Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Palma de Mallorca comes as a surprise to many people - it is stylish, sophisticated, intimate, yet bursting with life. Located on the southern shores of Mallorca, the island's capital city looks out over the sparkling blue seas of the Mediterranean . Half of Mallorca's population live here, enjoying the island's best restaurants, shops and nightlife as well as a thriving arts scene and a lively cafe society. It is often compared to Barcelona for its architecture and we think it's an equally desirable destination for a city break. It is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Spain.

As an island, Majorca has been subject to numerous invasions, conquests & sea-trading throughout its history. Palma was known to the Arabs as Medina Mayurqa (902 to 1229) and to Mallorcans thereafter simply as Ciutat (City) - Palma was in fact named after the Roman city of Palmaria (founded around 120 BC). The Roman city still exists, a metre or two beneath the ground; inhabitants of houses near the cathedral are still discovering Roman remains. The Moors were finally overthrown by the Spanish in the 13th century, and Palma became an important port & commercial centre in the Mediterranean.

In 1983 Palma de Mallorca became the capital of the newly established Balearic Islands autonomous community. It is the cosmopolitan hub of over 300.000 people. The new self-confidence is plain to see in the city center, a vibrant urbane place that is akin to the big cities of the Spanish mainland-and a world away from the heaving tourist enclaves of the surrounding bay.

There's still a long way to go, but the bild center now presents a splendid ensemble of lively shopping areas, mazy lanes and refurbished old buildings, all enclosed by what remains of the old city walls and their replacements boulevards. You will not regret visiting this island of Mallorca, and especially its capital, Mallorca where the magnificent cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudi can be found.

Visitors to Palma de Mallorca will no doubt spend most of their time within the inner ring road (Las Avingudas) in the old town. Most of this part of Palma is traffic-free and it's a joy to wander through the streets admiring architecture and browsing the plentiful shops. The tourist office arranges guided tours of the city throughout the year (in several languages); they are most prevalent during the summer, and cost approx. €10 per person.

Along the seafront is the fabulous marina and palm-lined promenade. Those looking for a beach will be rewarded by heading east towards Portixol & Ciudad Jardin (where you'll also find a couple of decent beach clubs). Dominating the skyline by the sea is the enormous cathedral (called La Seu), and the Parc de la Mer which hosts concerts, fiestas and open-air cinema throughout the year.

If it's arts and culture that you're interested in, then Palma will not disappoint. The excellent Es Baluard Museum of Contemporary Art is housed in the old fortress and is well worth a visit - the restaurant on the terrace is critically acclaimed too. The Spanish artist Joan Miro spent the best part of 30 years living on Majorca, and there is a foundation devoted to his works just to the west of Palma. An excellent evening devoted to the art galleries of Palma is held annually - it's called the Nit de l'Art and is held on the third Thursday of September.

There are a couple of grand theatres in the city too, which host annual opera and ballet festivals, and their programmes are speckled with musicals, concerts and other ‘spectacles'! A different kind of culture can be enjoyed when Palma hosts one of it's Fiestas. The two main festivals are held in January (Sant Sebastian) and June (Sant Joan). Sant Sebastian is Palma's patron saint and the city comes out in force to celebrate. The main events - parades, music concerts & fireworks - occur on the evening of the 19th January, with the more formal proceedings taking place on the actual saints day of the 20th January.

Sant Joan is celebrated on the 24th June as part of the summer solstice. But again, it is the evening before that sees the biggest party. The infamous ‘Nit de Foc', or Night of Fire is held on the night of the 23rd June and sees bonfires lit throughout the city and the crazy ‘fire run' where locals dress as demons & devils and run through the streets bearing torches. Everyone eventually gathers in the Parc de la Mer for rock concerts, more bonfires, fire crackers and an impressive fireworks display. It's a crazy night!

Palma de Mallorca map
Palma is a perfect destination for holidays; the city remains beautiful and impressive, with the grand bulk of the cathedral towering above the old town and the remnants of the medieval walls. In high season, finding an accommodation in Palma de Mallorca is not easy. So you should plan your trip in advance and book your Mallorca holiday home early.

Check out our post about Driving in Majorka

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