Palma de Mallorca is the island’s capital for a reason. Nowhere else will you find such a melting pot of cultures, history and modern times, as well as locals, tourists and ex-pats that became locals.
Palma offers a unique mix of everything you are seeking on the island of Mallorca, so you get a little bit of beach and a taste of the Mediterranean lifestyle. But also lots of culture, plenty of tapas bars, international restaurants, shopping and much more.
Read on to find out how to make the most of your visit to the intriguing Palma de Mallorca!
What is Palma de Mallorca Like?
Palma is the vibrant and exciting capital of the island of Mallorca. Half of Mallorca’s population lives in this city. Therefore, you will find a mix of all kinds of restaurants, cafes, nightlife and shops here as well as lots of art and accommodation for every budget.
The city offers a wide range of cultural sites to explore. On top of that, there are lots of cosy little cafés where you can fill up a good breakfast after a night out in town and before going shopping in the centre.
It is a multicultural hub that blends history and contemporary art as well as Spanish tradition and European lifestyle into one.
History & Culture of Palma
Like most Balearic islands, Mallorca has been subject to several invasions. And plenty of nations have conquered or tried to occupy this island for most of its history. Palma is no different from this.
The city has had several names in the past. It all started with the Romans calling it “Palmaria” around 120 BC. The origins of this Roman city still lie 2 metres below the ground and can be visited on several excavation sites. After that, it was “Medina Mayurqa” by the Arabs between 902 and 1229. To Mallorcans, it has since then been known as Ciutat (“city”).
Much of what we now see in Palma de Mallorca has been built in the last two hundred years, however. For instance, the impressive Gothic Palma Cathedral on the seafront of the city.
These days, Palma is a cultural hub. One can find a mix of old and new by visiting the historic centre or many of the museums that offer historical as well as contemporary art.
Beaches in Palma
The Platja de Can Pere Antoni is the city’s own urban beach and is easily accessible via the promenade.
A little bit further east and out of town, you will find more tranquil and relaxed beaches. For instance, Playa Portixol. This beach is about 3km east of Palma and can easily be reached by car, bike or for those that feel fit enough – by foot.
Don’t worry, even if you don’t feel up for a 3km walk – there is plenty of bars and restaurants lined on the promenade to get refreshed and refuelled.
Near the Son Sant Joan Airport, you will find Playa Palma. Playa Palma is a beach resort about 10 km away from the city of Palma de Mallorca and shouldn’t be confused with it. Here you can watch kite surfers, and other water sports enthusiasts go rough on the ocean.
If you head west from Palma, you will find that the neighbouring areas of Cala Major and Illetas offer some of the most beautiful beaches in Mallorca. Both are about 10 to 15 minutes by car. We recommend going early as there is always limited parking at these very popular beaches.
Things to Do in Palma de Mallorca
Whether you are in Palma’s old town or the newer parts of the city, there is definitely something to see or do on almost every corner.
The old town boasts ancient passages, historic buildings and beautiful architecture. All broken up by little shops and quirky cafés where you can buy yourself some refreshments if the sightseeing made you tired. On top of that, there is plenty of galleries and boutique shops.
The harbour is not to miss either. It stretches from the stunning Palma Cathedral to the ferry port and cruise terminal. Here, many tourists that are arriving via boat are receiving their first warm welcome.
If it is shopping that you seek, we highly recommend paying the Passeig del Born a visit. It is a beautiful 200-metre-long avenue lined with trees that invite you for a stroll. You will find chic bars and restaurants as well as shops and boutiques ranging from local makers to international brands like Zara or H&M.
Another gem is the Plaza Mayor. This big rectangular-shaped market square offers quirky cafés, local restaurants and lots of arts and crafts markets. Thanks to all of that, the Plaza Mayor draws street artists, locals and tourists alike in on a daily basis.
Thanks to Palma’s multicultural background, there is a wide variety of not just architecture but shops and galleries to enjoy. All from different ages and cultures. Let’s break down what this cultural hub of the Balearic Islands has on offer:
- Medieval Architecture – As already mentioned, visiting the Gothic Cathedral is definitely a must on your to-do list. A short walk from this stunning piece of architecture, you will find the L’Almudaina. This is a palace built in the 13th century and boasts stunning gardens. On the west of Palma, you will find the Bellver Castle. Its unique round shape dates back to the 14th century and offers some of the best views of Palma.
- The Arab Quarter – Here, you will find lots of little museums, stunning courtyards and unique oriental architecture. In the Arab Quarter, you will also find the Placa Cort with Palma’s town hall and its infamous olive tree. The tree is one of the must-see landmarks of Palma and is believed to be about 800 years old.
- Contemporary Architecture & Art – Gaudi had a big influence on architecture in Palma de Mallorca. Therefore, you will see a lot of modernist architecture all around the city. The stunning Es Baluard Museum of Contemporary Art will offer plenty of pieces by the well-known Spanish artist Miro. It is located in an old fortress. You will have plenty of other museums and galleries to visit all across Palma as well.
If you finish sightseeing, you can go and book a boat tour around the island and visit one of the other Balearic Islands from the harbour. Or explore the areas around Palma de Mallorca by bicycle, car or one of the many buses leaving the transport hub that is Palma.
Hotels in Palma
There is a huge selection of hotels and accommodations available for all tastes and budgets. Let’s break them down into what’s most popular and available in Palma:
- Luxury Hotels – You will find plenty of stylish and beautifully decorated luxury boutique hotels in the city centre. Most of these are located in breathtaking restored historical palaces that offer all the modern amenities you could ask for. Even air conditioning. If you choose to stay in the centre of town, you will have all the hustle and bustle right at your doorstep, as well as amazing access to restaurants and nightlife. But you will also have to pay the price for this type of exclusivity.
- Hotels with a view – If you prefer a bit of character, tranquillity, and, most of all, a good view, head towards the Paseo Maritimo is a good call. Hotels in this area offer more modern and comfortable accommodations. Most of these rooms offer a balcony and a sea view.
- Hotels with the most facilities – If you are keen to be pampered and want the choice between a pool and the sea or a gym and a golf course, then head further to the outskirts of Palma de Mallorca. Most hotels offer facilities that go beyond air conditioning and will give you a proper holiday feeling while still being close to the city.
- Villas & Apartments – In the suburbs and outskirts, you will be able to find stunning fincas and small apartments to rent. You can self-cater or choose bed and breakfast services. Most of these fincas are suited for larger groups of people and offer a private swimming pool. The apartments, on the other side, are perfect for smaller groups or couples and are way less expensive than hotels.
Restaurants in Palma
Palma offers some of the best choices of restaurants on the island. You will be able to find a mix of traditional food as well as international cuisines.
Be sure to try the traditional Pa amb Oli – Mallorca’s traditional brown bread served with olive oil if you are in one of the more traditional eateries. You will be able to find these mostly in the area of La Llonja.
Around the Placa d’Espanya are lots of restaurants that are highly frequented by the locals of Palma. Here you can be sure to eat amazing food at a reasonable price.
If you are craving tapas or more Spanish-inspired food, head to the Carrer de Blanquerna or the Carrer del 31 de Diciembre to get your taste buds tickled.
The real gastronomic district, however, lies in the area of Santa Catalina. Here foodies will find the most amazing food that ranges from tapas to South American and even Asian fusion dishes.
What would a trip to the Balearic Islands be without seafood? For the best paella in town, head towards Portixol.
Nightlife in Palma
Mallorca is famous for its nightlife – so is Palma able to keep up with that? Definitely.
You can find the widest range of nightclubs and pubs on the island in Palma de Mallorca. Specifically, the areas of Santa Catalina, La Llonja and Paseo Marítimo are hubs for partying until the morning hours.
La Llonja offers plenty of jazz clubs and stunning hotel bars, so you have a bit more of a classy vibe when going out.
If you want to do it like the locals, be sure to check out the bars in Santa Catalina. You will find a beautiful mix of locals, ex-pats and some tourists here.
The Paseo Maritimo probably offers the biggest range of nightclubs. Especially in the warm summer months, people are enjoying to dance the night away in this area.
Events in Palma de Mallorca
You won’t have a shortage of events in Palma. The city is packed with fairs and fiestas all year round, not least because of the warm average annual temperature.
The traditional fiestas that you can attend are Sant Sebastia in January and Sant Joan in June. On top of that, there is the Three Kings Parade on 5th January, as well as Sa Rua, the island’s very own carnival event in February.
If you are a lover of arts, then you should come to the Nit de L’Art in September. All galleries and restaurants offer canapes and wines while you wander around and appreciate the great artists of old and modern times. The Bellver Castle Music Festival during the summer months is also not to be missed.
The old town of Palma offers its very own gastronomic event every Tuesday. La Ruta Martiana is a little event in the old town where bars and restaurants offer their visitors a small plate of tapas as well as a beer for only 2-3€!
Speaking of tapas – the TaPalma event at the end of October offers a unique opportunity for tourists to explore the hidden gastro gems in Palma. During this time, all restaurants and bars offer tapas and local wines at reduced prices.
If you wish to run off all of these tapas calories, you can participate in Palma’s very own marathon event in October. Palma is well renowned for plenty of cycling events as well as sailing regattas along the Balearic Islands.
Shopping in Palma
Just a short walk from the Plaza Mayor, the street of Calle Sant Miquel offers some of the best shopping opportunities in the city. Here you will be able to shop for international brands from top fashion designers in the Balearic Islands and local to Palma de Mallorca.
The Passeig del Born is a beautiful street lined with big-name boutiques and lots of restaurants to stop by and refuel for a proper shopping spree.
The old town offers plenty of options for those looking for souvenirs and hand-crafted goods, as well.
How to get to Palma de Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca is located on the south of the Island, overlooking the stunning Mediterranean sea.
You can either get to Palma via aeroplane or by boat.
- Aeroplane – There are many direct flights from the UK heading straight to this airport. You will land at Son Sant Joan airport, which is about 8 kilometres away from the city. There are regular taxi and bus services leaving from the airport to the city as well as the port. At the airport, you will also have access to rental car services to explore more of Palma de Mallorca and its surroundings independently.
- Port – In case you have arrived at the port of Palma de Mallorca, you can either walk, cycle or take one of the many buses from the terminal to your destinations. There is also plenty of taxis leaving from the port.
Surrounding areas of Palma de Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca already offers anything one can ask for. From an old town with lots of history and art galleries to a vibrant city filled with shopping and dining opportunities. But you might want to escape the hustle and bustle of Palma for a day or two.
Here are the nearby areas that are definitely worth a visit. These areas offer just as much variety when it comes to sightseeing, partying, culinary experiences or water sports all year round:
- Valldemossa – Nestled in the Serra de Tramuntana mountains, this little old town about 18 kilometres away from Palma is definitely worth a visit. You can go there by bus (take the 210 bus for half an hour from Palma) and enjoy the birthplace of Santa Catalina Thomas (Mallorca’s first saint), as well as the home of composer Frederic Chopin for a day.
- Magaluf – You cannot talk about Mallorca without talking about nightlife and parties! If you wish to experience some of the wildest (and longest) nights of your life, we highly recommend paying Magaluf a visit. It is highly frequented, especially by British tourists and offers some of the wildest parties and best DJs in Spain.
- Port d’Antratx – The charming Port d’Andratx is surrounded by a stunning hillside overlooking the ocean. It, therefore, makes sense that you will find the odd luxury property in this area owned by the rich and famous. And, of course, there is plenty of watersports to keep celebrities busy. If you are interested in learning how to Scuba dive or just want to go for a relaxed snorkel – then this is your place! Otherwise, just enjoy the delicious amounts of seafood and fish restaurants by the harbour.