Photo: The awesome "Lonja" - Soni Martinez Fotógrafo
Palma de Mallorca - Now and then...
Well, I used to work in this awesome city back in 1980 - this was actually the place where I started my career in tourism as a very young guy (you can read about this here). In those days, I fell in love with Palma de Mallorca - and it happened again many years later. Why? First of all, cities that are located between mountains and the sea are usually attractive. Just think of Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro or Vancouver. Palma de Mallorca clearly belongs to them. And then - a gorgeous Spanish architecture. Little alleys with boutiques, bars, cafés, and restaurants. Fantastic museums. Impressive buildings such as the cathedral. Beautiful little boutique hotels (I will introduce my favorite later). Endless shopping. Great options for excursions on the island and pristine beaches close by. In short - a perfect mix for a long weekend (or even a week). And yes - Palma is clean and walkable if you wear comfy shoes.
Photo: Spanish Architecture at its best! - KHL
What is the best time to visit Palma de Mallorca?
I traveled in April - just perfect. 18 - 20 degrees C during the day, fresh evenings. I already spotted a few red-skinned/sunburnt tourists (Brits or Germans I assume...) but luckily, the city is not yet crowded. I would avoid July and August - high season, big crowds (also from cruises). Fall is great and so is ... winter! "It may be a bit cold but we mostly have the sun", says Raquel Cobo, Sales Manager of the Purohotel. And I have heard many times how charming Palma de Mallorca is in the pre-Christmas season - so how about planning your Christmas shopping here? - Oh, and don`t be surprised if you see signboards in a rather strange language, that`s "Mallorquin", a Catalan dialect. If you want to practice your Spanish ("Castellaño") - no problem. That`s what you mostly hear in the streets.
Photo: Palau (Palácio) Almudaina - the royal palace right downtown. - Soni Martinez Fotógrafo
Where to begin?
Start your tour right at La Seo, the impressive gothic cathedral which is located very close to the sea. Walk around the building, the little artificial lake just next to it before admiring its interior. The historic buildings (like the Palácio Almudaina) and museums next to it are also worth a visit.
Photo: What a great angle to look at the cathedral - Soni Martinez Fotógrafo
From there it is a short walk to La Lonja ("Llotja" in mallorquin - ask a local how to pronounce it, I could not manage), the historic maritime stock exchange that rather looks like an old palace. Go inside and imagine that long time ago they sold fish in this place - hard do imagine. Don`t miss the exhibition there, entrance is free. If you leave this precious building, you will automatically reach the historic area with its narrow alleys and lots of boutiques, bars, cafés and restaurants. Tip: have a look at Marat, a tiny little hat factory on Vallseco before moving on to the Borne, Palma`s most prestigious boulevard with beautiful trees in the middle and international brands such as Hugo Boss and Louis Vuitton. Feeling like having a coffee? Watch out for Cappuccino at Palau (Palácio) March just next to the cathedral and Palácio Almudaina - great coffee, snacks and people-watching.
Photo: Should I get a new hat at Marat? - Soni Martinez Fotógrafo
Photo: Take a walk on the calm side - Paseo Borne. - KHL
If you walk the Borne all along (maybe just one km), you will automatically reach a square with a nice fountain. If you turn left, you will reach the elegant Avenida Jaime III (called Avinguda Jaume in "Mallorquin"). At the end, on the Paseo (Passeig) Mallorca, you can visit the rooftop of the Saratoga Hotel to get one of the city`s best views. If you walk right hand from the square, you will get into the historic district with its awesome architecture and endless options for shopping and snacks (here they are calles "tapas", little Spanish goodies). Have a look at Plaza Mayor - a beautiful square that has become very touristy. From there you can stroll along the Calle (Carrer) San Miguel - shop until you drop and - visit another jewel of the Cappuccino coffeehouse chain. Many people say this is the most beautiful one - located in a historic building with a beautiful patio inside. Who needs Starbucks? No one when you have Cappuccino. And the coffee is way better here.
Are you into modern arts? Then don`t forget to visit the galleries in the Carrer Sant Feliú. You cannot miss the Gerhart Braun gallery - modern art at its best.
Photo: Spanish architecture at Plaza Mayor - KHL
Photo: One of the many art galleries - KHL
If you walk a bit further, you will reach the Calle Sindicato (Carrer Sindicat) with a real awesome bakery. At S`Estacio you will not only get very tasty cakes, sandwiches and "ensaimadas" (the local specialty, a delicious pastry with various fillings), but you also walk over a glass bottom where you can watch the baker men preparing all the goodies (they will not look at you, don`t take it personally). So cool! And not expensive. I ate an apple ensaimada and had a double espresso for 3.95 EUR. - If you are looking for a good department store, just continue for another 3 minutes and you will reach "El Corte Inglés", shopper`s heaven (if you don`t prefer to have a look at all the lovely small shops which I prefer).
Photo: Walk over the glass bottom at S`Estació and watch the baker men. - KHL
I could go on and on since there is so much to see. Don`t miss to walk along the seaside and sip a coffee or have a snack at Darsena at the marina, beautiful view to the cathedral included. Close by you can rent a bike and ride all the way up to the beach resort El Arenal, really cool. Talking about beaches - the (small) one in Illetas and the Playa de Palma are the closest ones (10 to 15 minutes). Es Trenc is said to be the best one on the island - a long sandy beach with a nudist part (if you wish to see the tourists in all their beauty ;-).
Photo: The bike path with the Bellver Castle in the background - KHL
A Castle with a View and a very cool Neighbourhood
Go up to Bellver Castle - not so much for the building itself but rather for the awesome view over the city and the bay - simply breathtaking. And at night, the Santa Catalina neighborhood seems to be the current hotspot of Palma de Mallorca - a few people had recommended it and I was not disappointed. Chic (and expensive) apartments, artists, a market with very fresh good ("Mercado de Santa Catalina), cool bars and restaurants and a (mostly) funky local crowd - and right downtown, not too far from the cathedral. Sip a fancy drink at one of the many cocktail bars. The famous CUBA BAR is right here, on Avenida Argentina. Clubbing at Tardeo lasts from the afternoon until dawn. And who knows, after a few drinks you may learn some Mallorquin!
Talking about views - one of the best is definitely from the Kaskai Restaurant, located on a hill overlooking the city and the bay. And you get great food at reasonable prices on top, including vegetarian plates. Better take a cab up (and down) the winding road - you may have problems after having enjoyed a glass (or two) of wine.
Photo: One of the cool cocktail bars in Santa Catalina - KHL
Where to stay?
Palma de Mallorca has many hotel options, including a few nice boutique hotels which have come up like mushrooms. My absolute favorite is the Purohotel - a chic design hotel in the heart of the city, with an own music line and a very cool beach club which you can reach with the hotel shuttle. A perfect urban oasis! Stay tuned for my blog post about this stunning place (to follow soon).
Photo: What a view! Rooftop of the Purohotel Palma de Mallorca - Soni Martinez Fotógrafo
Reunited after 37 years!
As mentioned before, I had worked in Playa de Palma in 1980. It was so nice to meet a colleague again, we had not seen each other since then! Riki Schindlwick also used to work for TUI and is still living on the island. So happy to meet this wonderful lady again!
Photo: Having coffee with Riki at Cappuccino in Palma.
Tipps from Locals
I could not see all the places I had been recommended in just three days - but luckily I have friends who either live in Palma de Mallorca or who know this great city very well.
Tomas Gigla has been living on the island for a few years, working as sales manager for a hotel chain. He is married to Inma who was born on Mallorca. Both have a few tips to enjoy the island:
Breakfast at Can Joan de S’Aigo - a meeting point for the Palmesanos wishing to commit a culinary sin in the morning.
Portixol / Ciudad Jardin: Runners, inline skater, dog lovers, families, couples, and singles - they all come here for a relaxed or sportive walk along the sea, with a great view to the city.
Garito Café: sip a coffee in the afternoon, an aperitif in the early evening and a drink while listening to the sounds of local and international DJs. The Mediterranean way of partying: frisky but always in style.
Restaurant Emilio Innobar - the chef gets inspired when traveling and loves fusion kitchen.
Photo: Tomas gigla and his wife Inma Gigla Garrón Román
Jennifer Latuperisa, editor-in-chief of the high-end German travel magazine "reisen exclusiv", knows Mallorca in and out. Jenny recommends a nice restaurant for fish and seafood lovers:
Parada Del Mar is not elegant but so good! You will not see too many tourists here but locals (isn`t that a good sign?), families in particular. You enter the restaurant, select your fish from a freezer, get it weighted and freshly prepared. Enjoy!
Photo: Jenny and her husband Malte
Marja Link has worked on the island for TUI and bought her house in Cala Ratjada in 1985. She is now retired and commutes between the Costa Blanca and Mallorca. Marja recommends the Fundación March in Cala Ratjada on the East coast and in Palma de Mallorca. Permanent collections of the most important Spanish vanguard artists such as Picasso, Miró, Gris and Dalí. A must for art lovers!
Photo: Marja loves arts and ... photography!
*The trip for this article was supported by Purohotels*