Stylish, sophisticated Palma de Mallorca is the Balearics’ one real city and the entry point to Mallorca for millions of visitors, the majority of whom step off at the sprawling Son Sant Joan airport and head straight for resorts on the Bay of Palma (Badia de Palma), which runs either side of the city.
The beach revellers’ loss is everyone else’s gain, with surprises such as a beautiful historic quarter, grand Renaissance mansions and Baroque churches nestling around a splendid Gothic cathedral.
Palma may be a city but it is a world away from the hustle of those on mainland Spain. Here, Balearic slow time rules, the palms sway, boats bob along in the harbour and everyone comes out to promenade as dusk falls.
Walk along the waterfront either in the late afternoon or at night and you see Palma at its best, with the cathedral and the Almudaina Palace rising up against the old city walls, framed by sunlight or illuminated by floodlight.
If you are looking for a spot of beachlife you can head east or west from the city and brave the undeniably splendid Platja de Palma beach between C’an Pastilla and S’Arenal on the bay.
Travel further afield (nowhere in Mallorca takes more than half a day to reach from Palma by car or bus) to less congested beaches, such as those at Cala Fornells on the western tip and around Port de Pollença in the north.
Palma has a temperate Mediterranean climate with an annual mean temperature of 17º C and an annual mean rainfall of 450 litres per sq m
Popular attractions and activities include:
Banys Arabs : The only remaining complete Moorish-built building in Palma is the bathhouse in the medieval quarter. It contains an elegant horseshoe-arched and domed chamber, supported by 12 columns, and is fronted by a garden with picnic tables.
Beaches near Palma : There are several good, though usually crowded, beaches accessible by bus from Palma. El Arenal, seven miles (11km) to the southeast of the city, attracts many German visitors as is reflected along its waterfront in the signs on restaurants, bars and hotels. The long beach boasts white sands and turquoise water. Palma Nova and Illetes, between six and ten miles (10 and 16km) to the southwest, are smaller but equally popular beaches.
Catedral O la Sea : Palma’s magnificent Catalonian Gothic cathedral is a landmark of the city, standing in the old town overlooking the ocean. The cathedral is dedicated to Palma’s patron saint, San Sebastian, and contains some saintly relics and pieces of the True Cross in its treasury. Construction started on the edifice in 1300. The vast central vault is 144ft (43m) high, its columns towering to a height of 65ft (20m).
Museu d’Art Espanyol Contemporani : Palma’s most renowned art gallery contains works collected by the Juan March Foundation, housed in a restored mansion on the Carrer Sant Miquel. The collection focuses on modern works including Picasso’s Head of a Woman and paintings by Miro, Dali, Juan Gris and Antoni Tapies.