Balearic Islands: stopover in Palma de Mallorca

Located on the edge of its large bay, the capital of the Balearic Islands offers the possibility of an exotic and sunny getaway, less than 2 hours by plane from France. For a long weekend, we get lost in the alleys of the old town, discovering an architecture of mixed styles, stone monuments in a warm ocher color where the Arab influence can sometimes be detected, but also facades modernists and the superb patios of the residences of the great Mallorcan families.

Apart from its architectural and historical attractions, Palma de Mallorca is also a shopping city where life is good, with its many terraces, restaurants, markets, but also art galleries. With the added bonus of relaxing on the beach and enjoying the capital's nightlife. What to concoct an eclectic and full stay!

The cathedral and the Moorish remains of Palma

Emblematic monument of Palma de Mallorca gothic cathedral Sa Seu (in Catalan: "the seat") stands proudly facing the sea, dominating the Parc de la Mar and its salt water lake. The ocher color of its tidal stone (limestone) varies nicely throughout the day. With its three naves, the central one of which is 44 m high, 16 side chapels, 87 stained glass windows and 5 rose windows, it lives up to its nickname of the cathedral of space and light.

Several styles coexist there. Antoni Gaudí brought an Art Nouveau touch to the choir (also called the royal chapel), whose canopy remains unfinished, and modern art even has its place in the Sant Pere chapel, decorated by the artist Miquel Barceló (2007).

The cathedral was built from the 13C, just after the Spanish conquest, which put an end to the domination of the Moors (902-1229), of which there are few traces, except for the bell tower, which was once the old minaret of the medina (Madina Mayurqa).

Next door, we discover another trace of the presence of the Arabs: the Almudaina Royal Palace, built in 903. It once housed the residence of the Moorish governor, before becoming that of the kings of Majorca, after the reconquest by Jaime Ier.

A little further on, the Banys Àrabs (Arab baths) remain the most important vestige of the Moorish period preserved in the state. In a small garden, you can visit the hammam, with its columns and its dome pierced with skylights.

Mallorca Cathedral. Entrance fee, except during masses. Full price: 8 €.

Royal Palace of Almudaina. Full price: € 7. Free entry Wednesday and Thursday from 15 p.m. to 18 p.m. (October to March) and 17 p.m. to 20 p.m. (April to September).

Banys Àrabs (Carrer de Can Serra, 7,). Entrance: 3 €.

Along the patios, in the old town of Palma

Getting lost in the winding streets of Palma is the best way to soak up the atmosphere that reigns there. In doing so, one does not fail to be amazed by discovering the patios palaces built by wealthy aristocratic and bourgeois Mallorcan families (mainly between the 16th and 18th centuries).

Some have been transformed into restaurants or bars, such as the Cappuccino Palau March and the Cappuccino San Miguel, or even into hotels, such as the Palacio Can Marqués, in the carrer dels Apuntadors, which is lively at night. A little higher up, in the square of San Feliu, some patios now house art galleries (such as the Gerhardt Braun Gallery).

After a glance at the patio of the Casal Solleric (passeig del Born), you reach the town hall square, where an olive tree 700 to 800 years old was planted in 1989. TheCity Hall and seat of the Island Council of Mallorca are perfect examples of the island's Gothic Revival.

Around the gothic church of Santa Eulàlia, which is the only one to have three naves, like the cathedral, the small alleys conceal a whole collection of beautiful patios, in particular that of the Can Oleza (carrer d'en Morei) or that of the Can Vivot (square of Can Savellà).

Walk on the seafront

While strolling on the Passeig de Sagrera, which runs along the seafront, we discover majestic monuments, such as Sa Llotja (15th century), the former stock exchange, which now hosts temporary exhibitions. Six elegant columns in the shape of a palm tree soar inside the Gothic building. In Piazza de la Llotja, the terraces invite you to take a break in the shade.

We then pass in front of the Consulate of the Sea (Consolat de Mar), seat of the Presidency of the Government of the Balearic Islands. Just next door, on the Place de la Drassana, there are other café terraces, lively in the evening.

Following the walls, we then arrive at Museum of modern and contemporary art Es Baluard, established in the old bastion of Sant Pere (16C). Works by Catalan and international artists (Miquel Barceló, Georges Braque, Fernand Léger, Picasso, Miró, etc.) are exhibited there. From the terrace, there is a panoramic view of the city and the port.

After which, having crossed the canal which marks the border between old Palma and the modern city, we reach Santa Catalina, a young district which moves well at night, with many bars and restaurants, many of which offer world cuisine.

Shopping streets and modernist architecture

Going up the canal, we arrive at the top of avenue de Jaime III, whose arcades house shops. It leads to the placed Rei Joan Carles I, nicknamed by the inhabitants the "place of the four turtles" (visible on the obelisk which stands in its center). This is where the Passeig del Born, chic rambla lined with luxury stores.

If you continue on the Unió square, you can stop at Can Balaguer Cultural Center (free admission). This aristocratic house from the beginning of the 20th century belonged to the musician Josep Balaguer, whose organ with percussions is an extremely rare piece.

Next to it, in the plaça del Mercat, the Can Casasayas and the Pension Menorquina feature superb modernist facades (Catalan Art Nouveau), one of the jewels of which can be admired on the nearby Place Weyler: the Grand Hotel (1903), work of the architect Lluís Domènec and today the exhibition place of the art foundation of La Caixa.

Close by, on the place del Marquès del Palmer, two facades are worth the detour: those of the Can Forteza Rey, covered with ceramic shards, and that of Aguila.

We then arrive at the Major placed, surrounded by arcades and occupied by café terraces, crowds of tourists and souvenir vendors. Here once stood the Dominican monastery and the Inquisition prison, of grim memory.

Further north, we finally reach the Mercat de l'Olivar, covered market overflowing with good products where, on the side of the fish stands, you can nibble on tapas at the counter, with a glass of wine.

Castell de Bellver and Joan Miró Foundation

Outside the center, in the west of the city, two places are worth a visit. First of all the Castell de Bellver, Gothic castle perched on top of a hill offering a superb panoramic view of the city.

Built in tidal stone in the 14C, it has a circular parade ground unique in Europe. After serving as a residence for King Jaume II, it housed the main city authorities and was also used as a prison. Today it houses the city's history museum.

Another place not to be missed: the Joan Miró Foundation (Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró), where a fine collection of the painter's works is exhibited, and where you can see the studio where he worked and which still seems imbued with the presence of the master, who lived and ended his days in Mallorca.

After these cultural visits, nothing prevents you from lazing around, or even taking a dip, at the Cala Major, the nearby beach.


Find all the practical information, tips and addresses in the Balearic Routard in bookstores. 

To prepare for your stay, consult our Mallorca and Balearic Islands online guides

Palma de Mallorca Tourist Office

Balearic Tourist Office

Spain Tourist Office

How to get there and get around?

- By plane: many direct flights from Paris and other French airports with Air France, Vueling, EasyJet, Volotea… Find your plane ticket.

- To reach the city center from the airport, you can take bus N ° 1 (5 €) or a taxi (count around twenty euros, depending on where you are going in Palma and circulation).

- The center of Palma can easily be explored on foot. And if you want to go further (for example to the beaches located outside the city, such as Cala Major), just take the bus. The trip costs € 1,50.

Getaways near Palma

If you have more time, you can hire a car to treat yourself to a short getaway around Palma. The Sierra de Tramuntana, a mountain range listed as a Unesco Heritage Site, is not far away. You will discover the pretty villages of Valldemosa (30 min drive), Deia and Fornalutx (45 min). At the end of the day, do not hesitate to push to the Cap Gros lighthouse (45 minutes from Palma) to admire the sunset over Port de Soller and the cliffs.

See our file The best of Mallorca

Good addresses

- Hotel HM Jaime III: passeig de Mallorca, 14, B. Arty and design atmosphere for this pleasant 4-star, well located, near the canal and the Santa Catalina district (ten minutes walk from the cathedral). Double from € 88 per night (breakfast: € 4,90 / person).

- Bosch Bar : plaça rei Joan Carles I, 6. A beautiful bar founded in 1936 on the “square of the four tortoises”, as the Mallorcans call it. You can have a drink on the terrace or inside, and eat tapas (mushrooms, calamari à la romaine, anchovies, chicken nuggets, etc.). The assortment of tapas (variados) is € 8,25 (medium portion). An institution in Palma.

- Ca'n Joan de s'Aigo : calle can Sanc 10. Founded in 1700, this establishment was the island's first glacier. Today, it has become an essential reference for gourmets, who come to feast on the traditional ensaimada (€ 2), Mallorcan brioche, which is available here in several flavors (plain, cream, apricot, chocolate, etc.) .

- Koa: calle Sant Joan, 3. For an evening for two, the setting of this chic and trendy restaurant is perfect. It serves fine fusion cuisine. Mains: € 15- € 32.

- The Duke: calle Soler 36. There is a crowd at this restaurant in the lively Santa Catalina district, specializing in ceviches (€ 12- € 16).

- Ombu: passeig del Born 5-7. Excellent fusion tapas in a refined setting (tapas: € 2,50-€ 18,50).

- Monolisto Restaurant : paza Navegacion, 18. A small restaurant in the Santa Catalina district, which serves tapas (€ 3-19), salads (€ 11), meat (from € 13) and fish (€ 16) , but also Thai dishes, if you ever want to vary the pleasures (panaeng curry, pad thai: € 13).

Finally, to taste the traditional cuisine of Mallorca, there are many restaurants in the old town, especially on the side of the carrer dels Apuntadors, in the heart of Palma's nightlife. For example: La Cueva or Bar Dia.


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