There’s a reason it’s referred to as “Cuitat”, or simply “The City”: with stunning vistas, it was a favoured gateway even during Roman times. Today’s itineraries are a bit quirkier: you can taste a 300-year-old delicacy or spend the night with sharks.
Palma de Mallorca is both the capital and largest city of Spain’s Balearic Islands. Tucked in the Bay of Palma, the city has a sunny and warm climate--even during its coldest months (January-February), average temperatures hover around 15°C.
The old city is a perfect place for getting lost: a maze of narrow, quiet streets takes visitors through impressive architecture, such as the Arab Baths with their Ca’n Fontirroig gardens, home to a host of birds, cacti, and palm trees. Dominating the skyline is La Seu, or Palma Cathedral, a Gothic structure built atop a former mosque, later restored by Antoni Gaudí. The Es Baluard contemporary art museum, housed in a 16th century fortress of the town’s walls, has works by Joan Miró (whose adoptive city was Palma), Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and much more.
The areas surrounding the Plaça Major are ideal for shopping, with everything from high-end designers to high-street fashion. The range of offerings extends to accommodation as well, with a variety of budget hotels to more upscale retreats.
Just a ten minutes’ drive from the city are golf courses, and not far from the town’s airport is a gem for the whole family: the Palma Aquarium, with 700 species, a deep shark tank and the largest display of live coral in all of Europe. Activities organised at the site include “shark sleepovers”, diving with rays and a shark vision boat ride.
From Palma’s marina, yachts and boat trips can be booked for tours around the island. Despite its enormous harbour, the city’s main promenade is pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly, with a plethora of restaurants for tasting the local catch. Speaking of local specialities…
Try a 300-year-old breakfast
The tradition dates back to the 17th century: ensaïmadas are a type of coiled pastry that can be eaten for breakfast, dessert or a snack and are sold all over the island.
It’s believed that the pastries were originally eaten by upper and middle classes, and that the name is derived for the Catalan word, saïm (derived from Arabic), meaning pork lard--one of the main ingredients. Many believe the pastry was actually inspired by Moorish turbans.
It’s just one of plenty delicacies from the rich gastronomy of Palma. The new Mos Espai Gastronòmic is a good place to start if you want to try local products. It also runs gastronomic events with the island’s best chefs, as well as cooking classes for the more adventurous.
Island of inspiration
Mallorca is an island of coves and fishing villages along crystal-clear waters, and Palma is an ideal starting point for drives that take you through valleys studded with citrus trees. From Palma, Cala Formentor (1.5 hours’ drive) offers one of the island’s most breathtaking views, as does Port Alcúdia on the opposite end of Pollença Bay. Take in the sunset at Sa Dragonera, or check out Bellver Castle just west of Palma for a great bay view.
Less than 30 minutes from Palma lies Valdemossa, one of the prettiest villages on the island. Polish composer Frédéric Chopin resided there with French writer George Sand, the latter of whom described her stay in A Winter in Majorca. But she wasn’t the only one to draw inspiration from the island: Agatha Christie wrote Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories following her stay in the early 20th century.