Palma, capital of the autonomous region of the Balearic Islands, is a lively, cosmopolitan city in true Spanish tradition, its centre forming a bustling maze of shopping centres, narrow lanes, and restored buildings surrounded by ruined ancient city walls and modern boulevards.
Like mainland Spain, Mallorca was under Moorish control between the ninth and 13th centuries, until the re-conquest by Jaume I of Aragon. The Moorish heritage is still evident, as are the remnants of Palma's golden years when it rose to wealth and prominence in the 15th century as the main port of call between Europe and Africa.
Later the city, set on the beautiful bay Bahia de Palma, became the favoured royal retreat for Fernando and Isabel, which helped it to become the popular Spanish beach holiday haunt and favourite weekend city break destination of the rich and famous.
Despite the invasion of foreign tourists, Palma has kept its local flavour, particularly in its old quarter, which is still lined by cafés and tapas bars. Often the native dialect of Mallorquin is the only language heard in the backstreets, a fine Palma de Mallorca trait.
Palma de Mallorca boasts a huge variety of restaurants and has plenty to offer tourists. The biggest concentration of restaurants is in the centre of town, at El Terreno, and around the Paseo Maritimo. For some of Spain's best Basque food head to Koldo Royo.
Palma de Mallorca's key activities centre around its nightlife and the town is well known for its foam parties, discos, bars, and nightclubs. In fact, some of Spain's biggest nightclubs are in Palma de Mallorca and the city is a great destination for those seeking a party. It is also a good shopping destination, and shoppers will particularly enjoy exploring the streets of the old town.
Of course, the city also has some interesting sightseeing attractions, including the beautiful La Seo Cathedral, the fortress of Palau de l'Almudaina, the unusual Castell de Bellver, and some good museums. Unfortunately, the city doesn't have good beaches, but there are many nearby.
Popular excursion destinations include the Aqualand theme park, a short drive away from the city, which is great fun for the whole family. There are several excellent golf courses around town, as well as good hiking trails in the rocky Majorcan hills.
Palma's magnificent Catalonian Gothic cathedral is a landmark of the city, standing in the old town overlooking the ocean. The cathedral is actually called the Cathedral of the Saviour (Catedral del Salvador) but is situated on the Plaza de la Seo and is commonly referred to as La Seo. The cathedral forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cathedral was built on the site of an existing ancient mosque and ancient Roman forum, and construction on the Romanesque Cathedral began in 1140. There have been numerous rebuildings, additions and renovations since then, including an extensive restoration in the second half of the 20th century, when, among other things, the Roman and Muslim remnants were excavated and exposed. The cathedral has a rich and interesting history. From 1204 until the 15th century all Aragonese kings were crowned in this church and it was the venue for royal baptisms, weddings and burials. The head Inquisitor of Aragon, Pedro de Arbues, was assassinated in the cathedral while praying in 1485, leading to a tumultuous period when multiple citizens were killed for their alleged involvement in the assassination and for general resistance against the Inquisition. Pedro de Arbues was later sainted and is entombed in the cathedral.
Opposite the cathedral in Palma stands an austere fortress palace that was erected by the Moors and later became the residence of the kings of Mallorca. The Moors built the fortress in 1281 and it was converted into a royal residence at the end of the 13th century, but evidence suggests that the Moors themselves built on an existing Roman fort. The palace is still officially a royal residence, although very seldom occupied, and is occasionally used for royal functions and events. Inside, most rooms and corridors are bare, but there are some beautiful Flemish Gobelin tapestries on display as well as a few antiques, art works and suits of armour. The royal apartments can be seen and there is an impressive Gothic chapel which showcases some rare late Romanesque architectural features. The palace, on the Plaza Reina, is surrounded by a pleasant Moorish-style garden sporting fountains, and offering panoramic views of the harbour. There is very little information in the fortress itself, but audio guides are available in English. Although visitors expecting lavish decor will be disappointed, exploring the palace is still fascinating and photographers will find plenty of worthy material.
This round hilltop castle, built in the 14th century, was the summer residence of the kings of Mallorca during the short period in which the island had a Royal family. The fortified castle with its double moat also served as a prison. Today, it contains Palma's Municipal Museum, displaying mainly archaeological artefacts and old coins. There are also models of archaeological digs to be seen. The castle is rather unusual which makes it interesting to explore. It is situated atop a lovely park area and the highlight of a visit is the building itself and the spectacular views and photo opportunities, rather than the museum exhibitions. Apart from the exhibitions on the ground floor, you can explore a series of chambers upstairs, including the former kitchen (although these rooms are closed on Sundays). Don't miss the prisoner's graffiti etched into the stonework, visible if you climb up to the roof. The Bellver Castle is on the route of the Palma City open-top sightseeing buses, but the walk up through the forest to the castle from Placa Gomilla is pleasant and not too strenuous, with many viewpoints to rest at along the way. Bellver Castle is one of the city's top attractions and a must-see for the views alone.
Palma's most renowned art gallery contains works collected by the Juan March Foundation, housed in a restored mansion on the Carrer Sant Miquel. The collection focuses on modern works including Picasso's Head of a Woman and paintings by acknowledged masters like Miro, Dali, Juan Gris and Antoni Tapies, as well as art by contemporary Spanish artists. It is a small but impressive collection and the 17th-century mansion that houses it is in itself beautiful and fun to explore; the old building contrasts interestingly with the modern art.
The spacious, quiet, air-conditioned gallery is a wonderful refuge on a hot day. The museum is very active, organising lecture series, many temporary exhibitions, and art workshops which visitors are welcome to participate in free of charge. Guided tours of the gallery are available by prior appointment on week days between 11am and 3pm. There is a good museum shop selling exhibition catalogues, art books, posters, postcards and the like. The gallery is wheelchair accessible. The fact that a gallery of this calibre is free is quite remarkable and the museum is popular with tourists and locals alike.
The only surviving Moorish building in Palma is the bathhouse of Banys Àrabs, located in the city's medieval quarter. It contains an elegant horseshoe-arched and domed chamber, supported by 12 columns, and is fronted by a lovely little garden with picnic tables. Although this is a small attraction, basically consisting of two empty chambers (hence the low admission cost), the old architecture is graceful and photographers should enjoy capturing the romantically dilapidated walls and columns. The baths are worth visiting to get some impression of the character of the old Arab city as they are sadly all that remains. There is a short video show, in multiple languages, providing some historical information about the building, but not much else. The site is generally deserted and is a serene spot to imagine the past and take a break from sightseeing to read or write in the peaceful gardens. Bring your own picnic and enjoy a slow lunch at the baths. Although it is located on a small side road, the building is well sign-posted and shouldn't be hard to find. Those interested in history or Moorish architecture should not miss this tiny but charming attraction in Palma.
There are several good, though usually crowded, beaches accessible by bus from Palma. El Arenal, seven miles (11km) to the southeast of the city, attracts many German visitors to its waterfront restaurants, bars and hotels. The long beach boasts white sands and turquoise water. Palma Nova and Illetes, six miles (10km) to the southwest, are smaller but equally popular and picturesque beaches. On the road to Palma Nova is Marineland, offering dolphin, sea lion and parrot shows, as well as Polynesian pearl-diving demonstrations. Other beaches nearby include Portixol, El Molinar, Coll d'En Rebassa and Can Pastilla. The most popular beach on the entire island of Mallorca, Es Trenc, on the southeast coast between Cap de Salinas and Cap Blanc, can be reached by bus from the Plaza Espanya in Palma. Es Trenc is a long narrow beach which is not affiliated to any resort and is therefore less commercial than many others on the island - although its popularity ensures it is still frequently crowded. It is a beautiful stretch of sand and an unofficial nudist beach. The local tourist office distributes an information leaflet on 40 beaches in the Palma area, clearly demonstrating the wealth of choice for travellers in search of sand, sun and sea.
Palma de Mallorca's climate is characterised by warm to hot summers and wet, mild winters. Summer is slightly delayed, lasting from the end of June to the middle of September, with temperatures that generally range between 66°F (19°C) and 86°F (30°C). Moderate rains and thunderstorms only occur occasionally, and are least likely in July. Thunderstorms are most likely towards the end of September but are still fairly infrequent. Winter lasts from the end of November to the end of March, and is characterised by frequent moderate rain. Winter temperatures average between 47°F (8°C) and 63°F (17°C). The wettest time of year is from November to January. Humidity levels are generally comfortable but conditions can be muggy in the summer months.
Public transport in Palma de Mallorca includes buses, trains, a metro and public bicycle hire. The city's main transport hub is the Estació Intermodal Station which functions as a terminal for all modes of public transport. Buses run throughout the city and are operated by EMT. Tickets for all modes of transport can be purchased at stations. A train line is divided in to three routes which run between Palma, Inca, Sa Pobla and Manacor, among other places. The city's short metro line runs between Estació Intermodal and the university to the north of the city, with several stops in between. Taxis are readily available and can be called in advance. Reputable taxis will be metered, although trips outside of the city may have a fixed price.
Palma de Mallorca is known for its fun nightlife and good restaurant scene, but it is a fascinating city historically and has plenty to offer tourists keen to do some sightseeing in Mallorca. Popular attractions include the unusual fortress of Castell de Bellver, the beautiful La Seo Cathedral, the austere Palau de L'Almudaina, and the 16th-century mercantile exchange building of Llotja, which hosts regular exhibitions. Another must for history buffs is the tiny Banys Arabs bathhouse, the last surviving Moorish building in Palma, which only requires a short visit as not much remains. Art lovers should seek out the Museo D'Art Espanyol Contemporani, and the Palau March Museo, the city's most renowned art galleries. Many of these attractions can be found in the picturesque old quarter of Palma de Mallorca, which is best explored on foot. One of the best streets to explore for some people-watching and cafe lounging in between attractions is the Passeig des Born, a wide, shady avenue with a view of the cathedral which is the heart of the city in many ways.
There are many things to see and do just outside of Palma, making it a convenient hub for day trippers intent on exploring the surrounding areas. Those looking for great beaches will find that the city itself doesn't boast any, but there are many nearby.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination