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.

Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Coordinator

    £17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum cares for one of the largest...

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced PSV Coach & Minibus Drivers

    £12500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Drivers wanted for a family run...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash