Thoughts turn to short breaks in the sun with the first signs of spring and this is the ideal time to visit Palma, capital city of Majorca, or Mallorca as it’s called in Spain. With its beautiful old Gothic quarter, fascinating Roman and Moorish remains, and great cafés, bars and restaurants, it’s the ideal destination – and Jet2.com offers flights from all its UK regional bases. Early in the season the weather is perfect and not too hot to shop or sightsee... So why go further afield? Sarah Powell explores.
Spring-break tourists hoping to shop and sightsee as well as enjoy the sun will be spoiled for choice in Palma, Majorca’s lively and attractive capital city. It’s very popular with the Spanish as well as tourists from all over Europe and in summer the Spanish royal family holidays here.
First impressions will come from admiring the wide bay, the Badia de Palma, backed by the historic centre dominated by the massively striking late-Gothic cathedral – La Seu de Palma de Mallorca – which is even more stunning seen from the sea. To the right of the cathedral facing the sea, Passeig des Born is lined with shops selling jewellery, leather and glassware (Majorca is particularly well known for its linen tablecloths, pearls and leathergoods). Turn left at the top into Avinguda del Rei Jaume III and you’ll find more attractive shops, some very expensive, or turn right and stroll towards Plaça Major, the former marketplace. On Saturday you can visit the famous flea market, or baratillo on Avinguda Gabriel Alomar y Villalonga.
As you’d expect, there are cafés, bars and restaurants literally everywhere. Sip your coffee or aperitivo at a terrace café like the
locals, watching the world go by. In springtime ice cream melts more slowly… so if you have time, visit one of the two mouthwateringly enticing Ca’n Joan de S’aigo ice cream and chocolate parlours. The original business was founded in 1700, which makes it the oldest in the city. You may want to try the traditional Majorcan almond ice cream, one of their most popular lines, or perhaps an ensaimada, a traditional soft bun. The oldest and most attractive parlour is on C/Sans in Palma old town and Majorcans consider it a special place for family events or religious feast days.
Later on, as night falls, you will be wondering where and what to eat, and faced with a huge choice of bars and restaurants. The key is to eat late – as the Spaniards do. A siesta early evening, before heading out, helps. Choose a restaurant that is full of locals rather than tourists, the old town is a good place to start and, whether your choice is tapas or Thai, you’re unlikely to go wrong. Later, much later as this is Spain, you might be tempted to check out some of Palma’s vibrant nightlife. While the big name clubs tend to open only during the summer season, there are plenty of alternatives.
The Sa Llotja district is always lively as is Santa Catalina with its boutique bars, and the Passeig Marítim seafront promenade alongside the harbour with its luxury yachts has clubs for those with all-night energy. For a touch of sophistication, take a cab and go slightly further afield, 20 km (12 miles) to the west of the city, where you’ll find some smart marina bars in Ses Illetes, site of the royal family’s summer residence.
Sightseeing in the City
The city may be small by continental standards but there is much to see and sightseeing is relaxed as much can be done on foot. To get an early flavour of the city’s elegance, stroll through the Parc de la Mar, south-east of the cathedral, to see its abstract art and cleverly designed lake. To visit the old town, start with the imposing cathedral with its massive flying buttresses. The central nave soars 44 m (147 feet) into the air and the stained-glass windows are stunning. Over the high altar you’ll see Antoni Gaudí’s Crown of Thorns. The Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) surrounding the cathedral is a maze of narrow streets lined with stunning old baronial houses. If you get a chance, peer through a grille or half-opened door to spot a traditional central courtyard, or perhaps a fountain.
If you have the energy (if not take a taxi), walk up to 14th-century Castel de Bellver (Bellver Castle), a unique construction in civil Gothic style, which you’ll find just 3 km (1.9 miles) away from the centre. It’s surrounded by forest, on top of a 140 m (460 ft.) hill to the west of Palma. The castle was originally a royal residence and later a military prison and you can see where some of those awaiting execution scratched their names on the walls of the l’Homenatge (The Tower of Homage). The view from the circular battlements is fabulous.
Back in the town, you’ll be faced with a choice of interesting old buildings and fascinating museums reflecting Palma’s history. For something very atmospheric, not to be missed are the Banys Arabs on Carrer Serra, the remains of 1,000-year old Arab Baths. This is one of very few examples of Moorish architecture that remain in the city. The domed ceilings of the two chambers are supported by columns and arches that are believed to have come from even earlier buildings. Outside there’s a charming small garden, decorated with ancient columns, where you can relax in the sun and imagine how life used to be lived... a thousand years ago. These are just a few of the many attractions to be found in Palma. To check opening times and prices, contact or visit the tourist office www.majorca-mallorca.co.uk.
Location.................Mediterranean Sea, 264 km (164 miles) from Valencia
Area.......................3,640 sq. km (2,261 sq. miles)
Coastline................554 km (344 miles)
Language...............Spanish and Catalan
Average annual hours of sunshine…...2800