Of all the Balearic Isles, it’s fair to say that Mallorca has had the most colourful history, from its first ancient civilisations, through numerous conquests and a steady streams of interesting characters who have made the island their home. To help explore and understand its rich and often turbulent past, there are numerous excellent museums. Here is a selection of the best.
The Museum of Mallorca (Museu de Mallorca) certainly seems like a good place to start your exploration of the island’s history. The relatively small museum itself occupies a beautiful 17th-century palace built on the foundations of one of the city’s oldest Moorish houses, and nestled in the middle of Palma Old Town. Exhibits go right back to the island’s first civilisations, with Talaiotic and Roman remains, followed by Moorish and Christian art, all complemented by a fine collection of artworks. While the history elements can be a little on the dry side (with limited English translations), just exploring the building itself is worth the modest entry fee.
Carrer de la Portella, 5, Palma de Mallorca +34 971177838
Standing beside Palma’s cathedral, just along the city wall in the Episcopal Palace, is the Diocese Museum. Housing over 200 religious artworks, it tells the history of Christianity in Mallorca from the 15th century to the present day. The collection is divided into seven sections: religious sculpture, archeology, modern ceramics, Séguier legacy, coins and religious art and literature. One outstanding object is a window and a model of the Trinity Chapel designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Don’t miss the small crocodile, Drac de Na Coca, which is embalmed and encased in the museum. Legend has it that the crocodile lived in the streets of Palma, near to the cathedral, terrorising inhabitants as it searched for victims to feed on. Who killed it and what is its importance to the city today? You’ll have to visit to find out.
Carrer del Mirador, 5, 07001 Palma de Mallorca +34 971713133
To many in England, the English poet, historical novelist and classicist Robert Graves put Deià on the map. He and his wife created an artistic community here, attracting an international bohemian set to the charming mountain village. Graves lived in a house called Ca n’Alluny – ‘the far house’ – which is on the way out of the village towards the town of Soller. He moved there in 1929 and live there first with partner Laura Riding, and then with his second wife Beryl and their three children, until his death in 1985. He is said to have written I, Claudius here in order to pay off the mortgage. The house has since been turned into a museum dedicated to his life and work, with much of the building remaining as it was in his lifetime.
Carretera Deià a Sóller, 07179 Deià +34 971636185
The Pueblo Español in Palma (handily en route to Bellver Castle) is Mallorca’s best place to visit if you like to feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. Completed in 1968, it is a collection of 18 buildings, 15 streets and 12 seats, all built in 72 different examples of Spanish architecture. You can to visit a replica of the Alhambra of Granada, a copy of El Greco’s house and Christ of the Lanterns, one of the most emblematic places in the city of Córdoba. Each building is built to scale and was designed using materials from the region it represents. It’s not really on most tourists’ radars, so you’ll be able to enjoy this faux-ancient enclave free of crowds.
Carrer del Poble Espanyol, 55, 07014 Palma +34 971737070
Heading out of Palma towards the west, tucked away in a residential neighbourhood, is this foundation dedicated to the work of Joan Miró. Miró’s wife, Pilar, was from Mallorca and they moved here in 1956. Miró had the studio first – which has remained untouched since his death in 1983 – and then a few years later he bought the nearby Finca Son Boter. Both these spaces, along with a principal exhibition space, a sculpture garden and library, make up the foundation.
Carrer Joan de Saridakis, 29, 07015 Palma +34 971701420
If you are interested in the Arabic history of the island, you definitely should take the 20-minute drive north of Palma to the Jardins de Alfabia – a country estate that was home to the Arabic Viceroy of Mallorca until the early 13th century. It is made up of a baroque-style house, surrounded by beautiful terraced gardens and fine examples of Arabian irrigation systems. You hear the trickling water wherever you are in the gardens, plus there’s a playful fountain footpath where visitors can cool down on a hot day. In the house you can see how the stable boys would have lived (under the house, along with the animals) as well as the formal rooms for entertaining important visitors. For real history fans, inside this building is El Llibre de ses Franqueses, a document granted in 1230 from the new King Jaume I to the Kingdom of Mallorca after the overthrow of the Moors, giving Mallorquins exemptions from compliance to rules that were set for other regions. There is also a pleasant shaded cafe in the gardens, as well as few goat and horse pens that are popular with younger guests.
Buñola, Ma-11, 07110 Bunyola, +34 971613123
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