Over 2,700 years old, Palermo is a city brimming with cultural splendour, its long history showing itself in palaces, churches, Byzantine mosaics and bustling markets. After exploring all that, you’ll be ready for an aperitivo at one of these top bars.
Across Italy, everyone – young and old – puts in an appearance at the evening passeggiata (stroll). In the largest city on Sicily, Palermo, that sunset ritual often ends at a local bar for an aperitivo spritz and a board of cured meats and cheese. Luckily, there are endless options to choose from, whether you’re after cocktails in shabby-chic concept bars or a slow glass of red in an ancient, palm-lined square, looking out over baroque churches, domes and gothic palaces. Here are the top bars to try in Palermo.
Bocum’s prime location, just a block away from the waterfront, gives a clue as to why this place is always buzzing. But you’ll be glad you stumbled across this sophisticated, candlelit place, with daily food specials scrawled on blackboards mounted on the stone walls. The cocktail menu is extensive and features innovative and unusual combinations concocted by capable mixologists, alongside the obvious classics.
The paint’s a little faded above the door, but the rough stone walls, wooden-beam ceilings and mismatched art-deco-style decor add bags of rustic character to this cosy bar. It’s conveniently tucked away on a side street in the Old Town, close to the port. When it’s full inside, as is often the case, the crowd spills out onto the pavement to drink until the early hours of the morning.
Luigi Corriente opened the Bottiglieria del Massimo in 1968, and, now under his son Guiseppe, this family-run bar goes from strength to strength. Al Pacino drank dry martinis here while filming The Godfather Part III (1990), though it’s better known for champagne and claims to serve the best bubbles in the city. These days, you’re more likely to drink in the company of theatre-goers than movie stars – Teatro Massimo is just around the corner.
Wine and vinyl perfectly combine at this concept nightclub and bar. Enter the 16th-century Palazzo Lucchesi Palli, a palace in the historic centre, and take a moment to check out the mural on the wall by Palestinian artist Emily Jacir. Inside, Cantavespri serves up live music alongside its aperitivos and generously poured cocktails to start the night with a bang. After midnight, live DJs take over, and clubbers dance until dawn.
Sicilians have been growing grapes for 6,000 years, and the tradition of viticulture continues to thrive. And, if you’re passionate about wine, there’s no better place for getting stuck into the local flavours than Enoteca Buonivini. You can sample a wide range of local wines, including dry cattarrato whites and robust reds grown on the slopes of Mount Etna. Enjoy a glass or two in the courtyard, with a charcuterie board and some artisan cheese.
Sicily doesn’t have much of a beer scene but after a hop-tastic visit to Milan, owner Gioacchino Purpura wanted to see if there was a market for it in Palermo. He opened Luppolo (whose name translates as Hops, the Eighth Dwarf) and never looked back. This lively spot offers a tempting selection of craft beers, with various IPAs, stouts and lagers on tap, supplemented by bottles from breweries across Europe and beyond.
Ferramenta started life as a hardware store. Located beside the Church of San Domenico, its tables spill out into Piazza Giovanni Meli and are the ideal place to people-watch away an afternoon, while you nurse an Aperol spritz or a glass of vino. It also has a great reputation as a gastropub, so it’s worth sticking around for dinner.
This colourful place on Piazza Rivoluzione attracts a lively crowd, who comes for the early-evening buffet that is free for everyone buying drinks and the performances to come. Guitars hang on the walls as a constant reminder that the owners of this place are passionate about music. As the evening goes on, the battered piano by the bar gets a workout, and live music takes over.