I go to Mallorca almost every year to visit ex-pat family members and bask in the Mediterranean sunshine. Palma, the island’s capital, is therefore not unfamiliar to me but I have rarely spent more than a day there. The city’s charm is reminiscent of other major Spanish capitals but on a far smaller scale. The Balearic Islands’ rich history makes for fantastic architecture especially when you escape the Marina’s flashy bars and restaurants and head into the dark maze of alleys that make up the old town.
If planning a summer holiday to Mallorca, Palma is a lovely city for a day or night away from the beach and can add a little variety to your trip. Having said that we did make few mistakes on our trip so here are a few of my Palma Dos and Donts.
Do drink Cava everywhere, as in the rest of Spain it is literally as cheap as chips (and sometimes cheaper).
Do check the weather before you go. No city is enjoyable in 40 degree heat as I found out. If a cooler cloudy day is forecast however this is a perfect way to avoid a disappointing day at the beach.
Don’t eat out just anywhere. This city is so crammed with tourists that most restaurants are over priced and mediocre quality, there are very few genuine gems.
Do buy a walking guide before you go. The best way by far to experience this city is on foot and with the right route you can easily visit all the sites in one day.
Do bring a fan. If you are there on a hot day this is indispensable!
24 Hours in Palma:
Start with Some Art….. Museu Fundacion Juan March: We stumbled upon this little art gallery entirely by chance and were stunned by the quality of their collection. Housed in a beautiful Mallorquin townhouse this gallery showcases the works of some of the islands most famous modern artists, including works by Picasso, Miro and Dali. The lack of entrance fee, unlike the larger Modern Art Museum, makes this a perfect attraction when visiting Palma. http://www.march.es/arte/palma/?l=2
For Lunch… Cappucino Gran Cafe: The stalwart of the burgeoning Cappuccino chain, this central Cafe provides a much needed respite from the hustle of the city. You can chose to eat either inside, in what would have been the entrance hall to this grand townhouse, or outside in a beautiful courtyard . The Gran Cafe has an almost colonial feel about it, with huge ceiling fans cooling the large dining hall and leafy palms intermingling with the tables. The waiting staff are fully dressed with starched white shirts and long black aprons and wealthy patrons enjoy pricy cocktails. The food and drinks are not cheap but if looking for a spot to avoid the midday sun, the surroundings make it worth it. Also portions are huge. The club sandwich in particular is delicious and with a side of chips is more than enough for a lunch for two. A lunch with cocktails costs around €25 a head. http://www.grupocappuccino.com/
A Historical Afternoon… The Cathedral and the Old Town: Palma’s historical centre is the locus for many of the city’s tourist attractions and its winding streets house various shops, bars and cafes that are well worth exploring. The cathedral itself stands at the centre of this maze of streets overlooking the far side of Palma’s expansive marina and merits a visit simply because of its size and grandeur. The inside is beautiful although somewhat confusingly overdone for my tastes. The jewel-like stained glass seen from the outside is joined inside by frescos, stone carvings, a large altarpiece designed by Gaudi and Miquel Barcelo’s highly modernist reinterpretation of the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament. Having said this, the Cathedral remains a beautiful example of fourteenth century architecture and symbol of Mallorca’s rich history and heritage. http://www.catedraldemallorca.info/principal/en
For Dinner… Taberna Boveda: This restaurant serves without doubt the best tapas I have ever eaten. This is quite a statement I know but the Mallorqin’s clearly agree with me as this beatifully traditional premises is packed every single night with a variety of punters many of whom are willing to queue throughout the restaurant for a taste of their delicious Spanish fare. This does not mean that your meal feels at all rushed or uncomfortable, the extra people merely add to an already frenetic atmosphere of conversation, laughter and traditional Spanish music. Of course they do mean that to get a good spot reservations are entirely necessary. The food is sensational, their Jamon Croquettes and Padron Peppers are particular recommendations, but this is not any run of the mill tourist tapas, their menu includes octopus in various guises, spicy Mallorqin sausages and fabulous mussels. Their Boteria restaurant which is set back a few streets from the sea front is by far the better option as its atmosphere is more lively and the interior more traditional. The service is excellent and amusing as the eight or so middle-aged waiters joking with each other and their customers are reminiscent of a (more efficient) John Cleese sketch. For good food and a great experience this is definitely the place to eat, and it doesn’t hurt that a bottle of Cava only costs €9! http://www.tabernadelaboveda.com/
An After Dinner Drink…. Abaco: Abaco is probably Palma’s worst kept secret. If you stumbled upon the large heavy doorway by chance you would think you had discovered a gem of the underworld. In fact, despite its inauspicious entrance, Abaco is known to almost everyone as it features heavily in Mallorca’s guide books. Trip advisor will give you mixed reviews of this museum-cum-cocktail bar, mainly based on its prices, which are not insignificant, but I have still included it here because it is entirely unlike anywhere I have ever been. Open its large wooden doors and you will find yourself in the entrance hall of a large town house, which, unlike Palma’s other Cafes and Galleries, has not been entirely remodelled. The space is adorned with chaise-longs and its walls are hung with antique portraits. These are intermingled with vases of flowers and cascading mounds of fruit at every turn. In the spacious courtyard the bubbling of a fountain can be heard alongside the chirruping of tropical birds. On top of this speakers blast out opera music from every corner. Think this sounds extra-ordinary, head upstairs to what is, for all intents and purposes, a museum with original furnishings and even a fully-stocked kitchen, throughout which you are at leisure to wander, drink in hand. That drink may have cost you over ten euros but really it is the bizarre, otherworldly experience you are paying for. An experience that in my mind can only be described as a cross between a roman orgy and a national trust house, and if that doesn’t make you want to go I don’t know what will. http://www.bar-abaco.es/contacto