for those wanting to dart about the city, while driving within that system of pedestrianised roads, one-way streets and impatient fellow road users can make having your own car more of a trial than not.
Entertainment-wise, the city lies in the shadow of Mount Etna. You can climb the mountain – as long as it is deemed safe to do so – or explore the wider area to see the scars caused by previous eruptions.
You can also take a small train that circles around the peak in nearly a full circle, from coast to coast.
Despite the devastation wrought to Catania over the years, there are still a surprising number of ancient sites to explore and admire, both Roman and Greek, as well as more modern enjoyments.
One of these is the famous elephant fountain, featuring an ancient statue of an elephant of unknown origin combined with other unique features such as an Egyptian obelisk. The fountain is believed to have magical powers and to protect the city from Etna’s eruptions.
Catania has a good number of restaurants, cafés, wine and coffee bars as well as thriving cocktail bars and nightlife. No matter what your social tastes are, you will find somewhere to feel home in Catania.
Like Palermo, Catania is designed for the cheap and cheerful holiday-makers with a plethora of B&Bs, three-star hotels and basic but fully equipped short-term rental apartments.
There are some high-end offerings too, for the more hedonistic travellers, but for the most part Catania is welcoming of the low-budget student traveller who will be made welcome on arrival!
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN CATANIA
3. Cefalu, good place to stay in Sicily for families
If this Sicilian city’s name sounds a little Greek to you, that’s because it is! The headland was settled by the Greeks in around 400BC, and their name for the settlement stood the test of time.
Just under 40 miles away from Palermo, Cefalu seems to come from a different time – a more peaceful and laid-back time where the days pass slowly and with enjoyment.
The cathedral dominates the central square which is the place to hang out and be seen. The ancient fishing town is becoming more popular with tourists as they discover the beauty of its coastline and pristine sandy beaches.
Cefalu is a very safe and family friendly town, the perfect destination for a relaxed family holiday, as well as for singles and couples. The crime rate is very low, and there is no culture of drinking or high-risk behaviours that might otherwise present the chance of harm.
While Cefalu is welcoming of tourists, it is not quite yet a full tourist resort city, so it is a great place to visit if you want to get a sense of what authentic laid-back Sicilian life is like. Being relatively small, it is easiest to get around Cefalu on foot.
The city is fairly flat so wheelchairs and pushchairs can expect reasonable access, but do check with shops and restaurants about internal stairs and access before committing to a booking.
There is no frenetic nightlife in Cefalu (but Palermo is just an hour or so’s drive away) but there are ancient sites to explore, coffee shops and bars to frequent, and restaurants serving fresh and delicious seafood in authentic Sicilian dishes.
Not for the party-hard crowd, Cefalu is a place where to stay in Sicily for relaxation, steeping oneself in history and gaining a tranquil sense of belonging.
Cefalu only has a small selection of visitor accommodation, but it is a comprehensive selection with a fairly high-end hotel for those who need their luxuries, mid-range to budget hotels, B&Bs and self-catering apartments to suit the tastes and pockets of all.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN CEFALU
4. Taormina, one of the best places to stay in Sicily
A tourist area in the Metropolitan City of Messina, Taormina has long been the go-to destination of tourists in Sicily.
The likes of Oscar Wilde, Alexander Dumas, and D H Lawrence have all visited here, as have many Hollywood stars like Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor and more.
The area’s popularity is easily understood: it is simply beautiful, with blue seas, picturesque buildings spilling down the mountainside in aesthetically pleasing array.
Medieval ruins and buildings beg to be explored, and on all sides are views that take the breath away.
Taormina is mostly safe, with only the usual strictures about looking out for pick-pockets and not displaying wads of cash or valuables in a flagrant manner.
Getting around Taormina is simple: it takes a mere fifteen minutes to walk from end to end, and the cable car to and from the beach takes the strain out of lazy beachside days.
There is no parking within the area, so having your own vehicle may turn out to be more of a hindrance than not, but most resorts run a complimentary shuttle bus service that takes their guests into town or down to the beach and then back to the hotel afterwards to make sure your indulgent holiday remains that way.
Taormina’s hilltop location makes the walk to (and especially from) the beach a daunting one but there are cable cars that offer a leg-relieving lift down to several nearby beaches, all with spectacular views as you travel.
In Taormina itself, there are ancient sites to admire, including the famous Greek theatre, boutique shops, coffee shops and wine bars for daytime, as well as several long rambling pathways for dedicated walkers.
At night, there is a lively variety of pubs, clubs and lounge bars where you can dress up and be seen.
Taormina has the full range of holiday accommodation with five-star elegance ranging down to self-catered one-bed apartments – and the whole gamut of holiday residences in between!
Expect to pay slightly higher princes in Taormina than in, for example, Cefalu, because the area’s income is predominantly based around tourist income – but the amenities and facilities are vastly superior too, making the extra expense well worth the cost.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN TAORMINA
5. Trapani, charming old town and gateway to Aegadian Islands
Trapani is named for the curved shape of its harbour which resembles a sickle. It was said to be Demeter’s sickle, dropped from her hands when Hades took her daughter, Persephone, to the underworld.
Continuously occupied for the last 2,500 years, Trapani passed from Greek hands to Roman, and then Vandal, Ostragoth, Byzantine and Arab hands, before becoming a base for the Crusades, a happenstance that gave the city-state (commune) immense importance.
Today, the city is supported by fishing, canning and salt harvesting, as well as forming a major ferry harbour for vessels plying the route to the various smaller islands nearby, such as the Egadi Islands.
Trapani, being a tourist town, is very safe for tourists, with only the usual encouragement to be safe, sensible and not tempt opportunistic thieves. The crime rate is low for tourists, and even when the local underworld is suffering upheaval, this is rarely an issue for visitors and those at the hotels and on the beaches.
Trapani’s multicultural past has left a wonderful legacy of ancient buildings to explore. From the medieval village of Erice, built by the Normans on the ruins of a temple.
There is also a salt museum, the Scurati Caves which feature prehistoric rock paintings (showing that the islands occupation goes back much further than anyone can really say) and the local cathedral, a magnificent edifice dating back to the 1500s.
There is also a museum of illusions which is an excellent way to pass the time.
Trapani has invested heavily in its local nightlife attractions in order to appeal to a more youthful demographic. This means that no matter what your tastes, you can have a good time in Trapani.
Trapani is a popular place to stay in Sicily and is packed with hotels, apartments and B&Bs of all sorts, ranging from modest budget friendliness to four-star comfort, with prices to match.
The area is accustomed to plenty of guests, so you will find your every need catered for, and the excellent customer service that is generally found in high-hospitality areas.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SICILY IN TRAPANI
6. Messina, packed with beautiful old architecture and museums
Messina lies on the point of the triangular island of Sicily that is closest to mainland Italy, and it is a thriving port city, deriving its income from tourism – especially from cruises – agriculture of citrus fruit, olives and wine grapes; and commerce.
The city has long been known – Shakespeare even based two of his plays in the city (Much Ado About Nothing and Anthony and Cleopatra). Any visit to Messina should begin in the immense central square, which offers easy access to the beautiful bell-tower and the immense cathedral.
In fact, the whole city is packed with beautiful old architecture and museums and galleries displaying the many artistic wonders that were either created in Messina, or were created by sons (or daughters) of Messina.
The city is largely safe with the worst criminal activities taking the form of petty theft and vandalism – cars being broken into for the valuables left accidentally on display, for example. As long as reasonable precautions are taken, you will be very safe in Messina.
Getting around Messina is easily done. Buses ply regular routes around the city, and you can easily bus your way from hotel to attraction after attraction before returning to your hotel having seen all the sights. Or as many of them as you can find in one day, anyway!
Walking is also an excellent way of getting about, with much of Messina within easy walking distance. For those days when you are in a rush or simply don’t feel like walking or using the bus, there are cabs readily available from three spots within the city.
Nightlife in Messina is less frenetic than traditional 18 to 30 destinations, but it is still vibrant, sociable and welcoming with plenty of restaurants, pubs and clubs staying open late, serving food and offering a welcoming ambiance for chat or flirtation, as well as dancing for those who need to move their bodies.
Hotels and apartments abound in Messina, ranging from the cheap and cheerful budget hotel room that holds a bed and a bathroom with little room for anything else, to luxury suites for the more hedonistic visitor.
Messina is a vibrant and welcoming city, so no matter which room you opt for, you will not spend too much time there as you will be out, exploring and getting to know the locals!
B&Bs are also available for those who need a hearty breakfast in the morning, but who like to try local restaurants, cafés and even street food for lunch and dinner.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN MESSINA
7. Siracusa, great place to stay in Sicily for sightseeing
Nearly 3,000 years old, Siracusa (also styled Syracuse by some English writers) is famed as the birthplace of Archimedes, at a time when the city was a vitally important trading link in European trade as well as being a military staging post.
As with much of Sicily, the city is filled with signs of the past: with Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Baroque buildings and influences easily seen even under the veneer of modern urbanity.
These remnants have seen the city declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, especially in the light of the benefits brought to the entire world from this relatively small region.
Siracusa is largely a safe place to live and visit, although locals do fret that as more tourists are drawn to the city, so too are pickpockets and other opportunistic felons.
There are some minor issues with drug use and the petty crime that often accompanies this, but by and large, tourists are left alone as the islanders are all too aware that tourist money is the bread and butter of many of the businesses on the island.
With most of the sights gathered within walking distance – even the furthest flung attraction is a mere 25 minutes’ stroll – getting around Siracusa is best done on foot.
Buses do service the area, and you can buy tickets that are valid for two hours, or opt for day or even week passes if you will be travelling a lot.
Tickets are sold in convenience stores rather than on the buses, so do read up on the process or ask at your accommodation how it all works. There are some free shuttle buses to other parts of Sicily or even to the mainland on offer also.
The daytime activities in Siracusa mainly revolve around the wonderful historic buildings, museums that deal with artefacts and fascinating items from the past – but at night party-animals can come into their own.
There are not a lot of nightclubs in the city, but the ones that do exist offer a full package: the latest sounds, professional DJs, lights, foam and inflatables – everything you need to let your hair down while on holiday.
Siracusa offers a charming mixture of high-end boutique hotels and budget-friendly B&Bs so you can choose the right accommodations for your tastes and your budget without needing to compromise on either.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SICILY IN SIRACUSA
8. Noto, the capital of Sicilian Baroque architecture
Like many areas in Sicily, Noto is a city-state, properly called a commune, but very different to the English/ American ideals of hippy-style communes. Think of them as counties that just happen to be cities at the same time, but there is no exact English translation for the Italian concept.
The city is small but is considered the capital of Sicilian Baroque architecture, and the region is also know for its astronomical telescopic array and its wine producers than it is for tourism.
Having said that, it is a wonderful place to visit to catch a glimpse of the authentic Sicily and there is very little crime of any kind.
However, you may have to do without some of the usual hospitable factors that make travel a hedonistic pleasure – some hotel or B&B owners might only speak Italian, for example.
The hotels are few and far between, but given the low numbers of visitors, this is unlikely to be a problem: there is a good range to suit all preferences and economies, so you are all but guaranteed to get the type of room you want.
Public transport is rare – cutbacks have seen an already modest service slashed to the bone, so Noto is perhaps best done with access to your own vehicle. Much of Noto can be explored on foot, but this does not take long and you will soon be itching to get further afield.
There are just a few pubs, clubs and restaurants in Noto, mostly designed for the use of locals.
This is not to say that you will not have a good time in Noto, just that if back-to-back raves and thousand-strong discos are your preference, Noto might not be the destination where to stay in Sicily for you, being more suited to laid back, authentic holidays.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN NOTO
9. Agrigento, the Valley of Temples
Once a seat of the ancient Greek Empire, Agrigento today makes a living from its past. Agrigento is home to the best-known tourist attraction in Sicily: the Valley of Temples.
The archaeological richness of this part of the island ensures a steady stream of romantics looking to fit locations to myths, archaeologists looking to uncover the next big find, and plenty of interested amateurs just wanting to spend some time in the Sicilian sun and feel close to the three-thousand-year-old history of the island.
Being on the far (westernmost) point of Sicily, Agrigento is largely free of major crimes, with even petty crime being lower than the national average, and people able to walk freely at almost any time of day or night without worries.
Buses run regularly between transport hubs and attractions, and walking or catching a bus are the recommended ways to get around Agrigento.
During the day, take in as many of the wonderful Greek buildings as you can – perhaps even visit a dig site, and certainly take the time to visit the museum where you can see the artifacts depicted as they would have been put to use in their own time.
As with much of Sicily, there tends to be a new and still fairly light smattering of nightclubs, with more outlets offering food, drink and a place to sit and socialise in the Italian way.
But Agrigento is keen to attract younger visitors, and is investing in their nightlife offerings, so do keep checking back to see what is available before you travel to stay in Sicily.
Parking is nearly impossible, so if you are driving around Sicily, perhaps book a hotel with included parking and leave your vehicle there for the duration of your visit to Agrigento?
As well as hotels and B&Bs – which tend to be simply but comfortably and attractively furnished and decorated – there are some hostels which offer an even cheaper residence for a night or two.
The range of accommodation swings from moderate comfort to budget-friendly cheer, to stark but cheap and clean hostel dormitories.
Choose the accommodation that best suits your needs and that you can easily afford – after all, you will spend many of your waking hours outside, exploring the island and the city!
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SICILY IN AGRIGENTO
10. Ragusa, baroque architecture
Perhaps one of the oldest continuously settled cities in the world, Ragusa has been in the historical record since the second millennia BC – almost 4,000 years ago!
Few signs remain of the ancient city as it was devastated by an earthquake in 1693, after which the city was moved and rebuilt, giving it a wonderful plethora of Baroque architecture that can still be admired today. Such remains as do exist can be found in the Old Town area of Ragusa.
Ragusa is one of the safest places to stay in Sicily, with very low rates of all types of crime. Obviously, as always, common sense must be used, but in general the streets are safe to walk and there is even little of the opportunistic theft that plagues other parts of Italy, and even more crowded areas in Sicily.
Ragusa’s urban design fits it best for walking – there are many small lanes, flights of steps and out of the way nooks that will be missed if you use a car. Stroll leisurely through the city, and let your footsteps take you where they will before finding a little café or restaurant to take some refreshments!
There is a hotel for every need in Ragusa, from five-star elegant comfort, to self-catered apartment, to B&B to mid-range hotel, all at prices to suit their offering. Choose the accommodation that best suits your needs for your stay in Sicily.
As well as the wealth of beautiful Baroque buildings, there are public gardens to enjoy, unique tiny streets, the ubiquitous cathedral and plenty of gorgeous artworks by masters for you to enjoy during your stay in Sicily.
Such nightlife as there is – aside from the usual restaurant/ pub lifestyle – tends to be centred around the hotels that are big enough to contain nightclubs and employ DJs.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN RAGUSA
11. Milazzo, historic heritage and nice beach
Another commune in Sicily, Milazzo is thought to be the site of Ulysses’s battle against Polyphemus in the days of the Odyssey. Today, the city is a popular port with most visitors simply passing through on their way to the Aeolian Islands.
Milazzo is a relatively small town with a niche beach, and as such is very safe for visitors as long as common sense is practised.
The city is small and public transport tends to centre around the onward ferry services, with other amenities designed purely for local entertainment and enjoyment. Getting around, off the tourist track, is best done on foot or with a rental or hire car of some sort.
Must-see sights during your stay in Sicily include the Castle of Milazzo which sprawls over the mountain, and several beautiful churches and other religious buildings in the gorgeously ornate Baroque style of architecture that dominates Sicily.
Hotels in Milazzo offer surprising variety with a good range of high-end hotels comfortably alongside budget hotels, hostels and small B&Bs.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SICILY IN MILAZZO
12. Castellammare del Golfo, charming coastal city
This small town, one of the most charming places to stay in Sicily, has a big name in English as well as in Italian translating to ‘Sea Fortress on the Gulf’. (The gulf, conversely, takes its name from the town, Gulf of Castellammare!)
The town is exquisitely beautiful, in an already outstandingly gorgeous area, and much of the activity is bound around tourism and the marina which is the heart and life of the town.
The beauty of the location has made the town a popular one with film makers: it is the setting of film’s and television shows such as the Ocean’s Twelve remake starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt.
The town used to have a terrible reputation and is the home town (or former home town) of some high-powered villains. However, the local criminal world came to an understanding with the tourism and hospitality industry: if the tourists were too scared to come to Sicily, the whole island’s economy would suffer.
Therefore, an unwritten, but firmly honoured, contract came about in which the seedy underside of Sicily was kept away from tourists and tourist areas.
Castellammare del Golfo now offers a tranquil peace and calm that quite belies its former reputation and visitors can live, walk and explore in complete (if sensible) safety.
As with many towns in Sicily, the area is compact and easily walkable, with little need for public transport. You can hire a small boat to explore further along the coast and enjoy waterside fun.
There is a superb and sturdy lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula on which the town is situated, built in the Norman style and well-deserving of a visit. You are sure to get some fantastic dramatic photos from the visit, if nothing else!
Nightlife is available, with a few clubs, restaurants and pubs where you can enjoy a disco, a meal or some sociable drinks.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN CASTELLAMMARE DEL GOLFO
13. San Vito lo Capo, great place to stay in Sicily for beach and relax
This small seaside town is a favourite destination where to stay in Sicily with the lucky people who know about it, it being somewhat off the beaten tourist track at present.
The wonderful slopes and mountains in the area have made it a popular holiday spot for rock climbers, while the beautiful surroundings, chilled seaside ambiance and delicious seafood only enhance their experiences.
The sea has coveted Blue Flag status and is excellent for swimming.
The village is very safe for visitors and locals alike, and it is a wonderful place for family holidays as well as for singles, couples and groups of friends.
To get around, you are best going on foot, or having a hire car so that you can come and go as you please – there is not much in the way of public transport to get you to the sights and tourist hotspots.
During your stay in Sicily, do try to see the local sights: each village and town seems to have a cathedral, lighthouse or museum that would, in other countries, be deemed an important and valuable asset – in Italy there is one around every corner and it can be tempting to dismiss this one or that as they begin to blur together!
San Vito lo Capo has a wonderful sanctuary fortress, a watchtower and a tall and imposing lighthouse – all of which are worth visiting.
If you are a die-hard party animal, you might be disappointed as nightlife is minimal – but there are enough pubs, restaurants and discos for the determined traveller to have a good time!
Hotels range between 2 and 4-star, and there are also small apartments for rent, B&Bs, and even rooms to let in farmhouses for an authentic rural Sicilian holiday.
Costs range from modest to moderately high, so do shop around a bit to find the perfect match between price and comfort for your stay in Sicily!
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SAN VITO LO CAPO
14. Aegadian Islands, for secluded holidays
This small group of islands lie to the northwest coast of Sicily. There are five islands altogether: the largest, Favignana, along with Levanzo and Marittimo (a late addition to the group) forming the main islands, although they are joined by the smaller, minor islands of Formica and Maraone.
There are ancient cave paintings on Levanzo and Favignana, and a lucky souvenir hunter might find some sign of the long-ago Aegatean War which was partly fought on and over the isles.
Crime is very low in the islands which has a small permanent population although day trippers and visitors vastly swell the numbers during the holiday season.
The islands are easily explored on foot, and travel between them is usually by small boat or ferry, both of which are readily available.
Unsurprisingly, most of the things to do on the islands involve water sports, swimming, boating and beach activities. Enjoy lazy beach days, explore the caves and then head over to mainland Sicily for the nightlife, bright lights and party atmosphere!
There are hotels on Levanzo and Favignana, most of which fall into the medium or high-end offering range. For the budget conscious traveller, you can arrange your hotel stay in Sicily and travel to each island as a day-tripper.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN AEGADIAN ISLANDS