“You’re going to Mallorca? You? Really?”
That’s the reaction I got from most of my friends. Can’t blame them really. I usually tend to go for more adventurous or exotic locations than that, but sometimes a girl is simply in need of some summer sun. A cheap flight gave me the chance to spend 4 days in Mallorca and seemed like the perfect medicine to escape the changeable Irish weather!
Best things to do in Palma de Mallorca
The capital of Mallorca is conveniently called Palma de Mallorca, aka Palma, and can be done as a city break on its own. If you like your sun to come with history and culture, you’re in for a treat! Little alleyways, a majestic cathedral and tasty food; you can easily spend a few days here without getting bored! Make sure you don’t miss out on the following:
Visit the cathedral
THE place to visit in Palma and a perfect point of reference is the city’s majestic cathedral. Come early in the day; Palma is renowned for a huge number of cruise ship visitors and you really don’t want to discover this architectural beauty with thousands of other people around! The first thing that strikes you is its sheer size and sand-coloured beauty that reflects in the summer sun. The cathedral stands on the site of what used to be the central mosque, when Mallorca was under Muslim occupation for over 300 years. It was finally turned into a cathedral in 1601, but severely damaged by an earthquake in 1851. The result is an intriguing mixture of Renaissance and Gothic. Take time to walk around the cathedral to admire the various facades.The sheer scale of Palma’s landmark cathedral continues on the inside with over 60 stained-glass windows and various chapels. Did you know that Antonio Gaudí was responsible for the baldachin hanging above the main altar?
Feel like a royal at the Palau de l’Almudaina
Right next to the cathedral stands another stunning piece of Palma’s stunning architecture. Just like the cathedral, this mighty construction used to be of Muslim origin and used as an Islamic fort. At the end of the 13th century it was converted into a residence for the Mallorcan monarchs. It officially still is the residence of the current King of Spain, even if it is rarely used as such nowadays.
Mingle with the aristocracy at Palau March
Behind the Royal Palace stands another palatial house, though very different in style. The Palau March was one of the residences of the wealthy March family. The house and outdoor terrace are home to sculptures by Auguste Rodin and Henry Moore to name a few. Take a moment to admire the views from the terrace over the Palau de l’Almudaina.Inside the huge nativity scene takes centre piece.When Palma gets too crowded or hot, the Palau March provides an oasis of calm!
Visit the local markets
After all these architectural delights, you might be in need of some lunch. The best option is to head for one of Palma’ markets. It’s a perfect way to discover local products and soak up the atmosphere. There are plenty of options. If you are looking for cheese, cold cuts, olives and even fish to prepare a delicious lunch or picnic yourself, then the Mercat de l’Olivar is your place. If you want to step it up a bit and discover the best of the best, then go to the Mercado Gastronómico San Juan. The latter has several stalls selling smooth croquettes, finger-licking arroz negro, local delicacies and even Japanese sushi! An absolute delight!
Wander around the old town in search of hidden patios
A lot of aristocratic families have left their mark on the old town of Palma. Wandering around the old town, the medieval streets are lined with mansions and patios.Some of them are closed off, but take a peek through some of the iron gates to discover colonnaded courtyards and intrinsic details.
Discover the Arab baths
If you have been to the stunning white villages of Andalucia, southern Spain, then you know how influenced the culture and architecture is by the Muslim presence back in the Middle Ages. I didn’t expect to find the same influence in Mallorca I must say. In Palma, you can retrace the Moorish history perfectly just by walking around the old town. From the narrow little alleys to the cathedral, from vestiges of the 12th century Arab city wall to the Palau de l’Almudaina, this city has a lot of history to tell! But nowhere is the Arab influence so striking as in the “Banys Arabs” or “Arab baths”. The two small underground chambers are modest in size, but date back to the 10th-12th century. The domed ceiling supported by a dozen columns is very evocative.
Gorge yourself on tapas and wine on La Ruta Martiana
If you are in town on a Tuesday, you’re in luck! Every Tuesday night, over 20 bars participate in the “Ruta Martiana”. The Sa Gerreria neighbourhood of Palma de Mallorca has gone from a no-go zone to a hip nightlife district and not only during the weekend. On a Tuesday evening, you can hop from bar to bar, nibble on the tapas on offer, add a small glass of beer or wine, all for 2.50€ for a tapa and a drink!It’s a perfect way to discover some nice bars and mingle with fellow travellers and locals.
Beaches around Palma de Mallorca
Let’s face it, you’ll probably want some beach time while you’re there. You don’t need to go far for that. In fact, you don’t even need to get out of the city: the Platja de Can Pere Antoni is only a 10 minute walk from the old town! But if you are looking for somewhere quieter, then renting a bike and cycling along the bay is the perfect option. There is a cycle path all along and you need to be prepared to pass a few uninspiring resorts, but when you finally discover that little cove or nearly deserted beach, you’ll know it was all worth it!
Tip: head for Caló Fort, a tiny rocky cove in the Cala Brava area. It took about 1 hour cycling from the Cathedral.
Hiking in Mallorca
Mallorca is so much more than beaches. Take a local bus and go inland to discover a whole other side of the island! The GR221 is a hiking route that will take you through the Serra de Tramuntana in 5-8 days, but if you don’t have the time nor energy you can still go for a few lovely day hikes!
I hiked from Valldemossa to Deia, two beautiful little villages that blend in perfectly in the environment. It took me about 5 hours (photo stops included) and it was one of my favourite things to do in Mallorca. The views, the smells, the serenity: absolutely stunning!
I only spent 4 days in Mallorca and I’m sure there are plenty of other things to discover. Have you been to Mallorca? What would your favourite activity be?