Majorca’s capital city, Palma, is the tourism centre of the island, receiving over 12 million visitors every year (60% of which are German and British). Located next to the Bay of Palma, this ‘Mediterranean pearl’ is the base camp from which you can set off to explore Majorca’s villages, coves and mountains. However, it is also a great place to visit, with a lovely historic centre, ancient fishing neighbourhoods and urban beaches. And, it boasts an average yearly temperature of 18 degrees Celsius. Founded by the Romans on a Talaiotic settlement in 123 B.C., Palma de Mallorca has been home to a variety of inhabitants over its history: it was successively occupied by Vandals and Byzantines until the year 903, when the Muslim conquest converted it into Madina Mayurqa, a domination that continued until 1229, when King Jaume I of Aragon recovered the island for the Christian kingdom. A walled city until 1902, in response to the frequent pirate attacks that would continue until the 19th century, today, Palma no longer requires defending, except perhaps from the hordes of tourists that visit the city all year round.
Palma’s historic centre is home to some true gems, such as the Cathedral of Santa María de Palma, a huge Gothic structure overlooking the turquoise waters of the bay. It is called the Cathedral of Light, thanks to its luminous interior that is provided by its seven rosettes, one of which is the largest Gothic-style rosette of the world. Furthermore, it is home to decorative works created by Gaudí and Miquel Barceló. Close to the cathedral, you can take a stroll down the Maritime Promenade and check out the impressive yachts docked in the marina.
The other two large monuments found in the centre of Palma are the Almudaina Royal Palace, a former Muslim casbah turned into a royal residence during the 14th century and La Lonja de Palma de Mallorca (Majorca’s trade exchange), a Gothic civil jewel that symbolises the perfection of the city’s trading power during the 15th century. Nearby is the Consulate of the Sea, where maritime conflicts were settled during the 16th century, and which today is home to the government of the Balearic Islands. Finally, in the centre of the city, be sure to visit the two main roads, the Paseo del Borne, known as the ‘Golden Mile’ and the Avenida Jaime III, the ideal site to enjoy shopping in the city centre. And you can head down the Carrer de la Unió, until reaching the lively and modernist Plaza Mayor, the hub of activity that connects the historic centre with Palma’s newer urban expansion.
And while in Palma, don’t forget to visit the ancient fishing neighbourhoods of Santa Catalina and Portixol. The former, which today is the Bohemian and hipster part of the city, maintains a certain village ambiance, with traditional houses and ancient flour mills, and it is the perfect place to engage in ‘el tardeo’: enjoying tapas late into the afternoon-evening. Neighbourhood life here revolves around the Mercat de Santa Catalina, the city’s oldest market. In Portixol, in the outskirts of Palma, the maritime promenade is the perfect place to have some drinks at night or to discover one of its many delicious seafood restaurants. Also in the outskirts, and offering some incredible views, is the Bellver Castle, famous for having been the prison that held illustrious 18th century politician Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos and that is currently home to the City History Museum and the garden of the Marivent Palace, where the royal family takes its traditional summer photo.
If you are looking to take a swim, you can choose between the centric Playa de Can Pere Antoni (with lovely views of the cathedral), the extensive Playa de Palma or Cala Mayor, next to the Marivent Palace. And a bit further from the centre, heading east, the calm Playa Ciudad Jardín and Cala Estància, typically frequented by Palma locals. Finally, if you want to visit some museums, we have two recommendations: the Es Baluard Modern Art Museum, well-known for its collection of works from such illustrious artists as Cézanne, Gauguin, Picasso, Magritte, Miró and Miquel Barceló; and the Fundació Miró Mallorca, a unique place to discover the works of this amazing Catalan artist in the very workshops where he developed his creative process.
Palma Cathedral, also called ‘La Seu’ or ‘Cathedral of Light’, is famous for having the world’s largest Gothic rose window and works by artists such as Gaudí and Miquel Barceló.
The island’s capital has more to offer tourists than meets the eye: a history spanning thousands of years, Mediterranean cuisine, turquoise water beaches and a buzzing nightlife.
Located next to the cathedral (La Seu), this former Muslim casbah became the residence of the Majorcan kings and currently holds royal receptions during the summer.