48 Hours: Palma

New flights make Mallorca's capital even easier to reach from the UK this summer. Imogen Haddon samples the port city's fine food, architecture and art



Click here for
48 Hours



In...Palma map



Travel essentials

Why go now?

Because summer is surprisingly quiet in Palma as both tourists and the Mallorquins head for the beach resorts outside the island's capital. This allows you breathing space to enjoy the sunshine in this hip Spanish city that seems to have, so far, avoided the hen and stag parties that plague Barcelona. Try to catch the Nit de Foc (Night of Fire) on 24 June, when a dramatic fireworks display over the Parc de la Mar (1) marks the beginning of Mallorca's summer fiestas.

Touch down

British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com ) launched a new service last weekend from London City airport to Palma, up to five times a week. Prices start at 69 each way. The leading carrier is easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyjet.com ), with flights from Bristol, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Luton, Gatwick, Stansted and Newcastle. Palma's Son Sant Joan airport lies 8km east of the city. Bus 1 runs to the bayside Passeig Marítim (2) via Plaa Espanya (3) every 15 minutes from about 6am to about 2.15am, fare 1.85. A taxi costs about 22 to the city centre and takes 20 minutes, longer in heavy traffic.

Get your bearings

Palma is hard to get lost in. The best point of reference is the magnificent Seu (4) (cathedral), overlooking the sea, with its spires visible from almost every point in town. The rest of the city spreads out behind the cathedral, with the handsome Plaa Major (5) north-east of the cathedral, and the busy Plaa Espanya (3) marking the northern extent of the city centre. The best view of the ensemble is from the only circular Gothic castle in Spain, the 14th-century Castell de Bellver (6) in the west; it houses the Museu d'Història de la Ciutat (00 34 971 73 06 57; 8am-8.30pm daily except Sunday; 2.10).

Check in

Tucked away in a narrow street in the old town, Hotel Tres (7) at Carrer d'Apuntadors 3 (00 34 971 717 333; hoteltres.com ) is a haven of calm in the midst of a touristy district. The Scandinavian-run hotel, originally a 16th-century merchant's palace, is understated in its elegance, retaining the original beams with a simple white decor. Breakfast can be served in the sunny courtyard. The roof has a deck to sunbathe on and a small plunge pool, with great views over the cathedral and rooftops. Double rooms start at 230, including breakfast. Hotels with decent-size pools are hard to find in the centre of town, but 25 minutes' walk will take you to the seafront Hotel Portixol (8) an art deco-inspired hotel and restaurant at Carrer de Sirena 27 (00 34 971 271 800; portixol.com ), which has a Miami feel to it. Doubles start at 240, including breakfast. Among the budget options, try Hotel Born (9), which has a good central location at Carrer Sant Jaume 3 (00 34 971 71 29 42; hotelborn.com ); double rooms start at 80, including breakfast.

Day one

Take a hike

Palma's streets vary from the narrow, shuttered alleyways of the old town (Sa Llotja) to the wide elegant promenades of the Rambla (10) and Passeig des Born (11) with its Modernista street lamps and stone sphinxes. The nod to design throughout the city even extends to the robot-like recycling bins dotted throughout the city.

Start out from the cathedral (4) up to a key hub of the city since the 13th century, the Plaa Cort (12), centred around a twisting olive tree that's reportedly more than 1,000 years old. From here, head up to the arcaded Plaa Major (5) and along Palma's primary pedestrianised street: Carrer de San Miguel. This is where you will find the Museu d'Art Espanyol Contemporani (13) (00 34 971 35 15; march.es/museupalma ; open 10am-6.30pm Mon-Fri, 10.30am-2pm Sat; free).

Carry on up this street up to the Plaa Espanya (3) and then cut across left and left again down the boulevard of La Rambla (10), which apes its more celebrated counterpart in Barcelona. Walk past the flower stalls under a canopy of plane trees, before bearing right (west) and passing the undulating faades of the identical Modernista apartment buildings of the Casas Cassayas (14) on your way to the Plaa Rei Joan Carles (15). Turn left down the elegant promenade of the Passeig des Born (11), ducking down the shaded street of Sant Feliu with its exclusive private art galleries and left down Montenegró back to the winding cobbled streets of Sa Llotja.

Lunch on the run

For a quick tapas lunch, drop by La Bóveda (16) at Carrer de Boteria 3 (00 34 971 714 863), open 1.30-4pm, 8pm-midnight, Mon-Sat. Get there early, grab a place at the tiled bar and shout your order above the noise for classic Mallorcan pa amb oli (bread and olive oil), jamon, gambas al ajillo, boquerones and a lemon sorbet shot laced with vodka to finish.

Cultural afternoon

Palma's premier modern art gallery, Es Baluard (17) is more completely known as the Museu d'Art Modern i Contemporani de Palma (00 34 971 90 82 00; esbaluard.org) is open mid-June to September, 10am-1pm daily except Monday, admission 6. The building itself is the main draw here, incorporating the old fortifications within clean lines of white concrete and glass. The museum contains works by Picasso, Miró (who spent his latter years in Palma) and Magritte, among many others. Don't miss Walls and Cathedral at Dusk by Firmin Massot, which hangs on the corridor that leads you to the roof of the museum, which, as well as the terrace with its classy caf, has fantastic views of the city.

Window shopping

The smart shops in town, such as Loewe and Hugo Boss, line up along the Passeig des Born (11). Pop in to the city's first fully fledged concept store, Rialto Living (18) at Carrer de Sant Feliu 3c (00 34 971 713 331; rialtoliving.com ).

An Aperitif

Try out the bar at the "urban oasis" of Puro Hotel (19), Carrer Montenegro 12 (00 34 971 42 54 50; purohotel.com), a trendy boutique hotel in the old town, with a massive white-feather light installation above the bar. Then, for something completely different, hop just across the road to Abaco (20), at Carrer Sant Joan 1 (00 34 971 714 939; bar-abaco.com ). Perhaps one of the most expensive bars in the world: a 16th-century converted palace, decked with flowers, fruits, and even caged songbirds. It gets busy in the summer and on weekends.

Dining with the locals

If you have time, venture out to the more remote Gnova district of Palma to visit what is reportedly the busiest restaurant on the island, Meson C'an Pedro 1 (21) at Carrer Rector Vives 4 (00 34 971 40 24 79; mesoncanpedro.com ). Eat pan tostado con tomate, frito mallorquin, padró peppers, followed by paletilla de cordero (lamb) or chulletitas (tiny, burnt chops). Watch locals swoop in long after 10pm with their snail-eating children.

Day two

Sunday morning: go to church

Dominating not only the seafront, but also Palma itself is, as it is locally known, La Seu (4). It was completed in 1601 after 400 years and now stands as one of the finest Gothic cathedrals in Europe.

Gaudi worked here between 1904 and 1914, opening up the interior by a number of modifications. To the right of the altar is the addition of the modern Mallorcan artist Miquel Barceló, whose haunting three-dimensional mural in the Chapel of St Peter depicting the Feeding of the Five Thousand was unveiled in 2007.

A walk in the park

Up until 30 years ago, the seafront used to come up to the walls of the cathedral (4), but after a land reclamation project, in 1984 an artificial lake was sunk into the area between the cathedral and the harbour, creating part of the Parc de la Mar (1). This enabled the cathedral to once more be reflected in its full glory in the water, as it used to be in the sea. The park also boasts a Miró mural and a sculpture garden by Josep Guinovart.

Out to brunch

In the hip, albeit slightly shabbier, district of Santa Catalina, have brunch at a mainstay of the Palma restaurant scene: Fabrica 23 at Carrer Cotoner 42-44 (22) (00 34 971 45 31 25; fabrica23.com ). The lunchtime "menu del dia" (Sundays 1-3pm) is a real draw at this restaurant which fuses traditional Mallorcan cuisine with contemporary European influences.

Write a postcard

Stop in the afternoon at Bar Bosch in Plaa Rei Joan Carles (14) at the top of Passeig des Born. Order a coffee and an ensamada, a Mallorcan sweet bun, and watch the world rush by from this central meeting point of Palma.

Take a ride

A train trip on the Ferrocarril de Sóller is a must-do on any visit to Mallorca (00 34 971 75 20 51; trendesoller.com , a return ticket costs 17). Six trains a day, with wooden carriages, brass fittings and gaslights, leave the station from Palma at Plaa Espanya (3) to wend their gentle way up and down hills and through tunnels towards the harbour town of Sóller, in the north of the island. The views of the lemon groves as you pass through them make this an unforgettable ride.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
A speech made by the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister urging women not to laugh in public in order to preserve morality has sparked a backlash on social media from women posting defiant selfies of themselves laughing at his remarks.
GALLERYWhy are Turkish women having a chuckle at the government's expense?
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star