Myself and some friends have just gotten back from a week’s hols on Mallorca – and had a fantastic time. We rented a villa in the hills outside Pollensa and kicked back. We also managed to fit in some yacht-shaped fun and spent some time cruising around the Island. Really, great fun. If you haven’t been to Mallorca, odds are you probably associate the place with Ibiza-style foam parties and cheap and tacky holiday resorts. It does have those things – and I’ve had the misfortune to end up there in a previous incarnation as a travel journalist.
However, on a different occasion, I stopped off in the Island’s capital city of Palma and discovered that there is an entire other side to this island that is simply fantastic, and I’ve been back to the island three or four times since.
Resorts like Magaluf and Santa Ponsa soak up 90 per cent of visitors to the island, with the result that many people will leave the island totally unaware that it boasts one of Europe’s most beautiful and cultured capital cities.
While Palma is a thoroughly Spanish city – complete with tapas bars, siesta, buzzing mopeds and authentic Spanish food – in ways it looks and feels quite different to other Iberian towns.
This is a walker’s city, and the old town features some of the most beautiful street architecture found in the region. Originally established by the Romans, the city was later conquered by Arabs, and even today influences from both these cultures can clearly be seen in its architecture.
Palma can really be split into two halves – the new and the old. Most of the city is relatively new, and the tree-lined avenues of La Rambla and Passeig des Born were built in the l9th Century. However it is the old town, or Casco Antiguo, and the Calatrava quarter, which starts directly behind the city’s famous seafront cathedral, that is likely to have most appeal for tourists.
The magnificent 13th century Gothic cathedral is a must see, as are the city’s 10th century Arab Baths, but it’s also possible to spend a highly enjoyable couple of hours simply wandering through the old city’s narrow winding streets. Many of the oldest houses are tall and constructed close together, providing welcome shade to the streets below. Other attractions include the beautiful harbour and marina, museums, theatres and a fantastic selection of restaurants and bars.
Palma is a bustling shopping city during the day, with plenty of bargains on offer and branches of all of Spain’s best known chain stores, but it is at night that the city really comes to life. Like most Spanish cities, it’s best not to venture out too early — locals tend to start their evenings at around 10pm, and will stay out until 3am, so to avoid sitting in empty bars and restaurants, do likewise and have a late supper. The local cuisine includes all the stables of Spanish cuisine, as well as regional favourites like scrambled egg and prawns, and Piemento de Padron, a dish of mild green chillies fried and salted.