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While 24 hours is certainly nowhere near enough time to explore the myriad of attractions scattered around Palma, we’ve put together this compact guide of the best way to squeeze in the best of the Mallorcan capital in one day.
One of the best ways to start the day in Palma is a hearty buffet breakfast at the Sky Bar at Hostal Cuba. Located on the rooftop of an iconic building in the lively Santa Catalina neighbourhood, breakfast also comes with unbeatable views over the marina and the Cathedral. The roof terrace is small so booking is advised, the array of food on offer is so huge that you will likely want to linger a while. This is a great place to set yourself up for the day with full cooked breakfasts, eggs, cold meats, freshly-squeezed juices, coffee, fruit, pastries (including the typically Mallorcan ensaimada) and much more, all included in the set price.
With your body suitably fuelled, get the heart pumping with a hike up to Bellver castle. This medieval castle sits on top of a lovely pine covered hill just out on the outskirts of the capital. You can either take the long winding path (which is obviously best for cyclists and those with baby buggies) or power up the 450 steps straight to the top. As well as being one of only a few circular castles in Europe, climbing to the ramparts offers some of the most spectacular panoramas in Palma. There’s also a great museum all about the history of the capital.
No trip to Mallorca is complete without trying one of the island’s most famous nibbles – the ensaimada. And there’s no cafe more old-school in which to experience one than C’an Joan de S’Aigo, located in Palma’s Old Town. This café and ice cream parlour dates back to 1700, and is decked out with beautiful original tiling, plenty of mood dark wood, and vintage clocks and lighting. Not only are their ensaimadas excellent, they also serve thick hot chocolate, perfect for dunking said pastry.
The iconic symbol of Palma, this majestic sandstone edifice should be in anyone’s must-see attractions, as well as a great place to escape from the midday sun. Visitors enter through a museum stuffed with fascinating religious artifacts – including the bones of saints and other ancient relics – before emerging into the cavernous cathedral. It took over 500 years to build, and you can see why with enormous soaring spires and dozens of stained glass windows. Covering close to 7,000 square metres (75,000 square feet), it is approximately the same area as Wembley Stadium’s football pitch.
About 20 minutes’ walk outside the Old Town lies the San Juan Mercado Gastronomico – a veritable cornucopia of food stalls offering everything from fresh oysters and fried baby squid, to pulled pork Yucatecan tacos, gourmet burgers, wood-fired pizza, freshly-prepared sushi and much more. Set in a former abattoir, the place is as cavernous as it is Instagram-able, and it’s a great place to grab a quick lunch or start a long lazy afternoon of grazing.
Jump in a cab and head west to the hilltop art gallery, foundation, and former studio of world-renowned artist Joan Miró. He moved to Mallorca permanently in the 1950s and achieved his lifelong dream of having his own studio here, which was designed for him by architect Josep Lluís Sert. The Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró was set up by Miró and his wife shortly before he died and allows visitors to see the studios where he worked right up until his death in 1983 – remaining untouched since. There is also a gallery, sculpture garden and educational spaces, its peaceful elevated location on the outskirts of Palma allowing for magnificent views over the city and the sea.
After all this running around, why not cool off with a dip along Palma’s decent stretch of sandy beach – named Can Pere Antoni. Easily walkable from the centre of town, this 750m-long stretch of sand has showers, toilets and a lifeguard (in high season), plus a beach club at either end. As city beaches go, this one has a lot going for it – mostly frequented by locals it’s pretty clean, the sand is fine and golden, and the water mostly clear and safe for swimming. Upmarket Nassau Beach Club at the far end has sun loungers (reservable by phone) with waiter service, and a popular (but pricey) restaurant. Closer to the city is the Anima Beach Club, with a more youthful Ibiza-esque vibe.
After a quick post-beach disco nap, get things going again with a cocktail at Bar Abaco. Set amongst the narrow historic lanes in the west-side of historic Palma, this flamboyant bar seems to have frozen in time. Set inside a 17th century mansion, whose original Baroque structure and architecture has been restored, you’ll find the bar down a sweeping staircase. The décor of Bar Abaco is something to feast your eyes on: antiques, fruits, flower arrangements and candles fill the room, offering a dramatic backdrop to one of their equally dramatic cocktails.
Just outside of Palma’s Old Town is Santa Catalina, where you can find the most cosmopolitan mix of dining options in the capital. With everything from Asian-fusion, Mexican and Indian to gourmet burgers and pintxos eateries, it won’t take long wandering around this old fishing district before you find somewhere to tempt you. We recommend Kurobota, one of the newer kids on the block serving a supremely mouthwatering small-dish menu of pan-Asian cuisine. The steamed pork belly buns are worth the visit alone.
With its fair share of bars, you can certainly choose to continue into the night in Santa Catalina, but to mingle with the locals head to the Paseo Maritimo. This buzzy stretch of marina-front bars and clubs only gets going around midnight, but once it does it’s certainly the buzziest spot in town. The Made in Brasil bar whips up an outstanding Caipirinha with plenty of lively Samba, then bar crawl along to the legendary Tito’s nightclub for high-end partying – complete with spectacular shows – until sunrise.