Top 10 Things to See and Do in Palma de Mallorca, Spain
A vibrant city with a fascinating history, buzzing dining, and art scenes, and the added bonus of having a great beach on its doorstep, no matter how long your stay in Palma
, you are unlikely to run out of things to see and do. From the veritable multitude of options, we’ve rounded it down to our top ten.
Take a walk through a pine forest to Bellver Castle
One of only a handful of circular castles in Europe, this 14th-century fortress sits atop a pine-forested hill overlooking the city below and sea beyond. Originally a royal residence (and refuge from the plague), and then a prison, Bellver Castle
is now open to tourists and houses a comprehensive museum dedicated to Mallorca’s history. Classical concerts and other events take place in the central courtyard throughout the summer season. There are car parks around the castle, but it is also a very pleasant (if a little tiring in the heat of summer) winding walk through the pine forest. You can reward yourself at the top with a cold beer and a slice of tortilla
— there is also an excellent café with viewing deck.
Get stuffed at the San Juan Mercado Gastronomico
The San Juan Mercado Gastronomico
makes for a real feast of the senses, both in terms of the stylishly Instagrammable interiors and the extensive array of delicious treats on offer. Set in a former abattoir, the place is also cavernous, with high-table seating down the middle and 17 “stalls” offering everything from freshly cooked seafood, oysters and champagne, pintxos
, mini-burgers, endless hams, every kind of croquette you can imagine, and much more. The jet black squid ink tortilla is a must-try, and most stalls also have an impressive range of wines. Always buzzing, it’s a great place to grab a quick lunch or enjoy a night out with regular live music and DJs.
Wander the quaint streets of Palma’s Old Town
Wander the narrow cobbled streets of Palma’s casco antiguo and you’ll soon lose track of the dizzying array of elegant archways, grand historic palacios, medieval churches, and charming squares. Snatch glimpses of gorgeous shady courtyards through ancient doorways, or take an official guided tour and learn about the district’s long and varied history. Along the way, stop to buy some traditional Mallorcan baskets at the Mimbreria Vidal, one of Palma’s oldest basket shops, nibble on an ensaimada from any one of the many local bakeries, or sit in a sunny plaza and enjoy a cold drink and tapas. Or if your legs aren’t up the stroll, you could always take a Segway tour.
Casco antiguo de Palma de Mallorca © Alquiler de Coches /Flickr
Visit Palma's spectacular cathedral
No trip to Palma would be complete without a visit to its spectacular sandstone cathedral, known as La Seu
. The impressive building took an astounding 600 years
to build, and due to its size and placement on the old city walls, is almost impossible to miss. Well worth paying the small fee to look around (there is also an excellent audio tour), it boasts one the world’s largest rose windows, and some of the 20th-century renovations were undertaken by famous Modernist architect, Antoni Gaudí
. For a few days each year, the cathedral’s upper terraces and bell tower can be explored as part of an hour-long guided tour.
Walk or cycle along the seafront to Portixol
One of Palma’s key highlights is its wide promenade and cycle path that stretches for miles along the city’s seafront. A pleasant 25-minute stroll or a 10-minute cycle east along the coast will take you to Portixol (little port). Once a quaint but run-down fishing village, it’s now very much gentrified, with the stylish Portixol Hotel
, a pretty marina, and a handful of excellent eateries. There’s also a nice little beach for a spot of sun-bathing or a quick dip, and then you can either head back to Palma or keep going towards the next beach, or the next beer (or both!).
Walk the tapas trail of Palma's Ruta Martiana
Tapas Tuesday, or Ruta Martiana
, was introduced as a way of getting customers out on the quietest night of the week, and it was so popular it now takes place on a Wednesday night, too. It takes place right in the center of the Old Town in the Gerreria neighborhood. Essentially a bar crawl with tapas, it’s a fun way to explore the Old Town, and the bars on the route offer a glass of beer or wine, and a tapas dish for just two (sometimes three) Euros. The tapas tend to actually be pintxos
(tasty bite snacks on a slice of bread), and most bars have platters with a selection to choose from. The food quality and selection does vary from place to place, but if you take a shine to a particular bar or snack, there’s nothing to stop you staying for a few. The website lists participating bars or head to the area and wander – bars usually have a blackboard outside stating what they offer. For a large, lively bar full of locals Molta Barra
is a good place to start.
Visit the ancient Arab Baths
Architectural Landmark, Archaeological site
Discovered only 100 years ago in the gardens of a manor house in old town Palma, the Arab Baths
date back to some time between the 10th and 12th century, when Palma was an Arab city known as Medina Mayurqa. Thought to have been attached to a private home rather than a public hammam, the Arab Baths seem to have been constructed from the remains of other buildings from previous periods. The (mainly Roman) columns in the domed roof tepidarium (warm room) are all different and clearly salvaged from different places. A small but fascinating place to visit, the baths are also set in a pretty secluded garden.
Take a look around Joan Miró's studio
Artist Joan Miró’s mother and wife were both Mallorquin, and Miró spent much of his childhood on the island. He moved to Mallorca permanently in the 1950s and achieved his lifelong dream of having his own studio, 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. There is also a gallery, sculpture garden, and educational spaces, and its peaceful location in the hills on the outskirts of Palma allow for magnificent views over the city and the sea.
Hit the beach
If you need a break from sightseeing and fancy a beach day without having to stray too far, Palma’s city beach (C’an Pere Antoni) has everything you need. Easily walkable from the center 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 clear and safe for swimming. Upmarket Nassau Beach Club
at the far end has very comfortable sun loungers (reservable by phone) with waiter service, and a popular (but expensive) restaurant. Closer to the city is the Anima Beach Club
, with a more youthful Ibiza-esque vibe.