For those of you who haven’t met me: Hi! My name is Katy, and I grew up in Palma de Mallorca.
My parents moved to the island when I was a baby, and I lived there for nearly 18 years until I came to uni in the UK. I went to Spanish school, I speak Spanish fluently, and yes, I’ve been out drinking in Magaluf. (Sigh. I get asked that a lot.)
Honestly guys, Mallorca is SO much more than neon lights and cheap alcohol. We have a fascinating history, incredible views, and tons of arts and culture to share. We have mountains and secret coves and salt plains. We have the softest potato buns, the freshest seafood, and the juiciest tomatoes.
You can drive west into the mountains and visit the orange trees and olive groves of Soller, Valldemosa and Deia, or go south for Caribbean-worthy beaches. Head east for traditional farming villages, or north for the old fishing ports.
And then, of course, there’s our capital city. With its sea-front cathedral, picturesque streets, and big bustling markets, it’s beautiful in all seasons. And there are SO MANY things to do in Palma!
Whether you’re on your own, with friends, a partner, or the kids, there really is something for everyone.
HOW TO GET TO PALMA
We flew from London Stansted to Palma with Jet2, and I honestly can’t recommend them enough.
Incredibly friendly staff and crew (even at 7am on a Monday morning!), 22kg hold luggage included for all city breaks (!!!), AND flights start from just £90ish return per person. Bargain.
From Palma airport, there’s a public bus that runs to the city centre and only takes about half an hour, or you can grab a taxi for around €25.
Once you’re in the city itself, you can walk pretty much everywhere. There’s a great public transport system, which also gives you easy access to other parts of the island.
I’m going to eventually write up a guide to day trips in Mallorca, but today I’m sticking to the city.
THINGS TO DO IN PALMA:
1. Check out the views at Bellver Castle
I can’t actually remember the first time I visited Bellver Castle. I was probably about 6 and on a school trip. It’s one of those places where Mallorcan kids go with school a couple of times, and then never visit again. I compare it to growing up in London and going to Westminster Abbey or the Science Museum!
And yet Bellver Castle it number one on my list of things to do in Palma. Partly because of the STELLAR views from the top, and partly because it’s a great introduction to the historical and cultural background of the island.
Find it: Carrer Camilo José Cela, 07014 Palma
2. Go shopping on Avenida Jaime III
This wide avenue is one of Palma’s prime shopping spots. Whether you’re into clothes or interiors, department stores or boutiques, this is the place for you.
My favourite route is to start at the top and work my way down to Plaza Rei Juan Carles I. Stop to look at the Turtle Fountain, then head down the tree-lined Passeig Born, and end at Rialto Living, a fabulous lifestyle store housed in a reconverted cinema.
Even if you’re not a shopper, it’s worth paying a visit to Rialto, even if it’s just to oooh over the architecture, or sip a coffee in their beautiful glass-roof cafe.
Find it: Carrer San Feliu 3, 07012 Palma
3. Visit Es Baluard modern art musuem
Es Baluard is Palma’s biggest and best modern art museum. The fun starts before you even step in the door, with gorgeous sculptures in the courtyard and entrance.
Inside you’ll find brilliant paintings, sketches, sculptures, photography and even film exhibitions. Make sure you take time to step outside and wander the walkway around the building exterior. The views are fantastic!
And if you have time, enjoy a drink on the sea-facing balcony (pictured above).
TIP: Fridays are “pay what you want to” days, where you can visit the museum for just 10 cents.
Find it: Plaça de la Porta de Santa Catalina 10, 07012 Palma
4. Eat like a local in Santa Catalina
I LOVE going out for an evening around Santa Catalina. Inevitably, this is the area where I always meet my girlfriends for dinner and drinks when I’m home for a visit.
It’s worth just wandering around and seeing what you find, but these are some of my absolute favourites:
– For excellent pamboli: Sa Llimona – Sant Magí 80, 07013 Palma
– For international street foods: Naan – Carrer de Caro 16, 07013 Palma
– For a modern take on Mallorcan tapas: Patron Lunares – Carrer de la Fàbrica 30, 07013 Palma
– For great cocktails: Bar Cuba – Avinguda de l’Argentina 15, 07013 Palma
5. Visit La Seu (Palma Cathedral)
No trip to Palma is complete without a visit to the La Seu. This stunning Gothic church was restored just a few years ago, and it’s utterly beautiful.
When Mum picks me up from the airport, I always ask her to drive along the seafront, so I can open the car window, breathe in the salty sea air, and see the cathedral. It instantly makes me feel like I’m home!
You’ll get a fabulous view from down by the lake, and it’s also worth wandering through the orange gardens and fountains before you climb the stairs to the cathedral itself.
Inside, look up to see the stunning stained glass windows at each end of the nave. Make sure you leave time to sit down and examine the incredible chandelier by Gaudí, and don’t miss the controversial modern art chapel either. It’s dark and creepy and completely fascinating.
Find it: Plaza Almoina, 07001 Palma
6. Explore the Old Town
The Old Town of Palma is colorful and characterful, and one of my absolute favourite parts of the city.
This is where you’ll find all the old houses, with bright walls, beautiful courtyards and fluttering curtains. Make sure you look up, as otherwise you’ll miss a ton of stunning architecture and beautiful plants.
I love to just wander through the streets behind the cathedral and see what I find. Sometimes it’s a sleepy kitty, sometimes it’s a couple of old ladies doing the shopping, and sometimes it’s policemen on giant horses.
Keep an eye out for the beautiful Arab Baths and Garden (the only historic remains of Mallorca’s arab heritage), and make sure to stop for coffee and classic ensaimadas at local favourite: Can Joan de S’Aigo.
7. Spend a Rainy Day at Palma Aquarium
I honestly never thought I’d be adding an aquarium to this list. But when the rain cancelled our original plans for the day, we ended up at Palma Aquarium and it was BRILLIANT.
We learned all about sharks, petted the sea slugs, and laughed at the stingrays and picasso fish. We also got to see some of the amazing work they’re doing as a foundation and rescue centre, which includes nursing injured sea turtles, coral reproduction, and working to stop the extinction of blue-fin tuna.
Palma Aquarium is open year-round (even on Christmas Day!) and it’s a fabulous rainy day activity, whether you have kids or not.
Find it: Carrer Manuela de los Herreros i Sorà 21, 07610 Palma
8. Have drinks on a fabulous roof terrace
The Nakar Hotel is a new addition to Palma, and it is BEAUTIFUL. The rooms are sumptuous and practical, with beautiful egg-shaped baths and a ton of tech to make your stay as pleasant as possible. (Bedside plugs! USB charging points! Netflix!)
As a guest, you also have access to the stunning infinity pool, but even if you’re not staying there, it’s worth paying Nakar a visit just to drink in the rooftop views.
Order a glass of wine (or two), watch the sun go down, then head downstairs and enjoy an incredible dinner in the hotel restaurant: Cuit. (I can personally vouch for the Poor Man Potatoes with truffle, and the Black Rice with squid and cuttlefish).
I’ve also heard that their Sunday brunch is awesome!
MORE BEAUTIFUL HOTEL RESTAURANTS IN PALMA:
GPRO Valparaiso Hotel – Mar Blau (fresh local dishes – we stayed here for the week and the food was PHENOMENAL)
Summum Hotel – Equus (French haute cuisine in a converted palace)
9. Ir de tapas
Tapas were originally bits of bread, balanced on top of cups of beer and wine to stop the flies getting in. Tapa literally means lid in Spanish. Then one genius barman decided to start putting toppings on the bread, and one of the world’s best culinary traditions was born.
You’ll find lots of variations on tapas in Mallorca. Pinchos are popular: slices of baguette topped with everything from anchovies and grilled peppers, to Spanish omelette, botifarron, fried eggs…
The best way to experience this kind of tapas is by doing La Ruta Martiana in Sa Gerreria. Head to the area around Plaza Mayor and Plaza Cort on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and you can do a proper tapas crawl without spending much. You’ll find a whole load of bars offering a deal of a small tapa, with a beer, for about €3. It’s very popular with the locals so it can get pretty busy, but it’s a lot of fun!
If you prefer a sit-down meal, head to Tast Club for a fantastic selection of modern tapas and sharing platters. They also have a raw bar for oysters, and a beautiful cavern restaurant with glass chandeliers and pretty waiters.
If you like to try a bit of everything, give Mercat 1930 a go. It’s an indoor food market of sorts, with lots of different independent stalls selling a selection of small dishes, international beers, and super cheap, but surprisingly great, wine. The food is a real mix of local and international cuisines, including pinchos, croquetas, frito mallorquín, burgers, pad thai, fresh sushi… There’s something for everyone!
Tast Club: Carrer de Sant Jaume 6, 07012 Palma
Mercat 1930: Avinguda de Gabriel Roca 33, 07014 Palma
10. Walk or cycle along the sea front
Palma sits in the middle of a bay, with seafront walkways running either side of it. You can hire bicycles, but I quite like walking it.
From the cathedral, head west to go past La Lonja and follow the Paseo Maritimo, where you’ll see gorgeous yachts and find a whole host of Spanish bars and restaurants along the front. It’s very flat, and you’ll see plenty of people running, cycling or walking their dogs.
Going east will take you towards Portitxol, a beautiful little fishing village with great seafood restaurants. Stop off for a beer and a couple of tapas before you head back to the city.
11. Explore a traditional food market
I’m a sucker for a food market, and Palma has some EXCELLENT ones. Mercat de Santa Catalina is a great one, but on this visit we headed to Mercat de L’Olivar.
They’re indoor markets, which makes it another perfect rainy day activity, and I absolutely love them. You can buy everything from local cheese and cured meats, to fresh vegetables, handmade ceramics (I bought two beautiful bowls for €3 each!), printed fabrics, and wicker baskets of every shape and size imaginable.
Make sure you give yourself enough time to just wander around, grab a cortado from one of the stand-up coffee bars, and people watch. You’ll see old ladies haggling over fruit, grumpy old men buying their croquetas and olives for lunch, and it all adds to the atmosphere.
Oh, and make sure you don’t miss the crazy fish market next door!
Find it: Plaça de l’Olivar, 07002 Palma
12. Eat ensaimada at Fornet de la Soca
Ensaimada is one of Mallorca’s most popular food creations.
It’s an airy, twisted pastry-cake, made with strong flour, olive oil, and (most importantly) saim: pork lard. Sorry vegetarians! It’s a traditional recipe that’s been around for centuries, and it’s readily available all over the island.
However, there’s one in Palma that’s worth hunting down above all others: I can honestly say that the ensaimada we got to try at Fornet de la Soca is the absolute best I’ve ever tried.
The owner (a lovely gent called Tomeu), only started baking professionally 8 years ago, when he left a career in psycotherapy to become what he calls a “gastronomical archaeologist”. He’s spent years digging through archives, diaries and notebooks to piece together traditional Mallorcan recipes, and the results are incredible.
He’s won awards for his bread, his ensaimadas are perfect, and you really need to hunt him down if you’re in the city. I promise you won’t regret it!
Find it: Carrer de Sant Jaume 23, 07012 Palma
13. Take a day trip outside of the city
OK so I lied. There are just too many fab day trips from Palma not to mention it! Here are a couple of my favourites:
– Soller: Take the traditional old wooden train from Palma station, up through the mountains to Soller. It’s a fabulous journey, and one I always recommend as it’s such a fun way to see the island! When you get to Soller, have a wander in the town, then jump on the tram down to Port de Soller (ignore anyone who says you should walk it) and enjoy a seafood lunch with a sea view, and a paddle on the beach.
– Valldemossa and Deià: Jump on the bus or take the modern train (it’s faster) and spend a morning in Valldemossa, where you’ll find a beautiful village, with lovely views, pretty streets, tumbling pots of flowers, and a monastery where Chopin and his lover George Sand stayed for a winter. Make sure you order a fluffy potato bun in one the local bakeries, as they’re a specialty in the town. Combine it with a trip to another beautiful village, Deià, for a full day of glorious views.
– Pollensa: A lovely market town in the centre of the island. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that my mum drove us up there on my last trip home. Spend the morning in the town, climb the stairs to the top of the hill, where you can visit the little church and soak up the views. Then you can jump on a bus down to the Port, and have lunch in one of the little tapas bars along the sea front.
– Caves of Drach: This is one I haven’t actually done in years, but I really want to take Gary next time we visit. These underground caves are incredibly beautiful, and the tour ends at Europe’s largest underground lake. You can take boat trips across it, and even enjoy classical music concerts there, and it’s definitely worth the trip.
– Beaches: Head to Playa de Palma for fancy cocktails and great sunset views, Es Trenc for turquoise water and fine sand (be warned: it gets VERY busy in high season), and Sa Rapita for a low seabed that stretches out a mile. Most of the best, prettiest beaches are in the north of the island, away from the touristy bits, so it’s worth hiring a car to help you hunt down the nicest coves and quiet bays.