So I expect it’s not news to many of you but Palma is a great city break! Who knew? Well I didn’t until I spent a week there recently so I thought I’d put together a mini guide to Palma de Mallorca, including some of the places we discovered and recommend.
First up, Palma is great because it’s close to the airport and small enough to do on foot but you’re only a short bus/cab ride away from the beach. If you prefer to be beside the sea, then there are plenty of lovely villas to choose from but I wanted to be in the heart of the Old Town, with everything on our doorstop, so I chose this traditional apartment. I loved its little balcony that looked down on the street, its original wooden shutters and beautiful tiled flooring. Plus it was spacious enough for all three of us to have a room to ourselves. It wasn’t particularly child-friendly, being a couple of floors up with no lift, but on this occasion that didn’t matter (in fact it was just what I wanted!).
We loved exploring the Old Town on foot and enjoying its original architecture, shuttered windows, cobbled streets and pretty courtyards. There are beautiful churches every time you turn a corner. You could also take a tour on one of the many horse-drawn carriages available, which is a lovely way to see the Old Town and significant landmarks. Half an hour cost us 60E, which was fine split between three of us. Also try:
10th Century Arabic baths – a small entrance fee gives you access to the remains of a Arabian bath house in the grounds of an old palace, where the gardens are a really pretty, peaceful place to sit as well.
Cathedral/Museum – quite touristy, but worth a look. Buy a dual ticket that gains you access to both and saves money. The cathedral is very busy and loses a bit of its wow factor as a result. Instead try one of the quieter but still breathtakingly beautiful churches, open to the public, like the Basilica of St Francis.
We had one wet day (our last) so went undercover to explore the wonderful Olivar indoor food market in central Palma (great for stocking up on yummy treats to take home or just to ogle at the amazing fresh fish on display). There are also a couple of nice art galleries to explore too.
We did partake in a fair bit of retail therapy, taking full advantage of the favourable exchange rate in places like Zara and Mango. Try also Sfera, with very similar fashion but very keen prices akin to H&M/Primark. I always wonder whether you get a better deal using cash or card abroad (apparently there are specialised credit cards you can get that don’t charge exchange rates or for overseas bank charges – but check your credit rating before you apply).
There are also sooo many shoe shops in Palma and you’ll see traditional Menorcan sandals or Avarcas sold everywhere. I wanted to grab myself a pair before we left and after shopping around found some really good quality ones from a chain store called Castell – lovely leather and the best choice of colours!
EATING & DRINKING
While it’s good to get a couple of pointers, I also love wandering and discovering little places to eat and drink as you come across them, and happily we managed to do a bit of both during our stay. Here are a few we’d recommend.
First, coffee. To be honest you will not get a bad cup of coffee at any of the cafes in Palma and we loved choosing a different pavement cafe each morning for our first coffee of the day and an Ensaimada for breakfast (if they hadn’t all sold out already). However, I should mention a chain (I know, but they’re really good) called Cappuccino. Not the most originally titled but they pride themselves on being in the most beautiful buildings and there are several in Palma but my favourite is the San Miguel, which is grand yet relaxed inside and has a lovely courtyard with fountains at the back.
For lunchtime drinks/snacks, try Biblioteca de Babel, which is a fantastic Spanish bookshop with a bar attached. if you can’t get a seat, the surrounding bars on this side street are great too, especially if you fancy a quick beer / Aperol Spritz.
For pre-dinner cocktails and something quite out of the ordinary (we went there for my birthday) try Bar Abaco. A fairly unassuming door leads to an amazing 17th century style house festooned with flowers and fruit (very Bacchanalian) and an enchanting garden terrace with fountains, birds and more flowers. The cocktails are lethally strong!
Three great places for dinner:
Patron de Lunares – newly-opened predominantly seafood restaurant (though does serve meat and veggie too), great interiors.
Toque de Queda – small, quirky Tapas dining room with wonderful food and service – very atmospheric!
La Rosa – popular, canteen-style bar and restaurant, nice interiors and delicious food.
Okay, I’ll come clean, the one thing we didn’t get to tick off our list was the beach. The day we planned to go it rained (yes, not very well organised of us I know) so my bikini had to stay unused but Palma’s proximity to the coast is a definite plus point and one I would prioritise if we ever go back! Apparently there are some great beach bars and public pools you can visit for lunch/sunbathing so maybe next time!!
Have you been to Palma (or think you might)?