Talaiotic, Roman, Byzantine, Moor and Christian
Over 7 years have passed for what was back then my first time in a Spanish island. I cannot believe so long it had to pass, with so many trips elsewhere however not considering Palma as an option for that many years. The main reason was anyway, not finding any good flight deal. Majorca has always been very trendy and one of the top tourist destinations among Europeans, especially the British, Germans, Italians and French; therefore we kept postponing it on behalf of many hundreds other cities and places elsewhere. The lapse in between for finally returning here falls into the same reason. Thankfully on this occasion was a bit different since we were not looking for some beach holiday nor even the good weather months, but instead happy to come during low season and enjoy some great time with my cousin and friends.
Once again, I take the chance to revamp this travel guide with the most up to date information and a better description and listing on the sights and places to visit. For now, some relevant notes from our past experience are that in June, the month we did travel there, you cannot expect the sea to be as warm as it gets by August but still is OK to enjoy the beach and specially if you go to any of the small calas as the water gets warmer since it’s not directly on open sea. The difference in temperature between Can Pastilla (Playa de Palma) and the beach in Soller was indeed making a big difference. You might wonder why I mention this here but hey! majority of tourist who come to Majorca are in search of sun and beach.
In the other hand, at just a week before the high season was due to start it meant for us to be almost on our own! And same again in our most recent visit right after the holiday season, in October. The beach for ourselves and quiet in the hotel, lower prices for everything and better quality overall; not to mention avoiding the hordes of young British and Germans coming mostly for drinking and partying. Now, getting back to the British and Germans, and of course Russians nowadays and other nationalities, you will be shocked to know that they stay only around “their areas”. They do not even mix together, as for example you find the British in Can Pastilla and the Germans in El Aernal. It was very off but happy to know that they don’t even bother to go downtown Palma for sightseeing, so the capital remains quite authentic and relaxed when compared with the coastal resorts. (I am talking only about the thousands of young people, not adults and the many families who nicely enjoy their holidays).
Majorca is not only about Palma and the beaches, but the many other small towns and villages, natural parks, mountains and so on. It has all the resources a country can have but in miniature, therefore you should consider and plan your days accordingly, counting with a day for touring somewhere else away from Palma like going to Soller, Inca, Alcudia, Manacor and the hundreds of calas along the coast. Soller is however, by all means, the place you should aim if you do not have too many days to enjoy the island.
Palma is a big city and has so much history and that many sights that a weekend alone in the city can be short, but manageable. From Roman, to Byzantine and Moorish remains, to the very elegant 19th century architecture, and its unique Catalan modernist style that was so popular in the early years of the 20th century and notoriously the Mediterranean cities.
Having good food, like anywhere in Spain, is easy to find although you must pay attention to the prices and compare a few places before selecting one. Unfortunately many places are just orientated for tourists and are a rip-off and tourist traps with low quality. The more local people you see in a place the better is likely to be, although this will be hard in places like Can Pastilla or El Aerenal. Fish and sea food is popular, of course you will find paella almost everywhere. Meat cuts are very good, like butifarron and sobrasada. The most famous sweet pastry is ensaimada, you will find it in every pastry shop and hotel for breakfast.
For more information about Palma check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Spain’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Palma
- Old City The most historical part of the city where you can see a clear Arab influence. If you see a map of Palma, you will recognise this area as being everything inside the star-shape. That shape is were the city walls once stood from which some remains can be seen today. Las Avenidas (The Avenues) are the main transport bone and follow the same alignment that the walls once had.
-Cathedral of Santa María Palma Commonly known as La Seu, is the most iconic and recognisable landmark in the city. It has the highest nave of any cathedral in Spain and second in Europe. A Gothic masterpiece which interiors were upgraded and mobiliary designed by famed modernist architect Antoni Gaudi. A fact taken from Wikipedia that I did not know, it’s the only cathedral in the world that reflects on the sea.
-Royal Palace of La Almudaina One of the residences of the Spanish Royal Family. Although a previous building existed here before, the current building dates from 1309 and follows the same model as the Royal Palace of Perpignan.
-Arab Baths Dating back to the 10th century, of Byzantine origin. Consist on 2 rooms and a small courtyard. 2 Euros to visit.
-Silk Exchange La Llotja as it’s known in Catalan, is a masterpiece of Majorca-Gothic architecture. Built between 1420 and 1452.
-Consulado de Mar Near the Silk Exchange, the Sea Consulate was built in the 16th century as has a plateresque loggia galleria with five arches.
-City Hall Located in Plaza de Cort built in baroque style in 1680.
-Parliament Building Not far from the City Hall occupies the former 19th century palace of the elitist Circulo Mallorquín.
-Passeig del Born One of the nicest streets, fully covered with trees and palms, it connects to the Plaza Mayor through a nice staircase.
-Plaza Mayor Built in the 19th century is the main meeting point and heart of the city. From here Calle Colon (Colon Street) goes deep inside the old town and La Rambla towards the 19th/20th century extension of the city.
-Marqués del Palmer Square At the southern end of Colon Street, it is famous for the beautiful art-nouveau buildings, clear example of Catalan Modernism for which Palma is also famous for (listed below in the Art Nouveau section).
-Church of Santa Eulalia Located meters away from Palmer Square Another of the historical churches in the city, it’s the one where James the II of Majorca was crowned on 12th of September 1276.
-Church and Convent of Saint Francis Construction started in 1281 and it’s a registered landmark monument in the Spanish heritage list. It’s cloister was built between the 14th and 16th centuries.
-Church of San Miguel Built on the grounds of the old mosque of Medina Mayurca.
-Church of Sant Nicolau Dating back to the 14th century although the appearance today is mostly from the 17th century.
- Plaça d’Espanya The major transport hub in the city. Has nice gardens and statues and it’s the gateway to the old town just behind.
-Intermodal Train Station Trains, metro and bus terminal for all destinations across the island.
-Soller Train Station The iconic wooden train to Soller departs from here daily. A must visit while in Mallorca, and although the train is expensive compared to buses, it is very well spent money.
- Art Nouveau Buildings Since the city boasts some great examples of Catalan Modernism style, anyone interested in this architecture will be in heaven. Of course not as much as the countless buildings you can find in Barcelona or the great amount in Valencia, but still great for the size of Palma:
-Edificio Triquet By Palma architect Gaspar Bennazar.
-Gran Hotel Designed by Catalan Modernist architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner opened its doors in 1903 and until the opening of the Hotel Ritz in Madrid this was the most luxurious hotel in whole Spain. Nowadays is La Caixa Forum Cultural Centre.
-Forn des Teatre Is a shop just across the road from Gran Hotel where the front is entirely embellished with wood panels and a dragon.
-Casasayas Also near Gran Hotel, in plaza del Mercat 13 and 14 are 2 symmetrical apartment blocks separated by a small street in between.
-Edificio El Águila and Can Rey In Marques de Palmer Square, both buildings share the metallic basement structure. Can Rey is an apartment house where flowers, dragons and trencadis (broken tiles typical in Gaudi’s architecture) embellish the façade. El Águila is a department store where the metal structure is part of the decoration offering huge windows for capturing as much light as possible.
-Forteza Rey Also in Marques de Palmer Square, more modest than the other two where ceramics of different tones and shapes make the façade decoration.
-Can Barceló In Josep Maria Quadrado Square, is an apartment block where decorative tiles create images of arts, crafts and economy motifs.
-Cathedral of Palma Where the benches, lighting and a chapel were all designed by Antoni Gaudi.
- Outside of the Old Town There are many sights and must do and see places outside of the ancient walls which The Avenues replaced instead. Beaches, castles, the port and the elegant 19th/20th century streets of the city’s expansion.
-Rambla de las Flores Built in the place where a torrent of water used to pass until it was diverted, it’s a nice promenade full of trees, palms, and the famous flower market hence it’s name Flores.
-Teatro Principal Opened in 1857, just 1 year after a fire destroyed the building but quickly rebuilt in 1860.
-Pueblo Español Conceived as an open air museum built in 1965 where the buildings are reproductions of typical Spanish architecture. Open 09.00am until 19.00pm, 5 Euros.
-Bellver Castle Built in the 14th century on top of previous Muslim ruins, it is unique in Spain for its circular shape. You can visit it inside and out, and the views of the whole city from the top are spectacular. Open from 09.00am until 17.30pm except Mondays when it closes at 13.30pm. 2.60 Euros, 1.05 for students.
-Saint Charles Fortress Smaller than Bellver and also on a hill overlooking the city.
-Tower of Porto Pí Marks the entry point to the port of Palma.
-Mills of El Jonquet Those ancient mills were built between the 15th and 16th centuries, overlooking the harbour, and behind the hill and Bellver Castle. There are 5 in total in diverse state of disrepair, although a project for its restoration is under way and the extra 2 missing will be rebuilt, becoming once again 7 in total.
-Harbour This long promenade aligned with pal trees is filled with yachts and luxurious boats, and top class apartments. The views over the cathedral and the old town from here are a must do.
-Bullring Built in 1929 it’s a great monument inside and outside. It is also commonly known as the Balearic Colosseum. As odd it might sound, bull fighting is the last of the activities happening in the ring. Festivals and concerts are the majority of the events.
-El Arenal and Can Pastilla Beaches The later one also referred as Playa de Palma, although both El Arenal and Can Pastilla are in fact the same beach. Unless you are German and you like to be surrounded by hundreds of drank Germans, then I do not recommend you to even approach El Arenal, where even the street names are in German, paella do not exist to make way for currywurst, Oktoberfest happens twice a year and young people drinks beer and wine on buckets.
- Nearby villages There are too many great villages and small cities, perched in idyllic mountain locations along the UNESCO World Heritage Site listed Serra de Tramuntana.
-Valldemossa Often referred as the most enchanting village in the island, it is full of history of every ancient building and at every turn offering great views of the mountains where it is nested in between. Genius composer Frederic Chopin liked to come every summer to his holiday house.
-Deia Very near Valldemossa continuing north along the coast, however it’s not a coastal city. Once again located at the top of a mountain, it’s smaller than the previous and less busy with tourist.
-Soller One of the island’s jewels in terms of beauty and nature. As explained above, the best way to reach this masterpiece of a city is by taking the ancient Soller Railway from downtown Palma.
Palma International airport, Son San Joan, is 9km southeast from the city centre, right along the coast and next door to Can Pastilla (Playa de Palma). The local bus line 1 connects it with Plaza de España every 15 minutes for 2.5 Euros per way. You can buy your tickets from the driver.
Within the city you will rarely need any public transportation as you can visit most of the sights by walking; the only exception is if you want to go up the Bellver Castle, the end of the harbour (where you can easily walk but you might want to take a bus back), and of course, if your hotel is not in Palma downtown, as likely to be around Can Pastilla-Playa de Palma, then for sure you will depend on buses which are in any case very frequent, inexpensive and efficient.
Soller Train, suburban trains and the metro all depart from Plaza de España and connects other cities across the island. The main bus terminal is also located here, all underground.
Palma is one of the places where finding a hotel is quick and simple and on any budget. But you must be careful when high season is, as hotels can get very busy and fully booked, meaning prices will be for sure higher than out of season. Staying in Palma downtown is more expensive than at any of the larger hotels and resorts along the beach. But having such good public transport connection between the beach areas and downtown I would definitely consider staying there instead. I’m sure that your main point for coming to Mallorca itself is because of the sea, then it’s out of question you will want to be near the beach. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms, Ebookers or TUI.
In our most recent stay in October 2017 we stayed with my cousin at their flat, hence I cannot recommend any other place other than the hotel we stayed back in 2010. That was a great deal at a simple 3* property in Can Pastilla (Playa de Palma). This area is reputedly known as the British one. Farther down the beach is El Arenal, which is the German area. Honestly, avoid El Arenal. Can Pastilla is very nice, quieter and where locals from Palma come to the beach. The hotel was Roc Linda, Calle Octavio Augusto 2. Not even 5 minutes to the beach and 10 minutes from the airport, with a bus stop right on the back of the hotel. Clean and practical, comfortable and quiet. It also has a nice pool, nice dining area and nice breakfast included. Perfectly recommendable to anyone for short or longer stays.
Album from the city of Palma
Valldemossa, Deia and Soller
Album from the summer 2010