1. Stir up controversy at Palma Cathedral
Gothic on the outside, modernist on the inside, Palma’s La Seu cathedral is a mashup of architectural styles – and a real talking point. Antoni Gaudi was commissioned to improve the fourteenth century cathedral’s interior in the early twentieth century, adding a canopy inspired by the crown of thorns above the altar. Love it or hate it, it is a focal point amid the stained glass windows and typically Gothic vaulted nave. Approach from the waterfront esplanade to feel the full force of the building’s impressive stature.
Opening times: (1st April to 31st May & October) Mon to Fri 10am – 5.15pm. Sat 10am – 2.15pm. (1st June – 30th Sept) Mon to Fri 10am – 6.15pm. Sat 10am – 2.15pm. (2nd Nov – 31st Mar) Mon to Fri 10am – 3.15. Sat 10am – 2.15pm.
Location: Plaça de la Seu.
2. Tower above it all at Castell de Bellver
Miles of fragrant pine forest surround the circular Castell de Bellver, leading down to the gem-like waters of Palma Bay. Bellver means “lovely view” in Catalan, and a climb onto the roof here is rewarded with 360° panoramas over the foothills and forests to the city beyond, as well as across the tower’s elegant round courtyard. Don’t miss the museum for its Roman, Arab and Spanish artefacts.
Opening times: (April to Sept) Tues to Sat 10am – 7pm, Sun & holidays 10am – 3pm. (Oct to Mar) Tues to Sat 10am – 6pm, Sun & holidays 10am – 3pm. Closed Mondays.
Location: Carrer Camilo José Cela.
Price: Adults €4, Concessions €2.
3. Taste Balearic cuisine
The Mallorcan capital is home to the best food in the Balearics, with innovative dishes served with aplomb at restaurants around the city. Although quality is generally high, there are ripoff joints serving substandard fare to be avoided. Give Aromata a try for a pared down menu of traditional Mallorcan dishes, such as quince salad with goats cheese or casseroled veal cheeks, from local chef Andreu Genestra, set in a lovely stone courtyard in Sa Nostra Cultural Centre.
Opening times: Tues to Sat 1pm – 3:30pm & 8pm – 10:30pm, Sun closed, Mon 1pm – 3:30pm.
Location: Carrer de la Concepció, 12.
Price: Set menu from €29.
4. Find something Moor at the Arab Baths
Although the Moors transformed Palma around the tenth century, almost all of their work was destroyed during the subsequent invasion by King James I of Aragon and his armies in the 1200s. However, King James must have overlooked the Arab Baths, which still stand as a visual reminder of Palma’s rich past. Don’t make the same mistake: take the time to wind through the medieval streets and enter the cooling gardens and the Caldarium (main steam chamber) beyond. Here you’ll find elegant horseshoe arches standing atop a double marble floor – an early form of underfloor heating.
Opening times: (April to Nov) 9:00am – 7.30pm (closing at 6pm, Dec to March).
Location: Palma Centre & Marina.
5. Get a cultural hit at Es Baluard
Love art? La Palma is home to an impressive modern art collection at the Baluard Museu d’Art Modern i Contemporani. See Picasso’s unusual ceramics, works by Spanish artists such as Joan Miro and Miguel Barcelo, as well as a selection of masterpieces from more than 500 contemporary artists. Situated in the heart of the city centre, you’ll find most buses stop nearby (including the number 50 tourist bus) but you get a €4 discount on the entry fee if you come by bicycle.
Opening times: Tues to Sat, 10am – 8pm; Sun 10 am – 3 pm.
Location: Plaça Porta de Santa Catalina
Price: Adults €6, Concessions €4.50.
6. Royal Palace of La Almudaina
Founded by Arabic governors, and a later a symbol of the independent Mallorca, this citadel still hosts the King of Spain during the occasional summer event and is suitably grand, though, like much of Mallorca’s architecture, eclectic in style. A medieval courtyard and richly embroidered tapestries lie within, while outside, Moorish arches face the sea and a surprising Modernist touch, in the form of Joan Miro’s Egg sculpture, sits in the adjacent S’Hort del Rei gardens.
Opening hours: (From Apr 01 to Sep 30) Tues to Sun, 10am – 8pm. (Oct 01 to Mar 31) Tues to Sun 10am – 6pm.
Location: Carrer del Palau Reial.
Price: Adults €7, Concessions €4.
7. Cuevas del Drach
Translated evocatively as the ‘Dragon Caves’, don’t miss the chance to take a day trip to Porto Cristo on the east coast of the island, to see one of Mallorca’s best attractions. In fact, it’s least several sights in one: alien-like stalactites and stalagmites to explore, a boat ride on an underground lake and a violin concert beneath the stony ground to cap it all off.
Opening hours: (1st Nov to 13th March) tours at 10.45am, 12pm, 2pm and 3.30pm. (14th March – 31st Oct) tours at 10am, 12pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm and 5pm.
Location: Ctra. Cuevas s/n, 07680 Porto Cristo.
Price:Adults €15, Children €8.
8. Set sail for Cabrera
Many Spanish islands have an idyllic, uninhabited islet on which to conjure your most vivid romantic fantasies about lost treasure and/or mermaids: Cabrera is Mallorca’s answer to this. Cabrera National Park actually forms several islands off the coast of Mallorca. Shimmering depths of blue ocean surround deserted white shores that feel a million miles from the resorts of the south coast, but only around 17 kilometres from La Colonia de Sant Jordi, where you’ll board the boat. There’s an activity to suit every taste here, from bird-watching to plunging into deep pool of the Blue Grotto; most boat tours will include at least one beach stop and you can rent snorkel gear to make the most of those crystal clear waters. It’s a good idea to take food or order a packed lunch from the boat crew, as facilities on shore are limited.
9. Browse Plaça Mayor Craft Market
Come to this broad shopping and dining plaza in the morning to catch the buzz at the Mercat Artesanal, or local handicraft market. It’s the place to pick up jewellery, ceramics, textiles and countless other trinkets to take home, but don’t worry if you’ve spent all your holiday pennies: there are plenty of cafes to sit with a coffee and watch it all unfold in front of you. The square often hosts street performers, musicians and dancers during all hours of the day.
Opening times: (Jul to Sep) Daily 10am – 2pm, (Feb to Jun & Oct to Dec) Mon, Tue, Fri & Sat, (Jan & Feb) Fri & Sat only.
Location: Plaça Major.
Price: Free to enter.
10. Discover Miro’s workshop
The Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró in Mallorca is a collection of three buildings set in peaceful landscaped grounds, as much works of art as the paintings and sculpture they contain. Son Boter was an eighteenth century country farmhouse belonging to local artist Joan Miro, now adjoined by two much more modern buildings, one of which is the airy studio designed by the artist’s friend Josep Lluís Sert. All three now form part of a museum showing a brilliant insight into Miro’s life and work, with collections of drawings, prints, sculptures and canvases comprising his legacy to Mallorca, and to the art world at large.
Opening times: (Sept to May) Tues to Sat 10am – 6pm; Sun & holidays 10am – 3pm. (May to Sept) Tues to Sat 10am – 7pm; Sun & holidays 10am – 3pm.
Location: C. de Saridakis, 29, southwest of Palma centre.
Price: €7.50. Free every Saturday afternoon from 3pm & first Sunday of the month.
11. Casal Solleric
A Baroque palace converted into an art museum thanks to a bequeath from its former owners, Casal Solleric houses the island’s premier collection of contemporary art and photography. The building itself is another gem worth a few hours of wandering, adorned with frescoes on the exterior and containing wrought iron staircases, marble columns and a gorgeous mezzanine within, perfect for displaying temporary exhibits by Spanish artists like Tàpies, Pérez-Villalta and Plessi, as well as international names like Frida Kahlo.
Opening times: Tues to Sat 11am – 2pm & 3.30pm to 8:30pm, Sun & holidays 11:00am – 2:30pm. Closed on Mondays.
Location: Passeig del Born 27, Palma Centre & Marina.
12. Chill on Palma Beach
A city break destination with a beach holiday thrown in, Palma de Mallorca ticks all the boxes you could wish for. Ca’n Pere Antoni is but a few strides away from the cathedral, making for a spectacular and unusual seaside backdrop and the Blue Flag-awarded sands are perfect for a cooling dip after a day’s sightseeing around Palma. Willing to stray further afield? Try Puerto Pollensa for a day out on the north-east coast; this beach is considered one of the island’s best and is also a good pick if you like your beach days more energetic, with windsurfing, boating and even scuba diving on offer here.
13. Explore wild Mallorca in the Serra de Tramuntana
You’ll hardly believe this is the same island as Magaluf, but the rocky Serra de Tramuntana mountains are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offer up a vision of Mallorca that package holidays don’t often include. Ending abruptly in sheer cliffs breaking off into the sea, this northwesterly region features a walk known as the Dry Stone Route, that takes in the picturesque agricultural terraces that mark the human imprint on this rugged landscape. If you want to hike part or all of the route, there are villages and stops you can make along the way – see the website for maps and more help with your planning.
14. See a different side in Sóller
Enjoy a more traditional Mallorca at the coastal town of Sóller, set in the midst of the Golden Valley and backed by a swathe of orange groves. Public transport is the way to arrive and enjoy a leisurely day’s sightseeing here: you can jump on the quaint 1912 train from Palma and be in Soller within 20 minutes, passing through bright green countryside and mountain tunnels on the way. Once there, there are vintage trams to cart you about the pretty old town at a suitably unhurried pace. You can still grab a cocktail or two and some very good tapas at places like Agapanto, right next to the beach.
15. Cycle around Mallorca
Follow the trend (and the steady stream of professional and amateur British cyclists) and hire a bicycle to explore more of Mallorca during your break. Varied terrain means you can try and beat the best of them with a mountain climb like Sa Calobra, or take it easy on the flat country roads around towns like Llucmajor, and there are lots of trails which wend their way around the coastline, meaning you’re never far from the next smug cycling selfie. Cycle Mallorca offers route-planning, bike hire and accommodation suited to cycling holidays, should you want to go the whole hog.
How to get to Palma de Mallorca
Flights to Palma take just over two hours from the UK, and Mallorca’s popularity as a British holiday destination means that there’s hardly an airport that doesn’t schedule at least one direct route. You can fly several times a day from larger hubs like London, Bristol, Edinburgh and Manchester, or you’ll also find budget airlines flying regularly from regional airports like East Midlands, Leeds-Bradford and Exeter.
Palma Airport is 12km outside of Palma and a short bus ride from the city centre; buses also stop at major holiday resorts in the area.
Need to book your flights? We’ll show you the quickest way to find the cheapest fares:
Where to stay in Palma de Mallorca
Stay right on the beach at Ur Portofino, a 4-star hotel with bay views, and on the right side of town for the airport (from £62 a night). Prefer to see La Seu from your window? The Palacio Ca Sa Galesa sits metres away from the cathedral, housed in a sixteenth century townhouse and offer little luxuries like free afternoon tea and private Jacuzzis.
If you just need a place for a cheap weekend away, head to Hostal Bonany, where the outdoor pool, standard in-room balconies and peaceful out-of-town feel will set you back from a mere £29 a night.
*Published March 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.
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