Travel: Give me a break: Palma de Mallorca on pounds 250

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The Independent Culture
Charing Cross, Friday. You have pounds 250 to spend on a weekend break from the centre of London. Simon Calder prescribes how to spend your time and money in Palma de Mallorca, for some winter sunshine in advance of the crowds.

Down payment

A year ago, only one scheduled airline flew between the UK and Mallorca; by next month, there will be four. Fares are falling as a result, with EasyJet (0990 292929) offering a price from Luton of pounds 118 return (including tax) for Friday's 11.40am departure, returning on Sunday afternoon.

If you take advantage of the special EasyJet/Thameslink rail offer to the airport and back, you can do the Charing Cross-Luton trip for less than pounds 10, leaving you with almost half your cash for Spain's most underrated provincial capital. That will be plenty, given the present strength of sterling.

Instant briefing

For advance planners, the Spanish Tourist Office is at 22-23 Manchester Square, London W1M 5AP (0171-486 8077; brochure-line 0891 669920). But the branch at Palma's new airport terminal will provide you with all the maps and background you need. The staff will also point you in the right direction (upwards, to departure level) for bus number 17 into town, costing the equivalent of 80 pence compared with a minimum pounds 10 for the cab ride.

Rest assured

My personal favourite is the Hostal Ritzi, a tall, thin residence squeezed into Carrer Apuntadores - the city's main dining thoroughfare - at No 6 (00 34 71 71 46 10). The rates are pounds 10 single or pounds 16 double, the ambience is cheerful and the roof garden provides an uninterrupted vision of the city's greatest possession - the cathedral. There are several other possibilities just a few steps away, on the same street.

If you want to splurge on accommodation and cut back elsewhere, then the beautiful Hotel Born (Carrer de Sant Jaume 3, tel: 00 34 71 71 29 42) offers a splendidly atmospheric setting for pounds 32 single/ pounds 51 double.

Must see ...

Must buy

Nothing, or everything. The strength of the pound means that almost anything you could want is cheaper in Palma than in Petticoat Lane, so browse through the tangle of city streets picking up bargains as you go. But if you neglect to pick up any presents, don't worry - three bottles of cava (sparkling wine) from the airport duty free will just about squeeze into your bag and your customs allowance.

Must eat

You could eat in a different place in Calle Apuntadores every day for a month. For more of a feast, head a short way north to the Restaurant Celler Sa Premsa, a barn of a place which serves Mallorquin specialities in industrial quantities. If you eat any time before 10pm, you will look like a tourist - but who cares? The restaurant is not open on Sundays.

Night moves

In Barcelona and Madrid, a Friday or Saturday evening doesn't really count unless you don't even get going until after midnight. Palma stops well short of its mainland rivals in terms of staying up all night, and a civilised nightcap may have to suffice. The most outrageous venue is Viridiana, five miles north of the city (a pounds 5 cab ride away) - an extravagantly converted ranch, illuminated by a thousand candles, where you sprawl in armchairs while sipping cocktails and wondering at your good fortune at being here.